The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Philosophy of Fine Art, volume 2 (of 4)

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Title: The Philosophy of Fine Art, volume 2 (of 4)

Author: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Translator: Francis Plumptre Beresford Osmaston

Release date: August 27, 2017 [eBook #55445]

Language: English

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[Evolution of the Ideal in the Particular Types of Fine Art, namely, the Symbolic, the Classical, and the Romantic. Symbolic Art seeks after that unity of ideal significance and external form, which Classical art in its representation of substantive individuality succeeds in securing to sensuous perception, and which Romantic art passes beyond, owing to its excessive insistence on the claims of Spirit]



[1. Symbol as a sign simply in language, colours, etc. 8

2. Not a mere sign to represent something else, but a significant fact which presents the idea or quality it symbolizes 9

3. Thing symbolized must have other qualities than that accepted as symbol. Term symbol necessarily open to ambiguity 10

(a) Ambiguity in particular case whether the concrete fact is set before us as a symbol. Difference between a symbol and a simile. Illustrations 10

(b) Ambiguity extends to-entire worlds of Art, e.g, Oriental art. Two theories with regard to mythos discussed and contrasted 14

(c) The problems of mythology in the present treatise limited to the question, "How far symbolism is entitled to rank as a form of Art?" Will only consider symbol in so far as it belongs to Art in its own right and itself proceeds from the notion of the Ideal, the unfolding of which it commences] 19


[1. The artistic consciousness originates in wonder. The effects that result from such a state. Art the first interpreter of the religious consciousness. Conceptions envisaged in plastic forms of natural objects 23

2. The final aim of symbolic art is classical art. Here it is dissolved. The Sublime lies between the two extremes 26

3. The stages of symbolical art classified according to their subdivisions in the chapters of this. Second Part of the entire treatise] 29


A. Unity of Significance and Form in its immediacy 36

1. The religion of Zoroaster 37

2. No true symbolical significance in the above 42

3. Equally destitute of an artistic character 44

B. Fantastic Symbolism 47

1. The Hindoo conception of Brahmâ 50

2. Sensuousness, measurelessness, and personifying activity of Hindoo imagination 51

3. Conception of purification and penance 64

C. Genuine Symbolism 65

1. Nature no longer accepted in its immediate sensuous existence as adequate to the significance. Art and general outlook of ancient Egypt 75

[(a) The inward import held independent of immediate existence in the embalmed corpse 76

(b) Doctrine of immortality of the soul as held by Egyptians 76

(c) Superterranean and subterranean modes of Egyptian art. The Pyramids] 77

2. Worship of animals, as the vision of a secreted soul. Symbolical and non-symbolical aspects of this cult 78

3. Works of Egyptian art are objective riddles. The Sphinx symbolic of the genius of Egypt. Memnons, Isis, and Osiris 79


A. Pantheism of Art 89

1. Hindoo poetry 90

2. Persian and Mohammedan poetry. Modern reflections of such poetry as in Goethe 92

3. Christian Mysticism 97

B. The Art of the Sublime 97

1. God as Creator and Lord of a subject World. He is Creator, not Generator. His Dwelling not in Nature 100

2. Nature and the human form cut off from the Divine (entgöttert) 101

3. Nullity of objective fact a source of the enhanced self-respect of man. Man's finiteness and immeasurable transcendency of God. No place for immortality. The Law 103


A. Modes of Comparison originating from the side of externality 110

1. The Fable. Aesop 113

2. The Parable, Proverb, and Apologue 122

3. The Metamorphosis 125

B. Comparisons, which in their imaginative presentation originate in the Significance 128

1. The Riddle 130

2. The Allegory 132

3. The Metaphor, Image, and Simile 137

C. The Disappearance of the Symbolic Type of Art 161

1. The Didactic Poem 163

2. Descriptive Poetry 165

3. Relation of both aspects of internal feeling and external object in the ancient Epigram 165


1. Self-subsistency of the Classical type viewed as the interfusion of the spiritual and its natural form 175

[(a) No return of the ideal principle upon itself. No separation of opposed aspects of inward and external 175

(b) Symbolism absent from this type except incidentally 176

(c) Reproach of anthropomorphism] 179

2. Greek art as the realized existence of the classical type 181

3. Position of the creative artist under such a type 183

[(a) His freedom no result of a restless process of fermentation. Receives his material as something assured in history or belief 183

(b) His plastic purpose is clearly defined 184

(c) High level of technical ability 185

Classification of subject-matter] 186


Introduction and Division of subject 189

1. The Degradation of Animalism as such 191

(a) The sacrifice of animals. How regarded by the Greeks 192

(b) The Chase, or examples of such in heroic times 194

(c) Tales of metamorphosis. Illustrations both from Greek and Egyptian traditions 194

2. The Contest between the older and later Dynasties of Gods 201

(a) The oracles whereby the gods attest their presence through natural existences 205

(b) The ancient gods in contradistinction from the new 208

[(α) The Titan natural potences included among the older régime 208

(β) They are the powers of Earth and the stars 208 without spiritual or ethical content. Prometheus. The Erinnyes 209

(γ) The order of these gods is a succession] 215

(c) The conquest of the older régime of gods 217

3. The Positive Conservation of the conditions set up by Negation 220

(a) The Mysteries 220

(b) Preservation of old régime still more obvious in artistic creations. Illustrations from Greek poetry 221

(c) The Nature-basis of the later gods. Nature not in itself divine to the Greek. Illustrations of both points of view 223


Introduction and Division of subject-matter 229

1. The Ideal of Classical Art generally 230

(a) The Classical Ideal is a creation of free artistic activity, though it reposes on earlier historical elements 230

[(α) The Greek gods are neither the appearance of mere external Nature, nor the abstraction from one Godhead 232

(β) The Greek artist is a poet. But his productive power is concretely spiritual, not merely capricious 233

(γ) The relation of the Greek gods to human life. Illustrations from Homer, etc.] 233

(b) What is the type of the new gods of Greek art? 235

[(α) Their concentrated individuality, or substantive characterization 236

(β) Their beauty not merely spiritual, but also plastic 237

(γ) Removal of them from all that is purely finite into a sphere of lofty blessedness exalted above mere sensuous shape] 238

(c) The nature of the external representation. Sculpture, in its secure self-possession, most suited as the medium 241

2. The Sphere or Cycle of the Individual Gods 242

(a) What is called the "divine Universum" is here broken up into particular deities 242

(b) Absence of an articulate system 243

(c) The general character of their distinguishing attributes 244

3. The particular Individuality of the Gods 246

(a) The appropriate material for such individualization

[(α) The natural religions of symbolism a primary source. Illustrations 247

(β) That of local conditions 250

(γ) That of the world of concrete fact. Illustrations from Homer, etc.] 254

(b) Retention of a fundamental ethical basis 258

(c) Advance in the direction of grace and charm 259


1. Fate or Destiny 261

2. Dissolution through the nature of the anthropomorphism of the gods 263

[(a) Absence or defect of the principle of subjectivity as here asserted 263

(b) The transition to Christian conceptions only found in more modern art. The prosaic art of the Aufklärung. Illustrations 266

(c) The dissolution of classical art in its own province] 270

3. Satire 273

(a) Distinction between the dissolution of classical and symbolic art 274

(b) The Satire 276

(c) The Roman world as the basis of the satire with illustrations ancient and modern 277


1. The Principle of inward Subjectivity 282

2. The steps in the Evolution of the content and form of the Romantic Principle 283

[(a) Point of departure deduced from the Absolute viewed as the determinate existence of a self-knowing subject of thought and volition. Man viewed as self-possessed Divine. History of Christ 286

(b) This process of self-recognition and reconcilement viewed as a process in which strain and conflict arise. Death as viewed by Christian and Greek art contrasted 287

(c) The finite aspect of subjective life in the secular interests, the passions, collisions, and suffering, or enjoyment of the earthly life] 290

3. The romantic mode of exposition in relation to its content 291

(a) The content of romantic viewed relatively to the Divine extremely restricted. Nature divested of its association, symbolic or otherwise, with Divinity 291

(b) Religion the premiss of romantic art in a far more enhanced degree than in symbolic art. Influence of the romantic principle on the medium adopted 293

(c) Two worlds covered by the romantic principle, viz., the soul-kingdom of Spirit reconciled therein, and the realm of external Nature from which even the aspect of ugliness is not excluded. Latter world only portrayed in so far as soul finds a home therein] 293

Division of subject-matter 295


1. The Redemption history of Christ 302

(a) The principle of Love as paramount in this religious sphere. How far Art in such a sphere is a superfluity 303

(b) From a certain aspect the appearance of Art is necessary 303

(c) The aspect of contingency in the particularity of an individual Person as such Divine 304

[(α) The presentment by artists of the exterior personality of Christ 304

(β) The conflict inherent in the religious growth, viewed as a process, though determining that process universally, is concentrated in the history of one person in the first instance 306

(γ) The feature of death only regarded here as a point of transition to self-reconcilement] 308

2. Religious Love 309

(a) Conception of the Absolute as Love 309

(b) Form of Love as self-concentrated emotion. Affiliation of such with sensuous presentment 310

(c) Love as the Ideal of romantic art 310

[(α) Christ as Divine Love 311

(β) Form most compatible with Art the love of mother. Mary, mother of Jesus 311

(γ) Love of Christ's disciples and the Christian community] 313

3. The Spirit of the Community 313

(a) The Martyrs 315

(b) Penance and conversion within the soul 320

(c) Miracles and Legends 323


Introduction 325

1. Honour 332

(a) Notion of same. Contrast between Greek and modern art in this respect 332

(b) Vulnerability of same 335

(c) Reparation demanded. Honour a mode of self-subsistency which is self-reflective 336

2. Love 337

(a) Fundamental conception of. Illustrations from poetry 337

(b) Collisions of the same 341

[(α) That between honour and love 341

(β) That between the supreme spiritual forces of state, family, etc., and love 342

(γ) Opposition between love and external conditions in the prose of life and the prejudice of others] 342

(c) Limitation of contingency inherent in the conception itself 343

3. Fidelity 345

(a) Loyalty of service 346

(b) The nature of its co-ordination with a social order either in the world of Chivalry or the modern 347

(c) Nature of its collisions. Illustrations. The "Cid," etc. 348


Introduction 350

1. The Self-subsistence of individual Character 354

(a) The formal stability of character 355

(b) Character viewed as an inward but undisclosed totality. Illustrations from Shakespeare 359

(c) The substantial interest in the display of such formal character. Shakespeare's vulgar characters, and the geniality of their presentment 365

2. The Spirit of Adventure 367

(a) The contingent nature of ends and collisions 368

[(α) Christian Chivalry in its conflict with Moors, Arabs, and Mohammedans. Crusades. Holy Grail 369

(β) The universal spirit of adventure in the personal experience of individuals. Dante and the "Divine Comedy" 371

(γ) The contingency within the soul due to love, honour, and fidelity] 371

(b) The comic treatment of such contingency. Ariosto and Cervantes, contrast between 372

(c) The spirit of the novel or romance 375

3. The Dissolution of the Romantic type 377

(a) The artistic imitation of what is directly presented by Nature 379

[(α) Naturalism in poetry. Diderot, Goethe, and Schiller 381

(β) Dutch genre painting 382

(γ) Interest in objects delineated related to artistic personality] 385

(b) Individual Humour 386

(c) The end of the romantic type of Art 388

[(α) Conditions under which it is possible for the artist to bring the Absolute before the aesthetic sense 389

(β) The position of Art at the present day. Analogous position of modern artist and dramatist 391

(γ) General review of previously evolved process of Art's typical structure. What is possible for modern art and the conditions necessary. Illustration of the terminus of romantic art with the nature of the Epigram. Supreme function of Art] 394




[Pg xv]
[Pg 1]



All that has hitherto been the object of our examination in the first part of this inquiry referred to the reality of the Idea of the beautiful as Ideal of art. In whatever direction, however, we developed the notion of the ideal art-product, we throughout applied to it a meaning of purely general signification. But the idea of the beautiful implies a totality likewise of essential differences, which as such must in veritable form assert themselves. These differences we may broadly describe as the particular modes of art, as the evolved content of that which is implied in the notion of the Ideal, and which secures actual form through art. When, however, we speak of these forms of art as of distinct species or grades[1] of the Ideal, we do not accept the term in the ordinary usage of it as though we found here in external guise particular classes of objects related to and modifying the Ideal respectively as their common genus. Species in the sense used here simply expresses the various and continuously expanding determination of the idea of the beautiful and the Ideal of art itself. The universality of the ideal representation is in the case posited not determined on the side of external existence, but is assumed to be the closer determination of itself in the explication of its own notion; or, in other words, it is the notion itself which unfolds itself in a totality of particular types of art.

More closely regarded, then, the specific types of art have[Pg 2] their origin, as the unfolded realization of the Idea of the beautiful, in the very nature of the Idea itself, which by means of them presses forward to real and concrete appearance. Moreover, just in so far as it ceases to expand[2] in the abstract determination or concrete fulness of any one of them, it manifests itself in some other form of realized expression. For the Idea is only Idea in its essential truth in so far as it proceeds in this self-evolution by means of its own activity. And inasmuch as it is, as Ideal, immediate appearance, and moreover with each mode thereof is still identical as the idea of the beautiful, we find that in every particular phase which reveals the Ideal in its process of self-explication we have another actual manifestation which is immediately related to the essential characterization of those diverse types of yet further expansion. It really is a matter of no consequence whether we regard this process as a process of the Idea within its own substance, or that of the form under which it attains determinate existence, inasmuch as both aspects are immediately bound up with each other, and the perfecting of the Idea as content, and the perfecting of its form are but two ways of expressing the same process. Or, to put the matter in the reverse way, the defects of a given form of art of this kind betray themselves as a defect of the Idea, in so far as such defects give a limited significance to the essential nature of the Idea in external form, and as such invest it with reality. When we consequently compare such still inadequate forms of art with what most obviously presents itself for comparison, that is, the true Ideal, we must be careful not to use expressions commonly applicable to works of art that are failures, which either express nothing at all, or have discovered an incompetence to express what ought to have been expressed. Rather for every form of the Idea there is a definite mode of appearance, which clothes it precisely in one of those particular forms of art to which we have adverted, adequate in every respect thereto, and the defective or perfected character of which consists entirely in the relative truth or untruth of the determinate form, under which and through[Pg 3] which the Idea is actually realized. For the content must first be clothed with reality and concreteness before it can attain to the form wholly adequate to its essential truth. As we have already indicated in the previous division of our subject-matter, we have three fundamental forms or types of art to examine.

First, we have the symbolical. In this the Idea is still seeking for its true artistic expression, because it is here still essentially abstract and undetermined, and consequently has not mastered for itself the external appearance adequate to its own substance, but rather finds itself in unresolved opposition to the external objects in physical Nature and the world of mankind. And inasmuch as in this crude relation to objective existence it immediately surmises its own isolation, or is carried into some form of concrete existence by means, of universal characteristics which are void of all true definition, it vitiates and falsifies the actual forms of reality which it has found, and which it seizes in a wholly capricious way[3]. And, consequently, instead of being able to identify itself completely with the object, it can only assert a kind of accord, or rather a still abstract reflection of significance and figure, a mode of representation which, being neither complete in its artistic fusion, nor capable of being completed, suffers the object to emerge as reciprocally external, strange, and inadequate to itself as it was before.

Secondly, we have the form in which the Idea, here in accordance with its true notional activity, is carried beyond the abstraction and indeterminacy of general characterization[4], is conscious of itself as free and infinite subjectivity, and grasps that self-conscious life in its real existence as Spirit (Mind). Spirit, as the free subject of consciousness, is self-determined through its own resources, and even in this its conscious grasp of self-determination possesses a form of externality adequate to express it, and one in which the essential import of that consciousness can be united with an explicit reality entirely appropriate. This second type of art, the classical, is based upon such absolutely homogeneous unity of content and form. In order, however, to make[Pg 4] this unity complete the human spirit, in so far as it makes itself the object of art, must not be taken as Spirit in the absolute significance we refer to it, where it discovers its adequate subsistence wholly in the spiritual resources of its own essential domain, but rather as a still individualized spirit, and as such charged with a certain aspect of isolation. In other words, the free individual which classical art unites to its forms appears, it is true, as essentially universal, and consequently freed from all the mere contingence and particularity both of the subjective world of mind and the external world of Nature. But it is at the same time permeated by a universality which is itself essentially individualized. For the external form is necessarily both defined and singular by virtue of its externality, which it is only capable of completely fusing with an artistic content by representing that content as itself defined, and consequently of a limited character; and, moreover, it is only Spirit that is thus particularized which can pass into an objective shape and unite itself with the same in an inseparable unity.

In this form Art has reached the fulness of its own notion to this extent, namely, that the Idea, which is here spiritual individuality, brought into immediate accord with itself in the form of its bodily presence, receives from it a presentation so complete, that external existence is no longer able to preserve its consistency as against the ideal significance which it serves to express; or, to put it in the reverse way, the spiritual content is exclusively manifested in the elaborated form within which Art clothes it for sensuous perception, and thereby affirmatively asserts itself in the same.

Thirdly, we have the form in which the Idea of beauty grasps its own being as absolute Spirit, Spirit, that is to say, in the full consciousness of its untrammelled freedom. But for this very reason it is unable any more to obtain complete realization in forms which are external; its true determinate existence is now that which it possesses in itself as Spirit. That unity of the life of Spirit and its external appearance which we find in classical art is unbound, and it flees from the same once more into itself. It is this recoil which presents to us the fundamental type of the romantic type of art. Here we find, by reason of the free spirituality[Pg 5] which pervades the content, such content makes a more ideal demand upon expression than the mere representation through an external or physical medium is able to supply; the form on its external side sinks therefore to a relation of indifference; and in the romantic form of art we consequently meet with a separation between content and form as we previously found it in the symbolic form, with this difference that it is now due to the subordination of matter to spiritual expression rather than the predominance of externality over ideal significance. It is in this way that symbolic art seeks after that perfected unity of ideal significance and external form, which classical art in its representation of substantive individuality succeeds in communicating to sensuous perception, and which romantic art passes over and beyond through its overwhelming insistence on the claims of Spirit.

[1] Art. Hegel takes the ordinary scientific sense to describe the meaning. The word "type" would more truly express it.

[2] Für sich selber ist. That is, having arrived at one form of determination, returns upon itself and throws off another form, just as the plant germ after arriving at the leaf expands into the bud, and so on.

[3] That is, with no reference to intelligent principle.

[4] Allgemeiner Gedanken. Hegel means the bare generalizations or abstract conceptions of thought.

[Pg 6]
[Pg 7]




Symbol, in the signification we here attach to the word, is not merely the beginning of art from the point of view of its notional development, but marks also its first appearance in history. We may consequently regard it as only the forecourt of art, which is principally the possession of the East, and through which, after a variety of transitional steps and mediating passages, we are at last introduced to the genuine realization of the Ideal in the classical type of art. We must therefore from the very first take care to distinguish symbol where its unique characteristics provide it with an independent sphere of its own, in which it determines the radical and effective type of a certain form of art's exposition and presentment from that kind of symbolic expression which amounts to no more than a purely external aspect of form entirely without such independent significance. In the latter sense we, in fact, come across it in the classical and romantic forms of art just as certain aspects of symbolical art are not wholly without the characteristic features of the classical Ideal, or present to us the origins of romantic art. Such reciprocal interplay between the fundamental forms of art attaches, however, merely to subsidiary images or isolated traits; it has no power whatever to modify, still less to expunge, the animating principle which essentially determines the character of the entire work of art.

[Pg 8]

In such cases where we find symbol elaborated in its entirely unique and independent form it is as a general rule characterized by the quality of the sublime, because its main impression is to show us the Idea still united to measureless dimension rather than rounded in a free and self-defined content; it would fain clothe itself with form, and yet is unable to secure in the substantial appearances of the world a definite form which is entirely adequate to express the abstractness and universality of its longing. On account of this inability to attain its purpose the Idea passes over and beyond the external existence which surrounds it instead of penetrating to the core or completely making its home therein. And this flight beyond the limits of the finite and visible world is precisely that which constitutes the general character of the sublime.

But before we proceed further it will be convenient, by way of elucidating the formal aspect of our subject, to explain at once, if in quite general terms, what we understand by the expression symbol.

Generally speaking, symbol is some form of external existence immediately presented to the senses, which, however, is not accepted for its own worth, as it lies thus before us in its immediacy, but for the wider and more general significance which it offers to our reflection. We may consequently distinguish between two points of view equally applicable to the term; first, the significance, and, secondly, the mode in which such significance is expressed. The first is a conception of the mind, or an object which stands wholly indifferent to any particular content, the latter is a form of sensuous existence or a representation of some kind or other.

1. Symbol, then, is in the first place a sign. When we speak of the significant and nothing more there is no necessary connection between the thing signified and its modus of expression whatever. This manner of its expression, this sensuous thing or image, so far from being immediately called up by that for which it is the sign, rather presents itself to the imagination as a wholly foreign content to it, by no means necessarily associated with it in a unique way. So, for example, in language tones are signs of specific conditions of idea or emotion. By far the greater number[Pg 9] of the tones of any language are, however, associated with the ideas, which are thereby expressed entirely by chance, so far as the content of those ideas is concerned, even though the history of the development of language may show us that the original connection between the two was of a different nature, and that an essential element in the difference between one language and another consists in this, that the same idea is expressed through a different sound. Another example of such bare signs are colours[5], which we used in cockades or flags in order to express the nationality of an individual or vessel. Such colours by themselves alone carry no particular quality which can be immediately related to the thing they signify, that is, the nation which they represent. In a sense such as this, where the bond between the signification and the sign is one of indifference, symbol must not be understood when we connect the expression with art. For art consists precisely in the reciprocal relation, affinity, and substantive fusion of significance and form.

2. We must consequently interpret sign in a different sense when we speak of it as equivalent to symbol. The lion is, for example, a symbol of magnanimity, the fox symbolizes cunning, the circle eternity, the triangle the Triune God. Here we find that the lion and the fox themselves possess the qualities whose import they serve to express. In the same way the circle points beyond the mere indefinite extension, or the capriciously fixed limit of a straight line, or any other line that does not return upon itself, and which at the same time is suitable as the expression of a definite period of time; and the triangle regarded as a totality possesses the same number of sides and angles as is involved in the idea of God, when the determinations under which the religious consciousness defines the Supreme Being are expressed numerically.

In the latter forms of symbol therefore the objects presented to the senses have already in their own existence that significance, to represent and express which they are used; symbol as employed in this expanded sense is consequently no purely indifferent mark for something other[Pg 10] than itself, but a significant fact which in its own external form already presents the content of the idea which it symbolizes. At the same time it is not the concrete thing it is itself, which it should bring before the imagination, but simply that general quality of significance which attaches to it.

3. We would, thirdly, draw attention to the fact that although symbol may not, as is the case with the purely external and formal sign, be wholly inadequate to the significance derived from it, yet, in order that it may retain its character as symbol, it must on the other hand present an aspect which is strange to it. In other words, though the content which is significant, and the form which is used to typify it in respect to a single quality, unite in agreement, none the less the symbolical form must possess at the same time still other qualities entirely independent of that one which is shared by it, and is once for all marked as significant, just as the content[6] need not necessarily be a bare abstract quality such as strength or cunning, but rather a concrete substance, which on its side, too, possesses a variety of characteristics which distinguish it from the primary quality in which its symbolic character consists, and in the same way, but to a still greater degree, from everything else that characterizes the symbolical form. The lion, for example, possesses other qualities than mere strength, the fox than mere cunning, and the apprehension of God is not necessarily bound up with conceptions which imply number. The content, therefore, as thus viewed, is also placed in a relation of indifference to the symbolical form, which represents it, and the abstract quality which it typifies may quite possibly be present in countless other existing objects. In the same way a content which is thus varied in its composition may possess many qualities, to symbolize any of which other forms will equally serve where a similar correspondence with such is apparent. The same reasoning is also applicable to the external object in which any particular content[7] is symbolically expressed. Such an[Pg 11] object, in its concrete natural existence, possesses a number of characteristics for all of which it may stand as the symbol. The most obvious symbol for strength is unquestionably the lion, but the ox and the horn of the ox may equally serve as such, and from other points of view the ox possesses many other qualities as significant. But few objects, if any, have been brought home to the imagination with such a prodigal wealth of symbolic form and imagery as that of the Supreme Being. We may conclude, then, from the above remarks that the use of the term symbol is necessarily[8] and essentially open to ambiguity.

(a) For, in the first place, no sooner do we look for some symbol than the doubt almost invariably arises whether a particular form is to be accepted as a symbol or no; and this is so, though we set on one side the further ambiguity with reference to the particular nature of the content, which a given form under all the variety of its aspects may be held to symbolize, many of which may be employed symbolically through associating links that do not appear on the surface[9].

Now what a symbol primarily offers us is generally speaking a form, an image, which of itself is the presentment of an immediate fact. Such immediate existence, or its image, a lion for example, an eagle, or a particular colour, stands there before us as it is, a valid existing fact. The question consequently arises whether a lion, whose image is set before us, merely is set there to express the natural fact, or whether in addition to this it carries a further significance, that is the more abstract connotation of mere strength, or the more concrete one of a hero or a period of the year, husbandry and anything else we choose to infer from it; whether in fact, as we say, the image is to be taken literally, or with a further ideal significance, or possibly only with the latter. The last case finds its illustration in symbolical expressions of speech and particular words such as comprehension, conclusion[10][Pg 12] and others of the same kind. When such signify mental activities we have simply set before us the immediate import of a mental activity and no more without any recall to our memory of the material acts, which originally were implied in the meaning of these words. When on the contrary the picture of a lion is presented us we have not merely the significance to consider which it may bear as symbol, but also the bodily shape and presence of the king of beasts before our eyes. An ambiguity of this nature can only fully disappear when the sense attached to both aspects, namely, symbolical import, and its external form, is expressly stated, and we learn by this means the exact relation which exists between them. In that case, however, the concrete fact which is set before us ceases to be a symbol in the real meaning of the term, and becomes simply an image, the relation of which to significance is expressed by the well-known form of comparison, namely, simile. In the simile, that is to say, both factors are immediately presented to us, the general conception and its concrete image. When on the contrary reflection has not proceeded so far as to hold general conceptions in assured independence, and consequently to set them forth by themselves, in that case we find that the sensuous image to which they are cognate, and in which a significance of more general[11] import is able to find its expression is not yet conceived as separate from such a significance, but both are still immediately held together in unity. And this it is which, as we shall see more closely as we proceed, constitutes the distinction between symbol and comparison. An illustration of the latter kind may be found in that exclamation of Karl Moor, as he gazes on the setting sun: "Thus dies a hero!" Here we see that the ideal significance is expressly separated from the sensuous impression while at the same time it is associated with the picture. In other cases, it is true even of similes this act of separation[Pg 13] in relation is not so clearly marked, and the association appears to be more immediate; in such cases it must already appear manifest from the general content of the narrative, from the position assigned to the picture, or other circumstances, that viewed as merely a statement of fact, such an image is not justified, but that some special significance or other, which cannot fail to arrest our attention, is intended by it. When, for example, Luther says:

A steadfast stronghold is our God.

or we read:

In den Ocean schifft mit tausend Masten der Jungling,
Still auf geretteten Boot treibt in den Hafen der Greis[12].

we can have no doubt whatever upon the implied significance, whether it be of a protection suggested by "stronghold," the world of hopes and life-plans symbolized in the picture of the ocean and the thousand masts; or the narrowed aims and possessions with the assured plot of ground at the end, which is reflected from the boat and the haven. In the same way when we read in the Old Testament: "May God break their teeth in their mouth, may the Lord shatter the hindermost teeth of the young lions," it is obvious that neither the words "mouth," "teeth," nor "hindermost teeth of the young lions" are used in the literal sense, but are utilized as images and sensuous ideas, which carry a significance only present to the mind, and that such significance is all that matters.

This ambiguity, then, is all the more conspicuous in the case of symbolical representation for the reason that an image, which carries a particular significance, only receives the descriptive name of symbol when such significance ceases to be expressly marked by itself, or is otherwise clearly emphasized as it is in the case of the simile. No doubt the ambiguity of the genuine symbol is to this extent removed in that by virtue of this very uncertainty the fusion of the sensuous image and its significance becomes a matter more or less of convention and custom, a feature which is indispensably[Pg 14] necessary in the case where mere signs are used, while on the other hand the simile asserts itself as something individual, discovered on the spur of the moment to assist the meaning, and is independently clear, because it emphasizes the significance alongside of that independence. At the same time, though no doubt the symbol may be clear enough to those who are habituated to its use, and whose imaginative life is at home in such a conventional atmosphere, it is a very different matter with all who are outside this native circle, or for whom it is now a thing of the Past; for such it is only the immediate sensuous representation which is in the first instance seized, and it remains for these in every way a question of doubt, whether they are to rest satisfied with that which lies openly before their eyes, or are to accept these as indicators to yet further imagery or ideas. When, for example, we gaze in Christian churches upon the triangle in some conspicuous position on the walls, we at once recognize that the intention is not to place before the view this geometrical figure simply as such, but rather to draw our attention to its spiritual significance. If, however, we were to find it elsewhere we should probably feel equally certain that such a figure had no reference whatever, either as sign or symbol, to the Trinity. On the other hand a folk strange to the ideas which have grown up in Christian countries might easily feel doubts in both cases, and it is by no means easy for ourselves to determine with equal certainty in all cases, whether a figure of this kind is to be understood as presenting us with its literal or symbolical interpretation.

(b) Moreover this ambiguity does not merely apply to isolated cases, but extends to vast areas of the entire domain of art, to the content of an almost unlimited material open to our inspection, to the content in full of all that Oriental art has ever produced. For this reason, as we enter for the first time the world of ancient Persian, Indian, or Egyptian figures and imaginative conceptions we experience a certain feeling of uncanniness, we wander at any rate in a world of problems. These fantastic images do not at once respond to our own world; we are neither pleased nor satisfied with the immediate impression they produce on us; rather we are instinctively carried forward by it to probe yet further into[Pg 15] their significance, and to inquire what wider and profounder truths may lie concealed behind such representations. In other productions of the same kind it is apparent at the first glance that they are, just like so many fairy tales of children, merely an interplay of pictorial fancy, a strange texture of curiosities woven together at haphazard. For children delight in just such an even surface of pictures, a play of the fancy which makes no demand on effort or intelligence, but is simply a collection tumbled together. Nations on the contrary, even in their childhood, require as the food of their imaginative life a more essential content; and this is just what in fact we find in the figures of Indian and Egyptian art, although the interpretation of such problematical pictures is only dimly suggested, and we experience great difficulty in deciphering it.

Even in the province of classical art we meet now and again with a like uncertainty, though it is the essence of classical art to be throughout clear and intelligible on its own surface without the use of symbolism of any kind. And this clarity of classical art consists in this that it comprehends the true content of Art, in other words substantive[13] subjectivity, and thereby discovers at the same time the true form, which essentially expresses nothing less than this genuine content, so that what it appears to mind, the significance that is of it is just that, which is veritably expressed in the external form, both the ideal aspect and the plastic shape being entirely adequate to each other; in symbolical art, the simile, and other forms of that kind, the image always brings before perception something in addition to that significance, for which it merely serves as the picture. At the same time classical art, too, presents us with an aspect of ambiguity. In considering the mythological phantasies of antique art it is frequently a matter most difficult to decide, whether we do rightly in taking such plastic figures simply for what they are, contenting ourselves with mere wonder over the wealth and charm, which this happy play of imaginative vigour offers us, for the reason of course that mythology is generally accepted as nothing but an idle[Pg 16] collection of fairy tales, or whether on the contrary we have still to seek for a significance of wider range and greater depth. We shall feel the insistence of such a doubt in exceptional force where the content of these fables refers directly to the life and activity of the Divine, in cases, that is, where the stories handed down to us can only be regarded as utterly unworthy of the Supreme Being, indicative of an invention as entirely inadequate as it is in the worst possible taste. When we read, for example, the twelve labours of Hercules, or, to take a stronger case, are informed that Zeus hurled Hephaestus from Olympus on to the island of Lemnos, with the result that Vulcan remained lame ever after, we are no doubt ready to believe that the entire story is nothing but a fairy tale of the imagination. It is just as possible to believe that all the love affairs of Zeus are mere freaks of a prodigal fancy. But, on the other hand, for the very reason that such stories are told about the Supreme Divinity, it is quite equally credible that meaning of more universal import is hidden under that which such myths immediately transmit to us.

With regard to such facts as those above stated, there are two theories current of exceptional importance and contradictory to each other. The one accepts mythology as a collection of stories of purely external significance, which as such could not fail to be unworthy presentations of the Divine nature, though able, when regarded apart from such associations, to reveal to us much that is finely conceived, delightful, interesting, nay, even of great beauty. They offer us, however, no ground whatever for attempting to enlarge their significance. In this view mythology is in the form in which it is presented purely historical: under one aspect, that is, treating it as art, in its shapes, pictures, gods, together with all the practical activities and events it describes, it is amply self-sufficient, or rather by the way it brings before us that which is significant supplies its own elucidation; from another point of view, that is to say, its origin in history, we have to regard it as built up from local claims, no less than the chance caprice of priest, artist, and poet, the facts of history, foreign legends and traditions. The theory which is opposed to the above is unable to rest satisfied with the purely external husk of mythological form and[Pg 17] narration, and insists on discovering beneath it a meaning of more universal and profounder import, to master which, as it breaks upon the surface, it conceives to be the main object of mythological inquiry regarded as the scientific examination of the mythos. In this view mythology must necessarily be apprehended as bound up with symbolism. And by symbolism all that is meant here is just this, that however bizarre, ridiculous, grotesque such myths appear to be, however much the adventitious caprice of a plastic imagination may contribute to their form, they are essentially a birth of Spirit; and in spite of it all contain in them significant ideas, that is, thoughts of universal significance upon the nature of God; they are, in short, Philosophemes.[14] In this latter sense the recent work of Creuzer on symbolism is particularly noteworthy; this writer has once more taken up the review of the mythological conceptions of the ancient world, not, as is so frequently the fashion, from the external and prosaic standpoint, or simply with the object of determining this artistic merit, but rather expressly to elucidate the intrinsic rationality of their substance. Such an inquiry proceeds from the presupposition that myths and fabulous tales have their origin in the human spirit, which is capable, no doubt, of playing freely with its notions of gods, but in its religious interest marks the point where it enters a more exalted sphere, in which reason itself is the discoverer of form, albeit it is charged with the defect of being unable at this early stage to exhibit the core from which it grows with commensurate power. And this assumption is essentially just. Religion discovers its fountain-head in Spirit, which seeks after its truth, dimly discovers it, bringing the same to consciousness by means of any form, which displays an affinity with this form of truth, be it a form of narrower or wider borders. But once grant that it is reason which seeks after such forms, and the necessity is obvious to recognize the work of reason. Such a recognition is alone truly worthy of human inquiry. Whoever shelves this problem makes himself master of nothing but a motley show of unrelated learning. If we, on the other hand, probe into, the truth of mythological conceptions as it presents itself to mind, without at the same time excluding from our[Pg 18] grasp that other aspect of them, that is, the haphazard caprice therein exercised by the imagination, and all the external influences, local or otherwise, which have contributed to this creation, we shall then be in a position to justify the various systems of mythology. To justify the work of man in the imagery and forms that are the product of his spirit is a noble enterprise, of rarer worth than the mere heaping together of the external facts of history. The objection has no doubt been pressed against Creuzer that here, treading in the steps of the new Platonists[15], the wider significance he elucidates from the myths is a creation he attaches to them himself; that, in short, he discovers conceptions in them which are not merely without any historical basis to uphold them, but which it can be positively shown he must have first introduced before he could have found them; in other words it is asserted that neither the people of such times nor the poets or priests—although from another point of view emphasis is frequently laid on the occult wisdom of the priesthood—could have possessed any knowledge of such ideas, which would have been wholly incompatible with the prevailing culture. Such objections, of course, are entitled to their full weight. These peoples, poets, and priests have not, in fact, been conscious of universal conceptions in the particular form of universality which the human mind now discovers at the root of their mythological ideas, in the sense that they could have deliberately clothed such conceptions in the forms of symbolism. And as a matter of fact this is never maintained even by Creuzer. But however true it may be that the reflections of the ancient world over its mythology were entirely different from those of the modern, we are by no means therefore entitled to conclude that the conceptions of its mythology are not essentially symbolical, and as such must be fully accepted; rather our inference should be that in the times when these peoples created the poetry of their myths, from the midst of a life itself steeped in poetry, they would instinctively bring home to consciousness all that was most spiritual and profound in that life in the forms of the imagination rather than that of reflection, and fail to separate conceptions which were more universal or abstract[Pg 19] from the concrete creations of their phantasy. That this really was the case is a fact which we have in this inquiry to accept as fundamentally established; we may, nevertheless, be equally prepared to admit that, in such a form of interpretation as the symbolical, theories are apt to slip in which are merely the product of artifice and ingenuity, much as is the case with etymological science.

(c) At the same time, however much we may find ourselves in general agreement with the view that mythology, with its tales of the gods and its circumstantial pictures of a persistently poetic imagination, includes within its borders a content, that is to say rational and profound religious conceptions, it is still open to us to ask in our examination of the symbolical form of art whether for the same reason all mythology and art is to be interpreted in a symbolical sense, in accordance with that typical assertion of Friedrich von Schlegel, to the effect that we are bound to look for an allegory in every artistic representation. The symbolical or allegorical is then understood in the sense that a general conception[16] is assumed to underlie every work of art as its motive principle and every mythological form, by bringing the universal character of which into prominence it should then be possible to expound the real significance of such a work or imaginative creation. This mode of treatment is, moreover, very commonly adopted in our own days. We find, for instance, in the more recent editions of Dante a marked tendency to interpret every canto in an exclusively allegorical sense, and no doubt the poetry of Dante contains many examples of such allegories. In the same way Heyne's editions of the classical poets evince the same disposition in their commentaries to elucidate the general significance of every metaphorical expression by means of the abstract conceptions of the understanding. Nor is this to be wondered[Pg 20] at; for it is just this faculty which is most ready to seize upon symbol and allegory, while at the same time it separates the sensuous image from its significance, and by so doing destroys the unity of the artistic form, an aspect over which it is, in its zeal for a symbolical interpretation, which aims exclusively at setting the universal characteristic as such in relief, wholly indifferent.

Such an extension of symbolism over every province of mythology and art is by no means that which we have in view in our present consideration of the symbolical form of art. It is not any part of our labours to ascertain to what extent a symbolical or allegorical significance, in this enlarged use of the term, is applicable to the forms of art. On the contrary we shall restrict ourselves entirely to the question how far symbolism itself is entitled to rank as a form of art; and the question is raised in order that we may finally determine the precise relation which subsists between artistic significance and artistic form in so far as such a relation is symbolical and stands in contrast to other modes of artistic presentation, in particular those of the classical and romantic art-forms. We must consequently endeavour before everything else expressly to limit the field of our review to that portion where we find the symbolical is independently portrayed in its essential character and is open to our consideration as such, rather than attempt to make a symbolical interpretation co-extensive with the entire domain of art. And it is consistently with such a purpose that we have already subdivided the Ideal of art under its respective symbolical, classical, and romantic forms.

In the signification we give to the expression the symbolical disappears at the point where we find that a free subjectivity rather than purely abstract conceptions determines the content of the artistic product. In this case the conscious subject is his own self-assured significance, his own self-manifestation. All that he feels, conceives, does, and perfects, his qualities, his actions, and his character, all this he actually is himself; the entire gamut of his spiritual and sensuous manifestation has no further significance than that of declaring his subjective unity, which, in this process of expansion and development of its own wealth, brings before the eyes of all the man himself as master over the entire[Pg 21] field of objective reality thus presented to him, the world in which he discovers his existence. Significance and sensuous presentment, inward and outward reality, fact and picture, are here no longer separate from each other, assert themselves here no longer as merely cognate, the characteristic distinction of the symbolic relation, but rather as a totality, in which the manifestation possesses no other reality, the reality no other manifestation either outside of or alongside with itself. That which declares itself and that which is declared is here posited[17] in its concrete unity. In this sense the gods of Greece, in so far, that is to say, as the art of Greece was able to represent them as free, self-subsistent, and unique types of personality, are to be accepted from no symbolical point of view, but as self-sufficient in their own persons. The actions of Zeus, for example, of Apollo or Athene are actions appropriated by Art to themselves and only themselves, and must not be allowed to stand for anything but the might and passion of such personages. If we once attempt to abstract from free individualities of this kind some general conception as the essential core of their significance, setting it alongside their concrete particularity as an interpretation of their entire and individual manifestation, we let fall or annihilate all that we have failed to observe, and it is precisely all in these figures which art seeks most to secure. For this reason artists have been unable to take kindly to such symbolical interpretations of all works of art and the mythological figures we find in them. For all that is left us in the sphere of art we have just been considering which is really compatible with an interpretation based on symbolism or allegory only affects subsidiary aspects, and is for that reason expressly limited to the attribute and the representative signs; the eagle, for example, stands by Zeus, an ox is the companion of the evangelist Luke; the Egyptians, on the contrary, beheld in the form of Apis the Divine itself.

The point so difficult to decide in connection with this manifestation of self-conscious freedom, otherwise so appropriate to artistic presentment, is just this, whether that which is placed before us as such a subject really possesses[Pg 22] a subjective individuality of the above quality, or only carries the mere semblance of it in the form of a personified shadow[18]. In this latter case personality is nothing but a superficial form, which fails to express its vital substance in particular acts no less than bodily form, which would otherwise enable it to penetrate through all that is external in its appearance as its own possession, and instead of this still retains another inwardness for the external reality as its significance, which is not either true personality or subjective freedom. It is precisely at this point that we find the boundary which includes or excludes symbolic art.

Our interest, then, in the consideration of the symbol consists in this, that we recognize thereby that process within itself where we find the beginnings of art, in so far as the same proceeds from the notion of that Ideal which unfolds itself gradually as art in its truth, and while doing so recognizes each stage of symbolical art as successive steps which conduct us to the same consummation. However intimate the connection between religion and art may be we are not here concerned to pass in review either symbols or religion under the range which is co-extensive with the wider signification of the word symbol or emblematical conceptions; we have exclusively to consider that aspect of them, according to which they belong to art in its own right, handing over their religious aspect to the historian of mythology and symbolism.

[Pg 23]


In proceeding now to a closer determination of the several divisions of symbolic art it will be necessary, in the first place, to fix the boundary lines within which the development of the successive grades of this type moves forward. Speaking generally, as we have already observed, the entire sphere we have now to define is in principle a forecourt of art. We have here, in the first instance, significant conceptions which are purely abstract, which are still in themselves destitute of essential individuality, the immediate artistic presentment of which may be as truly described either as adequate or inadequate[19]. Our first definition of boundary consists, therefore, in determining generally the earliest modes under which artistic perception and representation work themselves out[20] into actuality; on the further side of the line at the other extreme we have real art, in the direction of which symbolic art uplifts itself as to its truth.

1. In discussing the origins of this appearance of symbolic art from the subjective point of view, we may draw attention to an observation made previously, that the artistic consciousness, no less than the religious, or rather we should say both in their essential unity, and we may even include the impulse of scientific inquiry, have originated in wonder. The man who is still unable to wonder at anything lives in a condition of crassness and obtuseness which is devoid of all interest, in which for him everything is as naught for the reason that he fails as yet to separate or unravel himself from objects around him and their own immediate and independent existence. The man, however, at the opposite extreme, whose wonder is no longer[Pg 24] excited, is the man who contemplates the entire external world as somewhat which he has made himself clear about. It may be under the abstract conceptions of the commonsense understanding resulting in some general survey of knowledge attainable by the average mind, or it may be in the noble or profounder consciousness of his own absolute spiritual freedom and universality. In either case he has converted the bare fact of such objects and their existence into some spiritual insight of their truth brought home to himself. We may conclude, then, that wonder originates in the condition where we find that man, as conscious Spirit, torn away from his first most immediate association with Nature, and from his earliest and entirely active[21] relation to desire, steps back from Nature and his own individual existence, and seeks after and finds in the objects which surround him a universal, an essential and permanent principle. Then for the first time the facts of Nature astonish him, they become for him an other-than-himself he would fain appropriate, and within which he strives to rediscover his own substance, that is the universal, thoughts, reason. For the dim foretaste here of a higher and the consciousness of the external are still unsevered, and this though a contradiction between the objects of Nature and the Spirit which perceives them is already present, a contradiction in which these objects appear to repel him quite as much as they attract, and the feeling of which, in the force wherewith they thrust him away, is, in fact, the birth-pang of his very wonder.

The earliest result of this condition of wonder in man's vision of Nature is that on the one hand he sets himself in opposition to Nature and her objective world as a principle[22], and adores her as Power; on the other he is equally possessed with a desire, which craves satisfaction, to render objective to himself his intuition of a higher, essential, and universal somewhat, and to look upon its rehabilitated presence. In this two-fold aspect of his conscious life he is confronted by reality in the following way. The particular objects of Nature, and above all those elementary facts,[Pg 25] sea, rivers, mountains, and constellations, are not received by him in the singularity of their immediate presentment to sense, but, carried up into the sphere of imaginative conception, assume for that faculty the form of universal and essentially self-subsistent existence. And we may trace the beginning of art in this, that it reflects these ideas of the imagination thus universalized and essentially independent, in visible representation for immediate perception, and sets them forth for mind in the individual form of the same as objects. The mere adoration of external facts, with its Nature-cult and fetish-cult, is not as yet on this account an art of any kind.

Under the aspect in which it is related to the objective world, the beginnings of art are more intimately associated with religion. The earliest works of art are of the mythological order. In religion it is nothing less than the Absolute, which breaks to consciousness through its own impulse[23], though the determinating factors of that consciousness be the most abstract and jejune conceivable. And the earliest phase in this evolution of the Absolute is the phenomenal presence of Nature, in whose existence man dimly forebodes the Absolute, and envisages the same for himself in the semblance of natural objects. In this striving Art discovers its source. We shall find, however, in this very effort art first made visible, not so much where the Absolute is descried by human eyes in the external world which immediately confronts them, a mode of Divine reality in which they rest content, but rather where man's consciousness evolves from its own substance a mode of apprehending what it conceives as the Absolute in the form of a self-subsistent externality, no less than that objective presentation which he unites with it in more or less adequate fashion. For we must remember that Art possesses a substantial content which is grasped by mind (spirit), and which, it is true, appears in external guise, but for all that in a form of externality, which is not merely immediately visible to sense, but is primarily the product of mind regarded as the existing fact which intrinsically comprehends that content as a whole and then expresses it. Art is consequently and by virtue of[Pg 26] its power to create forms cognate with its own substance the first interpreter of the religious consciousness; it, in fact, is the first to make the prosaic view of the objective world a thing valid to itself[24], when our humanity has fought itself essentially free as the self-consciousness of Spirit from the immediacy of sense, and sets itself over against the same in the strength of the same freedom with which it accepts and understands that objectivity as simply external fact and no more. This complete separation of the subject and object of sense-perception is, however, indicative of a considerably later phase of man's spiritual history. The first knowledge of truth, on the contrary, declares itself as an intermediate state between the purely unintelligent absorption of the individual in Nature and that spiritual condition which is entirely released from it. This intermediate state, however, in which Spirit merely envisages for itself its conceptions in the plastic forms of Nature's objects because it still fails to master any form of higher significance, although it strives through such association to bring the two aspects of its experience into one homogeneous whole, is, to put it in its general terms, the attitude of art and poetry as contrasted with that of the prosaic understanding. And for this reason we find that the prosaic consciousness declares itself first in its full bloom, where, as is the case in the Roman and in later times throughout our own Christian world, the principle of the subjective freedom of Spirit is realized in its abstract and actually concrete form.

2. And, secondly, the final aim toward which the effort of symbolic art is directed, and with the attainment of which the symbolic type is dissolved, is classical art. But although we find in this latter form the true manifestation of art's essence first elaborated, it is not the first type of art. Rather it presupposes within its content all the various mediating and transitional stages of the symbolic form itself. It is quite true that the essential aim of that content is to reveal the notion as a rounded and self-defined totality, that is in its concreteness and actuality as the individuality of Spirit; but the notion is only then able to declare itself in such concrete form to conscious life after it has passed through a[Pg 27] variety of mediatory stages forced upon it by the abstract conceptions which the nature of its own initial impulse presupposes. It is classical art, however, which brings to a close all the mere preliminary experiments of art in the direction of symbolism and the sublime[25]. And it is able to do this inasmuch as the subjective spirit finds in it, as its essential possession, a form truly adequate to its substance, and in the same way that the self-determining notion creates from its own potency the individual existence that fully expresses it. When once Art has discovered its true content, and by doing so found its true form, its search and striving after both, wherein the defect of symbolical art consists, is therewith at an end.

If we seek further for a closer principle of division of symbolic art within the limits of the boundaries on either extreme hitherto discussed, we shall find the same generally under the modes in accordance with which it contends with the genuine significances of art and their truly appropriate forms, the battle that is apparent in a content which is still striving in opposition to the truth of art, no less than in a form that is equally inadequate to express it. For both aspects, although externally united in the identity of one creation, are neither brought completely together themselves, nor permeated throughout with the notion of art in its truth; and for this reason they appear quite as much as contestants struggling to be free from the defects of their union. We may, in short, describe symbolic art throughout as a continuous war carried on between the comparative adequacy and inadequacy of its import and form[26]; and the varied gradations of symbolic art are not so much kinds of specific difference as they are stages and phases of one and the same incongruity between the spiritual idea and its sensuous medium.

At first, however, this contention is only potentially[Pg 28] present, that is to say the incompatibility of these two sides, whose union is thus affirmed and enforced, is not yet openly present to consciousness. And this is so for the reason that it neither recognizes for itself in its universal nature the import which it seizes, nor is able to comprehend the realized form in its self-subsistent and self-exclusive existence; consequently, instead of representing to the senses both aspects in their difference, it is content to proceed upon the immediate appearance of identity which it enforces. In this original point of departure we have before us the as yet inseparable unity of the art-form and the symbolical expression it seeks after, fermenting, as it were, beneath the association of contradictory elements in mysterious guise—the unity, that is, of the real and primordial symbolism, whose plastic shapes are as yet not posited as symbols at all.

The termination of this process[27], on the other hand, is the disappearance and dissolution of the symbolic type altogether. The strife which has hitherto been merely implied in it is now brought home to the artistic consciousness. The act of symbolization in consequence becomes the conscious severation of the transparent significance, which is now recognized for what it is from the sensuous image cognate with it. In this severation, however, there still remains an express relation of reciprocity, which, however, declares itself as such no longer in the mode of immediate identity, but rather as a mere comparison between the two, in which that differentiation and separation which in the previous type was not brought clearly to consciousness still remains as conspicuous a factor. And this is the sphere of that symbolism where the symbol is recognized as such. Here we find the artistic import recognized and presented in its independent universality, whose concrete embodiment is expressly placed in subordination as an image of that presentment, and no more, and as such a comparative medium is utilized for the purpose of artistic representation.

Halfway between that starting-point above described and this termination of the symbolic type we find the art of the sublime. In this the essential import, posited as the universality of Spirit in its absolute self-exclusion, disengages itself in the first place from concrete existence, permitting[Pg 29] the same to appear as a mere negative, external and subservient factor beside it, which it is unable to leave, in order that it may express itself in it, standing in its native self-subsistency. Rather it finds it necessary to declare it as that which is essentially defective and self-dissolving, and this, moreover, although it has naught beside as means for its expression than just this to which it opposes itself as external and nugatory. The splendour of this import of the sublime may be accepted in the order of the notional process as previous to that of the mode of genuine comparison for this reason, that the concrete particularity of natural and any other phenomena must necessarily be treated in the first place negatively, merely appropriated, that is to say, as the adornment and embellishment of the unreachable might of Spirit's absolute significance, before that express severation and discriminating comparison of external shapes cognate with, and yet at the same time distinct from, the import, whose image they reproduce, can assert itself.

3. The three principal stages[28] above indicated break up naturally on closer inspection into the following subdivisions we now summarize in the chapters which include them.


A. The first stage which presents itself in this portion of our subject-matter is as yet neither to be described strictly as symbolical, nor as belonging strictly to art; it rather clears the road to both. It is the sphere of the immediately cognized and substantive unity of the Absolute regarded as spiritual significance with its unsevered sensuous existence in a form presented by Nature.

B. In the second stage we pass to the symbol in its real sense; the dissolution of the first unity above described here commences, and while, on the one hand, the significances assert themselves in their independent universality above the particular phenomena of Nature, on the other they are[Pg 30] necessarily forced with a like insistency to present themselves to consciousness together with this preconceived universality in the concrete form of natural objects. In this primary and twofold struggle to spiritualize Nature, and to present that which is born of Spirit to sense, at this stage of the conflict between them, we meet with all the ferment and wild, tossed hither and thither medley, the entire fantastic and confused world that is to say of symbolic art, which half surmises, it is true, the incongruity of its manner of shaping, yet is unable to remedy the same save through the distortion of its figures, while straining after a purely quantitative sublimity that would fain devour all limits. In this phase consequently we find ourselves in a world steeped with poetic phantasies, incredibilities and miracle, yet fail to encounter one work of genuine beauty.

C. Owing to this strife between the spiritual significance and its sensuous presentation, we are conducted thirdly to the stage we may describe as that of the true symbol, on which the symbolic work of art for the first time appears in its complete character. The forms and shapes are here no longer those present to sense, which, as we saw on the first mentioned stage, were immediately coincident with the Absolute as their positive existence, without any further modification at the hands of art; neither, as in the second phase, are they intent on asserting their unreconciled material against the universality of the significance merely through extensions of the quantitative limits of Nature's objects, the ebullitions of a rioting fancy. Rather the symbolic form, which is here throughout apparent, is Art's own creation, a work not merely capable of expressing its own individuality, but from another point of view possessed with the power of presenting at the same time both the particular object that it is and the further universal significance with which it is associated, and which it thereby discloses to the mind, so that these very shapes stand before us as problems which we are imperatively called upon to unriddle and probe to the inward charge which they carry.

We may at once further venture the general remark with reference to these more clearly defined types of a symbolism still to be ranked as elementary that they spring from the religious attitude to existence of entire nations; for which[Pg 31] reason it will form part of our plan to recall their position in history. Not that complete identification of specific types with a given period is wholly feasible. Rather it would be truer to say that particular modes of conception and presentation, when we refer them generally to some kind of artistic type, are mingled up together, so that we find the specific type, which we have reason to regard as the fundamental one in any particular nation's general view of existence, exemplified both in earlier and later peoples[29], though its repetition may only be discovered in subordinate and isolated cases. In general, however, we may say that we possess the more concrete manifestations and visible proofs of the first stage in the ancient Persian religion of the second in the Indian, of the third in that of Egypt.


In the second chapter that significance, which has hitherto been more or less obscured by its particular sensuous form, has at last wrested its way to freedom, and its independent character is brought clearly to consciousness. With this victory the relation of real symbolism is dissolved; we have instead, through the way in which the absolute significance[30] is cognized as the universal substance interpenetrating the entire extension of the visible world, the art of the absolute essence[31] in the form of a symbolism of the sublime; and this now takes the place of purely symbolical and fantastic suggestions, deformities, and riddles.

[Pg 32]

We have here mainly two points of view to distinguish which are based upon differences in the relation of the substantive essence, that is the Absolute and Divine, to the finitude of the apparent. Or rather we may say that this relation is capable of being twofold, both positive and negative, although in both forms, inasmuch as it is in either case universal substance, which has to appear, it is not the particular form and import of the objective facts, but their general principle of animation and their position relatively to this substance which is made visible to sense.

A. In the first phase or type this relation is so conceived, that substance, here the All and the One delivered from every form of particularity, is immanent in the determinate phenomena as the animating principle which brings them into being and is their life; and moreover, it is affirmatively and immediately present to the vision in this immanence, and is comprehended, and made the object of representation by the individual who surrenders himself to its presence through the adoring self-absorption in this indwelling essence of the entire world of contingent and material things. In this point of view we have the art of the Pantheism which possesses the Sublime as its inherent principle, an art such as we find it in its elementary stage in India, then elaborated in all its splendour in Mohammedanism and its artistic mysticism, and finally with still profounder significance reappearing in certain manifestations of Christian mysticism.

B. The negative relation on the other hand of true Sublimity we must look for in Hebraic poetry. In this poetry of the Glorious, which is only concerned to celebrate and exalt the unimaginable Lord of the heavens and the earth that it may employ His entire creation as the passing instrument of His Power, as the messengers of His Glory, as the delight and ornament of His Greatness, this service of His Creation, be it never so magnificent[32], is deliberately posited as negative, and this for the reason that it is unable to discover any adequate or positively sufficient expression for the Power and Dominion of the Highest, and is only able to attain a genuine satisfaction by means of the subjection[Pg 33] of the creature, which in the feeling and admission of its unworthiness is alone able with adequacy to express its insignificance[33].


Through this independent self-assertion of significance, made thus transparent to consciousness in its isolated simplicity, the severation of the same from the imaged appearance, whose incommensurability over against it has already been accepted, is now essentially complete; and albeit, along with the fact of this conscious separation, both form and import may still persist in the relation of an intimate affinity, a necessity which is implied in the fact of their being symbolical art, yet this relation no longer attaches to either import or form, but is placed now in a third mode of conception, which according to its own point of view, carries relations of similarity with both these sides[34], and in reliance on these relations makes visible and declares the independently transparent significance by means of the cognate and particular image.

Owing to this change the image, instead of remaining as it was previously the unique expression of the Absolute, becomes now merely an ornament, and we thereby discover a relation which ceases to correspond with the notion of beauty. In other words image and significance, instead of being moulded one within the other, confront each other as opposites, precisely, in fact, as was the case in genuine symbolism, though then the process remained incomplete. Consequently works of art which are based on this form are of subordinate rank, and their content is unable to comprise the Absolute itself, and is necessarily restricted to circumstances and occurrences of narrower range. For this reason[Pg 34] the forms which are now under discussion are for the most part merely used occasionally and by way of diversion.

More closely considered we have in this chapter to distinguish between three principal stages of our process.

A. To the first we appropriate those types of presentation commonly known as Fable, Parable, and Apologue. In these the severation of form and significance, which constitutes the characteristic trait of the entire sphere to which this chapter refers, is not as yet expressly recognized; that is to say, the subjective aspect of the comparison is not yet fully emphasized; consequently also the representation of the particular and concrete phenomenon, through which the universal significance is finally to declare itself, still remains the predominant factor.

B. In the second stage, on the contrary, the universal import asserts its independent mastery over the elucidating form, which now appears merely as attribute, or, under the guise of an image, capriciously selected by the mind which makes the contrast. To this type belong the Allegory, Metaphor, and Simile.

C. In the third stage we meet with the visible and complete collapse of those related aspects in the symbol which previously had either been immediately joined in union, despite the fact of their relative incongruity, or in their independent severation had still persisted under a relation of affinity[35]. Out of this arises that form of content which is cognized as independent in its prosaic[36] universality, to which the art-form has become wholly an external relation; on the one hand we find it represented by the didactic poem, on the other that very aspect of its external form is accepted for what it is, and exemplified in so-called descriptive poetry. Here we find that every association and relation of symbolism has vanished; we have to look round us for some more comprehensive union of form and content, and one more truly adequate to the notion of art.

[5] So the French expression des couleurs, and our English "the colours."

[6] Hegel uses the 'technical term Inhalt in this passage to signify either (a) the quality of significance, or (b) the object which is symbolized by virtue of some selected quality. The use of it in both senses makes the passage somewhat difficult to follow.

[7] Inhalt here evidently is the abstract quality.

[8] Necessarily because such ambiguity is implied in the idea (seinem Begriff nach).

[9] This, I think, is the sense. The language literally is, "Which a form under several possible significations, as symbol of any of which (deren) it can be employed often through connecting links (Zusammenhänge) more remote, may be taken to symbolize."

[10] The German words are Begreifen and Schliessen, which in their original sense are "to grasp with the hand" (prehendo) and "to shut" or "lock up." The English words in a still fainter form carry the same significance through the Latin language. The symbolism of language at this stage is obviously only apparent to the student of language.

[11] That is, more abstract.

[12] Or in English: /# Forth on the ocean is shipped Youth with his thousand sails: Silent in bark barely saved steals into harbour old age. #/

[13] Substantielle, that is, an artistic consciousness which is aware of its own essential nature—Spirit, and the object of pure intelligence—the Ideal.

