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THE LOVE OF THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL IN
NATURE MORE EMINENTLY DEVELOPED IN MO-
One of the most conspicuous features of English literature, is that intense love of the sublime and beautiful in Nature, which pervades, with a living spirit, the works of our poets; gives so peculiar a charm to the writings of our naturalists; possesses great prominence in our travellers; is mingled with the fervent breathings of our religious treatises; and
even finds its way into the volumes of our philosophy. If we look into the literature of the Continental nations, we find it existing there, more or less, but in a lower tone than in our own; if we look back into that of the ancients, we find it there too, but still fainter, more confined in its scope, and scattered, as it were, into distant and isolated spots. I think nothing can be more striking than the truth of this; and it is a curious matter of observation, that there should be this great distinction, and of inquiry whence it has arisen. The love of the beauty and sublimity of Nature is an inherent principle in the human soul; but like all other of our finer qualities, it is later in its development than the common ones, and requires, not repression, but fostering and cultivation. It is like the love of the fine arts; it slumbers in the bosom that passes through life in its native rudeness. It lies in the unploughed ground of the human mind,-a seed buried below the influence that alone can call it into activity.
Yes, like unfolded flowers beneath the sea ;
Like the man's thoughts, dark in the infant brain;
there it lies, deep in the soil of common events and cares, and untouched by the divine atmosphere of knowledge which a more easy and advanced condition brings with it. In others, it is partially vivified, but cannot flourish; it is choked with the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches; but in minds that are fed with substantial knowledge, and have their intellectual power reached, and their affections kindled by the blessedness of refined and Christian culture,
then it grows with their growth, and strengthens with their strength. It daily enlarges its grasp, and its appetite; it expands perpetually the circle of its horizon. The love of the fine arts, is but a modification of this great passion. Their objects are the same—the sublime and the beautiful; and the same purity and elevation of taste accompany them both. This is the original and legitimate passion. In our love of the fine arts, our attention is occupied with human imitations of what is beautiful in nature in this, we fix our admiration at once on the magnificent works of the Great Artist of the Universe.
We might, therefore, reasonably expect to find in the literature of the ancients, what is actually the case, a less refined, less expanded, less penetrating and absorbing existence of this affection. Everywhere the love of nature must exist. In all ages and all countries, so is the outward universe framed to influence the inward, that men must be impressed by the grandeur of creation, and attracted by its beauty, so far as the human is at all advanced beyond the limits of mere animal existence. But in the ancient world education was never popular; it extended only to a few; and of these few, a majority were occupied in the pursuits of art, or the speculations of philosophy; and poetry, and especially the poetry of nature, had scanty followers. The great poets of all ages, even of those but semi-civilized, must necessarily have minds so sensitive to the influence of all kinds of beauty that they could not help being alive to that of nature ; and this was the case with the great poets of Greece. We put out of the present question the dramatic and lyrical ones; for to them the passions and interests of
men were the engrossing objects; but in Homer, Hesiod, and Theocritus we may fairly expect to discover the amount of the ancients' perception of natural beauty, and their love of it. But in these how far is it behind what it is in the moderns. They were often enraptured with the pleasantness of nature, but it was seldom with more than its pleasantness. Their Elysian Fields are composed of flowery meads, with pleasant trees and running waters, where the happy spirits led a life of luxurious repose. Their celebrated Arcadia is faithfully described in such Idyllia as those of Bion and Moschus ;-youths and damsels feeding their flocks amid the charms of a pastoral country, to whose beauties they were alive in proportion as they ministered to luxurious enjoyment.
Beyond this they seldom looked ;—seldom described the sublime aspects and phenomena of the universe. Homer, indeed, is the greatest exception,--his soul was cast in a mighty mould. His beautiful description of a moonlight night is known to all readers. He speaks too, of the splendour of the starry heavens; and he describes tempests with great majesty; but this rather as they are terrible in their effects on men, than as sublime in themselves. Minds even of the noblest class had not arrived at that full comprehension of nature which sees sublimity in the gloom and terror of tempests, independent of their effects; the grandeur of beauty in desolation itself; in splintered mountains, wild wildernesses, and the awfulness of solitude. They had not become tremblingly alive to all the lesser traces and shades of beauty in the face of nature, for they had not reached either of the extremities of perception -the vast on one hand-minute perfection on the