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chief value from that property of painting which enables it to speak to the eye.
The remark has already been made by Lessing, that the expression of bodily pains, and the representation of passions dependent on physical or ganization produce less effect in relation, than.in. marble or on canvassIt is certainly true that the poet portrays the painful affections of the mind better than the torturing ills of the body; and the reason is evident; for while writing and speaking serve to pour forth complaints of inward griefs, external anguish and torture is evinced only by ejaculations. The Greek dramatic poet makes Philoctetes utter cries, upon the stage, and the epic poet, for want of the reality of sound, has recourse to a simile, and substitutes the bellowing of a bull for the cries of Laocoon. *
* “ Clamores simul horrendos ad sidera tollit:
Quales mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram
ÆNEID, Lib. II. 1. 221. Some of my readers will, I trust, for the sake of others, excuse my citing here and elsewhere passages such as the above, when referred to by the author, who has throughout his work omitted to append them.
Payne Knight, neglecting the above example from Sophocles, has some remarks on this simile of Virgil, to which I would suggest a reference. See Part III. Chapter i., page 334 of the original edition of the “ Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste."-(Translator.)
The inferiority of the poet to the painter is also very apparent in the imitation of objects, whose especial property it is to be addressed to the sight. Whatever his imagination may suggest in order to borrow from the art of painting the principle and force of its effects on the senses, will consist but of feeble countervails, due to a very unequal interchange of impressions. He will supply the place of a sun-rise, a cloudless sky, or a beautiful scene, by the more or less analogous ideas of candour, innocence, a tranquil state of mind, placed in corelation with the scenes of nature; for these are the true means of the poet, rising far superior to those of a talent for graphic description, of which hereafter. All this means that the sentiment excited in the mind by the sympathy existing between the moral and the physical, between the internal and external senses, leads us to picture to ourselves some scene. But every one will, notwithstanding, accommodate the landscape to his own fancy; and the poet will have been no more a painter, than the painter is a poet when his image is fitted to inspire the genius of the writer with other images equivalent to it.
Here then we see to what this community between painting and poetry, so often quoted and so ill understood, is in fact reduced; while it has been the only ground on which to rest their mutual claims to appropriate means of resemblance alien to their respective natures, in order to complete what is wanting to them. (See further on this head, Part III. Chapter viii.)
The union of these arts has been held to be a true community of rights, while it is only a right of sharing in the universal heritage. Now a community of rights supposes the power of making use of the same things; a right of sharing, assigns to each one his own. Thus understood, the community spoken of not only does not countenance encroachment, but bars it, by determining the respective shares of the common model, within the limits we have already prescribed; and this consequence must especially extend to the distinctive qualities of the subjects appropriate for the execution of every art, since it is particularly in the choice of subjects that those errors and confusions of properties arise, by which each art is vainly supposed to be enriched.
In truth the artist very frequently impoverishes himself by his larcenies. It is impossible but that a subject which, well adapted to one art, would prove a source of fertility to genius in that art, should remain unfruitful when thus inadvisedly transferred to another.
Pygmalion, in the exstasies of love, sees his statue becoming gradually animated. The tint that suffuses itself over the marble already apprises the happy lover and the spectator, of the metamorphosis that is taking place. Here is a subject to which painting alone can do justice, because, by means of graduated flesh tints, it can easily diffuse over the marble an appearance of life. Who would credit that sculpture, alike without colour and motion, has notwithstanding been employed on this subject,* as though the same thing could be represented on white marble. Nay more, a fact thus limited, and scarcely affording matter for a monologue, has been produced on the stage,t a permanent example of a choice of action the most improper, since there is neither interest, incident, nor catastrophe.
Among all the arts poetry is the one occupying the widest field. Nothing indeed wholly escapes the kind of universality it embraces. Yet even this art is subjected to restrictions through its medium of language, and those restrictions are, for the most part, the result of what we have termed moral impossibilities, that is, impossible to the internal sense. (See Chapter vi.) Now, thus considered, many subjects are denied to the poet's pen, that is, they are morally impossible. Language is often very insufficient for the description of objects and their qualities; and it is that insufficiency which sets a limit to the prerogatives of poetry. To pass that limit is, on the part of the poet, an encroachment on, and a violation of, the principle of imitation, which requires that a thing be represented by some other which is but the image of it. If it is the property of an image to be incomplete, then the image afforded by poetry fails in that condition, when the poet, exceeding the measure of means at his command for the representing of certain qualities, of bodies more, especially, by others analogous to them, aspires to means of direct description which he would seem desirous of wresting from the painter's art.
* A group by Falconet.
+ By J. J. Rousseau.
Lessing has, in his Laocoon,* unquestionably demonstrated that the poet is deceived who thinks himself able to represent corporeal objects by the,
necessarily successive, detail of their parts, since it is precisely that very detail and succession of ideas that prevent parts so dissected and decomposed from producing on the mind an image of the whole, that is, of the aggregate of the thing to be conceived of.
It must, from this incontestible fact, be concluded, that the value which, in physical nature, is due to what is termed the aggregate of parts, (and of this kind more especially is that corporeal beauty of which the eye alone is judge,) is wanting only to poetical description, when, with its partial and disjointed traits, the materiality of objects is dealt with ; whence we may again infer that in such subjects the kind of imitation appro
* A work so entitled, a translation of which has very recently appeared from the pen of “William Ross, Esq., late Professor of Painting in the University of Glasgow."- Translator.