[14] Perhaps we should rather say a Theosophy.

[15] The Alexandrine School, of which Plotinus and Philo are leading names.

[16] Ein allgemeiner Gedanke. The reference throughout this paragraph to the universality of the ideas of reflection as contrasted with the sensuous image is rather a reference to the abstract conceptions of the analytical mind, that is, which are usually understood as universals in the sense of generic conceptions, than any fuller grasp of concrete reality such as possesses a truly ideal significance. So in its application to the metaphor I imagine what is meant is that we have here the process of dry analysis which merely destroys its significance as metaphor, that is, its synthetic unity for our aesthetic sense.

[17] Ist aufgehoben, here not in the sense of being cancelled, but raised to the expression of concrete unity.

[18] Als blosse Personification, that is, an individualization which impersonates the subjective identity without possessing its concrete substance, a personified shadow like the sphinx. Such appears to be the sense.

[19] Because the content for which such shapes (Gestaltung) are given is itself incoherent, and therefore incompatible with adequate expression.

[20] Sichhervorarbeiten. Our word "elaborate" is here insufficient. Hegel means the mode in which the Idea of art works itself free from entirely potential obscurity into a living force, a real energeia. We cannot say "emerges into daylight," however, because the highest grasp of symbolic art is still only a twilight. It is like the growth of the plant-germ, still underground, or partially so.

[21] Pracktischen. Not matter-of-fact relation, but rather a relation that asserts itself exclusively in action.

[22] Als Grund, that is, as a fundamental unity of the real.

[23] Die erste näher gestaltende Dollmetcherin, lit., the first interpreter which supplies forms more nearly cognate with itself.

[24] It is valid (geltend) because it introduces there its own spiritual nature.

[25] The previous statement of Hegel must not be overlooked, however, and it may be considerably amplified, that there is much in romantic art which is related to symbolism and the sublime. Take the case of the celebrated sculpture of Michael Angelo typifying Night, Day, Dawn, and Twilight, or such modern pictures as those of Watts's "The Minotaur" and "The Spirit of Christianity."

[26] Or rather "between those aspects of its import and form which are reciprocally homogeneous and those which are not."

[27] This process of symbolic art.

[28] Hauptstufen. The word signifies either the phase or grade of a process of development, or to take the metaphor used by Hegel above (Stadien) may perhaps be better translated by "stage," as though indicating the successive stages of a journey.

[29] I think Völkern rather than Zeiten must be here understood, and the sense appears to be that the confusion indicated refers to a mingling of forms appropriate to a nation in one historical period with those that are more cognate with a people at any earlier or it may be later period. But unquestionably this attempt to identify a type as between different nations with historical periods that will harmonize with Hegel's own classification is a difficult matter as we may see by the fact that Egypt, the oldest example of all, represents the third stage. On the other hand, if the confusion referred to is applied to the particular development of any one people, the examples given by Hegel do not bear on the difficulty they illustrate.

[30] Or rather "the import of the Absolute."

[31] Substantiality, called below die Substanz; the word signifies the real essence of the Absolute.

[32] The principal clause of this sentence has no end as printed. The auxiliary must be omitted either before in diesem Dienste or eine positive. I prefer the first alternative.

[33] The relative here agrees, I think, with die Dienstbarkeit rather than die Kreatur or die Poesie. Hegel says "compatible with itself and its significance," we should rather say "its sense of its own insignificance."

[34] Hegel's words are sondern in einem subjectiven Dritten, welches in beiden Seiten nach seiner subjectiven Anschauung, etc. This "subjective third" is, as explained below, the way in which the relation between the image and the absolute significance ceases to be regarded as identical.

[35] This sentence as it stands is ungrammatical; there is a change in the construction as it proceeds.

[36] The prosaic universality is the prose of its form separated from content. It is prosaic because it is unrelated to the vitality of the notion.

[Pg 35]



Now that we pass to the consideration of the several distinctions of symbolical art in more detail, we have to make a beginning with the identical beginning of art as it proceeds out of the notion of art itself. This commencement, as we have seen, is the symbolical form of art in its still immediate form wherein the appearance, as purely image or likeness, is neither brought to consciousness nor presupposed—unconscious symbolism, that is to say. Before, however, we shall be in a position to consider this form in its genuine symbolical character, it will be necessary to review several presuppositions which the notion of symbolism itself determines in order that we may utilize them for the basis upon which the symbol may unfold itself for scientific apprehension.

The point from which we make a start may be defined more closely as follows:

The fundamental root of the symbol is, regarding it from one aspect, the immediate union of the universal and thereby spiritual significance with the form which may at the same time be described as adequate and inadequate, an inadequacy, however, which is as yet unperceived. This association, however, must, on the other hand, receive a form from the imagination and art, and must not merely be conceived as a Divine reality exclusively immediate to sense. By this means the symbolical originates in the first instance with the severation of a universal import from the immediate presence of Nature, in whose existence the Absolute is contemplated as actually present. These two aspects supply us with the preliminary stages for the genuine forms of symbolic art.

The first presupposition consequently—we may call it the[Pg 36] coming into being of the symbolical—is not that union which is the product of art, but rather just that immediate unity of the Absolute and True and its existence, which is discovered in the visible world apart from art's mediation.


In this identity of the Divine immediately envisualized, a Divine, which is brought home to consciousness as the union of its determinate existence in Nature and humanity, Nature is neither taken simply for that which it is in isolation by itself, nor is the Absolute severed from it and posited in an independent self-subsistence. Consequently it is wholly beside the point to speak of a distinction here between the Inward and the External, the significance and the form, and this for the reason that the Inward is not as yet released in its independence as significance from its immediate reality in the object of sense. When we apply here the expression import[37], such merely emphasizes our own reflection upon it, which is due to the necessity for ourselves personally to regard the form, which contains that which is spiritual and inward under the mode of sense-perception, generally as something external to us, through which we are desirous of penetrating into the Inward, that is, its animating life and significance, in order that we may understand it. For this reason we are under the necessity from the very first, when dealing with such general impressions of sense-perception, of making an essential demarcation between those cases in which the peoples, who in the first instance experienced them, themselves were clearly conscious of this Inward itself as such, that is, as a spiritual significance, and those in which the use of such expressions is only applicable to ourselves, who now and only now recognize an import of this kind in the content of that external expression of sense-envisagement.

In this primary unity such as the latter cases involve, there is no such distinction between soul and body, notion and reality, as is implied in the former. That which we describe as corporeal and sensuous, natural and human, is[Pg 37] not merely an expression for a significance which proceeds at the same time to a point of distinction from it[38]; but the phenomenon is itself conceived as the immediate reality and presence of the Absolute, which does not in addition possess some other mode of self-subsistent existence, but is confined exclusively to the immediate presence of an object of sense, which is God or the Divine. In the service of the Lama, for example, this particular, actual human being is immediately known and adored as God, just as in other natural religions the sun, mountains, rivers, the moon, particular animals, such as the bull, ape, and so on, are looked upon as immediately Divine existences and worshipped as sacred. We may observe a similar directness, if under a mode of profounder application, even now in many aspects of the Christian consciousness. According to Catholic doctrine, for example, the consecrated bread is the real body, and the wine the real blood of God, and Christ is immediately present therein; nay, even according to the Lutheran faith, both bread and wine are converted into such real body and blood by virtue of the faith of the recipient. In this mystical union it is not merely a symbolism which is expressed, a point of view which comes into prominence as the result of it for the first time in later doctrines of the reformed Church, where we find as a result the spiritual significance is expressly severed from the sensuous object, and the external medium is then accepted as merely pointing to an import which is distinct from itself. In the same way the power of this Divine is held to operate in the miracle-working images of the Virgin as a Divine force that is immediately present within them, and not merely under symbolical guise through the significant import of such pictures.

We find, however, the most thorough and universal exemplification of this absolute and immediate unity of sense-perception in the life and religion of the ancient Zend-people, whose conceptions and institutions are preserved for us in the Zend-Avesta.

1. In other words the religion of Zoroaster beholds Light[Pg 38] in the form of its natural existence, the sun, stars, and fire in the luminous activity and flames which proceed from them, actually as the Absolute, without separating this Divine independently from that Light either as its expression and image or the sensuous medium thereof. The Divine, the significance, is not thus severed from its determinate existence in the form of lights, however displayed. For even when light is accepted here in the sense of Goodness and Justice, and through such significance is extended to all that is rich in blessing, support, and life, it is still not taken as the mere image of such things, but Light is itself the Good. And the same view applies to the opposite of light, namely, obscurity and darkness when identified with that which is unclean, hurtful, evil, destructive, and deadly.

This point of view may be more closely defined and considered as follows:

(a) In the first instance the Divine, as the essential purity of Light[39], and the Darkness and Unclean are, it is true, personified under the names of Ormuzd and Ahriman respectively. This personification is, however, throughout entirely superficial. Ormuzd is no essentially free individuality devoid of all relation to external objects[40] as was the God of the Jews, or truly spiritual and personal as is the God of Christianity when conceived as truly personal and self-conscious Spirit; rather Ormuzd, despite the fact that he is described also as king, great spirit and judge, remains inseparable from such external existence as Light and its illuminations. He is exclusively this universal characteristic of all particular existences, in which light and thereby the Divine and Pure are realized, without any additional power to withdraw himself in a spiritual universality and independence into his own substance from that which is thus immediately presented. His consistence rests in the particular facts of existence precisely in an analogous way to that of the genus in the species. It is true that regarded as this universal he is superior to all that is wholly particular,[Pg 39] and is the first, most supreme, the kings of kings glorious in his gold, the purest and so forth; but he retains his existence none the less exclusively in all that is luminous and pure as Ahriman in all that is obscure, evil, destructive, and charged with disease.

(b) As a result this mode of vision is at the same time extended to the conception of an empire of light and darkness, and the strife between these forces. In the empire of Ormuzd it is in the first place the Amschaspands, as the seven principal lights of heaven, which receive adoration as Divinity, inasmuch as they are the essential particular existences of Light, and for this reason constitute as a pure and spacious empeopled heaven, the existence of the Divine itself. Every Amschaspand, to which Ormuzd belongs, has assigned to it days of precedence, blessing, and beneficence. The Izeds and Ferners carry the conception still further into specification, which it is probable enough are personifications of Ormuzd himself, albeit they add to him no further shape that we may envisage as human, so that neither the spiritual nor the bodily mode of subjectivity, but simply the existence as light, appearance, illumination, splendour, remains the essential characteristic of the object envisaged.

In the same way also the particular objects of Nature, which themselves do not exist in external form as lights and luminous bodies, such as animals, plants, and so forth, no less than the forms which characterize the human world, whether we view it under its spiritual or bodily presentment, in other words the particular activities and conditions of it, the entire life of the state, the king with the seven great men who support him, the division of classes, cities, the various provinces with their governors, all that is warranted by experience as typical of the best and purest for the protection of the rest—the entire reality, in fact, of this life is regarded as an existence of Ormuzd. For everything that carries within itself and promulgates what has solidity, life, and substance is an existence of Light and Purity, and consequently an existence of Ormuzd; every particular truth, excellence, love, justness, every individual example of life, beneficence, protection, spiritual power and enjoyment or benignity is, according to Zoroaster, regarded as essentially[Pg 40] Light and Divine. The empire of Ormuzd is the Pure and Illuminating of visible reality; and conformably to this there is no distinction between the phenomena of Nature or Spirit, just as Light and Goodness, the spiritual and the sensuous quality, are inseparably blended in the conception of Ormuzd himself. The splendour of a creature is consequently for Zoroaster the very substance of spirit, force, and life-exhalations of every kind, in so far, that is, as they tend to actual conservation and to the removal of everything positively evil and hurtful, for that which is the Real and the Good, whether in beast, man, or vegetable life, is Light, and it is according to the measure and mode of display of this luminousness that the relative power or weakness of the splendour of all objects is determined.

An articulation and graduated division of similar character is found in the empire of Ahriman, merely with the difference that what is spiritually or naturally evil, and generally the destructive and actively negative principle asserts itself in actual masterdom. But the might of Ahriman must not be suffered to spread; the aim of the entire world is consequently assumed to be that of annihilating the Empire of Ahriman, in order that the life, presence, and dominion of Ormuzd may prevail throughout creation.

(c) To this exclusive object the entire life of humanity is consecrate. The life-task of every man consists exclusively in a purification of soul and body, and in the extension of this blessing and this conflict with Ahriman throughout all the conditions and activities of the life of man or Nature. The highest and most sacred duty is consequently to glorify Ormuzd in his creation, and to love, honour, and conform oneself to all that proceeds from his Light and is essentially pure. Ormuzd is the beginning and end of all adoration. Above all else the Parsee is moved to summon the life of Ormuzd in thought and speech; he is the main object of his prayers. And in the exaltation of him, from whom the entire world of the Pure has streamed in its splendour, the devotee is in duty bound to accommodate his adoration of particular objects according to the measure in which they proclaim his majesty, worth, and perfection. So far as they are good and ring sound, to that extent, the Parsee reasons with himself, is Ormuzd alive within them; he loves them[Pg 41] as the children of his purity, yea, rejoices over them as in the beginning of his substance, forasmuch as through him was everything brought forth in newness and purity. And for the same reason is all prayer directed first and foremost to the Amschaspands as the most intimate reflections of Ormuzd, as the primates of supreme splendour who surround his throne and advance his dominion. Such prayer to these heavenly spirits is immediately directed to their qualities and activities, and in the case of stars at the time of their uprising. The sun is invoked by day, and always with the changes appropriate to his own motion through sunrise, noonday, or sunset. From morning till noonday the devotion of the Parsee centres in this that Ormuzd may exalt his splendour; at evening he prays that the sun may through Ormuzd and the protecting care of every Tzed perfect the course of his life. But principally we find honour paid to Mithras, who, as the fruit-bringer to the Earth and the wilderness, pours forth the fermenting sap over all Nature, and as mighty champion against all the Devas of contention, war, confusion, and destruction, is the author of peace.

In addition to this the Parsee, in his generally single-toned songs of praise, exalts his ideals, that is, the purest and most veritable examples of human life, the Ferver conceived as pure human spirits, on whatever portion of the Earth's surface they live or have lived. In the chief place prayer is offered to the pure spirit of Zoroaster, and after him to the leading lights of all classes, cities, and provinces; and already in this religion, we find that the spirits of all mankind are contemplated as united together with a sufficient bond in that they are members in the living association of Light, which hereafter in Gorotman shall receive a yet more perfect union.

Finally, not even the animals, mountains, and vegetable world are forgotten, but are appealed to as embodiments of Ormuzd; all that is good and serviceable in them to mankind is extolled, and especially the first and most excellent of its kind is adored as the present existence of Deity. And over and above this worship of Ormuzd and of every form of selected excellence among the pure and beneficent objects of his creation the Zend-Avesta is insistent upon the practice[Pg 42] of goodness and the purity of thought, word, and deed. The Parsee is to be in the entire display of his external and inward man as Light, as Ormuzd, the Amschaspands, and the Izeds, as Zoroaster and all good men live and do. Such live and have lived in the Light, and all their deeds are Light; therefore shall every man make them an example to his eyes and follow after the same. The more purity of light and goodness man expresses in his life and accomplishment, the nearer he stands to those spirits of heaven. As the Izeds throw the blessing of their beneficence over everything, are a source of life and fruitfulness and friendship, so, too, he must seek to purify Nature, to ennoble her, and to reach abroad the light of life and the joy of plenteousness. In accordance therewith he shall feed the hungry, tend the sick, offer the drink of consolation to the thirsty, give roof and shelter to the wanderer, provide pure seed for the Earth, delve clean channels of water, plant the waste with trees, nourish to the best of his power their growth, care for the sustenance and fructification of things alive, keep pure the lambency of fire, remove from sight the dead and unclean beast, establish marriages, and in the doing thereof the holy Sapandomad, the Ized of the Earth, herself rejoices, averting the harm which the Devas and the Darvands are busy to prepare.

2. If we ask ourselves once more, after this delineation in outline of the fundamental conceptions of this system, what is the symbolical character of the same there can be but one reply, namely, that there is no trace here of anything we have previously described as symbolical. On the one side, no doubt, we have light in its obvious natural form, and on the other it possesses the further significance of all that is rich in goodness, blessing, and permanence. It is, therefore, possible to contend that the actual existence of light is merely an image cognate with this universal significance, which interpenetrates every part of the world of Nature and mankind. If we apply such an interpretation to the conception of Parsees themselves we shall find such a separation of existence and its import to be false; for these the Light as Light is actually the Good, and is so apprehended that it is in the form of light present and active in everything that is good, vital, and positive. The universal[Pg 43] and Divine is carried no doubt through the distinctions of the world of particular objects, but in this its differentiated and particularized existence, the substantial and inseparable unity of import and form remains constant, and the distinctions that are involved in this unity do not affect the difference of significance quâ significance, and its manifestation, but only the distinguishing features of particular objects, such as stars, organic life, human opinions and actions, in which the Divine as Light or Darkness is immediately open to sense.

In the further embrace of such conceptions there are no doubt points of connection with incipient symbolism, but we get out of them no real type of that mode of viewing things in its completeness; they will only pass muster as isolated traits in its direction. To such effect Ormuzd is on one occasion made to say of his beloved one Dschemschid: "The holy Ferver of Dschemschid, the son of Vivengham, was great before me. His hand received from me a dagger, whose sharpness was gold, and whose shaft was gold. Therewith Dschemschid marked out three hundred portions of the Earth. He split up the Earth-realm with his gold-plate, yea, with his dagger and spake: 'Let Sapandomad rejoice.' He spake the holy word with prayer to the tame cattle and the wild and unto men. So his passing through was happiness and blessing for these lands and animals of the home and the field, and men ran together into great dwellings." Here we find in the dagger, and the cleaving of the Earth-soil an image which may be interpreted as significant of agriculture. Agriculture is still no essentially spiritual activity, and just as little is it a purely natural one; it is rather a universal occupation of mankind, which results from reflective thought and experience, and which has point of association with all the relations of life. It is no doubt never expressly stated in this conception of the passing of Dschemschid that this splitting of the Earth with the dagger indicates agriculture; nor is there a single word added of any increase of the fruits of the field by virtue of this division; for the reason, however, that in this particular act more appears to be included than the mere turning over and loosening of the soil, we are led to look for a further significance beneath it. The same observations apply to[Pg 44] more recent conceptions, such as we find exemplified in the later elaboration of the worship of Mithras, where Mithras is represented as a youth who in the dusk of a grotto raises on high the bull's head and plunges a dagger in his neck, whereon a serpent licks up the blood, and a scorpion gnaws his genitals. This symbolical account has received an astronomical and other interpretations. We may, however, find in it a still more universal and profounder meaning, and take the bull generally to personify the principle of Nature, over which man, as essentially spirit, secures the victory, and this though astronomical associations may also be implied in it. That, however, such a revolution as the victory of Spirit over Nature is contained in it is also suggested by the name of Mithras, or mediator, more especially if we refer it to a later period when such uplifting over Nature was already a necessity present to the national consciousness. Symbols such as the above, however, as already observed, only incidentally come to the fore in the conceptions of the ancient Parsees, and do not in any way constitute a principle for their fundamental type of thought.

Still less can we describe the cultus, which the Zend-Avesta inculcates, as one of symbolical tendency. We find no trace here, for example, of symbolical dances in celebration or imitation of the interlaced revolutions of the stars; as little any other forms of activity which may pass as the suggestive counterfeit of universal conceptions; rather all actions which are prescribed to the Parsee as imperative in a religious sense are matters directly concerned with the actual enlargement of his purity, either of soul or body, and appear as directed with one intent and one object of realization, namely, that of increasing the actual dominion of Ormuzd over men and the objects of Nature, an object consequently which is not merely symbolized in such activity, but entirely carried out.

3. For the reason, then, that a genuine symbolic type fails absolutely when applied to this religious system, it is equally destitute of a true artistic character. No doubt we may generally describe its mode of conception as poetical for the particular facts of Nature are just as little as the particular sentiments, circumstances, acts, and affairs of men[Pg 45] treated in their immediate and consequently haphazard and prosaic relation which is void of all significance, and are rather contemplated essentially in the Absolute as very Light; or to put it the other way, the universal essence of the concrete reality of Nature and mankind is not conceived in the universality which is without existence or form, but this universal and that particular is envisaged and expressed in immediate union. Such a mode of viewing existence may possibly claim a certain beauty, breadth, and largeness of its own, and in contrast to gross and senseless idols Light is no doubt as the essentially pure and universal element, an adequate image of Goodness and Truth. But for all that we find that poetry here fails to pass beyond a general conception; it never reaches either art or the works of art. For the Good and the Divine are neither essentially defined, nor is the consistency and form of this content a creation of mind (Spirit); but rather, as we have already found, the thing which is immediately present to sense, namely, the actual sun, stars, fire, organic nature, throughout its vegetation, animal and human life, is conceived as the appropriate form of the Absolute in this its existent and immediate shape. The sensuous representation is not, as Art requires, the plastic product of mind, shaped and discovered by the same, but immediately identified with and expressed by the external existent shape as its appropriate counterfeit. It is quite true, in another aspect, the particular thing is, by means of the imagination, also fixed in an independent relation to its reality, as, for instance, in the Izeds and Fervers, that is, in the genii of particular men; the poetic invention, however, discovered in this incipient severation is of the weakest kind for the reason that the distinction remains entirely of a formal character, so that the genius, Ized or Ferver, neither includes nor is able to include any real characteristic content of its own, but, instead of this, either repeats one identical content or possesses nothing more than the purely empty form of the subjectivity, which the existing individual already possesses. The product of the imagination here is consequently neither an other and profounder significance nor the self-subsistent form of an essentially richer individuality. And when we moreover find particular objects envisaged on the wider[Pg 46] plane of general conceptions and generic types, to which, as appropriate to such types, the imagination vouchsafes a real existence, even here also this uplifting of multiplicity into the sphere of an all-comprehending and essential unity, regarded as the basic core and substance of the individuals that constitute the same species and genus, can only in a yet more indefinite sense be accepted as an activity of the imagination, no real exemplification of either poetry or art. So we have, for instance, in the holy fire of Behram the essence of fire; and in the same way there is a water that underlies all existent water. So, too, Horn is esteemed as the first, purest, and most stalwart among trees, the primordial tree from which the life-sap full of immortality flows; and among all mountains Albordsch, the sacred mountain, is set before us as the primaeval root of the Earth, erect in the splendour of the Light, from which the good deeds of all men proceed, who have possessed the knowledge of Light, and on whom the sun, moon, and stars repose. In general, however, we may affirm that the universal is visibly known in immediate union with the actual objects of sense, and it is merely now and again that universal conceptions are embodied in the particular image.

In yet more prosaic fashion does the cultus of this religion make as its principal object the dominion of Ormuzd a reality which interpenetrates all things, merely requiring this one essential condition to the adequacy of every object, namely, its purity, and without attempting therewith to construct from such any existent form of art that is based upon immediate life, as, for example, the warriors and wrestlers of Greece were so ready to do in their artistic elaboration of physical perfection.

From whatever side, then, or whatever may be the point of view from which we regard this first unity of spiritual universality and sensuous reality, we only get from it the basis of symbolical art; it still fails to possess a real symbolism of its own, and is unable to produce works of art. In order that we may attain this object, which is the next in view, we must pass away from the union we have just considered, and examine modes of conception where the difference and conflict between significance and form is more really emphasized.

[Pg 47]


Quitting now the sphere of thought in which the identity of the Absolute and its externally envisaged existence is immediately cognized, we have, as an essential determination to start from, the severation of these two aspects hitherto united, a cleavage which stimulates the effort to restore once more the visible breach by means of an elaborate fusing together of the whole thus divided by a rich use of the images of phantasy. With this attempt the essential need for art is felt for the first time. No sooner has the imagination succeeded in holding fast its envisaged content, which is no longer grasped in immediate union with the objects of sense, in isolated separation from that existence, than for the first time spirit is confronted with the task of reclothing with the material of phantasy for sensuous perception, that is, under the renewed mode of a spiritual product, these general conceptions and of creating through this activity the shapes of art. And for the reason that in the stage of our process where we now find ourselves, this task is capable of only a symbolic solution, we may easily fall under the impression that we stand already in the sphere of genuine symbolism. This, however, is not the case. What immediately faces us here are the forms of a fermenting phantasy[41], which in the restlessness of its fantastic dreams merely indicates the path which conducts us to the real centre of symbolical art. In the first appearance of the distinguishing relation between significance and the mode of its presentation, both the severation and the association are still grasped in a confused manner. This confusion is necessitated by the fact that neither of the parted aspects of difference have as yet attained a totality, capable of emphasizing the precise point in the process, which will serve as the fundamental determination of the opposed side in it, and by means of which for the first,time a really adequate union and reconciliation is rendered possible. Spirit (mind), to illustrate our difficulty[Pg 48] further, determines by virtue of its own totality the side of the external phenomenon out of its own essential substance quite as really as it does its own spiritual content for the obvious reason that the essentially complete and independent phenomenon only receives its adequate form as the external existence of that which is spiritual. In the case, however, of this primary severation of the significances apprehended by mind, and the existent world of phenomena such aspects of significance are not those of concrete spiritual life, but abstractions, and this expression also is entirely destitute of spiritual intension, and is consequently, in an abstract sense, purely external and sensuous. This twofold impulse in the direction of disunion and union is for the same reason an unsteady gait[42], which ranges from the objects of sense in undefined and unmeasured waste immediately to the aspects of universal import, and is only able to discover for the inward content of consciousness the absolutely opposed form of sensuous shapes. And it is this very contradiction which is set forth as a means of really uniting elements which contradict each other. The result is that instead of so doing it is first driven from one side of the opposition into the other, and then again is hurled in its ceaselessly alternating dance into the former extreme, while it believes that in this rocking to and fro of its strain it has found the means to lull itself to repose. Instead of getting, therefore, a true satisfaction we have the contradiction merely affirmed as its genuine resolution, and in addition the union most incomplete of all is set forth as that which art really requires. We must not therefore expect to find in such a field of confusion worse confounded the true forms of beauty. In this restless leap from one opposed extreme to the other all that we find from one point of view in the sensuous material that is absorbed, regarding the same in its singularity no less than as it constitutes its elementary appearance to sense, is that the breadth and potency of every import of universality is associated therewith in what must consequently be a wholly inadequate way. From another aspect that which is most universal, as soon as the process has passed from the same, is shamelessly plunged under the reverse treatment into the very heart of the[Pg 49] sensuous present; and if any feeling of the incompatibility of such an effort is consciously perceived, the imagination here is only capable of rendering assistance by means of distortions which carry the particular shapes over and beyond their own secure boundaries, adding to their extension, making them ever more indefinite, by an imaginative leap which mounts to the immeasurable, breaks up every bond of union, and in its very strain after reconciliation reveals each opposing factor in its most unmitigated hostility[43].

These earliest and still most uncontrolled attempts of imagination and art we meet most signally among the ancient races of India, the main defect of whose productions, when viewed relatively to their particular position at this stage of our classification, consists in this, that they are neither able to seize the profounder aspects of significance in independent clarity, nor grasp the reality of sense-perception in its characteristic form and meaning. The Hindoo race has consequently proved itself unable to comprehend either persons or events as parts of continuous history, because to any historical treatment a certain soberness is essential of accepting and understanding facts in their true and independent form, and subject to their mediating links, grounds, causes, and objects, being empirically ascertained. The natural impulse to refer all and everything back to the Divine is hostile to this prosaic reasonableness, no less than its tendency to prefigure for itself in the most ordinary or most sensuous of objects a presence and reality of godhead created by its own imagination. These peoples consequently, through their confused intermingling of the Finite and the Absolute, in which the logical order and permanence of the prosaic facts of ordinary consciousness are disregarded altogether, despite all the profusion and extraordinary boldness of their conceptions, fall into a levity of fantastic mirage which is quite as remarkable, a flightiness which dances from the most spiritual and profoundest matters to the meanest trifle of present experience, in order that it[Pg 50] may interchange and confuse immediately the one extreme with the other.

If we concentrate our attention more closely upon the more conspicuous features of this continuous bout of intoxication, this craze and condition of craze, what we are concerned with is not to trace religious conceptions as such, but merely to emphasize the points of prominence which relate such modes of conception with art. These may be indicated as follows:

1. One extreme of the consciousness of the Hindoo is the consciousness of the Absolute, here regarded as the essentially and absolutely Universal, undifferentiated and consequently wholly indefinite. This supreme of abstractions, inasmuch as it is neither in possession of a particular content, nor is conceived under the mode of concrete personality, is, from whatever side you may look at it, no object at all that the imagination acting through the senses can reclothe for art. Brahman[44], taken in a general sense as this supreme Godhead, is absolutely removed from the sensuous and sense-perception, or rather is not even an object for Thought. For self-consciousness is inseparable from thought, which posits itself as an object of Thought, in order that it may thus come to self-knowledge. Every act of intelligence is an identification of the ego and object, a reconciliation of that which is severed outside from this relation of recognition; what I do not understand remains as something strange and foreign to myself. The mode of union, under the Hindoo conception, of human personality with Brahman is nothing more nor less than a continually ascending process of exhaustion[45] in the direction of this supreme of abstractions, in which not merely the entire concrete content, but also self-consciousness itself, must be eliminated before the final consummation is realized. Or, to put the same thing another way, the Hindoo recognizes no reconciliation and identity with Brahman in the sense that the spirit of humanity becomes conscious of this union. The unity rather consists in this, that both consciousness[Pg 51] and self-consciousness, and with them the entire content of the objective world and personality totally disappears. This emptying and annihilation to the point of absolute vacuity is treated as the supreme condition under which man is capable of identity with highest Divinity, that is Brahman. An abstraction of this sort, one of the barest it is possible to imagine, whether we consider it from the point of view of the Absolute, as Brahman, or from the human aspect of a purely theoretically conceived cultus that consists in man's self-evaporation[46] and self-annihilation, is in itself no object either for the imagination or art; all the latter can do is to profit by such opportunity as various imaginary representations of what happens by the way to this goal may offer for their exercise.

2. Conversely the Hindoo view of existence launches itself with just the same immediacy over this very abstraction from all sense into the wildest flood of it. Inasmuch, however, as the immediate and consequently unbroken identity of both sides is in this view cancelled, and instead of this the element of difference within this identity has become the basic principle of the type itself, this very contradiction plunges us with no mediating connections from the Finite into the Divine, and again from this latter into what is most transitory of all; and we live and move among simulacra, which rise up entirely as the growth of this alternating process, a kind of witches' world, where the definition of every shape eludes our grasp as we endeavour to seize it, is converted all at once into its opposite, or straddles away into mere inflated enormities.

The general modes under which Hindoo art manifests itself may be summarized under the three following points of view:

(a) In the first place we find the full hugeness of the content of the Absolute is imposed by the imagination upon the sensuous in its aspect of singularity in such a way that this particular thing is itself, in its own form and station, taken completely to represent such a content and to exist as such for the imaginative sense. In the Râmâyana, for example, the friend of Râma, namely, the prince of apes[Pg 52] Hanuman, is a principal personage, and he accomplishes the bravest of exploits. And generally we may observe that among the Hindoos the ape is revered as Divine, and we find, in fact, an entire city of apes. In the ape, as this point of singularity, the infinite content of the Absolute is envisaged and adored. It is just the same with the cow, Sabalâ, which in the Râmâyana during the episodic treatment of the expiations of Visvamitra, appears clothed with immeasurable power. If we take a glance on higher planes we find entire families in India—even though the individual here be merely a vacant and monotonously vegetating life-unit—in whom the Absolute itself, as this concrete reality, is adored in its immediate life and presence as God. This same coincidence is found in Lamaism. Here, too, a single individual receives the highest worship due to the present God. In India, however, this honour is not exclusively paid to one man. Every Brahmin proves at once his claim from the day of his birth in his own caste to be ranked as Brahman, and possesses that second birth of the Spirit which identifies his humanity with God, in the way of Nature through his actual bodily birth, so that the crown of the most Divine itself is immediately referred back upon the entirely commonplace fact of physical existence. For although the Brahmin is under the most sacred obligation to read the Vedâs, and attain by this means an insight into the secrets of Deity, this duty can be actually carried out in the most perfunctory way without detracting in the least from the Brahmin's own divinity. In a similar manner it is one of the modes most common to the representations of Hindooism to have the primordial God set forth as the procreator or begetter, as we find Eros is in the case of Greek mythology. This procreation as Divine activity is further worked into all kinds of representations in a wholly material way, and the private parts, both male and female, are treated as sacred in the highest sense. And in a reverse way, and to no less extent, the Divine, when it passes over in its independent Divinity to the plane of existing reality, is suffered in a wholly trivial manner to get mixed up with everyday details. We may take an example of this from the commencement of the Râmâyana, where Brahmâ has come on a visit to Vâlmîkis,[Pg 53] the mythical bard of the Râmâyana. Vâlmîkis receives him entirely in the common Hindoo fashion, pays him a compliment or two, places a stool before him, and supplies him with water and fruits. Brahmâ sits down just like anybody else and constrains his host to do likewise: and there they sit on and sit on until at last Brahmâ orders Vâlmîkis to compose the poem of the Râmâyana.

Modes of conception such as these are still not symbolic in the strict sense; for although we find that here, as the symbol requires, forms are taken from the material of sense and diverted to the use of conceptions of more universal import, we still find the further condition of this requirement wanting, namely, that the particular existences must not actually exist for sense-perception as this absolute significance, but merely suggest the same. For the Hindoo imagination the ape, the cow, and the particular Brahmin are not merely a cognate symbol of the Divine, but are contemplated and represented as the Godhead itself, as existences adequate to that Godhead.

It is the contradiction inherent in this immediacy which is the motive force of another feature in the conceptions of Hindoo art. For while, on the one hand, that which is absolutely severed from sense, the spiritual significance out and out, is conceived as the actually Divine, yet, on the other, the particular facts of concrete reality are immediately envisaged by the imagination, even in their sensuous existence, as Divine manifestations. They are no doubt partly only taken to represent particular aspects of the Absolute; but even so the particular thing in its immediacy is still incompatible with the universality, which it is, as adequate to the same, introduced to express; and it appears in all the more glaring contradiction to it for the reason that the significance is here already conceived in its universality, yet, despite of this, an express relation of identity is immediately set up by the imagination between it and the most particular of material facts.

(b) The most obvious way in which Hindoo art endeavours to mitigate this disunion is, as we have already suggested, by the measureless extension of its images. Particular shapes are drawn out into colossal and grotesque proportions in order that they may, as forms of sense, attain[Pg 54] to universality. The particular form of sense, which is taken to express not itself and its own characteristic meaning as a fact of external existence, but a universal significance which lies outside it, fails to satisfy the imagination until it has been torn out itself into vastness which knows neither measure nor limit. This is the cause of all that extravagant exaggeration of size, not merely in the case of spatial dimension, but also of measurelessness of time-durations, or the reduplication of particular determinations, as in figures with many heads, arms, and so on, by means of which this art strains to compass the breadth and universality of the significance it assumes. The egg, for example, contains the bird within it. This particular fact is enlarged to the measureless conception of a world-egg secreting the universal life of all creation, and in which Brahmâ, the procreating God, accomplishes without effort the year of creation, until by virtue of his thought alone the the two halves of the egg fall asunder. And, in addition to natural objects, human individuals and events are exalted that they may express the significance of truly Divine action in such a way that we can neither hold fast the Divine or the human in their independence, but both seem to run in a continual confusion backwards and forwards into one another. As a striking illustration of such a mode of conception, we have the incarnations of certain Hindoo gods, principally Vishnu, the conserver of life, whose exploits figure largely in the great epic poems. Râmas is, for instance, himself the seventh incarnation of Vishnu (Râmatshandra). From a review of particular demands, actions, circumstances, modes of appearance, and traits of demeanour, we are led to infer from these poems that this content is in great measure borrowed from actual events, that is from the exploits of ancient kings who exercised a powerful influence in creating new conditions of law and order; we find ourselves surrounded by a thoroughly human atmosphere and on the firm ground of reality. But then again, in a converse direction, the entire scene expands, reaches out into the nebulous, playing over and beyond it with universal conceptions, so that we lose the vantage ground we had gained and are robbed of all our bearings. We are treated in just the same way in the Sakuntala. At first[Pg 55] we have set before us the most gentle and odorous realm of Love, in which everything goes on its way in an entirely human fashion; and then we are all at once snatched from the wealth of this genuine world, and transported into the clouds of the heaven of Indra, where everything suffers change, and our formerly circumscribed sphere is inflated to the measure of the universal import of Nature's life in its relation to the Brahmin and the power of Nature's gods, which is vouchsafed to man in return for his severe self-mortifications.

Such modes of representation are also not to be termed in a strict sense symbolical. That is to say the true symbol suffers the determinate shape, which it applies, to remain under that original definition, because its purpose is not to envisage therein the immediate existent of the significance in its universality, but to point to that import merely through the qualities of the object which are cognate to it. Hindoo art, however, although it severs universality from the singular existing fact, still adds the further requirement that both sides shall be immediately united through the imagination, and is consequently forced to divest determinate existence of its specific limitations, and, albeit in a material fashion, to enlarge in the direction of indefiniteness and generally to change and reconstitute. In this melting down of all clear definition, and in the confusion which results from it, so that that form is always set down as highest for everything, whether phenomena, events, or actions, which in the mode of their figuration can neither for themselves assert nor intrinsically possess and express any control over such content, we may rather seek for features analogous to the type of the sublime than see any illustration of real symbolism. For in the Sublime, as we shall see for ourselves further on, the finite phenomenon only expresses the Absolute, which it would previsage for conscious sense to the extent that in so doing it escapes from the world of appearance, which fails to comprehend its content. This is just its treatment of eternity. Its idea of it is sublime when it has to be expressed in terms of time-duration, precisely through the emphasis it lays on the fact that no number, however great, is sufficient. In this strain runs the text: "A thousand years in Thy sight are even as a day." Hindoo art contains much of the same or similar[Pg 56] nature. It strikes the opening notes of "the Sublime" symphony. The main difference, however, between it and the true Sublimity consists in this, that the Hindoo imagination does not in the wild exuberance of its images bring about the essential nothingness of the phenomena which it makes use of, but rather through just this very measurelessness and unlimited range of its visions believes that it has annihilated and made to vanish all difference and opposition between the Absolute and its mode of configuration. In this extreme type of exaggeration, then, there is ultimately little of real kinship with either true symbolism or Sublimity: it is equally remote from the true sphere of beauty. It offers us no doubt, more particularly in its more sober delineation of that which is exclusively human, much that is endearing and benign, many gracious pictures and tender emotions, the most splendid and seductive descriptions of Nature, the most childlike traits of Love and naïve innocence, and withal much too that is magnanimous and noble; but, none the less, if we review it generally according to the fundamental import of all it expresses, we shall find that the spiritual is throughout rooted in sense, the meanest objects are placed on the same plane as the highest, true definition is wrecked, the Sublime is lowered to the conception of mere immeasurability, and that which is the original material of mythos for the most part vanishes before our eyes in the fantastic dreams of a restless and inquisitive imaginative power, and modes of shaping the same devoid of all intelligent purpose.

(c) In conclusion, the purest form of representation which we meet with at this stage of imaginative conception is that of personification, as it generally applies to the human figure. For the reason, however, that the significance on this plane is not as yet grasped as the free subjectivity of Spirit, but rather either under a determination of abstract universality or as a mode of natural existence, one that contains, for example, the life of rivers, mountains, stars, or sun, for this reason it is only employed as means of expression for this kind of content under a mode which really detracts from the full worth of the human form. For the human body, if we view it in its true definition, no less than the form of human activities and events, expresses simply concrete Spirit[Pg 57] and a spiritual content, which is self-contained and subsistent in this its reality, and possesses therewith no mere symbol or external sign.

From one point of view consequently this personification, albeit the significance, which it is invoked to represent, is taken to belong to the spiritual no less than the natural, yet, on account of the abstractness which clings to this form of significance, is on this stage of thought still of a superficial nature, and needs yet many other modes of representation to be rendered clear to the closer inspection, forms with which it is here confusedly mingled and thereby itself made obscure. And, moreover, taking it under another aspect, it is not the subjectivity here and its form which supplies the characterization, but rather its expressions, actions, and so forth; for it is in deed and action that the more defined line of severation first asserts itself, which can be brought into relation with the specific content of the universal significances. In that case, however, we are again face to face with the defect that it is not the conscious subject, but merely its means of expression, which supply the signification, no less than the confusion of thought, that events and deeds, instead of constituting the reality and the existence of the subject as determinately self-realized, preserve its content and significance elsewhere. A series of such actions is able therefore very possibly to carry with it a certain result and consequence, which is derived from the content which such a series subserves as its expression. This consequent result is, however, to an extent equally great, liable again to be interrupted and in part suspended by that which is central in the personification and the man[47], because subjective activity is also a stimulus to capricious action and its manifestation, so that both that which is significant and that which is destitute of this quality keep up their varied and irregular interplay just in so far as the imagination[Pg 58] is unable to unite their significant characteristics and the forms which are appropriate to them in one substantial and secure mode of association. And, moreover, if it is the purely natural aspect of such facts which is exclusively accepted as the unified content, in that case the material must inevitably prove itself inadequate to support the human form, just as this, being only fully adapted as a means of expressing Spirit, is on its side incapable of representing what is wholly natural. In all these respects such a mode of personification as the one we are examining fails to express a true mode; for the truth of art requires, as the truth universally requires, that there should be a complete concordance between the inward and the outward, that is, the notion and its reality. Greek mythology, for example, personified the Pontine sea; Scamander possesses its river gods, nymphs, dryads, and so forth. In other words it builds up Nature in the most various forms as the content of its human divinities. It does not, however, suffer its personification to remain purely formal and superficial, but creates thereby real individuals, in whom the purely natural significance fades into the background, and the human element, on the contrary, which has taken up and absorbed such material out of Nature, becomes the prominent factor. Hindoo art, on the other hand, is unable to advance beyond a grotesque intermingling of these two sides of Nature and humanity, so that neither is treated according to its rightful claim, and both are merely given the forms which are appropriate to the other.

Speaking in a general way we cannot consider even these personifications to be as yet strictly symbolical, for the reason that owing to their formal superficiality they do not stand in any essential relation to or mode of association more truly intimate with the more determinate form which they are presumed to express. At the same time we may note here, with respect to other particular modifications and attributes, with which such personifications appear to be intermingled, and which are taken to express the more defined qualities generally attached to Divinities, an impulse in the direction of symbolic representation, for which the personification then stands merely as the universal type of widest connotation.

[Pg 59]

If we turn now to the more important examples of the imaginative sense on the plane we are now considering, we have first to draw attention to Trimûrtis, the triformed Godhead. This Deity includes in the first place Brahmâ, the activity which brings forth and procreates, the creator of the world, Lord of all the gods and much more beside. On the one hand he is to be kept distinct from Brahman (as Neuter), that is from the ultimate Being, and is the first-born of such. In another aspect, however, he again seems to fall into union with this abstract Godhead, as generally happens with Hindoo thought where the lines of difference are rarely held secure, and part are allowed to vanish and the rest simply to get confused with each other. The form with which he is most closely identified has much that is symbolical about it; he is formed with four heads and four hands, and with the latter are his sceptre and ring[48]. He is of a red colour, an obvious suggestion of sunlight, since these Divinities invariably carry qualities which are of universal significance in Nature and which are thus personified in them. The second Deity of this triune Trimûrtis, is Vishnu, the preserving Godhead, the third Sivas, the destructive Power. The symbols employed to represent these gods are countless. For by reason of the universality of the significances they express they comprehend an infinite number of varied activities. In part these are related to particular phenomena of Nature, mainly the elementary, such as, for example, the quality of "fiery,"[49] which is an attribute of Vishnu, and frequently we have set before us shapes of the most antagonistic description.

In the conception of this triform god we have the fact at once brought home to us in the clearest way that the form of Spirit is not yet able to assert itself in its Truth if for no other reason than this, that here it is not the spiritual which constitutes the truly permeating significance. That is to say, this trinity of gods would only be Spirit if the third god were an essentially concrete unity, a unity which returned upon itself from the differentiation and reduplication of its[Pg 60] substance. For God, according to the true conception of Godhead, is Spirit as this active and absolute self-differentiation and Unity, a conception which is generally what constitutes the notion of Spirit. In this Trimûrtis, however, the triune God is not by any means such a concrete totality, but merely a passage from this to that, a metamorphosis, a procreator, a destroyer, and so forth. We must be accordingly very careful not to imagine that we have discovered the highest Truth in these most primordial gropings of man's reason, and in this one note of concord which, no doubt, as mere rhythmic expression[50], contains the triune form of Deity, that is, the fundamental conception of Christian theology, believe that we already have before us a recognition of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

Starting from such fundamental conceptions as those of Brahman and Trimûrtis, Hindoo imagination expatiates still further without let in a countless number of the most varied formed Divinities. For those primary significances of universal application which are apprehended as essential Deity are of such a kind that they may be rediscovered in an infinite number of phenomena, which are again personified and symbolized as gods, and each and all combine in throwing the greatest obstacles in the way of any intelligible system by reason of the indefinite character and confusing volubility[51] of this type of imagination, which fails utterly to grasp the real nature of anything that it discovers, and merely wrests everything that it touches from its own appropriate sphere. For these gods of subordinate rank, at the head of which we may place such a Divinity as Indrus, who represents the Air and the Heavens, the chief material is furnished by the general forces of Nature, such as stars, rivers, and mountains conceived in the various phases of their activity, their change, their influence on mankind, whether beneficent or hurtful, preservative or destructive. One of the most important subjects, however, of Hindoo[Pg 61] imagination and art is the origin of gods and the rest of creation, in other words its Theogony and Cosmogony. For this type of imagination is generally rooted in the continual effort to carry over that which is most removed from sense into the very heart of the external world, or in the reverse process once more to expunge that which stands nearest to sense and Nature by means of the barest abstraction. Consequently the origin of the gods is referred back to the primordial Godhead[52], and at the same time the workings and existence of Brahmâ, Vishnu, and Sivas are represented as actual in mountains, streams, and human events. A cosmological content of this kind can, on the one hand, contain an independent and specific order of Deities, while on the other these gods are made to merge in those universal significances of the supremest type of Godhead. Such theogonies and cosmogonies are numerous and of every conceivable variety. When anyone ventures, therefore, to say that the Hindoos have thus or thus portrayed the creation of the world or the origin of Nature, such a statement can only be taken to apply to a particular sect or book; you can very easily find a perfectly different account of these events elsewhere. The imagination of this people in the pictures and images they have created is exhaustless.

A mode of conception which is conspicuous throughout the entire series of these creation stories is the constantly repeated presentation of the creative act not in the form of spiritual fiat, but of a purely natural process of generation. Only after having made ourselves thoroughly conversant with this mode of imaginative vision shall we discover the key to unlock the meaning of many representations which at first totally confound all our feelings of shame, shamelessness being here apparently driven to its furthest limits, and in its utter sensuousness carried beyond all belief. A striking example of this mode of imaginative treatment is offered us by the notoriously popular episode from the Râmâyana, known as the descent of Gangâ. This tale is narrated on the occasion when Râmas happens by chance to come to the Ganges. The wintry and ice-covered Himavân, the prince of the mountains, was father by the slender Menâ of two daughters, Gangâ, the elder, and the beautiful Umâ[Pg 62] the younger one. Certain gods, more particularly Indras, beseech the father to send them Gangâ, in order that they may institute the sacred rites, and as Himavat proves himself quite ready to accede to their request Gangâ mounts on high to the blessed gods. After this follows the further story of Umâ, who after accomplishing wonderful actions of humility and penitence, is espoused to Rudras, that is, Sivas. From this union spring up wild and unfruitful mountains. For a hundred years long Sivas lay with Umâ in the bridal embrace, without intermission, so that the gods aghast at the procreative power of Sivas, and full of anxiety for the productive child, beseech him that he will divert the stream of his strength on the Earth. This passage the English translator has not ventured to translate literally, for the reason that it flings too much for him every shred of shame or modesty to the winds. Sivas hearkens to the beseechings of the gods, and staying his former procreative ardour, that he may not utterly confound the universe, he loosens the seminal flood over the Earth. Out of this, transpierced with fire, rises up the white mountain which separates India from Tartary. Umâ, however, falls into scorn and anger at this complaisance, and thereon curses all wedlock. In this section of the tale we have what are mainly fearful and distorted pictures which run so entirely counter to our ordinary notions of imagination and intelligent senses that the most we can do is to observe what they would appear to offer in default of either. Schlegel has omitted to translate this section of the episode and merely added in his own words how Gangâ descends once more on the Earth. And this took place in the following way. A certain forebear of Râmas, Sagaras, was father of a bad son, and by a second wife he was father of no less than 60,000 sons, who came into the world in a pumpkin, were, however, raised up into stalwart men on clarified butter in pitchers[53]. Now it chanced one day that Sagaras was of a mind to sacrifice a steed, which was, however, seized from him by Vishnu in the form of a serpent. On this Sagaras sends forth his 60,000 sons. But no sooner had they come to Vishnu after great hardships and a long searching than a[Pg 63] breath of hers burns them all to ashes. After a weary waiting a certain grandson of Sagaras, by name Ansumân the Shining, son of Asamaschas, set forth to find his 60,000 uncles and the sacrificial steed. He actually comes upon both the steed Siwas and the heap of ashes. The king of birds, Garudas, however, notifies to him the fact that unless the stream of the holy Gangâ flows down from heaven over the heap of ashes his relations will be unable to return to life. Whereupon the stalwart Ansumân endures for 32,000 years on the mountain-top of Himavân the sternest mortifications. All in vain. Neither his own chastisements nor those of yet another 30,000 years of his son Dwilipas are of the slightest avail. At last the son of Dwilipas, the glorious Bhagîrathas, succeeds in accomplishing the feat, but only after mortifications which last 1,000 years. Then the Gangâ plunges down; but in order that the Earth may not thereby shiver in pieces, Siwas now bows his head so that the water runs into his mane. Thereupon yet further mortifications are enjoined upon Bhagîrathas, in order that Gangâ may be free to stream forth from these locks. Finally she is poured forth in six streams; the seventh Bhagîrathas conducts after mighty privations to the place of the 60,000, who mount up to heaven, and therewith Bhagîrathas rules for yet many a year over his people in peace.

Other theogonies such as the Scandinavian and the Greek are very similar in type to the Hindoo. The principal feature of them all is this of physical generation and production; but not one of them plunges so headlong into the subject or in general displays such caprice and impropriety in the images of its invention as the Hindoo. The theogony of Hesiod is in particular far more intelligible and succinct, so that at least one knows where one is, and is clear as to the general significance; and this is so because the impression is far more pronounced that the form and external embodiment of the myth is set forth by the narrator as something external. The mythos starts in this case[54] with Chaos, Erebos, Eros, and Gaia. The Earth (Gaia) brings forth Uranos of her own accord, and then is mother by him of the mountains, sea, and so forth, also of Cronos and the[Pg 64] Cyclops, Centimani[55], whom Uranos, however, shortly after birth incarcerates in Tartaros. Gaia thereupon induces Cronos to castrate Uranos. The deed is accomplished. And from the blood that falls on the Earth spring to life the Erinnyes and the Giants. The castrated member is caught by the sea, and from the sea's foam arises Cytherea. In all this description the outlines are more clearly and decisively drawn. And we are thereby carried beyond the circle of mere gods of Nature.

3. If we endeavour now to seize some point where the transition is emphasized to the stage of real symbolism, we shall find the same already in the first beginnings of Hindoo imagination. That is to say, however preoccupied the Hindoo imagination may be in its efforts to contort the sensuous phenomenon into a plurality of Divinities, a preoccupation which no other people has displayed with anything like the same exhaustless scope and countless transformations, yet from another point of view in many of its visions and narratives it remains throughout constant to that spiritual abstraction of a God supreme over all, in contrast with whom the particular, sensuous, and phenomenal is undivine, inadequate, and consequently is apprehended as something negative, something which has finally to be cancelled. For, as we have from the first noticed, it is precisely this continual involution of one side on the other which constitutes the fundamental type of the Hindoo imagination, and makes it for ever incapable of finding a true principle of reconciliation. The art is consequently never tired of representing, in every imaginable way, the surrender of the sensuous and the power of spiritual abstraction and self-absorption. Of this kind are the representations of toilsome mortifications and profound meditations, of which not merely the most ancient epical poems, such as the "Râmâyana" and the "Mahâbhârata," but also many other works of art furnish most important examples. No doubt many of these self-chastisements are undergone on grounds of ambition, or at least with a view to definite objects, which do conduct the devotee to the highest and most final union with Brahman, and to the mortification of[Pg 65] everything carnal and finite. An object of this kind is the endeavour to secure the power of a Brahmin; but even in this there is always the fact present to consciousness that the expiation and the continuance of a meditation that is ever more and more diverted from the objects of sense will raise the devotee over his birth-place in a particular caste, no less than help him resist the power of Nature and the gods of Nature. For this reason, that prince of Divinities of this class, Indras, opposes most signally strenuous aspirants, and strives to entice them away; or, in the case where all his seductions fail, he invokes assistance from the supreme gods lest the entire heaven fall into confusion.

In the representation of mortifications of this kind and the several kinds and grades according to which they are ranked, Hindoo art is almost as fertile in its invention as in its system of Divinities, and it pursues the theme with the most thorough earnestness.

This, then, is the point from which we may now extend our survey in a forward direction.


In the case of symbolical, no less than that of Fine Art, it is necessary that the significance which it seeks to embody should not merely be set forth, as is the case in Hindoo art, from the first immediate unity of the same with its objective existence, such as obtains before any severation or distinction has as yet been emphasized, but that this significance should itself be independent and free from the immediate sensuous content. This deliverance can only so far assert itself as the sensuous and natural medium is both grasped and envisaged as itself essentially negative, as that which has to be and has been absorbed. It is a further requirement, moreover, that the negativity, which is successful in making its appearance as the passing off and the self-dissolution of the Natural, should be accepted and receive embodiment as the absolute import of the object generally, as a phase, that is to say, of the Divine. But with a fulfilment of such claims we are already beyond the limits of Hindoo art. It is true that the consciousness of this[Pg 66] negative side is not wholly absent from the Hindoo imagination. Sivas is the destroyer no less than the producer. Indras dies, nay, more, the Destroyer Time, personified as Kâla the terrible giant, confounds the entire universe and all gods, even Trimûrtis, who passes away at the same time in Brahman, just as the individual in his self-identification with the highest form of Divinity suffers his Ego and all his wisdom and will to vanish away. In these conceptions, however, the negative element is in part merely a transformation and change, in part only an abstraction, which allows all definition to drop away, in order that it may thrust its path to an indefinite and consequently vacuous and content-less universality. The substance of the Divine on the other hand persists through change of form, passage over and advance to a system of many Deities, and the abrogation of that system once more in the one highest form of God unalterably one and the same. It is not that conception of the one God, which itself essentially possesses, as this unity, the negative aspect as its own determination, both necessary and appropriate to its own essential notion. In an analogous way the destructive and hurtful element is placed according to the Parsee view of existence outside the personality of Ormuzd in Ahriman, and consequently only makes a contradiction and conflict manifest belonging under no form of relation to Ormuzd, as a distinct phase of his own substance.

The actual point in the advance which we have now to make consists, therefore, in this that, on the one hand, the negative aspect, fixed by consciousness in an independent relation as the Absolute, is, however, on the other, merely regarded as a phase of the Divine, as a phase, however, which is not only as outside the true Absolute incidental to another Godhead[56], but is to be so ascribed to the Absolute, that the true God appears as a process in which He negates Himself, and thereby contains this[Pg 67] negative element as an inherent self-determination of His own substance.

Through this enlarged conception the Absolute is for the first time essentially concrete, that is self-determination, and thereby essential unity, whose particular antitheses, as parts of a process, appear to consciousness as the different determinations of one and the same God. For the necessity of giving essential definition to the absolute significance is just that which at this stage it is felt to be of first importance to satisfy. All the significances up to this point persisted by virtue of their abstract character as absolutely undefined and consequently void of content, or were merged, when in a converse direction they tended to clear distinction, immediately in the Being of Nature, or fell into a conflict in respect to their configuration which gave them no repose and reconciliation. This twofold defect we have now to remove, both by showing the advance of Thought regarded as itself an ideal process, and by illustrating that advance by means of particular facts of the mind and institutions of nations on the objective plane of history.

And in the first place we may observe a more intimate bond of association is set up between the Inward and Outward aspect of consciousness in the increased recognition that every determination of the Absolute is already essentially an inchoate movement in the direction of expression. For every determination is essentially distinction[57]. The External, however, is as such always defined and distinct, and consequently there is thus an aspect immediately presented, according to which the External is manifested in a form more adequate to the significance than was possible under the modes of conception as yet examined. The first definition, however, and essential negation of the Absolute inevitably falls short of the free self-determination of Spirit as Spirit. It is merely the immediate negation of itself. This immediate and consequently natural negation in its most comprehensive form of statement is Death. The Absolute is consequently apprehended now in a way that it is compelled to submit itself to this form of negation as a part of[Pg 68] the essential determination of its own notion, in other words it is obliged to enter the path of extinction, and we observe consequently the glorification of Death and grief in the first instance made present to the national consciousness as the death of the dying sensuous material. The death of Nature is cognized as a necessary part[58] of the life of the Absolute. The Absolute, however, on the one hand, in order to be subject to this phase of Death, must be posited already as determinate existence; and, equally from another point of view, must not be suffered to remain in the annihilation of Death, but must be held to re-establish itself in an essentially positive unity on a yet higher plane of existence. Death is consequently not accepted here as constituting the entire significance, but merely one aspect of the same. And though no doubt the Absolute is in one sense viewed as a cessation of its immediate existence, a passage over and beyond and a passing away, yet it is quite as much in the reverse sense conceived as a return upon itself, as a resurrection, as an eternal process of Divine realization rendered possible by virtue of this evolutional principle of negation. For Death is capable of a twofold meaning. Under the first it is the immediate passing away of the natural; under the second Death is the extinction of the exclusively natural and thereby the birth of a higher type, that is, spiritual, from which the merely natural falls away in the sense, that Spirit possesses in itself this phase as an essential phase of its own substance.

For this reason, secondly, the form of Nature can no longer be accepted in the immediacy of sensuous existence as adequate to the significance referred to it, because the significance of the External consists just in this, that it must die in the form of its real existence and rise again.

On the same ground, thirdly, the mere conflict between significance and form and that ferment of the imagination, which was the fantastic product of Hindoo conceptions, drop away. The significance is, it is true, even now not yet fully and with absolute clarity cognized in its pure unity free from all sense-presented reality, so that it could be set forth in real contrast with the form of its actual embodiment; conversely, however, the form itself, this particular, object,[Pg 69] that is, whether in its glorified shape of grandiosity or in any other more conspicuous form of caricature, as an image of animal life, a human personification, event or action, is not taken to envisage for immediate sense an adequate existence of the Absolute. This corrupt form of identity is already surpassed as fully to the extent that it still falls behind that other complete deliverance. And in the place of both of these extremes we have asserted that kind of representation, which we have above already described as the real symbolical. On the one hand it is now able to appear for the reason that the Inward, or that which is conceived as significance, is no longer something which merely, as in Hindoo conceptions, comes and passes away, at one moment is absorbed immediately in externality, at another is withdrawn from the same into the solitude of abstraction, but it begins to make itself independently secure against the mere reality of Nature. And on the other hand the symbol is now forced to seek some form of plastic shape. That is to say, although the significance, identical in every way with that which has hitherto obtained, possesses as a phasal condition of its content the negation of the Natural, yet the true Inward now for the first time shows a definite tendency to wrest its way from that Natural, and is consequently itself still swallowed up within the external mode of appearance, so that it is unable independently to be brought home to consciousness in its clear universality without having previously had to comply with the form of external reality.

