Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

painter in provinces in which they are necessarily surpassed by him.

Homer has usually but one stroke for one thing. A ship is to him now the black ship, now the hollow ship, now the swift ship, at most the well-rowed black ship. Further than this he does not indulge in any word-painting of the ship. But he makes a minute picture of the starting, the sailing, or the landing of the ship; a picture from which the painter who wishes to put it all on canvas would be obliged to make half a dozen pictures.


WHAT I have been saying of corporeal objects in general applies even more forcibly to beautiful ones.

Physical beauty results from the harmony of a number of parts which can be embraced in one glance. It is therefore essential that those parts should be close together; and since things whose parts are close together are the proper subjects of painting, that art alone can represent physical beauty.

The poet, who can only set down one after another the elements of the beautiful object, should therefore abstain wholly from the description of physical beauty by itself. He ought to feel that these elements arranged in sequence cannot possibly produce the same effect as if in juxtaposition; that the comprehensive glance we try to throw back over them at the end of the enumeration produces no harmonious picture; and that it transcends the power of human imagination to realize the effect of a given pair of eyes, a given nose, and a given mouth together, unless we can call to mind a like combination in nature or art.

Here again Homer is the model of models. He says Nireus was handsome; Achilles was very handsome; Helen was of god-like beauty. But he is now here enticed into giving a minuter detail of their beauties. Yet the whole poem is based on Helen's loveliness. How a modern poet would have reveled in specifications of it!

Even Constantine Manasses tried to adorn his bare Chronicle with a portrait of Helen. I feel grateful to him for the attempt; for really I should not know where else to turn for so striking an example of the folly of venturing on what Homer's wise judgment refrained from undertaking. When I read in his book

"She was a woman passing fair, fine-browed, finest complexioned,

Fine-cheeked, fine-featured, full-eyed, snowy-skinned,
Quick-glancing, dainty, a grove full of graces,
White-armed, voluptuous, breathing out frank beauty,
The complexion very fair, the cheeks rosy,
The countenance most charming, the eye blooming;
Beauty unartificial, unrouged, her own skin,
Dyed the brightest rose-color a warmer glow,
As if one stained ivory with splendid purple.

Her neck long, passing white, whence in legend
The Swan-born they termed the beautiful Helen,"

[ocr errors]

it is like seeing stones rolled up a mountain, on whose crest they are to be built into a noble structure, but all of which roll down the other side. What picture does this huddle of words leave with us? How did Helen look? No two readers in a thousand would have the same mental image of her. . . .

Virgil, by imitating Homer's self-restraint, has achieved a fair success. His Dido is only the very beautiful (pulcherrima) Dido. All the other details he gives refer to her rich ornaments and superb apparel. . . . If on this account any one turned against him what the old artist said to one of his pupils who had painted an elaborately dressed Helen, "You have painted her rich because you could not paint her lovely," — Virgil would answer: "I am not to blame that I could not paint her lovely. The fault is in the limitations of my art, and it is to my credit that I have kept within them."


(In the Concluding Number of the "Hamburg Dramaturgy.”)

I AM neither an actor nor a poet. People have honored me occasionally with the latter title, but it is because they have misunderstood me. The few dramatic attempts which I have ventured upon do not justify this generosity. Not every one who takes a brush in his hand and dabbles in colors is a painter. The earliest of these attempts of mine were dashed off in those years when desire and dexterity are easily mistaken for genius. If there is anything tolerable in those of a later date, I am conscious that I owe it all to criticism alone. I do not feel in myself that living fountain that rises by its own strength, and

by its own force shoots up in jets so rich, so fresh, so pure! I am obliged to press it all up out of myself with forcing-pump and pipes. I should be so poor, so cold, and so short-sighted if I had not learned in some measure modestly to borrow foreign treasures, to warm myself at another's fire, and to strengthen my sight with the lenses of art. I have therefore always been ashamed and vexed when I have read or heard anything derogatory to criticism. Criticism, it is said, stifles genius; whereas I flatter myself I have received from it something very nearly akin to genius. I am a lame man, who cannot be edified by a lampoon against crutches.

Criticism, we may add, is like the crutch too in this respect, - that it helps the cripple move from place to place, but can never make a racer of him. If through criticism I have produced something better than a man of my talents could have produced without its aid, still it costs me so much time, I must be so free from other pursuits and so uninterrupted by involuntary diversions, I must have all my reading so at command, must be able at every step so quietly to run over all the observations I have ever made of manners and passions, that no one in the world could be more unsuited than I, to be a worker whose task it should be to supply a theater with novelties.


CHARLES JAMES LEVER, an Irish novelist, born at Dublin, Aug. 31, 1806; died near Trieste, June 1, 1872. He studied medicine at home and Göttingen, and practiced for some years. In 1837 he was appointed physician to the British Embassy at Brussels, and completed "The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer" (1840). Its success turned him to literature as a profession. "Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon," appeared in 1841. In 1842-1845 he lived in Dublin, and edited the University Magazine; then he retired to the Continent, residing mostly in Florence. He was vice-consul at Spezia from 1858-1867, and consul at Trieste from 1867. Among his other books are: "Tom Burke of Ours " (1844); "The O'Donoghue" (1845); "The Knight of Gwynne" (1847); "Roland Cashel " (1849); "The Daltons" (1852); "The Dodd Family Abroad " (1853); "The Nevilles of Garretstown" (1854); "The Commissioner" (1856); "Con Cregan" (1857); "The Martins of Cro' Martin" (1857); "The Mystic Heirs of Randolph Abbey" (1858); "Davenport Dunn" (1859); "Gerald Fitzgerald" (1860); "A Day's Ride," "A Life's Romance" (1861); "Barrington" (1862); "Luttrell of Arran" (1865); "Sir Brooke Fosbrooke" (1867); "The Bramleighs of Bishop's Folly" (1868); "That Boy of Norcott's" (1869); "A Rent in the Cloud" (1870); "Lord Kilgobbin (1872).



(From "Charles O'Malley.")

I WAS sitting at breakfast with Webber, when Power came in hastily.

"Ha, the very man!" said he. "I say, O'Malley, here's an invitation for you from Sir George, to dine on Friday. He desired me to say a thousand civil things about his not having made you out, regrets that he was not at home when you called yesterday, and all that. By Jove, I know nothing like the favor you stand in; and, as for Miss Dashwood, faith the fair Lucy blushed and tore her glove in the most approved style when the old General began his laudations of you.'

[graphic][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »