Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/102

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92
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pear to me of the same somber hue. The embroidered cushion on the lounge, the carpet on the floor, even the flowers in the vase—they are all black and white, or at the best yellow. The little world that surrounds me is colorless.

Imagine, then, for a moment the whole world deprived of color. How would it look? An enamored poet singing to his adored in the world as we at present know it might, perhaps, prelude his ditty thus:

"Thou rosy maiden with rich, ruby lips,
 And hair as golden as the sun's bright rays!"

Translated into the language of a poet of the colorless world, this strain would run about as follows:

"Thou grayish maiden with dark, jetty lips,
 And hair as white as freshly fallen snow!"

We, who are accustomed to the charm of color, turn away shudderingly from such a world, in which we would all look like the figures in a steel-engraving, printed in the blackest of ink on the whitest of paper.

And yet, as I have said before, there are people who live in such a world continually, and must continue to live in it to their days' end. Fortunately, however, the instances of people who are totally color-blind—that is to say, who are absolutely incapable of experiencing the sensation of color—are extremely rare; and, to the few people so afflicted, the deprivation is not so great as it would seem to be to us, since, having never known the poetry of color, they do not feel the want of it.

But, although there are only very few people indeed who are totally color-blind, there are, on the other hand, a very large number of persons, especially among the male sex, who are at least partially so; and it is even more difficult to picture to ourselves the world as it is presented to their eyes than to imagine a world entirely destitute of color. Defective color-vision of this kind is most frequently manifested in the inability to see the difference between red and green. A person thus afflicted can detect no difference between the ripe cherry on the tree and the leaves by which it is surrounded, or between the strawberry and the stems and leaves of the plant on which it grows. Even the bright red of some flowers may only present itself to such persons as a lighter shade of the color of the leaves, while yellow and blue are perceived by them quite as distinctly as by persons of normal vision. To them, therefore, the world must bear a resemblance in color to some of the old pottery which is decorated in blue, yellow, and black, on a whitish ground. There are other varieties of defective color-vision, all of which may be generally described as an inability to perceive certain colors, while the perception of certain other colors is normal. The simplest method of picturing to ourselves the