Now the kind of configuration which is implied by the notion of that which generally constitutes the fundamental significance in symbolism, may be described in the following terms, namely, we find in it that the definite forms of Nature, human activities and so forth, neither—to express one aspect of it—represent or signify merely themselves severally in their isolated natural characteristics, nor—to emphasize the other aspect—bring their immediate form to consciousness as the Divine actually visible to sense. They are rather employed to suggest that same Divine through qualities which they possess cognate with a significance of more comprehensive range. For this reason it is just that universal dialectic of Life, its origin, growth, collapse in and[Pg 70] awakening from Death, which also in this connection supplies the appropriate content for the true symbolic type; and this is so because we find in almost every province of natural and spiritual life certain phenomena, which presuppose this process as the basis of their existence, and consequently can be utilized as means of giving a visible body to such significant aspects and of pointing by suggestion to the same, a real affinity being actually inherent between the two sides. Thus plants spring from their seed, sprout, grow, bring forth fruit; the fruit corrupts and produces fresh seed. In the same way the sun rises to a low elevation in winter; in Spring he mounts on high, until we have his meridian reached in summer; it is then that he pours forth his richest blessing or exerts the greatest destructive force; after that he inclines once more towards the horizon. The various stages of human life, too, childhood, youth, maturity, and old age, illustrate precisely the same universal process. But in a special sense specific localities such as the Nile-valley are adapted to the closer particularization in the direction indicated.

In so far, then, as that which is purely fantastic is displaced by these more fundamental traits of affinity and the more intimate applicability of the expression to the import it expresses there arises a thoughtful process of selection with reference to the comparative congruity or incongruity of the symbolizing forms, and the intoxicated eddy to and fro which prevailed is laid to rest in a more intelligent circumspection.

We consequently observe that a union more at one with itself reappears in the place of that which we found in the first stage of our process, subject, however, to this characteristic difference, that the identity of the significance with its objectively real existence is no longer one immediately envisaged, but one that is set up out of the difference and consequently not one previously discovered, rather we should say a mode of union that is the product of mind (Spirit). That which, in its most general terms, we call the Inward begins at this point to assume the solidity of self-subsistence, to be conscious of itself; it seeks for its counterfeit in the objects of Nature, which on their part possess a similar reflection in the life and destinies of Spirit. Out of[Pg 71] this eager movement to recognize the one side in the other, and by means of the external to bring for itself visibly to sense and the imaginative faculty the significance, as also to envisage by virtue of that Inward the significance of the external shapes through a union in which both sides are associated, we get that vast impulse of art which finds its satisfaction through means which are purely symbolical. Only when the Inward is free and is driven forward to make clear to the imaginative vision in real form what it essentially is, and to have before itself this very vision, moreover, in the form of an external work, do we find that the genuine impulse of art, and the particularly plastic arts, begins to be a living fact. Then it is that the necessity is felt to clothe the Inward with a form not merely previously discovered from the resources of spiritual activity, but rather one that is minted out of spirit (mind) for the first time. In the symbol, then, there is a second form created, which, however, is not independently valid for itself as its main purpose, but is rather employed to envisage the significance, and stands consequently in a dependent relation to the same.

It were possible to apprehend the above relation in such a way as though the significance were that point from which the artistic consciousness starts on its journey, and that only after having found this it begins to look round for means to express its universal conceptions through external phenomena cognate in their affinity to such conceptions. This, however, is not the way that real symbolic art proceeds. For its characteristic distinction consists in this, that its penetration fails as yet to grasp the significances in their independent consistency, independent, that is, from every mode of externality. For this reason its point of departure is rather from that which is immediately presented and its concrete existence in Nature and Spirit. This it thereupon, in the first instance, expands to the measure of the universality of such significances, whose determination such objective real existence contains only under more restricted conditions, adding this wider range in order that it may create a form from Spirit, which is to make that universality visible to consciousness in this particular reality when once it is set forth clearly before perception. Regarded[Pg 72] as symbolical forms, therefore, the images of art have not as yet attained a form truly adequate to Spirit, inasmuch as Spirit itself is not as yet at this stage essentially clear and thereby free Spirit; but we have at least here embodiments, which essentially proclaim the fact to us, that they are not merely selected to represent simply themselves, but are intended to point to significances of profounder intension and more—comprehensive range. That which is purely natural and sensuous asserts itself as fact and nothing beside; the symbolical work of art, however, whether it be the phenomena of Nature or the human figure that it makes visible to the eye, points at the same time over and outside such facts to something further, which, however, must possess an intimate root of affinity with the images that are thus displayed, and an essential bond of relation with them. This association between the concrete form and its universal significance may conceivably be present in many different ways. At one time the emphasis will be laid on the external aspect, and it will consequently be more obscure; at another, however, the basis of affinity will be more pronounced as in the case when the universality, which is to be symbolized, constitutes, in fact, the essential content of the concrete phenomenon. In this case naturally it is a much simpler matter to grasp the symbolic character of the object.

The most abstract mode of expression in this respect is number, which, however, it is only possible to use as an indication of a further meaning beyond that it ordinarily elucidates when this significance is itself, essentially numerical. The numbers seven and twelve are frequently met with in Egyptian architecture, because seven is the number of the planets, and twelve is that of the lunar revolutions or the number of feet that the water of the Nile must necessarily rise in order to fructify the land. Such a number is then regarded as sacred in so far as it is present as a determinant in the great elementary relations, which are revered as forces in the whole life of Nature. Twelve steps or seven pillars are to this extent symbolical. The same kind of numerical symbolism has an extensive influence upon the form of widely famous mythologies. The twelve labours of Hercules, for example, appear to contain a reference[Pg 73] to the twelve months of the year; for if Hercules under one aspect of the myth is no doubt presented to us as the thoroughly human impersonation of a hero, in another he unquestionably indicates a significance of Nature under a symbolized form, and, in fact, is a personification of the course of the sun.

In a further and more complete sense symbolical configurations of space, labyrinthine passages, and such like carry a symbolical image of the course of the planets, just as dances, too, in virtue of their complex evolutions symbolically express the motion of the great elementary bodies.

And further, on a higher plane, the bodies of animals are utilized as symbols, but most succinctly of all the human figure, which, even at this stage, as we shall see later on, appears to be elaborated in modes more compatible with its intrinsic worth for the reason that even now Spirit in general makes a real movement to embody itself from out the mere swaddling clothes of Nature in a shape more adequate to its own self-subsistent personality. Such, then, constitutes our general concept of the true form of symbolism and the necessity under which art labours to express the same. And in order that we may discuss the more concrete exemplifications of this type of symbolism, it will be necessary in dealing with this first plunge of Spirit into the wealth of its own resources to leave the East and direct our attention mainly on the West.

As a symbol of universal import to indicate the point of view where we now stand, we may perhaps first and foremost fix before our eyes the image of the Phoenix, which is its own funeral pile, yet ever is rejuvenated out of the flames of its death and rises from the ashes. Herodotus informs us (II, 73) that at least in representations he saw this bird in Egypt, and, in fact, it is the Egyptian people who also supply us with a focus for the type of symbolical art. Before, however, we proceed to the closer consideration of Egyptian art we will mention several other myths, which form, as it were, the passage to that national symbolism which we find most elaborate, no matter from what direction we approach it. Such are the myths of Adonis, that of his death, and the lament of Aphrodite over him, the funeral[Pg 74] festivals, etc., conceptions and rites which find their original home on the Syrian coast. The service of Cybele among the Phrygians possesses the same significance, which also finds its echo in the myths of Castor and Pollux, Ceres and Proserpina.

As the essence of such significance we find in the above quoted examples, before everything else, that phasal condition of negation we have already alluded to, the death, that is, of the natural regarded as a basic and absolute condition of the Divine process, emphasized as such, and made visible in its independence. It is in this sense that we can explain the funeral festivals that celebrate the death of the god, the excessive lamentations over his loss, which is once more made good through his rediscovery, resurrection, and rejuvenescence, making it possible for the festivals of joy to follow. This universal significance contains further its more definite relation to Nature. In winter the sun loses his force, while in spring he returns once more, and with that Nature regains her youth, she dies and is reborn. In examples such as these the Divine, personified as a human event, discovers its significance in the life of Nature, which then from a further point of view becomes a symbol for the essential character of the negative condition generally, in spiritual things no less than natural.

It is in Egypt, however, that we have to look for the perfect example of symbolical representation in its systematic elaboration of characteristic content and form. Egypt is the land of symbol, which proposes to itself the spiritual problem of the self-interpretation of Spirit, without being able successfully to solve it. The problems remain without an answer; and such solution as we are able to supply consists therefore merely in this, that we grasp these riddles of Egyptian art and its symbolical productions as this very problem which Egypt propounds for herself but is unable to solve. For the reason that we find that Spirit here still endeavours in the external objects of sense, from which again it strains to free itself, and further labours with unwearied assiduity, to evolve from itself its essential substance by means of natural phenomena no less than to embody the same in the form of spirit for the vision of the senses,[Pg 75] rather than as the pure content of mind, this Egyptian people may, in contrast to all the instances previously examined, be described as the nation Art claims for herself[59]. Its works of art, however, remain full of mystery and silence, without music or motion; and this is so because Spirit here has not yet truly found its own life, nor has learned how to utter the clear and luminous speech of mind. In the unsatisfied stress and impulse, to bring before the vision through her art, albeit in so voiceless a way, this wrestle of herself with herself, to give shape to the Inward of her life, but only to become conscious of her own Inward, no less than that which universally prevails[60], through external forms which are cognate with it—we have in a sentence the characterization of Egypt. The people of this wonderful land was not merely agricultural, but also constructive, a folk which tossed up the soil in every direction, delved lakes and canals, and exercised their artistic instincts not merely in giving visible shape to buildings of enormous solidity, but in carrying works themselves of vast dimension to a like extent into the bowels of the earth. To erect buildings of this kind was, as we have long ago learned from Herodotus, a principal occupation of this people, and one of the chief exploits of their kings. The buildings of the Hindoo race are also unquestionably of colossal size; we shall, however, find nowhere else a variety which can compare with that of Egypt.

1. Reviewing now the general conceptions of Egyptian art with a closer attention to particular aspects of it, we may in the first place define the fundamental principle of so much of it as follows, that we find here the Inward is securely held in its independent opposition to the immediacy of external existence. And what is more, this Inward is conceived as the negation of Life, in other words the dead thing, not as the abstract negation of the evil and hurtful thing, such as Ahriman in contrast to Ormuzd, but as form essentially substantive.

[Pg 76]

(a) To illustrate this thought further, the Hindoo merely subtilizes his life to the most empty of abstractions, that is in result one that therewith negates every form of concrete content. Such a Brahm-becoming process is not to be found in Egypt; rather we find here that the invisible possesses a fuller significance; the corpse secures the content of the living body itself, which, however, as torn away from immediate existence, in its retirement from actual life[61], still possesses its relation to that which is alive, and in this concrete form is maintained as self-subsistent. It is a well-known fact that the Egyptians embalmed and revered cats, dogs, hawks, ichneumons, bears, and wolves (Herod., II, 67), but most of all the dead human body (Herod., II, 86-90). By them the honour paid to the dead is not that of burial, but its preservation from age to age as a corpse.

(b) And moreover we may observe that the Egyptians do not merely remain constant to this immediate and still wholly natural permanency of the dead. That which is preserved in its physical or natural aspect is also conceived to endure in a form present to the imagination. Herodotus informs us that the Egyptians were the first who held the doctrine that the human soul is immortal. We consequently find that they are the first who present to us a more exalted mode of this resolution of the natural and spiritual, a mode that is to say, under which it is not merely the natural body which secures an independent self-subsistence.

The immortality of the soul is a conception which borders closely upon the freedom of Spirit. The Ego is here apprehended as removed from the purely natural mode of its existence, reposing on its own substance. This knowledge of itself, however, is the principle of freedom. No doubt we are not justified in asserting that the Egyptians grasped the notion of spiritual freedom in its profoundest sense. We must not imagine that their belief in the immortality of the soul is identical with our own form of that belief; but they already possessed the power to retain securely that which was separated from Life under a form[Pg 77] of existence visible only to the imagination, no less than one in which it was identical with the bodily material. They have thereby made possible the passage to the full emancipation of Spirit, albeit it was but the threshold of the temple of freedom that they passed over. This fundamental conception of theirs is further expanded to a unified and substantial Kingdom of the Departed set up in contrast to the immediate presence of the real. A Court of Justice of the Dead is held in this invisible state over which Osiris as Amenthes presides. One of similar character is also instituted in the sphere of immediate reality, justice being executed even among men over the dead, and after the decease of a king every one was entitled to submit his grievances to that court.

(c) If we now proceed to inquire what is the symbolical form of art, which is given to such conceptions, we must look for this among the characteristic features of Egyptian architecture. The form of this architecture is twofold; there is one type that is superterraneous, while the other is subterraneous.

On the one hand we find underground labyrinths, gorgeous and extensive excavations, passages half a mile in length, dwellings covered with hieroglyphics elaborated with every possible care. On the other we have piled above their level those amazing constructions among which we may first and foremost reckon the pyramids. For centuries men have ventilated various notions as to the precise meaning and significance of these pyramids. It is now, however, assured beyond dispute that they are nothing more or less than the enclosures of the graves of kings or sacred animals, such as the Apis, the Cat, or the Ibis. In this way we have before our eyes in the pyramids the simple prototype of symbolical art. They are enormous crystals which secrete an Inward within them; and they so enclose an external form which is the product of art, that we are at the same time made aware they stand there for this very Inward in its severation from the mere actuality of Nature, and that their entire significance depends on that relation. But this kingdom of Death and the Invisible, which here constitutes the significance, possesses merely the one and, what is more, the formal aspect appropriate to the true type[Pg 78] of art, that is its dissociation from immediate existence; it is for this reason primarily but a Hades, not yet a Life, which, although raised above sensuous existence as such, is none the less at the same time essentially a defined existence, and thereby intrinsically free and living Spirit. Consequently the embodiment for such an Inward still remains in relation to the determinacy of the same's content quite as much a wholly external form and envelopment. Such an external environment, in which an Inward reposes under a veil, are the pyramids.

2. In so far, then, as the Inward can be generally envisaged as an external object to immediate perception, the Egyptians in their relation to the aspect opposed to this externality have come to worship a Divine existence in living animals, such as the bull, the cat, and various others. That which is alive is on a higher plane than the purely inorganic object, inasmuch as the living organism possesses an Inward, to which the external shape points, which, however, persists as an Inward and consequently a realm of mystery. This sacred cult of animals must consequently be understood as the vision of a secreted soul[62], which as Life is a power superior to that which is merely external. To us no doubt it can only appear as a repugnant fact that animals, dogs and cats, are held sacred instead of that which is truly spiritual.

This worship, moreover, has nothing symbolical in it viewed simply as such; for it is the actual living animal, Apis or the like, which is here itself revered as the existence of God. The Egyptians, however, have used the shapes of animals in a symbolical way. In that case they are no longer valid, simply for what they are, but it is further assumed that they express a more universal import. We find the most ingenuous illustration of this in the use of animal masks, which we find more particularly under representations of embalming, at which process certain individuals, who take an active part, either in opening the corpse or removing the intestines, are depicted wearing such masks. It is obvious that the animal's head is not taken to present the animal itself, but a significance at the same time distinct from it[Pg 79] and more universal. The forms of animals are also utilized in other ways than this in admixture with the human form. Human figures are to be found with heads of lions, which have been interpreted as images of Minerva; then there are heads of the hawk, and in the heads of Ammon we find the horns still retained. Examples such as the above obviously imply symbolical relations. In a like sense the hieroglyphical writing of the Egyptians is in great measure symbolical, for it either endeavours to make its meaning comprehensible through the images of real objects which do not stand for themselves, but a universality which is cognate with them, or, as is still more frequently the case, in the so-called phonetic aspect of this style of writing, it signifies particular letters by means of the specific mark of some external object, whose initial letter possesses in speech the same tone as that which it is the intention to express.

3. And generally it is the fact that in Egypt pretty nearly every conformation is symbolical and hieroglyphical, expressing not itself but indicative of something more, with which it possesses affinity, or in other words a cognate relation. The truest forms of the symbol, however, are only completely illustrated in such cases where we find that this relation is of a more profound and fundamental character than those we have just adverted to. We will now briefly enumerate a few constantly recurring examples of this more important type of affiliation.

(a) Precisely as Egyptian belief[63] surmises a mysterious Inwardness of content in the animal form, we find the human figure represented in such a way that the most characteristic intension[64] of subjectivity is still asserted through an external relation, and consequently is unable to unfold into the freedom of Beauty. Particularly remarkable in this respect are those colossal figures of Memnon which, reposing on themselves, motionless, with arms glued to the body, feet close together, inflexible, stiff and lifeless, are set up face to face with the sun, waiting for his ray to strike them,[Pg 80] animate them, and make them resonant. Herodotus, at any rate, informs us that these Memnonic figures emitted a musical note on the sun's rising. The higher criticism has no doubt expressed itself as sceptical on the latter point; the fact, however, of a distinct note has recently been once more established both by Frenchmen and Englishmen; and though it appears that this echo is no result of previous mechanical ingenuity, we have an explanation of it in the fact that, as sometimes happens with minerals which make a crackling noise in water, the tone of these images of stone is actually produced by the collective action of the dew, the morning cool, and the subsequent impact of the sun's rays, to the extent, that is, that tiny fractures appear in the stone which then again disappear. In any case we may attribute to these colossal shapes the symbolical import, that they do not possess the spiritual principle of Life free in themselves, and consequently require that their animation should be brought to them externally by Light, which alone is able to unbar the music of their life, instead of having the power to accept the same from that real soul of Inwardness, which essentially carries with it measure and beauty. In contrast to them the human voice is the echo of personal feeling and the soul's self, without any external stimulant, just as the height of human art generally consists in the fact that the Inward of Spirit supplies the form thereof from its own substance. The Inward or soul of the human form is in Egypt still a mute, and in its animation it is the relation to external nature which alone commands attention.

(b) A further type of symbolical conception is to be found in Isis and Osiris. Osiris is an object of procreation and birth, and is done to death by Typhon. Isis seeks for the scattered members, finds, collects, and buries them. This mythos of the god has, then, in the first place as its content purely natural significance. From one point of view, that is to say, Osiris is the sun, and his life-history stands as symbolic for his yearly course; from another, however, he signifies the rise and fall of the Nile, which is necessarily the source of all fruitfulness in Egypt. For in Egypt there may not be a drop of rain for years together, and it is the Nile which primarily waters the land by its floods. In winter time it flows but a shallow stream within its bed; then,[Pg 81] however, with the summer-solstice ("Herod.," II, 19) it begins for a hundred days to rise, pours over its banks and streams far and wide over the land. Finally the water dries up beneath the sun's heat and the scorching desert winds, and once more retires to its course. Under such conditions the tillage of the soil is carried out with ease; the most luxurious vegetation springs up. Everything buds and ripens. The sun and Nile, and the way both of them become weak or strong, these are the conspicuous forces of Nature in this land, which the Egyptian has symbolically depicted under a human form in the myths of Isis and Osiris. To this type of symbolism, too, belongs the symbolical representation of the zodiac, which is associated with the year's course, just as the number of the twelve gods is bound up with the months. Conversely, however, Osiris typifies under another aspect the entirely human. He is held sacred as the founder of agriculture, of the division of the soil, property and laws, and his worship is consequently to an equal extent related to human activities, which are connected in the closest manner with ethical and judicial functions.

In the same way he is judge of the Dead, and secures as such a significance wholly released from the mere life of Nature, an import under which the symbolical tends to pass away for the reason that here the Inward and Spiritual is of itself content of the human form, which, under such a mode of relation, begins to conserve the Inward essentially belonging to it, one, that is, which through its external form signifies merely its own substance. This spiritual process, however, assumes again in equal measure as its content the external life of Nature, and, for example, in temples, number of steps, floors, and pillars, in labyrinths and their passages, windings and chambers, represents the same in an external manner. Osiris is thus quite as much the natural as he is the spiritual life in the different phases of his process[65] and its transformations; and his symbolical embodiments are partly symbolic of the elements of Nature; while again in part these changes of Nature are themselves merely symbols of spiritual activities and their various phases. For this reason, too, the human form persists here as no mere personification, such as we found to be the-case previously,[Pg 82] because here the natural aspect, albeit from one point of view it appears as the real significance, yet from another is itself merely asserted as a symbol of the Spirit; and, generally speaking, at this stage of conception, where we find that the Inward struggles to come forth from the sense-vision of Nature, it is in a position of subordinance.

For the same reason we find here that the human figure already receives an entirely different type of elaboration, attesting thereby a real effort to penetrate the arcana of true Inwardness and Spirit, though this endeavour also fails as yet to attain its object, that is, the essential freedom of the Spiritual. And it is by reason of this very defect that the human figure remains before us with neither freedom nor serene clarity, colossal, brooding, petrified, legs, arms, and head glued straitened and tight to the rest of the body, without the grace or motion of Life. Thus it is that art is first ascribed to Daedalus, in that he loosed arms and feet from their fetters, and endowed the body with movement.

On account of this alternative aspect of symbolism above referred to symbolism in Egypt is, in addition to its other characteristics, a totality of symbols in the sense that what in one respect is asserted as significance is employed as symbol in a sphere cognate with it. This ambiguous association of a symbolism which makes significance and form intertwine, which is further actually typical or suggestive of much, and thereby is already concurrent with that inward subjective sense, which alone is capable of following such indications in a variety of directions[66], is the characteristic distinction of these images, albeit by reason of this ambiguity the difficulty of interpreting them is of course increased.

A significance of this type—attempts at deciphering which are unquestionably nowadays carried too far for the reason that pretty nearly every kind of form is virtually set before us as symbolical in some relation—may very possibly from the point of view of the Egyptians themselves have been clear and intelligible as significance. But, as we insisted at the very entrance of our inquiry, the appropriate motto for the interpretation of Egyptian symbolism is[Pg 83] implicite multum nihil explicite. There is a type of workmanship undertaken with the express endeavour that it shall carry its own interpretation on the forehead, but we only find there evidence of the effort; it stops short of the essential point of self-illumination. It is in this sense that we must fix our eyes on the works of Egyptian art. They contain riddles, the full solution of which is not merely withheld from ourselves, but was equally beyond the reach of the great majority of the artists who created them.

(c) The works of Egyptian art in their excessively mysterious symbolism are therefore riddles, let us rather say the objective riddle's self. And we may summarily define the Sphinx as symbol of the real significance of the genius of Egypt. It stands as a symbol for symbolism itself. In countless numbers, set forth in rows of a hundred at a time, we come across these Sphinx-forms on Egyptian soil; they are hewn from the hardest stone, polished, covered with hieroglyphics, and in the vicinity of Cairo of such colossal dimensions that their lion-claws alone measure a man's height. Their animal bodies lie in repose, above which as bust a human body rears itself; now and again we find the head of a ram, but in the most common case it is that of a woman. Out of the obtuse strength and robustness of animality the spirit of man is fain to press forward, albeit still unable to attain the perfect representation of his own freedom, or a counterfeit of his body in motion; and this is inevitable, for he is still forced to remain blended in the company of that Other which confronts himself. This straining after self-conscious spirituality, which fails to grasp itself from the truth of its own substance in a form of external reality which is alone adequate to express it, and instead envisages and brings the same home to consciousness in that which is merely cognate with it, but also that which is equally foreign to it, is, in its general terms, the symbolical; and we find it here concentrated to a point as the riddle.

It is in this sense that the Sphinx in the Greek mythos, which itself again is open to symbolic interpretation, appears as the monster which propounds its riddle. The sphinx asked here the famous and problematical question: "Who is it, who walks in the morning on four legs, at noon upon two legs, and in the evening on three?" Oedipus discovered[Pg 84] the simple answer that it was man himself, and hurled the sphinx from the rocks. The resolution of the symbol consists in the illumination of all that is implied in the significance of one word, Spirit, just as the famous Greek inscription cries out to mankind: "Know thyself." The light of consciousness is that clarity, which suffers its concrete content to shine all luminous through the form which is wholly adapted to unfold it, and in its positive form of existence simply reveals that which it is in truth.

[37] Bedeutung.

[38] What Hegel means is that calling an aspect of sense bodily or natural itself implies a distinction from that which is spiritual, or only cognized by mind, and this distinction is not present to the earliest human cognition of Divine reality.

[39] Das Lichtreine.

[40] Except in the conceptions of the Hebrew prophets this is only true subject to qualification even of the God of Israel. For he was evidently associated with the thunder, to take but one case—the deliverance of the tables of stone on Sinai.

[41] Phantasie may often be translated by the word imagination, but here the element of caprice and dependence on sensuous image rather than creative impulse directed by a principle of selection is to be emphasized.

[42] Ein Taumel, i.e., the dance as of intoxication.

[43] This is obviously a difficult passage to follow. The main thing to remember is that Hegel is here describing the movement of a dialectical process, that is the purely objective, rather than the point of view of personal or even national experience. Such vivid expressions as Taumel and schamlos hineinrücken remind one of the Platonic dialectic.

[44] Hegel's editor has Brahman here, but according to a passage lower down (p. 59) it should rather be Brahmâ.

[45] Hinaufschrauben, lit., a screwing up to—a screwing that in fact crews the head off.

[46] Verdumpfens. Either Hegel wrote Verdummens, or more probably Verdampfens. The idea of "becoming mouldy" makes no sense.

[47] This I think is the sense, though Hegel expresses it by using words such as das Personificieren und Vermenschlichen, and lower down das Subjektiviren. But previously he has rather contrasted that false kind of personification which seeks for the significant in the expression of the subject, his deeds and acts, rather than in grasping the motive centre of personality, the subjective principle itself, and it appears more intelligible in a passage, which is sufficiently hard to follow in any ease, to preserve that contrast.

[48] There is apparently only one ring and sceptre, but the words used are capable of the interpretation that would attach one for each of the hands.

[49] Hegel cites Wilson's Lexicon, s.v. 2.

[50] Dem Rhythmus nach, that is, the Hindoo conception is entirely superficial, and expresses rather a rhythmic order than a profound spiritual truth which this number expresses, a truth which as Hegel has previously observed may be expressed under other determinations than the numerical.

[51] Unstätigkeit, instability, flightiness, detachment from a fundamental principle.

[52] That is Brahmâ apparently.

[53] The order of the words would strictly mean that the sons were in the pitchers and it is quite possible that this is the meaning.

[54] That is, in Greek cosmogony.

[55] What: Centimanen refers to I do not know, possibly a name for Arges, Ceropes, and Brontes.

[56] The sense is "which is not merely (to take the obvious case of opposition which is, however, not the one here described) totally outside the Absolute and incidental to," etc. Hegel's words would admit of the interpretation that this was part of the conception he is describing. But this is obviously not so, for, in that case, the negative would be ascribed to both the Absolute and the "other God."

[57] Ist Unterscheiden, is that which involves differentiation. To posit a quality is to distinguish from other qualities. A fundamental, aspect of Hegelian logic.

[58] Glied, part of one organic totality.

[59] Hegel uses an expression somewhat similar to Milton's "Among the faithless faithful only he." Den Bisherigen refers primarily, of course, to the Persian and Hindoo peoples.

[60] Wie des Innern überhaupt, i.e., the Inward with its significance as the Absolute.

[61] In seiner Abgeschiedenheit vom Leben. In other words the corpse was preserved as still the only appropriate external form of Life. Though Hegel separates the two aspects of Egyptian belief they were necessary concomitants of each other.

[62] I have translated Innerem here by "soul," but it expresses of course too much if taken strictly in its most personal sense.

[63] Aberglaube, not "superstition" so much as belief that is intuitive, not rationally deduced. The emphasis is on ahnt.

[64] Hegel puts it in the rather obscure and contradictory way that the human figure is represented as "still having the most unique form of subjective intensity (Das eigenste Innre der Subjectivität) outside it."

[65] That is, the mythological history of the God.

[66] Lit., "Which alone is able to apply itself (that is, to the work of interpretation) in a variety of directions."

[Pg 85]



The perspicuity that has no riddles to expound, which is the object of symbolic art and veritably the mark of Spirit self-clothed to the perfect measure of its own substance, can only be attained on condition that first and foremost the significance be presented to consciousness distinct and separate from all the phenomena of external existence. To the union of both immediately envisaged we have traced the absence of art among the ancient Parsees. The contradiction involved in their severation, followed by the association which it then stimulated under the mode of immediacy, was the source of the fantastic type of Hindoo symbolism. Finally, we have seen that in Egypt, too, the free and unfettered recognition of the Inward principle and a significance essentially independent from the phenomenon was lacking; and this resulted in the mystery and obscurity of a symbolism still more complete.

The first decisive act of purification, or, in other words, express separation of the essential substance[67] from the sensuous present, that is from the empirical facts of external appearance, we must accordingly seek for in the Sublime, which exalts the Absolute above every form of immediate existence, and thereby effects that initiatory mode of its abstract liberation which is the basis of the spiritual content. As Spirit in its concreteness the significance is not yet apprehended; but it is, however, conceived as an Inwardness essentially existent, reposing on its own resources, and of such a nature that purely finite phenomena are alone inadequate to express its truth.

[Pg 86]

Kant has raised a very interesting distinction between the idea of the sublime and the beautiful; and indeed all that he discusses in the first part of his critique of the Judgment from the twentieth section to the end—in spite of its considerable prolixity and its reduction of every form of determination to a fundamentally subjective principle, whether it be the content of feeling, imagination, or reason—still possesses a real interest. We may in fact recognize this very reduction on the ground of its general principle of relation to be just[68]; in other words, to borrow Kant's own expressions, if the matter of our consideration is primarily the Sublime in Nature, it is not in any fact of Nature, but only in the content of our emotional life that such a Sublime is to be discovered, and, further, only in so far as we are conscious of a Nature peculiar to ourselves which involves the added assumption of one that lies outside of us. The statement of Kant is to be taken in this sense where he says: "The true sublime cannot be enclosed in any sensuous form; it is only referable to the ideas of reason, which, albeit no truly adequate representation can be given them, are excited and awakened to life within the human soul by just this very incompatibility of the permissibly sensuous representation with its object[69]." The sublime is, in short, generally the attempt to express the infinite, without being able to find an object in the realm of phenomenal existence such as is clearly fitted for its representation. The infinite, for the very reason that it is posited independently as invisible and formless significance in contrast to the complex manifold of objective fact, and is conceived under the mode of inwardness, so long as it remains infinite remains indefinable in speech and sublimely unaffected by every expression of the finite categories.

The earliest content, then, which the significance secures at this stage consists in this, that in contrast to the totality[Pg 87] of the phenomenal it is the essentially substantive One, which itself being pure Thought is only present to thought in its purity. Consequently it is no longer possible to inform this substance under the mode of externality, and to that extent all real symbolical character disappears. If, however, an attempt is made to envisage this essential unity for sense-perception, such is only possible under a mode of relation according to which, while retaining its substantive character, it is further apprehended as the creative force of everything external, in which it therefore discovers a means of revelation and appearance, and with which it is accordingly joined in a positive relation. At the same time it is an essential feature in the expressed content of this relation that this substance is asserted above all particular phenomena as such, no less than above their united manifold; from which it then follows as a still more consequential result that the positive relation is deposed for one that is negative; and the negative consists in this that a purification of the substance is thus effected from the phenomenal taken as any particular thing, that is, in other words, that which is also not appropriate to it and which vanishes within it.

This mode of giving form, which is annihilated by the very thing which it would set forth, so that it comes about that the exposition of content affirms itself as that which renders the exposition null and void is in fact the Sublime. We have therefore not, as we found to be the view of Kant, to refer the Sublime exclusively to the subjective content of the soul, and the ideas of reason which belong to it, but rather form our conception of it as having its fundamental source in the significance represented, in other words the one absolute substance. We must, then, further deduce our classification of the art-type of the Sublime from this twofold relation of the substantive unity regarded as significance to the phenomenal world.

The characteristic which is held in common by both aspects of this relation, whether we view it positively or negatively, consists in this that the substance is posited above the particular appearance, in which it is assumed to have found a representation, although it can only be declared thereby under the form of a relation to the phenomenal in its general terms, for the reason that as substance and[Pg 88] ultimate essence it is itself essentially without form and out of the reach of concrete external existence. We may describe pantheistic art as the first or affirmative mode of conception at this stage, a type of conception which we come across partly in India, and also to some extent in the liberal atmosphere and mysticism of the more modern poets of Persian Mohammedanism, and finally in the still profounder intensity of thought and emotion which characterizes it when it reappears in western Christianity.

Generally, defined substance is cognized at this stage as immanent in all its created accidents, which for this reason are not as yet deposed to a mere relation of service, viewed simply, that is, as an ornament of glory to the Absolute, but are affirmatively conserved by virtue of the indwelling substance; and this is so albeit it is the One and the Divine alone which is set forth and exalted in all particularity. By this means the poet, who contemplates and reveres this unity in all things, and sinks his own individuality, no less than every other object in this contemplation, is able to maintain a positive relation to the substance, with which he associates all other objects.

The second or negative celebration of the Power and Glory of the one God is that genuine type of Sublimity which we find in Hebrew poetry. In this the positive immanence of the Absolute in the created phenomena is done away with, and in place thereof we have the one substance independently affirmed as sovereign Lord of the world, who subsists over against the universe of His creations, which are posited under a relation to this Supreme Being of essential and evanescent powerlessness. If under such a view any representation is attempted of the Power and Wisdom of this Unity under the form of the finite objects of Nature and human destinies, we find nothing here that resembles the Hindoo's distortion of such objects by the unlimited accretion to their measure. The Sublimity of God is rather brought home to our senses by means of a representation whose entire object is to show us that all that exists in definite guise, with all its splendour, embellishment and glory, is a loyal accident in His service, a show that vanishes before the Divine essence and consistency.

[Pg 89]


Anyone who makes use of the word pantheism nowadays exposes himself thereby to the grossest misunderstanding. For, to take but one aspect of the difficulty, this word "all" signifies generally in our modern acceptation of the term "all, and everything in its wholly empirical particularity." We have at once recalled to us, for example, this particular box with all its attributes, its specific colour, size, form and weight, or that particular house, book, animal, table, stool, oven, streak of cloud and so on, to the end of the list. When we consequently find the charge advanced by not a few of our modern theologians against philosophy, that it makes a God of everything in general, it is quite obvious that this "everything" is taken in the sense we have just adverted to, and this it is which is thus bodily thrust upon her shoulders. In one word the complaint which attaches to it is absolutely unwarranted. Such a conception of pantheism only exists in the heads of stupidity, and is not discoverable in any form of religion whatever, not even in those of the Iroquois and Esquimaux, to say nothing of any philosophy. The "Everything" in what has been termed pantheism is therefore neither this nor that particular thing, but rather "Everything" in the sense of the "All," that is the One substantive essence, which no doubt is immanent in particular things, but is cognized in abstraction from their singularity and its empirical reality, so that it is not the particular as such, but the universal animating essence or soul, or to adopt a more popular way of speaking, it is the true and the excellent, both equally a real presence in this particular thing, which are here affirmed and indicated.

This it is which constitutes the real meaning of pantheism, and we shall only have occasion now to employ the expression in this sense. It applies first and foremost to the Orient, whose type of conception is based on the thought of an absolute unity of Godhead and of everything else as subsisting in this Unity. As such Unity and All the Divine can only be presented to consciousness by means of the ever recurrent evanescence of the limited number of particular objects, in which its Presence is expressed. On the one[Pg 90] hand we have here the Divine envisaged as immanent in the most diverse objects, whether it be life or death, mountain or sea, and with still closer intimacy no doubt as the most excellent and pre-eminent among and in all determinate existence. On the other hand, inasmuch as the One is this and again that other and that other beyond it, and in short is discharged into everything, all particular existence appears for that reason to be a thing which is cancelled and vanishes, for no particular is alone this One, but this One is this manifold of particulars which pass away before semi-perception, as such particulars into the universe which comprises them. For if the One is Life, it is also at another point Death, and is to that extent not merely life, so that it is neither as life nor the sun nor the sea that these or any other objective realities constitute the Divine and One. At the same time we do not find here, as in the genuine type of the Sublime, that the accidental is expressly posited in the negative relation of mere service. So far from this being so, substance is essentially identified with one particular and accidental existence, inasmuch as it is this One in everything. Conversely, however, this very particular, because it is equally subject to change, and the imagination does not restrict substance to one definite existence, but moves over every definition, letting it fall that it may advance to another, is thereby relegated in its turn to the accidental, over which the One is superposed in the sublimity thus conjoined with it.

Such a way of viewing existence therefore can only be expressed in art through poetry; the plastic arts are closed to it, inasmuch as they bring before the vision the definite and particular, which in their contrast to the substance present in the objects of Nature has to be given up in a determinate and persistent form. Where we find pantheism in its purity no plastic art is found as a mode of its presentation.

1. Once more we may adduce, as a first example of such pantheistic poetry, the literature of the Hindoos, which along with its fantastic symbolism has also elaborated the type of art under discussion with distinction. In other words the Hindoo race, as we have seen, proceed in their conceptions from the point of most abstract universality and unity, which is then carried forward to the specific[Pg 91] shaping of gods such as Trimûrtis, Indras, and the rest. This process of definition, however, is not adhered to with constancy; but to a like extent is suffered once more to break up, so that we find inferior gods are absorbed in superior gods, and the highest of all in Brahman. From this it is sufficiently obvious that this Universal constitutes the one persistent and unalterable basis of all. And if, as we freely admit, the Hindoos evince the twofold impulse in their poetry, namely, either to exaggerate the particular existence, in order that it may appear to the senses compatible with the significance of the Absolute, or, in the converse case, to suffer every form of definition to pass as mere negation when contrasted with the one abstraction of Being, yet at the same time there is another aspect of their literature, in which we also find artistic representation under the purer mode of imaginative pantheism we have just described, a mode in which the immanence of the Divine is exalted above all particular existence in which it is presented to sense and which as such disappears. We may no doubt be rather inclined to recognize in this later mode of conception a certain similarity with that type of the immediate unity of pure thought which we found to be characteristic of the religious consciousness of the Parsees. Among the Parsees, however, the One and Excellent is conserved in its independence as itself a fact of Nature, that is, Light. With the Hindoos, on the contrary, the One, or Brahman, is merely the formless One; and this it is which in its transformations through the infinite variety of the phenomenal world, first gives rise to the pantheistic mode of representation. So we read of Krishna (Bhagavad-Gita, Lect. VII, II. 4 et seq.): "Earth, water and wind, air and fire, reason and egoity are the eight pieces of my essential force; yet knowest thou somewhat more in me, a more exalted essence, which animates the earthly and supports the world. In it all existences have their origin. Ay, verily, thou knowest I am the origin of the entire universe as also its annihilation. Aught higher than myself is not; in me is this All conjoined together, as a chaplet of pearls on a thread. I am the taste of sweetness in all that flows; I am the splendour in the sun and moon, the mystic Word in the sacred writings, manhood in man, the clean savour in the[Pg 92] Earth, brightness in flame, in all Being Life, meditation in all who repent. In that which has Life the Power of Life, in the wise Wisdom, in the glorious Glory. Everything that is true of its kind, and everything that is specious and obscure proceeds out of me. I am not in them, but they are in me. Through the illusion of these three qualities all the world is made foolish, and knows me not who am unalterable. Moreover also the Divine illusion, even Mâya, is my own illusion, which is hard indeed to surpass, albeit all who follow after me step over this illusion." In this passage we have indicated in the most striking terms just such a substantive unity as the one above discussed, not merely from the point of view of its immanence in immediate sense, but also from that of its advance beyond and over all singularity.

In a similar manner Krishna affirms of himself that He is the most Excellent among all the different forms of existence (Lect. X, 21): "Among the star's I am the radiant sun, among the human signs the moon, among the sacred Books the Book of Hymns, among the senses the spiritual, Meru among the tops of the mountains, the lion among animals, the vowel A among all letters, among the seasons of the year the blooming spring-time, etc."

This enumeration, however, of superlative excellence, and we may add the description of that which is merely a change of forms, among which it is always one and the same thing that is envisaged, despite any superficial appearance such may give us at first of a prodigal imagination, is none the less, by reason of this very equality of content, extremely monotonous and in general empty and tedious.

2. Under a higher mode and in a freer manner from the subjective point of view we find, secondly, oriental pantheism is elaborated in Mohammedanism more particularly among the Persians.

And here we are confronted with a relation of some singularity when we direct our attention expressly to the point of view of the individual poet.

(a) To explain this more fully we would point out that so long as the poet yearns to behold the Divine in everything, and really so beholds it, he also surrenders his own personality; but, while doing so, he realizes quite as vividly the immanence of the Divine in his spiritual world thus[Pg 93] expanded and delivered; and consequently there grows up within him that joyful ardour of the soul, that liberal happiness, that revel of bliss, which is so peculiar to the Oriental, who in freeing himself from his own particularity seems wholly to sink himself in the Eternal and Absolute, and henceforth to know and feel the image and presence of the Divine in all things. Such a self-absorption in the Divine, such an intoxicated life of bliss in God borders closely on mysticism. Under this aspect no volume is more famous than the Oschelaleddin-Rumi, of which Rückert, with the help of his marvellous powers of expression, which enable him to make light of both words and rhymes with all the wealth and freedom of the phantasy that comes so natural to the Persian poet, has supplied us with the fairest examples. Love to God, with whom man identifies himself in most boundless surrender, beholding Him as the One through every part of His Universe, with whom and to whom every and each thing is related and referred—this it is that gives us the focus of this type of thought, a centre which radiates in every direction.

(b) And, further, while in the true type of the sublime, as will appear shortly, the most excellent objects and the most glorious shapes are employed merely as the ornament of God, and as servants to celebrate the splendour and majesty of the One, being set before our eyes to do Him honour as Lord of all creation, in pantheism, on the contrary, it is the immanence of the Divine in external fact which exalts the determinate existence itself of the world, Nature, and humanity to its own self-substantial glory. The identical Life of Spirit in the phenomena of Nature and all human relations animates and spiritualizes the same in their own nature, and is further the source of that characteristic attitude of subjective feeling in the soul of the poet toward the objects he celebrates in his song. Suffused with the animating influx of this glory the soul is essentially serene, independent, free, secure in its comprehension and greatness; and in this positive identification of itself with such qualities it penetrates imaginatively with its life into the very heart of objective existence, sharing the restful unity that it finds there, and grows up in most blissful, most blithesome intimacy with the natural world and its munificence, with[Pg 94] the drinking-booth no less than the beloved, and, in short, all that is held worthy of praise or affection. We find, no doubt, the same kind of self-absorption in the romantic temperament of the West. Generally speaking, however, and more particularly in the North, it is not so gladsome, spontaneous, or free from yearning; or, at least, it remains more exclusively shut up in itself, and is consequently selfish and sentimental. A spiritual mood of this type, in its depression and gloom, finds its most forceful outlet in the popular songs of barbarous peoples. The spontaneous and joyful emotional atmosphere is, on the contrary, congenial to the East, and particularly characteristic of the Mohammedan Persians, who openly and gladly surrender themselves with all their soul to the Divine influence, and indeed to everything that appears to merit such devotion, while they do not fail to retain the freedom of independence in such surrender, and consciously to preserve the same in their attitude to the world and all that surrounds them. We may, in fact, observe in the ardour of this passion, the most expansive ecstasy and parrhesia[70] of the emotional life, through which, in its inexhaustible wealth of gorgeous and splendid images, one emphatic note of joy, beauty, and happiness rings again and again. If the Oriental suffers or is unfortunate he takes his reverses as the unalterable fiat of Destiny, and falls back upon the strength of his own resources without any increase of depression, sensitiveness, or vexation of spirit. In the poetry of Hafis we hear often enough of the lover's woes and laments[71], as of many another kind, but our poet persists through grief, no less than in happiness, as free of care as ever. This is the mood of that sometime refrain:

For thanks, in that the present glow
Of friendship circles thee,
Light strong the taper e'en in woe,
And joyful be.

[Pg 95]

The taper teaches us both to laugh and to weep; it laughs through the flame of shining merriment, albeit it melts at the same time in hot tears; in the act of consumption it spreads wide the brightness of joviality. This is also the general character throughout of this type of poetry.

Among the objects frequently referred to in Persian poetry we may mention flowers and jewels, and, above all, the rose and the nightingale. It is a matter of frequent occurrence to represent the nightingale as bridegroom of the rose. This gift of personality to the rose and love to the nightingale may be abundantly illustrated from Hafis. "Out of gratefulness, O rose," he sings, "that thou art the sultana of Beauty, see to it that thou settest not a proud face to the love of the nightingale." The poet himself speaks of the nightingale of his own soul. When we of the West, on the contrary, refer in our poetry to roses, nightingales, or wine, and such matters, we do so in a wise much nearer to prose. The rose merely serves us for ornament, as in the expression, among others, "garlanded with roses." If we listen to the nightingale it is but to follow the bird with our own emotions; we think of the grape-juice, and call it "the breaker of our cares." Among the Persians, however, the rose is no mere image or ornament, no symbol, but itself appears to the poet as possessed with a soul, as loving bride, and he transpierces with his spirit the rose's very heart. Precisely the same character of a gorgeous Pantheism is still impressed on the most modern Persian poems. Herr von Hammer, for instance, has given us a description of a poem which was forwarded, among other gifts of the Shah, to the Emperor Francis in the year 1819. It contains an account of the exploits of the Shah in 33,000 distiches, who made a present of his own name to the Court poet in question.

(c) Goethe, too—here in contrast with the more perturbed atmosphere and the concentrated emotion of the poetry of his youth—was carried away in advanced age by the breadth of this careless and blithesome spirit; and though already a veteran, swept through by the breath of the East, dedicated the evening glow of his poetic passion, in a flood of extraordinary fervour to this freedom of emotion which, even[Pg 96] where controversy is the sub ect-matter, still retains the beauty of its careless temper. The songs of his Westöstlicher Divan, are by no means the mere play of trivial social urbanities, but originate in a precisely similar spirit of free and unrestrained emotion. In a song of his to Suleica they are thus described by himself:

Pearls from the poet,
Thine is the treasure,
Thine was the big swell
Of passion tumultuous,
Which strewed them on desolate
Strand of his life.
Gold-tips I call it,
Pierced with bright jewels,
Tenderly conned o'er
By tapering fingers.

"Take them," he exclaims to his beloved:

Circle thy neck with them,
Close, close to thy breast!
These raindrops of Allah
The meek shell hath ripened.

Poetry such as this is the product of an experience of the widest range, a sense which has held its own in many storms, a depth and also, too, a youth of the heart—in other words:

World of Life's own drift of forces,
World, the wealth of whose wave-roll
Caught afar the bulbul's passion,
Won the song which shook the soul.

3. In this unity of pantheism, moreover, if emphasized in its relation to personal life, which feels itself united with God thereby, and the Divine as this presence intuitively cognized, we have, speaking generally, that type of mysticism which, under this more intimate mode, has also been elaborated in the pale of Christendom. We will adduce but one example, namely, that of Angelus Silecius, who, with the greatest audacity and depth of conception and emotional fervour, has expressed the essential presence of[Pg 97] God in objective Nature, the union of the self with God, and the Divine with human personality, with an extraordinary power of mystical presentment. The more genuine type of Oriental pantheism, on the contrary, is inclined to insist more upon the vision of the One substance in all phenomena and the self-surrender of the individual, who thereby secures the most supreme expansion of conscious life no less than the bliss of absorption into all that is most noble and excellent by virtue of the absolute release from all finitude.


The One substance, however, which is here conceived as the real significance of the entire universe, is only truly posited as substance where we find it suffered to retire into itself as pure Inwardness and substantive Power out of its presence and realization beneath the shifting forms of the phenomenal, and thereby is set forth in self-consistency as against all finitude. It is not till we come to this intuitive vision of the essence of God as absolutely Spiritual and apart from all image, and thus opposed to the things of the World and Nature, that the Spiritual is completely wrested from all that pertains to mere sense-perception and Nature, and delivered from determinate existence in the finite. While conversely, however, the absolute substance still maintains a relation to the phenomenal world from which it is reflected back upon itself. In this relation is now asserted that negative aspect already adverted to, which consists in this, that the entire universe, despite all the fulness, power, and glory of its phenomenal contents, is expressly affirmed in its relation to substance as that which is essentially of a purely negative subsistence, a creation of God, subject to His power and service. The world is therefore envisaged as the revelation of God, and He is the Goodness which permits the created thing that has no essential claim to exist, none the less to exist in relation to Himself, nay, further to have independent existence and[Pg 98] thereby freely to conserve Him. This conservation on the part of the finitude, however, is without real substance, and in opposition to God the creature is here assumed to be that which passes away and is powerless, so that at the same time its claim to existence[72] is exhibited as a part of the goodness of the Creator, which not only veritably affirms the impotence of that which is essentially nothing apart from Himself, but thereby asserts His substance as the source of all Power. It is this relation, so far as it is set forth by art as the fundamental relation, both of content and form, which brings before us the art-type of the real Sublime. The Beauty of the Ideal and Sublimity no doubt present features of contrast. In the Ideal the Inward transpierces external reality, whose inward essence it really is under the mode at least, that both aspects are adequate to each other, and consequently appear to be in perfect fusion with one another. In the Sublime, on the contrary, the external existence, in which substance is envisaged for sense, is deposed in its opposition to that substance, such deposition and vassalage constituting the only mode, by means of which the God who is in His own seclusion without form, and in His positive essence incapable of being expressed by aught that is of the world and finite, can be envisualized by artistic means. The Sublime pre-supposes the significance in the self-subsistence of One, in relation to which externality is defined as in subjection, in so far as that Inward substance fails to appear, but its transcendent character is so asserted, that in the end nothing can be represented save just this essential and active transcendency[73].

In the symbol the mode of the external form was the main point emphasized. It must possess a significance, and yet fail completely to express it. In contrast to symbol of this kind and its obscure content we have now a significance in the absolute sense of the term conjoined with its full[Pg 99] recognition. A work of art is now the actual discharge of pure essence conceived as the intensive purport of everything, of an essence, however, which deliberately affirms that very incompatibility of form to significance, which was only implicitly present in the symbol, to be the actually transcendent significance of God Himself within the sphere of worldly existence, and above all that is contained therein.

It is a significance which is therefore sublime in the work of art, which is exclusively concerned to express the same as thus explicitly declared. We may no doubt with justice accept the description of "sacred," as applicable generally to symbolical art, in so far as it accepts the Divine as comprised in the content of its productions; but the art of the Sublime alone can make good its claim to the distinction without any deduction, for it is here alone that God receives all the honour. In this sphere, owing to the fundamental character of the significance implied, the content is generally of a more restricted nature than that we find in genuine symbolism, whose relation to the Spiritual is that of an effort and nothing more, and which in the continuously shifting nature of its relations to to the world offers such a wide field, either for transformations of that which is spiritual into natural images, or of that which is essentially material under accordant fusion with the Spirit.

We find as nowhere else this art of the Sublime, as a mode of its original appearance, in the religious conceptions of the Hebrew race and their sacred poetry. We say poetry advisedly, because plastic art cannot possibly be in question here, where it is assumed that no image whatever is adequate to express the nature of the Divine, and that the part of poetry alone by means of the spoken or written word can be employed for such a purpose. A closer examination of this type of religious conception will secure to us the following points of view most worthy of our general attention.

1. If we look at the content of this poetry under the aspect of its most universal import, one of our first conclusions will be that God, as Lord of a world created to serve Him, is not conceived as incarnated in any form of the external, but rather as personality withdrawn from all[Pg 100] determinate and worldly existence into the solitude of His pure Unity. For this reason that[74] which in genuine symbolism was still associated with supreme Unity, falls apart under the view we are considering into its twofold aspect, on one side the abstract subsistency of God, on the other the concrete existence of the world.

(a) Now God Himself as this pure self-subsistency of the One substance is essentially without form, and under this abstract conception cannot be brought closer to the envisagement of sense. That which therefore the imagination is able to seize at this stage is not the Divine content viewed under the aspect of its pure essence, inasmuch as this latter precludes the possibility of artistic representation under any form adequate to it whatever. The only content therefore that is left open to it is that of the relation of God to His created world.

(b) God is the creator of the universe. This is the purest expression of the Sublime itself. In other words we find that here for the first time all those fanciful conceptions of generation and purely physical procreation of external fact by God disappear. Each and all give place to the thought of creation by virtue of spiritual power and activity. "God spake: Let there be Light, and there was Light." A sentence dong ago cited, as a striking illustration of the Sublime by Longinus. And such indeed it is. The Lord of all, the One substance, proceeds, it is true, under the mode of self-expression; but the type of this bringing forth is the purest, nay, a mode of expression, aetherial so to speak, and without material form, the Word that is to say, the medium of thought as the ideal Power, in conjunction with whose mandate that it shall exist, the existing thing is veritably and immediately posited under the relation of tacit obedience.

(c) Into this created world, however, God is not conceived to pass over as into His reality; rather He abides withdrawn behind Himself, albeit this opposition supplies[Pg 101] no secure ground for a logically developed dualism. For that which has been brought into being is His work, possesses no self-consistency as apart from Him. It is solely a witness to His Wisdom, Goodness, and Justice in general, just that and no more. The One is Lord over all; His dwelling is not in the facts of Nature. They are solely the accidents of His Greatness, without potency in themselves, which can indeed suffer the show of His essence to appear, but are unable to make the reality of it visible[75]. And this it is which constitutes the Sublime in its reference to the Divine.

2. Moreover, inasmuch as the one God is thus severed from the concreteness of the phenomenal world and posited in isolated fixity, while the externality of determinate existence is on its side defined and placed in subordination as the finite, both natural and human existence are now viewed under the novel aspect that they cannot be conceived as manifesting the Divine without at the same time making visible their essential finiteness.

(a) The most direct way of bringing home to ourselves the significance of the above contrasted relations may be expressed in the statement that here for the first time we have Nature and the human form set before us cut off from the Divine, prosaic fact in short. It is a Greek tale that when the heroes of the Argonautic Expedition passed in their ships through the straits of the Hellespont, the rocks which hitherto had crashed open and shut like shears suddenly came to a standstill rooted firmly for evermore in the ground. In a manner somewhat similar the process of the finite toward stability in intelligible definition, as contrasted with the infinite essence, moves onward in the sacred poetry of the Sublime, while in the conceptions of symbolism, where we have the finite overturned in the Divine and the latter quite as frequently thrust forth from its own substance into temporal existence, nothing is permitted to keep its due position. If we turn, for example, from ancient Hindoo poetry to the Old Testament we find ourselves at once in a[Pg 102] totally different atmosphere, one in which we feel ourselves thoroughly at home, however much we may discover in the circumstances, events, actions, and characters an environment either alien or different to that in which we live. From a world of tumble and confusion we are transported to another, and have human figures presented to us, which appear as natural as those we see with our eyes, characters with the stable outlines of patriarchal life, which in the truth of their delineation stand so near that they receive an immediate assent from our intelligence.

(b) In a general view of existence such as the above which is able to grasp the natural process of life and to accept as valid the claim of natural laws, wonder for the first time is a really active force. In Hindooism everything is a wonder and consequently is no longer wonderful. No wonder can enter a world where the intelligible connection of facts is invariably broken, where everything is wrested from its place and turned topsy-turvy. For the wonderful presupposes the rational sequence of events no less than the clear perceptions of ordinary consciousness which, when it meets with some example of causal effect produced by a higher law breaking the customary chain of events now for the first time notifies the exception as a wonder. Wonders of this kind, however, are no real or specific expression of the Sublime, for the reason that the ordinary course of natural phenomena is conceived as quite as much the product of the Will of God and evidence of Nature's submission as such interruption of the same.

(c) We must rather look for the real Sublime in the fact that under this view the entire created world is limited in time and space, with no independent stability or consistency, and as such an adventitious product which exists solely to celebrate the praise of Almighty God.

3. This recognition of the nullity of objective fact and the exaltation and extolment of God are at this stage the source of man's own self-respect, and in these he looks for his own consolation and satisfaction.

(a) In this connection the Psalms supply us with classical examples of the genuine Sublime, and are set forth as a precedent for all times of what our humanity at the highest[Pg 103] point of its spiritual exultation has superbly expressed as the reflection of its religious consciousness. Nothing in the world can here make good its claim to independent subsistence, inasmuch as everything exists and subsists simply through the Power of God, and only exists as in duty bound to extol His mightiness no less than to acknowledge its own essential nothingness. In the imagination of pantheism, which mainly unfolded in the direction of material substance an infinite extension of range was most remarkable: what we most are amazed at here is the power of spiritual exaltation which suffers everything else to fall away that it may declare the unique Almightiness of God. An extraordinarily forceful illustration of this temper is the 104th Psalm, "The Light is Thy mantle which Thou wearest; Thou spreadest out the heavens like a carpet, etc." Light, heavens, clouds, the pinions of the winds, each and all are here nothing by themselves, merely an external vesture, the chariot or messenger in the service of God. A further expansion of the same idea is the extolment of the Wisdom of God, which has ordained all things. The springs, which leap from their sources, the waters, which flow between the hills, by the banks of which the birds of the air sit and carol among the branches; the grassy vine, which gladdens the heart of men and the cedars of Lebanon which the Lord hath planted; the sea, and its swarms without number; the whales which sport therein, all these hath the Lord made. And all that God has created He also preserves. "Thou hidest Thy Face, and they are affrighted; Thou takest their breath away and they are gone and become again as dust." The 90th Psalm, that prayer of Moses, the man of God, insists expressly on the nothingness of man, where we read: "Thou sufferest them to pass away like a brook; they are like as a sleep, even as the grass, which is soon withered, and in the evening is cut down and dried up. Thy scorn maketh us to pass away; Thou showest Thine anger and we are gone."

(b) Two ideas are therefore associated together with the Sublime, if viewed in its relation to the human soul, first, that of man's finiteness, and secondly, that of the insurmountable aloofness of God.

[Pg 104]

(α) For this reason the idea of immortality is not to be found where this mode of conception obtains in its original purity; for this idea involves the assumption that the individual self, the soul, the spirit of man is essentially a self-subsistent entity. In the religion of the Sublime it is only the One that is apprehended as imperishable; opposed to that all else merely subsists and passes away, is neither essentially free nor infinite.

(β) And, further, on a similar ground man is conceived in his absolute unworthiness before God; his exaltation consists in the fear of the Lord, in a trembling before His scorn. Over and over again, with a directness which tears aside every veil and opens the very depths, we have the cry of the soul to God depicted, the sorrow over the sense of its nothingness, increasing lament and groanings unutterable.

(γ) On the other hand if the individual persist in his finiteness of opposition to God, this deliberately willed persistence is wickedness, which as evil and sin belongs only to the natural and human condition, and is conceived as remote from the One undifferentiated substance as pain and everything else that is essentially negative.

(c) Thirdly, however, within this very condition of spiritual nakedness, and, in despite of it, man secures a freer and more independent position. On the one hand out of the fundamental repose and constancy of God viewed in reference to His Will and the commands which that Will imposes upon humanity, arises the Law; while under another point of view the wholly unambiguous distinction between that which is human and that which is Divine, between the finite and the Absolute, is implied in this type of human exaltation. Therewith the judgment upon good and evil, and the onus of decision in respect to either the one or the other is transferred to the individual soul itself. This relation to the Absolute, and the question it involves as to the fittingness or unfittingness of man over against the same presents, therefore, also an aspect, which applies to the individual himself, his own behaviour and action. In other words we may trace in man's rightful acts and his following of the Law a relation to God which is, side by side with the former one, an affirmative relation, a relation which has to[Pg 105] bring generally the external condition of his existence, whether it be positive or negative, weal, enjoyment and satisfaction, or pain, unhappiness and oppression into union with the obedience of his heart or his stubbornness of spirit against the Law, and accept the same in the one case as favour and reward, in the other as trial and punishment.

[67] Des An-und-für-sich-seyenden, i.e., the explicit content of all that is implied in actuality cognized as an object in itself.

[68] According to Hegel the conception of Kant is right in that (a) He makes the Sublime to consist in a relation between the phenomenal fact and something which it is not; and (b) that he lays it down that no mere representation by means of phenomenal form can adequately express it. He is wrong, however, in that he refers the Sublime for its source wholly to the subjective content, i.e., that Nature which is peculiar to ourselves (in uns.)

[69] "Critique of the Judgment," 3rd ed., p. 77.

[70] Parrhesia, i.e., πἀρρἥσια,—speaking freely or beyond ordinary bound.

[71] Den Schenken should be die Schenken, and a few lines below der Kerze should be die Kerze. I omit the Schenken altogether. Of course it is possible der Kerze is Genitive, "in the woe of the taper," and the verb intransitive; but this is very harsh.

[72] This appears to be the meaning of Garechtigkeit.

[73] Sondern so darüber hinausgeht, dass eben nichts als dieses Hinauseyn und Hinausgehen zur Darstellung kommen kann. That is, the art of the Sublime is based essentially on a contradiction, for while it assumes the One substance to be the significance of the external world, it is the truth of that significance that it points to that which transcends externality.

