« AnteriorContinuar »
cerned, to subject to their own judgment the opinion which they read.
While the authors, however, write on the assumption that their readers either have seen the works, or will see them in the future, yet they hope to do everything in their power for those who are in neither case. We shall mention reproductions, shall indicate where casts of antique works of art and antique works themselves are accessible, particularly to Germans; and thus try, as far as we can, to minister to the genuine love and knowledge of art.
A history of art can be based only upon the highest and most detailed comprehension of art; only when one knows the finest things that man can produce can one trace the psychological and chronological course taken in art, as in other fields. This course began with a limited activity, busied about a dry and even gloomy imitation of the insignificant as well as the significant, whence developed a more amiable, more kindly feeling toward Nature, till finally, under favorable circumstances, accompanied by knowledge, regularity, seriousness, and severity, art rose to its height. There at last it became possible for the fortunate genius, surrounded by all these auxiliaries, to produce the charming and the complete.
Unfortunately, however, works of art with such ease of expression, which instil into man cheerfulness, freedom, and a pleasant feeling of his own personality, arouse in the striving artist the idea that the process of production is also agreeable. Since the pinnacle of what art and genius produce is an appearance of ease, the artists who come after are tempted to make things easy for themselves, and to work for the sake of appearances. Thus art gradually declines from its high position, as to the whole as well as details. But if we wish to gain a fair conception, we must come down to details of details, an occupation not always agreeable or charming, but by and by richly rewarded with a more certain view of the whole.
If the experience of observing ancient and mediaeval works of art has shown us that certain maxims hold good we need these most of all in judging the most recent modern productions; for, since personal relations, love and hatred of
(18) HC XXXIX
individuals, favor or disfavor of the multitude so easily enter into the valuation of living or recently deceased artists, we are in all the more need of principles in order to pass judgment on our contemporaries. The inquiry can be conducted in two ways: by diminishing the influence of caprice; by bringing the question before a higher tribunal. The principle can be tested as well as its application; and even if we should not agree, the point in dispute can still be definitely and clearly pointed out.
Especially should we wish that the vivifying artist, in whose works we might perhaps have found something to remember, might test our judgments carefully in this way; for everyone who deserves this name is forced in our times to form, as a result of his work and his reflections, a theory, or at least a certain conception of theoretical means, by the use of which he gets along tolerably well in a variety of cases. It will often be noticed, however, that in this way he sets up as laws such maxims as are in accordance with his talent, his inclination, and his convenience. He is subject to a fate that is common to all mankind. How many act in this very way in other fields! But we are not cultivating ourselves when we merely set in motion with ease and convenience that which lies in us. Every artist, like every man, is only an individual, and will always lean to one side. For that reason, man should pursue so far as possible, both theoretically and practically, that which is contrary to his nature. Let the easy-going seek what is serious and severe; let the stern keep before his eyes the light and agreeable; the strong, loveliness; the amiable, strength; and everyone will develop his own nature the more, the farther he seems to remove himself from it. Every art requires the whole man; the highest possible degree of art requires all mankind.
The practice of the plastic arts is mechanical, and the training of the artist rightly begins in his earliest youth with the mechanical side; the rest of his education, on the other hand, is often neglected, for it ought to be far more careful than the training of others who have opportunity of deriving advantage from life itself. Society soon makes a rough person courteous, a business life makes the most simple person prudent; literary labors, which through pride come before a great public, find opposition and correction everywhere; only the plastic artist is, for the most part, limited to a lonely workshop; he has dealings almost solely with the man who orders and pays for his labor, with a public which frequently follows only certain morbid impressions, with connoisseurs who make him restless, with auctioneers who receive every new work with praise and estimates of value such as would fitly honor the most superlative production.
But it is time to conclude this introduction lest it anticipate and forestall the work, instead of merely preceding it. We have so far at least designated the point from which we intend to set out; how far our views can and will spread, must at first develop gradually. The theory and criticism of literary art will, we hope, soon occupy us; and whatever life, travel, and daily events suggest to us, shall not be excluded. In closing, let us say a word on an important concern of this moment.
For the training of the artist, for the enjoyment of the friend of art, it was from time immemorial of the greatest significance in what place the works of art happened to be. There was a time when, except for slight changes of location, they remained for the most part in one place; now, however, a great change has occurred, which will have important consequences for art in general and in particular, At present we have perhaps more cause than ever to regard Italy as a great storehouse of art—as it still was until recently. When it is possible to give a general review of it, then it will be shown what the world lost at the moment when so many parts were torn from this great and ancient whole.
What was destroyed in the very act of tearing away will probably remain a secret forever; but a description of the new storehouse that is being formed in Paris will be possible in a few years. Then the method by which an artist and a lover of art is to use France and Italy can be indicated; and a further important and fine question will arise: what are other nations, particularly Germany and England, to do in this period of scattering and loss, to make generally useful the manifold and widely strewn treasures of arta task requiring the true cosmopolitan mind which is found perhaps nowhere purer than in the arts and sciences ? And what are they to do to help to form an ideal storehouse, which in the course of time may perhaps happily compensate us for what the present moment tears away when it does not destroy?
So much in general of the purpose of a work in which we desire many earnest and friendly sympathizers.
PREFACES TO VARIOUS
(1798) TT is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its
materials are to be found in every subject which can I interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.
The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to inquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favourable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in
1 William Wordsworth (1770-1850), probably the greatest of the poets of the Romantic Movement in England, was also foremost in the critical defence of that movement. The Prefaces and Essays printed here form a kind of manifesto of the reaction from the poetical traditions of the eighteenth century; and contain besides some of the soundest theorizing on the nature of poetry to be found in English. They afford an interesting comparison with the parallel protest in Victor Hugo's Preface to “ Cromwell," to be found later in the volume.