Recapitulation And Conclusion
( Originally Published 1869 )
I come now to the conclusion of this most interesting and ennobling subject, which to me has ever been a source of high gratification, and which to all affords food for research and reflection of a kind the most delightful and the most refining. In this treatise it has been my endeavour to demonstrate the general utility of the arts for the several purposes of life, intellectual social and moral, both as regards their cultivation by individuals, and their effect as a branch of national study.* I have attempted to evince that, although each apparently differing in their nature and purposes, they each had their origin in the mind; and, though so widely branching forth into various channels that occasionally their course can with difficulty be traced to that original, they each at first came from the same fount. They rose like a little rill, t springing out of some dense rock, or oozing from the foot of a glacier. + Amidst peaks and over precipices they trace their obscure way,* now sweetly warbling to the verdant hills, now foaming tempestuously down some dark and deep ravine, exhibiting in their career all the various passions and excitements which distract human nature. II As the stream swells into greater importance it acquires new features, and becomes endowed with new characteristics. At one time it is strongly tinctured by the soil over which it flows; at another, clear as crystal, it exhibits to the eye each pebble glittering beneath its waters. At one time it is gently rustled by the breeze ; at another, it is agitated furiously by tempestuous billows. Now smooth and serene as a mirror, it reflects with the utmost precision each object in view,—the towering rocks that overhang it, the blue mountains in the distance, the variously tinted foliage which bedecks its oanks, the clouds of different shapes and aspects that are hovering over it, or, in the still night, the blazing planets which sparkle on its surface. At one time it is dark and overhung with gloom, at another brilliantly glistening in the sun.
We have followed this magnificent stream tracing it from its source, and have watched its wanderings from its first growing into a warbling brook, when from its insignificance it would scarcely seem to merit attention ; though silently it flowed on, growing at each turn more majestic, and gradually expanding, until at length on its bosom huge vessels, with outspread sails, were seen to be wafted, and the mightiest objects which can excite the human mind, or represent the dignity of man, are floated in its depths. We have accompanied it through all the varied and beautiful and noble scenery with which it abounds, where at one turn bold rocks, at another verdant plains, formed the shores along which we passed.-j- The wild and oftentimes terrific regions of imagination we have also been exploring, + and have penetrated those dark and mystic caverns where that enchanting spirit delights to dwell. How diversified, how beautiful, and how wondrous have been the prospects which we have surveyed, and Of which our own nation furnishes abundant instances I§ Its mighty and obscure deeps we have been also led to fathom, and to dive down and discover the hidden springs and currents by which its course is impelled or impeded.
While engaged in the study of this sublime topic, we have been struck with awe and with delight at the stupendous and beautiful harmony of our own intellectual system, by which, as by the genial influence of the planets in the material world, which roll on through successive ages floating in invisible aether, each guiding, lighting, and affording genial warmthto the other, these different efforts have been so successfully and so completely regulated; and have admired the arrangement, alike astonishing and benign, by which the most enchanting and agreeable of our pursuits, should be also that which is productive of the most rich and ennobling effects, through its secret though not less surprising operations, in the refinement and enlargement of all the powers of the soul.