[74] The thought here is not strictly logical. What is associated by symbolism with Unity is the external Other, what is divided by Hebraic conception is the entire content of the Real both in its spiritual and external aspect. But the general sense is sufficiently clear.

[75] This I take to be the point of the contrast between the words scheinen and erscheinen.

[Pg 106]



The result we have now arrived at in the above consideration of the Sublime, and in contradistinction to the strictly unpremeditated type of symbolization, consists partly in the separation of its own independent Inwardness, consciously apprehended in its quality of significance, from the concrete appearance that is thereby distinguished from it, partly also in the direct or indirect affirmation of the incompatibility of the two above mentioned aspects to one another, by which it appears that the significance as the universal passes beyond the particular fact and its singularity. But in the imagination of pantheism, no less than in the type of the Sublime, the real content, that is the One universal substance of all concrete existence, was unable to be presented to imaginative vision or sense-perception without some relation to created existence, albeit created under a mode inadequate to express the essence of that Unity. This relation, however, was attached to the substance itself, which, in the negativity of its accidents, supplied the proof of its Wisdom, Goodness, Power, and Justice[76]. For this reason the relation between significance and content is also in the case of the Sublime, at least in a general way, of a kind that is both essential and necessary, and the two sides thus linked with each other are not yet, in the strict sense of the term, external to each other. It is, however, inevitable, for the reason that it is implicitly present in symbolism, that this externality should come to be directly posited and[Pg 107] appear in the forms we have now to consider in this concluding chapter on the art of symbolism. We may summarily describe them as conscious[77] symbolism, or, in a still more direct way, the comparative type of art.

In other words, what we understand by conscious symbolism is this, that the significance is not merely independently cognized, but is expressly set forth as distinct from the external mode, in which it is represented. The significance then appears, as in the case of the Sublime, to receive an independent expression which is not essentially in the actual embodiment given to it under the mode employed[78]. The relation, however, of both to one another no longer continues to be, as in the type last examined, a mode of relation which is fundamentally due to the significance itself, but is a more or less haphazard association, which may generally be expressed as the product of the subjectivity of the poet, the absorption of his spirit in an external object, the result of his wit or invention; a mode, in short, which enables the poet at one time rather to make a beginning directly from a sensible phenomenon, and to imagine for it from his own mind a spiritual significance cognate with it, and at another to select in preference as his point of departure the real or only relatively personal idea, with a view to embodying the same, or even to do nothing more than relate one image with another, which presents characteristic features of resemblance.

This kind of linking together must consequently be distinguished from that still naïve and unconscious symbolism in virtue of the fact that now the individual recognizes the inward essence of the significances he adopts for the content of his creation no less than, the positive nature of the external objects, which he employs as means of comparison for the more direct presentment of the same, placing both in this juxtaposition with clear intention owing to the similarity he has discovered between them. The distinction, on the other hand, between the present type and[Pg 108] that of the Sublime is rather to be traced to the fact that though under one aspect it may be true that the separation and juxtaposition of the significances with their concrete shaping in the work of art is itself set forth in express relief to a less or higher degree, yet, on the other hand, for the reason that it is no longer the Absolute itself that is accepted as content, but any defined and restricted significance whatever, the typical relation of the Sublime falls away, and in its place a relation is set up within the act of severance thus intentionally made between the real significance and its embodiment, a relation which in effect produces the very result in the sphere of premeditated comparison that we found unconscious symbolism in its own way proposed as an object.

In one word, so far as content is here concerned, the Absolute itself, the Lord of creation, can no longer be conceived as the significance which Art seeks after. That this is so is rendered inevitable by the already obvious fact that on account of the severation of more concrete existence from the notion, and further, if only under the mode of comparison, the juxtaposition of both sides thus separated, the category of finitude is there and then accepted by the artistic consciousness, in so far as it conceives this form as the real and ultimate one; and for this reason, moreover, the imagined significances, being selected wholly from the sphere of the finite, have no further association whatever with the Absolute as the fundamental significance of all created things. Sacred poetry stands out in entire contrast to this, for in this God is the exclusive significance of all things; as set over against Him, they have no stability at all, but vanish or are nothing. If, however, the significance is able to discover its image and parallel of resemblance in that which is itself essentially restricted and finite, it follows that it must itself to that extent be limited in its range, as, in fact, it is in the type of symbolic conception which now occupies our attention, where that which is found is nothing more than an image, necessarily external to the content, selected purely at random by the poet for the sake of the similarity it presents to the content, and as such regarded as relatively adequate thereto. For this reason there is but one trait left us in the comparative type of art, which is[Pg 109] also shared by that of the Sublime, and it is this that every image, instead of embodying the fact and significance directly under a mode adequate to their full reality, is only taken to present an image and similitude of either.

For these reasons this kind of symbolization is, if we conceive it apart as an independent whole, a generic class of subordinate rank. The form which it supplies is merely the descriptive selection of a portion of sensuous existence immediately perceived, or of a prosaic idea of the mind[79], in other words, the significance is expressly to be distinguished from it. And, further, in a measure such an employment of comparison in works of art, which are shaped out of homogeneous material, and in their specific form constitute an indivisible whole, can only assert itself as relatively valid, that is, as mere ornament and accessory, such as we find it, in fact, in the genuine products of classic and romantic art.

It is a further consequence that if we regard the entire sphere of this type as the union of the two stages which preceded it on the ground that it not merely comprehends within itself the separation of significance from external reality, which is the fundamental causa rationis of the Sublime, but also includes the reference of a concrete phenomenon to a universal import cognate with it, as we have seen was asserted in the real type of symbolism, such a union is notwithstanding in no way a higher type of art; it is, in truth, despite its very clearness, a superficial way of apprehending things, limited in its content and formally more or less prosaic, which falls away into the consciousness of commonsense as fully remote from the secretly fermenting depth of genuine symbolism as it is from the height of the Sublime.

So far as the classification of our present subject-matter is concerned we may observe, first, that in this act of comparative differentiation, which presupposes the significance independently, and affirms either a sensuous or imaginary form in a relation of opposition to it, there is the aspect held constantly throughout that the significance is here accepted as of most importance, and the form is solely the embodiment of the same and external to it; but along with this the further difference makes its appearance, namely,[Pg 110] that it is sometimes the one aspect of this opposition which is first pre-eminently emphasized, and made the significant point of departure, while at other times it is the other. And owing to this fact we have either the embodiment presented us as an independently external, immediate fact or phenomenon of Nature, which is then related by comparison to a significance of a more general bearing, or the significance is independently come by in another way, and only afterwards a mode of embodying it is selected from some external source, it matters not what.

Relatively to the above distinctions we may classify our material under the two first fundamental and a third and other supplementary divisions as follows:

A. In the first it is the concrete phenomenon, whether the selection be made from Nature or human events, incidents, and actions, which constitutes both the point of departure in the process of artistic conception, and the substance of essential weight in the reproduction. It is no doubt exhibited solely on account of the more general significance, which it contains and signifies, and is only so far unfolded, that it may contribute to the object of embodying this significance in a specific occurrence or condition cognate with it. The comparison, however, of the general significance and the particular case is not as yet expressly set forth as subjective activity, and the entire reproduction will not merely be the embellishment of a work which actually possesses a substantive position without it, but is set forth as itself claiming to give the character of an independent whole. The types of this class are the fable, the parable, the apologue, the proverb, and the metamorphosis.

B. In the second phase the significance on the contrary is that which is first presented to consciousness, and the concrete embodiment is that which is merely incidental or accessory to it, possessing no independent subsistency of its own, but appearing as wholly subordinate to the significance, so that we are now also made more immediately aware of the element of personal caprice in the selection of this rather than any other image. This mode of production is unable in the great majority of cases to reach the point of a fully perfected work of art, and is consequently forced to leave the forms it supplies as appurtenant to other[Pg 111] artistic images. The important types of this class are the riddle, the allegory, the metaphor, the image, and the simile.

C. Thirdly, and in conclusion, if rather by way of supplement, we have yet further to include within our list the didactic poem, and purely descriptive poetry, inasmuch as in these types of poetry we find, on the one hand, that the presentment of the general character of the objects in the clearness under which they are made intelligible to commonsense[80], no less than on the other that the exhibition of their concrete appearance receives a substantially independent form, and by doing so effects with elaborate completeness the severation of that which only in its union and really reciprocal fusion is capable of giving us a genuine work of art.

This separation of the two phases essential to the process of art-production carries with it the result that the various forms which find their place in the entire subject-matter under discussion have merely a claim to fall in as part of an inquiry into the modes of art in virtue of the fact that poetry, and only poetry, is in a position to express such a relation of self-contained independence as between significance and form. As opposed to this it is the very problem of the plastic arts to manifest such significant content in and through their external form and viewed thus externally.


The attempt to arrange the several kinds of poetic production which are apportioned to this first stage of the comparative type of art carries with it no little difficulty, and is a fruitful source of embarrassment. They are, that is to say, hybrid species of a subordinate rank, which in no way whatever mark out any necessary aspect of art They stand in the domain of Aesthetic presenting features analogous to certain animal types, and other exceptional phenomena in natural science. In both spheres the difficulty consists in this that in either case it is the notion of the science itself,[Pg 112] which is the ground of its classification and specific differences. As differentia of the notion these are also at the same time distinctions really adequate to the notional process, and intelligible as such; with these latter such transitional modes are unable fully to conform for the reason that they are merely defective types, which proceed from a previous phase that is fundamental without being able to reach the next one. This is no fault of the notion, nay, supposing that we preferred to make such ancillary types the basis of our classification, instead of pointing out their relation to the specific phases of the notional process of our subject-matter, we should have presented us precisely that aspect of them which was inadequate to this process as the irreproachable mode of their development. A true principle of classification, on the contrary, is compelled to proceed from the true notion, and such hybrid types as those now discussed can only be suitably placed where the genuine and independently stable ones show a tendency to dissolve and pass over into others.

Apart from such considerations, however, the artistic types referred to belong to the forecourt of artistic symbolism, inasmuch as they are generally incomplete, and to that extent merely a search after art in its truth. Such a movement no doubt presents the essential ingredients of a genuine mode of configuration, but it lays hold of them in their aspect of finitude, separation, and purely relative propinquity; it fails consequently to rank on the same level. When we discuss, therefore, the fable, apologue, and the rest we must treat these forms not as though they belonged to poetry in the specific sense, as it differs among other things from music no less than the plastic arts, but only with the view of pointing out the relation in which they stand to the generic types of art. It is only thus their specific character can be elucidated. To such an object the notion of the genuine types of the art of poetry, whether epic, lyric, or dramatic, will not assist us.

We propose now to differentiate these forms in the following order; we shall begin with the fable, proceed after that to discuss the parable, apologue, and proverb, and conclude our inquiry with the metamorphosis.

[Pg 113]


Hitherto we have throughout merely dwelt upon the formal aspect of the relation of an expressed significance to its embodiment; we have now furthermore to elucidate the content, which declares its suitability for such a mode.

In our previous consideration of the various aspects of the Sublime we saw that at the point where we have now arrived, it is no longer a matter of any importance to envisualize the Absolute and One in its indivisible Power by means of the nothingness and impotency of the created thing to rise up to that infinite transcendency. We are now on the plane of the finite consciousness, and have only to concern ourselves with a finite content. If we direct our attention conversely to the genuine symbolical type, to which the comparative is under a certain aspect equally related, we find that here that inward aspect, which stands in opposition to the form up to this point always immediately presented, the natural shape, that is to say, is the spiritual, a truth that even in Egyptian symbolism received ample illustration. To the extent, however, that everything natural is left standing, and preconceived in its position of isolated solidarity, the spiritual is also something both finite and defined, that is to say man and his finite aims and the natural maintains a certain, albeit theoretical[81], relationship to these objects, a significant suggestion and revelation of the same to the use and weal of mankind. The phenomena of Nature, storms, flight of birds, the constitution of the intestines of animals and so forth, in the significance they possess for human interests, are now accepted in a totally different sense to that they figured in the conceptions of Parsees, Hindoos, or Egyptians, for whom the Divine is still linked to the Natural under the mode that man, as an integral part of Nature, moves to and fro in a world full of gods, and his personal action consists in the display through his activities of this very identity of Life, whereby this doing of his, in so far as it is compatible with the natural existence of the Divine, appears itself as a revelation and bringing forth of the Divine in mankind. When, however, man is[Pg 114] withdrawn into himself, and intuitively seeks for his freedom within the closed doors of his own substance[82], he becomes intrinsically the object of his own personality; he acts, transacts his affairs, and works as he himself wills; he possesses a personal life of his own, and feels the essential character of his aims as part of himself, to which the natural is only related as something outside him. Consequently Nature becomes insulated around him, serves him under such an aspect that in his attitude to the Divine he no longer secures an envisagement of the Absolute in her, but simply regards her as a means, through which the gods enable him to discover such a knowledge of themselves as may contribute most to his advantage, unveiling their will to the human spirit through the medium of Nature and suffering the purpose thereof to declare itself through mankind. An identity of the Absolute and Nature is here presupposed, an identity in which human aims are pre-eminently emphasized. A type of symbolism such as this, however, is not within the province of art, but that of religion. That is to say, the vates or prophet subordinates every significant relation of natural events, pre-eminently to the service of practical ends, whether it be in the interest of the particular designs of individuals, or in that of the common action of an entire people. Poetry, on the contrary, is bound to recognize and express even the practical situations and relations in a more universal form adapted to contemplation.

What we have, however, to deal with now is a natural phenomenon, an occurrence, which, in its passage, exhibits a particular relation, which maybe accepted as symbol for a general significance in the circle of human deeds and dealings, in other words for an ethical maxim, a saw, for a significance, therefore, whose content unfolds a reflection over the nature of the course which either is taken or ought to be taken in human matters, that is, facts which are related to volition. Here it is no longer the Divine will, which is self-revealed in its essential nature to mankind through natural events, and their religious import. We have nothing more than a quite ordinary course of everyday occurrences, from the isolated reproduction of which we are able to abstract in a[Pg 115] way commonly intelligible an ethical dictum, a warning, ensample, or rule of prudence, by whatever name we choose to call it, which is set before us in a form that appeals to our imagination for the sake of the reflection it carries with it. And this is just the way in which we ought to regard the fables of Aesop.

(a) In other words, the fables of Aesop in their original form are just such a mode of conceiving a natural relation or event between single natural objects generally, mainly between animals, whose intercourse with one another is based on the same practical necessities of life that are the motive force in that of humanity. This relation or occurrence, as viewed in its more general characters, is consequently of a kind that may happen in the sphere of human life, and as such carries with it a significance for man.

As thus explained the genuine fable of Aesop is therefore the reproduction of a condition of animate or inanimate life, of some occurrence in the animal world for example, which is not by any means composed at haphazard, but is put together in conformity with natural fact and genuine observation, and so reproduced in the form of narrative that, in its relation to human existence, and particularly the practical aspect of the same, a general maxim may be deduced from it. The requirement of primary importance that it implies, therefore, is that the particular case in question, which is to supply the so-called moral, must not be purely imaginary, that is to say, first and foremost the substance of the composition must not present facts which run counter to the mode of their appearance in real life. The narrative may be further and yet more clearly characterized in this that it does not record the particular case itself in its universality, but rather the mode under which this, taken in its concrete singularity and as a real fact, is in such external reality the type for all action based upon analogous circumstances.

This original form of the fable leaves upon it, and this is the third point to which we direct attention, the impress of most naïveté, because in it the didactic aim and the deduction of general significances of utilitarian colour do not appear to be that which was the original intention of the narrator, but rather something which turned up afterwards.[Pg 116] For this reason the most attractive among the so-called fables of Aesop will be those which correspond most emphatically with this naïve tone and narrate actions, if such an expression may here be used, or at least relations and events, which in part are founded upon animal instinct, partly are the expression of some other natural relation and partly are generally put together for their own sake rather than exclusively composed as the fancy of the moment happened to dictate. For this reason it is further sufficiently obvious that the motto fabula docet, which has attached itself to these fables as we now have them presented us, either takes the true spirit out of them, or frequently is something like a fist in our eyes[83], so that quite as often as not we are inclined to deduce the intended maxim's opposite, or one or two as good if not better.

In further elucidation of this conception of these Greek fables we propose now to offer a few illustrations. The oak and the reed stand in the teeth of the storm-wind. The slender reed merely bows before it, the stubborn oak snaps. This is a frequent enough occurrence in a great storm. In its ethical suggestion what we have here is some man of high position and inflexible temper as opposed to one of more modest station who, through his natural pliancy, is able in misfortune to keep himself secure on such ordinary levels, while the great man goes to ground through his pride and obstinacy. An analogous case is the fable of the swallows which we find in the Phaedrus. The swallows and other birds with them see a rustic sowing the flax seed, from the growth of which the bird-snare is to be made. The provident swallows fly away, the other birds think nothing of the morrow; they abide at home and are caught. A real phenomenon of Nature is also at the bottom of this fable. It is a notorious fact that in autumn swallows are off to southerly climes, and consequently are absent when birds are snared. The same thing may be said of the fable about the bat, which is despised by day and night, because it belongs to neither the one nor the other. A more general human significance is attributed to real prosaic incidents of this class, much as pious people are only too ready nowadays to interpret[Pg 117] everything that occurs in a sense that is edifying or useful. It is, however, not essential to such a purpose that in every case the true fact of Nature should appear at once as obvious. In the fable, for instance, of the fox and the raven we are unable at first blush to recognize the natural fact, although it is not wholly absent. It is, in truth, a genuine characteristic both of ravens and crows that they set about cawing when they happen to catch sight of strange objects, whatever they may be, whether man or beast, in sudden motion. Natural relations of a similar kind lie at the root of the fable of the thorn-bush, which plucks the wool off the passer-by, or wounds the fox that seeks refuge there, or that of the countryman who warms a snake in his bosom. Others set forth occurrences which may naturally form part of animal experience; take, for instance, the first example of the fables of Aesop where the eagle devours the cubs of the fox and carries off a hot coal attached to the sacrificial flesh which sets his nest on fire. And, in conclusion, we find that others contain traits of old myths, such as the fable of the dung-beetle, eagle, and Jupiter, where the circumstance borrowed from natural history—we will pass it by for what it is worth—appears to be referable to the different seasons of the year when the eagle and dung-beetle respectively lay their eggs; at the same time we may observe a clear intimation here of the traditional importance of the scarab, which, however, even in our present example, is already treated with an inclination toward comedy, an inclination still more pronounced in Aristophanes. As an excuse for not entering more fully here into the question how many of these fables can actually be traced to Aesop we mention the already well-established fact that only of quite a small minority—the last-cited one of dung-beetle and the eagle is among them—can it be shown that they date from Aesop's time, or that in general terms there is any flavour of antiquity about them to support the view that Aesop is in fact their author.

Of Aesop himself we are informed that he was a deformed and humpbacked slave; and for his place of residence we are transported into Phrygia, the very land, that is, which marks the passage from the immediately symbolical and the existence still fettered on Nature, to a land in which man[Pg 118] begins to take real hold of the spiritual and himself as the source of the same. In our present connection, no doubt, he does not behold the animal and natural world in the way the Hindoos and Egyptians beheld it, that is, as something of itself, superior and Divine. He regards it with prosaic vision as something whose relations are only of service in the presentment of a picture of human act and avoidance. His conceits are further merely the reflections of wit, without real energy of soul or depth of insight and a fundamental grasp of reality, without poetry and philosophy, in fact. His opinions and maxims are, in consequence, fairly rich in sensuous image and traits of cleverness, but we never get beyond the digging away into mere trifles, which, instead of creating free shapes from the unfettered life of spirit, is contented to discover some additional aspect that is new in material already close at hand, such as the specific instincts and habits of animals or other daily occurrences of little moment; and this is so because that which he would teach he is still afraid to express freely, and is only able to make it intelligible in a kind of riddle which is at the same time always being solved. Prose has its origin in the slave, and in the same way prose clings to the entire type of conception with which we are now concerned.

Despite this fact, however, the experience of almost all nations and times has in one form or another run through these old tales; and however much any particular people whose literature is generally well versed in fable may pride itself as possessing more than one fabulist of distinction, we shall find that their poetry is for the most part merely a reflection of these primary sallies of invention, merely translated into the vernacular of the age. All that has since been added to the general heritage of such conceits falls far behind the original legacy in real merit.

(b) There are, however, among these fables of Greek descent a number which betray the greatest poverty of invention and execution, being mere pegs on which to hang the instructive moral, so that the contents, whether they refer to gods or animals, have merely a formal significance. Yet even these are far enough removed from the modern tendency of doing violence to the animal world as we find[Pg 119] it in Nature. An example of this tendency is that fable of Pfeffel about a marmot which collected provisions in autumn, an act of foresight which another marmot neglected, and so was brought to the condition of beggary and starvation. Or there is that other of the fox, the bloodhound, and the lynx, of whom it is narrated that they presented themselves before Jupiter, together with the talents which exclusively belonged to them of cunning, keen scent, and clear sight, and requested that these gifts should be equally divided between them; the fable goes on that they obtained such consent under these rather surprising terms: "The fox gets a blow on the forehead, the bloodhound is good for no more hunting, the Argus Lynx receives a cataract." That a marmot should cease to make provision for its wants, or that the three animals above mentioned should ever incidentally meet with, or be naturally capable of receiving, a proportionate division of their respective gifts is contrary to all reason and consequently meaningless. A better fable than those above cited is that of the ant and the grasshopper, or that other of the deer with the beautiful horns and the slender legs.

Conformably to the tenor of fables of this kind we have grown, as a rule, accustomed to accept the moral of the fable as that which is of first importance, and to regard the narrative as merely an external form, and consequently an event entirely composed with a view to expound that moral. Embodiments of this sort, however, more particularly when the occurrence described is wholly at variance with the natural character of specific animals, are in the highest degree insipid, attempts at invention which mean less than nothing. The real ingenuity of a fable consists exclusively in this that it is able to impart to that which already exists in determinate form a further and more universal significance than that which is immediately presented.

The question has further been raised, in reference to the general assumption that the essence of a fable consists in setting before us the actions and speech of animals rather than those of mankind, as to what it is precisely which attracts us in this allusion. We cannot suppose, however, that there is after all much that is attractive in such a furbishing up of our humanity in animal form, even though[Pg 120] it should exceed or at least differ from that of a comedy of apes and dogs, where, apart from the sight of the general cleverness of the dressing up, the entire interest consists rather in the deliberate contrast between animal nature as it really is and appears, and that represented as taking part in human affairs. On grounds of this sort Breitinger finds the attraction to consist entirely in the element of the marvellous. In the original type of the fable, however, the appearance of animals endowed with speech is not put before us as anything uncommon or surprising. And for this very reason Lessing is of the opinion that the introduction of animals is really of great use in helping us to understand and assisting the poet to abridge his exposition; in other words we are well acquainted with the qualities of animals, the cuteness of the fox, the magnanimity of the lion, the voracity and violence of the wolf, and are consequently able to set before our minds a concrete image in place of such abstract qualities. An advantage of this kind, however, in no essential degree mitigates the triviality of the relation when it has become one purely of form, and generally it is even a disadvantage to place animals thus before us instead of men, for the reason that the animal form remains a mask, which, so far as intelligibility is concerned, veils fully as much as it declares the significance.

The most important fable of this kind should be in that case the old history of Reinecke, the fox, which is notwithstanding strictly speaking no fable at all.

(c) In other words we may in conclusion add a third type of the fable, in which we find that there is already a tendency to pass beyond the real boundaries of the type. The ingenuity of a fable consists, as already pointed out, in the discovery of particular cases among the variety of natural phenomena, which we are able to use as evidential support of general reflections upon human action and behaviour, without essentially displacing the animal and natural world from its own native mode of existence. For the rest this general application or adaptation of the particular case to the so-called moral is an exercise of personal caprice, or shall we say native wit, and is therefore to all intents and purposes an affair of pleasantry. It is this aspect which receives the main emphasis in the type of fable now before[Pg 121] us. The fable is in fact accepted as a witty jest. Goethe has written many a delightful and ingenious poem in this vein. The following lines occur in one of them, which is entitled "The Barking Dog":

Down every road afield we ride
On business bent or pleasure;
And ever in our wake full-cry
A hound's bark beats the measure.
Loosed from our horse's stable he
Will always gallop beside us:
And this is what his clamour proves!
We ride, are with the riders.

It is equally necessary here, as in the case of Aesop's fables, that objects which are borrowed from Nature should receive their native aspect, and only bring before us in their action and habits human circumstances, passions, and traits, which have a close affinity to those of the animal world. The story of Reinecke is one of this kind, and is really more a fairy-tale than a fable in the strict sense. We find in the content of this the reflection of an age of disorder and lawlessness, of evil generally, weakness, baseness, violence, and shamelessness, of unbelief in religion, that merely retains the appearance of a mastery, or indeed an established position in the world-drama; and the result is that craft, cunning, and selfishness have it all their own way. It is, in fact, the condition of the Middle Ages, more especially as developed in Germany. The powerful vassals pay, it is true, some appearance of respect to the king; but practically every man does as he pleases—robs, murders, oppresses the weak, betrays the king, finds a way somehow to the favours of the queen, so that if the community just holds together that is about all. Such is the human content, which by this fable is preserved, not in a mere abstract proposition but in an entire complexus of conditions and characters, and by reason of its baseness fits in with the animal nature exactly, under the forms of which it is unfolded. For this reason we find nothing embarrassing in the fact that it is without any reserves transferred to the animal realm; and for the same reason the particular form it takes does not so much appear as an exceptional case cognate with it; rather[Pg 122] we are inclined to feel the singularity of it make way for a certain breadth of universality, a vision emphasizing the general truth: "Such is the way things happen in the world." The comical side consists in the forms under which the whole is put together, drollery and jest being freely mingled with the bitter earnestness of the situation; the general effect of which is that we not only have human meanness admirably depicted through that of animals, but we are further made a present of the most entertaining traits, and most characteristic anecdotes wholly peculiar to animal life, so that, despite all tartness to the palate, our final view is that of a comedy whose main intention is neither bad nor purely capricious, but one that has genuine earnestness to support it.


(a) The Parable

Parable has this general affinity with fable, that it accepts events from the circle of common life, but also makes them the depositors of a higher and more universal significance, expressly with a view that the same shall become intelligible and objective by means of that daily occurrence in its ordinary guise. A difference, however, at once asserts itself between the parable and fable, and it is this, that the former selects such occurrences in human action and habits, as we have them every day before our eyes, rather than in Nature and the animal world; it then expands the particular case selected, which appears trite enough at first as such a particular, to the range of wider interest, by suggesting through it a higher kind of significance.

For this reason the range and the importance of the significances in wealth of content can materially be increased and deepened[84], while, if we take the point of view of form, it is clear that the subjective process of intentional comparison and setting out of a generally instructive reflection already marks the acceptance and appearance of a more advanced type.

[Pg 123]

As a parable, still united to a wholly practical end, we may view the means of persuasion used by Cyrus to induce the Persians to rebel (Herod., I, cap. 126). His letter to the Persians advised them to betake themselves to a certain spot provided with sickles. When there he set them all on the first day to clear with hard labour a certain field overgrown with thistles. On the following day, however, after they had rested and bathed, he conducted them to a meadow and supplied them with ample cheer in the shape of food and wine. Finally, at the close of the feast, he asked of them which of the two days had proved the most enjoyable. All voted naturally for to-day rather than yesterday; the former had brought them only good things, while the latter had been a day of weariness and toil. On this Cyrus exclaimed: "Follow me, and many will be the good days such as the present has brought you. Refuse to follow me, and countless labours are in store quite a match for those of yesterday." Of a type akin to the above, though of profoundest interest and the widest range considered relatively to their significance, are the parables we meet with in the Gospels. Take, for example, that of the sower, a narrative which as such possesses the most unimportant subject-matter, and whose significance centres throughout in the comparison it supplies to the preaching of the kingdom of heaven. The significance in these parables is wholly a religious gospel, to which the human occurrences, wherein such is imaginatively presented, stand in a relation similar to that between the animal and human world in the fables of Aesop, where the former elicits the meaning of the latter. Of a like breadth of content is the famous story of Boccaccio, which Lessing converted in his "Natham" into the parable of the three rings. The substance of the narrative is also in this case taken by itself nothing remarkable; the extraordinarily wide, reach of its content arises wholly from the way the differences between and the relative validity of the three religions, namely, the Jewish, the Mohammedan, and the Christian, are suggested by it. The same thing may be said of the latest novelties in this type of art, the parables of Goethe for example. Take that of the "cat-pasty." In this a famous chef, in order to prove himself hunter no less than cook, went out hunting, but shot a tom-cat instead of[Pg 124] a hare, which he then served up to the company sauced with his most consummate art. This is no doubt a reference to the Light theory of Newton. We have here under the guise of the hare-pie which the cook tried in vain to elaborate out of a cat a reflection of that abortive type of physical science which the mathematician will assume to be something better than it is. These parables of Goethe frequently have a strong touch of drollery about them, an aspect which they share with his fables by the help of which he was wont to shed himself of life's disappointments.

(b) The Proverb

The proverb forms as it were the middle point of this sphere. In the form of their execution, that is to say, proverbs lean at one time in the direction of the fable, at another to that of the apologue. They give us a particular case selected for the most part from the daily walk of mankind, which, however, is to be interpreted universally. Take the example, "One hand washes the other," or those others, "Every one wheels before his own door," "Who digs a grave for another, falls into it himself," "Bake a pudding for me and I will staunch your thirst," and others like them. To wise saws of this type belong the many apophthegems that Goethe has contributed to modern literature, often of exquisite grace and profound to a degree. These are not modes of comparison of the type that the general significance and the concrete phenomenon are opposed to one another in separation, but the former is immediately expressed with the latter.

(c) The Apologue

The apologue may be regarded as a parable, which not only serves in the way of comparison to render visible a general significance, but rather in this its very form reproduces and expresses the general moral, the same being actually included in the particular case, which is, however, related as only a single example. Conformably to this definition we may call Goethe's "Der Gott und die Bajadere" an[Pg 125] apologue. Here we find the Christian tale of the repentant Magdalene reclothed in accordance with Hindoo ideas. The Bajadere[85] exemplifies the same humility, a like strength of love and faith; God puts her to the proof, an ordeal she completely sustains, and her exaltation and reconciliation follows. In the apologue also narrative is so extended that the outcome of it furnishes the moral itself, bare of any parallel to support it, as may be illustrated from "The Treasure-Finder":

Work by day and guests at night,
Weeks of moil, feasts of delight,
Such the Future's spell for thee.


The third mode we have to discuss in its contrast to the fable, parable, proverb, and apologue, is the metamorphosis. This is no doubt of a kind which is both symbolical and mythological; it sets forth, however, expressly furthermore the natural in its opposition to the spiritual. That is to say, it confers on an object immediately present to sense such as a rock, animal, flower, or spring the peculiar significance of being a delapsus and a punishment of spiritual existences. Such are the examples of Philomela, the Pieredes, Narcissus, and Arethusa, all of whom, through some false step, passion, transgression or the like, became subject to irreparable guilt or pain, and for this reason were deprived of the freedom of spiritual life, and united to the substance of physical nature. From one point of view Nature is not regarded merely under its external and prosaic aspect, simply, that is, as mountain, river-source, tree and so forth, but it further receives a content which is bound up with some action or event of spiritual life. The rock is not simply stone, but Niobe herself, who weeps for her children. From the other point of view this human action implies guilt of some kind, and this metamorphosis into the physical phenomenon is accepted as a degradation of Spirit.

It is therefore necessary to distinguish these metamorphoses[Pg 126] of human individuals or gods very sharply from the genuine type of unconscious symbolism. To return to Egypt, for example, the Divine is here in part immediately envisaged in the mysterious and secluded intension of animal life, partly, too, the real symbol is here a natural form which is immediately associated with a wider significance cognate to it, despite the fact that this form is unable to supply the determinate existence fully commensurate with it; and this is so for the reason that neither in respect to its form or its content has unconscious symbolism arrived at the free outlook of Spirit. Metamorphosis, on the contrary, emphasizes the essential distinction between Nature and Spirit, and by doing so marks the passage from that which is both symbolical and mythological to that which is in the strict sense mythological, under, that is to say, a conception of the latter, which, albeit that it proceeds in its myths from a concrete fact of Nature such as sun, sea, rivers, trees, earth, and the like, nevertheless, further and expressly sets this purely natural aspect on one side and apart, divesting such natural phenomena of their inner content and individualizing the same as a spiritual Power in the adequate artistic form of gods clothed in the lineaments of humanity, whether we regard them as external shape or spiritual activity. In this sense Homer and Hesiod have given to the Greeks their mythology, a mythology which by no means merely consists in the revelation of the significance of such gods, by no means is merely an exposition of moral, physical, theological, or speculative doctrine, but one that is a mythology in the strict sense, that is the origin of a spiritual religion under the genuine guise of our humanity.

In the Metamorphoses of Ovid the most heterogeneous material is brought together quite apart from the entirely modern spirit in which myth is treated. Beside the mere aspect of metamorphosis, which could here in general terms only be conceived as a kind of mythical representation, we have the specific character[87] of this type raised in an exceptional way in these narrations, in which embodiments of this sort, which are commonly accepted as symbolical, or are already received in their entirely mythical character, appear to[Pg 127] have been converted into metamorphoses, and that which is elsewhere united is so presented as to assert an opposition between its significance and form, and the passage of the one into the other. In this way, for instance, the Phrygian or Egyptian symbol, the wolf, is so separated from its intrinsic significance, that the same is converted into a previous existence if not actually into the kingship of the Sun, and the existence of the wolf is conceived as resulting from an act of that human existence. In the same way in the song of the Pierides the Egyptian gods, the ram, the cat, and so forth are imaged as such animal forms, in which the mythical gods of Greece, Jupiter, Venus, and the rest have concealed themselves from sheer fright. The Pierides themselves, however, by way of punishment, in that they dared to rival the Muses with their singing, are changed into woodpeckers.

Looked at from another side it is equally necessary, with a view to securing the more accurate definition, which the content wherein the significance consists essentially carries, that we distinguish the metamorphosis from the fable. That is to say in the fable the binding together of the moral with the natural fact is an association that is harmless; for in this the thing of Nature, regarded under the mode in which it differs in its natural aspect from Spirit, does not affect the significance, although there are certainly single examples of the fables of Aesop, which, with but slight alteration, would be instances of metamorphosis. As such may be cited the forty-second fable of the bat, the thorn-bush, and the diver, whose instincts are explained as due to the ill-luck of former experiences.

And here we must end our passage through this the first circle of the comparative type of art. It started from that which was immediately present to sense, that is, the concrete phenomenon. We proceed now from the point we have arrived at to examine a further kind of significance which the type unfolds.

[Pg 128]


Forasmuch as the severation of significance from embodiment is the hypostasized form for consciousness, within which the relation of both originates independently, it is both possible and inevitable that in the articulation of the self-subsistency of one side no less than the other a start should be made not only from external existence, but conversely and as emphatically from that which is immediately present to the conscious subject, in other words general conceptions, reflections, emotions, and principles of thought. For this inward aspect is equally with the images of external objects a subject-matter present to consciousness and in its independence of that which is external proceeds on its way from its own resources. In the case, then, where we find the significance is the point of departure, the expression, that is, the reality, appears as the modus formulandi, which is abstracted from the concrete world in order to give a visible and sensuously defined shape to the significance regarded as abstract content.

Owing, however, to the reciprocally indifferent relation under which both sides confront each other, this association which binds the two sides together is, as we have already seen, no essentially explicit and necessary union; consequently the relation, such as it is, that is no actual reflection of objective fact, is rather a product of active mind, which no longer even disguises this its fundamental character, but rather deliberately exposes it in the form of its representation. The very embodiment possesses this binding together of form and content, soul and body, under the guise of concrete animation[88], as essentially and explicitly the substantial union of both sides in the soul as in the body, in the content as in the form. In the case before us, however, what is presupposed by consciousness is the dislocation of the two sides, and consequently their association is the vivification of the significance simply for consciousness by means of a shape external to it, and an indication of a real existence, equally subjective in its character through the[Pg 129] relation of the same to the general conceptions, emotions, and thoughts common to humanity. For this reason what is mainly emphasized in these forms of comparative art is the subjective art of the poet in his creative capacity, and in complete works of art we have mainly in our attitude to this particular aspect of them to separate that which strictly is appurtenant to their subject-matter and its necessary embodiment from that which is attached to them by the poet as mere ornament and embellishment. Such accessory detail, which we cannot fail to distinguish, that is, consisting mainly of images, similes, allegories, and metaphor, is precisely that part of his work in virtue of which he earns his title to fame with most people, a tendency which is all the more common because it indirectly bears witness to the insight and subtlety which enables such critics to discover our poet and draw attention to that aspect of his invention which is so entirely his own. But for all that, as we have already observed, in genuine works of art such forms as those we are discussing can only be regarded as accessory, although we doubtless do find in previous works on Poetics such incidental features treated as precisely those which go to make the poet.

Furthermore however, though unquestionably in the first instance the two sides which have to be associated stand in a relation of indifference to one another, yet in order to justify the subjective relation and comparison, the embodiments must also in the character of its content itself include the same relations and qualities under a cognate mode to that which the significance intrinsically possesses; the grasp of this similarity is, in fact, the one sure ground upon which the setting forth of the significance in union with this specific form rather than any other, and the envisagement of such import by its means is based. Lastly, inasmuch as we begin here, not from the concrete phenomenon, by the abstraction of a general characteristic from that, but conversely from this universal itself, which the intention is to have reflected in an image, the significance secures the position which makes it stand out actually as the real object, and as such is predominant over the sensuous picture which is the modus of its envisagement.

The series in which we propose now to examine the particular[Pg 130] types we have mentioned as belonging to this phase of comparative art may be indicated as follows:

First in order, as most cognate to the previous stage, the riddle will enlist our attention.

Secondly, we have to examine the allegory, in which as the main feature we shall find the abstract significance assert a mastery over the external form.

Thirdly, we have the class of the comparison in its strict sense; metaphor, image, and simile.


The true symbol is essentially enigmatical in so far as the externality, by means of which a general significance is made apparent, still differs from the import it is intended to express: in other words it thereby raises the doubt as to what is the exact signification applicable to the form. The riddle, however, appertains to conscious symbolism, and an obvious distinction between it and the genuine symbol is to be found in the fact that in the former case the meaning is clearly and fully recognized by the propounder of it, and the form which veils that which is to be interpreted by it is therefore intentionally selected for this very purpose. The genuine symbol is both before and after the act of selection an unsolved problem, the riddle, on the contrary, is essentially a problem that is solved. It is therefore with very good reason that Sancho Panza exclaims: "I should much prefer to hear the solution first and the riddle afterwards."

(a) First, then, in the invention of the riddle, the point from which the process starts, is the apprehended meaning, the signification of it.

(b) The second step consists in the intentional selection of traits of character and other qualities from the common experience of the external world, which—such is always the aspect of Nature and external objects of every kind—are placed relatively to one another in piecemeal fashion, and in thus setting them forth in disparate contiguity, which makes their singularity the more striking. And inasmuch as they are so placed they are without the enfolding unity[Pg 131] of mind, and their array and association intentionally distract has so far no intrinsic significance whatever. And yet for all that, and this is the other aspect of the riddle, they do expressly point to a unity in relation to which even traits to all appearance most heterogeneous contain, notwithstanding, both a real sense and significance.

(c) This unity, which may be styled the subject of these distract predicates, is just the simple preconception, the word that solves our riddle, to discover or divine which from the apparently confused medley of the mode under which it is propounded is the riddle's problem. Thus interpreted we may call the riddle the facetiousness of symbolism, aware that it is such which puts to the proof acuteness of insight and aptness at putting things together, and finally, by stimulating the zest of solution, breaks into and destroys the very mode of presentation it has itself set up. In the main we shall find this, form, therefore, most employed in human speech, though we may find exceptional examples of it also in the plastic arts[89], architecture, horticulture, and painting. With regard to its historical appearance the East is first and foremost responsible, and we may date its advent in that intermediate and transitional period out of the more obtuse type of symbolism into one of more intelligent knowledge and comprehension. Entire peoples and historical epochs have taken delight in the solution of such problems. It also plays an important part in the Middle Ages among the Arabs and the Scandinavians, and as a particular example it is much in evidence in the minstrel tourneys on the Wartburg. In modern times it is mainly under the more modest guise of recreation and purely social pleasantry that we cross it.

In the riddle we have opened a practically limitless field for witty and striking conceits, which in their reference to any given circumstance, occurrence, or object take the form of a play upon words or an epigrammatical sentence. On the one hand we have presented an object trite to a degree, on the other some conceit of the mind which emphasizes unexpectedly with conspicuous force some aspect or relation,[Pg 132] which we failed to perceive in that object on first confronting it, and which now attaches to it the light of a new significance.


The counterpart to the riddle in this sphere of comparative art, where the point of departure is from the generality of the significance, is the allegory. From a certain point of view this form, no less than the former, endeavours to make more visible to us the definite qualities of a general conception through qualities in materially concrete objects which are cognate therewith; but in contrast to that form this is not done in the interest of a partial concealment and a mysterious problem; rather it is now quite the other way with the express object of absolute revealment; to an extent, in fact, that all which is external, and is as such utilized by it, must become through and through transpicuous with the significance which has to make its appearance therein.

(a) It is therefore in the first place concerned to personify abstract conditions of a general character or similar qualities both from the human and the natural world, such as religion, love, justice, strife, fame, war, peace, the seasons, death, and the like, and conceive them under the mode of personality. This subjective aspect, however, is neither in respect to its content nor its external form in itself either a real subject or individual, but persists as the abstraction of a general conception, whose content is merely the barren form of subjectivity which may be called as truly a grammatical subject[90]. In other words an allegorical being, despite every attempt to clothe it in the lineaments of humanity, entirely falls short of concrete individuality, whether it be a Greek god, a saint, or any other genuine example. It is, in fact, so forced to pare away[91] from the substance of subjectivity, in order to make it conform with the abstract character[Pg 133] of its significance, that all the true definition of individuality disappears. It is therefore only a just criticism of allegory to say that it is frosty and cold, and, having regard to the abstract quality of its significances, even in the point of invention, that it is rather the result of the matter-of-fact understanding than that of the complete vision and emotional depth of genuine imagination. Poets, such as Virgil, for example, are particularly ready to give us examples of allegorical individualization simply because they are unable to create gods of the Homeric type of personality.

(b) Secondly, however, the significant character of allegorical material is at once defined in its abstraction, and only by means of such definition is it intelligible; the expression of such particular aspects, for the reason that it is not immediately unfolded in that which is in the first instance a purely generalized conception of personality, is consequently forced to appear alongside of the subject, simply as the predicates which elucidate the same. This separation of subject from predicate, generality from particularity, is the second feature of the frostlike appearance of the allegory. The envisagement of the determinate and specific qualities is borrowed from the modes of expression, activity, and resultant effects which make their appearance in virtue of the significance, when that secures its realized form in concrete existence, or from the various means which subserve it in its true realization. For example, war is delineated through weapons, cannons, drums, and standards, etc.; the yearly seasons, by an enumeration of the flowers and fruits, which pre-eminently spring up under the favouring influence of the particular seasons. Objects of this kind may further receive purely symbolical relations, as, for instance, Justice may be brought home to our minds by means of the scales and fillet, Death by that of the hour-glass and scythe. For the reason, however, that the significance in allegory is the dominant factor, and the more specialized presentment is subordinate to it under an equally abstract form, for it is, after all, itself merely an abstraction, the embodiment of such definable characteristics only secures the validity of an attribute pure and simple.

(c) In this way the allegory is under both these aspects without vital warmth. Its general personification is empty,[Pg 134] the definite mode of its externalization is only a sign, which taken independently has no longer any meaning, and the centrum, which is thus constrained to gather up the variety of the attributes into a focus does not possess the potency of a truly subjective unity which is itself self-embodied in its real and determinate existence inter-related throughout, but is rather a purely abstract form, for which the substantial filling-up with particular traits, which, as we have seen, never succeed in rising above the rank of the formal attribute, remains as something external. Consequently we may say that in so far as the allegory sets up any claim to real self-consistency, in which it personifies its abstraction and their delineation, it is not to be taken seriously. In other words, that which is both implicitly and explicitly self-substantive is unable really to conform with an allegorical being. The Dikê of the ancients, for instance, is not on all fours with allegorical individualization. She is universal Necessity personified, eternal Justice, the universally potent subject, the absolute substantivity of the relations which co-ordinate Nature and spiritual Life, that is, she is the absolute Self-subsistent itself, in the train of whom all other individuals are bound, whether gods or men. Herr Frederick von Schlegel has, it is true—we have already referred to the fact—ventured the opinion that every work of art must of necessity be an allegory. Such an expression of opinion is only true if limited to the sense that every work of art must contain a general idea and a significance which is itself essentially true. What we have above, on the contrary, included under the term allegory is a mode of presentation which only conforms to the notion of art incompletely, being itself no less in content than in form subordinate to it. Every human event and development, every relation in which life is concerned, possesses no doubt intrinsically an aspect of universality, which may be emphasized as such, but abstractions of this kind are already to be found in the general contents of consciousness, and merely to assert them in their prosaic aspect of generality and external delineation, which is the point where the allegory halts, is still to fall short of the true sphere of art.

Winckelmann has also written an immature work on allegory, in which he has ranged together a large number of[Pg 135] examples, but failed for the most part to distinguish those which exemplify the symbol and allegory respectively.

Among the particular arts within which we find examples of the allegory, poetry is really acting contrary to its laws when it takes refuge in such a mode of presentment; sculpture on the contrary is in most directions barely complete without it, more especially modern sculputure, which freely admits of that which is native to portraiture, and so must avail itself of allegorical figures in order to delineate more closely the relative aspects under which the individual presentment is posed. On Blucher's monument, for example, which has been raised to him here in Berlin, we find both the genius of Fame and Victory, although, having regard to the general treatment of the war of liberation, this allegorical aspect is once more set aside by means of a series of particular scenes such as the departure of the army, its march, and victorious return. Generally speaking, however, where the subject of sculpture is portraiture the sculptor will avail himself gladly of allegorical representation as offering to the simplicity of his central figure the contrast of environment and variety. The ancients on the other hand, on their sarcophagi for example, more frequently made use of general mythological representations of such figures as Sleep, Death, and the like.

Allegory generally is far less common in the antique than it is in the romantic art of the Middle Ages, although it must be added that such romance as it possesses is not really referable to allegory. The frequent appearance of allegorical conception at this particular epoch of human history is to be thus explained. From a certain point of view we find that the content of the Middle Ages is preoccupied with particular types of individuality and the personal aims, generally focussed in love and honour, and resulting in vows, wanderings, and adventures, which are common to them. Individuals of this type and the events of such lives invariably offer the imagination a wide scope for the inventive faculties, and the composition of accidental and capriciously imagined collisions and their resolution. On the other hand, in direct contrast to this motley show of worldly adventure we have the universal, taking it here as the stability of the ordinary relations and conditions of life,[Pg 136] a universal which is not, as was the case in the ancient world, individualized in the figures of self-subsistent gods; consequently we find it freely and naturally emphasized in independent isolation as such universality alongside of these particular types of personality and their specific modes of appearance and activity. If the artist therefore happens to have before his mind the general conditions of life we have adverted to, and assuming that he is desirous of giving artistic embodiment to them in some form other than the accidental mode common to his age, that he wishes, in short, to emphasize their universality, he has no other alternative than to accept the allegorical type of presentment. This is precisely what we find in the sphere of religion.

The Virgin Mary, Christ, the actions and dramatic events of apostolic history, the saints with their penances and martyrdoms, are, it is true, even here individualities in the full sense; but Christendom is also to an equal extent concerned with the general conceptions of abstract spiritual qualities, such as will not comply with the concrete definition of actual persons inasmuch as the relation of universality is precisely the mode under which they are presented, of which examples are Love, Faith, and Hope. And generally the truths and dogmas of Christendom are independently cognized by the religious consciousness, and a main interest even of their poetry consists in this that these doctrines are emphasized in their universal aspect, that Truth is known and believed in as universal truth. In that case, however, it is necessary that the concrete presentation should remain a subordinate factor, itself external to the content, and allegory is just the form which satisfies this want in the easiest and most sufficient way. Conformably to this the divine comedy of Dante is full of allegorical matter. Theology, for example, in this poem is run together in fusion with the image of his beloved lady Beatrice. This personification, however, wavers in the lines of its delineation; and this uncertainty of outline is that which constitutes the beauty of it, and places it halfway between genuine allegory and a vision of his youthful love. In the ninth year of his life he looked on her for the first time: she appeared to him no daughter of mortal men, but of God. His fiery Italian nature conceived a passion for her, which the years failed to[Pg 137] extinguish. And conscious that it was she who awoke in him the genius of poetry he finally sets himself the task, after he had lost in her that which was most loved in the fairest flower of its promise, of composing that wonderful monument of the most intimate and personal religion of his heart in the poetic masterpiece of his life.


The third sphere of content attached to the riddle and the allegory consists in the imaged thing generally. The riddle veiled the still independently cognized significance and the mode of its shaping in cognate, albeit heterogeneous and distantly placed traits of definition was still of most importance. Allegory on the contrary emphasized the perspicuity of the significance so strongly as the predominant aim, that the personification and its attributes appear deposed to the rank of mere signs. The imaged thing now connects this clarity of allegorical expression with that impulse of the riddle to envisage the significance which stands out clearly before the mind in the form of an externality cognate with it; the result, however, is not that it gives rise to problems which have first of all to be solved, but rather that the imaged shape appears, by means of which the preconceived conception is revealed with absolute transparency, notifying itself as that which it really is.

(a) The Metaphor

The first point we have to draw attention to in the metaphor is this, that it may be accepted at once as essentially a simile, in so far as it expresses clear and self-subsistent significance in a similar phenomenon of reality comparable with it. In the comparison as such, however, both sides of the comparison, that is the real meaning and the image, are definitely kept apart from each other, while on the contrary in the metaphor this separation, albeit it is essentially present, is not as yet clearly posited. For this reason Aristotle long ago distinguished comparison and[Pg 138] metaphor by his statement that a "how" is added to the former which is absent from the latter. In other words the metaphorical expression specifies but one aspect, the image. In the context, however, to which the image is attached, the real significance which is intended lies so near that it is at the same time immediately asserted without any direct separation of it from the image. When it is said, for example: "the Spring-time of these cheeks," or "a sea of tears," we are inevitably forced to accept such an expression as an image rather than an actual fact, an image whose significance the context at the same time expressly designates. In the symbol and allegory the relation of actual meaning to external form is not asserted either so immediately or necessarily. From the fact that an Egyptian staircase consists of nine stages, and a hundred other circumstances of similar pregnancy, it is only the adept, the connoisseur, and the professor who will derive a symbolical significance, and doubtless will scent out and discover much that is both mystical and symbolical into the bargain, which is so much ingenuity of research thrown away for the reason that what is discovered is not there. This may have happened often enough to my honoured friend Creutzer, no less than our latter-day Platonists and the commentators of Dante.

(a) In range and variety of form it is impossible to exhaust the resources of metaphor; its definition, however, is simple. It is a wholly abbreviated comparison, in which we find, as a fact, image and significance are not as yet set in opposition to one another, but only the image is introduced by it; at the same time, however, the meaning which is thus attached to the image is not its real meaning; this is as it were effaced, and by virtue of the content in which it is set we are enabled to recognize the significance which is really intended in the image itself, albeit that meaning is not expressly asserted.

For the reason, however, that the meaning that is thus rendered intelligible under the image only comes to light by virtue of the context, the significance which is expressed in metaphor cannot claim the importance of an independent artistic presentation; their mode of appearance is purely incidental, so that metaphors, in a still more emphatic degree,[Pg 139] can only be employed as the external embellishment of an essentially independent work of art.

(β) The metaphor is mainly used in the expressions of speech, which we may usefully consider in this relation under the following aspects.

(αα) In the first place every language includes within its own compass a host of metaphors. They arise from the fact that a word, which in the first instance merely designates something entirely sensuous, is carried over into a spiritual sphere. "Grasp", "comprehend"[92], and generally a number of words connected with the processes of thought, have in regard to their original meaning a content that is wholly sensuous, which is consequently abandoned and exchanged for the meaning applicable to mind; the first meaning is sensuous, the second spiritual.

(ββ) By degrees, however, the metaphorical aspect disappears in the general use of such a word, which as the current coin of language is converted from an expression which is not strictly accurate to one that is so, the effect of this process being that image and import, owing to the habitual frequency with which the latter is only conceived in the former, cease to differ from one another, and the image merely immediately presents the abstract significance itself instead of a concrete mode of vision[93].

When we take, for example, the word "grasp" in the sense applicable to mental life it entirely escapes us that there is any sensuous relation implied between the hand and external objects[94]. In living languages this distinction between genuine metaphor and words which already through usage have fallen to the level of a mere means of expression is readily established; the reverse is the case with dead languages, for the reason that here mere etymology is unable finally to bring our minds to a decision, inasmuch and in so far as the question does not depend on the original source of that word, and its general development in speech, but first and foremost on the fact whether a word which[Pg 140] has all the appearance of being used in a picturesque and metaphorical sense had or had not already lost by habitual usage under a meaning applying exclusively to spirit, and in the speech when alive, its first sensuous significance and been absorbed wholly in that higher sense.

(γγ) When this takes place the invention of new metaphors, which are the exclusive product of the poetical imagination becomes for the first time a vital necessity. That in which this invention is mainly concerned consists first in transferring the phenomena, activities, and conditions of a higher level of fact in a way that illustrates the content of less important material, and in bringing to light significances of such inferior matter in the form and image which stands above them. The organic, for example, is by itself essentially of higher importance than the inorganic, and to carry forward that which has no life within, the range of vital phenomenal enhances its expression. We may illustrate this with the saying of Ferdusi: "The keenness of my sword devours the brain of the lion, and drinks the dark blood of the courageous." In a yet more enhanced degree we find the same result when that which is of Nature and sensuous is imaged, and thereby raised and ennobled in the form of spiritual phenomena. So we have such common turns of speech as "smiling fields," and "angry flood," or in the language of Calderon: "The waves sigh beneath the burden of ships." In these examples that which exclusively applies to humanity is diverted to the expression of Nature. The Latin poets use such metaphorical language often enough, as we may find in our Virgil, take the example: Quum graviter tunsis gemit area frugibus (Georg., III, 132).

Conversely and in the second place that which pertains to mind is brought in the same way more close to our powers of vision through the image of natural objects. Such fanciful presentations, however, can very readily degenerate into mere trifling and far-fetched conceits, when that which is essentially without life receives notwithstanding every appearance of individuality, and really spiritual activities are assigned to it with perfect seriousness. The Italians more especially have given themselves over to illusive trickery of this kind, and even Shakespeare is not wholly free from them, as in that passage from "Richard II"[Pg 141] (Act V, sc. I), where he makes the King say to the Queen on parting:

For why, the senseless brands will sympathize
The heavy accent of thy moving tongue
And in compassion weep the fire out;
And some will mourn in ashes, some coal-black
For the deposing of a rightful king.

(γ) Finally, if we look at the aim and interest of that which is metaphorical, the first thing which strikes us is that a word in the strict sense is an independently intelligible expression, the metaphor otherwise. The question consequently presents itself, what is the reason of this twofold means of expression, or, to put it another way, why is it that we have the metaphorical which essentially implies this division? The common explanation is that metaphors are used to give vivacity to poetical composition, and this animating effect is the ground in virtue of which Heyne, in particular, insists on their value. The vivacity consists in the support they offer to imaginative vision in the direction of clear definition, divesting the word, which is always something generalized, of its purely indefinite character, and bringing it home to sense by means of an image. No doubt a greater degree of vivacity is to be found in metaphors than in the strict expressions of ordinary speech; genuine vitality, however, is not to be sought for in metaphors, whether in isolation or combination, whose figurative plasticity, it is true, may frequently include a relation, which by good chance attaches at the same time to the expression an increased perspicuity and a higher definition, but quite as often, if every detail of the process of thought is thus figuratively emphasized in isolation, makes the whole unwieldy, overloading it thus with its emphasis on singular aspects.

The genius of metaphorical diction is consequently, as we shall have to elucidate more closely in our consideration of simile, to be regarded as responding to a need and potency of mind and the emotional life, which will not rest satisfied with that which is entirely simple, ordinary, and homely, but make an effort beyond this and over into something more recondite under the attraction which distinction offers and the impulse to co-ordinate contrasted effects. This[Pg 142] binding together has itself again various causes, which may be notified as follows.

(αα) First, we have it for the sake of reinforcing an effect. The emotional life, under the pressure and movement of its passions, gives visible utterance to these forces by means of the piling up of sensuous image. More than this, it strives to express its own whirl and tumble, or persistence in the ideas which crowd upon it by means of a similar letting itself go into phenomena cognate with such a condition, and its own free movement among images of the greatest variety. In Calderon's supplication to the Cross Julia utters the following words when she looks upon the dead body of her only just deceased brother, and her lover, Eusebio, the man who has killed Lisardo, stands before her:

O that I might close for ever
Eyes before this blood here guiltless,
Blood which cries for vengeance with its
Flooding stream of purple flowers!
Would that I could deem thee pardoned
In the rush of tears that blind thee:
Wounds and eyes are mouths which swallow
Lies which seek admittance never, etc.

With a still more vehement burst of passion Eusebio starts back from the sight of her, when Julia finally is for surrendering herself to him, as he exclaims:

Flaming sparks thine eyeballs scatter;
Every sigh is breath that scorches;
Every word is a volcano,
Every hair a scribbled lightning,
Every word is Death, and every
Soft caress is Hell's own anguish;
Such the horror stirs within me
As I see—O awful symbol,
Crucifix thy bosom carries.

The human soul on the swell of its emotion keeps adding image on image to that immediately confronting it, and with all this impetuous seeking to and fro for new means of expression barely lays to rest its own tumult.

(ββ) A second rationale of the metaphorical consists in this that the human soul, after adding to its own depth by[Pg 143] this the motion of its own life into the varied survey of objects cognate with it, is stirred at the same time to cast itself free of the externality of such objects, to the extent that it seeks to rediscover itself in what is external; it transmutes that external in its own free activity, and by clothing both itself and its passions in the forms of beauty, proclaims furthermore its power to present in visible semblance its own exaltation above the bare fact.

(γγ) A third ground of figurative expression, and one of at least equal force, may be found in the purely ribald exuberance of the phantasy, which is unable to set before us an object in its own outlines for what they are worth, or a significance in its unadorned simplicity, but on all occasions hankers after some concrete embodiment cognate with it, or is overmastered by the ingenuity of a personal caprice, which, in order to escape the commonplace, abandons itself to the charms of the piquant novelty, a caprice that is never satisfied until it has discovered for us points of affinity in material the most remote apparently from that before us, and has thereby related the same to the most distant objects.

And we may here observe that it is not so much the prosaic and poetic style generally as the style of the classic world in contrast with that of later periods which presents such a marked difference in the pre-eminent importance they attach to genuine or metaphorical expression respectively. It is not merely the Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, or the great historians and orators, such as Thucydides and Demosthenes, but also the great poets, Homer and Sophocles, who, albeit we find examples of the simile in all them, remain on the whole, and without exception, constant in the use of their direct form of expression[95]. Their plastic severity and sterling substance will not permit them such a multifarious product, as is bound up with the use of metaphor, nor will it suffer them, even for the sake of gathering the so-called flowers of expression, to waver fitfully in devious ways from their ideal mintage of the completely simple and co-ordinate result as of one metal cast in one mould. The metaphor, in fact, is always an interruption to the logical course of conception and invariably to that extent a distraction, because it starts images and brings them[Pg 144] together, which are not immediately connected with the subject and its significance, and for this reason tend to a like extent to divert the attention from the same to matter cognate with themselves, but strange to both. The prose of ancient writers in the extraordinary clarity and flexibility of its utterance and their poetry in the repose of its completely unfolded content[96], are equally removed from the frequent use of metaphor by modern writers.

