« EdellinenJatka »
transcendant in enjoyment, but a furious mania, resembling rather, and classed by them with, the ravings of insanity. It was the passion, not the sentiment, which they felt and painted. Destiny was the grand ruling power in Greek tragedy: the distress brought out was the striving of man against the iron chain of fate. Love as a passion, independent of destiny, detached from sense, feeding on imagination, living in the presence of the beloved object, is glanced at in Catullus ; but it is in Virgil that we must look for the perfect delineation of its suffering, a thorough knowledge of its nature—in Tasso, that it has been brought up to the highest conceivable perfection.
But, for all that, we will not have old Homer defrauded of his dues. The Iliad cannot, for the reasons already mentioned, produce passages to be placed beside the pathetic tenderness of Dido's love for Æneas, the romantic chivalry of Tancredi, or the self-forgetfulness of Erminia's passion. But in the earlier and more natural affections, in the delineation of domestic grief, in the rending asunder the parental or filial ties, who has ever surpassed the pathetic simplicity of the Grecian bard? Where can we find such heart-rending words as Priam addresses to Hector, leaning over the towers of Troy, when his heroic son was calmly awaiting the approach of the godlike Achilles, resplendent in the panoply of Vulcan, and shielded by the Ægis of Minerva ?
But we know not whether three lines in the Odyssey do not convey a still more touching picture of grief—so powerful is the wail of untaught nature. When Proteus informed Menelaus of the murder of Agamemnon, his grief is thus described
«“Ως έφατ'· αυτάρ έμοιγε κατεκλάσθη φίλον ήτορ
Odyssey, iv. 538. “ Thus he spoke. My soul was crushed within me; I sat weeping on the sand ; nor had I the heart to wish to live, and behold the light of the sun.” Here is the pathos of nature : “Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”
One peculiar beauty belongs to the epic poems of antiquity, and especially to Homer, from the combination of heroic sentiments and actions with a simplicity which will be looked for in vain, and in truth would be unseemly, in the later ages of society. We hear of princes, kings, and the daughters of kings, and our imagination immediately clothes them with the pomp and circumstance of modern royalty. But ere long some little circumstance, let out as it were accidentally, brings us back at once to the simplicity and habits of early life. Bellerophon met the daughter of a king amidst the grassy meads, and a race of heroes sprung from this occasion ; but he met her as he was tending his herds, and she her lambs. The beauteous daughters of the Trojan chiefs repaired to the hot and cold springs of the Scamander, near the Scæan Gate, but they went there to wash their clothes in its limpid fountains. The youngest daughter of Nestor, with the innocence of a child, though in the beauty of womanhood, did, by her father's desire, to Telemachus the duties of the bath. Many a chief is described as rich ; but generally the riches consist in flocks and herds, in wrought brass or golden ornaments—not unfrequently in meadows and garden-stuffs. This beauty could not, from the superior age of the world, belong to Tasso. His soldans are arrayed in the pomp of Asiatic magnificence—his princes appear in the pride of feudal power-his princesses are surrounded with the homage of chivalrous devotion. Virgil has often the same exquisite traits of nature, the same refreshing return to the young world, in the Æneid : he dwells on those peeps into pastoral simplicity as Tacitus did on the virtue of the Germans in the corrupted days of Roman society, when “corrumpere et corrumpi seculum vocatur. We may conceive the enchantment with which the Romans, when the Capitol was in all its splendour in the time of Augustus, read his charming description of its shaggy precipices in the days of Evander.
“ Hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit,
Ægida concuteret dextrâ nimbosque cieret.'
Talibus inter se dictis, ad tecta subibant
- Æneid, viii. 347.
“ Thence to the steep Tarpeian rock he leads,
- DRYDEN's Virgil, viii. 387.
