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1. We are told, that when Newton drew near to the close of those calculations which confirmed his discovery of the laws by which the planets are bound in their courses, he was so overwhelmed with emotion, that he could not proceed, and was obliged to ask the assistance of a friend. No one can think of the mighty, intellectual work that was then accomplished, and not feel, as he did, an overpowering emotion.
2. The engagement of two great armies, as it is the highest exertion of human might, affords a variety of sources of the sublime. Example:-“ Like autumn's dark storms, pouring from two echoing hills, towards each other approached the heroes : as two dark streams from high rocks, meet and war on the plain, loud, rough, and dark in battle, meet Lochlin and Innisfail. Chief mixes his stroke with chief, and man with man : steel sounds on steel, and helmets are cleft on high ; blood bursts and smokes around : strings murmur on the polished yew : darts rush along the sky: spears fall like sparks of flame that gild the stormy face of night. As the noise of troubled ocean when roll the waves on high; as the last peal of the thunder of heaven ; such is the noise of battle. Though Cormac's hundred bards were there, feeble were the voice of a hundred bards, to send the deaths to future times ; for many were the deaths of the heroes, and wide poured the blood of the valiant.” - Ossian.
287. REQUISITES OF TASTE. — a. As Taste is an improveable faculty, Exercise is necessary for its cultivation. Thus, Touch becomes more exquisite in men whose employment leads them to examine the polish of bodies, than it is in others whose trade does not require such nice exertions. So, Sight, in discerning the minutest objects, acquires a surprising accuracy in microscopical observers, and those who are accustomed to engrave on precious stones.
b. In the second place, Taste requires a knowledge of those subjects on which it is exercised. The Chemist, for instance, cannot form a mixture to possess certain required properties, without a knowledge of the properties of the several simples which form the ingredients. In the same manner, knowledge is implied in those instances of judgment which are included under Taste.
c. A third requisite of Taste is a high degree of the susceptibility of the emotions of beauty, usually denominated sensibility. — So far as the emotions of beauty result from original tendencies of the mind to be pleased with the view of certain objects, they are, in some degree, common to all men in their earliest years. But, it is a well-known fact, respecting all our emotions, that, if neglected, they lose their strength, and, if entirely disregarded, they will soon cease to be felt. On the contrary, they are strengthened by being regarded and cherished. Hence it is, that while some men are susceptible of emotions of beauty in the view of objects and scenes around them, others, the circumstances of whose life have been different, look upon the same objects and scenes without any emotions of this nature.
288. STANDARD OF TASTE. - a In all cases in which an imitation is intended of some object that exists in nature, or in representing human characters and actions, Nature is the Standard of Taste, because conformity to it affords a full and distinct criterion of what is truly beautiful,
6. Our adherence to this standard is seen in the propriety of our design, in the naturalness and consistency of the passions and characters depicted ; and in the suitableness of the incidents introduced.
c. In all works of Taste, the general concurrence of such persons as are susceptible of emotions of beauty, grandeur, or sublimity, both in this and past ages, is the Standard of Taste to which every appeal must be made.
d. It was this standard of taste which induced the artist, in making the statue of Charles James Fox, to represent him in the drapery of a Roman senator, rather than in the dress which he was accustomed to wear. For, though his own dress might have been approved at the period when it was worn, and thus have been in agreement with the taste of the age, yet, it is probable, at a future period, it would appear unbecoming to the human form. But the Roman toga appears graceful at all times, and to all men, and excites emotions of beauty. This fact, then, both proves that there is a standard of taste, and serves as an illustration.
289. IMPORTANCE OF MODELS OF EXCELLENCE. - Models of excellence in the fine arts must, obviously, be of great importance for obtaining a knowledge of the Standard of Taste, since in them, the decisions of men in different periods and portions of the world are found embodied. Thus, the testimony which the most improved nations of the earth have agreed, throughout a long succession of ages, to give to some few works of genius, such as the Iliad of Homer, and the Æneid of Virgil, has stamped them as standards of poetical composition. 290. As these models of excellence, then, contain
the united experience of mankind respecting the emotions of beauty; so, in studying them, the man of sensibility learns to correct any peculiar influence which circumstances may have had on his own emotions, and to acquire a taste which is in conformity with the general standard of taste. By the contemplation of these models of excellence, the perfect forms of beauty, and the most happy combinations of these forms, are presented to his view. He is thus placed far in advance of those individuals who are not favoured with similar means of improvement.
291. CORRECTNESS AND DELICACY OF TASTE. — a. Correctness of Taste refers to an agreement with the standard of taste. He, then, who has a correct taste, feels and judges of objects which come under the cognizance of taste, in agreement with this standard.
b. Delicacy of Taste implies a quick and nice perception of whatever is fitted to excite emotions of beauty. He who possesses it will detect beauties both of design and execution, which pass unnoticed by common men.
c. This quality of taste results from a habit of careful and minute observation, joined with a quick susceptibility of the emotions of beauty.
292. DECISIONS OF TASTE SOMETIMES DIFFERENT. - The decisions on Objects of Taste are sometimes widely different from one another. This will arise, either because, in some, the original susceptibilities to emotions of taste have become perverted and blunted, whilst in others they have been cultivated and strengthened, or because, different associations have been connected with the same objects and scenes in different minds. From these causes especially the emotions excited in the minds of different individuals on the same objects and scenes, will differ; and, consequently, their experience, as to past emotions, will vary. It is thus that we account for the diversities of taste. But, amidst all these diversities, there are objects and scenes, which uniformly excite emotions of taste in the great majority of those who are to any degree susceptible. And where cases of exception occur, some satisfactory explanation may generally be given.
293. TASTE, HOW INFLUENCED. — The Taste of different individuals will be much influenced by their intellectual character and habits. For instance, he whose mind is enriched with various knowledge, and whose intellectual powers have been strengthened and improved, will, generally, take large and comprehensive views of subjects, and will show this in his judgment of what is fitted to excite emotions of taste. While he, whose attention has been restricted to philosophical speculations, and who has been accustomed to reason with the precision of mathematical accuracy, will, in like manner, bring his habits of reasoning to subjects of taste, and will be less bold and more severe in his judgment of what is fitted to excite emotions of this kind.