« ZurückWeiter »
the legend upon his crown was that of David's : - I took thee from the sheepcote, and from following the sheep.”
V.-THE LAMP OF LIFE.
The creations of Architecture, being not essentially composed of things pleasant in themselves, as music of sweet sounds, or painting of fair colors, but of inert substance, . depend for their dignity and pleasurableness, in the utmost degree, upon the vivid expression of the intellectual life which has been concerned in their production.
It is no sign of deadness in a present art that it borrows or imitates, but only if it borrows without paying interest, or if it imitates without choice. The art of a great nation, which is developed without any acquaintance with nobler examples than its own early efforts furnish, exhibits always the most consistent and comprehensible growth, and perhaps is regarded usually as peculiarly venerable in its self-origination. But there is something to my mind more majestic yet in the life of an architecture like that of the Lombards, rude and infantine in itself, and surrounded by fragments of a nobler art of which it is quick in admiration, and ready in imitation, and yet so strong in its own new instincts that it re-constructs and re-arranges every fragment that it copies or borrows into harmony with its own thoughts,-a harmony at first disjointed and awkward, but completed in the end, and fused into perfect organization; all the borrowed elements being subordi. nated to its own primal, unchanged life.
Two very distinguishing characters of vital imitation are, its Frankness and its Audacity; its Frankness is especially
singular; there is never any effort to conceal the degree of the sources of its borrowing. Raffaelle carries off a whole figure from Masaccio, or borrows an entire composition from Perugino, with as much tranquillity and simplicity of innocence as a young Spartan pickpocket ; and the architect of a Romanesque basilica gathered his columns and his capitals where he could find them, as an ant picks up sticks.
Frankness, however, is in itself no excuse for repetition, nor Audacity for innovation, when the one is indolent and the other unwise.
I believe the right question to ask, respecting all ornament, is simply this: Was it done with enjoyment—was the carver happy while he was about it? It may be the hardest work possible, and the harder because so much pleasure was taken in it; but it must have been happy too or it will not be living. ·
We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily; neither is to be done by halves or shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all. There is dreaming enough, and earthiness enough, and sensuality enough in human existence, without our turning the few glowing moments of it into mechanism; and since our life must at the best be but a vapor that appears but for a little time and then vanishes away, let it at least appear as a cloud in the height of Heaven, not as the thick darkness that broods over the blast of the Furnace, and rolling of the Wheel.
VI.—THE LAMP OF MEMORY.
As the centralisation and protectress of Memory and Assa ciation, Architecture is to be regarded by us with the most serious thought. We may live without her, and worship with. out her, but we cannot remember without her. How cold is all history, how lifeless all imagery, compared to that which the living nation writes, and the uncorrupted marble bears ! How many pages of doubtful record might we not often spare, for a few stones left one upon another? The ambition of the old Babel-builders was well directed for this world. There are but two strong conquerors of the forgetfulness of men, Poetry and Architecture; and the latter in some sort includes the former, and is mightier in its reality. It is well to have, not only what men have thought and felt, but what. their hands have handled and their strength wrought, and their eyes beheld, all the days of their life. The age of Homer is surrounded with darkness, his very personality with doubt. Not so that of Pericles; and the day is coming when we shall confess we have learned more of Greece out of the crumbled fragments of her sculpture than even from her sweet singers or soldier historians. And if indeed there be any profit in our knowledge of the past, or any joy in the thought of being remembered hereafter, which can give strength to present exertion, or patience to present endurance, there are two duties respecting national Architecture whose importance it is impossible to overrate; the first to render the Architecture of the day historical; and the second, to preserve, as the most precious of inheritances, that of past ages. It is in becoming memorial or monumental that a true perfection is attained by civil and domestic buildings.
As regards domestic buildings, there must always be a cer
tain linnitation to views of this kind in the power as well as in the hearts of men; still I cannot but think it an evil sign of a people when their houses are built to last but one generation only. There is a sanctity in a good man's house which cannot be renewed in every tenement that rises on its ruins; and I believe that good men would generally feel this; and that having spent their lives happily and honorably, they would be grieved at the close of them to think that the place of their earthly abode, which had seen, and seemed almost to sympathise in all their honor, their gladness, or their suffering, that this, with all the record it bare of them, and all of material things that they had loved and ruled over, and set the stamp of themselves upon, was to be swept away, as soon as there was room for them made in the grave; that no respect was to be shown to it, no affection felt for it, no good to be drawn from it by their children ; that though there was a monument in the church, there was no warm monument in the hearth and house to them; that all that they ever treasured was despised, and the places that had sheltered them were dragged down to the dust. I say that a good man would fear this; and that, far more, a good son, a noble descendant, would fear doing it to his father's house. If men lived like men indeed, their houses would be temples—which we should hardly dare to injure, and in which it would make us holy to be permitted to live; and there must be a strange dissolution of natural affection, a strange unthankfulness for all that homes have given and parents taught, a strange consciousness that we have been unfaithful to our fathers' honor, or that our own lives are not such as would make our dwellings sacred to our children, when each man would fain build to himself, and build for the little revolution of his own life only.
When men do not love their hearths, nor reverence their
thresholds, it is a sign that they have dishonored both. Our God is a household God, as well as a heavenly one ; He has an altar in every man's dwelling; let men look to it when they rend it lightly, and pour out its ashes.
It would be better if, in every possible instance, men built their own houses on a scale commensurate rather with their condition at the commencement, than their attainments at the termination of their worldly career; and built them to stand as long as human work, at its strongest, can be hoped to stand, recording to their children what they have been, and from what, if so it had been permitted them, they had risen.
I would have, then, our ordinary dwelling-houses built to last, and built to be lovely; as rich and full of pleasantness as may be, within and without, and with such differences as might suit and express each man's character and occupation, and partly his history.
In public buildings the historical purpose should be still more definite. Better the rudest work that tells a story or records a fact, than the richest without meaning. There should not be a single ornament put upon great civic buildings, without some intellectual intention. It is one of the advantages of gothic architecture, that it admits of a richness of record altogether unlimited.
Every human action gains in honor, in grace, in all true magnificence, by its regard to things that are to come. It is the far sight, the quiet and confident patience, that, above all other attributes, separate man from man, and near him to his Maker; and there is no action nor art, whose majesty we may not measure by this test. Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build (public edifices) for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come