« AnteriorContinua »
resignation to the will of Heaven, the mutual affection of the charities, the voluntary respect paid to superior dignity or station, the virtue of beneficence, extended even to the brute creation — nay, the very crimson glow of health, and swelling lines of beauty, are despised, detested, scorned, and ridiculed, as ignorance, rudeness, rusticity, and superstition. Thus we see how moral and natural beauty are connected ; and of what importance it is, even to the formation of taste, that the manners should be severely superintended. This is a task which ought to take the lead of science ; for we will venture to say, that virtue is the foundation of taste ; or rather, that virtue and taste are built upon the same foundation of sensibility, and cannot be disjoined without offering violence to both. But virtue must be informed, and taste instructed, otherwise they will both remain imperfect and ineffectual :
Qui didicit patriæ quid debeat, et quid amicis,
The critic, who with nice discernment knows
The strokes peculiar to each different part. Thus we see taste is composed of nature improved by art ; of feeling tutored by instruction.
CULTIVATION OF TASTE.
Having explained what we conceive to be true taste, and in some measure accounted for the prevalence of vitiated taste, we should proceed to point out the most effectual manner in which a natural capacity may be improved into a
delicacy of judgment, and an intimate acquaintance with the Belles Lettres. We shall take it for granted, that proper means have been used to form the manners, and attach the mind to virtue. The heart, cultivated by precept, and warmed by example, improves in sensibility, which is the foundation of taste. By distinguishing the influence and scope of morality, and cherishing the ideas of benevolence, it acquires a habit of sympathy, which tenderly feels responsive, like the vibration of unisons, every touch of moral beauty. Hence it is that a man of a social heart, entendered by the practice of virtue, is awakened to the most pathetic emotions by every uncommon instance of generosity, compassion, and greatness of soul. Is there any man so dead to sentiment, so lost to humanity, as to read unmoved the generous behaviour of the Romans to the states of Greece, as it is recounted by Livy, or embellished by Thomson in his poem of Liberty ? Speaking of Greece in the decline of her power, when her freedom no longer existed, he says: As at her Isthmian games
a fading pomp. Her full assembled youth innumerous swarm’d, On a tribunal raised FLAMINIUS* sat; A victor he, from the deep Phalanx pierced Of iron-coated Macedon, and back The Grecian tyrant to his bounds repell’d. In the high thoughtless gaiety of game, While sport alone their unambitious hearts Possess'd, the sudden trumpet, sounding hoarse, Bade silence o'er the bright assembly reign. Then thus a herald, -" To the states of Greece The Roman people, unconfined, restore Their countries, cities, liberties, and laws; Taxes remit, and garrisons withdraw.” The crowd, astonish'd half, and half inform’d, Stared dubious round; some question'd, some exclaim'd, (Like one who, dreaming between hope and fear, Is lost in anxious joy,) " Be that again Be that again proclaim'd distinct and loud!” Loud and distinct it was again proclaim'd; And, still as midnight in the rural shade, When the gale slumbers, they the words devour'd. Awhile severe amazement held them mute, Then bursting broad, the boundless shout to heaven From many a thousand hearts ecstatic sprung! On every hand rebellow'd to their joy The swelling sea, the rocks, and vocal hills.
His real name was QUINTUS FLAMINIUS.
Like Bacchanals they flew,
Round the proconsul's tent repeated rung. To one acquainted with the genius of Greece, the character and disposition of that polished people, admired for science, renowned for an unextinguishable love of freedom, nothing can be more affecting than this instance of generous magnanimity of the Roman people, in restoring them unasked to the full fruition of those liberties which they had so unfortunately lost.