On the other hand it is particularly in the East, and above all the later literature of Mohammedan poetry, which makes use of the indirect or figurative modes of expression, and, indeed, finds them essential. The same thing may be said, if less emphatically, of modern European literature. The diction of Shakespeare, for instance, is full of metaphor. The Spaniards, too, are very fond of this flowery region, and, indeed, have wandered off into it to the point of the most tasteless exaggeration and superfluity. Jean Paul falls under the same charge. Goethe by virtue of the equal strength and clarity of his vision to a less extent. Schiller, however, is even in his prose exceedingly rich both in image and metaphor; in his case this is rather due to his effort to bring really profound ideas within the range of the imaginative vision without being forced to expound all they imply for the mind in the technical language of philosophy. We behold and find there the essential unity of the speculative reason reflected on the mirror of Life as it stands before us.

(b) The Image

We may place the image midway between the metaphor and the simile. It has, in fact, so close an affinity with the metaphor that we may regard it as merely a metaphor fully amplified[97], an aspect which at the same time marks its very close resemblance to the simile; there is, however, this distinction, that in the case of the image as such the significance is not set forth in its independent opposition to[Pg 145] the concrete external object expressly compared with it. That which we term the image arises when two phenomena or conditions, which by themselves stand substantially apart, are placed in concurrence so that one condition supplies the significance which is made intelligible by means of the other. The first, that is to say, the fundamental modus of the definition constitutes here the relation of independent consistency[98], and is the line of division of the spheres in their separation, from which both the significance and its image are deduced; and that which is common to them, the qualities and relations and so forth, are not, as in the symbol, the indefinite universal and substantive itself, but the self-defined concrete existence on the one side no less than on the other[99].

(a) Under a relation such as this the image may possess as its significance a whole series of conditions, activities, contrasts, and modes of existence, and manifest the same through a series of a similar nature from an independent if cognate source, without emphasizing in so many words the significance as such within the limits of the image. The poem of Goethe, entitled "The Song of Mahomet," is of this kind. It is merely the title here which shows us that in the image of a rocky water-spring which, in the freshness of youth, leaps over the cliff's edge into the abyss, and which then spreads away with the rush of tributary springs down the plain, ever and anon taking up fraternal rivers, which gives further a name to localities, and sees whole towns subject to its glory, until it finally bears in the tumultuous folds of its rapturous heart all these splendours, the brothers, its possessions, its children, to the great source that awaits them—it is, we repeat, merely the title which explains to us that in this comprehensive and radiant image of a mighty river we have the first bold appearance of Mahomet, then the rapid spread of his teaching, and, finally, the deliberately planned attempt to bring all nations to the one faith set forth with such singular directness. We may view in a similar way many of the Xenien of Goethe and Schiller, those sentences edged in part with scorn, but as[Pg 146] often the mere vehicle of good spirits, which were flung at the public and its weak authors in particular. Take the pair of distiches which follow, as an example:

Stille kneteten wir Salpeter, Kohlen und Sewefel,
Bohrten Röhren, gefall' nun auch das Feuer work euch!

Einige steigen als leuchtende kugeln und andere zünden,
Manche auch werfen wir nur spielend das Aug' zu erfreun[100].

Ay, we have in truth seen not a few rockets of this order changed to dull ash, to the exceeding entertainment of the better half of public opinion, only too delighted when the rabble of commonplace and miserable quality, which had for a long time spreadeagled it far and wide and laid down the law, received a genuine smack in the mouth and a bucket of cold water over its precious body into the bargain.

(β) In these last examples there is, however, already a second aspect brought to view, which in our consideration of the image should be emphasized. In other words the content is in these cases an individual which acts, brings before us objects, experiences specific states, etc., and then is reflected in the image not as such a subject, but merely with a reference to his particular actions, workings, and experiences. The individual himself as subject is, on the contrary, introduced without an image, and it is only his actions and relations strictly viewed which contain the form of indirect expression. Here, too, as in the case of the image generally, it is not the entire significance which is separated from its mode of embodiment, but the subject is alone set forth independently, while the definite content of that subject receives at the same time the form of an image; and the result is that the subject is imagined in such a way as though it was itself the means which supplied the imaged form of their existence to the objects and actions in question. The metaphorical relation is, in fact, ascribed to the individual subject expressly named. This confusion, or at least interfusion of the direct and indirect modes of expression[Pg 147] has frequently been the subject of adverse criticism, but we do not find very solid ground to support it[101].

(γ) Orientals are to an extraordinary degree distinguished by the bold use they make of this type of imagery. They will unite together and intertwine in one image entirely independent forms of existence. Take for example this sentence of Hafiz: "The life-course of the world is a bloodstained dagger, and the drops which fall therefrom are crowns." Or that other: "The sword of the sun drips in the red of morning with the blood of Night, over which it has won the victory." Or again this: "No one has yet drawn aside the veil from the cheeks of thought as Hafis since the day when the tips of the locks of the Word's bride were curled." The meaning of this image may be apparently thus expanded. Thought is the bride of the word; so Klopstock calls the word the twin-brother of Thought, and since this bride has been adorned by man with delicately turned words, no one is likely to be more competent than Hafis to suffer the thought thus adorned to appear in the clarity of its unveiled beauty.

(c) The Simile

From this last type of imagery we may proceed without a break to the consideration of simile. For in the image we already find the initial appearance of the independent and imageless expression of this significance, the subject of the image being here designated. The two types are, however, distinguished by this that in the simile everything which exclusively manifests the image in a figurative form is furthermore able to receive an independently subsistent mode of expression as significance, which thereby appears alongside of its image and is placed in comparison with the same. The metaphor and image declare the significances without making that declaration explicit, so that it is only[Pg 148] the context, in which either metaphor or image occur, which shows without disguise what their meaning veritably is intended to be. In the simile, on the contrary, both aspects, image and significance, albeit no doubt we find at one time it is the image, and at another the significance which is most clearly and fully emphasized, are kept completely apart and set forth each in its isolation, and only then, and in such severation are related to one another in virtue of the similarity of their content.

Viewed in this relation it is possible to characterize the simile as to some extent merely a vain repetition, in so far, that is, as one and the same content is reproduced in a twofold, or it may be threefold or fourfold form. In part, too, we may even see in it a frequently wearisome superfluity, for the reason that the significance is already there as an independent factor, and requires no further mode of figuration to render it intelligible. The question consequently presses upon us here with even more insistence than in the case of the image and metaphor, what essential interest and object there may be in the employment of isolated examples or a whole number of similes. For their use is not to be justified on the commonly received ground of mere vivacity, and the contention that they increase the lucidity of expression will assist us just as little. On the contrary similes make a poem only too frequently insipid and overweighted, and an image or metaphor by itself can possess a clarity fully as pronounced without there being any previous necessity to attach the significance to either as something still outside.

We must consequently conceive the object of the simile to consist in this, that the subjective[102] imagination of the poet, however much it has brought home to the artist's consciousness the content, which it seeks to express, with distinctive emphasis according to its more abstract generality and expresses it in this universal aspect, yet it finds itself equally under a constraint to seek out a concrete form for it, and to envisualize for itself in the phenomena of sense that which already is clearly before the mind as its significance. Looked at in this way we shall find that the simile is, no less than the image and the metaphor, indicative of the bravery which invariably distinguishes imaginative power[Pg 149] when it faces its object, it matters not what, it may be a single object of sense-perception, a definite condition, or a general significance—the enterprise, that is, to bind together with its own activity that which lies remote from it in its external environment, and by so doing to carry away by force objects of the greatest variety, and unite them to the interest which its unified content possesses, and generally to annex to the matter in hand a whole world of diversified phenomena. And this power of the imagination continually to find out the new plastic shape, and cement together heterogeneous material by means of the relations and associations of sense is, in general terms, also the rational basis of the simile.

(α) In the first place, then, this impulse to compare can find satisfaction simply by virtue of the demand which it satisfies, without bringing to light, that is to say, anything else in the brilliancy of its images than the bravery of the imagination itself. And this is but the same thing as that revelry[103] of imaginative power, which, more particularly in the East, with all the easy-going tranquillity of the South regales itself in the wealth and splendour of its images nor seeks any other object, while it seduces the hearer to give himself up to the same spirit. At the same time we are frequently astounded by the amazing force, with which the poet surrenders himself to ideas of the most startling contrasts, and displays a cunning of combination which far exceeds all the effort of mere wittiness as an indication of genius. Calderon, too, supplies us with many comparisons of this type, more particularly in his pictures of important and splendid pageants and festive processions, in his descriptions of chargers and cavaliers, or in his reference to ships, which on one occasion he calls "birds without pinions, and fish without fins."

(β) A second and more intimate aspect of these comparisons is that in virtue of which we find them to be a tarrying by one and the same object, which becomes thereby the substantial centre of a series of other ideas remote from it, by pointing to or illuminating which the interest of the content compared receives a tangible increase.

This protraction of the interest round one centre may be explained in several ways.

[Pg 150]

(αα) As the first we may draw attention to the absorption of the soul in the content, which is the source of its animation, and which attaches itself so intimately to it, that it is unable to detach itself from the permanent interest thus excited. We may at the same time observe that a fundamental difference once more asserts itself in this respect between the poetry of the East and the West resembling that we have already adverted to our discussion of Pantheism. In other words the Oriental is in his absorption less dominated by the personal relation, and consequently without the languish and yearning of self-interest: his longing, such as it is, remains a more impersonal delight in the object under comparison, and consequently more of a contemplation. He looks about him with a free mind, sees in everything which surrounds him, everything which stirs either his mental faculties or his heart, an existing image of that which actively concerns his sense-life and his spiritual forces, and with which he abounds. This type of the imagination which is free from all mere self-obsession, delivered, I mean, from all morbid introspection discovers its satisfaction in the figurative conception of the object itself, and most of all when that object, by virtue of the comparison instituted, is extolled, exalted, and declared in line with that which is most glorious and beautiful. The West is in its general contrast more remote from this impersonal spirit, and in its grief and pain more inclined to languish and yearn itself away.

This dallying, as we may call it, is then pre-eminently an interest of the emotional life, more particularly of love, which delights to take refuge in the objects of its suffering and its raptures; and as often as it finds itself unable to break loose from such feelings finds naught that is wearisome in the task of repainting the object ever anew. The lover is above all things the prodigal in wishes, hopes, and ever changing conceits. Among such conceits we have to reckon the simile, to which love and the emotions generally have recourse, all the more readily for the reason that they take up and absorb the entire soul, and are themselves the independently motive source of comparison. Whatever is their immediate content, is, that is to say, a beautiful object arrested in its singularity, whether it be the mouth, the eye,[Pg 151] or the hair of the beloved. In such a state the human soul is active, restless, and the states of joy and pain are neither without life nor in repose, but full of activity and motion, are up and down, which at least is continuous in this that it is for ever bringing all material of whatever kind into relation with the one emotional centre of the world of the heart. In other words the interest of comparison has its root in the feeling itself, which is insistently conscious of the fact, for example, that there are other objects in Nature which are beautiful, or have given rise to pain and so on. Consequently love draws these objects with the aid of the simile into the sphere of its own content, and makes the same wider and more universal thereby. If the object of the simile is, however, entirely isolated in its material form, and brought into juxtaposition with objects of a similar nature, we shall find, and particularly so where similes of this sort are piled one on the top of another, that such a composition is due to emotion of a still rather superficial order, and to reflection equally wanting in depth; the result will be that the variety which merely plays round an external material will readily appear to us insipid and of no vital interest, because we have here no spiritual relation interpenetrating it. We may illustrate such an effect from the fourth chapter of the Song of Solomon where we find the words: "Behold thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing, whereof everyone bear twins, and none is barren among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks. Thy neck is like a tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies[104]. Until the day break and the shadows flee away." This naïveté is to be met with in many of the comparisons of Ossian. Take for example the words: "Thou art as snow on the heather; thine hair is as mist on the kromla, when[Pg 152] he curls himself up on the rock, and glistens toward the gleam in the West; thine arms are as two arrows in the halls of the mighty Fingal."

Of the same kind, only here in wholly a rhetorical way, are the following words Ovid places in the mouth of Polyphemus (Met. XIII, vv. 789-807): "Thou art more white, O Galatea, than the leaf of the snow-white meadowland; more blooming than the fields, more slender than the elm; more brilliant than glass, more arch than the tender little roebuck; smoother than the shell ever-polished by the sea; more dear than Winter's sun, or the shade in Summer; nobler than the fruit-tree, more comely than the lofty plane." And so on through all the nineteen hexameters, a description not wanting in rhetorical beauty, but as the presentation of an emotion, which rouses little interest, itself equally lacking in interest.

We may find many examples of this style of comparison in Calderon, although a halt, by the way, of this kind is more suitable to lyrical emotion simply, and fetters the march of drama far too insistently, if it is not actually motived by the subject-matter. Don Juan, for instance, during the progress of the action, describes at length in this way the beauty of a veiled lady whom he had followed. This is what he says to a third person:

Natheless in despite and often
Through the gross and barriered darkness
Of that intranslucent veil,
Flashed a hand of sheen most splendid,
Mistress pure of rose and lily,
Princess, to whose matchless glory
E'en the snow's gleam paid obeisance,
Slave all murk of Aethiop moulding.

The matter is wholly different, however, when any one capable of profound emotion, expresses his life through images and similes, in which the most secret folds of spiritual feeling are unveiled, the soul here either identifying itself with some scene of external Nature, or making such a scene the counterfeit of a spiritual content. We may cite Ossian once again in illustration of this better use of image and comparison, although the range of objects which serve him in such similitude is jejune, mainly restricted to clouds,[Pg 153] mists, storms, trees, streams, thistles, grasses, and other facts equally obvious. Here is one of them: "The Present[105] brings joy to us, O Fingal; it is as the sun on Kromla, when the hunter has mourned its absence a whole year long and now it breaks forth from the clouds." In another passage of the same writer we find these words: "Did not Ossian hearken but now to a voice? Is it then the voice of the days that are no longer? Ofttimes, oft as the evening suns, comes the memory of times that are gone into my soul." And for another instance take this bit of narration: "Pleasant are the words of song, saith Kuchullin, and dear to the heart are the tales of times far away. They are as the quiet dew of the morning on the hill of the roe-deer, when the sun trembles faintly on his flank, and the pool lies motionless and blue in the dale." In the case of Ossian this halting by the same emotions, and their similitudes expresses the attitude of an old age which out of weariness and exhaustion turns to sorrowful and painful memories. And generally a recourse to comparisons is evidence of an inclination to melancholy and effeminate emotion. The desire and interest of such a soul lies far away and foregone; and for this reason we find as a rule that, instead of bracing itself up manfully, it yields to its longing to lose itself in something else. Many of the figurative expressions of Ossian consequently are quite as much a response to this wholly personal mood as they are a reflection of ideas mostly of a mournful colour, and of the restricted circle beyond which he is unable to pass.

But, conversely, it is quite possible that passion, in so far as it is able to concentrate its forces on one content, despite its own unrest, with the object of finding a counterfeit of the soul in the natural world around it, may fluctuate to and fro in a variety of images and similitudes, which are all purely conceits of the fancy over one and the same object. A fine example of this we have in that monologue of Juliet from "Romeo and Juliet," in which she apostrophizes the night as follows:

Come, night; come Romeo; come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven's back:
[Pg 154]Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow'd night,
Give me my Romeo; and when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

(ββ) The similes of epic poetry as they come before us over and over again in Homer stand out in a marked contrast to the above type of almost purely lyrical simile in which sentiment is absorbed in the heart of its content. In the former case the aim of the poet, when he may by any chance wish to dally with the comparative mode around some specific object, is, on the one hand, interested in raising us over the active curiosity, expectancy, hope, and fear, by which we are moved relatively to the several situations and exploits of his heroes during the actual progress of events over, that is to say, the general concurrencies of cause, action, and consequence, and in fixing our attention upon the images which he places before us in their plastic repose, purely for our contemplation, serene as the works of sculpture. This repose, this absolution from the merely practical interest that we may enter into that which he places visibly before our eyes comes upon us with all the more force in so far as everything with which he compares the object is taken from a field entirely remote from it. Moreover, this halting round the simile possesses the further significance that by virtue of this kind of twofold painting of the same object its importance is emphasized, and is thus not permitted to be whirled away in the mere shifting stream of the song and the events it celebrates. Take, for example, what Homer says of Achilles, when that hero, fired with anger, confronts Aeneas ("Iliad," XX, vv. 164-175):

As when the harmful king of beasts (sore threatened to be slain
By all the country up in arms) at first makes coy disdain
Prepare resistance, but at last when anyone hath led
Bold charge upon him with his dart, he then turns yawning head,
Fell anger lathers in his jaws, his great heart swells, his stern
Lasheth his strength up, sides and thighs waddle with stripes to learn
Their own power, his eyes glow, he roars, he leaps to kill,
Secure of killing: so his power then rous'd up to his will
Matchless Achilles, coming on to meet Anchises' son[106].

[Pg 155]

Much in the same spirit he speaks of Pallas, when she averted the arrow which Pandaros had let fly against Menelaus ("Iliad," IV, vv. 130-131):

"She did not forget him, and warded off the arrow e'en as a mother flicks away some fly from her son, as he lies in sweet slumber."

And again further on when the arrow, notwithstanding, wounds Menelaus (vv. 141-146):

Yet forth the blood flow'd, which did much his royal person grace,
And show'd upon his ivory skin, as doth a purple dye
Laid, by a dame of Caïra, or lovely Maeony,
On ivory, wrought in ornaments to deck the cheeks of horse;
Which in her marriage room must lie; whose beauties have such force,
That they are wish'd of many knights, but are such precious things,
That they are kept for horse that draw the chariots of kings;
Which horse, so deck'd, the charioteer esteems a grace to him;
Like these, in grace, the blood upon thy solid thighs did swim,
O  Menelaus, etc[107].

(γ) A third motive cause of similes, quite distinct from that of purely imaginative riot as also the self-absorbed sentiment or, under its other aspect, the dallying round important objects with the figurative power of the fancy, we have now to emphasize with particular reference to dramatic poetry. The content of the drama is made up of the conflict of passions, activities, pathos, actions, and the accomplishment of the thing willed by the soul, a content which does not, as in the case of the epic, take the form of a narrative of past events, but the dramatic poet places the individuals themselves before our eyes and makes them unfold their emotions personally in an objective form, and their actions as taking place in the present: his mediate position between ourselves and the objects represented therefore ceases. Looked at from this point of view it would appear as though in order to make this presence in Nature clear to us a primary requirement of drama would be that the expression of passions and the vehemence of their grief, consternation, and delight should be painted as naturally as it was possible to paint it, and consequently the simile would be here out of place. To let individuals, on the very plane of their action, in the full storm of emotion, and in the continuous strain of the[Pg 156] busy world, speak much in the language of metaphor or image is obviously, from the commonsense point of view, an unnatural proceeding and injurious to the directness aimed at. We are by the simile diverted from the immediate situation, and the characters, whose actions and emotions are involved in it, to something external and strange to it, which in short does not strictly belong to it, as part of its own present; consequently the general course of the dialogue must unavoidably appear to lag under the interruption thus imposed. And for this reason it came about also in Germany when at last our young bloods were all for freeing themselves from the fetters of French rhetorical taste, that the Spaniards, Italians, and French were regarded as artists who did nothing more than place their own personal flights of fancy or witticism, their own conventional attitude to society and elegance of speech in the mouth of their dramatic characters in situations, too, when the very tempest of emotion cried out for Nature's most direct expression to the exclusion of all other. We find as a result of such an insistence on the principle of realism that in many dramas, which hail from this time, the outcry of emotion, with all the exclamatory signs and hyphens which may render its nudity more visible, takes the place of a noble and dignified diction, rich in image and simile. In much the same sense even English critics have often charged Shakespeare with a superabundant and too varied recourse to the simile, some of which he not unfrequently will attach to characters in the full strain of personal bereavement, where the stress of emotion least of all admits of the tranquillity necessary to reflection, the attitude of mind which is indispensable to this type of comparison. We may no doubt admit that now and again we meet with in Shakespeare an exaggerated tendency to pile up image upon image, and that his diction is thereby overweighted. At the same time we shall see, if we examine the matter in all its bearings, that even in drama the simile is entitled to a position essential to this form of poetry and vital to its action.

In other words if the emotion makes a pause in similes for the reason that it is absorbed in its object and is unable to free itself therefrom, there is also on the plane of active life a distinct purpose subserved by it, namely, to indicate[Pg 157] that the individual is not thus so exclusively preoccupied with the particular situation or state of the emotions then uppermost, but possesses a fine and noble nature superior to such conditions and able to assert its independence. In passion soul-life is restricted and fettered to its own seclusion, narrowed down to the point of concentrated heat, either thereby a mute, an ejaculation of monosyllables, or the rage that vents itself at random. Greatness of soul and intellectual power alike refuse to submit to such limitations: they are wings which carry the soul in a fine tranquillity over and above the storm of pathos that moves it. It is this deliverance of the soul, which the simile primarily expresses by the very mode under which it is asserted. In other words it is only a really profound composure and strength which is able to make itself the object of its pain and suffering, to compare itself with something else, and by doing so to view itself impartially[108] in a strange material; or it may be in a mood of the most terrible scorn to set forth in the external thing the confronting image of its own annihilation, and still persist in the repose of its own obdurate forces. In epical poetry, as we before observed, it was the poet's undoubted function to transmit to his audience, by means of those halts by the way which his picturesque similitudes offered, that sense of tranquillity which is essential to fine art. In dramatic art, on the contrary, the dramatis personae appear as themselves the poets and artists. Here it is the characters who objectify their own soul-life in that which they are powerful enough to imagine and inform, thereby further manifesting to us the nobility of their receptive faculties and the inherent force of their emotional resources[109]. For this absorption into something else that is external is now[110] the deliverance of the world within from a purely practical interest, or at least is that which lifts the immediacy of emotion to the level of forms the soul may contemplate in freedom; and for this reason every comparison instituted simply for the comparison's sake in the way we have already[Pg 158] observed it under the first aspect of the simile discussed, is vindicated now in a much profounder sense than was then possible; it can now only appear as a victory over the exclusive obsession of passion and the release from its masterdom. In following up the course of this liberating process we will now emphasize several important distinctions to illustrate which we shall borrow exclusively from Shakespeare.

(αα) Now in the first place we would observe that when we have a soul set before us about to meet with a grave misfortune, by which it will be shaken to its depths, and the pain of this inevitable cataclysm is at length actually entered upon, it would be nothing less than an indication of a nature essentially commonplace if it were there and then to break out into the cry of horror, pain, and desperation, and so make a clean breast of it. A strong and noble spirit on the contrary holds its lamentation as such in reserve, keeps a hand of iron upon its pain, and by this means preserves a free power to embody in far-distant material imaginatively presented the profound sense of its anguish, and to express its own tragic state under the image of that which is remote. Thus man rises superior to his suffering; he is not utterly with all that is in him bondman to it; rather he is as wholly distinct from it as he is one with it; and consequently he can still pause before that which is outside and beyond him, which he relates to his emotion as an independent force cognate with his own. This will explain to us those words of the old Northumberland in Shakespeare's "Henry IV," when he inquires of the messenger who comes to inform him of the death of Percy, what news he brings him of his son and his brother, and, on receiving no reply, gives utterance to the composure of the most poignant grief as follows:

Thou tremblest; and the whiteness of thy cheek
Is apter than thy tongue to tell thy errand.
Even such a man, so faint, so spiritless,
So dull, so dead in look, so woe-begone,
Drew Priam's curtain in the dead of night,
And would have told him half his Troy was burnt;
But Priam found the fire ere he his tongue,
And I my Percy's death ere thou report'st it[111].

[Pg 159]

This attitude of the soul, which spins about itself as it were the garments of its pain, and yet retains the power throughout to image itself under new modes of comparison, receives a particularly striking illustration in the character of Richard II, where we find him repentant over the youthful frivolity of his days of prosperity. In fact there is no trait in this royal grief that is more touching or suggestive of a child's simplicity than the fact that he always expresses himself under the objective form of most pertinent images, and in the play of this type of self-expression preserves his suffering all the more profoundly. When, for example, Henry demands of him the crown, he replies:

Give me the crown. Here, cousin, seize the crown;
Here cousin;
On this side my hand, and on that side yours.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets, filling one another,
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen and full of water.
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my griefs while you mount up on high[112].

(ββ) The other aspect to which we would now draw attention is this, namely, that a character which is already made one with its interests, its sorrow, and its destiny, endeavours by means of the simile to release itself from this immediate union, and makes this deliverance obvious to us by the very fact that it shows itself still able to deduce such similitudes. In "Henry VIII,"[113] for instance, the Queen Katherine, on being forsaken by her royal consort, expresses the depth of her desolation in the words:

I am the most unhappy woman living!
Alas, poor wenches, where are now your fortunes?
Shipwreck'd upon a kingdom, where no pity,
No friends, no hope; no kindred weep for me;
Almost no grave allow'd me: like the lily,
That once was mistress of the field and flourish'd,
I'll hang my head and perish.

In a still more admirable manner in "Julius Caesar"[114][Pg 160] Brutus exclaims to Cassius, to whose want of spirit he has vainly striven to give the spur:

O Cassius, you are yoked with a lamb
That carries anger as the flint bears fire;
Who, much enforced, shows a hasty spark,
And straight is cool again.

That Brutus in such a situation can find room for a simile is already an excellent proof that he himself has thrust his scorn into the background, and has begun to assert himself as master of it.

For the most part Shakespeare, by endowing his criminal characters with greatness of soul in crime no less than in misfortune, exalts them before he leaves them above their own evil passions: he will not let them rest in the purely abstract assertion of crimes they are for ever going to do, but never really commit, as is the French style, but actually infuses them with the imaginative power, by means of which they stand out before us as distinctly as any other personification that is new to us. Macbeth, for instance, when his last hour has struck[115], exclaims in the well-known words:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

The same thing may be said of those last words of Cardinal Wolsey in "Henry VIII,"[116] uttered at the close of his career when struck down from the summit of his greatness:

Farewell! a long farewell to all my greatness!
This is the state of man: to-day he puts forth
The tender leaves of hopes: to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him;
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost;
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do.

(γγ) In this impersonal relation of objective fact and its expression of the comparative mode, the repose and substantial[Pg 161] self-command of character returns to itself; it is the means whereby the pain of a great downfall is softened. So Cleopatra exclaims[117] to Charmian, after she has already put the mortal aspic to her breast:

Peace, peace!
Dost thou not see my baby at my breast,
That sucks the nurse asleep?
As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle—

The bite of the serpent relaxes her members so gently that Death is himself deceived and holds himself to be Sleep. And this image may well pass as itself a counterfeit of the mild and allaying influence of such similitudes.


Didactic, descriptive poetry and the ancient epigram.

The conception we have in general terms formed of the symbolic type of art is such that within it significance and expression are unable to unite sufficiently to appear in complete and reciprocal fusion. In unconscious symbolism the incompatibility of these two aspects remained a fact throughout, if not actually declared as such; in the Sublime on the contrary this inadequacy was explicitly asserted: the absolute significance, God, no less than His external reality, the world, are expressly represented in this excluding relation to one another. On the other hand, however, in all these types that further aspect of symbolism, namely, the affinity which obtains between the significance and the external form, in which it is visibly manifested, still retained its importance. In the original type of symbolism this was exclusively the case, a type which did not as yet set forth the significance in contrast to its concrete existence. But in the Sublime, too, it remained an essential relation, a type which, in order to express the Supreme Being, if here under a wholly inadequate mode, required as its means the phenomena of Nature, and the events and exploits of God's chosen people. And finally it reappears in the comparative type of art a personal relation and one that is consequently amenable to[Pg 162] caprice. This element of caprice, however, albeit it is an entirely present fact and particularly so in the case of the metaphor, image, and simile, is notwithstanding still hidden away behind the affinity between the significance and the image utilized to express it, in so far as it selects the comparison simply out of a regard for their mutual resemblance, a fundamental aspect of which is not so much the external form as just this relation set up between them by the activity of the soul and consisting in subjective emotions, points of view and ideas and their cognate modes of configuration[118]. When, however, it is not the notion of the material itself, but simply a capricious use of the judgment, which brings together the content and its artistic form, both can only be conceived as posited in an entirely external relation to one another; their association is now a juxtaposition without essential relation, simply a dressing up, that is to say, of the one side by the other. For this reason we have here to treat these last-mentioned and subordinate types of art by way of supplement. They arise from the absolute collapse of the essential phases in all true art-production; they bring before us, in short, by their independence of the principle of relativity the suicide of the symbolic type.

If we view this stage generally as a whole we find on the one hand already as wholly independent the elaborate but formless significance, for the artistic shaping of which all that we can now supply is an external ornament selected at caprice to set it off. On the other side we have the external mode pure and simple. That is to say, instead of being mediated in its identity with that on which it is imposed by the fact that this is its own essentially cognate significance it can now only be accepted and described in the aspect of its self-subsistence over against this centrum of significance, and consequently only as mere externality. From the above contrasted aspects we may differentiate in abstract terms didactic from descriptive poetry, a distinction which so far at least as the didactic is concerned is only to be made good under the poetic type for the reason that this alone[Pg 163] is able to bring before us the significance in its abstract universality.

Inasmuch, however, as the notion of art does not consist in the dissociation, but the identification of significance and form we find even at this stage not only a complete separation, but also in line with that, a relation asserted between the sides thus opposed. This relation, however, now that the partition line of symbolism has already been crossed, is no longer of a symbolic nature, and is therefore an attempt to abolish the fundamental characteristics of that type, namely, the incompatibility, and at the same time the self-subsistence of form and content, a position that all the previous types were unable to transcend. Owing, however, to the separation of the two sides, which thus make for unity, being already presupposed by this type this attempt can only be looked upon as a mere aspiration[119], to completely satisfy which in all that it involves is reserved for a more perfect type of art, namely, the classical.

We will now briefly glance at these supplementary forms, in order to make our passage from them to the real type above mentioned more fully intelligible.


When a significance, which as such co-ordinates a homogeneous complexus of relations, is apprehended exclusively as significance, yet does not receive the form strictly adequate to this content, but is merely invested with the external ornamentation of art, then we have before us the didactic poem. The didactic poem does not figure among the genuine types of art. For in it we find on the one hand a content already completely elaborated under a mode that is thereby necessarily prosaic, while on the other we have the artistic form, which is merely tacked to it in an external way, for this very reason that it had already been accepted by the mind in a form stamped with prose throughout, and is merely exhibited to our common sense or reflective faculties as instruction under this prosaic aspect, that is to say,[Pg 164] with an exclusive reference to the significance embodied in its abstract and general terms. Consequently art, in this its external relation to a content so essentially foreign to its real informing process, can only recognize in the didactic poem its external aspects, such as metre, exalted language, episodic matter, images, similes, ebullitions of sentiment, points of acceleration and transition in the march of ideas, aspects in short which do not give us the heart of the content as such, but rather surround it as an incidental accretion, with the object of alleviating and making more enjoyable the serious and dry tone of the didactic material by means of their more inspiriting atmosphere. That which is intrinsically, in the fundamental conception of it, relegated to prose, cannot receive the poet's mintage, though it may be the peg on which he may hang his mantle[120]. Just as we find, for example, that the art of gardening is in great measure a purely external rearrangement of what is already presented us by Nature, but not necessarily of that which is itself a truly lovely locality; or as the art of building ameliorates by its ornament and external decoration a locality which has been expressly devoted to prosaic purposes and affairs.

In this way Greek Philosophy made a start under the mode of the didactic poem. We may even adduce Hesiod as an example, albeit a prosaic treatment of this kind in its strict sense is only fully assured when the understanding is undisputed master of the subject with its train of reflections, consequences, and classifications, and instructs us from this standpoint alone in as pleasing and elegant a way as it can. Lucretius, too, in his relations to the philosophy of Epicurus, and Vergil, with the information he supplies on agriculture, are in part examples of the same type. Despite all their artistic adroitness they are unable to give their versification the genuine spontaneity of the artistic form. In Germany the didactic poem is new out of fashion; in France Delille, in addition to his previous efforts entitled "Les jardins, ou l'art d'embellir les paysages," and his "Homme des champs," has presented his compatriots with a further example of the didactic poem, in which he has treated physical science as[Pg 165] compendiously through its forms of magnetism, electricity and the rest.


The second type which we have to examine stands out in direct contrast to the previous one. The point of departure here is not from a significance already present before the mind in an independent form of its own, but from external objects simply such as natural localities, buildings, seasons of the year or periods of time, and the modes under which they are presented to sense. But as we found in the didactic poem the content persisted in formless generality so far as its essential character was concerned, so here, if in a converse manner, the external material is independently set forth in the singularity which pertains to it simply as phenomenon without being drawn within the circle of the significances apparent to mind; and it is this particularity which is depicted and described in its external aspect precisely as it appears to the matter-of-fact consciousness. Such a sensuous content has no relation to true art whatever, except under the one feature, namely, that of its external existence; and this can only claim art's recognition in so far as it represents the natural basis of spiritual life and individuality, its actions and events, the facts, that is to say, which constitute an environing world; as merely external form separated by itself from all that pertains to such life it has no such claim.


On grounds deducible from the above, neither the instructive nor the descriptive type is secured in the exclusive one-sidedness which would obliterate every vestige of art, and we find in the one case that the external reality is brought into appreciable relation with that which is seized by mind as significance, just as conversely in the other the abstract universal is related to its concrete mode of appearance.

(a) We have already explained how this is so in the case of the didactic poem. Without depicting external conditions and particular phenomena, without the episodical narration of mythological and other illustrations we shall rarely find a[Pg 166] genuine example of it. By means, however, of a parallel series of this character in which the universal for mind is thus laid alongside of the particular object of sense we have merely a quite collateral relation set up instead of a union carried out in every detail, a parallelogism, moreover, which does not affect the entire content and its all-embracing artistic form, but merely isolated aspects and traits.

(b) Such a modicum of true relation is particularly conspicuous in the case of descriptive poetry, in so far as its delineations are accompanied with such emotions as the sight of natural landscape, the course of the days and seasons, a wooded hill, a lake, a babbling brook, a church, a picturesquely situated village and the poor man's peaceful cottage are likely to arouse. We find consequently in descriptive poetry much as we do in the didactic poem episodes which, although merely accessory, animate us, in particular through the reflection of affecting emotions, such as a tender melancholy or little touches of occasional experience taken from the more homely levels of life. Such an association of spiritual feeling with the external facts of Nature can still only too easily in this type of poetry remain wholly external in its presentation. For the natural or local condition is here assumed to be something which quite independently confronts us. Man no doubt draws near to it; under its influence he entertains this or that feeling, but there is nothing which essentially unites moonlight, forests, valleys, landscape, and so on, with the emotions of the soul they excite. I am not here either the interpreter or the animating focus of Nature, but feel, as each happens to confront me, a wholly indefinite kind of harmonious reciprocity establish itself between the objects I face and the emotional life which they stimulate. Most of all are we Germans devoted to this type of picturesque description, and along with it to every variety of exquisite feeling and heart effervescence such natural scenery can possibly evoke. It is a public high-road over which all may march in line. Even some of the odes of Klopstock are tuned to its key.

(c) But thirdly, if we inquire whether there is not a profounder relation between these opposed aspects of the internal feeling and external object, we shall find our nearest approach to an answer in the ancient epigram.

[Pg 167]

(α) The very name of the epigram already expresses the original gist of it. It is an inscription.

Unquestionably we find, also here on the one hand an object, and on the other we have a definite statement propounded as to this object; but in the most ancient epigrams, among which Hesiod has preserved a few examples, we do not have the picture of an object accompanied by any reaction of feeling, rather we find, the matter of fact put before us in two distinct ways. In the one the external existence, and with it the meaning thereof and explanation, is concentrated in its form as epigram on the keenest and most forcible of its characteristics. This original characterization of the epigram, however, even among the Greeks, later examples have already lost; and we find an increasing tendency both to secure and apply the passing conceits of fancy, whether ingenious, witty, or merely entertaining, to particular incidents, works of art, people and so on, ideas in short which do not so much set forth the object itself, as illustrate the condition of personal feeling in reference to the same.

(β) The main point to observe here is this that, just in proportion as the object itself fails as such to become the predominant factor in this type of presentment to that extent it becomes less complete. In this connection we may also in passing mention a few more modern examples of an analogous nature. The novels of Tieck, for instance, not unfrequently have to deal with specific works of art or artists, or a definite gallery of pictures, composition of music and so forth, and they have then some nice little romance attached. These particular pictures, however, which the reader has never seen, these compositions, which he has never heard, the poet obviously can neither bring before our eyes nor ears. From this point of view the entire expression of his art, in so far as it depends on objects of this nature, must remain subject to this defect. In the same way in yet more important romances writers have sought to embody as the real content of their work entire arts, and their finest productions as Heinse, for instance, did with that of music in his Hildegard von Hohenthal. But in every case where we find that a work of art throughout is unable to reproduce with essential[Pg 168] adequacy its fundamental subject-matter, we can only conclude that the primary cause of this defect arises from the inadequacy of the type of art selected.

(γ) To remove the defects above adverted to two things are clearly essential; the objective fact and the explanation of it which is offered to mind must not be suffered to fall into absolute severation as was the case in the type last considered, nor must the union when effected, an equally important point, assume a character identical with either the symbolical, sublime or purely comparative types. A yet more genuine form of presentment must be sought for under a condition in which we find that the fact in question supplies an elucidation of its ideal content by means of its external mode of appearance, and actually in this mode, a condition under which that which is of spirit unfolds itself completely in the form of its reality, and the corporeal and external presence is simply the adequate explication of the spiritual and ideal. In order, however, to follow up this problem to its complete fulfilment we must bid farewell to the symbolic types of art. For the essential character of symbolism consisted precisely in this that the union of the animating principle of the significance with its spatial embodiment always stopped short of such completeness.

[76] In other words everything created being posited as unsubstantial apart from the One necessitated the conclusion that all the Goodness, etc., there divulged was referable to that Supreme Source.

[77] Bewussten, that is a symbolism conscious of its typical character. I have above used the expression "premeditated," but "conscious" is perhaps sufficient.

[78] I understand auf solche Weise, "under such a mode as expressed either by Symbolism or the Sublime."

[79] It is prosaic because it has no absolute root in reality.

[80] Lit., "As consciousness lays hold of the same in the clear light of ordinary reason" (seiner verständigen Klarheit.)

[81] Theoretische, that is personal, contemplative rather than practical.

[82] Lit., "and his freedom secludes itself with a prophetic instinct (ahndend) in itself."

[83] Wie die Faust auf das Auge passt. A proverbial expression unknown to me. We should rather say "a beam in our eyes."

[84] As contrasted, that is, with the fable.

[85] An Indian dancing girl.

[86] Hegel uses the term in the plural, Die Verwandlungen, possibly with reference to Ovid's Metamorphoses.

[87] Standpunkt, i.e., the form viewed relatively to the general type.

[88] Beseelung.

[89] Plastic must be taken here in the very loose and pregnant sense of any art that deals with external material.

[90] Ein grammatisches Subject. Hegel presumably means that it is merely subject under the mode of literary expression without possessing the true determination of personality.

[91] Aushöhlen muss. We should rather say that the allegorist is forced to attenuate (lit. hollow out) the substance of subjectivity, etc. But I have left the more literal rendering.

[92] In the German fassen, begreifen.

[93] Einer konkreten Anschauung. That is, a quality or feature that belongs to the phenomena of the concrete world of perception.

[94] Of course this is not so in the English equivalent, where the primary sense is still material.

[95] Lit., "Of expressions in the strict sense of the term."

[96] Ihr ruhiger vollständig ausgestaltender Sinn. The meaning that declares itself completely through the form in classic repose.

[97] Ausführliche, explicit in all its detail.

[98] Das Für-sich-seyn.

[99] I give the literal translation. I presume a more intelligible one would be "but actual existence in its self-defined concreteness." The passage is not easy to follow.


Silent we pounded up carbon, saltpeter, and sulphur,
Set the train going. Good friend! How did our cracker find you?

Some as illuminate balls soared prodigious while others exploded,
Many we flashed in our fun simply the eye to delight.

[101] I find this analysis of the image more than usually difficult to follow, I have therefore made my translation very literal. I must confess that this distinction between the image and the metaphor appears to me rather an example of hyper-subtlety on Hegel's part, or as some might say, an effort to make what is virtually only a verbal distinction correspond to a more real difference of idea.

[102] That is the emphatically personal.

[103] Die Schwelgerei.

[104] In the German the sentence is continuous. Our version clearly gives another reading to the Hebrew.

[105] May be a misprint for "thy presence," deine instead of die.

[106] Chapman's translation.

[107] Chapman's translation, somewhat an extension of the Greek it must be admitted.

[108] Theoretisch, i.e., in contemplative repose.

[109] Such I take to be the contrast implied in the words den Adel ihrer Gesinnung and die Macht ihrers Gemüths. Gesinnung is the sense-perception. Gemüth includes the creative fertility.

[110] Hier, i.e., as contrasted with the first stage of the discussion.

[111] "Henry IV, Part II," act i, scene I.

[112] "King Richard II," act iv, sc. 1.

[113] "King Henry VIII," act iii, sc. 1.

[114] "Julius Caesar," act iv, sc. 3.

[115] "Macbeth," act v, sc. 5.

[116] "Henry VIII," act iii, sc. 2.

[117] "Antony and Cleopatra," act V, sc. 2.

[118] The meaning is that the selection is not made merely with reference to external resemblance, but is also based on relations only existing in the soul of the artist and therefore to that extent capricious, however much they appear to be essential.

[119] Ein blosses Sollen, lit., a mere "should," a mere movement in a given direction.

[120] This is implied in the contrast of the verbs umstalten and überkleiden.

[Pg 169]




Thr central point[121] of art's evolution is the union, in a self-integrated totality, carried to the point of its freest expression, of content and form wholly adequate thereto. This realization, coinciding as it does with the entire notional concept of the beautiful, towards which the symbolic form of art strove in vain, first becomes apparent in classical art. We have already, in our previous consideration of the Idea of the beautiful and of art, outlined the general character of classic art. The Ideal supplies a content and form to classical art, which in this adequate mode in which it is embodied reveals that which true art is according to its notion.

To perfect this result, however, all the various phases of art, whose evolution is the subject-matter of our previous investigations, are contributive. For classical beauty has for its ideal substance[122] free and independent significance, that is to say, not the significance of any particular thing, but a significance which declares itself, and thereby points to its substance. This is the spiritual substance, which in[Pg 170] general terms is that which makes of itself an object. In this objectification of itself it possesses the form of externality, which, as identical with its ideal character, is consequently also on its own part the significance of itself, and is made conscious of itself by this self-knowledge. It is true that in our consideration of the symbolical our point of departure was that of the unity of the significance and its mode of envisagement in the art product; but this unity was purely immediate, and for this reason inadequate.

For the real content either remained essentially the natural according to its substance and abstract universality, and consequently the isolated thing in the objective world of Nature[123], although it was regarded as the real determination of that universality, was not able to present the same in a mode adequate to it, or that which is purely ideal, and only to be apprehended by spirit, in so far as it was received in the artistic content, carried with it in that which was foreign to its essential nature, namely the immediate individual and sensuous thing, the mode of its appearance that was in fact incongruent with it. And generally here significance and form only stood in the relation of mere affinity and suggestion; and however much in certain respects they could be brought together homogeneously, they as clearly fell apart again in other directions. This original unity was therefore torn asunder; this simple and abstract inwardness or ideality was imaged for the Hindoo conception of the world on the one side in the manifold reality of Nature, and on the other in finite human existence; and the imagination, in the unrest of its impetuous motion, was carried from the one to the other by turns, without being either able to deliver the ideal in its essentially pure and absolute self-subsistency, or to thoroughly infuse it with the phenomenal matter as it was presented and informed, and so reproduce it throughout that material in undisturbed union. The disorder and grotesque appearance, which arose in the commingling of elements opposed to one another, no doubt again vanished, but only to make way for an enigmatical condition equally unsatisfying, which, instead of solving the problem, was only able to prevent the problem's solution. For here, too, still was lacking the freedom and self-subsistency of content, which[Pg 171] only thereby is rendered explicit in that the Inward is presented to consciousness as in itself a whole, and by this means as that which overlaps the externality which in the first instance is other than itself and foreign to itself. This essential self-subsistency, cognized as free and absolute significance, is self-consciousness, which has for its content the Absolute, and for its form the subjectivity of Spirit. In contradistinction to this self-determining, thinking, willing power everything else is self-subsistent in merely a relative and momentary sense. The material phenomena of Nature such as the sun, the heavens, stars, plants, animals, stones, streams and sea have only an abstract relation to themselves, and are in the eternal process of Nature bound up with other facts of natural existence, so that they can only pass as self-subsistent for the finite perception. The real significance of the Absolute is not presented in them. Nature is indeed under a mode expressed[124], but only under the mode of what is outside itself; its inwardness is not as such for itself, but poured forth into the varied show of its appearances, and consequently devoid of self subsistency. Only in Spirit as the concrete, free and, infinite self-relation, is the true and absolute significance actually disclosed, and self-subsistent under the mode of its determinate existence.

On the way to this emancipation of the Idea from the immediately sensuous medium and to its self-establishment we are confronted by the Sublime and the consecration of the imagination. The absolute significance is, that is to say, in the first instance the thinking, absolute and senseless[125] One, which is self-related as the Absolute, and in this relation affirms that which it creates; Nature and finitude generally, as the negative, thing, that which is essentially in itself devoid of stability. It is the explicit and essential Universal, conceived as the objective power over collective existence, whether it be that this One be brought now to consciousness and represented in its expressly negative attitude to the created, thing, or in its positively pantheistic[Pg 172] inherence in the same. The twofold defect of this point of view, so far as it is connected with art, consists first in this that this One and Universal which constitutes the fundamental significance has not yet in itself arrived at the closer determination and distinction, and by this means just as little at the point of real individuality and personality in which it could be apprehended as Spirit, and could be set before the sensuous perception in a form which would be applicable to its spiritual content, according to its own notion, and duly conformable therewith. The concrete idea of Spirit on the contrary requires, that it both defines and distinguishes itself in itself, and by the very act of making itself an object discovers through this reduplication an external phenomenon, which although material and present, nevertheless is throughout permeated by Spirit, and consequently taken by itself expresses nothing at all, simply permitting Spirit to declare itself as its inner core, the expression and reality of which it is. Secondly, from the point of view of the objective world the defect is bound up with this abstraction of an Absolute to which the principle of self-determination is lacking that now also the real phenomenon, being that which is essentially without substance, is unable to set forth under any true mode the Absolute in concrete shape. In contrast to those songs of praise and glory, those celebrations of the abstract and universal majesty of God, we have now in the passage we are making to a higher form of art to recall to our minds that phase of negativity, change, pain, and progress through life and death, which we discovered among other matter in the conceptions of the East. We have here set before us the principle of self-distinction in its essential character under a mode which is unable to unite with its conception the unity and self-subsistency of that subjective principle. Both aspects, however, both the essential and self-substantive unity, and the differentiation of that unity by virtue of a self-defined content, are equally necessary to unfold a true and free self-subsistency in its concrete and mediate totality.

In this connection we may incidentally, together with this reference to the Sublime, mention that further conception which at the same time entered on its process of explication in the East. It is that apprehension, in opposition to the[Pg 173] substantiality of the one God, of internal freedom, self-subsistency and innate independence of the individual, so far as the elaboration of this impulse was permitted to Eastern nations. The main source of this attitude we must seek for among the Arabs, who in their deserts, upon the infinite sea of these expanses, with the clear heavens over their heads, in a nature such as this have emphasized their own courage and the bravery of their hand, as also the means of their self-preservation, whether it be camel, horse, lance, or sword. Here we find the more stubborn independence of personal character asserting itself in its contrast to the Hindoo softness and lack of individuality, as also to the more recent pantheism of Mohammedan poetry, and opposing also to the objective world its circumscribed, securely defined and immediate reality. With this incipient stage of the independence of the individual we must also associate free friendship, hospitality, and august nobility, but at the same time an insatiable lust of revenge and the inextinguishable memory of a hate, which is insistent and will have satisfaction with an unsparing passion and an absolutely remorseless cruelty. None the less all that happens on this soil is wholly within the circle of humanity. We have here deeds of revenge, conditions of love, traits of self-sacrificing nobility from which the fantastic and the wonderful have vanished; everything is carried forward in the secure and determinate shape which the causative connection of the facts necessitate. A similar conception of real objects which are referred to their determinate basis of actuality[126], and are made visible in their free power, not merely in that which conserves an exterior purpose[127], we discovered in an earlier stage of our investigations among the Hebrews. The more assured independence of character, the savagery of revenge and hate lie, too, at the root of the original Jewish nationality. But the difference is at once pronounced, that in this case even the most powerful images of Nature are depicted less for their own sake than for that of the glory of God, as related to which they at once again lose their self-subsistency;[Pg 174] and furthermore even hate and persecution are not merely a personal matter affecting persons, but are embraced in the service of God as national vengeance against whole peoples. As, for example, the later Psalms and yet more the prophets frequently only are able to desire and plead for the misfortune and overthrow of other nations, and not unfrequently find the main strength of their utterance in curses and imprecations.

No doubt the elements of true beauty and art are presented to each of these points of view above noticed; but they are in the first instance brought together in haphazard and confused fashion, and are set in a false relation to each other, instead of being referred to a genuine principle of identity. For this reason the purely ideal and abstract unity of the Divine is unable to bring forth any entirely adequate art-product in the form that is characterized by real individuality; and at the same time Nature and human individuality either are manifestly not, whether we consider their inward principle, or their external mode of appearance, permeated by the Absolute, or at least not positively pervaded by it. This externality of significance, which is thus made the essential content, and the determinate mode of appearance under which it is generally reproduced is finally and in the third place exemplified in the comparative activity of art[128]. In this type both sides have become wholly independent, and the unity that binds them together is merely the invisible subjectivity which compares. For this very reason that which is defective in such an external presentment returned in ever more emphatic degree and betrayed itself as that which was for the genuine art representation merely negative or, rather, entirely subversive. And when this dissolution is really effected the significance can no longer remain the inherently abstract ideal, but the inherently determinate and self-defined ideal principle, which in this its concrete totality possesses quite as essentially the other aspect thereof, that is, the form of an inherently exclusive and determinate appearance; and consequently in its external existence, as that which is its very own, merely expresses and signifies itself.

[Pg 175]

1. This essentially free totality which remains constant to itself throughout each successive self-determination in something other than itself, this ideal principle, which in its objectivity is self-related is the essentially true, free, and self-subsistent, which in its determinate existence unfolds nothing other than itself. In the realm of art, however, this form is not present in its form of infinitude, is not, that is, the thinking of itself, as the essential, absolute, which is made an object for itself in the form of ideal universality, and makes itself, wholly explicit, but is still in immediate natural and sensuous existence. In so far, however, as significance is self-substantive, it must in art borrow its form from its own resources and inherently possess the principle of its externality. It must consequently, it is true, repair to Nature, but as predominant over that which is external, which, in so far as it is itself an aspect of the totality of this ideal realm, no longer exists as purely natural objectivity, but being without its own self-subsistence, simply serves as the expression of Spirit. In this interpenetration consequently the natural form and externality, which is modified by Spirit contains out and out on its part, as immediately given, its significance in itself, and no longer points to this as to something separate and different from the corporeal appearance. And this is that identification of the spiritual and natural which is appropriate to the notion of Spirit, which, that is, does not merely proceed no further than the neutralization of the two opposed aspects, but raises that which is spiritual into the higher totality, in which it is able to preserve itself in its own Other, to bring the natural within its own ideal range and to express itself in and relatively to the natural. It is on this type of unity that the notion of classical art is based.

(a) This identity of significance and bodily form may be approached yet more closely under the view of it that no separation of these opposed aspects[129] takes place within their consummated union; and consequently the ideal principle does not, as purely inward spirituality, return upon itself from out of the corporeal and concrete reality, under a process which would give us once more the distinction of[Pg 176] these aspects in opposition. And inasmuch as the objective and external, in which Spirit is made visible as an object of sense, according to the very notion of it, is at once throughout defined and separate, mind which is free, and which it is the function of art to elaborate in the form of reality truly commensurate with it, can only be that spiritual individuality which is not merely defined but essentially self-consistent in its natural form. For this reason it is the human which constitutes the centre and content of true beauty and art; but as content of art—we have already developed the subject in discussing the notion of the Ideal—it is brought under the essential determination of concrete individuality and the external appearance adequate thereto, which in its objectivization has been thus purified from the imperfection of the finite condition.

(b) Under such a consideration of the matter it is at once obvious that the classical mode of representation, if we take it for what it essentially is, can no longer be of the symbolic type in the strict sense of the term, however much now and again we may find along with it the play of that which belongs to symbolism. Greek mythology, for example, which, in so far as art asserts its mastery over it, belongs to the classical Ideal, is, if we grasp it in its fundamental character, not of a beauty which is symbolical, but unfolded under the genuine character of the Art-ideal, albeit there may be certain remnants of symbolism which adhere to it, as we shall shortly see.

If we now proceed to ask ourselves what, then, is the nature of the determinate form, which can thus enter into this unity with Spirit without offering merely the suggestion of its content, we shall find it determined for us in the conception that in classical art both content and form must be adequate, must, that is, in the aspect of form meet the demands of totality and essential self-subsistency. For it is a prime condition of the free self-subsistence[130] of the whole, which constitutes the fundamental determination of classical art, that either of these aspects, the ideal form no less than its external embodiment, should be essentially a totality which goes to make the notion of the whole. Only by this[Pg 177] means is either side essentially identical with the other, and consequently their difference reduced to the purely formal differences of one and the same, through which also the totality appears now as free, the adequacy of both of its aspects being now fully displayed, inasmuch as it declares itself in either of them and is one and the same in both.

The lack of this free reduplication of itself within the same unity carried with it in the symbolic type precisely this absence of freedom in the content and with it also in the form. Spirit was here not clear to itself, and for this reason declared its external reality not as that which belonged to itself, set forth in its explicit significance through and in it. Conversely the form had no doubt to be significant, but its significance only lay partly and on one side in it. The external existence gave here primarily to what passed for its ideal aspect, though still under a mode that was external, merely itself instead of a significance which declared an ideal content; and in attempting to show that there was something further which it suggested its power was necessarily put under a constraint. In this distortion it neither remained true to itself, nor was it the Other, that is significance, but declared nothing save that which was a problematical connection and confusion between incompatible things, or tended to be the purely co-adjutant attire and external adornment of what was simply the glorification of the one absolute significance of all things whatever, until it was finally obliged to surrender itself to the purely subjective caprice of comparison with a significance which was far removed from it and indifferent to it. If this relation of unfreedom is to find a release the form must already inherently possess its significance, or, to speak more definitely, must possess the significance of mind or Spirit itself. This form is essentially the human form because the externality of this form is alone capable of revealing the spiritual in sensuous guise. Human expression in countenance, eye, pose, and carriage is, it is true, material and therein not that which the spirit is; but within this corporeal frame itself the human exterior is not merely alive and a part of Nature as the animal is, but it is the bodily presence which reflects Spirit to itself. Through the human eye we look into the soul of a man just as through the entire presentment of him[Pg 178] his spiritual character is expressed. When consequently the body belongs to Spirit, as its determinate presence, Spirit is also that ideal principle which is appropriate to the body, and is no form of ideality which is foreign to the external form in the sense that materiality still inherently possesses a significance other than that to which it testifies or suggests. It is quite true that the human form still carries within it much of the universal animal type, but the fundamental distinction between the human and the animal body consists simply in this, that the human is obviously, by virtue of its entire conformation, declared as the dwelling, nay, we may add the only possible dwelling-place of Spirit. And for this reason also it is only in the body that Spirit is immediately present to others. This is, however, not the place to discuss the necessity[131] of this association and the peculiar reciprocity of soul and body. We must here assume this necessity. We have, of course, many indications on the human figure of death and ugliness, that is, of other influences and defects which are traceable to their source. When we find this to be the case it is the function of art to expunge the divergence between the purely natural and the spiritual, to exalt the external bodily appearance to a form of beauty, that is, a form throughout dominated and suffused with the animation of Spirit.

We have seen, then, that in this type of representation symbolism is no longer presented by the external relation, and everything that partook of effort, strain, distortion, and perversion is eliminated. For when Spirit has grasped itself as Spirit it is at once explicit and clear; and on the same ground is also its association with the form adequate to it from the side of externality, something which is essentially ready to the hand and a free gift, which does not require, as a means for its declaration, a bond of connection introduced by the imagination, and contrasting with that which is immediately presented. Just as little is the classical form of art exhibited as a purely material and superficial personification. It is Spirit in its entirety, in so far as it is intended to make it the content of the art-product, which passes into that bodily shape, and is able to identify itself completely with it. From this point of view we may considerer[Pg 179] the conception that art has followed the human figure by means of imitation. According to the common view, however, this acceptance of the human figure as the model of imitation appears as a matter of accident, whereas we should rather maintain the art which has arrived at its maturity is obliged to reveal its substance by a necessary law in the form of man as he appears to sense perception, because Spirit alone obtains in it the existence fitting to it in the sensuous material of Nature.

All that we have here observed relatively to the human body and its expression applies also to human emotions, impulses, actions, experiences, and occupations. The externalization of these is also, in classical art, not merely characterized as a part of Nature's life, but as that of Spirit; and this ideal aspect is brought into full and adequate identity with that which is external appearance.

(c) Inasmuch, then, as classical art comprehends free spirituality as determinate individuality, and immediately envisages the same in its bodily presentment, it frequently falls under the reproach of anthropomorphism. Even among the Greeks, to take an example, Xenophanes ridiculed the presentation of Gods by means of the sensuous image in his famous remark, that if lions had been sculptors they would have given their gods the external shape of lions. Of a similar tendency is that piece of French wit: God made men according to His image, but man has returned Him the compliment by creating God in the image of man. If we consider the matter relatively to the form of art that follows, the romantic, we may in this respect observe that the content of the classical form of beauty is no doubt defective precisely as the religion of art is so; but so little does the defect consist in anthropomorphism as such, that we may rather maintain, on the contrary, that though classical art is certainly sufficiently anthropomorphic for art, for the higher form of religion it is not enough so. Christianity has carried anthropomorphism to far greater lengths; for, according to Christian doctrine, God is not merely individuality in a human form, but a real and singular individual entirely God, and entirely a real man who has entered into all conditions of existence, and is no mere Ideal of beauty and art created by man. If our[Pg 180] conception of the Absolute is limited to an abstract Being essentially without any characterization then, no doubt, every kind of representation vanishes, but if God is Spirit he must appear as man, as individual subject, not as ideal human being, but as actual participator in the entire externality of temporal conditions[132] which pertain to immediate and natural existence. In other words, from the Christian point of view, the infinite movement is carried to the extremest verge of opposition, and only returns to the absolute unity as the resolution of this separation. The man-becoming of God is incident to this phase or significant moment of separation; as real and individual subjectivity it is involved in the difference between unity and substance in its bare extension, and in this common sphere of temporal and spatial condition creates the consciousness in and pain of division in order through the ultimate resolution of such contradiction by the same means to arrive at eternal reconciliation. And this essential point of passage in the process, according to the Christian conception, is inherent in the nature of God Himself. As a matter of fact, God is here apprehended as absolute and free Spirit, in which Nature and immediate singularity is indeed proferred us as a phasal moment of a process, but, at the same time, as one which is necessarily transcended[133]. In classical art, on the contrary, the material medium is neither killed nor suffers death, but for this reason also we cannot wholly find in it the resurrection of Spirit. Classical art and its religion of beauty does not consequently wholly satisfy the depths of Spirit. However essentially concrete it may be, it still remains abstract for humanity because, instead of movement and reconciliation obtained by the contradiction we have adverted to of that infinite subjective process, it merely possesses as its life that undisturbed harmony of the free individuality determined in its adequate existence, this[Pg 181] repose in its reality, this happiness, this content and greatness in itself, this eternal blitheness and bliss which even in unhappiness and pain does not lose its secure reliance on itself. Classical art has not worked its way to the full contradiction which is fundamentally involved in the notion of the Absolute and overcome that contradiction. For this reason it does not recognize the aspect which is in close relation to this contradiction, that is the essential obduracy of the subject as opposed to that which is ethical and of absolute significance, namely, sin and evil, no less than the waste of individual life in its own subjective aims, the dissolution and incontinence of that world which we may summarily describe as that of the entire sphere of its divisions, which is productive on the side both of sense and spirit of distortion, ugliness, and the repulsive. Classical art fails to cross the pure territory of the genuine Ideal.

