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even the cup of cold water ! How few of us are seen administering food to the poverty-stricken, aid to the sick, and consolation to the mourner! How comparatively few are the friendships we form, and the sympathies which we elicit! Does it not prove how little practical obedience we yield to love's beneficent laws, that whilst we may be surrounded by, and live in the midst of, a population of thousands, our friends seldom amount to a fiftieth part of the number? We allow conventional usages and the etiquette of a false system of society to prevent an unrestricted communion with our brethren.
Some,' it is deemed, are too poor, some too ill-bred, and some of an opposite political creed.' We allow these petty external forms to divorce immortal natures. Wedded to outward distinctions, the fashion of a day, we are strangers to the identity of our being; we live the mere puppets of circumstance, and die without having discharged our high mission of love, the hond-slaves of paltry contingencies.
“If we are then in the habit of offering obstructions to the manifestations of love in our being, it follows as a necessary consequence, that beauty and truth, the remaining elements of poetry, will represent themselves in a faint and imperfect manner; for beauty is the child of love. In the proportion that we are under the influence of love shall we be disposed to behold the loveliness or beauty of external creation, which after all is but a type of the great original within us. This is no crude and unsubstantiated theory: I will make it matter of personal experience with you, I will ask you whether you cannot recall any period to your minds, when being under the influence of angry and resentful feelings, though the sky may have been most clear, the earth most verdant, and the air most serene, you have been unable to feel the beauty or to contemplate the charm of these external conditions. Yet have there not, on the contrary, been seasons when, under the influence of love and affection, the most common and perhaps seldom noticed prospects have appeared invested with a light and a glory never before observed in them? Yes--love is the life in all feelings. The delight we experience in the view of outward nature is but the exhibition of love or sympathy in the perceptive form. The intelligence which telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,' is but an intellectual manifestation of the love which
healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.' The beauty in an object depends not upon itself, but upon him who beholds it. Therefore to see aright that which is lovely, we must be under the dominion of love.
“That upon which this perception of the beautiful depends for its permanency is truth. The true man is he who surrenders himself habitually to the teachings of conscience; for if there be a law of love in his being, of which he is conscious, but which he only obeys at times, his best sympathies and perceptions will be transient and unstable. Truth is therefore requisite to make man habitually a poet: most men have what they term better moinents,' when the poetic triumphs over the selfish. These seasons are the results of a temporary obedience to the high internal nature. Truth, however, is that law which incessantly demands this obedience : how seldom is it rendered! Our seeing is-o, how frequently !-above our being. We are false representations of our belief, and are to be numbered amongst those whose life is a lie. If, then, having love, beauty, and truth-in one word, poetry, within us, we disregard its laws and resist its operations, are we to be surprised that we fail to become poets ?
“To be poets, we must be the subjects of poetry; her law must be our rule, her breath our inspiration; we must depose from the throne of the heart, the usurper, Self, the tyrant whom we have installed therein ; we must banish him from the realms of the soul; we must sacrifice every association connected with him at the shrine of the legitimate sovereign; every trace of his power must be offered up; for it were mockery to present the divine poetry in our being (insulted too long) with a partial and limited homage."
Editor. Very well, our good friend ! you are an orator—but we cannot permit you to say anything more at this time. Hey, presto! at the word
you fade-and what seemed corporal of you has melted like-- Sir Martin Archer Shee, Knt., your most obliged servant !
Sir Martin Archer Shee. The conversation you have just held was so much in accordance with the sentiments delivered in my Address, which now lies in quarto dignity beneath your elbow
Editor. Where? Here! Yes—I see.-(reads) “ Address to the Students of the Royal Academy; delivered before the General Assembly, on the Distribution of the Gold Medals, 10th December, 1837. By Sir Martin Archer Shee, Knt., President." * Very good.
Sir M. A. Shee. I could not help, I say, yielding so far to the influence of the conversation just concluded, as to make some attempt to bring to your mind the cognate sentiments on the subject in my address.
