« ZurückWeiter »
can. 1 Bird Architecture and Decoration I 5
These are not their nests which they construct on the contrary in trees, but are for use during the time of courtship, when the owners parade through the covered passage or amuse themselves on the open space outside. These ‘ highly decorated halls of assemblage’ as Mr. Gould calls them1 are not built for utilitarian purposes, but, as is the case with so many early monuments of human architecture, for show, as festal structures, ministering to the sense of excitement felt at abnormal seasons. The greatest care and taste are lavished on the work. Sometimes foundations . are laid in the ground, and the structures are ‘formed of dead grass and parts of bushes, sunk a slight depth into two parallel furrows in sandy soil, and then nicely arched above;"“ at other times there is a base consisting of ‘an extensive and rather convex platform of sticks firmly interwoven, on. the centre of which the bower itself is built: this, like the platform on which it is placed, and with which it is interwoven, is formed of sticks and twigs, but of a more slender and flexible description, the tips of the twigs being so arranged as to curve inwards and nearly meet at the top.’8 Again, some species pave their bower with small round pebbles, placing them in such a manner as ‘apparently to keep the grasses with which it is lined fixed firmly in their places.’4 After construction follows decoration. These stones are spread out so as to form paved courts at each end in front of the hall of assemblage, and on these courts are disposed whole collections of decorative materials consisting of stones, bleached bones, shells and other light coloured and attractive objects. Colour is by no means neglected, and great use is made of brightly-tinted blue feathers which are disposed of irregularly over the structure, but are carefully fixed in between the twigs so as
to display themselves in the most becoming manner. The whole is a model of good construction, care being even taken to turn all the twigs that form the walls of the arched passage with their projecting forks outwards,1 or to line the interior with grasses’Z so that there is nothing to catch the plumage of the loving pair when they strut proudly through!
For the action of an impulse of excitement leading to wholly ideal work, for adaptation of means to ends in construction, and for the evidence of a genuine pleasure in gleaming or gaily coloured objects, these Bowers are highly interesting and instructive, and are in their way as clever and tasteful as anything made by human hands, yet the limitation already dw'elt upon, is as apparent here as in all the other operations of the animal intelligence. In treating of the beginnings of Architecture we shall see how like it is in its inception to the work of the Bower Birds, and yet how almost from the first there is apparent in the human work a striving after proportion, after a satisfying division of a whole into parts, after a rhythmical interchange of form and void, so that a progress is set on foot that never ceases till it culminates in the Greek temple, the most perfect embodiment of the principle of ‘ Order’ in all the operations of the arts. The birds can join piece to piece but cannot space things at intervals, they can accumulate but canth distribute, adorn but cannot decorate, nor though they may have taste to collect, can they dispose their treasures in any artistic relation to their work as a whole.
1 Handbook, p. 443.
2 Ibid. p. 451. Specimens of these bowers are to be seen in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, in the bird room on the ground floor.
CHARI The Freedom of Art _ I7
§11. Summary of results up to this point.
It may be useful before we proceed further to have the above in tabular form. ‘Surplus of vigour’ in men and animals results in the following more or less organised forms of ‘play’:—
§ 12. Importance of Freedom as a characteristic of
The following is then the general result arrived at. Art is ‘ play,’ in the sensethat it is a free and spontaneous activity not serving a directly useful end but having its rise in a state of ideal excitement. We are not driven to its practice by any outward or inward compulsion—art is play; yet on the other hand it is not the product of mere chance— its operations are controlled by some one or other manifestation of the principle of Order. The different forms in which this principle acts in controlling the motive power, -or, as we have phrased it, the raw material of art, will form the subject of inquiry in later chapters; here at the outset it may be well to enforce once more this characteristic of freedom and spontaneity in art, which is from first to last its chiefest glory. Schiller has a sentence which is not so paradoxical as it seems: ‘Man only plays when in the full meaning of the term he is Man, and he is only completely Man when he plays.’1 If in all his productive activity man works under some kind of necessity, in all forms of artistic performance and enjoyment he is selfdetermined, lord of himself and of his world. He is most a man when he is most free, and in no act of freedom does his being expand more genially than in the different forms of art. Writers of the present day are sometimes blamed for attempting to set up a didactic aim for art which would bring it, so to say, into bondage to morality or religion. The heresy, if such it be, is at all events certainly no new one. Both in Greek and in Mediaeval times the same claim was urged, and the services of art were invoked in the cause both of morals and of faith. This is not the place for a discussion of this pretended claim, which will fall to be noticed on a'subsequent page, and it need only be pointed out here that, according to the demonstration of Mr. Herbert Spencer, art is an ideal exercise, not only of the bodily or lower powers, but of all parts and capacities of the being (§ 6). Seeing that morality and religion bulk so largely in the intellectual life of man, it follows as a matter of course that art has its relation to them as well as to other sides of his nature, but this relation art must be
CHAP. r Art stimulated by Socicty 19
left to wires in her own way, and not at the (probably) unintelligent bidding of the professors of ethical or religious creeds. Art may be at one time just the outpouring of pent up energy, or the naive expression of the delight of man in his surroundings; or it may at another time, as a commentary in jest or earnest on the serious business of life, acquire a distinctly ethical purport; or ideal feeling may raise it in aspiration above the things of earth; in every case alike, if it is truly art, it will have its aim and end in itself. will be bound to no master and dictated to by no ulterior considerations.
§13. Importance of social institutions in stimulating Art in simple forms such as the Dance, personal Adamant and Decoration.
It will be obvious at first sight that. this condition of ideal excitement, from which artistic expression draws its impulse, must be greatly stimulated by society. We have seen how it may begin with what is little more than individual restlessness (§ 7), but it is when the instincts and sentiments involved are felt in common, that the stimulus is applied which makes art so potent a factor in early civilisations. There are forms of art that are essentially social, only growing up where men are met together for a common purpose, while all that the individual may feel or perform in solitude will be quickened to new life by the sympathy of his fellows. This is markedly the case with the dance and song. These, as Mr. Darwin remarks, are ‘very ancient. and are now practised by all or nearly all the lowest races of man.’1 ' An African traveller thus describes the influence of social feeling among the natives in stimulating these forms of art. ‘ Often in the midst of conversation,
1 The Descmt of Man, ii. p. 362.