2. In so far as the historical realization of classical art is concerned, it is hardly necessary to observe that we must seek for that among the Greeks. Classical beauty, with its infinite range of content, material and form, is the gift bestowed on the Greek people; and this folk is entitled to our respect on the ground that it has produced art in its highest form of vitality. The Greeks, if we regard the form of their realized life immediately presented us, lived in that happy middle sphere of self-conscious and subjective freedom and substantive ethical life. They did not persist, on the one hand, in the unfree Oriental unity, which is necessarily bound up with a religious and political despotism for the reason that the individuality of the subject is overwhelmed in a universal substance, or, in some particular aspect of the same, because it has essentially as personality no right, and consequently no ground to stand on; neither, on the other, did they pass beyond to that subjective penetration, in which the particular subject separates itself from the whole and the universal, in order to make itself more explicit in its ideality; and only through a higher return to the ideal totality of a purely spiritual world, succeeds in its final purification of the substantive and essential. On the contrary, in the ethical life of Greece, the individual was self-substantive and essentially free, without disengaging himself from the general interests of the realized State[Pg 182] immediately visible to him and the positive immanence of spiritual freedom in the temporal condition. The universal of morality and the abstract freedom of personality, both in its ideal and external aspect, remains in accordance with the principle of Greek life in undisturbed harmony, and during the time in which, even in real existence, this principle asserted itself in still unimpaired purity, the self-substantiality of the citizen did not stand forth in relief in contrast to a morality which was to be distinguished from it: the substance of political life was so far merged in the individual, as he on his part sought his own liberty absolutely in the universal ends of the entire civic life. The feeling for beauty, the significance and spirit of this joyous harmony interpenetrates all productions, in which the freedom of Greece is self-conscious, and in which she has made visible to herself her being. Consequently her view of the world is just the midway ground on which beauty commences its true life and breaks open its serene dominion; the intermediate realm, that is, of free vitality, which is not merely a fact at once immediate and natural, but one which is the creation of a spiritual point of view revealed by art, the realm, that is, of a culture of reflection, and at the same time of an absence of reflection, which neither isolates the individual nor on the other hand is competent to bring back again its negativity, pain, and unhappiness to a positive unity and reconciliation—a realm, however, which, just as in the case of Life itself, is at the same time only a point of passage, however true it be that it scales at this point the summit of beauty, and in the form of its plastic individuality is so spiritually concrete and rich, that all tones have their interplay within it, and also, too, that which is for its own standpoint what lies behind it, albeit it is no longer present as an absolute and unqualified principle, is nevertheless felt as that which accompanies it—a kind of background to it. In this sense the Greek nation has also, in the representation of its gods, made its spirit visible to the perceptions and the imaginative consciousness, and bestowed on them, by means of art a determinate existence, which is entirely conformable with their true content. By virtue of this homogeneous form, which is alike consistent with the fundamental notion of Greek art and Greek mythology, art became in Greece[Pg 183] the highest expression for the Absolute, and Greek religion is the religion of art itself, whereas romantic art, which appeared later, although it is undoubtedly art, suggests a more exalted form of consciousness than art is in a position to supply.

3. In establishing the position, as we have just done, on the one hand, that essentially free individuality is the content of classical art, and, on the other, that a like freedom is the equally requisite determinant of the form, we have already assumed that the entire blending of both together, however much it may be presented in the immediate form, is nevertheless no original unity such as Nature's, but is necessarily an artificial association made possible by the subjective spirit. Classical art, in so far as its content and its form is spontaneity[134], originates in the freedom of the Spirit that is clear to itself. And for this reason also we may say that in the third place the artist occupies a position different from that of his predecessors. That is to say his production declares itself as the spontaneous product of a man in the full possession of his senses[135], who as truly knows what he wills as he is able to accomplish such a purpose; who is consequently obscure to himself neither in respect to the significance and substantive content of that which he has resolved to make visible in the form of art, nor finds himself hindered by any defects of technique from executing the result aimed after.

(a) If we look more closely at this change in the position of the artist we shall in the first place find this freedom announced to us relatively to the content in this way, that he does not feel compelled to seek for it with the restless process of symbolical fermentation. Symbolic art remains the captive of its travail to bring to birth and make clear its form to its own vision, and this embodiment is itself only the original form[136], that is, on the one side Being in the immediate guise of Nature, and on the other the ideal[Pg 184] abstraction of the universal, unity, conversion, change, becoming, origination, and passing away. In this original form of the artistic process, however, art does not come to its rightful possessions. Consequently, these representations of symbolic art, which should be expositions of content, remain still themselves riddles and problems, and merely testify to the struggle after clarity and the effort of Spirit, which on and on seeks to discover without obtaining the rest and repose of discovery. In contrast to this troublous search the content must for the classic artist be presented him as something already there in the sense that as a thing essentially positive, as belief, popular opinion, or as an actual event either of myth or tradition, it is determined for his imagination in all its essential character. Relatively to this objectively determined material the artist is placed in the freer relation that he does not himself undertake the process of production and fermentation, and pass no further than the impulse after the real significances of his art, but rather that for him a completely explicit and unfolded content lies before him which he accepts and freely reproduces from himself. The Greek artists received their material from the popular religion in which already that which had been brought over to Greece from the Orient had begun to receive a form of its own. Pheidias borrowed his Zeus from Homer, and other tragedians also did not create the fundamental groundwork of that they represented. In the same way the artists of Christianity, Dante and Raphael, have only reclothed what was already to hand in the doctrines of their faith and their religious conceptions. This is also, it is true, from a certain point of view in like manner the case in the art of the Sublime, but with this difference, that here the relation to the content, as the one substance, does not permit subjectivity to come by its just claims, and allows to it no self-substantive finality. The comparative form of art, on the other hand, no doubt starts with the selection of significances as images which it makes use of, but this initiative of selection remains at the disposition of subjective caprice, and on its part dispenses with all substantive individuality, which constitutes the notion of classical art, and for this reason must rest with the personality which creates it.

(b) The more, however, an explicitly unfolded content is[Pg 185] present for the artist in popular beliefs, myth, and other actual facts, the more his energy is concentrated upon the object of endowing such a content with the external embodiment of art fitting to it. While in this respect symbolic art dissipates its resources in a thousand forms, and with unbridled imaginative power lays about it for material that it fails either to measure or define in order to adapt forms that are never really conformable to the significance it is seeking after, the classical artist in this respect is possessed of an aim that is at once resolute and definite. That is to say, the free form is with the content itself defined through that content, and is essentially pertinent to such content, so that the artist only appears to execute what is already accordant with the fundamental conception of what is presented him. While, therefore, the symbolic artist strives in his imagination, to suit the form to significance or vice versa, the classic artist adapts significance to plastic shape by means of the process of freeing the external phenomena which are already presented from that part of them which is merely an incidental product. In this activity, however, although all that is purely his caprice is excluded, his productive power not merely follows or is not merely limited to a bare type, but is at the same time creative throughout the whole. Art which, to start with, is forced to seek out and discover its true form neglects for that reason the very aspect of form; but where, on the contrary, the building up of form is made the essential interest and the main task there we find the content also receives its plastic shape by imperceptible degrees through the process of the reproduction, precisely as we have hitherto found in a general way that form and content proceed hand in hand during the process, wherein they are completed. In this respect the classic artist elaborates the result also where it is a religious world that is presented him; he throughout develops in the free and buoyant medium of his art the material and mythological ideas which he receives.

(c) The same applies to the technique of art. In the case of the classic artist the ingredients must be already to hand; the sensuous material through which the artist labours must already be disengaged from all brittleness and extreme stubbornness, and yield directly to the aims of the artist, in[Pg 186] order that the content, conformably to the notion of the classic type, may make its free and unfettered way through this external medium. To classical art, consequently, belongs from the first a high level of technical ability, which has subjected the sensuous material to an apt subservience. Such a technical perfection, if it is really to carry out all that is required of Spirit and its conceptions, is presupposed by the complete elaboration of all that pertains to craftsmanship in art, that is, in especial degree of that which makes itself visible within the plastic forms of the religion to which we now refer. The religious view of things, such as the Egyptian, for example, discovers, that is, definite external forms, idols, colossal constructions whose type remains fixed, and, further, in the usual similarity of forms and shapes, supplies a considerable field for elaboration in the treatment of it by the steadily progressive executive powers. This adaptability to the talents of the craftsman must already have been presented in that which is of an inferior and distorted type before the genius of classical beauty can associate these powers of mechanical facility with the forms of technical perfection. Then, at last, when that which is purely mechanical work is confronted with no further insuperable difficulty, is art enabled to proceed in the elaboration of a form, the practice in working out which is at the same time an elaboration which is in the closest relationship to the progressive advance of both content and form.

So far as the division of classical art is concerned it is usual in the more general sense of the term to call every complete work of art classic, whatever the particular character it may otherwise carry, whether symbolic or romantic. We have no doubt thus accepted it in the particular sense of art perfection, but with this important qualification, that this perfection must be based on the thorough interpenetration of ideal and free individuality and external definition. We consequently differentiate the classic form expressly from the symbolic and romantic, whose beauty in content and form is entirely of another kind. And along with the classic, regarded in its usual and more indefinite significance, we have as little to do here at this early stage with the particular arts in which the classical ideal is represented, as, for example, sculpture, the Epic, definite forms[Pg 187] of lyrical poetry and specific types of tragedy and comedy. These particular types of art, although classic art is imprinted upon them, will be first discussed in the third portion of the division of our subject in the explication of the several arts and their grades[137]. What we approach more immediately now is the classic in the sense we have secured for the term, and as bases of our subdivision we can only therefore seek out the grades of evolution, which proceed from this notion of the classical ideal itself. The essential phases of this development are as follows.

The first point to which we would direct our attention is this, that the classical type of art is not to be apprehended as was the case with the symbolic type as immediately primary, as art's commencement, but, on the contrary, as its result. We have evolved it, consequently, in the first instance from the course of the symbolic modes of representation, which it presupposes. The essential feature on which this process turned was the concentration of content in the elucidation of an essentially self-conscious individuality, which can neither employ for its expression the mere natural form, whether it be that of the elements or animals, nor the defective and confused personification of the human figure with it, but receives its expression in the animation of the human body permeated throughout with the breath of Spirit. Inasmuch, then, as the essence of freedom consists in this, to be that which it is through its own resources, that which in the first place appeared purely as the presupposition and condition of its origin outside the sphere of classical art must take its place within the circle peculiar to the same in order to make really visible the true content and the genuine form by means of the subjection of what is unconformable to and the negation of the Ideal. This process of conformation through negation, this process by means of which, whether we view it relatively to content or form, the genuine type of classical beauty begets itself from its own substance is consequently our point of departure, and we shall treat of that in our first chapter.

In the second chapter, on the other hand, we have reached by means of this process the true Ideal of the classical type of art. We find here as the central fact the fair and novel[Pg 188] world of the gods of Greece, which it will be incumbent on us to develop exhaustively from within, both in its aspects of spiritual individualization, and those which are related to the bodily form with which such individuality is immediately associated.

In the third place, however, the notion of classical art implies conversely, along with this becoming of the beauty which springs from itself, also the dissolution of that creation, which will carry us into a further sphere, namely, that of the romantic type of art. The gods and human individuals of classic beauty just as they rise so, too, pass away once more from the art-consciousness, which in part turns round in opposition to the aspect of Nature that still persists, in which Greek art, in fact, had elaborated itself in the full perfection of beauty, in part transcends an undeific[138], defective, and vulgar mode of reality in order to reveal that which is false and purely negative therein. In this dissolution, whose artistic activity we shall take as the material of our third chapter, the specific phases in the process, which created the truly classical type in that harmony presented by the perfect fusion of immediate beauty, fall apart. The ideal essence is made explicit on the one side in its independence of the external mode of its existence on the other. Subjectivity withdraws into itself, for the reason that it fails now to find an adequate realization in the forms hitherto employed, and is constrained to enlarge itself with the fuller content of a new spiritual world of absolute freedom and infinity, looking about for novel means of expressing this profounder grasp of its substance.

[121] The central point, that is, in the entire evolution of the types of art, classical art being intermediate between symbolic and romantic art and in a certain sense marking a point of culmination.

[122] Zu ihrem Inneren, i. e., that which unites it as a whole rather than is the purely external form. The Inward of man is the notion of man, not the mere fact that he has a head and arms, etc.

[123] The "Nature-existence," as Hegel calls it.

[124] Die Natur ist freilich heraus. Nature is there explicitly before us, but not all that is implied in Nature is made explicit in the material world.

[125] Sinnlichkeitslos, "senseless" as devoid of or abstracted from all sense.

[126] Auf ihr festes Maas zurückgeführt. To their own proper standard or measure that strictly applies to them.

[127] I think this must be the meaning of nützlich here. But the passage is not an easy one.

[128] That is, the comparative type of art discussed at the conclusion of the preceding section.

[129] That is, the Inward or ideal principle and the natural externality.

[130] Selbstständigkeit. Self-consistency or independence are perhaps better words here.

[131] That is, I suppose, the causal necessity as part of natural evolution.

[132] Bis zur zeitlichen gänzlichen Äußerlichkeit.

[133] These words contain no doubt the epitome of Hegel's "Philosophy of Religion" and are involved in its difficulties. The reference to the historical facts of Christianity under ideal conceptions is obvious. I have translated the words das Moment des Natürlichen ... zwar vorhanden seyn as a phasal moment of "a process," but I am well aware that no mere amplification of this sort can in itself make the words clear.

[134] Das Freie.

[135] Des besonnenen Menschen, i.e., the man of clear intelligence, sound sense, as we say.

[136] The words dieser Gehalt ist selber nur der Erste would seem to refer back to the expressions Keine Erste und somit natürliche Einheit. But the sense is not very clear.

[137] Deren Gattungen, their specific types.

[138] Entgöttert—a mode from which the Divine is removed.

[Pg 189]



In the notion of free Spirit is contained immediately that aspect of the process of intelligence we may describe as self-introspection, return upon the self, of being explicit as an object existing for the self and in a determinate place, although this penetration into the realm of subjectivity, as we have already observed, does not either necessarily proceed to the length of making the subject essentially self-substantive in its negative aspect as against all that is concrete in Spirit and presented us as the stability of Nature, nor to that absolute reconciliation which constitutes, the freedom of the infinite subjectivity in truth. With the freedom of Spirit, however, in whatever form it may appear, is generally associated the elimination of that which is purely natural, regarded as that which is the Other in contrast to Spirit. Spirit must in the first instance essentially withdraw itself from Nature, uplift itself over, her boundaries and overcome them, ere it can prevail with unfettered movement within those bounds as within an element that is opposed to it, and can build itself up in a positive mode of existence truly indicative of its own freedom. If we further ask for a closer definition of the object through the transcendence of which Spirit attains to its self-substantive form in classical art we shall find this object is not Nature merely as such, but rather a Nature that is already throughout suffused with the significations of Spirit, in other words the symbolic type of art, which made use of the immediately natural form as a means of expressing the Absolute, its artistic consciousness either seeing in animals and so forth the presence of gods, or striving vainly under false modes toward the true unity of the spiritual and the natural. It is through the removal and reformation of this defective association that the Ideal[Pg 190] for the first time presents itself as the Ideal, and is forced to develop consequently this process of transcendence within its own sphere as a phase of its own necessary evolution. Such a consideration at once enables us to dispose of the question whether the Greeks received this religion from extraneous sources or no. We have already seen that subordinate conceptions are necessarily presupposed in the very notion of classical art. These, in so far as they in truth appear and are presented as factors of human history, are, as opposed to the higher form, which strives to pass beyond them, the actual starting-point of the new self-evolving art. And this is so, though in the particular case of Greek mythology there is not throughout historical evidence for these preliminary data. The relation, however, of the Greek spirit to these presupposed data is essentially a relation of construction and in the first instance of transformation. If this were not so the conceptions and forms of the same had remained as they were. It is true that Herodotus says, in a passage already cited, of Homer and Hesiod, that they had created their gods for the Greeks, but he also speaks expressly of particular gods, how this or that one was Egyptian or some other form: the poetic activity does not therefore exclude the reception of material from other sources, but merely suggests an essential transformation. For the Greeks possessed mythological conceptions before the time in which Herodotus places those original poets.

If we inquire further into the more obvious aspects of this necessary transformation of that which is undoubtedly involved with, but at first still alien from, the Ideal, we find it set before us in naïve form as content of mythology itself. The main fact of Greek theology is this, that it creates itself and constitutes itself from that which has gone before, which takes its place in the origins and process of its own generic history. Incidental to this origination, in so far as the gods are taken to be spiritual individualities in determinate bodily shape, we find, on the one hand, that Spirit, instead of giving visibility to its essence in that which is purely vital and animal, regards life rather as an attribute which is insufficient[139], as its unhappiness and death, and, on[Pg 191] the other, that it is in the living thing that it triumphs over the elements of Nature and its confused reproduction. Conversely, however, it is equally necessary for the Ideal of the classic gods, not merely to stand over against Nature and its elemental powers as individual spirit in its finite and abstract seclusion, but to possess itself the elements of the universal natural life notionally as a phasal moment in the vital constitution of Spirit. As the essence of the gods is essentially universal, and in this very universality they are defined as individuals, it follows also that the aspect of their bodily presence must essentially include at the same time the natural as the essential and wide-reaching power of Nature, and as vital activity intertwined with spirituality itself.

In this respect we may differentiate the process of embodiment followed by the classical art-form under the following points of view.

The first concerns the degradation of that which is purely animal, and the removal of the same from the sphere of free and pure Beauty.

The second more important aspect is related to the elemental itself, in the first instance conceived as gods put before us as powers of Nature, through whose conquest alone the genuine race of gods can attain to undisputed mastery, that is in the war between the ancient and new gods. But this negative tendency becomes, then, in the third place, after Spirit has secured its free right, to the same extent once again an affirmative force, and elemental Nature constitutes an aspect of godhead permeated with individualized spirituality in order to re-establish even the animal organism, though here only of an attributive and external sign. Following the above points of view we will now, if still at no great length, endeavour to emphasize the more definite traits, which here come under consideration.


Among the Indians and Egyptians, among Asiatics generally we find animalism, or at any rate specific kinds[Pg 192] of animals regarded as sacred and worshipped, because in them the Divine itself is taken to be visible to sense. The animal form is consequently also a main feature of their artistic representations, albeit they are in addition merely used as symbolic and in association with human forms, in the stage previous to that where we find the human, and only the human, apprehended by consciousness as that which is alone true. It is only in virtue of the self-consciousness of the spiritual that the respect for the obscure and gloomy ideality of animal life disappears. This has already taken place among the ancient Hebrews who regard, as we have already observed, the whole of Nature neither as symbol nor as the presence of God, and attach to external objects merely the powers and vitality which in fact dwell within them. At the same time there still remains even among them, if in accidental fashion, at least a vestige of reverence for the living thing as such. We may illustrate this with the fact that Moses forbids the use of animal blood as food for the reason that life is centred in the blood. Man, however, is really under a necessity to eat that which is his natural food. The next step which we must draw attention to in this passage to classical art consists in lowering the high worth and position of what is animal, and making this degradation itself the content of religious conceptions and artistic productions. And illustrative of this we find abundant examples from which I shall merely offer the following selections.

(a) We find that among the Greeks certain animals appear conspicuous among others, as the snake, for example, is presented us in the sacrifices of Homer as an exceptionally beloved genius[141], and before all others it is this species which is offered to one god, while others are appropriated to some other. We find, further that the hare, which runs across the way, birds observed in their flight to right hand or left, and entrails are investigated as fruitful in prophetic significance. All this, it is true, indicates a real reverence for the animal type, since the gods communicate through them and speak to men by means of omens. If we look at[Pg 193] the heart of the matter, however, we shall find these to be merely isolated revelations, suggestive of superstition no doubt, but merely momentary hints of the Divine. On the other hand, it is an important fact that animals are sacrificed and the sacrificial flesh eaten. Among the Indians sacred animals are on the contrary preserved alive as such, and taken care of, and among the Egyptians they are even preserved after their death. For the Greek it is the sacrifice which is sacred. In the sacrifice man demonstrates that he is willing to give up a consecrated thing to his gods, and to deprive himself wholly of the use of the same. And in this connection we may observe a characteristic trait in the Greek rite, among which people the sacrifice was observed as at the same time a hospitable feast[142], only a part of the same being dedicate to the gods, that is, the portion which it was assumed they alone could enjoy, while the Greek himself retained and feasted upon the flesh. Out of this circumstance originated a mythical tale in Greece. The ancient Greeks, it is said, sacrificed with the greatest solemnity to the gods, and suffered the entirety of the sacrificial animal to be consumed in the flames. Not even the poorer suppliants dared contest this great waste. So Prometheus endeavoured to obtain by request from Zeus, that they were merely under an obligation to sacrifice a portion, and could devote the remainder to their own uses. He slew two oxen, burnt the liver of both, converted, however, all the bones into one, the flesh into the remaining hide of the animals, and presented Zeus the choice. Zeus, deceived by appearances, selected the bones because they were a larger portion and left the flesh in this way for human consumption. For this reason, when the flesh of sacrificial animals was consumed, the remaining portions, which were devoted to the gods, were burnt up in the same fire. Zeus, however, took away fire from men because by so doing he made it impossible for them to celebrate their feast. Little help the ruse gave him. Prometheus robbed him of the fire and in the excess of his joy flew back faster than he sped thither; for which cause, so the tale goes, the bringer of good news invariably brings "speed" with him. In this way the Greeks have directed attention to this progress in human culture[Pg 194] and preserved and reclothed the same in myth for the mind.

(b) We may connect with the above as a similar example of a yet further degradation of animalism the traditions of famous huntings, such as we find ascribed to heroes, and handed down as sacred to grateful memory. In these the slaying of animals which appear as injurious foes, such as the strangling of the Numean lion by Heracles, the slaying of the Lernean hydra, the hunting of the Caledonian boar are set forth as something famous, by means of which the heroes contended for godlike rank, whereas the Hindoos punished with death as a crime the slaughter of certain animals. Unquestionably there is a further interplay of symbolism in deeds of this kind or they lie at the base of them. In the case of Hercules there is the fact of the sun and its course, so that such heroic actions supply an essential aspect of symbolical interpretation. These myths are, however, at the same time accepted in their express significance as beneficial hunts and were consciously recognized as such by the Greeks. We must here again in a similar relation recall certain fables of Aesop, especially those already referred to of the dung beetle. The dung beetle, that primitive Egyptian symbol, in whose balls of dung the Egyptians or the interpreters of their religious conceptions saw the world balls, comes in Aesop again before Jupiter, and with the important change that the eagle does not respect his protector the hare. Aristophanes, on the other hand, has wholly made fun of him.

(c) Thirdly, the degradation of the animal is directly indicated in many of the tales of metamorphosis as Ovid has delineated them for us in detail with grace and talent and fine traits of feeling and intuition, but also composed in a rambling way without their great and commanding ideal significance, treating them merely as the sport of mythos and external fact and failing to recognize a deeper significance. Such a deeper significance is, however, there, and we will consequently, now we mention the subject, make further allusion to it. For the most part the particular narratives are if we look at this material, quaint and primitive, not so much on account of the depraved condition of the culture, but rather, as in the Nibelungenlied, on account of the condition of a still raw nature. As far as the thirteenth[Pg 195] book, according to their content, they are older than the Homeric tales; add to this they are a medley of cosmogony and heterogeneous elements of Phoenician, Phrygian, Egyptian symbolism, treated no doubt in a human way, but in such wise that the uncouth stock still remains, whereas the metamorphoses which enumerate tales of a later period subsequent to the Trojan war, although their material is also borrowed from fabulous times, clash awkwardly with the names of Ajax and Aeneas.

(α) Generally speaking, we may regard the metamorphoses as a contrast to the conception and worship implied in animalism. Looked at from the ethical side of Spirit they include essentially the negative attitude toward Nature, making the animal and other inorganic forms a phase of human degradation. Consequently, if among the Egyptians the gods of Nature's elements are exalted and made vital in animals, here conversely, as we have already intimated, the natural form appears before us as an easier or difficult lapse and a monstrous crime, as the existence of an ungod-like, unfortunate thing, and as the embodiment of pain, in which the human is no longer able to remain self-contained. For this reason they have not the significance of the migration of souls in the Egyptian sense of that expression; this is a migration which does not imply guilt, but rather is on the contrary, if we take the case of the passage of the human soul into the animal, regarded as an exaltation.

As a whole, however, this is no severely exclusive circle of myths, however different the objects of Nature may be, into which that which is spiritual is banished. A few examples will sufficiently elucidate the point.

Among the Egyptians the wolf plays a part of great importance, as, for example, in the case where Osiris appears as beneficent protector of his son Horus in the latter's conflict with Typhon, and in a whole series of Egyptian coins is represented as the assister of Horus. And speaking generally the association of the wolf and the sun-god is a primitive one. In the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid, on the other hand, the conversion of Lycaon into the form of a wolf is presented us as a punishment for his impiety. After the subjugation of the giants, we are told[143], and after the annihilation of their[Pg 196] bodily shapes the Earth, warmed by the blood of its sons which had been scattered in all directions, revitalized the warm blood, and, in order that no vestige of the former wild stock should remain, brought into being a race of men. Yet for all that was this after-birth contemptuous of the gods, eager for savage deeds and murder. Then Jupiter called the gods into conclave with a view to destroy this mortal race. He informed them how Lycaon had cunningly formed stratagems against himself, the wielder of the lightning and their sovereign lord. When, such is the story, the worthlessness of the times was apparent to him, he descended from Olympus, and came to Arcadia. "I furnished signs," the narration continues, "that a god had drawn nigh and the people began to supplicate." First, to make merry over these pious prayers was Lycaon, who forthwith cried out: "I will make experiment whether this indeed be a god or mortality, and the truth shall not remain in doubt." "He made preparation," continued Jupiter, "to slay me when oppressed with slumber; he was possessed with the passion for discovering the truth. And not contented with this, he made an incision with his sword in the throat of a goat of Molassian pedigree and boiled as to one part the only partially dead members; and as to the rest baked them on the fire, and placed both portions before me to eat. Wherefore I, with avenging flame, have laid his homestead in ashes. Affrighted he fled forth from thence, and when he reached the silent field he broke forth: in howls and strove in vain to utter speech. With rage in his jaws and in the eagerness of his animal lust for murder he turned against the cattle, and rejoices even now in their blood; his garments have become the hairy hide, and his arms have turned into thighs. He is a wolf, and preserves the signs of the primitive shape."

The tale of Procne, who was changed into a swallow, sets before us the gravity of the committed abomination with a like emphasis. When, so the tale runs[144], Procne begs of her husband, Tereus—she happened at the time to stand in his favour—that he will, forthwith let her go to see her sister or suffer her sister to visit her, Tereus hastens to launch his vessel on the sea and quickly reaches the harbour of Piraeus with his seamanship. He, however, barely catches sight of Philomela[Pg 197] before he is violently enamoured of her. At his departure Pandion, the father, binds him on oath to protect her with the love of a father, and to send back as soon as possible the alleviation of his old age. The voyage, however, is hardly over when the barbarous man deprives her—pale, trembling, already fearful of the worst, and beseeching with tears to know where her sister is—of liberty, and as twin-consort forces her to be his concubine along with her sister. Overcome with anger and thrusting all sense of shame on one side, Philomela threatens of her own accord to betray the deed. Tereus on this draws his sword, seizes and binds her and cuts off her tongue, informs, however, his wife by way of evasion of the death of her sister. Thereupon the sorrowing Procne tears off the fine linen from her shoulders and puts on mourning apparel; she raises an empty tomb and in a mode somewhat out of place, as it happens, laments the lamentable fate of her sister. How then does Philomela meet this? A prisoner, robbed of all speech, of her voice, she bethinks her of craft. With threads of purple she works the news of the crime upon a white texture, and sends the raiment secretly to Procne. The wife reads the heartrending news of her sister; she neither speaks nor weeps; she lives wholly in the image of revenge. It was the time of the festival of Bacchus. Driven forth by the furies of her passionate grief she forces her way to her sister; she tears her from her chamber and carries her off with her away. Then in her own house, while she still is in doubt what terrible act of vengeance she shall exact on Tereus, Itys appears before his mother. She stares upon him with eyes of wildness. How like he is to his father! No further word she utters, but consummates at once the doleful deed. They slay the boy and serve him on his father's table, who partakes eagerly of his own flesh and blood. He then calls for his son, and Procne exclaims that he carries within him that which he calls for; and, as he still looks about him and seeks after him and again asks and calls for him, Philomela sets before his face the bloody head. Then he breaks away from table with an awful cry of anguish, and weeps and calls himself his son's sepulchre, and forthwith makes after the daughters of Pandion with the naked steel. But now supplied with wings they float away from thence, the one into[Pg 198] the forest, the other into the roof; and Tereus also, despite all the energy of his sorrow and desire of revenge, is changed into the bird which rears on its crest the comb of feathers, and carries a beak of immoderate projection. The name of the bird is the hoopoe.

On the other hand, we have changes which proceed from a guilt of less significance. As examples, there is Cygnus who became a swan, and Daphne, the first love of Apollo[145], who was changed into the laurel, Clyde into the heliotrope, Narcissus, who despised in his vanity maidens, and sees himself in the watery mirror, and Biblis[146], who was enamoured of her brother, and is, when he scorns her, changed into the spring which even now bears her name and flows beneath the shading oak.

However, we must not lose ourselves in further digression through particular examples, and I will merely, by way of passage, and the one further reference to the change of the Pierides, who, according to Ovid[147], were the daughters of Pieros and challenged the Muses to a match of rivalry. For ourselves the distinction of importance is the nature of the songs which the combatants sang respectively. The Pierides celebrate the battles of the gods[148] and honour the giants unduly while they depreciate the deeds of the great gods. Rising up from the depths of Earth, Typhoeus filled heaven with fear; in a body the gods take flight from thence until, wearied out, they rest on Egyptian soil. But here, too, so sang the Pierides, Typhoeus arrives, and the high gods are fain to hide themselves in illusive shapes. Jupiter was leader of the army, and for this reason, so ran their refrain, the Lybian Ammon to this day is figured with crooked horns; and in like manner the scion of Semele is changed into a ram, the sister of Phoebus into a cat, Juno into a snow-white cow, Venus is concealed in a fish, Mercury in the feathers of Ibis.

Here we find therefore the gods suffer reproach in their change to animal form. Although their translation is not presented as a punishment for a wrong or a crime, it is their cowardice which is held forth to us as the reason of this self-imposed metamorphosis. Calliope, on the other hand, exalts in song the good deeds and history of Ceres. Ceres was the first, so ran the strain, to scour through the[Pg 199] fields with the crook-backed ploughshare; first was she to give fruits and fruitful means of nourishment to the ploughed fields. First was she to lay down laws for our guidance; we are collectively but a gift of her wisdom. "Ah," she exclaims, "my task is to celebrate her, and yet how shall I tune my strain worthy of such a goddess! Assuredly the goddess is worthy of the singer's best." When she has finished, the Pierides adjudge themselves victors in the contest: but even as they endeavour to speak, and with loud cries, so Ovid informs us (v. 670), are flourishing about with their hands, they perceive their nails passing away into feathers, their arms become covered with down, while each is aware that the mouth of the other is closing up into the stiff bill of a bird: and while they are all for deploring their lot, they are carried up on the waves of their wings, they float away, the screamers of the woods, and as waifs of the air. And even unto this day, adds our poet, they still retain their own glibness of tongue and excited chatter, and infinite desire to gossip. In this way we find again also here that metamorphosis is presented us as punishment, and, what is more, is presented, as is so frequently the case with such stories, as punishment due to religious impiety.

(β) If we consider further examples of still well recognized metamorphoses of men and gods into animals, we shall find that, although they do not directly imply any transgression as the cause of such a change, as, for example, in the case where Circe possessed the power to change men into animals, yet, for all that, the animal condition is at least indicative of a misfortune and a humiliation, such as brings no honour even to the person who makes such a change subservient to private ends. Circe was quite a subordinate, obscure type of goddess, and her power appears as mere witchery, and Mercury assists Odysseus, when the latter contrives to free his comrades from the spell. Of much the same kind are the many shapes which Zeus takes upon himself, as, for example, when he is changed into a bull in his quest of Europa, or when he approaches Leda in the form of a swan, or fructifies the Danae in a shower of gold. In all these cases the object is one of deception, directed by purposes of an inferior, that is to say, not[Pg 200] spiritual, but purely natural quality, purposes which the ever constant jealousy of Juno render unavoidable. The conception of a universal procreative life of Nature, which in many of the more ancient mythologies constituted the leading motive, is imaginatively reproduced in separate poetical tales about the easily enamoured disposition of the father of gods and men, exploits, however, which he does not carry through in his own or, for the most part, in human shape, but expressly either in the shape of animals, or some other embodiment of Nature.

(γ) And, lastly, we may add to our list those hybrid forms, combining both humanity and animalism, which are also not excluded from Greek art, though the animality is here accepted as something that degrades, is unspiritual. Among the Egyptians, for example, the he-goat, Mendes, was revered[149], and, according to the opinion of Jablouski[150], in the sense of the procreative power of Nature, generally speaking, as that of the sun, and to such an outrageous excess that, according to Pindar, even women sacrificed themselves to these creatures. Among the Greeks, Pan, on the contrary, personifies the mysterious sense of the divine presence, and later in the shape of fauns, satyrs, and Pan-like figures, the goat shape only appeared in a subordinate way, such as in the feet, and in the most beautiful representations was perhaps limited to the pointed ears and little horns. The rest of the figure is shaped in human guise, and the animal suggestion thrust back upon the barest detail. Yet, for all that, fauns were not recognized among the Greeks as gods of any important rank or spiritual forces; their fundamental characteristic remained that of a sensuous, uncontrolled joviality. It is true that they are also artistically represented with an expression of profounder significance, as, for instance, that fine example of one in Munich, which holds the youthful Bacchus in his arms, and gazes down on him with a smile which is brimming over with love and tenderness. He is not to be taken as the father of Bacchus, but merely the foster-parent, and we find given him here the beautiful feeling of joy in the innocence of the child, such as that which, in the maternal devotion of Mary for the Christ babe, is exalted in romantic art to so[Pg 201] lofty a level of contemplation. Among the Greeks, however, this most charming love still belongs to the subordinate sphere of fauns in order to indicate that its origin is traceable from animal, that is natural, life, and consequently is entitled to rank with such a sphere[151].

Mediate shapes of a similar kind are the centaurs, in which we may also observe that the Nature-aspect of sensuality and desire is also supremely prominent to the suppression of the spiritual side. Cheiron, no doubt, is of a more noble type, a clever physician, and the tutor of Achilles; but this instructive rôle, as the teacher of a child, is not appropriate to godhead strictly, but is to be related with human ability and cleverness.

In this manner the relation of the animal shape receives a modification in classical art from whatever point of view we regard it. Its prevailing employment is to indicate that which is evil, bad, inferior, merely natural and unspiritual, whereas, outside Greece it was the expression of the positive and absolute.


The second grade of more elevated rank we may contrast with the degradation of the animal condition consists in this, that the genuine gods of classical art, inasmuch as they possess for their content a free self-consciousness, which we may define as the power of spiritual individuality reposing on its own resources, are also able to be represented as subjects of knowledge and volition, that is as spiritual potences. For this reason the humanity, in the bodily form of which they are presented us, is not, as one may say, a mere form, which is girt about this content by virtue of the imagination under a mode of purely external validity, but is rooted in the significance, content, and ideal substance itself. The divine, however, generally speaking, is essentially to be apprehended us unity of the natural and spiritual; both sides are involved in the conception of the Absolute; and it[Pg 202] is merely the different mode, under which this harmony is conceived, which constitutes from our present point of view the respective grades of the various forms of art and historic religions. According to our own Christian way of looking at it, God is the creator and lord of Nature and the spiritual world, and therewith, no doubt, exempted from the immediate and determinate existence of Nature, for the reason that, before all else, he is very God as the taking back into Himself of his own fulness, that is as absolute and self-dependent Spirit; it is only the finite and human spirit which stands in opposition to Nature as a limit and a bound, a limitation which such only thereby overcomes in his determinate existence, and exalts himself intrinsically to the grade of infinity in so far as he grasps Nature contemplatively in thought, and in the actual world[152] consummates the harmony between spiritual idea, reason, the Good and Nature. This infinite actualization is, however, God, in so far as the lordship over Nature is strictly due to Him, and He Himself is conceived as explicit in this infinite activity, and the knowledge and volition of such realization.

In the religions of strictly symbolic art, on the contrary, as we have traced already, the union of the Inward and Ideal with Nature was an immediate association, which consequently made use of Nature both as regards its substance and form as its fundamental mode of determination. In this sense the sun, the Nile, the sea, the Earth, the natural processes of birth, death, procreation, and reproduction, in short, all the varied changes of the universal life of Nature were revered as divine existence and life. These Nature-forces, however, were even in symbolic art personified, and consequently set up in contrast to the spiritual. If, however, and nothing less than this is the requirement of classical art, the gods are to be spiritual individualities in harmony with Nature, mere personification is a conception insufficient for this result. For personification, in the case that its content is a purely universal force and activity of Nature, persists as a mere form, unable to penetrate to the constituting substance, and can neither give existence to the spiritual content in the same, nor its individuality. We find[Pg 203] therefore necessarily in classical art a change of front[153], to the effect that, in conformity with the degradation of the animal aspect we have just been considering, the universal power of Nature also in one aspect of it suffers humiliation, and the spiritual is proportionally exalted in contrast to it. And by this means we find that it is the principle of subjectivity, rather than mere personification, which becomes the main mode of definition. From another point of view, however, the gods of classical art do not cease to be potences of Nature, because God here has not yet come to be represented as essentially absolute and free spirituality. In the relation of a merely created and ministrant creature to a lord and creator separated from it, Nature stands, however, albeit deified, either as we have it in the art of the Sublime—conceived as an essentially abstract, that is purely ideal masterdom of one supreme substance, or—as in the case of Christianity—exalted as concrete Spirit to absolute freedom within the pure element of spiritual existence and personal actuality. Neither of these examples falls in with the point of view of classical art. God here is not as yet lord of Nature, for the reason that he does not as yet possess absolute spirituality either if regarded relatively to what is contained in Him, or to the mode under which He is apprehended. He is no longer lord of Nature, because the sublime relation of the deified natural thing and human individuality has ceased, and taken upon itself the limitations of beauty, in which their just due must be rendered for art's representation without any tittle of loss to both aspects, the universal and the individual, the spiritual and the natural. Consequently in the god of classical art the nature-potency is preserved, but is conceived as such not in the sense of the universal and all-embracing Nature, but as the definable, and consequently limited activity of the sun, sea, and so on, generally speaking, as a particular natural potency, which is made visible as spiritual individuality, and possesses this spiritual individuality as its essential being.

For the reason, then, as we have already made clear, that the classical Ideal is not immediately present, but first makes its appearance through the process in which that[Pg 204] which is negative to the formative content of spirit is resolved, this transformation and building up into new forms of that which is raw, unbeautiful, wild, grotesque, purely natural, or fantastic, which originated in earlier religious conceptions and views of art, will be a leading interest in Greek mythology, and consequently will necessarily reproduce a readily defined sphere[154] of particular significances.

In proceeding further to examine this fundamental aspect of our present subject I must at once give utterance to the preliminary caution that the historic investigation of the varied and multifold conceptions of Greek mythology lies outside our present task. All we are concerned to inquire into here are the essential phasal steps of this process of reconstruction, in so far as the same notify themselves as phases of universal import in the new artistic configuration and its content. As for that infinite mass of particular myths, narrations, histories, things referable to a local origin and symbolism, which collectively still assert their predominance in the world of later gods, and incidentally appear in artistic production, but for all that do not belong to the vital point of interest to which our own effort is directed—we must necessarily leave all this broad field of material on one side, and can merely refer to an example or two by way of illustration. Speaking generally we may compare this road, on which we now move forwards, to the course of the history of sculpture. For inasmuch as sculpture places before the observation of sense the gods in their real form it constitutes the peculiar centrum of classical art, albeit also the better to make it wholly understood poetry expresses itself upon gods and mankind, or passes in review the worlds of gods and men in their activity and movement in direct contrast to that objectivity self-contained in repose. Just as, then, in sculpture the moment of all importance in the beginning is the transformation of the formless, the stone or block of wood that has fallen from heaven (διoπετὴς)—as the the great goddess of Pessinus in Asia Minor actually was, which the Romans directed by means of a solemn embassy to be transferred to Rome—into the human[Pg 205] form and so makes the statue, so too we have here to make a beginning from the formless, uncouth powers of Nature, and while doing so merely to indicate the stages, in their passage through which they are exalted into spiritual individuality and are finally concentrated in shapes of fixity.

We may in this connection distinguish three separable aspects as of most importance.

The first, which arrests our attention, are the oracles in which the knowledge and volition of gods, still under a formless mode, gives witness to their presence through natural existences.

The second point of view to be noted is concerned with the universal forms of Nature, no less than the abstractions of Right and so forth, which lie at the root of the genuine spiritual and individual deities, which are, so to speak, their birth-cradles and furnish us with the necessary conditions of their origin and activity: they are the old gods in contradistinction to the new.

Thirdly, and finally, we are made aware of the essentially necessary progress to the Ideal in the fact that the primarily superficial personifications of the activities of Nature and the most abstract spiritual conditions are contested and thrust from their prominence as something essentially subordinate and negative and, by virtue of this debasement the self-sufficient spiritual individuality and its human form and action, is suffered to attain an unchallenged masterdom. This revolution, which constitutes the real central position in the historical origins of the classic gods, is in Greek mythology placed before our imagination in the conflict—a mode of presentation as naïve as it is astonishingly direct—between the old and new gods, in the headlong fall of the Titans, and in the victory which the divine race of Zeus secures.

(a) To take, then, first in order the oracles, it will not be necessary for us now to dilate on them to any considerable extent. The essential point which concerns us here is merely due to this fact, that in classical art the phenomena of Nature are no longer revered as such—in the way that the Parsees, for example, pray to naphthetic regions or fire, or as among the Egyptians, gods remain inscrutable, mysterious, and mute riddles—but that the gods, being themselves[Pg 206] subjects of knowledge and volition, do verily give to man by means of natural phenomena indications of their wisdom. In this sense the ancient Hellenes made inquiry at the oracle of Dodona[155], whether they should accept the names of gods, which have come to them from barbarians, and the oracle replied: "Use them."

(α) The signs by means of which the gods thus made their revelations are for the most part of the simplest description. At Dodona such were the rustle and whisper of the sacred oak, the murmur of the spring, the tones of the brazen vessel, which the wind made thus to reverberate. In like manner at Delos it was the laurel which rustled and at Delphi, too, the sound of the wind on the brazen tripod was full of significance[156]. Over and above, however, such immediately natural sounds man is also the voice-piece of the oracle in so far as he is rendered deaf to and whirled away from the alert commonsense of his ordinary mind to a natural condition of enthusiasm; as, for example, the Pythia at Delphi was wont, stupefied by exhalations, to deliver the oracular words, or in the cave of Trophonius the inquirer of the oracle met with faces, from the interpretation of which an answer was delivered him.

(β) There is, however, another aspect which we should set alongside of the purely external sign. For in the oracles God is, it is true, accepted as He who knows, and the oracle of most famed repute is dedicate to Apollo, the god of wisdom. The form, however, in which he reveals his will, remains the wholly indefinite voice of Nature, either a natural sound, that is, or the unconnected tones of words. In this obscurity of form the spiritual content is itself equally obscure and requires interpretation and explanation.

(γ) This explanation, albeit it brings under a mode of spiritual life the deliverance of the god which in the first instance is presented purely in the form of Nature's own voice, remains despite this fact obscure and equivocal. For the god is in his knowledge and volition concrete universality. And of the same type also must the advice or command unavoidably be which the oracle declares. The universal, however,[Pg 207] is not one-sided and abstract, but as concrete universal contains the one side no less than the other. Inasmuch, then, as man stands over against the knowing god as one unknowing he accepts the oracular word itself in ignorance. In other words, the concrete universality of the same is not open to his intelligence, and he can merely select from the equivocal word of the god, assuming that he decides to act upon it, one aspect thereof, for the reason that every action under particular circumstances is unavoidably definite, only, that is to say, giving a decisive impulse in one direction and shutting off another. His action is barely accomplished, and the deed—which consequently has become his own and for which he must now be answerable—really carried through when he finds a collision confronting him. All in a moment he is aware that the other side, which lay already folded in the oracular sentence, is turned against himself and the fatality of his deed, his knowledge and will notwithstanding, has him in the toils; a fatality which he may not know, but of which we must suppose the gods are aware. Conversely again the gods are determinate potencies and their expressed will, when it carries this character of essential determinacy, as, for example, the bidding of Apollo, which drives Orestes forward to his revenge, brings about a collision of forces in the selfsame way. For the reason, then, that in one aspect of it the form, which the spiritual knowledge of the god assumes in the oracle, is the wholly undefined external expression or the abstract ideality of the word, and the form itself through the equivocal sense it contains includes the possibility of discord, we find that in classical art it is not sculpture, but poetry, and pre-eminently dramatic poetry, in which oracles contribute their share of the content and are of importance. In classical art, however, they do essentially maintain a place, because in it human individuality has not forced its way to the full height of spiritual attainment, where the subject draws the determination of his actions without infringement from his own resources. What we in our modern sense of the term call conscience, has not as here secured its rightful place. The Greek acts often, it is true, at the beck of his passion, bad no less than good; the genuine pathos, however, which is here held to quicken him, and does in fact so quicken him, proceeds from the gods,[Pg 208] whose content and might is the universal of such a pathos; and the heroes are either immediately instinct with the same, or they interrogate oracles for advice, when the gods do not present themselves openly to their vision, by way of quickening the deed to be done.

(b) Moreover, as in the oracle the content is to be found in the gods that know and willy while the form of the external phenomenon is the external which is abstract and a part of Nature, from the other point of view that which is natural, if we look at it relatively to its universal forces and the activities which belong to these, becomes the content, from out of which the independent individuality has first to force its way up, and receives as its original form merely the formal and superficial personification. The thrusting back of these purely natural forces, the opposition and contention through which they are overcome is just the significant centre, for which we are indebted primarily to classical art, and which we must consequently submit to a closer examination.

(α) The first thing we would remark in this connection is attributable to the circumstance that we are not here concerned—as in that view of the world which belongs to the Sublime, or in part even that appropriate to Hindoo doctrines—with God already essentially devoid of any relation to sense, when regarded as the starting point of all creation, but rather with that in which Nature's gods, and we may add in the first instance the more universal forces of Nature such as Chaos, Tartarus, Erebus, the entire savage and subterranean substance, and, furthermore, Uranos, Gaia, the Titan Eros, Kronos, and the rest, supply the beginning[157]. It is from out of these, then, that the better defined powers, such as Helios, Oceanos, and others like them first have their being; while they, in their turn, become the natural cradle for the later spiritual and individualized divinities. We find, therefore, again here another theogony and cosmogony which is the work of the imagination, whose earliest gods, however, still remain for the observer under one aspect of an undefined character, or vaguely extend beyond all reasonable limit; and, if viewed[Pg 209] from another standpoint, still carry with them much that is essentially symbolical.

(β) The more detailed distinctions among these Titan potencies may be thus indicated:

(αα) First, we have those powers of the Earth and the stars, without spiritual and ethical content, consequently dissolute, a raw, savage race, gigantic and formless, as though they were scions of Hindoo or Egyptian imagination. They are to be classed with other individualities of Nature such as Brontes, Steropes, and again with the hundred-handed Kottos, Briareus, and Gyges, the giants and the rest standing in the first instance beneath the lordship of Uranos, then of Kronos, that chief of the Titans, who obviously is a kind of personified Time, devouring all his children, just as Time eventually annihilates everything that it has brought to birth. This myth is not without a symbolical significance. For the life of Nature is, in fact, subjugate to Time, and brings only the Past into existence, just as in the same way the prehistoric times of some people, which is only one nation, one stock, yet constitutes no genuine State, and pursues no definite objects essentially made clear to itself, becomes the sport of the power of a Time, which is destitute of history. We touch solid ground for the first time when we come to law, morality, and the State, something permanent which remains though races pass away, as it is said that the Muses give permanence and a defence to everything, which, as the life of Nature and present action, had only vanished swept away with Time.

(ββ) But, further, it is not only that the forces of Nature belong to this sphere of the old gods, but also the forces noted as earliest over the elements. In particular the first active agency upon metal through the force of what is still raw, and elementary Nature, that is air, water, fire, is of importance. We may mention in illustration the Corybantes, the Telchines, demons of both beneficent and evil influence, the Pataeci, pygmies, dwarfs, cunning in the woodman's craft, small, with big paunches.[158]

More prominent notice should be taken of Prometheus, as illustrating in the chief place a fundamental point of new departure. Prometheus is a Titan of exceptional type and[Pg 210] deserves exceptional attention. Together with his brother Epimetheus he appears in the first instance as favourable to the young gods; then he stands out as the benefactor of men, who in other respects have no defined relation with the new gods or the Titans. He brings fire to man, and thereby supplies them with the means of satisfying their needs and working the technical arts, which are no longer, however, regarded as natural products, and consequently it would appear do not stand in any closer association with Titan workmanship. For this interference Zeus punishes Prometheus until Hercules finally releases him from suffering. At the first glance there would appear to be nothing strictly Titanesque in these main features of the story; nay, it would not be difficult to point out an inconsequence in the fact that Prometheus, just as Ceres, is a benefactor of mankind, and is none the less numbered among the old Titanic potencies. If we look at the matter more closely, however, this inconsequence will at once disappear. In this connection several passages from Plato's works will help us sufficiently to clear the difficulty. There is the myth in which the guest-friend recites to the younger Socrates that in the time of Kronos men originated from the Earth, while the god, on his part, devoted his attention to the whole[159]. After this step a movement of opposite tendency sprang up, and the Earth was left to itself[160], so that now the beasts became savage, and mankind, whose means of nourishment and all their other needs had hitherto passed immediately into their hands, were left alone without advice or assistance. Well, according to this myth, it was in such a condition[161] that fire was brought to mankind by Prometheus, all other accessories of craftsmanship being communicated by Hephaestos and his companion in craftsmanship, Athene.

Here we have notified expressly a distinction between fire and the thing which artistic ability produces by working on the raw material; and only the gift of fire is ascribed to Prometheus. Plato narrates the myth of Prometheus at greater length in the "Protagoras." There we read[162]: "There was[Pg 211] once a time when gods indeed existed, but mortal beings had not appeared. When the foreordained time of their birth also had come, the gods created them in the inward parts of the Earth, composing their substance of Earth and fire and that which is the union of both these elements. When the gods were desirous of bringing them into the light, they handed them over to Prometheus and Epimetheus to apportion and arrange the energies of each singly as was right. Epimetheus, however, requested of Prometheus that the apportionment might be left to him. After I have done this, quoth he, you may mark and express an opinion. Epimetheus, however, by a blunder apportioned everything worth having to the animal world, so that there was nothing left over for mankind; and when Prometheus made his inspection he found that though all other living things were wisely provided with all their needs mankind remained naked, unprotected, without covering or weapons. But already the appointed day had appeared in which it was necessary that man should pass from the bowels of the Earth into the light. In the embarrassment in which he was placed to procure some assistance for mankind Prometheus stole the wisdom that is shared by Hephaestos and Athene by taking fire—for without fire it would be impossible to possess it or make it of use—and made a present of this to men. Man now, it is true, possessed the wisdom necessary for the support of his life, but he was still without political wisdom, for this was still lodged with Zeus. Entry, however, to the stronghold of Zeus was no longer permitted Prometheus, and apart from this the awful watchers of Zeus barred the way. He passed, however, secretly into the chamber which Hephaestos and Athene shared in the practice of their art, and having secured the forging-art of Hephaestos he pilfered that other art (the art of weaving) which was possessed by Athene and presented this to mankind. Out of these possessions the means of satisfying the needs of Life is provided for man (ἐυπoρία τoῦ βίoυ)." Prometheus receives, however, as already narrated, punishment for the thefts he commits owing to the blunders of Epimetheus.

Plato further tells us in a passage which immediately follows the above that mankind was still destitute of the art of war for their protection against the animal world, which was[Pg 212] merely a part of the art of politics, and consequently were collected into cities, and would have so outraged each other and finally broken up such asylums for the reason that they were without all political organization, that Zeus found it necessary to send down to them under the escort of Hermes Shame and Right.

In these passages the distinction between the immediate objects of life, which are related to physical comfort, that is, the provision for the satisfaction of the most primary necessaries and political organization, such as sets before itself as its object what is spiritual, custom, law, right of property, freedom, and communal existence is expressly emphasized. This principle of ethical life and right[163], Prometheus did not give to men, he merely taught them the cunning by means of which they might overcome natural objects and make them serviceable to their needs. Fire and the craftsmanship which makes use of fire have nothing ethical about them in themselves; and it is just the same with the art of weaving; in the first instance they are devoted to the exclusive service of private individuals, without coming into any relation with that which is shared in human existence or with Life in its public character. For the reason, then, that Prometheus was unable to furnish mankind with anything more spiritual or ethical, he also does not belong to the race of new gods, but to the Titans[164]. Hephaestos, it is true, also possessed fire and the particular crafts to which it is essential as an instrument for his field of activity, and is none the less accredited as a new god: but Zeus cast him from Olympus, and he continued to limp ever after. Just as little is it, therefore, an inconsequence when we find Ceres placed among the younger gods, who proved herself a benefactor of mankind just as Prometheus did. For that which Ceres taught was agriculture, with which at the same time[Pg 213] property, and yet more, marriage, social custom, and law stand in close association.

(γγ) A third class of the ancient gods contains, it is true, neither personified potencies of Nature, as such, nor the might which next follows as lord over the particular elements of Nature in the service of the more subordinate human necessities, but is already contestant with that which is essentially in itself ideal, universal, and spiritual. What, however, is none the less lacking in the powers we have here to reckon with is spiritual individuality and its appropriate form and manifestation, so that they also more or less relatively to their operations keep a position which is more nearly akin to the necessity and essential being of Nature. In illustration of this type we may recall the conception of Nemesis, Dike, the Erinnyes, Eumenides, and Moirai. No doubt we find associated with these figures the determinate notions of right and justice; but this inevitable right, instead of being conceived and clothed in the essentially spiritual and substantive medium of social morality[165], remains either persistent in the universal abstract notion, or is related to the obscure right of that which is natural within the circle of spiritual connections, the love of kindred, for example, and its paramount claim, which does not appertain to Spirit in the open freedom of itself self-recognized; and consequently also does not appear as lawful right, but in opposition to this as the irreconcilable right of revenge.

To bring the view of the above nearer I will merely draw attention to one or two ideas bound up with it. Nemesis, for example, is the might to humiliate the exalted, and to cast down the man all too fortunate from his lofty seat, and consequently to restore equilibrium. The claim or right of equilibrium is the purely abstract and external right, which, it is true, certifies itself as operative in the range of spiritual circumstances, and conditions, without, however, making the ethical organization of the same the content of justice. Another aspect of importance attaches to this circumstance, that the right of the family-condition is apportioned by the ancient gods, in so far as these repose on a condition of Nature, and thereby are in antagonism with the public right and law of the community. We may adduce the Eumenides[Pg 214] of Aeschylus as the clearest illustration of this point. The direful maidens pursue Orestes on account of the murder of his mother, a murder which Apollo, the younger god, had directed, in order that Agamemnon, the slaughtered spouse and king, should not remain unavenged. The entire drama consequently is concentrated in a conflict between these divine Powers, which confront each other in person. On the one side we have the goddesses of revenge, the Eumenides; but they are called here the beneficent, and our ordinary conception of the Furies, into which we convert them, is set before us as rude and uncouth. For they possess an essential right thus to persecute, and are therefore not merely hateful, wild, and ferocious in the torments which they impose. The right, however, which they enforce as against Orestes is only the family-right in so far as this is rooted in the blood relation. The profoundest association of son and mother is the substantive fact which they represent. Apollo opposes to this natural ethical relation, rooted as it is already both on the physical side and in feeling, the right of the spouse and the chieftain who has been violated in respect to the highest right he can claim. This distinction is in the first instance brought to our notice in an external way since both parties are champions for morality within one and the same sphere, namely the family. The sterling[166] imagination of Aeschylus has, however, here—and we cannot sufficiently value it on this score—discovered for us a contradiction, which is not by any means a superficial one, but of fundamental significance. That is to say, the relation of children to parents reposes on the unity of the natural nexus; the association of man and wife on the contrary must be accepted as marriage, which does not merely proceed from purely natural love, that is from the blood or natural affinity, but originates out of a conscious inclination, and for this reason belongs to the free ethical sphere of the self-conscious will. However much, therefore, marriage is bound up with love and feeling it is none the less to be distinguished from the purely natural emotion of love, because it also freely recognizes definite obligations quite independent of the same, which persist when that feeling of love may have ceased. The notion, in short, and the knowledge[Pg 215] of the substantiality of marital life is something later and more profound than the purely natural connection between mother and son, and constitutes the beginning of the State as the realization of the free and rational will. In like manner we shall find resident in the relation of prince to citizen the association of a similar political right, law, and the self-conscious freedom and spirituality of similar social aims. This is the reason why the Eumenides, the ancient goddesses, pursue Orestes with punishment, whereas Apollo—the clear, knowing and self-consciously knowing ethical sense—defends the right of the spouse and the chief, justly opposing the Eumenides: "If the crime of Clytemnestra were not scented out I should be in verity without honour and despised as nought by the consummator Here and the Councils of Zeus[167]."

Of still greater interest, albeit wholly involved in human feeling and action, is the contradiction which we have set before us in the "Antigone," one of the most sublime, and in every respect most consummate work of art human effort ever produced. Not a detail in this tragedy but is of consequence. The public law of the State and the instinctive family-love and duty towards a brother are here set in conflict. Antigone, the woman, is pathetically possessed by the interest of family; Kreon, the man, by the welfare of the community. Polynices, in war with his own father-city, had fallen before the gates of Thebes, and Kreon, the lord thereof, had by means of a public proclamation threatened everyone with death who should give this enemy of the city the right of burial. Antigone, however, refused to accept this command, which merely concerned the public weal, and, constrained by her pious devotion for her brother, carried out as sister the sacred duty of interment. In doing this she relied on the law of the gods. The gods, however, whom she thus revered, are the Dei inferi of Hades[168], the instinctive Powers of feeling, Love and kinship, not the daylight gods of free and self-conscious, social, and political life.

(γ) The third point, which we would advert to in connection with the theogony of the outlook of artists in the classic[Pg 216] period, has reference to the difference between individuals of the older gods relatively to their powers and the duration of their authority.

(αα) In the first place, the origin of these gods is a succession. From Chaos, according to Hesiod, proceeds Gaia, Uranos, and others, after that Kronos and his race, finally Zeus and his subjects. This succession appears in one aspect of it as a rise from the more abstract and formless to the more concrete and already fairly defined powers of Nature; in another as the beginnings of the superiority of the spiritual over the natural. Thus in his "Eumenides" Aeschylus makes the Pythia in the temple of Delphi begin with the words: "First of all I revere in my prayer her who first gave us oracles, Gaia, and after her Themis, who as second after her mother had her prophetic seat in this place." Pausanias, on the other hand, who also names the Earth first as giver of oracles, says that Daphne was ordained by her afterwards in the prophetic office. In another series again Pindar places Night in the first place, after her he makes Themis follow, then comes Phoebe, and finally he closes the succession with Phoebus. It would be of interest to analyse more closely these particular differences; such an inquiry, however, lies outside our present purpose.

(ββ) This succession further, in addition to its aspect of being an extension into essentially profounder conceptions of godhead, possessing, that is, a fuller content, also appears as the degradation of the earlier and more abstract type within the range of the older race of gods itself. The primary and most ancient powers are robbed of their masterdom, just as we find Kronos dethroned Uranos, and the later representatives are set up in their place.

(γγ) In this way the negative relation of the reformation[169], which we settled at once to be the essence of this first stage of the classic type of art, becomes the proper centre of the same. And it is so for the reason that personification is here the universal form, in which the gods are presented to the imagination, and the progressive movement comes into opposition with human and spiritual individuality. And[Pg 217] although this appears in the first instance still in a form indeterminate and formless, we necessarily find that the imagination presents this negative attitude of the younger gods against the more ancient under the image of conflict and war. The essential advance is, however, from Nature to Spirit, implying by the latter the true content and the real form appropriate to classical art. This progress and the conflicts by means of which we perceive that it is carried forward, belong no longer exclusively to the sphere of the old gods, but centre in the war through which the new gods lay the foundation of their enduring mastery over the ancient.