The mind of sensibility is equally struck by the generous confidence of Alexander, who drinks, without hesitation, the potion presented by his physician Philip, even after he had received intimation that poison was contained in the cup : a noble and pathetic scene, which hath acquired new dignity and expression under the inimitable pencil of a Le Sueur. Humanity is melted into tears of tender admiration, by the deportment of Henry IV. of France, while his rebellious subjects compelled him to form the blockade of his capital. In chastising his enemies, he could not but remember they were his people; and knowing they were reduced to the extremity of famine, he generously connived at the methods practised to supply them with provision. Chancing one day to meet two peasants, who had been detected in these practices, as they were led to execution they implored his clemency, declaring in the sight of Heaven, they had no other way to procure subsistence for their wives and children; he pardoned them on the spot, and giving them all the money that was in his purse, “ Henry of Bearne is poor," said he ; “ had he more money to afford, you should have it : go home to your families in peace; and remember your duty to God, and your allegiance to your sovereign.' Innumerable examples of the same kind may be selected from history both ancient and modern, the study of which we would therefore strenuously recommend,
Historical knowledge, indeed, becomes necessary on many other accounts, which in its place we will explain : but as the formation of the heart is of the first consequence, and should precede the cultivation of the understanding, such striking instances of superior virtue ought to be culled for the perusal of the young pupil, who will read them with eagerness, and revolve them with pleasure. Thus the
young mind becomes enamoured of moral beauty, and the passions are listed on the side of humanity. Meanwhile, knowledge of a different species will go hand in hand with the advances of morality, and the understanding be gradually extended. Virtue and sentiment reciprocally assist each other, and both conduce to the improvement of perception, While the scholar's chief attention is employed in learning the Latin and Greek languages, and this is generally the task of childhood and early youth, it is even then the business of the preceptor to give his mind a turn for observation, to direct his powers of discernment, to point out the distinguishing marks of character, and 'dwell
the charms of moral and intellectual beauty, as they may chance to occur in the classics that are used for his instruction. In reading Cornelius Nepos, and Plutarch's Lives, even with a view to grammatical improvement only, he will insensibly imbibe, and learn to compare, ideas of great importance. He will become enamoured of virtue and patriotism, and acquire a detestation for vice, cruelty, and corruption. The perusal of the Roman story in the works of Florus, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, will irresistibly engage his attention, expand his conception, cherish his memory, exercise his judgment, and warm him with a noble spirit of emulation. He will contemplate with love and admiration the disinterested candour of Aristides, surnamed the Just, whom the guilty cabals of his rival Themistocles exiled from his ungrateful country, by a sentence of Ostracism. He will be surprised to learn, that one of his fellow-citizens, an illiterate artisan, bribed by his enemies, chancing to meet him in the street without knowing his person, desired he would write Aristides on his shell (which was the method those plebeians used to vote against delinquents,) when the innocent patriot wrote his own name without complaint or expostulation. He will with equal astonishment applaud the inflexible integrity of Fabricius, who preferred the poverty of innocence to all the pomp of affluence, with which Pyrrhus endeavoured to seduce him from the arms of his country. He will approve with transport the noble generosity, of his soul in rejecting the proposal of that Prince's physician, who offered to take him off by poison ; and in sending the caitiff bound to his sovereign, whom he would have so basely and cruelly betrayed.
In reading the ancient authors, even for the purposes of
school education, the unformed taste will begin to relish the irresistible energy, greatness, and sublimity of Homer; the serene majesty, the melody, and pathos of Virgil ; the tenderness of Sappho and Tibullus ; the elegance and propriety of Terence;
the grace, vivacity, satire, and sentiment of Horace.
Nothing will more conduce to the improvement of the scholar in his knowledge of the languages, as well as in taste and morality, than his being obliged to translate choice parts and passages of the most approved classics, both poetry and prose; especially the latter ; such as the orations of Demosthenes and Isocrates, the treatise of Longinus on the Sublime, the Commentaries of Cæsar, the Epistles of Cicero and the younger Pliny, and the two celebrated speeches in the Catilinarian conspiracy,* by Sallust. By this practice he will become more intimate with the beauties of the writing, and the idioms of the language, from which he translates ; at the same time, it will form his style, and, by exercising his talent of expression, make him a more perfect master of his mother tongue. Cicero tells us, that in translating two orations, which the most celebrated orators of Greece pronounced against each other, he performed this task, not as a servile interpreter, but as an orator, preserving the sentiments, forms, and figures of the original, but adapting the expression to the taste and manners of the Romans : “ In quibus non verbum pro verbo necesse habui reddere, sed genus omnium verborum vimque servavi,”– “ in which I did not think it was necessary to translate literally word for word, but I preserved the natural and full scope of the whole.” Of the same opinion was Horace, who says, in his art of Poetry,
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
Nor word for word translate with painful care Nevertheless, in taking the liberty here granted, we are apt to run into the other extreme, and substitute equivalent thoughts and phrases, till hardly any features of the original remain. The metaphors of figures, especially in poetry, ought to be as religiously preserved as the images of painting,