What Homer was to Virgil, and Ariosto to Tasso, that Michael Angelo was to RAPHAEL. Though both these illustrious men lived in the same age, yet the former was born nine years before the latter,* and he had attained to eminence while his younger rival was yet toiling in the obscurity of humble life. But it was his works which roused the genius of his immortal successor. It was the sight of the magnificent frescoes of Michael Angelo that first emancipated Raphael from the stiff and formal, though beautiful style of his master, Pietro Perugino, and showed him of what his noble art was susceptible. So great was the genius, 80 ardent the effort of the young aspirant, so rapid the progress of art in those days, when the genius of modern Europe, locked up during the long frost of the Middle Ages, burst forth with the vigour and beauty of a Canadian spring, that he had brought painting, which he had taken up in a state of infancy in the studio of Pietro Perugino, to its very highest point when he died, at the age of thirty-seven. Seventeen years, in Raphael's hands, sufficed to bring an art as great and difficult as poetry to absolute perfection! Subsequent ages, vainly as yet attempting to imitate, can never hope to surpass him. How vast must have been the gevius, how capacious the thought, how intense the labour, of the man who could thus master and bring to its greatest
* Raphael was born in 1483, Michael Angelo in 1474. VOL. 111.
beauty this difficult art, in a period so short as, to men even of superior parts and unwearied application, barely to gain the command of the pencil !
Modern painting, as it appears in the works of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Titian, is an art as elevated in kind as the highest flights of the epic or tragic muse, and it has been brought to a perfection to be paralleled only by the greatest conceptions of Grecian statuary. If called upon to assign the arts which human genius had, since the beginning of the world, brought to absolute perfection, no one would hesitate to fix on Grecian sculpture and Italian painting. Imagination can conceive a more faultless poem than the Iliad, a more dignified series of characters than those of the Æneid, a more interesting epic than Paradise Lost; but it can figure nothing more perfect than the friezes of Phidias, or more heavenly than the Holy Families of Raphael
. It is one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable facts recorded in the history of the human mind, that these two sister arts should both have been brought to perfection near each other, on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the lifetime of a single generation ; for the transition from the marbles of Ægina to those of the Parthenon, executed in the lifetime of Pericles, is as great as from the paintings of Pietro Perugino to those of Raphael, made in the lifetime of Leo X.
The sculpture of antiquity aimed chiefly, if not entirely, at the representation of a single figure. Even the procession on the frieze of the Parthenon is not sculpture : it is a series of isolated horsemen or figures passing. The group
of Niobe and her children is the only attempt extant at telling a story, or representing emotion, by a variety of figures. Within this limited range, the great sculptors carried the art to the highest imaginable perfection. The Apollo is the most perfect representation of manly beauty, the Venus of feminine grace and delicacy, that ever yet was conceived by the human mind. The Laocoon exhibits the most fearful contortions and agonised expressions of pain and anguish in suffering humanity; the Fighting Gladiator, the most inimitable representation of warlike energy at its extreme tension—the Dying Warrior of the Capitol, of valour sinking beneath the ebbing stream of blood. The Hercules
Farnese is the perfection of physical strength ; the Jupiter Tonans of awful majesty, the Venus Calipyge of alluring beauty. Thus the expression of character was their great object ; emotion was not overlooked, but it was studied only as it brought out or illustrated the permanent temper of mind. A collection of ancient statues is a vast imaginary gallery, in which, as in the heroes of the Iliad, every conceivable gradation of the human mind is exhibited, from the stern vengeance of Achilles, whom not even the massacre of half the Grecian host could melt, to the tender heart of Andromache, who wept her husband's valour, and her sad presentiments for her infant son.
In modern painting, as it appeared in the hands of Raphael and Michael Angelo, a wider range was attempted : more spiritual and touching objects had come to engross the human mind. The mere contemplation of abstract character -its delineation by the graphic representation of the human form, had ceased to be the principal object of genius. The temple of the unknown God was no longer to be filled with idols made under the image of man. The Gospel had been preached to the poor ; the words of mercy and peace had been heard on the earth. Painting had come to be the auxiliary of religion ; it was in the churches of a spiritual and suffering faith that its impression was to be produced. Calvary was to be presented to the eye ; the feeling of the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God,” to be engraven on the heart. It was to the faithful who were penetrated with the glad words of salvation, that the altar-pieces were addressed; it was the feeling of the song of Simeon that had gone forth on the earth. Above all, the love of Heaven, first revealed in the Gospel, was to be portrayed in the image which our Saviour himself had selected for its representation, the tenderness of a mother for her offspring. The images of the Good Shepherd, the Innocent Lamb, the Immaculate Mother, the Divine Infant, the adoring St John, were, by the very events recorded in the Gospels, of necessity introduced into Scripture paintings. It was those divine feelings which painting, as it arose in modern Europe, was called to embody in the human form ; it was to this heavenly mission that the genius of Italy was called. And if ever there was a mind fitted to answer such a call—if ever the spirit of the