The Artist At His Best
( Originally Published 1896 )
The artist is at his best when he is animated by the high sentiments of the moral or religious spirit, by love, holy aspiration, adoration, and praise to the true God. While it is true that a work of art, as a poem, song, or painting, may be inspired by the love of country, the love of fame, the love of a person, the love of beauty, yet the highest, divinest inspiration is the love of God. An artist may have an inspiration without a direct revelation from God such as the authors of Scripture received. Art has been defined to be the work of man under the guidance and inspiration of a mightier power.. We believe that God touches the hearts of true artists, authors, and musicians - moves His own servants to artistic utterance. The human spirit is part of the Divine Spirit, and therefore, may not a great work of art-a book, a song, a poem, that reveals the faithful human spirit, reveal also the Divine Spirit? One can hardly refrain from pronouncing Dante's Divine Comedy inspired. There are certain sculptured forms that. "have that mysteriously unapproachable feeling which is the genuine expression of the divine." What is the Milan Cathedral but a creation a thought or conception which only God could inspire. in the brain of him who drew the wondrous plan! It seems to have been gently let down right out of heaven - a fragment of heaven vouchsafed to earth. The Campanile of Giotto, at Florence, on which we gazed in rapt wonder, is the most complete and perfect model of architecture in the world. Ruskin describes it as " That bright, smooth, sunny surface of glowing jasper, those spiral shafts and fairy traceries, so white, so faint, so crystalline, that their slight shapes are hardly traced in darkness, on the pallor of the Eastern sky, that serene height of mountain alabaster, colored like a morning cloud, and chased like a sea-shell." When Giotto built that unparalleled thing of beauty - that perfect, matchless wonder of architecture, he is said to have filled the heart of Italy with sacred thoughts, and the same writer adds that God had verily poured out upon this His servant no common nor restrained portion of His Spirit."
The great masters of art possess a secret even beyond their own comprehension. William Blake, the painter and poet, in the flights of his wild imagination seemed to hold converse with the spirits of the departed. On the very day of his death, he composed and sung hymns of praise to God so sweetly as to charm the ear of his beloved wife Katharine, and with a look of intense affection, he said, "My beloved, they are not mine - no, they are the "songs of the angels." When Jenny Lind was asked what she thought about when she was singing, with rapt gaze she replied, " Oh, I always sing to God." Fra Angelico always painted on his knees before God, and he has left the "most spiritual faces that canvas ever caught." Frances Havergal's rare gifts of poesy were consecrated to God, and who shall say that any artist may not be so thoroughly consecrated as to bring a heavenly baptism on brain and hand as well as heart! and is not that inspiration?
Poetry has the divine sanction if not a divine origin. Does the Bible contain the only poetry that was ever inspired?
" Prophets and poets were of old
We are inclined to believe that Watts, Charles Wesley, Coleridge, Cowper, Young, Mrs. Hemans and a host of other sacred poets have had a large measure of divine inspiration. It is in the inspired human heart that the loftiest poetry is born. 0 wondrous inspiration! Precious gift from God to man! There is no true poetry that is not full of heaven.
" Poetry is itself a thing of God;
" Come read to me some poem,
Music is heaven-born. It is the Fine Art that descended to us from God. If some deny that poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture are more than the inventions of earth-born men, yet all must admit that the sweet swells and cadences of music first rang out from the angelic choirs of the upper sanctuary when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy. And who will deny that music has not continued to flow from heaven to earth through the great geniuses whom God has from time to time in-spired? Will any one dare to say that Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, artists of the purest type, were not inspired of God? Only the swift fingers of shining angels sweeping over their harps in the glory-land could make sweeter music than that which these immortal composers cause to tremble upon the air of this poor world.
" O surely melody from heaven was sent,
What this clattering busy age of ours wants is more of that music that is wafted in from the celestial spheres where glorified saints and angels strike their harps in the presence of the King in his Beauty. We have reason to believe that there is a concord of sweet sounds in the abodes of unfallen angels that human ear hath not heard. Music is refining and inspiring, lifting us out or the routine of life and harmonizing the outer and inner man. The Common Council of Brooklyn, N. Y., passed a resolution prohibiting the playing of bands in the streets, but the sensible Mayor promptly vetoed the resolution, and a neighboring editor wrote that he should support the veto rather than the resolution, saying that " Street music of all sorts is a relief from the everlasting noise of whistles, rumbling cars, bells, trolley shrieks, gongs, ear-deafening noises of city life. Every other man that goes along the street involuntarily keeps time with the music, and the little folks get an immense amount of pleasure out of it." Music has an influence for good and should have a place not only in our churches but in our homes, schools, and wherever humanity can be found.