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As I am not one of the initiated in these mysteries, but only pretend to be a man of common sense, this is all to me, I confess, as mystic as " Muggletonian" dreams, or rather, might I venture to say, like "super-artificial twaddle !"
"Is there any thing in nature like this bust, except the Venus?" That is, is there any thing in nature like this bust, except the Venus, which is NOT in nature? Do I understand it? Let the reader try.
"Is there any thing in nature like this marble, except the VENUS? Can there be more poetry gathered into existence than in that wonderful creation of perfect beauty? But the poetry of this bust is in no degree derived from nature. The execution is not natural, it is super-natural, and super-artificial." BYRON. I know that every thing in ART must be ideal nature, possible nature, beyond common, existing, every-day nature. But the great prototype of the most beautiful "supernatural," "superartificial" art, must be NATURE! The most perfect bust must have eyes, lips, forehead, hair, nose, &c. &c. Yes: but nature never produced any thing so perfect as this bust, in this respect!" It is of no great consequence, in my opinion, whether this be literally true or not. But your Lordship is a little hard upon nature. You are yet a young man, and in the course of your travels have seen a lady of rank, and I, though not such an elegans formarum spectator as your Lordship, who have also had the pleasure of being once in her company, admit all you say. Yes, you, my Lord, in a small space of life, and, compared with the time that has passed since man was first created, but as a wink, you have seen, a British Lady, and an Albanian girl, nearly, if not quite, as perfect, with respect to form, features, countenance, &c. as the Venus. You must have been most singularly fortunate; yet, in your circumscription of the powers of nature, you tell us nature never produced a living face like this, or the bust of "Antinous." How do you know? But I do not care whether nature has or has not. Poetry has; and I will place Milton's Adam and Eve, as perfect in form, in "supernatural, or in super-artificial" beauty, as the bust of Antinous, or the statue of Venus!
When I reflect on the ardor of your language, (granting this bust to be that of woman, and made complete, as a whole "supernatural, super-artificial female,") there might almost be a fear that your Lordship's love would resemble at last that of Pigmalion; but there would be no danger, for the moment your supernatural, super-artificial" beauty was alive, your super-artificial" transport would be over! The whole of what you say on this point appears so strange to a man of
plain understanding, that I think I must have misconceived your meaning. If I have done so, I shall be sorry; if I do understand it, I have no hesitation to use your own words, "away with such cant !" such" supernatural and super-artificial twaddle!" I here put aside this bust, as I have already made an attack upon your full assemblage of marble gods, the mighty machinery of your criticism.
I have said that statuary and poetry are two things. Statuary, as an art, is indebted to nature for only one thing, with which, indeed, she performs her wonders; turning a rude block into such a creature, sui generis, as now adorns the. dining-room of Lansdown House, so beautiful, so perfectly beautiful, that I, Goth as I may seem to your Lordship, when I have the honor of being admitted as a guest, have sometimes forgot my soup to gaze. Art, then, is indebted to nature for nothing but the block; but for what is the statuary indebted to nature? for all his ideas. For though he might have been less fortunate than your Lordship, who have accidentally met in your travels so near a resemblance to Venus, as the Albanian girl, yet he could have had no ideas at all of beauty, except from nature; for if there had not been a beautiful human figure, and "thinking things," my Lord, like you and me, upon earth, had other forms, neither of us could have had the least idea of that beauty, the conception of which is first required in the sculptor. But let the art and artist have done all they can, they cannot render their image as perfect as poetry can; for she can give to the statue life, animation, tears, smiles, language, eyes that shine, &c.; and for these ideas poetry is indebted to, NATURE.
The bust of Antinous, which seems even superior to all your other vanquished gods, to Mrs. Unwin's needles them-selves, I fear, also, must fall, like "Friar Bacon's HEAD!"
But as you have joined with this bust the "Poulterer's shop," and Cowper's "sylvan sampler" of trees, by way of saving time, I shall here say a word or two of poetical trees. Your Lordship does not seem to admire "trees." However, let us only remark that even Constantinople would be less poetical without them, and by putting them here together, the city and trees, I think I shall be able, not only to save time, but to "kill two birds with one stone."
PORT OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
I have no doubt, from what I have read, the view you speak of is unique in picturesque and poetical beauty. But, my Lord, are there indeed no trees among the buildings? No
golden cupolas shining to the morn? Much as your Lordship dislikes "sylvan samplers," are there no beautiful palms, sleeping, as it were, in the sunshine, like a beautiful Albanian girl? No dark cypresses breaking the white buildings? As to the sylvan part of the landscape, I shall ask permission to quote a line of my own.
Damascus' golden fans, and minarets, and TREES." I put the "trees" into the picture, my Lord, not for the sake of rhyme, which sometimes more sublime poets do; (and your Lordship well knows that rhyme
"The rudder is of verses,
By which, like ships, they steer their courses:"
but I assure you I put in these "odious trees," not for the sake of the rhyme, but to break the monotony of buildings, and to make them more poetical; and I doubt how poetical even Constantinople would look without them; and to shew this, not being a great traveller, but having seen the sea, not "only in a picture," as your Lordship seems to think, but, in reality, I must take you from Constantinople, and the Hellespont, to that part of the sea with which I am most familiar, Southampton Water. The banks are hung almost entirely with wood, as far as the eye can reach.
