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the contrary, there is a profound truth, which the instinct of mankind almost unconsciously recognises.
It is true, greatly and deeply true, that the architecture of the North is rude and wild; but it is not true that, for this reason, we are to condemn it, or despise. Far otherwise: I believe it is in this very character that it deserves our profoundest reverence.
The grotesque which comes to all men in a disturbed dream, is the most intelligible example (of the error and wildness of the mental impressions caused by fear operating upon strong powers of imagination) but also the most ignoble; the imagination, in this instance, being entirely deprived of all aid from reason, and incapable of self-government. I believe, however, that the noblest forms of imaginative power are also in some sort ungovernable, and have in ... them something of the character of dreams; so that the vision, of whatever kind, comes uncalled, and will not submit itself to the seer, but conquers him, and forces him to speak as a prophet, having no power over his words or thoughts. Only, if the whole man be trained perfectly, and his mind calm, consistent, and powerful, the vision which comes to him is seen as in a perfect mirror, serenely, and in consistence with the rational powers; but if the mind be imperfect and ill trained, the vision is seen as in a broken mirror, with strange distortions and discrepancies, all the passions of the heart breathing upon it in cross ripples, till hardly a trace of it remains un
broken. So that, strictly speaking, the imagination is never,
governed; it is always the ruling and Divine power: and the rest of the man is to it only as an instrument which it sounds,
or a tablet on which it writes; clearly and sublimely if the wax be smooth and the strings true, grotesquely and wildly if they are stained and broken. And thus the “Iliad,” the “Inferno,” the “Pilgrim's Progress,” the “Faërie Queen,” are all of them true dreams; only the sleep of the men to whom they came was the deep, living sleep which God sends, with a sacredness in it as of death, the revealer of secrets. Now observe in this matter, carefully, the difference between a dim mirror and a distorted one; and do not blame me for pressing the analogy too far, for it will enable me to explain my meaning every way more clearly. Most men's minds are dim mirrors, in which all truth is seen, as St. Paul tells us, darkly: this is the fault most common and most fatal; dulness of the heart and mistiness of sight, increasing to utter hardness and blindness; Satan breathing upon the glass, so that, if we do not sweep the mist laboriously away, it will take no image. But, even so far as we are able to do this, we have still the distortion to fear, yet not to the same extent, for we can in some sort allow for the distortion of an image, if only we can see it clearly. And the fallen human soul, at its best, must be as a diminishing glass, and that a broken one, to the mighty truths of the universe around it; and the wider the scope of its glance, and the vaster the truths into which it obtains an insight, the more fantastic their distortion is likely to be, as the winds and the vapors trouble the field of the telescope most when it reaches farthest. It is not, however, in every symbolical subject that the fearful grotesque becomes embodied to the full. The element of distortion which affects the intellect when dealing with subjects above its proper capacity, is as nothing compared with that which it sustains from the direct impressions of terror. It is the trembling of the human soul in the presence of death which most of all disturbs the images on the intel. lectual mirror, and invests them with the fitfulness and ghastliness of dreams. And from the contemplation of death, and of the pangs which follow his footsteps, arise in men's hearts the troop of strange and irresistible superstitions, which, more or less melancholy or majestic according to the dignity of the mind they impress, are yet never without a certain grotesqueness, following on the paralysis of the reason and over-excitement of the fancy. I do not mean to deny the actual existence of spiritual manifestations; I have never weighed the evidence upon the subject; but with these, if such exist, we are not here concerned. The grotesque which we are examining arises out of that condition of mind which appears to follow naturally upon the contemplation of death, and in which the fancy is brought into morbid action by terror, accompanied by the belief in spiritual presence, and in the possibility of spiritual apparition. Hence are developed its most sublime, because its least voluntary, creations, aided by the fearfulness of the phenomena of nature which are in any wise the ministers of death, and primarily directed by the peculiar ghastliness of expression in the skeleton, itself a species of terrible grotesque in its relation to the perfect human frame. Thus, first born from the dusty and dreadful whiteness of the charnel house, but softened in their forms by the holiest of human affections, went forth the troop of wild and wonderful images, seen through tears, that had the mastery over our Northern hearts for so many ages. The powers of sudden destruction lurking in the woods and waters, in the rocks and clouds;–kelpie and gnome, Lurlei and Hartz spirits; the wraith and foreboding phantom; the spectra of second sight; the various conceptions of avenging or tormented ghost, haunting the perpetrator of crime, or expiating its commission; and the half fictitious and contemplative, half visionary and believed images of the presence of death itself, doing its daily work in the chambers of sickness and sin, and waiting for its hour in the fortalices of strength and the high places of pleasure;—these, partly degrading us by the instinctive and paralysing terror with which they are attended, and partly ennobling us by leading our thoughts to dwell in the eternal world, fill the last and the most important circle in that great kingdom of dark and distorted power, of which we all must be in some sort the subjects until mortality shall be swallowed up of life; until the waters of the last fordless river cease to roll their untransparent volume between us and the light of heaven, and neither death stand between us and our brethren, nor symbols between us and our God.
If then, ridding ourselves as far as possible of prejudices owing merely to the school-teaching which remains from the system of the Renaissance, we set ourselves to discover in what races the human soul, taken all in all, reached its highest magnificence, we shall find, I believe, two great families of men, one of the East and South, the other of the West and North: the one including the Egyptians, Jews, Arabians, Assyrians, and Persians; the other I know not whence derived, but seeming to flow forth from Scandinavia, and filling the whole of Europe with its Norman and Gothic energy. And in both these families, wherever they are seen in their ut most nobleness, there the grotesque is developed in its utmost energy; and I hardly know whether most to admire the winged bulls of Nineveh, or the winged dragons of Verona.
The charts of the world which have been drawn up by modern science have thrown into a narrow space the expression of a vast amount of knowledge, but I have never yet seen any one pictorial enough to enable the spectator to imagine the kind of contrast in physical character which exists between northern and southern countries. We know the differences in detail, but we have not that broad glance and grasp which would enable us to feel them in their fulness. We know that gentians grow on the Alps, and olives on the Apennines; but we do not enough conceive for ourselves that varigated mosaic of the world's surface which a bird sees in its migration, that difference between the district of the gentian and of the olive which the stork and the swallow see far off, as they lean upon the sirocco wind. Let us, for a moment, try to raise ourselves even above the level of their flight, and imagine the Mediterranean lying beneath us like an irregular lake, and all its ancient promontories sleeping in the sun; here and there an angry spot of thunder, a grey stain of storm, moving upon the burning field; and here and there a fixed wreath of white volcano smoke, surrounded by its circle of ashes; but for the most part a great peacefulness of light, Syria and Greece, Italy and Spain, laid like pieces of golden pavement into the sea-blue, chased, as we stoop near to them, with bossy beaten work of mountain chains, and glowing softly with terraced gardens, and flowers heavy with frankincense, mixed among masses of laurel, and orange, and plumy palm, that abate with their grey-green shadows the burning of the marble rocks, and of the ledges of porphyry sloping under lucent sand. Then let us pass farther towards the north, until we see the orient colors change gradually into a vast belt of rainy green, where the pastures of Switzerland, and poplar valleys of France, and dark forests of the Danube and Carpathians stretch from the mouths of the Loire to those of the Volga, seen through clefts in grey swirls of rain-cloud and flaky veils of the mist of the brooks, spreading low along the pasture lands; and then, farther north still, to see the earth heave into mighty masses of leaden rock and heathy moor, bordering with a broad waste of gloomy purple that belt of field and wood, and