Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

A FLAT FISH. “ I REALLY can't sing, believe me, sir," was the reply of a young lady to the repeated requests of an empty fop. "I am rather inclined to believe, madam,” rejoined he, with a smirk," that you are fishing for compliments.” “ No, sir," exclaimed the lady, “ I never fish in so shallow a stream."

THE WINDS.
Not all the whispers that the soft winds utter

Speak earthly things
There mingleth there, sometimes a gentle flutter

Of angel's wings.

ON EARLY RISING. Early rising is a habit so easily acquired, so necessary for business, so advantageous to health, and so important to devotion, that except in cases of necessity, it ought not to be dispensed with by any prudent or diligent person. The lying late in bed is one of the ills of the aged and sick, but ought not to be an enjoyment of persons in perfect health.

If any, therefore, have been so unfortunate, as to have acquired this idle habit, let them get rid of it as soon as they can. Nothing is easier; a habit is only a repetition of single acts, and may be broken, as it was formed, by degrees. It is a succession of short steps, which conveys us from the foot to the top of a mountain. Let a person, accustomed to sleep till eight in the morning, rise the first week in April a quarter before eight, the second at halfpast seven, the third at a quarter after seven, and the fourth at seven ; let him go on in this way to the end of July, and he will accomplish a work, which might at first appear difficult, and render a month equal to five weeks of his former indolent life.

Lying late in bed is an intemperance, of the most pernicious kind; it impairs the health, is the cause of many diseases, and in the end, destroys the lives of multitudes; it makes the blood forget its way, and creep lazily along the veins; it relaxes the fibres, unstrings the nerves, evaporates the animal spirits, saddens the soul, dulls the fancy, and subdues and stupifies man to such a degree, that he dislikes labour, yawns for want of thought, trembles at the sight of a spider, or at the fancies of his own imagination.

They who rise early are met by the domestic animals with peculiar pleasure; one whines and purs about him, another frisks and capers, and does everything but speak. The stern mastiff, the plodding ox, the noble horse, the harmless sheep, the chackling poultry, the dronish ass, every one, in its own way, expresses joy when he first appears. Then how incomparably fine is the dawning of the day, when the soft light comes stealing on; at first glimmers with the stars, but gradually outshines them all. How

beautiful are the folding and the parting of the grey clouds, drawn back like a curtain, to give us a sight of the most magnificent of all appearance, the rising of the sun. How rich is the dew, decking every spire of grass with coloured spangles of endless variety and of inexpressible heauty. Larks mount and fill the air with delightful and perfect music, and every beast and every tree, every steeple and every hovel, emits a cooing or a twittering, a warbling or a chirping, a hailing of the return of day. The solemn stillness of the morning is fit and friendly to the cool and undisturbed recollection of a man just risen from his bed, fully refreshed, and in perfect health. Let him compare his condition with that of hall the world, aud let him feel an indisposition to admire and adore his protector, if he can. How many great events have come to pass in these six hours, while I have been dead. The heavenly bodies have moved on the great wheels of nature, have none of them stood still, vegetation is advanced, the season is come forward, fleets have continued sailing, councils have been held, and on the opposite side of the world, in broad noonday, business and pleasure, amusements, battles, and revolutions, have taken place, without my concurrence, consent, or knowledge.

OUR SAVIOUR.
"All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,
And the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience."

Behold the Saviour at thy door;
He gently knocks,-bas knock'd before,
Has waited long,-is waiting still, -
You treat no other friend so in.
Oh, lovely attitude! he stands
With open heart and out-stretch'd bands;
Oh, matchless kindness! and he shews
This matchless kindness to his foes.
Admit him--for the human breast
Ne'er entertained so kind a guest;
Admit bim-or the hour's at hand,
When at His door, denied, you'll stand.
Open my heart, Lord, enter in;
Slay every foe and conquer sin.
Here now to thee I all resign-
My body, soul, for all are thine.

A MILITIA man being told by a phrenologist that he had the organ of locality very largely, innocently replied—“Very likely; I was five years in the local militia.”

A LADY, who was very modest and submissive before marriage, was observed by a friend use her tongue pretty freely after. “ There was a time when I almost imagined she had none. • Yes,” said her husband, with a sigh, “but its very long since. FRUGALITY. HARDLY can that man be either truly thankful unto God, or much helpful to his friends, or do any great matters in the way of charity and to pious uses, or keep time in his promises, and pay every man of his own, as every honest man should do, or live a contented life, that is not frugal.

PAINTINGS. To enable persons to appreciate these treasures, the original purposes have been thus described :

The first use made of pictures was to instruct people in matters of religion. You will remember that the art of painting was not invented for nearly fifteen hundred years after the coming of our Saviour. All the copies of the Scriptures were written out painfully and industriously by the hands of men ; a complete copy of the Bible then cost half an estate. A copy of the four Gospels was gladly purchased by the exchange of a herd of cattle or a flock of five hundred sheep. The pictures on the walls of churches were Bibles of the laity, in which they read the wonderful and glorious ways of God to man. The earliest of these church pictures, of which specimens remain to us, were of a very simple and solemn character, and formed a part of the architecture of the building. When one entered into worship, the first object which he beheld, directly opposite to him, was, perhaps, the colossal figure of our Saviour, with one hand uplifted, and blessing the people: in the other, holding the open Gospel, with a text inscribed on the leaves, relating to his character as Messiah and Redeemer, such as, “I am the light of the world;" or, “I am the way, the truth, and the life;" or, “they who have seen me, have seen the Father also.”

