« הקודםהמשך »
tion. Afterwards, custom, habit, the desire of novelty, and a thousand other causes, confound, adulterate, and change our palates, so that we can no longer reason with any satisfaction about them Before we quit this article, we must observe, that as smooth things are, as such, agreeable to the taste, and are found of a relaxing quality : so on the other hand, things which are found by experience to be of a strengthening quality, and fit to brace the fibres, are, almost universally, rough and pungent to the taste, and, in many cases, rough even to the touch. We often apply the quality of sweetness, metapho. rically, to visual objects. For the better carrying on this remarkable analogy of the senses, we may here call sweetness the beautiful of the taste.
SECT. XXIII.-VARIATION, WHY BEAUTIFUL. ANOTHER principal property of beautiful objects is, that the line of their parts is continually varying its direction; but it varies it by a very insensible devi. ation; it never varies it so quickly as to surprise, or by the sharpness of its angle to cause any twitch: ing or convulsion of the optic nerve. Nothing long continued in the same manner, nothing very suddenly varied, can be beautiful : because both are op. posite to that agreeable relaxation, which is the characteristic effect of beauty. It is thus in all the senses. A motion in a right line is that manner of moving, next to a very gentle descent, in which we meet the least resistance: yet it is not that manner of moving which, next to a descent, wearies us the least. Rest certainly tends to relax; yet there is a species of motion which relaxes more than rest a gentle oscillatory motion, a rising and falling. Rocking sets children to sleep better than absolute rest; there is indeed scarce any thing at that age which gives more pleasure than to be gently lifted up and down; the manner of playing which their nurses use with children, and the weighing and swinging used afterward by themselves as a favourite amusement, evince this very sufficiently. Most people must have observed the sort of sense they have had, on being swiftly drawn in an easy coach on a smooth turf, with gradual ascents and declivities. This will give a better idea of the beautiful, and point out its probable cause better than almost any thing else. On the contrary, when one is. hurried over a rough, rocky, broken road, the pain felt by these sudden inequalities shews why similar slight feelings, and sounds, are so contrary to beauty; and with regard to the feeling, it is exactly the same in its effect, or very nearly the same, whether, for instance, I move my hand along the surface of a body of a certain shape, or whether such a body is moved along my hand. But to bring this analogy of the senses home to the eye: if a body presented to that sense has such a waving sur. face, that the rays of light reflected from it are in a continual insensible deviation from the strongest to the weakest (which is always the case in a surface gradually unequal), it must be exactly similar in its effect on the eye and touch; upon the one of wbich it operates directly, on the other indirectly: and this body will be beautiful, if the lines which compose its surface are not continued, even so varied, in a manner that may weary or dissipate the attention. The variation itself must be continually varied.
SECT. XXIV.-CONCERNING SMALLNESS. To avoid a sameness which may arise from the too frequent repetition of the same reasonings, and of illustrations of the same nature, I will not enter very minutely into every particular that regards beauty, as it is founded on the disposition of its quantity, or its quantity itself. In speaking of the magnitude of bodies, there is great uncertainty, because the ideas of great and small are terms almost entirely relative to the species of the objects, which are infinite. It is true that, having once fixed the species of any object, and the dimensions common in the individuals of that species, we may observe some that exceed, and some that fall short of the ordinary standard ; those which greatly exceed are by that excess, provided the species itself be not very small, rather great and terrible than beautiful; but as in the animal world, and in a good measure in the vegetable world likewise, the qualities that constitutę beauty may possibly be united to things of greater dimensions; when they are so united, they constitute a species something different both from the sublime and beautiful, which I have before called Fine; but this kind, I imagine, has not such a power on the passions, either as vast bodies have which are endued with the correspondent qualities of the sublime; or as the qualities of beauty have when united in a small object. The affection produced by large bodies, adorned with the spoils of beauty, is a tension continually relieved, which approaches to the nature of medio. crity. But if I were to say how I find myself af. fected upon such occasions, I should say that the sublime suffers less by being united to some of the qualities of beauty, than beauty does by being joined to greatness of quantity, or any other properties of the sublime. There is something so overruling in whatever inspires us with awe, in all things which belong ever so remotely to terror, that nothing else can stand in their presence. There lie the qualities of beauty either dead and unoperative; or, at most, exerted to mollify the rigour and sternness of the terror, which is the natural concomitant of greatness. Besides the extraordinary great in every species, the opposite to this, the dwarfish and diminutive, onight to be considered. Littleness, merely as such, bas nothing contrary to the idea of beauty. The humming bird, both in shape and colouring, yields to none of the winged species, of which it is the least; and perhaps his beauty is en. hanced by his smallness. But there are animals which when they are extremely small, are rarely (ifever) beautiful. There is a dwarfish size of men and women, which is almost constantly so gross and massive in comparison of their height, that they present us with a very disagreeable image. But should a mau be found not above two or three feet high, supposing such a person to have all the parts of his body of a delicacy suitable to such a size, and otherwise endued with the common qualities of other beautiful bodies; I am pretty well convinced that a person of such a stature might be considered as beautiful; might be the object of love; might give us very pleasing ideas on viewing him. The only thing which could possibly interpose to check our pleasure is, that such creatures, however ormed, are unusual, and are often therefore considered as something monstrous. The large and gigantic, though very compatible with the sublime, is contrary to the beautiful. It is impossible to suppose a giant the object of love, . When we let our imagination loose in romance, the ideas we naturally annex to that size are those of tyranny, cruelty, injustice, and every thing horrid and abominable. We paint the giant ravaging the country, plundering the innocent traveller, and afterward gorged with his half-living flesh: such are Polyphemus, Cacus, and others, who make so great a figure in romances and heroic poems. The event we attend to, with the greatest satisfaction, is their defeat and death. I do not remember, in all that multitude of deaths with which the Iliad is filled, that the fall of any man remarkable for his great stature and strength touches us with pity; nor does it appear that the author, so well read in human nature, ever intended it should. It is Simoisius in the soft bloom of youth, torn from his parents, who tremble for a courage so ill suited to his strength; it is another hurried by war from the new embraces of his bride, young and fair, and a novice to the field, who melts us by his untimely fate. Achilles, in spite of the many qualities of beauty which Homer has bestowed on his outward form, and the many great virtues with which he has adorned his mind, can never make us love him. It may be observed, that Homer has given the Trojans, whose fate he has designed to excite our compassion, infinitely more of the amiable social virtues than he has distributed among his Grecks. With regard to the Trojans, the passion he chooses to raise is pity; pity is a passion founded on love : and these lesser, and if may say domestic, virtues, are certainly the most amiable. But he has made the Greeks far their superiors in politic and military virtues. The councils of Priam are weak; the arms of Hector comparatively feeble ; his courage far below that of