Abbildungen der Seite

arts whose property it is to express the forms and colours of bodies, and their end, while employing matter in their images, to elevate them to those very regions of the ideal which the poet would seem anxious to desert.

[blocks in formation]




It consists in seeking truth short of the limits of every art, by

a system of servile copy, which deprives the imitation or the image, of that fictious part which constitutes at once its essence and its character.

Since to imitate, is to produce the resemblance of a thing by some other that becomes the image of it, it is evident that the imitation proper to the fine arts does, and can only admit of the appearance of things. Now, all appearance derived from art is more or less fictious. The same may be said of the kind of truth belonging to the imitative resemblance. It is truth, but truth by means of fiction. (Ex ficto verum.)

It has been seen how the artist desirous of achieving an entire resemblance, incompatible with a necessarily partial image, is led to covet resources foreign to, and beyond the bounds of, his own art, and which he has no power to render appropriate to it. We shall now show, how an equally fallacious desire of attaining a misconceived truth, drives the imitator to the opposite extreme, and, restraining him within the natural limits of his art, causes him to resign a part of his advantages and means.

This other error of the artist no longer consists in the attempt to double or multiply the means of resemblance proper to his own art, by an improper superaddition of the means or imitative aspects of another; on the contrary, contracting the circle of his privileges, neglecting both the nature of imitation, and the constituent character of the image, as well as the kind of resemblance that belongs to every fictious work, he has no other aim, within his restricted horizon, than that of identifying his work with the individual model. He labours to bring it to such a point as to give it the semblance of being traced. He exchanges the charm attached to the fictiousness of appearance, for the disenchantment of a false truth; in short, the freedom of an imitation for the servileness of a copy.

Here then are two different errors arising from the same source, viz., a confusion of ideas on the elementary principle of imitation ; both however terminate in the same fault, that of identity, or the endeavour to attain its effect.

This latter error prevails as well in the arts of design as in those of poetry; but it is, perhaps, in poetry that it has been more openly evinced, that the greater efforts have been made to substitute the idea of servile reality in the image, for that of imitative resemblance.

Some persons have, in consequence, endeavoured entirely to deprive the art of the poet of those fictious means, that are the necessary sources of its imitative action, and of the pleasure it procures. Some, on the one hand, have desired to lower its language to the level of prose, under the pretext that it is not natural to express oneself in cadence or metre. Others have contended against the employment of those conventional aids, whose effect is to modify, in a numerous class of subjects, that truth which is reality, and exchange it for poetic verisimilitude.

After banishing rhythm, metre, and rhyme from the language of poetry, they have written poems in prose, out of regard for what they denominate truth.

Others again have called in question the marvellous creations of heroic poetry, under pretence that they are contrary to the laws of physical nature, just as if there were not a nature of the imagination; as though this faculty were not a gift bestowed on man, that he might, by the aid of poetry, create a world of images rivalling reality.

They have attempted to banish from the stage those conventional fictions, without which dramatic imitation would no longer be separated or

distinct from the manner in which things in the ordinary course of this life have their positive existence. They have alleged that, nature being subjected to no sort of unity, either of time, action, or place in the events which occur on the world's stage, art ought to do as she does, and, in limited representations on the theatrical stage, proceed according to the example she sets us in her unlimited operations. Thus have plays been constructed on the model of a work of history, in as many acts as the historian would have made volumes; and we have seen acts of the due length of an entire piece, pieces divided into days, as the Decameron of Boccacio, and finally plays become romances in dialogue.

Not only has the dramatic poet, in his regard for reality, or what some take for truth, conceived that he ought to accumulate incidents, and crowd into the space of a few hours, facts which a succession of years could alone develop ; but, in order the more closely to identify his work with its alleged model, he has studied to bring all the details into view. Hence those pieces called of late years melo-dramas, in which, by continual shifting of scenes and decorations, every actual circumstance, that should have been intimated only by brief narration, is unfolded before you; you are compelled to be present at murders, catastrophes, and conflicts ; in which every thing is addressed to the sight, and from which all

« ZurückWeiter »