Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/324

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acting in matter elude us, and, not less often, the causes which act in spirit overpower us; but it is not our task to elucidate that terrible antithesis of law, when the genius of Kant failed in it. We would only ask it to be observed how great an influence light has on the system of the intellectual functions. The soul finds in it the least deceiving of the consolations it seeks for the eternal sadness of our destiny—the bitter melancholy of life. Thought, fettered and dumb in a dark place, springs into freedom and spirit at evening, in a room brilliant with light. We cannot shun the sad moods caused by gloomy and rainy weather, nor resist the impulse of joy given by the spectacle of a brilliant day. Here we must confess our slavery—yet a slavery to be welcomed, that yields only delights. And why should we not join in the chorus of all animate and inanimate things, which, at the touch of light, quiver, and thrill, and betray in a thousand languages the magical, rapturous stimulus of that contact? By instinct, and spontaneously, we seek it everywhere, always happiest when it is found. In some sort, it suffices us. And what a part it plays, what a charm it gives, in works of poetry and art!

This is not the place to unfold that attractive and hardly-opened chapter of æsthetics—to demonstrate the relation between the atmosphere and art, by interrogating the climates of the globe and the great masters of all ages, not following a system of empirical analogies and far-fetched suggestions, but led by strict physiology and rigid optic laws. A charming picture would unfold in tracing the countless and changeful aspects of the sky, and all the caprices of light and air in their influence over the moral and physical nature of painters, poets, and musicians. The ever-varying face of the sun, the fires of dawn and sunset, the opalescent play of air, the shimmer of twilight, the blue, green, shifting hues and iridescent gleams of sea or mountain—all these things find a destined answer in the inmost and unconscious ongrowings of life, as in the soul of one who looks understandingly at Nature's works. In it they reveal and transform themselves by subtlest thrills—tender and creative. He who shall detect these—shall link, range, and embrace them in their wonderfully complex unity—will render a great service to science and to art. He will not make the artist an automaton, nor prove man the copy of a plant, drawing all its virtues from the soil it springs in, but he will lay his hand upon the mechanism, as yet scarcely guessed, moving a whole system of mighty combinations of energy.—Revue des Deux Mondes.