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Ocean and Earth, the solid frame of Earth,
“ The moon doth with delight
No particular remarks, after stating the principle, are requisite, to show how that principle is illustrated by such creations.
8. Abstracting certain Characteristics of Objects, and blending
them into Harmony with some leading Idea. The same object, in respect to different features of it, may be contemplated relatively to different ideas, in the mind. In the light of how many leading ideas, for example, may the bright worlds that hang around us, in the immensity of space, be contemplated. Now, the Imagination often evolves the forms of the beautiful, the grand, and the sublime, by throwing these objects before the mind, in harmony with one or more of these leading ideas. Take, as an example, the following stanzas from a poem entitled “A Psalm of Night:"
“ Fades from the West the farewell light,
Flung backward by the setting sun,
Steals with its solemn shadows on!
On spiring grass and flowret stems,
Is radiant with a thousand gems !
Not only doth the voiceful Day
Thy loving kindness, Lord! proclaim-
Of worlds, doth magnify Thy name!
Before Thee bend the willing knee,
Goes up unceasingly to Thee!
Day unto Day doth utter speech,
And Night to Night thy voice makes known;
Is heard the glad and solemn tone
And worlds, beyond the farthest star
Whose light hath reach'd a human eye,
That rolls along Immensity!"
Every one who contemplates the thought here embodied, aside from the sentirnent of devotion awakened in his mind, will have a sense of the beauty, majesty, and sublimity of the works of Divinity, unfelt before in the stanza, also,
“ And beauteous as the silver moon,
When out of sight the clouds are driven,
that beautiful orb is thrown before the mind in the light of one idea only, that of the beautiful. To blend thus into one conception, the elements of beauty, grandeur, and sublimity, existing in objects which may be contemplated in the light of other ideas, is one of the peculiar functions of the Imagination. In the light of the conceptions which it shadows forth, objects the most familiar put on new forms, and stand before the mind in an array in which we never contemplated them before. New fountains of thought and feeling are thus awakened in the depths of our own minds.
9. Throwing the fleeting Thoughts, Sentiments, and Feelings,
of our past Existence, into one beautiful Conception. . I mention but one other form in which the Iinagination delights us with the forms of the beautiful, the perfect, and the true, &c. It is by throwing into distinct and hallowed embodiment, those d-ep thoughts and sentiments which have had a fleeting existence in our experience, but which, above all things, we desire never to forget. Who does not feel like dropping a tear of gratitude for that divine gift which enabled the poet thus beautifully to embalın, for eternal remembrance, what we have all experienced, but might otherwise forget?
“ The tear, whose source I could not guess,
Were mine in early days.”
“ To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."
Every one, also, who is familiar with Death as the “ shadow of the rock Eternity,” finds his own hallowed experiences embalmed in lines like the following:
“ The clouds that gather round the setting sun,
Do take a sober coloring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality.” I forbear further citations. To embalm in beautiful forms the hallowed experiences of the race, is one of the high prerogatives which he enjoys who has been favored by his Maker with the higher functions of the Imagination.
REMARKS ON THE PRECEDING ANALYSIS.
It is not professed that the preceding analysis has presented all the forms in conformity to which the Imagination moulds its creations. All that was designed, is to give a sufficient number of particular forms, to aid the student in his inquiries into the operations of this mysterious power.
Another remark is this. The examples presented in illustration of one particular form, often contain elements equally illustrative of other forms. This was unavoidable. It was enough for my purpose to present, in each example, the element illustrative of the principle to which it was referred.
Remark of Coleridge. Coleridge has somewhere made a remark, which I regard as of great importance in guiding the judgment in detecting the peculiar operations of the Imagination, and separating them from the operations of other intellectual faculties. The amount of his remark is this. It is not every part of what is called a production of the Imagination, that is to be attributed to that faculty. Much often is mere narration, and much the mere filling out of the grand outline of the conception which the Imagination has combined, and which as properly belongs to the Understanding and Judgment, as the filling up of the outlines of any other discourse of which the Intelligence has conceived. With a great portion of the filling up of Paradise Lost, for example, Imagination had no more to do than with that of filling up the grand outline of a sermon, or oration. In the sublime conception itself, and in the mysterious blending of the elements of thought often inet with, in throwing that conception into form, here we find the workings of this creative, plastic faculty. To evolve principles which would enable the student, under such circumstances, to discern the operations of this faculty, has, as before said, been the main object of the preceding analysis.
CREATIONS OF THE IMAGINATION, WHY NOT ALWAYS FICTIONS.
In the preceding part of this Chapter, it has been shown, that the creations of the Imagination are not always, as it has been often stated by philosophers, “new wholes which do not exist in nature.” It becomes an important inquiry, when and why is not this statement true? It will be evident, at first thought, that when the elements of thought which enter into particular conceptions, are wholly re-combined, the new wholes, thus produced, must exist purely in thought, without any corresponding existence. On the other hand, when the elements of beauty, grandeur, and sublimity exist in objects in connection with other and different elements, elements also related to other and different ideas, and when the Imagination, as in the Psalm of Night, above cited, blends these elements first named into some one beautiful, grand, or sublime conception, every element in the conception may be in strict correlation to realities. Take as a further illustration, a single stanza from a familiar hymn:
“ His word of grace is sure and strong,
As that which built the skies:
Speaks all the promises."
Every element in this beautiful thought is strictly conformed to realities, as they are. Yet in the blending of these elements, particularly in the last two lines, we distinctly mark the plastic power of the Imagination, in its sublimest and most beautiful form.
The same is equally true, where, as shown above, the same power embalms, in similar conceptions, the hallowed sentiments and experiences of the past and present. Who that ever saw the tear of gratitude lying in the eye of aflliction—a thing far more beautiful than the dew-drop, when it holds in its embrace the image of the morning sun-a tear started by some gift that eased, for a time, the pressure of woe, and then turned away with a sorrowful heart, that such worth should be crushed beneath such a weight, does not recognize the truth, as well as beauty, of the thought contained in the following stanza, especially in the two last lines ?
“ I have heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning :
Has oftener left me mourning.” In another sense, all the proper creations of the Imagination are true. They are true to thought. In the depths of our inner being, there lie thoughts too deep for any words which we can command. Nothing but an overshadowing Imagination can call them forth, and give them an external embodiment. Whether the forms in which they are embodied are correlated to substantial realities or not, they are true to thought, the most important of all realities. We feel grateful, therefore, when we find thoughts which we had vainly endeavored to express, moulded into form, and thus assuming “a local habitation and a name.”
I mention one other, and a very important sense, in which the creations of the Imagination are true. They sustain, in many instances, relations to realities analogous somewhat to that sustained by general notions. In a very important sense, these last have no realities in nature corresponding to them ; that is, there is no one object, that in all respects corresponds to a general notion, that is, that contains the elements it represents, and nothing more nor less. The elements belonging to it, however, are found in each particular ranged under it. Let us now, in the light of this illustration, contemplate the forms of the beautiful, for example, shadowed forth by the Imagination. We may not be able, in all instances, to find any one particular object which contains, and nothing more nor less, the elements which enter into this form. Yet, whenever we meet with an object containing the elements of beauty, we find that element represented in the forms of the beautiful bodied forth by the Imagination. In these forms, we do not find any one particular shadowed forth, but each particular blended in the universal. In the most perfect forms of statuary, for example, we do not find any one human forni, in distinction from all others, represented, but we find whatever is beautiful in every form there embodied. As the Understanding represents the particular in the general, so the