« ZurückWeiter »
208 LE GEANT YEOUS.
no progress. But as the boy grows, and the contest grows, and need comes, there gathers in Miquel a desire to clear the ground. When he begins to think, it is no longer the passion to avenge his father on the stony giant which possesses him, but to recover their lost garden. Thus, indeed, the giant himself could alone be conquered. The huge rocks are split by gunpowder, some fragments are made into fences, others into a comfortable mansion for Miquel's mother and sisters. When the garden smiles again, and all are happy the demon form is no longer discoverable." This little tale interprets with fine insight the demonology of barrenness and obstruction. The boy's wrath against the unconscious cause of his troubles is the rage often observed in children who retaliate upon the table or chair on which they have been bruised, and it repeats embryologically the rage of the world's boyhood inspired by ascription of personal motives to inanimate obstructions. Possibly such wrath might have added something to the force with which man entered upon his combat with nature; but George Sand's tale reminds us that whatever was gained in force was lost in its misdirection. Success came in the proportion that fury was replaced by the youth's growing recognition that he was dealing with facts that could not be raged out of existence. It is
* “Du monstre qui m'avait tant ennuyé, il n'etait plus question; il était pour jamais réduit au silence. Il n'avait plus forme de géant. Déjà en partie convert de verdure, de mousse et de clématites qui avaient grimpé sur la partie ou j'avais cessé de passer, il n'était plus laid; bientôt on ne le verrait plus du tout. Je me sentais si heureux que je voulus lui pardonner, et, me tournant vers lui :—A present, lui dis-je, tu dormiras tous tes jours et tous tes nuits sans que je te dérange. Le mauvais esprit qui était en toiest vaincu, je lui defends de revenir. Je t'en ai délivré en te forçant à devenir utile à quelque chose ; que la foudre t'épargne et que la neige te soit legère' Il me sembla passer, le long de l'escarpement, comme un grand soupir de résignation qui se perdit dans les hauteurs. Ce fut la dernière fois que je l'entendais, et je ne l'ai jamais revu autre qu'il n'est maintenant.”
MATURE AND ART. 209
crowned when he makes friends with the unconquerable remnant of the giant, and sees that he is not altogether evil. It is at this stage that the higher Art, conversant with Beauty, enters to relieve man of many moral wounds received in the struggle. Clothed with moss and clematis, Yéous appears not so hideous after all. Further invested by the genius of a Turner, he would be beautiful. Yéous is a fair giant after all, only he needed finish. He is a type of nature. The boyhood of the world has not passed away with Miquel. We find a fictitious dualism cherished by the lovers of nature in their belief or feeling that nature exerts upon man some spiritual influence. Ruskin has said that in looking from the Campanile at Venice to the circle of snow which crowns the Adriatic, and then to the buildings which contain the works of Titian and Tintoret, he has felt unable to answer the question of his own heart, By which of these—the nature or the manhood—has God given mightier evidence of Himself? So nature may teach the already taught. While Ruskin looks from the Campanile, the peasant is fighting the mountain and calling its rocky grandeurs by the devil's name ; before the pictures he kneels. Untaught by art and science, the mind can derive no elevation from nature, can find no sympathy in it. It is a false notion that there is any compensation for the ignorant, denied access to art-galleries, in ability to pass their Sundays amid natural scenery. Health that may bring them, but mentally they are still inside the prison-walls from which look the stony eyes of Fates and Furies. Natural sublimities cannot refine minds crude as themselves; they must pass through thought before they can feed thought; it is nature transfigured in art that changes the snow-clad mountain from a
heartless giant to a saviour in snow-pure raiment. VOL. I. O
Most beautiful of all the goddesses of India is Maya, Illusion. In Hindu iconography she is portrayed in drapery of beautiful colours, with decoration of richest gems and broidery of flowers. From above her crown falls a veil which, curving above her knees, returns on the other side, making, as it were, also an apron in which are held fair animal forms—prototypes of the creation over which she has dominion. The youthful yet serious beauty of her face and head is surrounded with a semi-aureole, fringed with soft lightning, striated with luminous sparks; and these are background for a cruciform nimbus made of three clusters of rays. Maya presses her full breasts, from which flow fountains of milk which fall in graceful streams to mingle with the sea on which she stands.
So to our Aryan ancestors appeared the spirit that paints the universe, flushing with tints so strangely impartial fruits forbidden and unforbidden for man and beast. Mankind are slandered by the priest's creed, Populus vult decipi; they are justly vindicated in Plato's aphorism,
“Unwillingly is the soul deprived of truth; but still they are deceived. Large numbers are truly described by Swedenborg, who found hells whose occupants believed themselves in heaven and sang praises therefor. Such praises we may hear in the loud laughter proceeding from dens where paradise has been gained by the cheap charm of a glass of gin or a prostitute's caress. Serpent finds its ideal in serpent. In heaven, says Swedenborg, we shall see things as they are. But it is the adage of those who have lost their paradise, and eat still the dry dust of reality not raised by science; the general world has not felt that djwine curse, or it has been wiped away so that the most yo fool may rejoice in feeling himself God's darling, and pities the paganism of Plato. Man and beast are certain that they do see things as they are. Maya's milk is tinctured from the poppies of her robe; untold millions of misgivings have been put to sleep by her tender bounty; the waters that sustain her are those of Lethe. But beneath every illusive heaven Nature stretches also an illusive hell. The poppies lose their force at last, and under the scourge of necessity man wakes to find all his paradise of roses turned to briars. Maya's breast-fountains pass deeper than the surface—from one flows soft Lethe, the other issues at last in Phlegethon. Fear is even a more potent painter than Hope, and out of the manifold menaces of Nature can at last overlay the fairest illusions. It is a pathetic fact, that so soon as man begins to think his first theory infers a will at work wherever he sees no cause; his second, to suppose that it will harm him Harriet Martineau's account of her childish terror caused by seeing some prismatic colours dancing on the wall of a vacant room she was entering—‘imps' that had no worse origin than a tremulous candelabrum, but which
2 I 2 AVATURAZ TREACHERIES.
haunted her nerves through life—is an experience which may be traced in the haunted childhood of every nation. There are other phenomena besides these prismatic colours, which have had an evil name in popular superstition, despite their beauty. Strange it might seem to a Buddhist that yon exquisite tree with its blood-red buds should be called the Judas-tree, as to us that the graceful swan which might be the natural emblem of purity should be associated with witchcraft | But the student of mythology will at every moment be impressed by the fact that myths oftener represent a primitive science than mere fancies and conceits. The sinuous neck of the swan, its passionate jealousy, and the uncanny whistle, or else dumbness, found where, from so snowy an outside, melody might have been looked for, may have made this animal the type of a double nature. The treacherous brilliants of the serpent, or honey protected by stings, or the bright blossoms of poisons, would have trained the instinct which apprehends evil under the apparition of beauty. This, as we shall have occasion to see, has had a controlling influence upon the ethical constitution of our nature. But it is at present necessary to observe that the primitive science generally reversed the induction of our later philosophy; for where an evil or pain was discovered in anything, it concluded that such was its raison d'être, and its attractive qualities were simply a demon's treacherous bait. However, here are the first stimulants to self-control in the lessons that taught distrust of appearances. Because many a pilgrim perished through a confidence in the lake-pictures of the mirage which led to carelessness about economising his skin of water, the mirage gained its present name—Bahr Sheitan, or Devil's Water. The ‘Will o' wisp,' which appeared to promise the night-wan