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And F. W. H. Myers explains the difficulty of expressing these feelings, while asserting the possibility of doing so, in the following interesting way: “The range of human thoughts “Essay on and emotions greatly transcends the range of
of Virgil” in
serve such symbols as man has invented to express Classical.” them; and it becomes the business of art to use these symbols in a double way. They must be used for the direct representation of thought and feeling; but they must also be combined with so subtle an imagination as to suggest much which there is no means of directly expressing. And this can be done, for experience shows that it is possible so to arrange forms, colours, and sounds as to stimulate the imagination in a new and inexplicable way.”
It is thus seen that it is a very difficult thing to render in any branch of art the feelings inspired by nature. It is perhaps harder to do so in painting landscapes than in depicting the human form on canvas, or modelling it in sculpture, or by using the sounds of music, or the language of poetry. Certainly only a comparatively small number of those who attempt it attain success.
One of the strangest facts in the history of the human race is the complete disappearance of literature and art, which had reached such a high state of development among the Greeks, for a period of six hundred years, and their new birth in the twelfth century in Italy. In the period of their great prosperity the Greeks were the most intellectual and art-loving nation the world has ever seen. They had an intense love for the beautiful in nature and for its artistic rendering in poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture. Though subdued later by their mighty opponents, the more practical Romans, the literature and art of the Greeks conquered their conquerors and flourished anew in the Augustan age in Rome, and their philosophy had a decided and lasting influence on the growing power of Christianity. The Romans had also a very great love for nature, and they had more of a feeling of sympathy with it than had the Greeks, more of the feeling of modern times, as the poetry of Virgil shows.
“Sunt lacrimæ rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt,"
are the often quoted but untranslatable words of the "wielder of the stateliest measure.”
But Greek and Roman literature and art were both lost in the conditions that followed the invasion of the empire by the barbarian tribes of the north about the sixth century A.D. In consequence of the conquests of Italy, Germany, and Gaul by the Goths, the language of each section of Europe grew corrupt; each country had a local speech of its own, and the Latin soon became a dead language. As all literature was in Greek or Latin, and as neither was now understood by these illiterate and uneducated races, a general and dense ignorance prevailed.
This was intensified by the views held by the early Christian Church, which was the custodian of learning. After the time of Constantine, Christianity dominated the empire, and its influence was used altogether to develop the religious character of man, without any regard to his æsthetic needs. In fact these were considered hostile to each other. Why waste precious time over matters of a day's interest or wonder, when the whole of the
eternal future depends on man's actions during his brief passage through this world? So the beautiful in literature and art must be shunned and neglected as temptations of the lower life.
Thus from the beginning of the sixth century to the end of the eleventh the gloom of the dark ages spread over the nations, and darkness like that of the sunless day of an arctic winter covered the earth.
We are accustomed to look on this page of history as one of hopelessness and desolation. But this is not the whole view. The period was like winter in another way, for it presaged the spring though all that makes for culture and ästheticism seemed lost. For though the Roman in his decline had ceased from writing, and the rising German was not yet able so to express his thoughts; though it was the time of the decay and breaking up of the great empire that had ruled the world, still, dark as was the apparent outlook, it was amid this ruin that the seeds of modern society were sown, and nourished, and grew up. The Roman and Germanic races were being