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قراءة كتاب Beauty: Illustrated Chiefly by an Analysis and Classificatin of Beauty in Woman

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‏اللغة: English
Beauty: Illustrated Chiefly by an Analysis and Classificatin of Beauty in Woman

Beauty: Illustrated Chiefly by an Analysis and Classificatin of Beauty in Woman

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

class="x-ebookmaker-pageno" title="[Pg xi]"/> term it such, however, for want of a wider language—and leave men to feel out such definition as they may deem more good and grateful.

Implanted, then, so deeply as Beauty is in the human heart—so universal, that millions bow to it as something to fear while they worship—so certain, as a principle, that scarcely a human being can be said to walk without the sphere of its influence—it would be needless as well as unphilosophical to deny that the great object of its fixture—its enthronement upon its high place, should be one of no common character, or of a tendency and effect within us, which it would be wrong and inexcusable to overlook.

What then is the design of this singular and mysterious power, in connexion with this sad and unaccountable nature—so often the theme of eulogy and lament—of lofty, long, and desperate satire, among men? The best answer, we think, is rendered in the influence, where operation is open to every one who thinks, observes, reasons, acts, among his fellows.—To enter into particular definitions here, would be needless as well as wearisome. The general effect upon man, as a sentient and moral being, must be the point to which our simple remarks and reasons must be confined.

We have somewhere seen it observed—and have little doubt in the publicity and good sense of the thought—that there was perhaps no one thing which tended so materially to awaken lofty and good sentiments among the people—to qualify the rough outline of character—and soften and harmonize the untaught elements of their nature, as the frequent, unrestrained, and encouraged contemplation of the perfect statuary, which their master sculptors were continually erecting in their temples. This freedom was a perpetual lesson to a nation. The principle was developed, and the power of Beauty had a new, and forming, and mastering sway. A people were coming into the light of better feeling—better society—better government, under the gradual but no less certain operation of a living principle, brought into great and beautiful action, under the commanding hand of Genius, that seemed to pass at once from the sky, whose perfect things it presented to the sons of earth!—It is not singular, we think, that such a leading forth of Beauty to the contemplation of awakened man, should produce effects like those to which we have adverted. It strikes us that it would have been strange had this consequence not been generated, and noble sculpture thus have stood before a world as cold as the marble from which it was stricken. We believe that Beauty saw a renovating power in the wonder of the Venus—and it would be a sad thing to feel that it had ever ceased in its progress where woman or the chisel were doing such things to advance it. Nor has it ceased. History presents too many instances of the monarch power of Beauty in woman, to permit us to doubt upon this subject. It has passed upon the spirit of Man like a thing of necromance—winning him to its command, and bowing him to its will, until royalty itself has stood powerless in its presence, and the poor mass of mortals, stricken and panting like cornered deer before the inexorable hunter. It has been the salvation and ruin of nations, as well as families and individuals—for queens have obeyed its supremacy as well as maidens, and kings squared their mandates, and regulated their course, by the “line of beauty.” All this is matter of record. Sacred and profane story abounds with instances which admit of no denial, while they excite our wonder. But the wonder ceases, notwithstanding, when we turn from record to our own experience, and see the effect, on others and ourselves, of what we once read about in the curious annals of our species. We now see the finished sculpture that delighted and softened the people of an age, gazed on and admired by every being whom we are accustomed to regard as rational. No one pretends to question, much less to deny the beauty of the lovely statue, in which the perfection of woman is portrayed in the finished feature or the swelling form. Insensibility here would properly be regarded as a thing to be ashamed of—as little better than a moral paralysis, which might well exclude the questionable man from the circle of reasonable, enlightened, and rising people, as a sad fellow, and a poor pilgrim on the earth. You will rarely find the roughest nature with a cuticle that will not confess some sensibility in a presence such as this—and I think we may set it down as a thing well ascertained, that the picture or chiselling of a beautiful woman will command the tribute of delight—the acknowledgment—and loud one too—of a whole and hearty worship from the tar, as well as the amateur. The galleries of our artists, in which the principle of Beauty is made to speak and command, sufficiently prove that there is no passing away of this power which has moved, ruled, and regulated, to a degree almost incredible, the world of Man, from the time he came to this school, and this trial of the passions and affections. Let the question be asked of any one, whose spirit is in healthful action, if his experience before the work of art, imbodying the Beauty we speak of, is not of a humanizing—and we will add civilizing, as well as elevating character, and we are willing to abide the issue of his answer, in full support of the position we have taken. Such is our belief on the universality of this influence or element. We have heard it denied, it is certain—but it was even by those who have never tested the power by an application of it to themselves, or a surrender to its mysteries, by an approach to the real presence—and who, like bachelors upon the fearful subject of matrimony, only betray a silliness just in proportion to their ignorance. These are the men who have not yet unfolded. They are in the chrysalis condition—and to be pitied accordingly. They may depend upon it, when they pass from the slough, they will be ready to confess they are, alas! too deep in that other “Slough of Despond,” which is too well represented by a sad sensitiveness to the magic of Beauty, and as sad a consciousness that there is no approach for them, which can be crowned by a capture of the citadel, or the least enjoyment of the glorious delights it encloses. When we hear men deteriorating this power, or thanking the gods they never bent knee or uttered vow at its shrine, we are ever ready to believe they have either bowed all their days to far other and sadder principles, and made oath to idols of bad material and worse sculpture, or that they are as much beyond the reach of any good, and proper, and beautiful influence, as the clod of the valley to which they are hastening. They may take pride in denial of such influence—but what is there to boast of in insensibility of any kind, where the very betrayal of admiration is the best evidence of a good taste—a good feeling—a good faith—a good principle? It cannot have escaped common observation, we presume, that a love of Beauty—or, at least, any peculiar sensitiveness to that quality in the female sex, has been held—and by sensible men, too—as a weakness, or an index only of a weak mind, or a feminine spirit. This is certainly very foolish—and a lamentable mistake. But it is easily accounted for. It will be observed that the doctrine is never held save by men who see beauty in things which other persons would hold abhorrent. They are men who are in love with metaphysics, or glory in a mathematical existence. They like, beyond all, the features of a problem, and think only of the good face of a speculation. They see, as they profess, at least, no proportions, save in some cold system of an absurd philosophy, and are only fit for judgment in things either too abstract for the mass of men, or too decidedly “earthy”