A century or two later, about the seventh or eighth century, it was, perhaps, the figure of the Virgin Mary, with her divine son in her arms; then, and long afterwards, the visible representation of the advent of the divinity on earth, first as an innocent child, then as teacher of men, the “light of the world.” In later times were added subjects from Holy Writ; the principal events of Hebrew history, and from the Gospels, being placed round the church, and often accompanied by illustrative texts, that those who could read might interpret to those who could not; such were the commencements of Christian art in the East, and in Italy. Now these figures and groups being mostly painted according to a pattern devised by ecclesiastics—the first painters were apparently all of that profession-and imitated from generation to generation, by the Greek painters, who supplied Western Europe with pictures and paintings for several ages, the art of painting had become by the twelfth century a mere formal conventional manner of representing certain sacred themes. The science of perspective was unknown; and all variety, all resemblance to life, to nature, to reality, were as much out of the question, as in the Mandarins “ Titus,"

fishing in a river a mile off, or the little ladies sipping tea in the clouds, on one of the blue china plates, we can all remember. As to any impress of the individual mind of the artist, you might as well seek it on a Birmingham button.

In reference to this, it has been observed, that our National Gallery “can afford us little help or illustration in tracing through successive periods, the gradual progress of art, running parallel with the history of social changes and the progress of the mind.”

We should, therefore, try another sort of classification, one quite as instructive, and perhaps, even more popular and interesting. In a Gallery too limited to admit of a chronological arrangement, why not class pictures as we class books in a library, according to the natural and obvious division of subjects treated ? Some rooms full of pictures, so-called galleries and collections, remind one of Prince Korkasoff's order to his bookseller to fit him up a library of books :-“What authors, may it please your Highness ?” “Oh!" said the Prince," large books at bottom, small books at top.” So the bookseller arranged for him a splendid library, composed of old newspapers, superannuated pamphlets, vile printed editions, unsaleable poems, and these he bound up in gold and morocco, and labelled on the back, “Homer,” and “ Virgil,”

Livius,” and “ Tacitus,' Shakespeare,” “ Dante,” “ Tasso,” and such great names.

It has also been remarked, with pride and pleasure, the valuable specimens we possess of historical, landscape, and portrait painting. Of portrait painting particularly :— At first when a man wished to have his portrait preserved, he was introduced in attitude of devotion, into some religious picture. Portrait painting, as a separate art, seems to have been practised by the Venetians; it is in painting what biography is in literature, and portraiture, as well as biography, particularly in the representation of important and well-known personages, may be so treated as to assume something of the dignity of history, and the grace of poetry, as in the stern old Pope Julius II., and in that of Lord Heathfield, the defender of Gibraltar, when he stands holding the key of the fortress in his hand, an accessory which is at once poetical and historically suggestive. On the propriety of this “accessory,” the following criticism is offered :- It reminds us of Puff, in the Critic, when he takes credit for indicating, Sir Christopher Hatton, who was renowned for dancing, by the turning out of his toes. Besides, if we knew nothing of the subject, the picture would be very far, indeed, from telling its own story; since a key would be more probably in the hand of the conqueror than of the defender of a fortress.

The following remarks, however, are just and instructive :It may be said that the most cultivated minds only are capable of understanding the highest subjects—what has been emphatically termed " high art;" yet let this answer, that we have observed, in

VOL. II.

D

watching the visitors to our National Gallery, how often the very young and the very uneducated show themselves most keenly alive to the manifestation of the highest beauty, just as they keenly enjoy Shakspeare's plays. In both cases, the profound wisdom, and the profound skill, may be hidden from the onexperienced and the uninitiated, but in both cases, what is finest, and truest, and best, comes out of the depths of our common nature.

Well, then, to be brief, the subject of the picture will be the first, the most direct, and the most universal source of delighted contemplation; next to this, reckon the pleasure we feel in assigning to each picture, its proper place in the history of the development of art; thus judging comparatively of its merits, not only with regard to what has been done before and since, but as it reflects truly the faith, the manner, the costume in some particular era in the history of human civilizations. This is what renders chronological arrangement so striking, so interesting, so suggestive, as we find it carried out, partially in the Louvre, in the Museum, at Berlin, and yet more fully and completely in the Florentine Gallery of the Academy.

The third source of pleasure and instruction in pictures, to which we have alluded, is derived from a knowledge and appre. ciation of the various schools of paintings, national or local, and the characteristics of each. This requires, of course, a still wider range of knowledge; but let us not suppose that it is merely a pedantic and technical knowledge, a sort of knack or mystery confined to painters, picture dealers, and connoisseurs by profession. Not so, for a picture has a countenance; and as a good physiognomist can at once seize and combine the indications of character in a human face, so, in a picture, there is to the quick feeling and quick discriinination, which both together constitute taste, always the same sure indications of the country, the period, or the school which produced it.

And there is another source of social and intellectual pleasure, which must exist with all the others mentioned, to give them their highest test. If it be interesting to have, in pictures, certain national or local, or mental or moral influences, in a general way, as well as certain intrinsic beauties of style, it is also extremely delightful to recognize in a picture the individual character of the artist who executed it. For just in proportion to the excellence of a painter, is the impress of his peculiar cast of mind on his own work, modifying from within the outward manifestation of his art, and leading him to carry out some specific style of excellence akin to his own organization, in a higher degree than any other. For this we ought to seek, or rather we ought at once to perceive it, and never to require from one artist, or one school, the especial distinctive merits of another, or blame deficiencies which are, in fact, the condition on which certain relative and peculiar excellencies have attained and carried out.

« AnteriorContinuar »