Editor. With all the rest of the world, at the present time, you believe in a New Era ; and for yourself, find evidence and illustration of it in the change of site now occupied by the Royal Academy.
Sir M. A. Shee. The change which has taken place in the local position of the Royal Academy naturally leads to a consideration of its past and present state. The period of its establishment in its new abode may be said to form an era in its history; on arriving at which, we pause for a moment to review the course which has been hitherto pursued, and calculate the chances which, in its future progress, may facilitate or impede the great object tor which it was originally founded-the promotion of the Fine Arts,
Editor. You hold, I perceive, that Reynolds still stands unrivalled at the head of the British school ; and Hogarth and Wilson may, in many respects, contest the palm with the most eminent of their successors.
Sir M. A. Shee. But, in every department of Art, a powerful mass of talent has been created which is creditable to the genius of our country, and which seems only to await a fit opportunity, and an appropriate stimulus, to start forward with success in the noblest race of renown. A new art, also, may be said to have sprung up amongst us. The imitation of Nature, through the mediumn of Water-colour on paper, has assumed a character and efficiency unknown to former ages : a power has been displayed which appeared hardly compatible with the nature of the materials employed in its exercise ; and with rapid strides this department of art has advanced to a perfection which at once surprises and satisfies the beholder, who doubts, in his admiration, if higher excellence can be hoped for or desired.
Editor. We cannot agree with you, Sir Martin, as to the improvement of the public taste; it has not kept pace with the progress of any art. The reasons are obvious. The public taste has had its leaders—and these leaders have betrayed their trust. Pseudo critics have made a waste, where they should have cherished a garden. Demand of your historical painters, what they think of the public taste? or, perhaps, rather what they know of and concerning the patrons on whom artists depend for support? Look at the last three or four years :-during that time have Etty and George Patten met with the guerdon ihat they had a right to expect ? Not they ! not they!
Sir M. A. Shee. The cultivation of the public taste, certainly, has not extended to the fullest desirable extent--still something has been done. Not only have the connoisseur and the collector obtained a sounder judgement in art, than that which had hitherto prevailed in the circles of virtų, but a con. siderable degree of information on the subject has been generally diffused among the educated classes of the community. Though a cultivated taste has not yet become an essential attainment in our system of national education, yet ignorance of the Arts is considered to denote a want of refinement; and is now rarely avowed in respectable society without some sense of humiliation,
Editor. Yet, where are your purchasers ? and what are your artists to do without them?
Sir M. A. Shee. Too true—not even the Academy can produce patrons! It
* London: William Clowes and Sons. 1838.
may cultivate the powers of genius, but it cannot employ them. Of all the competitors for fame, the artist is the least fortunate. Dependent on extraneous circumstances, and requiring a co-operation of aids and accommodations which, though essential to his purpose, he cannot always command, he requires every sort of encouragement. The Architect will plan his building, the Sculptor will prepare his model in vain, if nobody requires the erection of the one, or the execution of the other. The Painter cannot, like the Poet, as Johnson relates of Savage, compose in the street, and beg, from the first shop within his reach, the means of transcribing his effusions. The painter depends more on time and place ; he must wait for opportunity and patronage. Barry justly observes, that “ Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, and the Caracci, could not have produced their wonders without the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and the Farnese Palace; but Milton's poem required neither a palace nor a prince.”
Editor. Public exhibitions are more useful in giving the needful tone to the public mind, than in forming the artist's. Genius requires no model but nature-were it otherwise, no other models would have existed.
Sir M. A. Shee. True, Great works, presented to us in the full blaze of fame, would seem rather to paralyse than inspire. Our faculties are awed before the idols of time and authority; and the rational respect which is due to preceding merit, degenerates to superstitious veneration. Moreover, experience, in every age, has proved that Art advances with a steady pace, as long as she fixes her regards faithfully upon Nature. She retrogrades from the moment when she turns her eye upon herself. Yet to this fate, by a Narcissus-like fascination, all arts would seem to tend ; and the progress of the human powers is ob. structed, not so much by the defect of their weakness, as by the misapplication of their strength. The study of Nature leads to originality and excellence;the study of Art to mediocrity and imitation. The one forms the Poet and the Painter; Authors and Artists are the production of the other.
