Ralph Waldo Emerson/拉尔夫·沃尔多·爱默生
A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty.
The ancient Greeks called the world Koouos, beauty. Such is the constitution of all things, or such the plastic power of the human eye, that the primary forms, as the sky, the mountain, the tree, the animal, give us a delight in and for themselves; a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping.This seems partly owing to the eye itself. The eye is the best of artists. By the mutual action of its structure and of the laws of light, perspective is produced, which integrates every mass of objects, of what character soever, into a well colered and shaded golbe, so that where the particular objects are mean and unaffecting , the landscape which they compose is round and symmetrical. And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters. There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it has, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its own beauty. But besides this general grace diffused over nature, almost all the individual forms are agreeable to the eye, as is proved by our endless imitations of some of them, as the acorn, the grape, the pine-cone, the wheat-ear, the egg, the wings and forms of most birds, the lion’s claw, the serpent, the butterfly, sea-shells, flames, clouds, buds, leaves, and the forms of many trees, as the palm.
For better consideration, we may distribute the aspects of Beauty in a threefold manner.
1. First, the simple perception of natural forms is a delight. The influence of the forms and actions in nature is so needful to man, that, in its lowest of functions, it seems to lie on the confines of commodity and beauty. To the body and mind, which have been cramped by noxious work or company, nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney comes out of the din and craft of the street and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In their eterna calm, he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never fired, so long as we can see far enough.
But in other hours, Nature satisfies by its loveliness, and without any mixture of corporeal benefit. I see the spectacle of morning from the hilltop over against my house, from daybreak to sanrise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long slender bars of cloud float like fishes in the sea of crimson light. From the earth, as a shore, I look out into that silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations; the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind.How does Nature deify with a few and cheap elements!Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn ia my Assyria; the sunset and moon-rise, my Paphos and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses an the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dream.
2.The presence of a higher, namely, of the spiritual element is essential to its perfection.The high and divine beauty which can be loved without effeminacy,is that which is found in combination with the human will.Beauty is the mark God sets upon virture.Every natural action is graceful.Every heroic act is also decent,and causes the place and the bystanders to shine.We are taught by great actions that the universe is the properly of every individual in it.Every rational creature has all nature for his dowry and estate.It is his,if he will.He may divest himself of it;he may creep into a corner,and abdicate his kingdom, as most men do, but he is entitled to the world by his constitution.In proportion to the energy of his thought and will,he lakes up the world into himself,……
3.There is still another aspect under which the beauty of the world may be viewed, namely, as it becomes an boject of the intellect.Beside the relation of things to virture, they have a relation to thought. The intellect searches out the absolute order of things as they stand in the mind of God, and without the colors of affection.The intellectual and the active powers seem to succeed each other, and the exclusive activity of the one generates the exclusive activity of the other.There is something unfriendly in each to the other, but they are like the alternate periods by feeding and working in animals; each prepares and will be followed by the other. Therefore does beauty, which, in relation to actions ,as we have seen, comes unsought, and comes because it is unsought, remain for the apprehension and pursuit of the intellect; and then again, in its turn, of the active power. Nothing diforms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.
All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is Taste.Others have the same love in such excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms. The creation of beauty is Art.
The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity.A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature.For although the works of nature are innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is similar and single.Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A leaf, a sunbeam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. What is common to them all,——that perfectness and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of nature forms,——the totality of nature; which the Italians expressed by defining beauty”il piu nell’ uno.”Nothing is quite beautiful alone;nothing but is beautiful in the whole.A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art a nature passed to through the alembic of man.Thus in art does Nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.
The world thus exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty.This element I call an ultimate end. No reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty.Beauty, in its largest and profoundest sense,is one expression for the universe. God is the all-fair. Truth, and goodness, and beauty, are but different faces of the same all.But beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory good. It must stand as a part, and not as yet the last or highest expression of the final cause of Nature.
The Strenuous Life
A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as an individual.
We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious efforts, the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been effort stored up in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune.
But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer on the earth’s surface; and he surely unfits himself to hold his own place with his fellows, if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.
As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.