(c) The opposition between Nature and Spirit is in the nature of the case inevitable. For the notion of Spirit, as in very truth totality, is, as we have already seen, essentially simply this, to split itself in twain, that is into its intrinsic constituents as objectivity and as subject, in order that by means of this opposition it may emerge from Nature and confront the same forthwith free and jubilant as vanquisher and superior might. This fundamental phase, rooted in the very essence of Spirit, is consequently a material aspect in the conception which it supplies to itself of that nature. Regarded historically, that is on the plane of ordinary reality, this passage asserts itself as the reconstruction through progressive steps of the natural man into the condition where right, property, laws, constitution and political life are paramount. Regarded under a mode which relates this process to gods and sub specie eternitatis it becomes the conception of the victory over the natural Powers by means of the spiritual and individual Divinities.

(α) This contest exposes an absolute catastrophe, and is the essential deed of the gods, by virtue of which the fundamental distinction between the old and new gods is first made visible. Consequently we ought not to point to the war, which exposes this distinction as a mythical story in the same way we should point to any other myth; rather we should regard it as the mythos, which in fact punctuates a great moment of transition, and expresses the creation of the later theogony.

(β) The result of this violent strife among the gods is the ruin of the Titans, the unique victory of the new gods, who[Pg 218] forthwith receive in their assured dominion a plenitude of gifts in every direction from the imagination. The Titans, on the other hand, are banished, and compelled to huddle in the hollows of the Earth, or, like Oceanos, dally on the dark skirts of the clear, joyful world, or still endure many grievous punishments. Prometheus, for example, is fettered on the Scythian mountains, where an eagle insatiable devours the liver that ever renews itself. In like manner an infinite and inexhaustible thirst torments Tantalus in the lower world, and Sisyphus is for ever constrained to roll up hill in vain the rock that for ever rolls back again. These punishments are, in truth, the false type of infinity, the yearning of the indefinite aspiration or the unsatisfied craving of natural desires, which in their eternal repetition fail to discover rest or final satisfaction. For the truly godlike intuition of the Greeks regarded the mere extension into space and the region of the indefinite, not, as some modern votaries of such longings do, as the highest attainment of mankind, but as a damnation which it relegates to Tartarus.

(γ) If we ask ourselves in a general way, what from this point must for classical art fall into the background, failing, that is, to have any right to figure as its final form and adequate content, we shall find at the earliest point of departure the elements of Nature. With them disappear from the world of the new gods all that is gloomy[170], fantastical, void of clarity, every wild confusion between Nature and Spirit, between significances essentially substantive and the accidental incidents of externality. In a world such as this the creations of an unrestricted imagination, which has not yet for its principle the measure of spiritual proportion, have no place, and are compelled and justly so to vanish before the clear light of day. We may furbish up the monstrous Cabeiri[171], the Corybantes, these representatives of procreative force as much as we choose, yet for all that such presentations in every trait of them—to say nothing of the ancient Baubo, whom Goethe sets careering over the Blocksberg on[Pg 219] an old sow—belong to a greater or less degree to the twilight of consciousness. Only that which is spiritual imperatively demands the light; and that which does not reveal itself and in itself expound its own interpretation is the unspiritual, which fades again once more into Night and obscurity. That which is of Spirit on the contrary reveals itself, and purifies itself, by itself defining its external form, from the caprice of the imagination, the flood of obstructing shapes, and the otherwise perturbed accessories of symbolical sense.

For the same reasons we now find that human activity, in so far as it is limited merely to Nature's wants and their satisfaction, falls into the background. That old right, Themis, Dike and the rest, as one not determinate through laws which originate in self-conscious Spirit, loses its unimpaired validity, and in the same way, if conversely, that which is purely local, albeit there is still room left for its play, passes by incorporation into the universal figures of the gods; in which we may still trace the lingering vestiges that remain of it. For as in the Trojan war the Greeks fought and conquered as one people, so, too, the Homeric gods, who already have their conflict with the Titans behind them in the past, are one essentially secure and defined god-world, a world which is yet further with ever-increasing fulness made definite and unassailable by later poetry and the plastic arts. This invincible consistency[172] is in its relation to the content of the Greek world of gods Spirit and only Spirit; but not Spirit in its abstract ideality, but as identified with its external and adequate existence, just as with Plato soul and body, as in union brought into one nature and in this consolidation from one piece, is at once the Divine and Eternal.

[Pg 220]


Despite, then, the victory of the new gods that which came before them still remains in the classical type of art partly preserved and revered in the original form in which we have already recognized it, partly under a transmuted mode. It is only the limited Jewish national god which is unable to tolerate other gods in its company for the reason that it purports as the one god to include everything, although in regard to the definition of its form it fails to pass beyond its exclusiveness wherein the god is merely the God of His own people. Such a god manifests his universality in fact only through his creation of Nature and as Lord of the heavens and the earth. For the rest he remains the god of Abraham, who led his people Israel out of Egypt, gave them laws on Sinai, and divided the land of Canaan among the Jews. And through this narrow identification of him with the Jewish nation he is in a quite peculiar way the god of this folk; and consequently, speaking generally, neither stands in positive consonance with Nature, nor appears truly as absolute Spirit referable back from his determinate character and objectivity to his universality. Consequently this austere, national god is so jealous, and ordains in his jealousy that men shall see elsewhere merely false idols. The Greeks, on the contrary, discovered their gods among other nations and accepted what was foreign among themselves. For the god of classical art has spiritual and bodily individuality and is for this reason not the one and only one, but merely a particular godhead, which, as everything else that shares particularity, has a circle of particularity which surrounds it or in opposition to it as its Other, from which it is the result, and which is qualified to preserve its validity and worth. The process here is analogous to that of the particular divisions of Nature. Although the world of vegetation is the truth of the geological image of Nature, the animal again the higher truth of the vegetable, yet the mountains and the flooded land persist as the solid basis of trees, shrubs, and flowers, which in their turn do not lose their existence alongside the world of animals.

(a) The earliest form under which among the Greeks we[Pg 221] come upon this ancient residue, are the Mysteries. The Greek Mysteries were nothing secret in the sense that the Greek nation was not in a general way aware of their content. On the contrary, the majority of the Athenians and a large number of foreigners were among the initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries; but they were not permitted to speak of that in which they had been instructed through initiation. In our own times people have been at great pains to discover more nearly the type of conceptions which prevailed in these mysteries, and to investigate the kind of religious services which were used in their celebration. It appears, however, that on the whole there was no extensive wisdom or profound knowledge concealed in the Mysteries. They merely preserved the old traditions, the basis, that is, of what was latterly reconstructed by the genuine type of art, and consequently, so far from containing the true, higher, and more valuable content, rather unfolded that which was of less significance and of inferior rank. Whatever it was, this holiness was not clearly expressed in the mysteries, but merely handed down in its symbolical features. And in fact this character of secrecy and reticence is bound up with the old telluric, sidereal, and Titanic deposit; Spirit alone is the revealed and the self-revealer. Consonant, too, with this it is the symbolical mode of expression which constitutes the other aspect of secrecy in the mysteries, because in symbolism the interpretation remains obscure, and contains a something other than the external image, which it purports to display, in fact offers to the view. In this sense, for example, the mysteries of Demeter and Bacchus were, it is true, spiritually interpreted, and contained a profounder sense. The form of the same remained quite externally isolate from this content, so that it was impossible clearly to disengage it from it. Consequently the Mysteries had very little influence over art; for though we are told of Aeschylus, that he willfully betrayed something which attached to the Demeter mysteries, this merely amounts to an assertion on his part that Artemis had been the daughter of Ceres, which is not very profound wisdom after all.

(b) But, secondly, we find that the reverence and preservation of the old régime is yet more clearly indicated in actual artistic representation. We have already referred to[Pg 222] Prometheus as the chastised Titan who appears in the stage immediately prior to that of genuine art. We meet with him however again as delivered. For as the Earth and as the Sun, so also the fire, which Prometheus brought down to men, that is, the eating of flesh, which he taught them, is an essential feature of human life, a necessary condition for the satisfaction of their needs; and consequently Prometheus is honoured with an enduring recognition[173]. In the Oedipus Colonos of Sophocles we have the words:

χῶρoς μὲν ἱερὸς πᾶς ὅδ ἔστ· ἔχει δέ νιν
σεμνὸς Πoσειδῶν· ἐν δ' ὁ πoρφόρoς θeὸς
Tιτὰν Πρoμηθὲυς[174]

and the scholiast adds that Prometheus was revered in the Academy along with Athene, as Hephaestos was, and a temple was shown in a grove of the goddess, and an ancient pedestal near the entrance, where there was not only an image of Hephaestos, but also one of Prometheus. Prometheus, however, according to the statement of Lysimachides, was represented as primary and more ancient, and he held in his hand a sceptre; Hephaestos as the younger and in the second place, and the altar on the pedestal was shared by both. Prometheus, then, according to the tale, was not obliged to endure his chastisement for ever, but was released from his fetters by Hercules. In this story of his liberation we come across certain remarkable traits. In other words, Prometheus is delivered from his agony because he informs Zeus of the danger which threatens his empire at the hands of the thirteenth descendant. This descendant is Hercules, to whom, we may add in illustration, Poseidon exclaims in the "Birds" of Aristophanes[175], "he will do himself an injury, if he strike a bargain with reference to the transference of the divine headship, for all that Zeus leaves behind him on his decease will most assuredly take place." And, in fact, Hercules is the only man who passed over into Olympus, became a god after being a man, and stands higher than[Pg 223] Prometheus, who remained a Titan. Moreover, the overturning of the old race of tyrants is intimately connected with the name of Hercules and the Heraklidae. The Heraklidae break up the power of the old dynasties and royal houses, in which we may remark the selfish desire of personal aggrandizement and lawlessness no less than disregard for their subjects admitted no judicial restraint, and consequently was responsible for the grossest cruelties. Hercules, though himself in the service of a superior lord, overcame the savagery of this despotism.

In a similar way we may, to linger once more for a moment by the illustrations we adduced on a former page, recall again to our readers the "Eumenides" of Aeschylus. The conflict between Apollo and the Eumenides is to be settled by the intervention of the Areopagus. In other words, a human tribunal, as a whole, at whose head stands Athene, stands forth as the concrete spirit of the folk, and is as such to terminate the collision. The judges, however, give an equal number of votes for condemnation and acquittal, having an equal reverence both for the Eumenides and Apollo; the white pebble of Athene, however, decides the conflict in favour of Apollo. The Eumenides break out in indignation against this decision of Athene; she, however, allays their wrath by promising them worship and altars in the famous grove of Colonos. What the Eumenides have to give in return to her people is a protection against the evils[176] which result from the elements of Nature, the earth, the heavens, the sea, and the winds; they have further to ward off unfruitfulness in the fields, the failure of living seed, and misbirths in all else that is procreated. Pallas, on her part, takes beneath her protection the strife of wars and sacred contests. Ina similar way Sophocles[177], in his "Antigone," not only makes Antigone suffer and die, but to a like extent we find that Kreon is punished by the loss of his wife and the death of Haemon, both of whom perish through the death of Antigone.

(c) Thirdly, the ancient gods do not merely preserve their[Pg 224] place in juxtaposition to the new, but, what is of more importance, the natural basis itself is maintained by the new gods, and receives, continuing to made its echo sound in them, if in conformity with the spiritual individuality of classical art, a reverential acceptance.

(α) And for this reason people are not unfrequently led into the error of conceiving the Greek gods, in respect to their human character and form, as mere allegories of such natural elements. This is not so. In this sense we frequently hear it stated that Helios is the god of the sun, Diana the goddess of the moon, or Neptune the god of the sea. Such a separation, however, between the natural element, as content, and the humanly shaped personification, as form, no less than the external association of both, regarded merely as the masterdom of the god over the natural fact, as we are accustomed to it in the Old Testament, is quite inapplicable to Greek conceptions. We never find among the Greeks such an expression as ὁ θεὸς τoῦ ἡλίoυ, τῆς θαλάσσης, and so forth, though it is quite certain they would have used with others such an expression for the relation in question, had it been compatible with their point of view. Helios is the sun as god.

(β) We must, however, at once insist on the further fact that the Greeks never regarded mere Nature as itself divine. On the contrary, they retained the definite conception that what was purely natural was not divine. This is partly contained, if unexpressed, in what their gods actually are, in part also it is expressly stated so by themselves. Plutarch, for example, in his essay upon Isis and Osiris, refers incidentally to the modes of interpretation current of myths and divinities. Osiris and Isis belong to the Egyptian theogony, and had yet more of the natural element for their content than the Greek gods, who correspond to them; they merely express the longing and conflict to escape out of the circle of Nature to that of Spirit. In later times they were very highly honoured in Rome, and the mysteries allied with them were of great importance. Yet for all that it is Plutarch's view that it would be an interpretation beneath the level of the subject to think of explaining them as sun, earth, or water. Only that which in the sun, Earth, and so forth, is without measure or co-ordination,[Pg 225] defective or superfluous, can strictly be referred to the natural elements, and all that is good and conformable to order is as exclusively a work of Isis, and the rational principle, the λόγoς, a work of Osiris. It is not, therefore, the natural as such which is adduced as the substantive content of these gods, but the spiritual principle, the universal, λόγoς, reason, conformity to law.

By virtue of this insight into the spiritual nature of the gods, the more definite elements of Nature, then, had also among the Greeks been differentiated from the later gods. We have, it is true, grown accustomed to associate Helios and Selene, to take two examples, with Apollo and Diana: in Homer, however, they are presented as distinct. The same remark applies to Oceanos and others.

(γ) But in the third place an echo still lingers in the new gods of the natural powers, whose operative energies themselves belong to the spiritual individuality of the gods. We have already indicated, at an earlier stage, the basis of this positive connection of the spiritual and natural in the ideal of classical art, and may limit our observations here to a few illustrations.

(αα) In Poseidon resides, as in Pontus and Oceanus, the might of the world-encircling sea, but his power and activity extends further. He built Ilium and was a shield of Athens. Generally he is revered as the founder of cities, in so far as the sea is the element of sea-faring, of commerce, and a bond between mankind. Apollo, in like manner, is the light of knowledge, of oracular speech, and preserves, moreover, a distant relation with Helios, as the natural light of the sun. Critics differ, no doubt—take Voss and Creuzer for examples—as to whether Apollo is referable to the sun. One may, however, in fact, assert that he both is and is not the sun, since he is not limited to its natural content, but is raised thereby to the significance of a spiritual import. It is impossible to escape the inevitable connection in which knowledge and light, the light of Nature and that of Spirit, if we regard their fundamental characteristics, stand relatively to one another. Light regarded as a element of Nature is that which manifests. Without our seeing Light itself it makes visible to us the illuminated objects around. By means of Light everything grows on the plane of contemplation[Pg 226] for something else. Spirit, that is the free light of consciousness, knowledge, and cognition, possesses just the same character of manifestation. The distinction, apart from the differences of the respective spheres, in which these two modes of manifestation reveal themselves, consists simply in this, that Spirit reveals itself, and in that which it brings us, or which it assimilates as content[178], remains constant to itself. Light, however, does not make itself apprehensible to itself, but, on the contrary, makes that which is other and external to itself apprehensible; and though, no doubt, we may say this is done from its own resources, yet it cannot, as the Spirit can, once more retire into itself. For this reason it does not win the higher unity which finds itself constant by itself in another. Just as, then, light and knowledge are closely associated, we find in Apollo, as spiritual god, still a recollection of the light of the sun. For this reason Homer, for example, ascribes the plague in the camp of the Greeks to Apollo, which, in such a locality is in the summer solstice ascribable to the operation of the sun. We may add that his deadly arrows have unquestionably a symbolical reference to the solar rays. In the external representation it is external signs which more closely determine under what specific interpretation the god shall be mainly accepted.

More particularly when we follow up the origins of the later gods we are able to recognize the natural element, which the gods of the classic ideal retain in themselves. This is a point which Creuzer in particular has made clear. For example, in the conception of Jupiter there are many features which indicate a solar source. The twelve labours of Hercules, the expedition, for example, in which he carries off the apples of the Hesperides, have relation both to the sun and the twelve months. At the root of the conception of Diana we have the distinct suggestion of the mother of Nature, just as the Ephesian Diana, for example, which floats between the old world and the new, has for her fundamental content Nature generally, procreation and nutrition; which latter feature is clearly indicated in a part of her external form, namely the breasts. If we consider the Greek Artemis, on the other hand, the huntress, who[Pg 227] slays wild animals, we find that in her humanly beautiful and maiden form and self-continency, this aspect falls entirely into the background, although the half moon and the arrows still distinctly recall to us Selene. To take Aphrodite in the same way, the more we follow her back to her original source in Asia the more she approaches a force of Nature. Once arrived in Greece, the spiritual and more individual aspect of her grace, charm, and love, passion is more emphasized, albeit here, too, the natural basis is by no means entirely absent. In the same way the productivity of Nature is, no doubt, the original cradle which gives us Ceres. Starting from that we proceed to the spiritual content, whose relations are developed from agriculture, property, etc. The source in Nature of the Muses is the murmur of the spring-water; and Zeus himself may be accepted under one aspect as the universal Power of Nature, and is revered as the Thunderer, as with Homer already thunder is the sign of misfortune or assistance, is, in short, an omen, and as such is relative to that which is human and spiritual. Juno, too, implies a natural association with the firmament of cloud and the heavenly sphere in which the gods move to and fro. So we are told, for example, that Zeus laid Hercules on the breast of Juno, and from the milk which spouted thereout flashed into being the Milky Way.

(ββ) Just as, then, in the later gods, from one point of view the universal elements of Nature are dethroned, while from another they are maintained, we have the same process repeated in that which is, more strictly speaking, animal, which we merely regarded in a former passage on the side of its degradation. We are now able to point out a more positive aspect under which such may be considered. Since, however, in the classic gods the symbolic mode of configuration is abolished, and they secure as their content the spirit that is self-luminous, the symbolical significance of animals must tend to pass away precisely in proportion as the animal form has taken to itself the right to mingle with the human under a mode naturally alien to it. It will therefore appear merely as a significant attribute, and is established in juxtaposition to the human form of the gods. Thus we find the eagle as attendant on Jupiter, the peacock on Juno, the doves as accompanying Aphrodite, the hound,[Pg 228] Anubis, as watch-dog of the lower world, and so forth. If, therefore, there is still a symbolical aspect which attaches to the ideals of the spiritual gods, yet, if contrasted with the original significance, it will appear of little importance; and the natural significance, if strictly regarded, which previously constituted the essential content, will merely persist as a residue, and mere particular mode of externality, which, on account of its accidental character, more often than not has a grotesque appearance, for the reason that the former significance is no longer there. Inasmuch as the ideal content of these gods is that which partakes of Spirit and humanity, the externality pertinent to them approximates to a human contingency and weakness. In this connection we may once more recall to memory the numerous love affairs of Zeus. According to their original symbolic significance, they are related, as we already have seen, to the universal activity of generation, that is, the vitality of Nature. As the love affairs of Zeus, however, which, in so far as his marriage with Here is to be regarded as the permanent and substantive sexual relation, appear in the light of an infidelity towards his spouse, they have the complexion of accidental adventures, and exchange their symbolical sense for unconnected tales which possess the character of purely capricious invention.

With this degradation of the powers which are purely natural and of the animal aspect no less than of the abstract universality of spiritual relations, and with the re-acceptance of the same within the spiritual individuality, permeated and Suffused as it is with Nature, we leave behind us the origins of classical art which are stamped with necessity and are presupposed by its essence, inasmuch as it is on this path that the Ideal evolves itself by its own agency with that which it is according to its notion. This reality of the spiritual gods adequate to its notion carries us on to the genuine Ideals of the classical type of art, which, in contrast to the old régime which has been vanquished, represent immortality[179], for mortality generally resides in the incompatibility of the notion to its determinate existence.

[139] Als eine Unwürdigkeit. As something unworthy of the full notion of its gods.

[140] That is, the relegation of it to a position of inferiority.

[141] This is the German word. By genius I presume Hegel means "the familiar spirit" of a particular animal. Apparently this rather than "kind." "Iliad," II, 308; XII, 208.

[142] "Odyss." XIV, 414; XXIV, 215.

[143] "Metam." I, vv. 150-243.

[144] "Metam." VI, vv. 440-676.

[145] "Metam." I, vv. 451-567.

[146] Ibid., IX, vv. 454-64.

[147] Ibid., V, v. 302.

[148] Ibid., vv. 319-31.

[149] "Herod." II, 46.

[150] Creuzer, "Symb." I, 477.

[151] That is, the sphere of fauns as a part of Nature.

[152] Praktisch. The contrast is between the philosophic contemplation and the world regarded as the sphere of human activity.

[153] By Umkehr Hegel probably means a "return" in the direction of the art of the Sublime.

[154] Einen bestimmten Kreis. The meaning seems to be that the circle of examples is here a clearly defined and limited one as contrasted with the vagueness of Oriental Pantheism.

[155] "Herod." II, 52.

[156] War ein entscheidendes Moment. That is, was part of the oracular reply.

[157] Both wording and punctuation of this sentence are at fault, but I give the sense no doubt intended.

[158] I am not sure what is referred to here by Telchinen and Pätaken.

[159] Das Ganze, means here, I think, the whole of Creation.

[160] That is, took no further active interest in human life.

[161] Politicus ex rec. Bekk. II, 2, p. 283; Steph. 274.

[162] "Protag." I, 1, pp. 170-4; Steph. 320-3.

[163] I have just above translated Sitte with the word "custom," that is, ethical custom. But the contrast here is, I think, between morality generally (sittlich) and juridical right (Rechtliche).

[164] The argument of Hegel is ingenious. It must be admitted, however, that in several accounts of Prometheus, notably that of Aeschylus, Zeus is represented as hostile to human progress. And it is rather a strain on the facts to trace, in the case of Ceres, so much that is of an ethical colour to agriculture, and limit the use of fire simply to the crafts of Hephaestos, ignoring, that is to say, its domestic use altogether.

[165] Der Sittlichkeit.

[166] Gehaltvolle. That is, intrinsically sound and substantial.

[167] "Eum." vv. 206-9.

[168] Soph., "Ant." v. 451: ἡ ξὐνoικoς τῶν κάτω θεῶν Δἰκη.

[169] Umgestaltung. Remodelling, reorganization. Reformation in literal sense.

[170] Trübe. "Troubled" perhaps is better.

[171] The Cabeiri were mystic Powers. Aeschylus wrote a drama under this title. The ancients differ greatly as to their origin and nature, Herodotus assumes an Egyptian origin.

[172] Feste is as a substantive a stronghold, and this may be Hegel's meaning, but I think he uses it here for Festigkeit, consistency, compact security.

[173] The sentence is not very clear. The sense is that Prometheus is honoured as the Earth and Sun are honoured by his assistance of human needs.

[174] Vv. 54-6. "This entire spot is sacred; awful Poseidon holds it, and therein is the fire bringing god, the Titan Prometheus."

[175] Vv. 1645-8.

[176] Vv. 901 et seq.

[177] Hegel means that in the suffering of Kleon Sophocles treats the natural law of Antigone and the higher law of the king on the same terms.

[178] Lit., "what is made for it," e.g., the detail of objective experience.

[179] Unvergänglichkeit. Hegel no doubt refers to the epithet always applied by Homer and other, Greek poets to the gods of Olympus, immortal.

[Pg 229]



We have already seen what the essence of the Ideal is in our general consideration of the beauty of art. Here we are to take it merely in the special sense appropriate to the classic Ideal, whose notion has already presented itself in its general features in its association with the notion of the classical art-type. For the Ideal, of which we have now to speak, consists simply in this, that classical art in very truth attains to and sets before us that which exposes its most intimate notion. As content it grasps on this particular plane the spiritual, in so far as this Spirit attracts Nature and her powers to its own appropriate realm, and sets itself before us in exposition not as mere inwardness and dominion over Nature, but furthermore accepts as its proper form, human shape, deed, and action, through which the spiritual shines forth clearly in perfect freedom, and the form penetrates with its life into the sensuous material not merely as into a mode of externality symbolically significant, but as actually into a determinate existence, which is the adequate existence of Spirit.

We may divide up, then, the present chapter into the following sections:

We have in the first place to consider the general character of the classic Ideal, which possesses what is pertinent to humanity in its form no less than its content, and elaborates both sides in the completest consistency one with the other. Secondly, however, forasmuch as here the human is absorbed wholly into the bodily shape and external appearance, it becomes the definite external shape, which in its conformity is merely a defined content. Since, therefore, we have the Ideal before us at the same time as particularity,[Pg 230] there arises a definite number of particular gods and powers in the shape of human existence. Thirdly, this particularity does not persist in the abstraction of one type of definition, whose essential character would constitute the entire content and the one-sided principle for its representation; but rather it is quite as much essentially a totality and the individual unity and congruity which is applicable to such. Without this repletion such particularity would remain cold and empty; the vitality of Life would fail it, a contingency which is impossible to the Ideal in any relation whatever.

We have now to consider more narrowly the Ideal of classical art according to these three aspects of universality, particularity, and individual singularity.


The questions which arise relatively to the origins of the Greek gods, in so far as the real centre for ideal reproduction results from them, we have already touched upon, and seen that they belong to the elaborated tradition of art. The modification that is incidental to that treatment can only proceed by means of the twofold degradation, on the one hand, of the universal powers of Nature and their personification, and, on the other, of the animal constituents and its form, in order that thereby it may win the spiritual as its true determinate substance, and also the human mode of appearance as its true form.

(a) We have described how the classical Ideal first really becomes actual through such a remodelling of that which came before the earliest aspect of it. Along with this we have above all to draw attention to just this fact, that it is generated from mind (Spirit), and consequently has originated in the most intimate and personal resources of the poets and artists, who brought it into the presence of conscious life with the aid of a thoughtful consideration as clear as it was unfettered and with the distinct object of artistic production. In opposition to this creation we have, however, apparently the fact that Greek mythology reposes on earlier traditions, and contains distinct references to foreign, that is Oriental, matter. Herodotus, for example, although specifically asserting in the passage already cited that Homer and Hesiod[Pg 231] created for the Greeks their gods, nevertheless in other passages associates closely these very Greek gods with other divinities such as those of Egypt. For in the second book[180] he expressly narrates that Melampus gave the name of Dionysos to the Greeks, further introduced the Phallus and the entire sacrificial festival, adding, however, this discrepant detail, that Melampus had learnt the religious service from the Tyrian Kadmus and the Phoenicians, who came with Kadmus to Boeotia. These contradictory statements have roused interest in our own times, more particularly as associated with Creuzer's researches, who endeavours to discover in Homer, for example, ancient mysteries and the sources which flowed in together towards Greece, whether they be Asiatic, Pelasgian, Dodonian, Thracian, Samothracian, Phrygian, Indian, Buddhistic, Phoenician, Egyptian, or Orphic, to say nothing of the infinitely varied peculiarities of specific localities and other details. No doubt it appears at first sight wholly inconsistent with these many sources of tradition that those poets should have supplied either the names or the substantial form of the gods. It is possible, however, to harmonize entirely both factors, tradition, and individual creation. The tradition comes first; it is the point of departure, which hands down the mere ingredients; but for all that it does not contribute the real content and the genuine form of the gods. This substantive presence is the product of the genius of those poets, who discovered by a process of free elaboration the true substantive form of these very gods and are consequently in fact become the creators of that mythology which awakes our admiration of Greek art. Yet for this reason the Homeric gods, in one aspect of them, are not to be taken as the result merely of the poetic phantasy, or nothing more than capricious invention. They have their roots in the genius and beliefs of the Greek folk and the religious basis of that nation. They are the absolute potencies and powers, the highest stretch of the Greek conception, the central point of the beautiful regarded universally, presented, so to speak, by the Muses themselves to the poet.

In this free handling, then, the artist takes up an entirely different position from that he occupies in the East. The[Pg 232] Hindoo poets and sages have also to begin with material ready to work upon, such as the elements of Nature, the heavens, animals, streams, and so forth, or the pure abstraction of the formless and contentless Brahman. Their enthusiasm, however, is a confusion of the ideal character[181] of the subjectivity which accepts the difficult task of elaborating such an external material to it, an enthusiasm which, in the unmeasured expansion of its imagination, which excludes every secure and absolute[182] direction, is unable to mould its creations conformably to genuine freedom of expression and beauty, and remains the slave of that material in uncontrolled and roving productive activity. It resembles, in fact, a master-builder who has no firm foundation beneath him. Ancient ruins of half dismantled walls, mounds, and projecting rocks fetter him, quite apart from the particular aims according to which he desires to construct his building; and he can only create a wild, inharmonious, and fantastical fabric. In other words, that which he produces is not the result of his imagination freely acting under its own plastic genius. Conversely the Hebrew poets present us with revelations which, it is said, they deliver as the Lord's voice, so that here again the creative source is an enthusiasm not fully self-conscious; it is separated, that is, and distinct from individuality and the productive genius of the artist, as in the wisdom of the Sublime generally it is the abstract and eternal, essentially in its relation to something other than it and external, which is consciously or imaginatively conceived.

In classical art artists and poets are, it is true, also prophets and teachers, who declare and reveal to mankind the nature of the Absolute and Divine. But we must emphasize here the following distinctions:

(α) In the first place the content of their gods is neither that appearance of Nature which is external to humanity nor the mere abstraction of one Godhead, whereby merely a superficial formulation or an inwardness that is without content is preserved. Their content is, on the contrary, deduced from human life and existence, and for this reason is that which is peculiar to the human breast; a content, in[Pg 233] short, with which man himself can freely coalesce as at home with himself, while that which he thus produces is the fairest product of his own activity.

(β) Secondly, these artists are at the same time poets, that is, men of creative talent who work the aforesaid material and its content into a free and substantially independent form. As thus regarded Greek artists are in all essential respects creative poets. They have brought together all the varied original ingredients into the melting-pot, but they have produced thereby no mere broth, such as might come from a witches' cauldron; rather they did away with all that is troubled, purely natural, unclean, foreign, and without rational measure in the pure flame of this more profound spirit; they made all glow together and permitted the form to appear at last purified, albeit it still retained a distant accord with the ruder material from which it was fashioned. What mainly concerned them in this work consisted partly in the winnowing away of all that was in their inherited material destitute of form and beauty, distorted and symbolical, and partly in the prominence they gave to what was really spiritual, which they set themselves to render under modes of individuality, and in the interest of which they had to discover gradually the external appearance most appropriate. Here for the first time we find that it is the human form and human actions and events, not merely made use of under the mode of personification, which, as we have already seen, necessarily stand forth as the uniquely adequate reality. No doubt the artist discovers these forms, too, in the real world; but he has at the same time to eradicate all that is accidental and incongruent in them, before they are entitled to appear as commensurable with that humanity, which, as essentially apprehended, shall offer to us the image of the eternal powers and gods. And this is what we call the free and spiritual, and not merely capricious production of the artist.

(γ) And, thirdly, for the reason that the gods are not merely stable existences in their own world, but also are active within the concrete reality of Nature and human, events, the poet is further concerned to recognize the presence and activity of the gods in this relation to human, fact, to interpret, that is, the particularity of natural event and[Pg 234] human actions and destiny wherein the divine powers are apparently interfused, and to share thus the duties of the priest and the seer. We, from the point of view of our everyday prosaic reflection, explain the phenomena of Nature according to universal laws and forces, and interpret the actions of mankind as the product of their subjective intentions and self-proposed aims. The Greek poets, however, have their eyes everywhere directed toward the Divine, and create, by giving to human activities the loftier colour and habit of divine actions, and by means of such interpretation, the various aspects under which the power of the gods is made visible. For a number of such interpretations results in a number of actions, in which we are made aware of the character of this or that god. We have but to open, for example, the Homeric poems, and we shall scarcely meet with a single event of importance which is not more closely elucidated as proceeding from the volition or actual assistance of the gods. These expositions are, in fact, the insight, the independently created belief, the intuitive conceptions of the poet, just as Homer often, too, gives expression to them in his own name, and in part also places such in the mouth of his characters, whether priest or hero. Quite at the opening of the "Iliad," for example, he has himself explained the pestilence in the Greek camp as the result of the indignation of Apollo over Agamemnon, who refused to release to Chryses his daughters[183]; and, in a passage that follows, he makes Calchas transmit this very interpretation to the Greeks[184].

In a similar way Homer informs us in the concluding canto of the "Odyssey"—on the occasion when Hermes conducted the shades of the inanimate suitors to the meadows of Asphodel, and they find there Achilles and the other deceased heroes, who fought before Troy, and finally, too, Agamemnon joins them—how the last-mentioned describes the death of Achilles[185]:

"The whole day long had the Greeks fought; and when at last Zeus separated the combatants, they carried the noble body to the ships, and washed it, weeping often the while, and embalmed it. Then there arose a divine uproar on the[Pg 235] sea, and the affrighted Achaeans would have been flung headlong into their hollow ships, had not an aged and much knowing man, Nestor to wit, restrained them, whose advice had also proved the wisest on former occasion." Nestor then interprets for them the phenomenon in the following terms: "The mother[186] comes forth from the sea with the immortal sea-goddesses, in order to meet her deceased son. And the great-hearted Achaeans at this word let their fear depart from them." That is to say, they knew then of what kind it was—of human origin—the mother in her grief comes toward him; what they shall see and hear is that which finds its response in themselves. Achilles is her son, she is herself full of grief. And in this vein Agamemnon, turning towards Achilles, continues his narrative with a description of the universal sorrow: "And around thee stood the daughters of the ancient of the sea, lamenting, and they robed themselves in ambrosial garments; and the Muses also, the nine in conclave, wailed by turns in beautiful song; and there was I ween no man of the Argives to be seen without tears, so greatly did the clear-toned song move all."

It is, however, another divine apparition in the "Odyssey" which has always in this connection most particularly fascinated me in my study of it. Odysseus in his sea-wanderings, insulted among the Phaeacians during the sports over which Euryalos presides, because he refused to take part in the rival throwing of the discus, makes answer indignantly with dark looks and hard words. He then stands up, seizes a disk, larger and heavier than the rest, and hurls it far and away over the mark. One of the Phaeacians marks down the throw and calls out: "Even a blind man could see the stone; it does not lie within the medley of the rest, but far beyond. Thou hast nothing to fear in this contest; there is no Phaeacian who will reach or surpass such a throw as thine is. So he spake; but the much-enduring divine Odysseus rejoiced to see a well-disposed friend in the lists." And this word, this friendly nod of the Phaeacian Homer interprets as the friendly apparition of Athene.

(b) Of what kind, then, we may further ask, are the products of this classical mode of artistic activity, of what type are the new gods of Greek art?

[Pg 236]

(α) It is their concentrated individuality which presents to us the most general and at the same time most complete idea of their intrinsic character, in so far, that is, as this individuality is brought together out of the variety of accidental traits, isolated actions, and events into the one focus of their simple and self-exclusive unity.

(αα) What appeals to us in these gods is first of all the spiritual and substantive individuality, which, withdrawn into itself as it is out of the motley show of the particular medium of necessity, and, the many-purposed unrest of the finite condition, reposes on its own inviolable universality, as on an eternal and intelligible foundation. It is only thus that the gods appear as the imperishable powers, whose untroubled rule is made visible to us not in the particular event in its evolution with somewhat else and external to it, but freely in its own unchangeableness and intrinsic worth.

(ββ) Conversely, however, they are not by any means the bare abstraction of spiritual generalities, and thereby so-called general Ideals, but in so far as they are individuals they appear as one Ideal, an essentially of itself determinate existence, and consequently one that is defined, in other words one that as Spirit possesses characterization. Without character we can have no individuality. From this point of view we find, as we have already indicated previously, that there is at the root of these spiritual gods a definite natural force, with which a definite ethical consistency[187] is blended, such as imposes on every particular god distinct bounds to the sphere of his activity. The manifold aspects and traits which are forthcoming by reason of this characterization as particular persons, being in this way concentrated in the point of a true self-identity, constitute the characters of the gods.

(γγ) In the true Ideal, however, this definition ought just as little to terminate in the blunt restriction of pure one sidedness, but must at the same time appear as withdrawn into the universality of the godhead. In just such a way, then, every god, by carrying in his own person this defined character as divine and as bound up with that as universal individuality, is in part of a definite type, and in part is all in all, and floats, as it were, precisely midway between mere universality and equally abstract singularity. And this is[Pg 237] what gives to the genuine Ideal of classical art its infinite security and repose, its untroubled blessedness and unimpaired freedom.

(β) Add to this that as beauty of classical art the essentially self-articulate divine character is not only spiritual, but fully as much plastic form which appears externally in its bodily presence to the eye no less than to the mind.

(αα) This beauty, inasmuch as it possesses not merely the natural or animal aspect in its spiritual personification, but includes as its content that which is spiritual in its adequate mode of existence, can only take up what is symbolical in its incidental aspect and under those relations in which it appears as purely natural. Its real external expression is the form that is peculiar to mind and only mind, in so far as its ideal character reveals itself as existent truth, and pours itself wholly through that form.

(ββ) From another point of view classical beauty is debarred from giving expression to the Sublime. For it is only the abstract universal, which attaches to itself no inclusion such as is self-defined, but merely a negative determinacy relatively to particularity in general, and along with this is resolute in its antagonism to every form of embodiment which presents us with the aspect of the Sublime. Classical beauty, on the contrary, carries spiritual individuality into the very heart of what is at the same time its natural existence, and elucidates the ideal content wholly in the material of its external appearance.

(γγ) For this very reason, however, it is essential that the external form quite as much as the spiritual, which creates for itself therein its home and dwelling, should be liberated from all dependence on Nature and derangement, all finitude, all that is of fleeting character, all that is exclusively concerned with the sensuous presence, and should purify and exalt that definition of it which discloses affinity with the determinate character of the god into free commerce with the universal forms of the human figure. The stainless externality alone, from which every hint of weakness and relativity has been removed, and every flick of capricious particularity wiped off, is able to represent the Spirit's ideality, which should sink itself in it and secure an embodiment from it.

[Pg 238]

(γ) For the reason, however, that the gods are forced once more from the defined limits of character into the universal wave, the self-subsistency of Spirit as repose on itself, and as the security of itself in its external form has to discover a real reflection also in its manifestation.

(αα) Consequently we observe in the concrete individuality of the gods—when we have before us the genuine classic Ideal, on equal terms with all else—this nobility and loftiness of Spirit, in which, despite the entire absorption within the bodily and sensuous presence, we are made conscious of the absolute removal of all the indigence of what is wholly finite. Pure self-absorption[188] and the abstract liberation from every kind of determinacy is the highway to the Ideal of the Sublime. The classical Ideal, on the contrary, is made visible in an existence which entirely is its own, that is, the specific manifestation of Spirit itself; yet for all that we shall find that here, too, the Sublimity of the same is blended with the beauty, and that the one aspect passes over immediately into the other. And this it is which constitutes the expression of loftiness in these figures of the gods, making inevitable the Sublime of classical beauty. An immortal seriousness[189] makes its throne on the forehead of these gods, and is poured forth over their entire presentment.

(ββ) In their beauty these gods appear, therefore, as exalted over their individual bodily shape; we have consequently a kind contradiction or contention between their lofty blessedness, which is, in fact, their spiritual self-exclusiveness and their beauty, which pertains to their external bodily presence. Spirit appears wholly lost in its external form, and yet for all that appears quite as much absorbed in itself from out that form. It is precisely as though we had the moving to and fro of an immortal god among mortal men.

In this relation the Greek gods make on us an impression which, despite all difference, resembles that which the bust of Goethe by Rauch made upon me when I first saw it. Many will have doubtless seen it, the high brow, the powerful, commanding nose, the free eye, the round chin, the affable, finely-cut lips, the pose of the head, so suggestive of genius, with its glance a bit on one side and uplifted: add[Pg 239] to this the entire fulness and breadth of an emotional and genial humanity, and further, those carefully articulated muscles of the forehead, of the entire countenance, of all that gives evidence of passion and emotion; and in all this house of Life, the repose, stillness, and loftiness of advanced age; and we may add withal the fading ebb of the lips, which retreat back into the teethless mouth, the slackness of the neck and cheeks, whereby the bridge of the nose appears yet more dominant, and the reach of the forehead yet more towering. The force of this firmly set figure, which to an extraordinary degree brings before us the notion of immutability, appears all the more so in the loose environment which surrounds it[190], just as the sublime head and form of the Oriental in his wide turban, but flapping over-garment and trailing slippers. It is the secure, powerful, timeless spirit, which, in the mask of encircling mortality, is just ready to let this husk fall away, and yet suffers it to linger around it freely and without restraint.

In much the same way the gods appear to us in their aspect of lofty freedom and spiritual repose to be exalted over their bodily presence, so that they seem to feel their form, their limbs, despite all the beauty that is there, as at the same time a superfluous appanage. And yet withal the entire presentment is suffused with vitality, identical with their spiritual being, inseparable, without the disunion of what is essentially subsistent, and those parts which are more loosely put together, the spirit in short neither escaping nor coming forth from the body, but both firmly moulded together into a whole, out of which, and in no other way, the self-absorption of Spirit looks forth in silence in its amazing and secure self-possession.

(γγ) For the reason, then, that the contention we have indicated is present, without appearing, however, as a difference or separation of the ideal spirituality from its external form, the negative which is therein contained, is for this very reason immanent in this inseparable totality and is thereby expressed. This is within the sphere of this spiritual loftiness the breath and atmosphere of melancholy, which men of genius have felt in the godlike figures of antique art[Pg 240] even where the beauty of the external presentment is consummate. The repose of divine blessedness[191] is unable to split itself up into the passions of joy, pleasure, and satisfaction, and the peace of immortality stands aloof from the smile of self-satisfaction and genial contentedness. Contentment is the emotion of the agreement of our singular subjectivity with the condition of that environment which is defined for or given to us or brought about through our own agency. Napoleon, for example, never expressed more thorough contentment than when he happened to obtain some success at the cost of making all the world discontented. For contentment is only the approval of my own being, action, and engagements, and the extreme of it is readily recognizable in that state of feeling of the Philistine to which every man of practical ability necessarily extends it. This feeling and its expression is, however, no expression appropriate to the prefigured immortal gods. Free and perfected beauty is not satisfied with joining the concordant temper of a particular finite existence; rather its individuality, in its aspect as Spirit no less than in that of form, albeit it is self-defined with characterization, only finds itself fully in union with its true nature when it is at the same time free universality and spirituality in repose upon itself. This universality is just that which people are wont to point to as the frigidity of the Greek gods. They are only cold, however, to our modern intimacy with the temporal. Independently regarded they possess warmth and life; that peaceful blessedness, which is reflected in their external presentment, is essentially an abstraction from particularity, a mode of being indifferent to the Past, a surrender of that which is external, a giving up which, albeit neither full of trouble nor pain, is for all that a giving up of what is earthly and evanescent, just as their cheerfulness of spirit looks far away and over death, the grave, loss and temporality, and for the very reason that it is profound inherently contains this negative we are discussing. And the more this earnestness and spiritual freedom is prominent in the vision of these godlike figures the more we feel the contrast between this loftiness and the determinate corporality in which they[Pg 241] are enclosed. The blessed gods mourn quite as much over their blessedness as their bodily environment. In the letters of their form we read the destiny which lies before them, and whose development, as actual manifestation of that contradiction between this very loftiness and that particularity, spirituality, and sensuous existence classical art itself sets face to face with its final overthrow.

(c) If we ask ourselves, then, thirdly, what is the nature of the external representation, which is adequate to this notion of the classic Ideal we have just indicated, we shall find in this connection, too, that the essential points of view have already in our general consideration of the Ideal been furnished us with considerable detail. We have consequently here only further to remark, that in the genuine classic Ideal the spiritual individuality of the gods is not conceived in their relation to something else, or brought about by virtue of their particularity in conflict, and battle, but rather is made visible in their eternal self-tranquillity, in this painfulness of the godlike peace itself. The determinate character is not, therefore, made active in the way that it stimulated the gods to the sense of particular emotions and passions, or compelled them to adopt specific aims of conduct. On the contrary, it is precisely out of that collision and development, nay, out of that very relation to the finite and all that is essentially discordant that they are brought back to that condition of pure self-absorption. This repose in its most austere severity, not inflexible, cold, or dead, but sensitive and immutable, is the highest and most adequate form of representation for the classic gods. When they make their appearance consequently in specific situations, it is not necessary that there should be conditions or actions which give rise to conflicts, but rather such which, as themselves harmless, so, too, leave the gods in a like condition. It is, therefore, sculpture which among the arts is above all adapted to portray the classic Ideal in its simple self-possession, in which what is rather the universal divinity receives more obvious emphasis than the particular character. Chiefly it is the more ancient and more austere type of sculpture which maintains its firm hold of this aspect of the Ideal, and only in the later forms we find a movement towards increased dramatic vividness of situations and characterization.[Pg 242] Poetry, on the contrary, ranges the gods in vigorous action, that is, in an attitude of negation to a definite mode of life, and brings them thereby into conflict and strife. The repose of plastic art, where it remains in the sphere which is uniquely its own, can only express the aforesaid negative phase of spirit face to face with particular facts in that serious strain of melancholy, which we have already attempted to define more nearly.


As individuality in visible form, represented under the mode of immediate existence, and withal both definite and particular, godhead necessarily is divided into a number of figures. In other words, Polytheism is unquestionably essential as the principle of classical art, and it would be the undertaking of a fool to think of embodying the one God of the Sublime and of Pantheism or the absolute religion, which comprehends God purely as Spirit and essential personality, in the plastic type of beauty, or to entertain the idea that the classical forms could have arisen among the Jews, Mohammedans, or Christians, as adapted to the content of their religious beliefs, from their own original views of the world, as they did in the case of the Greeks.

(a) In this multiplicity the divine universe[192] at this stage is broken up into a sphere of particular gods, of which each individual stands by himself alone in contrast to all the others. These individualities are not, however, of the kind that they can be taken merely as allegorical presentations of universal qualities, as if Apollo, for example, were the god of wisdom, Zeus of dominion. Zeus is also quite as much wisdom, and in the "Eumenides" Apollo, as we have seen, protects Orestes, the son and the royal son to boot, whom he himself has stimulated to an act of vengeance. The sphere of the Greek gods is a multiplicity of individuals, of which every particular god, albeit also in the specific character of a particular person, is at the same time a self-exclusive totality, which itself possesses essentially also the quality of another god. For every such presentment, viewed as[Pg 243] divine, is always, too, a whole. It is only by this means that the divine personalities of Greek religion include an abundance of traits; and although their blessedness consists in their universal and spiritual self-repose no less than in their abstraction from the direct movement which Time is for ever defeating in the sphere of the disintegrating manifold of natural fact and condition, yet for all that they possess the power in a like degree to assert themselves as energetic and active in many of its aspects. They are neither the abstract particular nor the abstract universal, but the universal which is the source of particularity.

(b) On account of this type of individuality, however, Greek polytheism is unable to make up an essentially systematic and self-integrated totality. At the first glance, it is true, it appears imperative to require of the Olympus of the gods, that the numerous gods that are there assembled, should, as thus collected together, and if their separable unities have real truth in them, and their content is to be classic in the true sense, also express essentially the totality of the Idea, should exhaust the entire sphere of the necessary forces of Nature and Spirit, and give to themselves therefore constructive completeness, in other words, manifest themselves as subject to a principle of necessity. This demand, however, would be liable from the first to the qualification that those forces present in the emotions and, generally speaking, assertive in the sphere of spiritual life in the absolute significance[193] which becomes operative first in the later and higher religion, must remain excluded from the sphere of the classic gods, so that the range of content, the particular aspects of which succeed in making an appearance in Greek mythology, would be already thereby curtailed. Moreover, apart from this, we have also on the one hand, necessarily introduced by virtue of the essentially varied character of this individuality, the accidental incidents of a definition, which avoids the rigorous articulation of the differences inherent in the notion, and does not suffer these divinities to maintain the abstraction of merely one mode of determination. And, on the other hand, the universality, in[Pg 244] the elemental medium of which the divine personalities secure their blessed state, abolishes any hard and fast particularity, and the loftiness of the eternal powers exalts itself jubilant over the cold seriousness of finite fact, wherein, if this inconsequence did not prevail, the divine presences would be evolved through the medium of their limitations.

However much, therefore, even the principal forces of the world, as the totality of Nature and Spirit, are reproduced in Greek mythology, this aggregation, quite as much in the interests of the universal Divine as in those of the individuality of particular gods, cannot assert itself as a systematic whole. If this were not so, instead of individual characters the gods would approximate rather to allegorical beings, and instead of being divine personalities would be characters wholly limited to finite and abstract modes.

(c) When we consequently consider the circle of the Greek divinities—that is all within the range of the so-called presiding divinities—more nearly according to their fundamental character, inquiring how that character appears firmly delineated by sculpture in its most general and at the same time sensuously concrete presentment, we find no doubt the essential distinctions and their totality explicitly set before us, but also in their detail also ever again obliterated, and the severity of the execution tempered to a result which is inconsistent with either their beauty or their individuality. So for example Zeus bears in his hands the dominion over gods and men, without, however, thereby essentially endangering the free independence of the other gods. He is the supreme god; his power, however, does not absorb that of the others. We find in the conception of him no doubt an association with the heavens, with lightning and thunder, and the generative vitality of Nature; but he is yet more truly the might of the State, of the order of fact which is conformable to law, the binding nexus in contracts, oaths, and hospitality, and generally the substantial bond that gives subsistence to the human condition, whether in its practical or ethical aspect, the potency, in short, both of knowledge and spirit. The dominion of his brothers is directed toward the sea or the lower world. Apollo is known as the god of knowledge, as the mouthpiece and fair presentment of spiritual interests, as the teacher of the[Pg 245] Muses. "Know thyself" is the inscription over his temple at Delphi, a behest which is not so much concerned with the failings and defects, as the essential import of spirit, that is with art and the truth of consciousness. Subtlety and eloquence, mediation in fact generally as we also find it in subordinate spheres, which, albeit immoral elements are therein commingled, nevertheless are appurtenant to the complete range of spiritual life—such is the most important province of the activity of Hermes, who also leads the shades of the dead to the underworld. The might of war is what mainly distinguishes Ares. Hephaestos is conspicuously capable in the technical crafts. The enthusiasm which still carries with it a natural element, the strong emotions which wine, sport, and dramatic performances naturally produce are the native province of Dionysos. The spheres allotted to the feminine divinities very much correspond to the above series. In Here the ethical bond of marriage is the most dominant trait. Ceres is the instructress and developer of agriculture, and as such has presented mankind with both those adjuncts to its cultivation, that is to say, first, the care for the nurture of natural products, which satisfy man's immediate wants, and, secondly, the spiritual accessories of property, marriage, right, the beginnings of civilization and moral order. In the same way Athene is the representative of moderation, good sense[194], legality, the power of wisdom, technical capacity in the arts and courageousness, and comprises within her intelligent and warlike maidenhood the concrete spirit of the folk, the free and substantive spirit which uniquely belongs to the Athenian state, and places the same before us in positive shape as sovereign and godlike power to be revered. Artemis on the contrary, wholly distinct from the Ephesian Diana, possesses the more inflexible independence of maiden modesty for her most essential characteristic. She loves the chase, and is generally not so much the quietly pensive, as the severe and eager-striving maiden. Aphrodite, together with the charming Cupid, who in his descent from the ancient Titan Eros became a boy, is the interpreter of all that the attractions and sexual passion effect in our humanity. This, then, is the kind of content of the spiritually informed individual[Pg 246] gods. In so far as we are concerned with their external representation we can only repeat that sculpture is the most important art in this respect, and it is carried to the point of this detail of their particularity. If, however, it is permitted to express that individuality in its more specific determination, it at once passes beyond its primary severe loftiness, although even in that case it unites the variety and wealth of such individuality under one mode of definition, namely that which we distinguish as character, and establishes this character in its more simple clarity for the envisagement of the senses, in other words for the completest and most final determination of the external presentment of these divinities. For the imagination always remains relatively to the external and real existence less distinct, when it elaborates, as it also does, as poetry the same content in a number of tales, occurrences, and events which concern the gods. For this reason sculpture is on the one hand more ideal, while on the other it individualizes the character of the gods in perfectly clear human outlines, and perfects the anthropomorphism of the classic Ideal. As this presentation of the Ideal in its mode of externality, entirely adequate as it unquestionably is to the essentially ideal content it declares, these figures of Greek sculpture are the Ideals in their absolutely explicit realization; they are the self-subsistent, eternal forms, the centre of the plastic beauty of classical art, whose type persists as the foundation, even there too, where these figures step forth on the planes of definite activity, and appear as affected by the revolutions of particular events.


Individuality and its representation is, however, unable to acquiesce in that which is still an ever relative and abstract articulation of character. A star is exhaustively summarized in the simple laws that control it. A few definite traits may sufficiently characterize the external formation of the world of rocks; but already in the vegetable world we are aware of an infinite variety of manifold structure, transition, interfusion, and anomaly. Animal organizations are distinguished by a still greater range of difference,[Pg 247] and constantly shifting interaction with the external environment to which they are related. And finally, as we rise to the spiritual realm and its manifestation, we are conscious of a yet more infinitely embracing multiplicity, both of its internal and external existence. Inasmuch, then, as the classic Ideal does not rest content with purely self-possessed individuality, but is further concerned to place the same in motion, to bring the same into relation with something else, and to exhibit it as active in such relation—for these reasons the character of the gods does not rest stationary in the possession of what itself is an essentially still substantive determination, but secures further particular traits of wider extension. The self-exclusive movement in the direction of external existence, and the change which is inseparable from it supplies the more intimate traits that constitute the singularity of any particular god, as is meet and fit and withal necessary to complete a living personality. The accidental nature of these particular traits is, however, associated at the same time with such a type of singularity, traits, that is, we are no longer able to refer back to the universal aspect of the substantive significance. For this reason this particular aspect of the separate divinities approximates to something positive, which can consequently also merely stand about it and continue to resound as an external accessory.

(a) We are therefore at once confronted with the question: "From what source is the material secured for this mode of the appearance of singularity, and in what manner is this forward process of particularization maintained?" For the ordinary individual man, for his character out of which he brings his actions to a conclusion, for the events in which he is involved, for the destiny which awaits him, this closest and more positive material is supplied by his external conditions, such as the date of his birth, the situation he inherits, parents, education, environment, temporal relations, the entire province, that is, of the conditions of his life as they affect his spiritual nature or bodily existence. The present world contains this material, and the records of life furnished by different individuals are from this point of view characterized by every conceivable difference. It is another matter altogether, however, with the free shapes of[Pg 248] godlike individuality, which possess no determinate existence in the concrete world of Nature, but have their birth in the cradle of the imagination. For this very reason it is an obvious assumption that poets and artists, who, speaking in general terms, have created the Ideal out of their free spiritual bounty, have merely borrowed the material for these accidental particular traits from the caprice of their own innate powers of imagination. This assumption is, however, false. For we assigned in general terms to classical art, the position that its construction in the first instance is, by means of the reaction active in its opposition to the assumptions necessarily requisite to its own peculiar province, carried forward to that which as genuine Ideal it is. It is from these presuppositions as their source that the specific traits of particularity are to be looked for, which supply to the gods their closer individual vitality. The fundamental features of these assumptions have already been submitted, and we have only here to remind our readers shortly of what has been already advanced.

(α) It is the symbolical natural religions which constitute in the first instance the abundant source which supplies Greek mythology with the primary substratum that we find then modified within it. But inasmuch as the traits that are borrowed from such a source have to be distributed among gods that are represented as individuals possessing the life of Spirit, they inevitably lose the essential feature of their character, in which they passed as symbolical; they have now no longer to retain a significance, which would differ from that which the individual himself presents and makes visible. The previous symbolical content becomes now, therefore, converted into the content of a divine subject itself, and for the reason that it implies no substantive relation of the god, but is merely an incidental feature, material of this sort falls together into an external tale, some deed or event, which is ascribed to the gods in this or that particular situation. Consequently we find under this head all the symbolical traditions of the earlier sacred poems, which receive, under the modified shape of actions proper to a truly self-conscious individuality, the form of human events and histories, which purport to be accomplished in concert with the gods, and are not merely the inventions of[Pg 249] poets as the mood dictates. When Homer tells us, for instance, that the gods went off on a journey to feast for twelve days among the blameless Ethiopians, such would be a poor enough example of inventiveness regarded as the poet's invention alone. It is much the same with the tale of the birth of Zeus. Kronos, we are told, had devoured all his sons; for this reason Rhea, his spouse, when she was big with her youngest child Zeus, went off to Crete, where she brought forth her son, presenting to Kronos a stone to devour instead of her child, whom she swaddled in fur. Later on Kronos brought up again all his children, his daughters, and along with them Poseidon. This story, regarded as mere invention, would be foolish enough. The remnants of symbolical significance still peer, however, through it, albeit on account of their having lost their original character, they come down to us in the guise of external history. The history of Ceres and Proserpina is on similar lines. Here we have the ancient symbolic significance of the disappearance and budding forth of the seed of corn. The myth presents this to us under the image as though Proserpina played one day in a valley with flowers, and plucked the fragrant narcissus, which from one root opened in a hundred blossoms. Then the Earth thunders; Pluto ascends from the depths, lifts the lamenting maiden into his golden car, and bears her off to the underworld. Thereon Ceres wandered over the Earth for a long time vainly stricken with a mother's sorrow. Finally Proserpina returned to the upper world; Zeus, however, had only suffered her to do this subject to the command that she must never partake of the food of the gods. Unfortunately she had on one occasion tasted a pomegranate, and was therefore only able to remain in the upper world during spring and summer. In this tale, too, we find that the symbolical content has not been retained, but has been converted into a human event, which suffers only the more general sense to penetrate through many external traits. In the same way the supplementary names of the gods point frequently to symbolical ground-strata of a similar character, from which, however, the symbolical form has vanished, and which only serve now to give individuality a more complete characterization.

[Pg 250]

(β) Local conditions supply a further source for the positive particularities of individual divinities, no less by presenting us with the origin of the conceptions of godhead, than by pointing to the modes under which their services were originally obtained and secured, and the particular places which were in a special sense devoted to their worship.

(αα) Although, however, the demonstration of the Ideal and its universal beauty is exalted over the particular locality and its unique claims for recognition, and, moreover, has drawn together the specific external aspects in the more general range of the artistic imagination into one comprehensive picture which is throughout adequate to the substantive significance, yet for all that, when the art of sculpture associates the gods, regarded as individuals, with isolated relations and conditions, these particular traits and local colours come frequently also to the fore, in order to reproduce something of that individuality, although it is only thus more defined in its external aspect. An illustration of this is the way Pausanias adduces a mass of ideas, images, pictures, and myths, which he met with in temples, public places, temple treasuries, in any place where anything of importance was to be found or otherwise was in the range of his experience. In the same way and on the same lines the ancient traditions and local suggestions which have been borrowed from foreign sources run along with the home ones in Greek myth; and to all of them more or less a relation has been attached which unites them to the history, creation, and foundations of States, more particularly by means of colonization. Forasmuch, however, as this many-sided and specific material in the universality of the gods has lost its original significance, we necessarily come across stories, which in their motley and intricate character fail to convey any meaning whatever. As an example we may instance the case where Aeschylus in his "Prometheus" presents to us the wanderings of Io in all their severity and external garb without admitting the least suggestion of an ethical or traditional story, or a natural significance. We find just the same difficulty when we approach the stories of Perseus, Dionysos, and others. The most varied and confused kind of material is also run[Pg 251] into the tales about Hercules, which forthwith, in such tales, assume an entirely human aspect under the guise of chance events, exploits, passions, misfortunes, and other untoward occurrences.

(ββ) In addition to all this the eternal powers of classical art are the universal constituents of the actual embodiment of the existence and actions of Greek humanity, from whose national origins consequently in their earliest form, that is, out of the heroic times and other traditions, still a very considerable residue of detail remains appendant to the gods even in later days. In this way, too, many characteristic features in the intricate tales of their gods unquestionably must be referred to historic personages, heroes, older folk-races, natural facts and circumstances attributable to wars, battles, and other matters of a public character. And just as the family and the distinction of clans is the point of departure of the State, the Greeks possessed also their family gods, penates, clan-gods, and furthermore the guardian divinities of particular cities and states. In this excessive leaning towards the point of view of history the thesis, however, is apt to be maintained that the origin of the Greek gods generally is deducible from such historical facts, heroes, and earlier kings. This is a plausible but none the less superficial view. Heyne quite in recent times has also given currency to it. In a way analogous to this a Frenchman, by name Nicholas Fréret, has, for example, accepted the quarrels of different priestly guilds as the general principle underlying the war of the gods. That such a historical phase in the life of a people may contribute something, that definite clans may have given some effect to their peculiar notions of deity, that likewise different local aspects may have afforded further matter in the process of divine individualization—all this may be admitted, no doubt. The real origin of the gods is for all that not to be traced to such external material of history, but resides in the spiritual potencies of Life, under the guise of which they were conceived. We are consequently only entitled to accept the more extensive play of all that is positive, local, and historical, in so far as it makes more definite the formal presentation of each particular individuality.

