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Vol. X. No. 7
Tishry 5613 October 1852

The Spirit of the Beautiful

By S. S.

To the reflecting mind, no greater proof can offer itself of the greatness and benevolence of the Supreme First Cause, than the all-pervading, ever-present spirit of the beautiful which invests all of creation that mortal eye may scan, with its iris-like and changeful hues. If we gaze upon the flashing orbs of heaven, we see it playing amidst the starry waves! If we dive through the solitary depths of the ocean, we find it dwelling amidst its coral caverns. If we climb the hoary mountain side, we escape not its presence! it sighs through the valley, the winds breathe it o’er the plain; and the cataract hoarsely thunders it forth in man’s astonished ear! Not a bird skims the air, not a creature courses through the fields, without contributing its portion of the beautiful, by the gracefulness of its movements, to the common stock of all. Not a shrub, not a tree, not a flower buds, blooms, or matures, without paying tribute to the spirit of the beautiful. We enter the forest’s gloomy depths, the o’erarching branches of the trees shut out the beams of the sun, the zephyrs play around us, the squirrel looks with a kind of saucy wonder at our intrusion, the birds discourse with their mates with a voice of music, and Nature, though viewless, makes us feel her presence, and whispers in our ear the anthem which we should raise to Him who has scattered, so profusely, beauty and loveliness around us in all their myriad forms.

And shall man set but little value on a means which has the power to elevate his nature? shall he despise the only language in which his soul can converse with the unseen world? shall he throw from him the ready means of happiness, which like the manna in the wilderness surrounds his threshold? shall he? even so does he! and the tread of his iron heel crushes everywhere the beautiful, and in its stead uprise hard and ungainly material forms.

Not so acted man when the world was young; not then did <<340>> he uproot the sublime and the true. From Nature he drew his inspiration; to Nature he owed his refinement and taste. Amidst the green fields, by the trickling streamlets, and the dark shady woods was his harp tuned; and if its lays still thrill us with rapture, it is because they sprung from the heart of a nature pure and undefiled. And was man not happier in this more simple state, when Nature and not gold, was the thing he worshipped? when the voice of the affections was not silenced by the hum of interest, and the outpourings of the intellect not undervalued or made to bow to the servile crowd? when man could breathe forth the thoughts of his soul—a soul full of high imaginings and generous impulses, and find his thoughts appreciated and his feelings awaken their response in souls of kindred natures?

But now let man stand forth with a mind unshackled, let his hours be devoted to the development of moral beauty: and every cur who has a tail to wag, or who can, by a mighty and exhausting effort, howl forth his discordant bark, will be sure to snarl and snap at him; whilst the world looks on with a calm indifference, regardless that it is their own champion who is thus annoyed whilst battling in their cause, or removing obstructions from their way ere the shades of night render their path difficult to tread.

But shall it be ever thus? shall the holiness and beauty of man’s nature give place to the creation of mammon, or be displaced by the genius of cunning, of trickery, and petty malice? shall the ennobling love for the pure and the beautiful find a home in the hearts of all the sentient save in the heart of “the noblest work of the Creator?” Surely not! Our interests are not all of this world, our longings are not all satisfied by the mundane and perishable; but on the wings of beauty they will soar above, the bright flash of morning shall light their track; beyond the starry space, in the regions where dawns no day or morrow, where beameth the Everlasting Presence, shall their home be; and scorn, and sorrow, and doubts, and fears, and pain and evil shall be to them as unmeaning words; for there dwells the fulness of joy, and there dwells peace for evermore.