Editor. Excellent remarks! That the artist lakes the wrong direction, is due to the perverted courses of criticism, which, judging all at the outside, always judges wrongly.
Sir M. A. Shee. The critic, indeed, expatiates so learnedly on the wonders which have been wrought in past times, and holds them up to the admiration of the present, in such a strain of fanciful refinement and rhapsodical exaggeration, that the works of Men are allowed to supersede the great model which they represent, and we are taught to turn our back on the real object, to study the reflection. An age of criticism, indeed, seems not to be favourable to the operations of genius. Homer little suspected that the caprices of his fancy were to become the fetters of his posterity.
Editor. We shall yet have new Homers and Shaksperes, who will give laws, not take them. Artists will yet arise who shall assert the independence of genius, and, while they drink copiously from the streams of knowledge, shail feel it to be their privilege and their duty to trace them to the source from which they flowed. While they will profit by the merits of other times, they will refuse to be bound by their authority, and will surpass, because they look beyond them.
Sir M. A. Shee. That was certainly the case with Michael Angelo and Raffaelle-Titian and Correggio, who have never since been excelled, because they have been always imitated.
Éditor. And only because of that. Sir Martin! we shall have new Michael AngelosRaffaelles-Titians, and Correggios!
Sir M. A. Shee. When we consider the rich and luxuriant tracts which the natural taste of Shakspere led him to explore, we surely have some reason to rejoice that he travelled without a guide,—that no books of the road were found witbin his reach,—that no critical finger-posts had yet been set up in his time, to lure him into beaten paths, and hackneyed highways. There is little credit to be obtained in going over the same ground where others have preceded us, and we can only follow in their footsteps. One happy invention 13 worth a thousand imitations; and I do not envy the ambition of him who
would not rather be an original Hogarth, than a second-rate Raffaelle or a mock Michael Angelo.
Editor. The National Gallery is in fearful proximity to the Academy's Exhibition. We shall perpetrate an article on this subject.
Sir M. A. Shee. The Exhibition of the National Gallery consists of a selection from the labours of three centuries,- of works culled from every school that has existed since the revival of the Arts, and anxiously rescued by taste from the general wreck of time. Although the merits of many of the productions thus carefully transmitted to our day do not entirely justify their celebrity, and others must be considered rather as supplying the illustrations of the history of the arts for the antiquarian, than examples of their perfection to the artist, or the amateur, yet all are invested with a character of excellence, and regarded with that unquestioning reverence which the superstition of taste is ever ready to pay to pretensions which appear to be sanctioned by the authority of time. The Exhibition of the Academy, on the other hand, is formed from the contributions of a single school,-a single city,—and, in almost every instance, of a single year. It is necessarily regulated on principles which forbid any fastidious severity of selection, and which render exclusion invidious. The works of which it is composed, too, are not always the best productions of their respective authors, but such as the ordinary course of their professional engagements, and the good pleasure of those who employ them, may chance to supply. Thus circumstanced, our annual exhibition might reasonably claim to be regarded with some indulgence; yet the prepossessions of the public taste are seldom in its favour. Those who have no confidence in their own judgment, are still distrustful of native talent; the pretender to taste thinks it safer to depreciate than to praise; mediocrity finds little mercy, and even the highest merit can expect but a cold and hesitating commendation.
Editor. It is the same in literature, too ;--all the same, to a tittle, Sir Martin! I have been exceedingly pleased with your remarks on the apparently sombre hues of old pictures, only because they are old, and the apparently gaudy hues of new pictures, only because they are new. Some thing, however, comes out of these accidents which is of more than accidental benefit ;-a medium of colour, better than either, may be conceived—and once conceived, presented in execution.
