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appearance of felicitous fulfilment of functions in many things, and this I shall call vital beauty.
Let us briefly distinguish those qualities, or types, on whose combination is dependent the power of mere material loveliness. I pretend neither to enumerate nor to perceive them all; yet certain powerful and palpable modes there are, by observing which, we may come at such general conclusions on the subject as may be practically useful.
1. Infinity, or the type of Divine Incomprehensibility.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy,–
One, however, of these child instincts, I believe that few for. get; the emotion, namely, caused by all open ground, or lines of any spacious kind against the sky, behind which there might be conceived the sea.
Whatever beauty there may result from effects of lignt on foreground objects, from the dew of the grass, the flash of the cascade, the glitter of the birch trunk, or the fair daylight hues of darker things (and joyfulness there is in all of them), there is yet a light which the eye invariably seeks with a deeper feeling of the beautiful, the light of the declining or breaking day, and the flakes of scarlet cloud burning like watch-fires in the green sky of the horizon; a deeper feeling, I say, not perhaps more acute, but having more of spiritual hope and longing, less of animal and present life, more manifest, invariably, in those of more serious and determined mind (I use the word serious, not as being opposed to cheerful, but to trivial and volatile); but, I think, marked and unfailing even in those of the least thoughtful dispositions. I am willing to let it rest on the determination of every reader, whether the pleasure which he has received from these effects of calm and luminous distance be not the most singular and memorable of which he has been conscious; whether all that is dazzling in color, perfect in form, gladdening in expression, be not of evanescent and shallow appealing, when compared with the still small voice of the level twilight behind purple hills, or the scarlet arch of dawn over the dark, troublous-edged sea.
Let us try to discover that which effects of this kind possess or suggest, peculiar to themselves, and which other effects of light and color possess not. There must be something in them of a peculiar character, and that, whatever it be, must be one of the primal and most earnest motives of beauty to human sensation.
Do they show finer characters of form than can be developed by the broader daylight ? Not so; for their power is almost independent of the forms they assume or display; it matters little whether the bright clouds be simple or manifold, whether the mountain line be subdued or majestic; the fairer forms of earthly things are by them subdued and disguised, the round and muscular growth of the forest trunks is sunk into skeleton lines of quiet shade, the purple clefts of the hill-side are laby. rinthed in the darkness, the orbed spring and whirling wave of the torrent bave given place to a white, ghastly, interrupted gleaming. Have they more perfection or fulness of color ? Not so; for their effect is oftentimes deeper when their hues are dim, than when they are blazoned with crimson and pale gold; and assuredly in the blue of the rainy sky, in the many tints of morning flowers, in the sunlight on summer foliage and field, there are more sources of mere sensual color-pleasure than in the single streak of wan and dying light. It is not then by nobler form, it is not by positiveness of hue, it is not by intensity of light (for the sun itself at noonday is effectless upon the feelings), that this strange distant space possesses its attractive power. But there is one thing that it has, or suggests, which no other object of sight suggests in equal degree, and that is,—Infinity. It is of all visible things the least material, the least finite, the farthest withdrawn from the earth prison-house, the most typical of the nature of God, the most suggestive of the glory of his dwelling-place. For the sky of night, though we may know it boundless, is dark, it is a studded vault, a roof that seems to shut us in and down; but the bright distance has no limit—we feel its infinity, as we rejoice in its purity of light.
Let the reader bear constantly in mind, that I insist not on his accepting any interpretation of mine, but only on his dwelling so long on those objects, which he perceives to be beautiful, as to determine whether the qualities to which I trace their beauty be necessarily there or no. Farther expressions of infinity there are in the mystery of Nature, and in some measure in her vastness, but these are dependent on our own imperfections, and therefore, though they produca
sublimity they are unconnected with beauty. For that which we foolishly call vastness is, rightly considered, not more won. derful, not more impressive, than that which we inso.ently call littleness; and the infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure, unsearchable sea.
“All things,” says Hooker, “ (God only excepted) besides the nature which they have in themselves, receive externally some perfection from other things.” The Divine essence I think it better to speak of as comprehensiveness, than as unity, because unity is often understood in the sense of oneness or singleness, instead of universality, whereas the only Unity which by any means can become grateful or an object of hope to men, and whose types therefore in material things can be beautiful, is that on which turned the last words and prayer of Christ before his crossing of the Kidron brook. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee.”
And so there is not any matter, nor any spirit, nor any creature, but it is capable of a unity of some kind with other creatures, and in that unity is its perfection and theirs, and a pleasure also for the beholding of all other creatures that can behold. So the unity of spirits is partly in their sympathy, and partly in their giving and taking, and always in their love; and these are their delight and their strength, for their
strength is in their co-working and army fellowship, and their delight is in the giving and receiving of alternate and perpetual currents of good, their inseparable dependency on each others being, and their essential and perfect depending on their Creator's: and so the unity of earthly creatures is their power and their peace, not like the dead and cold peace of undisturbed stones and solitary mountains, but the living peace of trust, and the living power of support, of hands that hold each other and are still: and so the unity of matter is, in its noblest form, the organization of it which builds it up into temples for the spirit, and in its lower form, the sweet and strange affinity, which gives to it the glory of its orderly elements, and the fair variety of change and assimilation that turns the dust into the crystal, and separates the waters that be above the firmament from the waters that be beneath; and in its lowest form, it is the working and walking and clinging together that gives their power to the winds, and its syllables and soundings to the air, and their weight to the waves, and their burning to the sunbeams, and their stability to the mountains, and to every creature whatsoever operation is for its glory and for others' good. Among all things which are to have unity of membership one with another, there must be difference or variety; and though it is possible that many like things may be made members of one body, yet it is remarkable that this structure appears characteristic of the lower creatures, rather than the higher, as the many legs of the caterpillar, and the many arms and suckers of the radiata, and that, as we rise in order of being, the number of similar members becomes less, and their structure commonly seems based on the principle of the unity of two things by a third, as Plato has it in the Timæus, II.
Ilence, out of the necessity of unity, arises that of variety, a necessity often more vividly, though never so deeply felt, because lying at the surfaces of things, and assisted by an