Adaptation To The Mind Of Works Of Nature

Not only, however, is man capable of receiving ideas of a tasteful and artistical quality, and of being excited by emotions and feelings through them in the way which I have described ; but nature around him is so constituted by a benign Providence, attentive alike to his intellectual and to his physical wants, as to be continually calling forth within him these delightful sensations ; and a love for such scenes as she only can display, for the beauties and glories which she alone exhibits, forms the basis of true taste for works of art. Indeed, one great advantage to be derived from the study of painting, and sculpture, and poetry is, as I observed in the preceding chapter, that they lead a person to acquire a real taste for nature, and an admiration of her finest scenes, as it is the object of these arts to represent them in their highest beauty and perfection.

Nature, indeed, presents to the eye of man, whom she thereby proclaims through all her works to be a being created and capacitated for the tasteful enjoyment of them, as also by the faculties wherewith she has endowed him for this purpose, the finest examples of inimitable masterpieces of beauty and grandeur. The sun in its rising and setting presents an object of splendour, which no power of genius in man can hope to rival. Creation at large, the glory of the celestial bodies, the forms and varied colours of animals, the plumage and shapes of the feathered tribe, the grandeur of mountain scenery, and the beautiful variety which our landscapes afford, the exquisite tints of foliage and flowers, the grateful murmuring of brooks, the warbling of birds, and last of all the sublime into-nations of the thunder and the ocean’s roar, are each calculated in the highest degree to excite in our minds the most ecstatic and sublime emotions. And to consummate the whole, the full participation in delights of this nature, Revelation informs us will be the happiness, and the peculiar reward of those for whom is prepared “such things as pass man’s understanding;” and what ” neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive ;” and some of the resplendent glories and beauties of which are described in the Apocalypse.

If, therefore, we find this double concordance in nature, that our mental capacities, and those which are the highest, are peculiarly adapted for artistical pursuits ; and that, on the other hand, those qualities in natural objects which are of an artistical order, are peculiarly adapted to apply themselves to these capacities of the mind,—can we doubt that art was made for man, or that it is the province of man to employ those capacities in a pursuit at once so congenial to their constitution, and so delightful and so improving, as that of the study and contemplation of art ?