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1. The failure of the faculty of perception and attention. As a consequence, distinct notions are not formed of objects of present thought and perception. Nor do they affect the Mind as they formerly did. For these reasons, the peculiar feelings which have co-existed with former thoughts and perceptions, and would, if revived, suggest them, are not revived.
2. In the failing of the perceptive faculty, there is a corresponding change in the correlation of the Sensibility to objects of thought and perception. Hence the same feelings precisely are not now excited by objects of thought and perception, as formerly, and consequently former intellectual states are not reproduced.
In respect to the second class, I would remark, that every one is aware, that amid the hurrying scenes of ordinary life, such crowds of associations rush upon the mind, at one and the same time, that no one entire scene of the past, is often distinctly recalled. On the other hand, when we are in a state of temporary isolation from the varying tide of events which is floating by and around us, then is the time when our recollections of the past become full and distinct. Now the aged are in a state of isolation of a more permanent charactər. Hence when a past scene is recalled, the Mind is in a state of comparative freedom from all diverting and distracting associations. Consequently the scene, in its entireness, is brought into full and distinct remembrance.
Duration of Memory. If the law of Association illustrated in the preceding Chapter be admitted as true, it will follow, as a matter of course, that Memory is absolutely indestructible. Thought can never perish. If the impression with which any thought has coexisted, should, at any period, however remote, be in any form revived, the thought itself may be recalled. If any element of a given impression be reproduced, no reason can be assigned, why a thought which co-existed with it, myriads of ages ago, should not thereby be recalled, as well as the one which co-existed with it but yesterday.
Numberless facts also, which lie around us in society, fully confirm the principle under consideration as a law of Memory. The case of the aged lady referred to above, presents a fact of the kind. The most striking one that now recurs to my recollection is given by Coleridge. It is the case of a German girl who had always labored as a domestic. While Coleridge was on a visit to Germany, and in the vicinity of her residence, she sickened, and if I mistake not, died. During her sickness, she began to utter sentences in languages unknown to all her attendants. Learned men, from a neighboring University, were called in. It was then found that she was reciting, with perfect correctness, entire passages from the Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Syriac Scriptures, and also from the writings of the ancient Fathers. The occurrence was, by many, regarded as miraculous. A young physician in attendance, however, determined to trace out her past history, for the purpose of finding a clue to the mystery. He found at last, that when quite small, the young woman had lived in the family of an aged clergyman of great learning, who was in the daily habit of reading aloud in his study from the writings above referred to. As the child was at work in a room contiguous, she was accustomed to stop, from time to time, and listen to those strange sounds, the meaning of not one of which did she understand. There was the clue to the mystery. Those sounds were imperishably impressed upon the Memory. Hence their repetition, under the circumstances named. Cases of a similar nature might, to any extent, be adduced. They point with solemn interest, to the nature of the immortal powers within, as well as to facts of portentous moment in the future development of those powers.
THERE is hardly any department of the present Treatise, in respect to which I feel a greater solicitude, than that upon which we are now to enter. I freely acknowledge, that I have not been satisfied with the views given upon the subject by authors held in general repute. It is by no means certain, however, that, when we have discovered real or apparent defects in the productions of others, we can produce anything more perfect ourselves. It not unfrequently happens, also, that the supposed defects lie in our own ideal, and not in that in which we suppose ourselves to have found them. All are aware that there is such a function of the Intelligence as the Imagination. When we meet with any of its real creations also, all recognize them as such. But then, when the questions are asked, What is this power ? What are its functions ? or, What are the laws of its action ? a true answer does not so readily occur, as, at first thought, might be anticipated.
Defininitions of distinguished Philosophers. In further remarking upon the subject, I will first present some of the definitions of this faculty, given by distinguished philosophers. I begin with the definition of Dr. Brown :-“We not only perceive objects," he observes, “and concieve and remember them as they were, but we have the power of combining them with various new assemblages-of forming, at our will, with a sort of delegated omnipotence, not a single universe merely, but a new and varied universe, with every succession of our thoughts.”
“What is Imagination,” says Mr. Payne, “but Memory presenting the objects of pure perceptions (in a manner afterwards to be explained) in groups, or combinations which do not exist in nature ? "
“In the exercise of the Imagination,” says Abercrombie, "we take the component parts of real scenes, events, or characters, and combine them anew, by a process of the mind itself, so as to form compounds, which have no existence in nature.”
“But we have the power of modifying our conceptions,” says Mr. Dugald Stewart, “ by combining the parts of different ones together, so as to form new wholes of our own creation. I shall employ the word Imagination, to express this power.”
“ Imagination,” says Professor Upham, “is a complex exercise of the mind, by means of which various conceptions are combined together, so as to form new wholes.”
It will be perceived at once, that, according to most of these definitions, the Imagination has a primary, if not an almost exclusive, reference to the objects of sense ; and according to all, its creations are fictions, which have no corresponding realities in nature. They are composed of elements of perceptions of real scenes ; but yet these elements are so combined, that the creations, in all instances, have nothing corresponding to them in the universe within or around us.
Objections to the above Definitions. If these definitions be admitted as correct, and as presenting the entire and appropriate sphere of the Imagination, we must find some other faculty to which to attribute a large portion of the best poetry in existence. I will present a few familiar quotations, as examples.
Take, in the first instance, Wordsworth's description of the White Doe of Rylstone:
" White she is as the lily of June,
Of ocean for its wide domain."
Take, as another example, the 19th Psalm, as given in our Bibles, or as thrown into verse in our common hymn books :
“The heavens declare thy glory, Lord,
In every star thy wisdom shines.”
In souls renew'd, and sins forgiven.”' &c. Who will pretend that we have not here the creations of the Imagination, in its purest, highest flights? Yet in the first instance there are no new combinations of sensible objects presented, but a simple statement of facts in regard to objects perfectly familiar. In the second instance, no visible object is referred to, but simple facts in regard to spiritual objects. Again :
"Along the banks where Babel's current flows,
Our captive bands in deep despondence strayed,
Her friends, her children, mingled with the dead.
When praise employed, and mirth inspired the lay,
And growing grief prolonged the tedious day." No one, surely, will pretend that here is a combination of objects of perception, which had no existence in nature.
Take the following lines from a poem, designed to present the scene which transpired in the wilderness where Elijah lodged, after he fled from the wrath of Jezebel :
“Amidst the wilderness, alone,
The sad, foe-hunted prophet lay;
Shut out the cheerful light of day.
As resting 'neath a lonely tree,
In prayer was struggling to be free.”