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THE doctrine that Beauty is our general name for
tain qualities of things which are habitually associated with our gratifications, and that thus our idea of beauty is a result of accumulated pleasurable experiences
-a doctrine with which, under an expanded form, I wholly agree-has not, I think, been applied to that quality of form and movement which we term Grace.
The attribute to which we apply this term clearly implies some perfection in the thing possessing it. We do not ascribe this attribute to cart-horses, tortoises, and hippopotami, in all of which the powers of movement are imperfectly developed; but we do ascribe it to greyhounds, antelopes, racehorses, all of which have highly efficient locomotive organs. What, then, is this distinctive peculiarity of structure and action which we call Grace?
One night while watching a dancer, and inwardly condemning her tours de force as barbarisms which would be hissed, were not people such cowards as always to applaud what they think it the fashion to applaud, I remarked that the truly graceful motions occasionally introduced, were those performed with comparatively little effort. And remembering sundry confirmatory facts, I presently
GRACE THE ECONOMY OF MUSCULAR EFFORT.
came to the general conclusion, that, given a certain change of attitude to be gone through-a certain action to be achieved, then it is most gracefully achieved when achieved with the least expenditure of force. In other words, grace, as applied to motion, describes motion that is effected with an economy of muscular power; grace, as applied to animal forms, describes forms capable of this economy; grace, as applied to postures, describes postures that may be maintained with this economy; and grace, as as applied to inanimate objects, describes such as exhibit certain analogies to these attitudes and forms.
That this generalization, if not the whole truth, contains at least a large part of it, will, I think, become obvious, on considering how habitually we couple the words easy and graceful; and still more, on calling to mind some of the facts on which this association is based. The attitude of a soldier, drawing himself bolt upright when his sergeant shouts “attention," is more remote from gracefulness than when he relaxes at the words “stand at ease.” The gauche visitor sitting stiffly on the edge of his chair, and his self-possessed host, whose limbs and body dispose themselves as convenience dictates, are contrasts as much in effort as in elegance. When standing, we commonly economize power by throwing the weight chiefly on one leg, which we straighten to make it serve as a column, while we relax the other; and to the same end, we allow the head to lean somewhat on one side. Both these attitudes are imitated in sculpture as elements
Turning from attitudes to movements, our current remarks will be found to imply the same relationship. No one praises as graceful, a walk that is irregular and jerking, and so displays waste of power; no one sees any beauty in the waddle of a fat man, or the trembling steps of an invalid, in both of which effort is visible. But the style of walking we admire is moderate in velocity, perfectly rhythe mical, unaccompanied by violent swinging of the arms, and giving us the impression that there is no conscious exertion, and, at the same time, that there is no force thrown away. In dancing, again, the prevailing difficulty -the proper disposal of the hands and arms-well illustrates the same truth. Those who fail in overcoming this difficulty give the spectator the impression that their arms are a trouble to them; they are held stiffly in some meaningless attitude, at an obvious expense of power; they are checked from swinging in the directions in which they would naturally swing; or they are so moved, that, instead of helping to maintain the equilibrium, they endanger it. A good dancer, on the contrary, makes us feel that, so far from the arms being in the way, they are of great use. Each motion of them, while it seems naturally to result from a previous motion of the body, is turned to some advantage. We perceive that it has facilitated instead of hindered the general action; or, in other words, that an economy of effort has been achieved. Any one wishing to distinctly realize this fact, may readily do so by studying the action of the arms in walking. Let him place his arms close to his sides, and there keep them, while walking with some rapidity. He will unavoidably fall into a backward and forward motion of the shoulders, of a wriggling, ungraceful character. After persevering in this for a space, until he finds, as he will do, that the action is not only ungraceful but fatiguing, let him suddenly allow his arms to swing as usual. The wriggling of the shoulders will cease; the body will be found to move equably forward; and comparative ease will be felt. On analyzing this fact, he may perceive that the backward motion of each arm is simultaneous with the forward motion of the corresponding leg; and, if he will attend to his muscular sensations, he will find (what if a mathemati
AS SEEN IN DANCING AND SKATING.
cian he will recognize as a consequence of the law that action and reaction are equal and opposite that this backward swing of the arm is a counterbalance to the forward swing of the leg; and that it is easier to produce this counterbalance by moving the arm than by contorting the body, as he otherwise must do.*
The action of the arms in walking being thus understood, it will be manifest that the graceful employment of them in dancing is simply a complication of the same thing; and that a good dancer is one having so acute a muscular sense as at once to feel in what direction the arms should be moved to most readily counterbalance any motion of the body or legs.
This connection between gracefulness and economy of force, will be most vividly recognized by those who skate. They will remember that all early attempts, and especially the first timid experiments in figure skating, are alike awkward and fatiguing; and that the acquirement of skill is also the acquirement of ease. The requisite confidence, and a due command of the feet having been obtained, those twistings of the trunk and gyrations of the arms, previously used to maintain the balance, are found needless; the body is allowed to follow without control the impulse given to it; the arms to swing where they will; and it is clearly felt that the graceful way of performing any evolution is the way that costs least effort. Spectators can scarcely fail to see the same fact, if they look for it. Perhaps there is no case in which they may so distinctly perceive that the movements called graceful are those which fulfil a given end with the smallest expenditure of force.
* A parallel fact, further elucidating this, is supplied by every locomotive engine. On looking at the driving-wheel, there will be found besides the boss to which the connecting rod is attached, a corresponding mass of metal on the opposite side of the wheel, and equidistant from the centre; or, if the engine be one having inside cylinders, then, on looking between the spokes of the driving-wheel, it will be seen that against each crank is a block of iron, similar to it in size, but projecting from the axle in the reverse direction. Evidently, being placed on opposite sides of the centre of motion, each crank and its counterbalance move in opposite directions relatively to the axle; and by so doing, neutralize each other's perturbing effects, and permit a perfectly smooth rotation. Just the same relationship that exists between the motions of the counterbalance and the crank, exists between the motions of the arms and legs in walking; and in the early days of railway locomotion, before these counterbalance weights were used, locomotive driving-wheels were subject to violent oscillations, strictly analogous to those jerkings of the shoulders that arise when we walk fast without moving our arms.
The reference to skating suggests, that graceful motion might be defined as motion in curved lines. Certainly, straight and zig-zag movements are excluded from the conception. The sudden stoppages and irregularities which angular movements imply, are its antithesis : for a leading element of grace is continuity, flowingness. It will be found, however, that this is merely another aspect of the same truth; and that motion in curved lines is economical motion. Given certain successive positions to be assumed by a limb, then if it be moved in a straight line to the first of these positions, suddenly arrested, and then moved in another direction straight to the second position, and so on, it is clear that at each arrest, the momentum previously given to the limb must be destroyed at a certain cost of force, and a new momentum given to it at a further cost of force; whereas, if, instead of arresting the limb at its first position, its motion be allowed to continue, and a lateral force be impressed upon it to make it diverge towards the second position, a curvilinear motion is the necessary result: and by making use of the original momentum, force is economized.
If the truth of these conclusions respecting graceful movement be admitted, it cannot, I think, be doubted, that graceful form is that kind of form which both im