Sir M. A. Shee. The mistakes of the amateur on this topic are extremely mischievons. There is, in consequence of them, a disposition rather to tighten than to relax the reins by which the fiery steed of genius has been too long confined to the regular paces of the School. The amateur, meanwhile, shows some desire to supersede the artist in his function of leading the public taste, and claims a right of interference and control in his operations which, I conceive, would at once reduce him to the level of a mechanic, and make his art a trade. But surely a pretension of this kind cannot be reasonably sustained, The Poet and the Artist, when operating in the true spirit of their avocations, must always exercise more influence on the public mind than the critic or the connoisseur.
Editor. The Poet ?- yes, we have poets in our day, both foreign and domestic. Esaias Tegner-for instance- No sooner had we pronounced the words, suiting thereto the action, also, by taking up “Axel, from the Swedish of Esaias Tegner, by R. G. Latham, M. A., Fellow of King's College, Cambridge,”*_than the eloquent rhymester and orator on Art, like the spirits who had preceded him, vanished. In his place, we saw the reverend Latham-not in his canonicals, but in a plain suit of sober black-seated by the library fire, and heard him sing or say-in fact, churning a chaunt-like this :
“I love the old heroic times
Of Charles the Twelfth, our country's glory;
Of stern or tender story.
* London: T. Hookham, Old Bond-street, 1838.
Esaias Tegner's “ Axel,” translated by R. G. Latham.
For he was blythe as Peace inay be,
Those soldier spirits clad in light;
Their coats of buff, and swords of giant height." Editor. Sweden, although long considered by the South of Europe as the land of poverty and rudeness, is not destitute of meritorious poets. Among these, Esaias Tegner stands pre-eminent. His “ Frithiof's Saga” is one of the boldest, and, in many respects, the best, of the Swedish poems. Its metrical arrangement is new and curious. There has not, we believe, been any thing like it in any other language.
Mr. Latham. You may begin with the title-page. Instead of the notifications generally contained in that indispensable part of a printed book, he gives us a vignette representing the heroine, and a stanza of the poem affords an idea of the subject of the succeeding work. The requisite information as to the name of the author, publisher, &c. &c., being ousted to the last page. The Saga is divided into twenty-four cantos, of which none are very long, while some are excessively short. Each change of scene is accompanied by a change of canto; and each canto has a metre of its own, and consequently there are twenty-four different kinds of metre in this singular production.
Editor. Nor was this all. There were some novelties attending its first appearance. The last nine cantos were printed at Stockholm in the years 1820 and 1822, and were afterwards followed, in 1825, by the fifteen previous ones ; truly a reversal of the usual order of publication
But our business now is with “ Axel.” The picture of the Old Warrior, with which the poem opens, is fine :
“He seemed like some triumphal pillar,
Undermined by Time.
The silver of a hundred years."
Mr. Latham. The tale of the hapless loves of Axel and Thecla, is supposed to be related to the poet by that ancient warrior—a soldier of King Charles the Twelfth, and runs thus.- The monarch, immediately after the disastrous battle of Pultowa, gives a letter to Axel, "his henchman brave," saying
“ Bear it to Stockholm. Heaven be with thee still
And greet, from Charles, the old ancestral hill." Axel is portrayed as of exceeding loveliness-yes--though, at the same time, "cheery, bold, and wild ;''Cheery, bold, and wild ;
The lines of his brow would change and play, At Holofsin bis sire had died,
Like the clear sky's own on a sunny day; Slain, sword in band, by Adolf's side;
And, glad though they were, betrayed no less And left but bim, the tent's true child,
Orhardihood, than of earnestness. With weapon-clang, and warrior-cry,
His eyes' bright azure seemed to be For matin song and lullaby.
For gazing at heaven hopingly ; -The rose's dew, that meets the morn,
Or for leading him onward, without despair, Was not so fresh as he ;
Through the fabled gloom of the fiends of air!' The slender fir, on Dovre's side,
Was not more straight and free. He was of Charles' body guard-men who were trained to scorn of death, and to hardihood beyond their viking ancestors; sleeping on turf or plank, sung to rest by the northern wind, and curtained by the colder sky.