Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/616

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To the attractive hues of fruit, I believe, we must ultimately trace back our whole artistic pleasure in the pure physical stimulation of beautiful colors, displayed by natural objects or artificial products.

Our present inquiry, then, will yield us some account of that primitive delight in red, purple, orange, and yellow, which we usually take for granted as an innate instinct of humanity, savage or civilized. When, some few months back, we analyzed the various elements of pleasure which make up our aesthetic enjoyment of a daisy, we were compelled, for the time being, to leave the original beauty of its pink-and-white rays wholly unexplained. We regarded the delight in color, relatively to the subject we were then examining, as an ultimate and indecomposable factor in our developed consciousness. To-day, however, I hope we shall be able to go a little further back, and to show that this delight, like all other feelings of our nature, is no mere chance and meaningless accident, but the slow result of a long adaptation whereby man has gradually become fitted to the high and responsible station which he now occupies at the head of organic existence.

The sole object of flowering is the production of seeds—that is to say, of embryo plants, destined to replace their parents, and continue the life of their species to future generations. Flowers and seeds go together; every flower producing seed, and every seed springing from a flower. Ferns and other like plants, which have no blossoms, bring forth spores which grow into shapeless little fronds, instead of true seeds containing a young plantlet. But all flowering species produce some kind of genuine fruit, supplied with more or less nutriment for the tender embryo in its earlier days. And this matter of nutriment is so important to a right comprehension of our subject that I venture, even at the imminent peril of appearing dull, to digress a little into the terrible mysteries of Energy, which comprise the whole difficulty of the question.

Wherever movement is taking place in any terrestrial object, the energy which moves it has been directly or indirectly supplied from the sun. In the green parts of plants, the solar rays are perpetually producing a separation of carbon and oxygen, the former element being stored up in the tissues themselves, while the latter is turned loose upon the atmosphere in a free state. Whenever they recombine, motion and heat will result, as we see alike in our grates, our steam-engines, and our own bodies. An animal is a sort of machine—viewed from a purely physical standpoint—in which the energetic materials laid up by plants are being reconverted into the warmth which reveals itself to our touch, and the evident movement which we see in its limbs. The vegetable or animal substances which are capable of yielding these energies to our bodies we know as food or nutriment. They perform exactly the same part in the physical economy of men or beasts as that which fuel performs in the physical economy of the steam-engine. Of course, from the mental point of view, we have the