"And forests sweep the margin of the main." Now suppose the whole line was houses, would it be so poetical? I THINK NOT!
"And chimnies sweep the margin of the main."
If you say, the buildings, interspersed, add to the poetical effect of the trees, as well as the trees to them, I answer, "Doubtless!" But the test is this: which would be most poetical-a beautiful building without trees, or trees without buildings, on the sea-side? The bust, and the trees, have led me a little out of my way, for I intended to have connected "The Needle" with
HOMER'S SPEAR, WARRIORS, ARMS, HELMETS, BOWS, &c.
"The shield of Achilles derives its poetical interest from the subjects described on it."-Bowles.
'And from what does the spear of Achilles derive its interest? and the helmet and the mail worn by Patroclus, and the celestial armour, and the very brazen greaves, of the wellbooted Greeks?'-Byron.
And now, if Mrs. Unwin's needle and stockings will not
much serve your Lordship, let us see what can be effected on your side as the champion of art versus NATURAM, by the "spear" of Achilles.
But why did you take the spear, my Lord? What can the "spear" do, if the "shield" could do nothing? The helmet, of which you find Campbell has made so poetical an use in O'Connor's Child, would have done better; but not to quail under the spear of Achilles, even in the hands of Lord Byron, I ask you first, if the spear be poetical, is it more poetical than the warrior who uses it? The shield in Homer, and the pastoral cup in Theocritus, are described at large. These great poets were obliged to have recourse to images from NATURE to sustain the poetical interest of a work of art. But describe distinctly a spear. It is long, it is short, or, perhaps, bloody. Let us take the first arms that occur in Homer, not of Achilles, but of a secondary warrior.'
Let us remark Diomed, putting on his warlike habiliments. Now observe, for it is a matter of mere observation, how Homer, by images drawn from NATURE, in connection with ideas of terror or sublimity, makes us forget the work of art, and rouses the attention; these are some of the animating adjuncts that make the picture MORE poetical.
The first thing that presents itself is the helmet.
'High on his helm CELESTIAL LIGHTNINGS PLAY!
Like the RED STAR that FIRES TH' AUTUMNAL SKIES,
I have extracted these remarks from a few observations, written long before your criticism; there is none of your examples, my Lord, which I have not before attentively considered; and I must think, you have not so attentively considered them as myself.
I hope this will be sufficient to show, that I do not wish Ulysses to use, as in the travestie, his "mutton-fist" instead of his bow.
But suppose you had brought against me Hector himself, xopulaιoλos Hector! Examine the most interesting circumκορυθαίολος stance in the whole Iliad, where THE HELMET becomes most interesting: Need I mention the parting between Hector and Andromache? Every heart has been smitten with the
! I have spoken at large on this subject in the last vindication, where I mentioned the images from art introduced in the Paradise Lost. Achilles' spear is an ash from Mount Pelion, as Satan's spear was like a mast "hewn in Norwegian forest."
affecting incidents of the passage, since Homer existed. The child is in the mother's arms; and as Hector, going to battle, is about to kiss it, the child is frightened at the plumes, and turns his head into his mother's bosom; Hector takes his helmet off, and then kisses the child, who, exxion ay, whilst the mother smiles in her tears; and I ask, which does your Lordship think the most poetical, the affectionate father, the tearfully smiling mother, the child that shrinks, or THE HELMET! I know what you will say in your heart, if you are indeed "magnanimous" enough, whilst you will admit the truth of what I have said.
As I think I have taken your city of Venice, Constantinople, &c. "played at Bowls," not, I hope, without success, among your marble gods, and even supported my case against you, whether armed with the glittering spear of Achilles, or brandishing Mrs. Unwin's needle, I consider the battle nearly won. I shall dispatch some of the most material of the other arguments as shortly as I can.
Your Lordship brings the sublime image before us, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah." I think I must object to the dyed garments from Bozrah!! Had they been specified as a work of art, I should; but who thinks of the garments, when nothing is specified, and when the eye and mind are fixed on the terrible and advancing spectacle?
As to garments, now your Lordship has taken me to the scriptures, let me ask what is more sublime than this passage; "the battle of every warrior is with confused noise, and WITH GARMENTS ROLLED IN BLOOD!" You have also omitted, in the passage you have quoted, a circumstance which gives an indistinct glory even to the garments. "He that is GLORIOUS in his apparel, travelling in the GREATNESS of his strength."
I do not like to touch this awful and sublime passage, but must only desire your Lordship to consider what would be the effect of a garment from artificial life, a "real coat" for instance.
From the "dyed garments," which do not take off from the grandeur of the image the least, because they are not specified, let us pass to Cæsar's mantle, and the dagger that destroyed him, for we are now speaking of the works of ART in poetry.
I do not object, nor ever should object, nor is there any thing in the principles I have laid down which should make me object, to the "dagger," or the "mantle." The dagger is connected with ideas of terror, and is, per se, in some degree poctical; but a "knife" is not; and therefore, though I