(γγ) Inasmuch as, further, the god passes into the sphere[Pg 252] of the human imagination, and, still more important, is represented in real bodily shape, into close relations with which again man is placed by his cultus in the activities of divine worship, a fresh material is here, too, presented by such relations for the extension of all that is positive and accidental. What animals have to be sacrificed to any god, what vestments the priesthood or the worshipper must appear in, what particular sequence must be adopted in any ceremonial—by all such matters the most varied and particular incidents are accumulated. For every activity of this kind implies an indefinite number of aspects and modes of arrangement, which may accidentally fall out in this way or that, but which, as appurtenant to a sacred rite, should be something settled, and not fixed by caprice, and which necessarily tend to pass into the sphere of symbolism. The colour of the vestments is an example of this; in the ritual of Bacchus we have the colour of wine, in like manner the doe-skin in which those initiated in the mysteries were enwrapped. The same thing applies to the drapery and attributes of the gods, the bow of Pythian Apollo, the whip, the staff, and numberless other accessories. Such things become, however, gradually a custom and nothing more; no one in the practice of the same thinks any longer of their birth history; and all that we now by dint of our research point out as their significance, has in the performance of them grown to something quite external, which mankind associates himself with on account of the immediate interest, that is, from mere sense of fun, delight in the present, devotion, or simply because it is just a custom and is so fixed for his active senses, and is done in like manner by others. As an example from our own life, when we see our German youth light the Johannis fire in summer time, or play antics elsewhere, and throw it at the windows, such is for us a purely formal custom, in which the original significance fades as much into the background as at the festal dances of Greek youths and maidens the revolutions of the dance do in their imitative (like the twists and turns of some labyrinth) significance of the spiral motions of the planets. Youth does not dance in order to entertain ideas of such things, but the interest limits itself naturally to the dancing and the tasteful and graceful festivity of its beautiful motion.[Pg 253] The entire significance, which was created by the original stimulus, and of which the reproduction was for the imagination and sensuous perception of symbolical character, is throughout an imaginative conception, whose singular traits we suffer to pass from us like a fairy story, or as in historical narrative as external detail relative to Time and Space, and of which we can only say: "It is so," or, "Such is the tale," and so forth. The interest of art can consequently only consist in this, namely, that it borrow one aspect from the material which has passed into the condition of positive externality, and make the best of this one for an example, which sets the gods before us as concrete, living individuals, merely retaining a distant echo of any profounder significance.

This positive aspect is precisely that which endows the Greek gods with the charm of living humanity when the imagination elaborates it anew. It is by this latter process that what is otherwise merely of substantive import, or that of power, is thereby carried into the individual present, which, speaking in general terms, is concentrated to a point out of that which is truly explicit or independently actual, and which is external and accidental, and thereby the indefinite, which otherwise is always present in the conception of the gods, is limited in its range and filled out in its content. We are unable to attach any additional value to specific tales and particular traits of characterization, for this material, which, in its earlier stage is, when we look at its primary source, the symbolically significant, has now only remaining the task to perfect the spiritual individuality of the gods in their positive sensuous definition in contrast to the human and to attach to it by virtue of a material which, in respect to its content and envisagement, is undivine, the aspect of caprice and chance, characteristics inseparable from concrete individuality. Sculpture, in so far as it presents to our senses the pure ideals of the gods, and is concerned to set before us character and expression solely under the mode of living bodies, can least of all with clearness make visible the final result of individualization. It does nevertheless give real effect to it within the limits of its own province, as we may see, for example, in the different treatment of headdress, the mode in which the folds[Pg 254] or locks of hair are arranged in each particular case; and this is done not merely with a view to symbolical interpretation but in order to individualize. In this way Hercules has short locks, Zeus an abundant growth which rises above the forehead, Diana quite a different folding of the hair to that of Venus. Pallas, too, is distinguished by the Gorgo on the helmet, and the like result is obtained by means of weapons, girdle, fillets, bracelets, and all the variety of other external adornment.

(γ) We find as a third and final source of the closer definition of divine personality the relation which this occupies to the concrete actual world and its numerous natural phenomena, human deeds and events. For however much we have seen that this spiritual individuality is in part respectively to their universal essence, and partly in respect to their particular singularity, the visible result of earlier natural foundations which have symbolical significance, yet it also persists, if regarded as a spiritually self-subsistent personality, in a relation of continuous, vitality with Nature and human existence. It is under this point of view, as we have already intimated at length, that we have before us the imaginative flow of the poet, an ever fertile source of particular tales, traits of character and exploits, such as are related us about the gods. The artistic aspect of this stage of the process consists in this, that the divine personalities are made to blend in a vital way with human affairs, and that the isolated nature of events are without exception conceived in association with the universality of the divine, just as we ourselves, for example, are wont to say, if in another sense, of course, that this or that eventuality comes from God. Even in the reality of everyday life, in the natural process of his existence, in his daily wants, fears, and hopes, the Greek took refuge in his gods. At first it was external accidents, which the priesthood accepted as omens, and interpreted relatively to his objects and circumstances. If distress and misfortune appeared, the priest had to explain the cause of the affliction, to recognize the anger and disposition of the gods, and to suggest the means by which the misfortune might be faced. The poets proceed yet further in their interpretations for this reason, namely, that they ascribe everything, which is related to a pathos universal[Pg 255] and essential, that is, the moving force in human resolve and action, to the gods themselves and their activity; so that the activity of mankind appears likewise as the act of the gods, who fulfil their own counsels by means of their instrument, man. The material in these poetical expositions is taken from the circumstances of ordinary life, in respect to which the poet lays it down, whether this or that god has expressed his purpose in the event which he is expounding and asserted himself actively therein. For this reason poetry to an exceptional extent enlarges the range of many specific stories, which have the gods for their principal subject-matter. We may in this connection recall to our memories several examples which we have already used as illustrations when considering another aspect of our subject, namely, the relation of the universal powers to the practical pursuits of human personality. Homer places Achilles before us as the bravest among the Greeks before Troy. This pre-eminence of his hero he expresses by means of the statement that Achilles is invulnerable in every portion of his body with the single exception of his heel, which his mother was compelled to take hold of when she dipped him in the Styx. This tale has its origin in the imagination of the poet who thus interprets the external fact. If we accept this bluntly as though an actual fact purported to be expressed therein which the ancients would have believed in the same sense that we believe in any fact on the evidence of our senses such a conclusion is a very crude one indeed. It in short amounts to this, that Homer no less than all the Greeks and Alexander with them who admired Achilles and praised his fortunes, which were the main theme of the song of Homer, were simpletons. Such a glorification must inevitably carry such a consequence if the reflection is to hold good that the bravery of Achilles was no difficult matter since he was aware of his invulnerability. But the bravery is, in truth, thereby in no way abridged, because he is equally aware of his early death, and notwithstanding never evades danger, however it may arise. The like relation is put before us in a very different way in the "Niebelungenlied." In that the horned Siegfried is likewise invulnerable, but he has also in addition to this his cap which makes him invisible. When he assists King Gunther thus invisible in the fight of the[Pg 256] latter with Brunhilde it becomes simply an affair of barbaric sorcery which does not enhance very much our opinion either of the bravery of Siegfried or King Gunther. No doubt in Homer the gods frequently lend assistance to particular heroes; but the gods merely appear on such occasions as the universal concept of that which man as an individual himself is and carries out, and to carry out which he must actively employ the entire strength of his heroic endowment. If it had been otherwise the gods would have only found it necessary to decimate en masse the Trojan host in battle in order to complete at once the triumph of the Greeks. Homer gives us a picture just the reverse of this when he describes the main fight as essentially a contest between individuals, and it is only when the press and medley in general, when the entire mass of combatants, the collective heart of the host clashes in fury, that Ares at length storms over the field and gods war against gods. And this is not only generally fine and splendid as an enhancement of the effect, but we may find in it the profounder significance that Homer recognizes the particular heroes in what is singular and exceptional and the universal potencies and forces in the collective effect and the general aspect. In another connection Homer permits Apollo to appear on the scene, when the moment arrives which is fatal to Patroclus who is bearing the invincible armour of Achilles[195]. Three times had Patroclus plunged into the crowded host of the Trojans, mighty as Ares, and three times he had already slain nine men. When he stormed there for the fourth time then it was that the god, enveloped in obscure night, made toward him among the medley and smote him on the back and the shoulders, tore away from him his helmet, so that it rolled on the ground, and rang out sharply as it struck the hoofs of the chargers; and the plumes of it were besmirched with blood and dust, which none ever wot of before. Apollo also breaks the brazen spear in his hands, the shield drops from his shoulders, and his armour is loosened on him by the god. This interference of Apollo we may accept as the poetic explanation of the circumstance, that it is exhaustion no less than natural death which seizes upon and subdues Patroclus in the turmoil and heat of battle at the fourth encounter.[Pg 257] Then it was that Euphorbus was able to thrust his spear into his back between the shoulders. Yet one more time Patroclus endeavoured to withdraw from the battle; but Hector had already hastened to meet him, and thrust his spear deep into his side. Then Hector rejoiced and mocked the sinking hero. But Patroclus, speaking in low tones, replied that it was Zeus and Apollo who had mastered him, and withal with no trouble, because they had taken his weapons from off his shoulders. "Twenty men such as thou art," he exclaims, "I could have laid low with my spear, but I am slain by fateful necessity and the hand of Apollo. Thou, Euphorbus, hast but slain me the second time, and thou, Hector, but the third." Here, too, we may remark that the appearance of the gods simply points to the fact that Patroclus, albeit protected by the armour of Achilles, becomes faint, confounded, and despite of it slain. And this is not by any means a superstitious freak or empty play of the imagination, or rather a statement which amounts to this[196], that Hector's fame will be detracted from by this interposition of Apollo, and that even Apollo does not play in the entire affair a part which entirely redounds to his honour, since we necessarily take into account the might of the god—speculations of this kind merely betray a superstition of the prosaic mind as destitute of taste as it is devoid of reason. For in every case where Homer explains specific events by means of such appearances of the gods the gods use that which is already immanent in the conscious life of men, the power, that is, of their own passion and observation, or the potentialities of the general condition in which the man is placed, the force and the foundation of that which befalls and happens to anyone as a consequence of such conditions If it is true that at times traits that are wholly external and absolutely positive assert themselves in the appearance of the gods these in their turn have a comic aspect; as in the case when the lame Hephaestos goes round as cup-bearer. And generally we may say that Homer never treats the reality of such appearances from first to last seriously. At one time we see the gods in action, at another[Pg 258] they occupy a station of complete tranquillity. The Greeks were fully conscious that it was the poets who were responsible for such apparitions; and if they believed in them their belief was connected directly with that spiritual aspect which is equally the possession of mankind, forasmuch as it is the universal, the very active and motive principle in the events thus presented. From whatever point of view, therefore, we consider the matter it is clear that it is totally unnecessary to import superstition either in our own views or in those of the Greeks before we can enjoy such poetical representations of their gods.

(b) Such, then, is the general character of the classical Ideal, whose broader development we shall have to consider more succinctly when we examine the particular arts. Here we have only to add the observation that to whatever extent either gods or men are carried in their positive opposition to the particular and external, yet in classical art the affirmative ethical substratum must assert itself as maintained. The subjectivity remains throughout in union with the substantive content of its powers. Just as in Greek art the natural element is preserved in harmony with the spiritual and is likewise subordinated to the ideal content, though it be as adequate existence, the inward heart of our humanity ever presents itself also in a thorough identity with the genuine objectivity of Spirit, in other words, with the essential content of what is moral and true. Regarded from this point of view, the classic Ideal is unaware of the separation of ideality from external presentment and of the rending of the subjective and consequently abstract individual caprice in its various objects and passions, and it is no less so, on the other hand, of the abstract universal as thereby created. The foundations of character must, consequently, always be the substantive, and what is bad, sinful and evil in the self-housed dwelling of subjectivity is excluded from classical representations. And above all else the harshness, wickedness, meanness, and hideousness which finds a place in romantic art, will be wholly alien to it. It is true, we find many instances of transgression, matricide, patricide and other crimes against the love of family and piety treated as the subject-matter of Greek art; but they are not here regarded simply as atrocities, or, as a little while since it[Pg 259] was the fashion among ourselves, as brought about by the inscrutability of a so-called fatality which imports the appearance of a necessary result. Rather, if such transgressions are committed by mankind and in part ordered and defended by the gods themselves, such actions are on every occasion presented to us from some point of view at least in a light which declares a certain justification truly arising out of the subject-matter itself.

(c) Despite this substantive foundation we have seen the general elaboration of the gods of classical art manifest itself out of the repose of the Ideal within the variety of the individual and external embodiment, in all the detail of events, occurrences, and actions, which become ever and ever more human. By this means classical art finally, if we consider its content, carries yet further the process of articulating the accidental individualization, when we consider it as a mode of making the same pleasurable and attractive. In other words that which pleases is the elaboration of the particular aspect of the external phenomenon at every point of the same; by this means the work of art no longer arrests the spectator merely in its connection with his own concrete soul-life, but also contains many affiliating links with the finite aspect of his subjectivity. For it is precisely in the finiteness of the art-creation that the closer association subsists with that aspect of the individual which is itself finite, and which rediscovers itself once more with satisfaction in every respect as mobile and stable existence in the art-product. The seriousness of the gods becomes a grace, which does not agitate with violence or lift a man over his ordinary existence, but suffers him to persist there tranquil, and simply claims to bring him content. Just as we generally find that the imagination when it masters religious conceptions, and endows them with a form appropriate to its notions of beauty, has a tendency to make the earnest character of devotion disappear, and in this respect destroys religion strictly as religion; so, too, this very process moves forward at the stage we are discussing for the most part by the addition of that which is agreeable and pleases. For it is not by any means the substantial aspect, the significance of the gods, or their universal character, which is evolved by virtue of what delights. Rather it is[Pg 260] the finite side, their sensuous existence and subjective inward life, which purports to awake interest and provide satisfaction. The more, therefore, the charm of the existence reproduced is the dominant factor in its beauty to that extent the gracefulness is disentwined from the embrace of the universal and removed from the content, through which alone the profounder penetration could rest satisfied.

The transition to another province of the forms of art is closely united with this externality and articulate definition. For under the mode of externality reposes the manifold of the finite condition; a manifold which, so soon as it secures a free field, asserts itself finally in opposition to the spiritual Idea, its universality and truth, and begins to rouse up the dissatisfaction of thought in a reality which is no longer adequate to express it.

[180] Chapter XLIX.

[181] I presume this is the sense of that difficult word des Inneren here.

[182] By "absolute" I presume Hegel means here absolute in the sense of predominant, masterful—activity such as the Greek artist possessed.

[183] "Iliad," I, vv. 9-12.

[184] Ibid. vv. 94-100.

[185] "Odyssey," XXIV, vv. 41-63.

[186] That is, Thetis.

[187] Bestimmte sittliche Substanz.

[188] Das reine Insichseyn.

[189] Ein ewiger Ernst.

[190] I presume this refers to some drapery or curtains round the bust as exhibited.

[191] This is the meaning of Heiterkeit here rather than "cheerfulness," though Seligkeit is the usual word.

[192] Göttliche Universum. A rather curious expression for, I presume, the ideal totality of the Divine Being.

[193] Der geistigen absoluten Innerlichkeit. Lit., "the spiritual and absolute mode of the inward life." He refers, of course, to Christianity, with its life of the pure in heart and the pure reason.

[194] Besonnenheit.

[195] "Iliad," XVI, vv. 783-849.

[196] I very much doubt whether the words Sondern das Gerede allein can have this meaning, but the obvious meaning, "but only the gossip," hardly makes sense. I think the sentence requires revision.

[Pg 261]



The gods of classical art contain in themselves the germ of their overthrow; consequently, when this fatal defect which they include is brought to consciousness through the elaboration of art itself, they bring about the dissolution of the classical Ideal at the same time. We established as the principle of this, so far as we have here to deal with it, that kind of spiritual individuality which secures in every respect an adequate expression in bodily or external existence immediate to our senses. This individuality was enclosed within a complex of divine personalities, whose definition is not essentially and withal from the first given up to the contingent condition in which the everlasting gods receive the appearance of dissolution for man's conscious life no less than for his artistic creation.


It is true that sculpture in its complete plastic perfection accepts the gods as substantive potencies, and endows them with a form in whose beauty they in the first instance repose in security, for the reason that the accidental character, of their external envisagement is to the least extent emphasized. Their multiplicity and distinction does in fact, however, constitute this element of contingency, and thought annuls this in the determinate conception of one divinity, through whose inevitable power they are mutually at war with and to the detriment of each other. For however universal the power of every particular god is conceived as specific individuality, such is of a restricted range. Add to[Pg 262] this the fact that the gods do not continue in their eternal repose; they are self-determined relatively to particular aims in actual movement through their being drawn hither and thither by the pre-existing conditions and collisions of concrete reality, in order at one time to afford assistance and at another to obstruct or destroy. These isolated relations in which the gods as active individuals participate contain within them an element of contingency, which impairs the substantive nature of the divine, however much the same may persist as the predominant substratum, and involves the gods in the contradictions and conflicts of a limited finitude. By reason of this finiteness immanent in the gods themselves they fall into contradiction with the loftiness, worth, and beauty of their existence, through which, too, they are eventually brought down to the level of mere caprice and chance. The genuine Ideal evades the complete appearance of this contradiction simply and in so far as—this is preeminently the case in true sculpture and its particular creations as we find them in temples—the divine personalities are represented as explicitly alone in the repose of blessedness, yet retain, as we have already above indicated, a certain aspect of lifelessness, somewhat aloof from all emotion, and withal that quiet characteristic of pathetic lament. It is just this mournfulness which exposes their fate by demonstrating that something of higher import stands above them, and the passage from the particularities of form to their comprehending unity is a necessary one. If, however, we fix our attention on the type and configuration of this loftier unity we shall find that it is, as contrasted with the individuality and relative determination of the gods, the essentially abstract and formless—the necessity, the fate, which under this mode of abstraction the higher can only in general terms be, and which constrains both gods and men, while remaining in itself incomprehensible and inconceivable. Fate is not as yet absolute and self-subsistent end, and thereby at the same time subjective, personal, divine purpose, but merely the one and universal Power which transcends the particularity of the different gods, and consequently is unable to be presented itself as individual entity; because otherwise it would simply appear as one among many individuals, and would stand above them. For this reason it[Pg 263] remains without form and individuality, and is in this abstraction merely necessity and nothing more; with which gods no less than men, when they differentiate themselves as separate from one another, contend. And thus they give effect to their individual power condemned though it be to limitations, and would fain exalt themselves over the bounds and warrant of Fate, though they are, in fact, its subjects, and are forced to hearken to all that unalterably befalls them.


For the reason, then, that the principle of self-determinate Necessity[197] does not appertain to the particular gods, does not supply in other words the content of their self-determination, and only floats over them as an undefined abstraction, the aspect of their insularity as individuals has consequently free play and is unable to escape from Destiny, is moreover at liberty to branch out into the external fabric of the human condition, into the finite consistency of anthropomorphism, possibilities which convert the gods into the reverse of that condition which truly constitutes the notion of what they are essentially and in virtue of their divine nature. The overthrow of these gods of beauty is consequently quite inevitably brought about for art through their own nature. The human consciousness is at last quite unable to find repose in them, and is fain compelled to take leave of them. And, moreover, if we look more closely we shall find that the mode and type of Greek anthropomorphism supplies us with a general example of how the gods vanish away from the faiths of religion no less than those of poetry.

(a) Spiritual individuality here makes its appearance in the human form, it is true, as Ideal; but for all that it is in the immediately visible, that is, the bodily presence, not within humanity in all its essential explication, under the mode in which it is conscious of itself in its own self-conscious world as distinct from God, while in the same breath it annuls the distinction, and is, by its own act, as one with God, essentially infinite and absolute self-consciousness.

[Pg 264]

(α) For this reason the plastic Ideal is unable to present itself as infinite self-conscious spirituality. These plastic shapes of beauty are not merely stone and bronze, but also the infinite form of subjective life vanishes from them in their content and expression. We may become as enthusiastic as we please over their beauty and art, but for all that our enthusiasm is and remains something native to our own souls; it is not really at home in the objects which it thus contemplates, that is in the gods themselves. To complete the true totality a real reciprocity is required on this side also of the subjective, self-knowing unity and infinity; it is this, and only this, that unfolds our conception of a living God of knowledge, and of men who thus apprehend Him. If this totality is not also essentially and with adequacy conformable to the content and nature of the Absolute, then the Absolute will itself appear not as truly a subject of spiritual being, and its presentment will confront us merely in its objective form without the possession of self-conscious Spirit. It is quite true, no doubt, that the individuality of the gods retains the content of subjectivity, but merely under modes that are contingent, and in a process of development,' which moves independently outside that substantive repose and blessedness of the gods.

(β) On the other hand, the subjectivity which is opposed to the gods of plastic art is also not the form of conscious life which is essentially eternal and true. In other words, this latter is—as we shall see for ourselves more clearly in our consideration of the third type of art, the romantic—that which has before it the objectivity to which it is conformable under the mode of an essentially infinite and self-knowing God. Inasmuch, however, as the knowing subject, at the stage we are now discussing, does not consciously conceive itself as present in the perfections of these godlike figures, nor even in its contemplation of such objects is aware of itself as circumstantially objective, it is still wholly distinct and separate from its absolute object, and is consequently a purely contingent and finite subjectivity.

(γ) We might possibly suppose that the passage into a higher sphere of reality would have been emphasized by the imagination and art as a further war among the gods, in a way analogous, in fact, to the first transition from the symbolism[Pg 265] of the gods of Nature to the spiritual Ideals of classical art. This is by no means the case. On the contrary, this translation is carried forward in a wholly different field, as a conflict brought home to consciousness between absolute reality and the present world. For this reason art, in its relation to the higher content, which it has to seize under new modes, occupies an entirely altered position. This new configuration does not assert its importance as revelation by means of Art, but is made manifest independently without it, and appears on the prosaic ground of controversial and rational discussion, and from thence is within the soul and its religious emotions, mainly by means of miracle, martyrdoms, and so on, carried into the world of subjective knowledge, together with a consciousness of the contradiction between all that is finite and the Absolute, which unfolds itself in actual history as the process of events toward a Present which is not merely imagined, but is the fact we have before us. The Divine, God Himself, becomes flesh, is born, lives, suffers, dies, and rises from the dead. This is a content which heart did not discover, but which, quite apart from it, was a present fact, and which consequently it has not borrowed from its own domain, but merely supplies a form to it. That old transition and war of the gods, on the contrary, discovered its origins in the artistic or imaginative view of the world simply, which created its wisdom and plastic shapes from its inner life, and gave to astonished mankind his new gods. For this reason the classic gods also have only received their existence through the fiat of the imagination, and merely exist as such in stone and bronze, or in the world open to the senses, not, however, in flesh and blood, or in very and actual Spirit. The anthropomorphism of the Greek gods is therefore without real human existence, that of body no less than that of Spirit. It is Christianity which first introduces us to this reality in flesh and blood as the determinate existence, life, and activity of God Himself. Consequently this bodily form, this flesh, however much also the purely natural and sensuous is recognized as a negation therein, receives its due and honour, and that which partakes of anthropomorphism here is sanctified. Even as man originally was made in the image of God, God is an[Pg 266] image of man; whoso beholdeth the Son beholdeth the Father, and whoso loveth the Son loveth the Father. In a word, God is acknowledged as present in the actual world. This new content, then, is not brought home to consciousness by means of the conceptions of art, but is presented from an exterior source as an actual occurrence, as the history of the God who became flesh. A transition such as this could not take its point of departure from Art; the contrast between the old and the new would have been too disparate. The God of revealed religion, in respect to content and form, is very God in truth, in contrast with whom all rivals would become mere creations of the imagination, whom it would be quite impossible to compare with Him on equal terms. The old and new gods of classical art, on the contrary, originate in both cases independently from the ground of the imagination. They have only such reality from the finite Spirit as enables them to be conceived and represented as potencies of Nature and Spirit; the contradiction and conflict they declare, is taken seriously. If, however, the transition from the Greek gods to the God of Christendom were portrayed in the first instance by Art, the representation of such a war of gods could not in this direct form be enforced in all seriousness.

(b) Consequently this strife and transition becomes also, in more recent times, primarily an accidental, isolated subject-matter of art, which can claim to create no true epoch, and has been able in this form to embody no fundamental phase in the line of the entire development of art. We will recall here in this connection, if incidentally, a few of the more famous examples of this nature. We frequently hear in more recent times the lament over the submergence of Greek art, and a yearning towards Greek gods and heroes is not infrequently the theme of our poets[198]. This lamentation is expressed emphatically as in direct opposition to Christendom; and though it is, no doubt, generally granted that it contains the higher truth, the qualification is added that, so far as art is concerned, the transition is only to be regretted. This is the theme of Schiller's "Gods of[Pg 267] Greece"; and it is worth our while, even in the present inquiry, to consider this poem, not merely as poetry in the beauty of its exposition, its musical rhythm, its vivid pictures, or in the charm of its regretful mood, which was the motive force in its creation, but also in order to examine the content. Schiller's pathos is always true, no less than poignant, and the result of profound reflection.

It is perfectly true that the Christian religion contains, and may justly claim to accentuate, a certain phase of art; but in the due course of its development, at the time of the Aufklärung[199], it has also reached a point where we find that thought, or rather the Understanding[200], has driven into the background that element, which art pre-eminently requires, the actual human envisagement and revelation of God. For the human form and all that it expresses and declares, human events, actions, feeling, is the form under which art is forced to conceive and represent the content of Spirit. Inasmuch as the Understanding has converted God into a mere fact of thought, no longer crediting the appearance of His Spirit in concrete reality, and thus has alienated the God of Thought from all actual existence, this type of religious Illumination has necessarily accepted conceptions and requirements which are intolerable to Art. When, however, the Understanding is raised once more from the region of these abstractions into that of Reason, the need at once asserts itself for something more concrete, and withal for that kind of concreteness which Art itself unfolds. The period of the illuminating Understanding has, no doubt, possessed an art of its own, but only of very prosaic type, as we may even find it in Schiller, whose point of departure was precisely that of such a period of criticism; later on, however, owing to his realization how little reason, imagination, and passion were satisfied by the critical Understanding, he experienced a deep longing for art, in the fullest sense of the term, and primarily for the classical art of the Greeks and their gods, and general views of the world. It is from this kind of yearning, a reaction, in short, from the mere abstractions of the mind, that the poem referred to[Pg 268] originated. According to the original draft of the poem, Schiller's attitude to Christianity is entirely polemical; afterwards he modified it considerably, no doubt realizing that its animus was only directed against the critical aspect of the Illumination, which at a later time itself began to lose its importance. In the first instance he praises the Greek point of view as fortunate in that the whole of Nature was a thing of Life to it, and full of divinities. After that he reviews the Present and its prosaic conception of natural law, and the position man here takes relatively to God:

Diese traur'ge Stille
Kündigt sie mir meinen Schöpfer an?
Finster wie er selbst ist seine Hülle,
Mein Entsagen, was ihn feiern kann[201].

No doubt resignation is an essential characteristic in the evolution of the Christian life; but it is only in the monkish conception of it that it requires he should cut off from himself his soul, his emotions, the so-called impulses of his Nature, and should not incorporate his life in the moral, rational, actual world, the family and the State; and it does so precisely as the Illumination and its Deism, which presupposes that God is unknowable, imposes on mankind the extremest form of resignation, namely, that of abandoning all effort either to know or conceive Him. In any true exposition of Christian doctrine, resignation is, on the contrary, merely a phasal moment of mediation, a point of transition, in which that which is purely natural, sensuous, and in general terms finite, strips off this its incompatible nature in order to permit Spirit to attain the loftier freedom and reconciliation of its own possessions, a freedom and blessedness which was unknown to the Greeks. In Christianity as thus understood we are not entitled to speak of the celebration of the one God, of the bare seclusion of Himself, and the cutting ourselves adrift from an ungodly world, for it is precisely in this spiritual freedom and reconciliation[Pg 269] of Spirit that God is immanent, and from this point of view the famous lines of Schiller:

Da die Göttes menschlicher noch waren,
Waren Menschen göttlicher[202].

is absolutely false. We must for this very reason emphasize the later alteration made in the concluding lines which refer thus to the Greek gods:

Aus der Zeitfluh weggerissen schweben
Sie gerettet auf des Pindus Höhn;
Was unsterblich im Gesang soll leben,
Muss im Leben untergehn[203].

These words support entirely the assertion we have made above that the Greek gods could only be localized in the mental conception and imagination; they were neither able to affirm such a position in the reality of life, nor satisfy in the long run finite spirit.

Of another sort is the opposition of Parny to Christianity—a poet named the French Tibullus on account of his successful elegies—which is conspicuous in a prolix poem of ten cantos, a kind of epic poem entitled "La Guerre des Dieux," as an attempt made to bring ridicule upon Christian conceptions in the interests of jest and comedy carried out in a tone of unrestrained frivolity, yet withal marked by good humour and considerable talent. The sallies of wit here are not, however, carried beyond the point of levity; we have few traces of the wanton disregard of things that are sacred and of the highest excellence such as marks the period of Frederick von Schlegel's "Lucinde." The Virgin Mary no doubt is treated very badly in this poem. The monks, Dominicans and Franciscans, yield to the seductions of wine and Bacchanals, and the nuns do much the same with Fauns, and the result is sufficiently shocking.[Pg 270] Finally, however, the gods of the old world are vanquished and withdraw from Olympus to Parnassus.

As a concluding illustration Goethe in his "Bride of Corinth" has more profoundly depicted in a vivacious picture the banishment of love, not so much as the result of any true principle of Christianity as the misconceived interpretation of resignation and sacrifice. The poet here contrasts that false asceticism which seeks to condemn the determination of a woman to be wife and rates that enforced celibacy as something more holy than marriage with the natural feelings of mankind. Just as we find in Schiller the opposition between the Greek imagination and the critical abstractions of our modern Enlightenment, so we may detect here the Hellenistic ethical and sensuous justifications in the matter of love and marriage, placed in direct contrast to ideas which can only claim to belong to the Christian religion when regarded from a wholly one-sided and therefore incorrect point of view. With the greatest art a really horrible tone dominates the entire work; and the principal reason is this, that it remains quite uncertain whether the action has reference to a real maiden, or a dead one, a living reality or a ghost; and in the metre of the verse itself in an equally masterly way the threads of light foolery and seriousness are so interwoven as to make the uncanniness still more effective.

(c) Before, however, we attempt to gauge in its profundity the new type of art, whose opposition to the old does not come into the course of Art's development, so far, at least, as we here have undertaken to follow it along its fundamental lines, we must in the first instance make clear for ourselves that other transition in its earliest form, which attaches to antique art itself. The principle of this transition consists in this, that the Spirit whose individuality hitherto has been contemplated as in harmony with the true subsistency of Nature and human life, and which, in respect to its own life, volition, and acts, was consciously at home in that accord, begins now to withdraw itself into the infinite subjectivity of its essence, but instead of the true infinity is only able to secure a purely formal and indeed still finite return upon itself.

If we look more closely at the concrete conditions which[Pg 271] correspond to the principle indicated, we shall see, we have already done so, that the Greek gods possess as their content the substantive materiae of real human life and action. Over and above the vision of the gods we have now the highest mode of determination, the universal interest and the end in determinate life, that is to say, presented at the same time as an existing fact. Just as it was essential to the spiritual configuration of Greek art to appear both as external and real, so, too, the spiritual growth of mankind in its absolute significance has elaborated itself in a reality that both externally appears and is real, with whose substance and universality the individual has put forward a claim to be in accordant fusion. This highest end was in Greece the life of the State, the collective body of citizens and their morality and living patriotism. Outside this supreme interest there was no other more lofty or true. The life of the State, however, as an external phenomenon of the world, fades into the Past, as do the conditions of the entire reality of the outside world. It is not difficult to demonstrate that a State under the type of such a freedom, so immediately identical with all its citizens, which as such already possess in their grasp the highest activity in all public transactions, is inevitably small and weak, and in part must prove suicidal to itself, in part fall into ruins in the natural course of the history of nations. In other words, by reason of this immediate coalescence of individual life with the universality of State-life, on the one hand we find that the peculiar idiosyncrasies of spiritual experience and its particular aspects as private life do not receive their full dues, nor do they receive sufficient opportunity for a development innocuous to society at large. Rather, as distinct from the concrete substance, into which it has not been accepted, such a nature remains simply the limited and natural egoism, which goes on its own way independently, pursues its interests however much they are alien to the true interest of the whole, and, consequently, is an instrument to the ruin of the State, against which, in the last resort, it strains to oppose its individual forces. On the other hand within the circle of this freedom itself the need of a higher personal liberty is roused, which not merely in the State, as the substantive totality, nor merely[Pg 272] in the accepted code of morals and law, but in the very soul of the man himself asserts its claim to exist, in so far as he is ready to give life to goodness and rectitude out of the wealth of his own nature and in the light of his own personal knowledge, and to recognize the same at its real worth. The individual subject demands of consciousness that it should be, in virtue of its claim as self-identity, a substantive whole. Consequently there arises in this freedom a new breach between the end of the State and that of the man's own personal welfare as essentially free himself. Such a conflict as this had already begun in the time of Socrates, while on the other side the vanity, self-seeking and unbridled character of democracy and demagogy corrupted the true State to such a degree that men like Plato and Xenophon experienced a loathing for the internal condition of their mother-city, where the direction of all public transactions lay in the hands of those who were either frivolous, or those who sought nothing but personal aims.

The spirit of this transition, therefore, depends in the first instance on the general line of severation between Spirit in its unfolded self-subsistency and external existence. The spiritual in this separation from its reality, in which it no longer finds itself reflected, is then the abstract mode of Spirit; it is not, however, the one Oriental god, but on the contrary the actual self-knowing conscious subject, which brings to the fore and retains within the clasp of its ideal subjectivity all that is universal in thought, truth, goodness, and morality, and possesses therein not so much the knowledge of a pre-existing reality as simply the content of its thoughts and convictions. This relation, in so far as it persists in this opposition, and sets up the two aspects of the same as purely opposites to one another, would be of an entirely prosaic character. We do not, however, at this stage as yet arrive at this point of bare prose. In other words it is true that on the one hand we have a consciousness present, which as self-secure, wills the Good, the fulfilment of its desires, conceives the reality of its notion in the virtue of its emotional life, much as we find it thus imaged in the ancient gods, morals, and laws. At the same time, however, this consciousness is split up in opposition to its existence as part of existing Life, in other[Pg 273] words the actual political life of the time, the dissolution of the old modes of conception, the former type of patriotism and political wisdom, and adheres thereby unquestionably to that opposition between the inward life of soul and the real environment outside it. And the reason of this hesitancy is this that the bare conceptions of genuine ethical truth which it derives from its own inner world are unable to fully satisfy it; it consequently faces that which is exterior to this, to which it relates itself in a negative and hostile spirit with the object of changing it. This consciousness is, as already stated, on the one hand no doubt an inward and present content, which, self-determined and at the same time deliberately articulate, is concerned with a world that confronts it, to which this content is opposed, and which receives the task to depict this same reality in the semblance of the very traits of the corruption peculiar to that world, and which form such a contrast with its own ideas of goodness and truth. From another point of view this very contrast is cancelled by art itself. In other words, another type of art arises, in which the conflict of this opposition is not emphasized through the medium of mere thoughts, remaining thus in its disunion; but this reality in the very folly of its corruption is itself submitted to a mode of artistic presentation, which exposes it as self-destructive, and exposes it in such a way that it is precisely in and through this self-destructive process of what is of no weight that truth is enabled to assert itself upon this mirror as the secure and endurable power, and thereby all the force of a direct opposition to what is essentially true is removed from that side represented by folly and unreasonableness. This art is comedy, of the type Aristophanes dramatized for his fellow-citizens, connecting it closely with all that was essential in the world around him, and doing so with equanimity[204], in a mood of pure and hearty joviality.


We may, however, observe that this resolution of art, despite its adequacy, tends to disappear to this extent, that the contradictory antithesis persists in the form of its opposition, and, consequently, instead of the poetic reconciliation a[Pg 274] prosaic relation is imported, by means of which the classical type of art appears to be annulled, and the gods of plastic shape no less than the entire world of human beauty vanish with it. We have, then, now to look about us for a form of art, which is able to reclothe itself from the ruins of this overthrow in a loftier configuration and to extract the real significance which it implies. We discovered as the terminating point of symbolic art in the same way that the separation of pure form from its significance was emphasized in a variety of modes such as simile, fable, parable, riddle, and the like. Inasmuch as the severation above adverted to is causally responsible for the dissolution of that art-type, in a similar way the question arises what is the nature of the distinction between our present example of transition as contrasted with the previous one. The distinction is as follows:

(a) In the truly symbolic and comparative type of art the form and significance are from the very first, despite the affinity of their relationship, alien to one another; they are placed, however, in no mere negative, but rather in amicable relationship; for it is precisely the qualities and traits which are identical to or resemble each other on the two sides which assert themselves as the causal basis of their conjunction and comparison. Their persistent separation and hostility is consequently within the bounds of this union neither, relatively to the separated aspects, of a hostile character, nor is a blending of the same, within essentially narrow limits, thereby removed from them. The Ideal of classical art, on the contrary, proceeds from the perfect interfusion of significance and form, the ideal individuality of spirit and its external conformation; and when the composite aspects which have been brought together in such a consummated unity are disrupted, this disruption takes place simply because they are unable any longer to cohere one with the other, and are absolutely compelled to start forth from their peaceful state of harmony in disunion and hostility.

(b) Together with this way of looking at the relation in contrast to that of symbolic art we may add that the content of both sides is altered, as they now stand in opposition. To put it thus we may say that, in the symbolic type of art,[Pg 275] it is abstractions more or less, general thoughts, or at least definite phrases in the form of generalities peculiar to reflective thought, which, by means of the symbolic type of art, receive a sensuous embodiment replete with suggestion. In the form, however, which makes itself predominant in this transition to romantic art the content, it is true, is made up of a similar abstraction of general thoughts, opinions, and maxims of reflective reason, but in this case it is not these abstractions in themselves, but rather their presence in the individual's mind and his self-subsistent identity which furnish the content for one side of the opposition. For the primary requirement of this mediating stage consists in this, that the spiritual which has attained the Ideal, shall stand forth in its entire independence. Already in classical art we found that spiritual individuality was of chief importance, albeit on the side of its realization it remained reconciled with a determinate existence as immediately presented. What is of importance now is to declare a mode of subjectivity which strives to acquire the mastery over the form that is no longer adequate to it, in a word, over external reality. In this way the world of Spirit becomes liberated as independent. It recovers itself from bondage to the sensuous material and manifests itself thereby through this return upon its own resources as the subject of a self-consciousness which only finds contentment in the secret wealth of its own domain. This subject, however, which repels externality from itself, is not in respect to its ideal aspect yet the truly concrete totality which encloses as content the Absolute under the mode of self-conscious spiritual life; rather it is, as still fettered by its opposition to reality, a purely abstract, finite, and unsatisfied form of subjectivity. In opposition to this we have confronting it an equally finite mode of reality, which on its part is also independent, but just for that very reason—forasmuch, that is, as the truth of Spirit has withdrawn from it into its own ideality and henceforward neither will nor can identity itself with it, appears as a reality void of all gods and an existence fallen into rottenness. In this manner and at this point art brings forward a Spirit that thinks, that is, to repeat our former analysis, the individual consciousness of our humanity, which, supporting itself on its own possession of the abstract[Pg 276] knowledge and volition of goodness and virtue, confronts with hostility therewith the corruption of its present environment. That aspect of this opposition which remains unresolved, and in which the ideal and external modes of its antithesis persist in their disruption, constitutes the element of prose in the mutual relation of the two sides. A noble mind or a virtuous soul to whom the realization of self-conscious life is denied in a world of vice and folly, turns away from the existence which thus confronts him with passionate indignation, or more subtle wit and more frosty bitterness, and either is wroth with or scorns a world which gives the lie direct to his abstract notions of virtue and truth.

The type of art which accepts this sudden outburst of opposition between a subjectivity still finite in its mode and a degenerate world outside it as its matter is the Satire, the ordinary theories as to which have little to commend them, for the simple reason that they break down precisely where we look for their assistance. Satire has nothing to do with epic poetry, and it has just as little affinity with lyric. In the Satire it is not the life of the emotional nature which is expressed; rather the general conception of goodness and what is essentially needful, which it no doubt blends with the particular aspect of soul-life[205], appears as the virtuousness of this or that individual; but this does not suffer itself to be enjoyed in the open and unhampered beauty of imaginative conception or let that enjoyment issue freely. Rather with discontent it retains the existing discord between the writer's own state of mind and its abstract principles and the empirical reality which mocks them. To this extent satire is neither a genuine creation of the poet nor a real work of art. For these reasons the point of view of the satirical poem can never be reached satisfactorily through those other types of poetry just mentioned; it must be apprehended in a more general way as the example of this very transitional form we referred to from the classic Ideal.

(c) Inasmuch, then, as it is, relatively to its ideal content, the prosaic resolution of the Ideal, which asserts itself mainly[Pg 277] in satire, we do not find that Greece, which is pre-eminently the native land of Beauty, is the place where we must look for it. Satirical poems of the nature above described are the characteristic possession of Rome. The spirit of the Roman world is the sovereignty of the abstract Ideal, the law that is dead, the shipwreck of beauty and of the joyousness of civic life, the suppression of the family in the sense that it is the immediate and most natural form of morality, and generally the sacrifice of individuality, which surrenders itself wholly to the State, and in obedience to the abstract law is satisfied with the frost-like sense of political worth and critical satisfaction which it supplies. The principle of this civic virtue, the cold-blooded harshness of which subjects to its pleasure all alien peoples, while the formal rectitude of the personal life is elaborated to the furthest point of consistency on equally rigid lines, is wholly inconsonant with genuine art. We find, therefore, even in Rome no art that is at once conspicuous in its beauty, freedom, and greatness. It is from the Greeks that the Romans borrowed all that they mastered whether in sculpture or painting, epic, lyric, or dramatic poetry. It is a remarkable fact that all that we can point to as the native product of Latin art is comic farces, whereas the more cultivated types of comedy, not excluding those of Plautus and Terence, are borrowed from Greece, and are rather an affair of imitation than independent production. Even Ennius first exhausted the sources of Greek poetry before he made mythology prosaic. That type of art is alone native to the Latin genius, which was essentially itself prosaic, the didactic poem, for example, more particularly when it contains an ethical content, and endows its general reflections with the purely exterior adornment of metre, images, similes, and a rhetorically beautiful diction. But above all other forms thus excepted we place the satire. Here we find it is the mood of virtuous exasperation over the surrounding world which strives to air itself in what is, in some measure, hollow declamations. We can only call this essentially prosaic type of art poetical in so far as it brings before the vision the corrupted nature of real life in such a way that this corruption practically falls to pieces as the result of its own folly. Just as Horace, who as a lyric poet entirely identified himself by study with the artistic type and[Pg 278] manner of Greece, in his epistles and satires—where we have his originality more emphasized—traces for us a living picture of the morals of his age, by depicting follies which are self-destructive by virtue of the stupidity, that carries them into effect. Nevertheless, even this example only presents us with a kind of merriment that for all its keen and educated sense can barely be classed as poetry, the object in the main being to make ridicule out of that which is bad. Among others, on the contrary, we find that the abstract conception of rectitude and virtue is deliberately contrasted with vice; and in this case it is exasperation, anger, hate, and scorn, which in some measure expatiate in formal eloquence over virtue and wisdom, and in part give full rein to the indignation of a soul of more nobility against the dissolution and servility of the times, or hold up before the vices of the day the mirror of the old morality, the former liberty, the virtues of a state of the world which has passed away, without any genuine hope and belief in their recovery; or rather one which has nothing to oppose to the tottering gait, the dilemmas, the need and danger of an ignominious present, save a stoical equanimity and the unshakable conscience of a virtuous soul. Roman history and philosophy not unfrequently receive something of the same tone from a mood of this kind. Sallust must needs express himself strongly against the corruptions of morals, being himself very considerably affected by them. Livy, despite his rhetorical elegance, seeks for comfort and satisfaction in his picture of the good old days. Above all we have Tacitus, who, with a severe melancholy as grand in its scope as it was profound, without the baldness of declamation, indignantly exposes in the clearest relief the evils of his time. Among the satirists Persius is remarkable for his acerbity, with a bitter edge more keen than that of Juvenal. Later on we find bringing up the rear the Greek Syrian Lucian giving free vent to his witticisms and pleasantry against all things, whether heroes, philosophers, or gods; and with exceptional prominence passing in review the ancient gods of Greece on the score of their humanity and individuality. However, only too often he goes no further in his tittle-tattle than the mere external aspect of these godlike figures and their actions, and is for that reason wearisome to modern readers.[Pg 279] For, on the one hand, so far as our convictions are concerned, we have already disposed of all that he would destroy, and on the other we are aware that, despite all his jests and mockery, these characteristic traits of Greek divinities, when contemplated under the aspect of beauty, still retain their eternal significance.

Nowadays satirical poems are not likely to prove a success. Cotta and Goethe have proposed competitions in this form of composition, but no poems of note are forthcoming. Certain fixed principles are bound up with it, with which the present age is not in harmony; a wisdom which is devoid of content, a virtue which adheres with inflexible obstinacy to its own resources and nothing beyond, may very possibly contrast itself with the actual world, but is quite unable to bring about the truly poetical resolution of what is false and repugnant, and effect the genuine reconciliation in the truth.

In one word, Art is unable to persist in this breach between the abstract conceptions of the inward life and the objective world around, without proving itself false to its own principle. The subjective realm of the soul must be conceived as that which is itself an essentially infinite and independent existence, which, albeit it is unable to suffer the finite reality to subsist as Truth itself, nevertheless does not merely assert itself negatively toward the same in a bare contradiction, but proceeds all the while on the path of reconciliation, and for the first time, in its opposition to the ideal individualities of the classical art-form, declares this very activity, being in fact the presentment of the absolute mode of self-conscious life.

[197] Lit. "the essentially-and-for-itself-necessary."

[198] Hölderlin, and of course Goethe no less than Schiller, would be included. With our moderns such as Swinburne the admission is less obvious than the qualification.

[199] Die Aufklärung. That is, the end of the eighteenth century; usually translated as illumination or enlightenment.

[200] Verstand, the faculty of science and common sense.


What! doth this same stillness tell me sadly
All I know of Him who voiced creation?
Dark as e'en the veil that hides Him from me
Is my heart's salute of resignation.


Since the gods were then more human
Men were more in image godlike.


Wrested from the flood of Time's abysses
Saved they float above high Pindus now;
All that was immortal life within them
Lives in song, all other life must go.

[204] Zornlos lit., without anger.

[205] I think this is the meaning of the words mit subjectiver Besonderheit, but the interpretation "with other material peculiar to the writer" is not impossible.

[Pg 280]
[Pg 281]




The type of romantic art receives its definition, as we have hitherto throughout the present inquiry seen was always the case, from the ideal notion of the content, which it is the function of art to declare. We must consequently in the first place attempt to elucidate the distinctive principle of the new content, a content which now, in its significance as the absolute content of truth, opens up to our minds a new vision of the world no less than a novel configuration of art.

In the first stage of our inquiry, the entrance chamber of art, the impulse of imagination consisted in the struggle from Nature to spiritual expression. In this strain Spirit never reached beyond what was still only an effort to find, an effort which, in so far as it was not yet able to supply a genuine content for art, could only maintain its position as an external embodiment of the significant aspects of Nature, or those abstractions of the ideal inwardness of substance which were destitute of a subjective character in the strict sense, and in which this type of art found its real centre. The reverse of this point of view we discovered in classical art. Here it is spirituality—albeit it is only by virtue of the abrogation of the significances of Nature that it is enabled to struggle forth in its independent self-identity—which is the basis and principle of the content, with the natural phenomenon in the bodily or sensuous material for its external form. This embodiment, however, did not, as was the case in the first stage, remain superficial, indefinite, and unsuffused[Pg 282] by its content; but the perfection of art attained its culminating point by precisely this means, namely, that Spirit completely transpierced its exterior appearance, idealized the shell of Nature in this union of beauty, and drew round itself a reality adequate to its own nature as mind under the mode of substantive individuality. By this means classical art was a presentation of the Ideal which completely satisfied its notion, the consummation of the realm of beauty. More beautiful art than this can neither exist now nor hereafter.

But for all that we may have an art that is more lofty in its aim than this lovely revelation of Spirit in its immediate sensuous form, if at the same time one that is created by the mind as adequate to its own nature. For this coalition, which perfects itself in the medium of what is external, and thereby makes sensible reality its adequate and determinate existence, necessarily runs counter to the true notion of Spirit, and drives it forth from its reconciliation in the bodily shape upon its own essential substance to seek further reconciliation in that alone. The simple and unriven totality of the Ideal is dissolved, and breaks up into one of twofold aspect, namely, that of the essentially subjective life and its exterior semblance, in order to enable mind, by means of this severation, to win the profounder reconciliation in its own most proper element. In one word, Spirit, which has for its principle the mode of entire self-sufficiency, the union of its notion with its reality—is only able to discover an existence that wholly corresponds to such a principle in its own spiritual world of emotion, soul, that is to say, in the inward life where it feels at home. The human spirit becomes aware that it must possess its Other, its existence, as Spirit, which it appropriates as its own and what it verily is, and by doing so at length enjoys its own infinity and freedom.

1. This elevation of Spirit to its own substance, through which it attains its objectivity—which it would otherwise be obliged to seek for in the external environment of its existence within its own self and in this union with itself both feels and knows itself—is what constitutes the fundamental principle of romantic art. With this truth we may join as a corollary thereto that for this concluding stage the beauty of the classic Ideal, or in other words beauty in its most uniquely consonant form and its most conformable content, is no longer regarded as ultimate. For in arriving at the[Pg 283] point of romantic art, Spirit[206] becomes aware that its truth is not fully attained by a self-absorption in the material of sense. On the contrary, it only comes fully to the knowledge of that truth by withdrawing itself out of that medium into the inward being of its own substance, whereby it deliberately affirms the inadequacy of external reality as a mode of its existence. It is owing to this that when this new content is set the essential task of making itself an object of beauty, the beauty, in the meaning of the terms under which we have met with it before, only persists as a subordinate mode, and the new conception of it becomes the spiritual beauty of what is its own ideality made fully explicit, in other words, the subjectivity of Spirit essentially infinite in its mode.

In order, however, that mind may attain the infinity which belongs to it it must transcend at the same time purely formal and finite personality and rise into the measure of the Absolute. That is to say, Spirit must declare itself as fulfilled with that which is out and out substantive, and in doing so proclaim itself as a self-knowing and self-willing subject. Conversely, therefore, what is substantive and true is no longer to be apprehended as a mere "beyond" relatively to our humanity, and the anthropomorphism of the Greek view of things can be struck out; and in the place of this we have humanity as very and real subjectivity affirmed as the principle, and by virtue of this change, as we have already seen, anthropomorphism for the first time reflects a truth of complete and final validity.

2. We have now in a general way to develop the range of subject-matter, no less than its form, from the earliest phases in the evolution of this principle, whose configuration, as it thus changes, is conditioned by the new content of romantic art.

The true principle of the romantic content is absolute inwardness[207], and the form which corresponds to it, the subjectivity of mind, meaning by this the comprehension of its self-subsistence and freedom. This intrinsically infinite principle and explicitly enunciated universal is the absolute negation of all particularity[208]; it is simple unity at home with[Pg 284] itself, which consumes all that is separable, all processes of Nature and its succession of birth, passing away, and reappearance, all the limitations of spiritual existence, and dissolves all particular gods in its pure and infinite self-identity. In this Pantheon all gods are dethroned; the flame of the subjective essence has destroyed them; instead of the plastic polytheism art recognizes now one God only, one Spirit, one absolute self-subsistence, which as the absolute knowledge and volition of itself remains in free union with it, and no longer falls to pieces in the particular characters and functions we have reviewed above, whose single unit of cohesion was the force of an obscure Necessity. Absolute subjectivity, however, in its purity would escape from art altogether, and only be present in the apprehension of Thought, unless it could enter into external existence in order that it might be a subjectivity which was actual if also conformable to its notion, and further could recollect itself in its own province from out of this reality. And, what is more, this moment of reality is pertinent to the Absolute, because the Absolute, as infinite negativity, contains this self-relation—as simple unity of knowledge at home with itself, and therewith as immediacy—for the final consummation of its activity. On account also of this its immediate existence, which is rooted in the Absolute itself, the Absolute declares itself not as the one jealous God, who merely annuls the aspect of Nature and finite human existence, without revealing itself verily therein under the mode of actual divine subjectivity; rather the very Absolute unfolds itself, and takes to itself an aspect, relatively to which it is also within the grasp and presentation of art.

The determinate existence of God, however, is not the natural and sensuous in its simplicity, but the sensuous as brought home to that which is not sensuous, in other words to the subjectivity of mind which, instead of losing the certainty of its own presence as the Absolute, in its external envisagement, for the first time, and by no other means than this its reality, is made aware of its actual presence as such. God in His Truth is consequently no mere Ideal begotten of the imagination, but He declares Himself in the heart of finite condition and the external mode of contingent existence, and is, moreover, made known to Himself therein as divine subjective life, which maintains itself there[Pg 285] as essentially infinite and creating this infinity for itself. Inasmuch, then, as the actual subject[209] is the manifestation of God, Art for the first time secures the superior right to apply the human figure and its mode of externality generally as a means to express the Absolute, although the new function of art can only consist in making the external form not a means whereby the ideality of man's inward condition is absorbed in exterior bodily shape, but rather conversely to make the consciousness of the Divine mind visible in the subject of consciousness. The distinguishable phases, which combine to make up the totality of this apprehension of the world-condition as, that is to say, the concrete totality of truth, are consequently made manifest to mankind from this point onwards under such a mode that it is neither the Natural in its simplicity, such as sun, heavens, stars, and so forth, nor the Greek conclave of the gods of beauty, nor the heroes and practical exploits in the field of the family cultus and political life—it is neither one nor any of these which supplies us with either content or form. Rather it is the actual and isolated individual subject who receives in the inward[210] substance of his living experience this infinite worth, for it is in him alone that the eternal characters of absolute Truth—which is made actual only as Spirit—expand out of their fulness within, and are concentrated to the point of determinate existence.

If we contrast this definition of romantic art with that which was proposed to the classical—that is to say, as Greek sculpture completed the latter under the mode most conformable to it—it is obvious that the plastic figure of the god does not express the motion and activity of Spirit, in so far as the same has retired from its actual bodily shape, and has penetrated to the inner shrine of independent self-identity. That which is mutable and contingent in the empirical aspect of individuality is no doubt removed from those lofty, godlike figures: what, however, fails them is the actualization of the subjective condition in its self-subsistent being as shown in self-knowledge and self-volition. This defect makes itself felt on the exterior side in the notable fact that the direct expression of soul in its simplicity, the light of the eye, is absent from the sculptured[Pg 286] figure. The most exalted works of beautiful sculpture are sightless. The inward life does not look forth from them as self-conscious inwardness such as this concentration of Spirit to the point of light made visible in the human eye offers us. This light of the soul falls outside of them, and is the possession of the beholder alone: he is unable to look through these figures as soul direct to soul, and eye to eye. The God of romantic art, however, is made known with sight, that is, self-knowing, subjective on the side of soul, and that soul or divine intimacy disclosing itself to soul. For the infinite negativity, the withdrawal of the spiritual into itself, cancels its discharge in the bodily frame. This subjectivity is the light of Spirit, which reveals itself in its own domain, in the place which was previously obscure, whereas the natural light can only give light on the face of an object, is in fact this terrain and object, upon which it appears, and which it is aware of as itself[211]. Inasmuch as, however, this absolute intimacy of the soul expresses itself at the same time as the mode of human envisagement in its actual existing shape, and our humanity is bound up with the entire natural world, we shall find that there is no less a wide field of variety in the contents of the subjective world of mind than there is in that external appearance, to which Spirit is related as to its own dwelling-place.

The reality of absolute subjectivity, as above described, in the mode of its visible manifestation, possesses the following modes of content and appearance.

(a) Our first point of departure we must deduce from the Absolute itself, which as very and actual mind endows itself with determinate existence, is self-knowing in its thought and activity. Here we find the human form so represented that it is known immediately as the wholly self-possessed Divine. Man does not appear as man in his solely human character, in the constraint of his passions, finite aims, and achievements, or as merely conscious of God, but rather as the self-knowing one and only universal God Himself, in whose life and sufferings, birth, death, and resurrection He reveals openly also to finite consciousness, what Spirit, what the Eternal and Infinite in their veritable truth are[212]. Romantic[Pg 287] art presents this content in the history of Christ, his mother, and his disciples, with all the rest of those in whom the Holy Spirit and the perfected Divine is manifested. For in so far as God, who is above all the essential Universal, exists in the manifestation of human existence, this reality is not, in the Divine figure of Christ, limited to isolate and immediate existence, but unfolds itself throughout the entire range of that humanity, in which the Spirit of God is made present, and in this actuality continues in unity with itself. The diffusion of this self-contemplation, this essential self-possession of mind[213], is peace, in other words the reconciled state of Spirit with its own dominion in the mode of its objective presence—a divine world, a kingdom of God, in which the Divine, which has for its substantive notion from the first reconciliation with itself, consummates this result in such a condition, and thereby secures its freedom.

(b) However much, we must fain add, this identification asserts itself as grounded in the essence of the Absolute itself, as spiritual freedom and infinity it is no reconciliation which immediately is visible from the first in either the real worlds of Nature or Spirit; on the contrary, it is only accomplished as the elevation of Spirit from the finitude of its immediate existence to its truth. As a corollary of this it follows that Spirit, in order to secure its totality and freedom, must effect an act of self-severation, and set up on the one side itself as the finitude of Nature and Spirit to its opposed self on the other as that which is essentially infinite. Conversely with this act of disruption the necessity is conjoined that from out of this retirement from its unity—within the bounds of which the finite and purely natural, the immediacy of existence, the "natural" heart in the sense of the negative, evil and bad, one and all are defined—a way is at last found by virtue of the subjugation of all that has no substantive worth within the kingdom of truth and consolation. In this wise the reconcilement of Spirit can only be conceived as an activity, a movement of the same, can only be presented as a process, in whose course arise[Pg 288] both strain and conflict, and the appearance and reappearance, as an essential feature of it, of pain, death, the mournful sense of non-reality, the agony of the soul and its bodily tenement. For just as God in the first instance disparts finite reality from Himself, so, too, finite man, who starts on his journey outside the divine kingdom, receives the task to exalt himself to God, to let loose from him the finite, to do away with the nothing-worth, and by means of this decease of his immediate reality to become that which God in His manifestation as man accomplished as very truth in the actual world. The infinite pain of this sacrifice of the most personal subjectivity, sufferings, and death, which for the most part were excluded from the representation of classical art, or rather only are presented there as natural suffering, receive their adequate treatment necessarily for the first time in romantic art. It is, for example, impossible to affirm that among the Greeks death was ever conceived in its full and essential significance. Neither that which was purely natural, nor the immediacy of Spirit in its union with the bodily presence, was held by the Greeks as something in itself essentially negative. Death was consequently to them purely an abstract passing over, unaccompanied by horror or fearsomeness, a cessation without further immeasurable consequences for the deceased. If, however, conscious life in its spiritual self-possession is of infinite worth then the negation, which death enfolds, is a negation of this exaltation and worth, and it is consequently fearful, a death of the soul, which is in the position of finding itself thereby as itself now this negative in explicit appearance, excluded for evermore from happiness, absolutely unhappy, delivered over to eternal damnation[214]. Greek individuality, on the contrary, does not, regarded as spiritual self-consciousness, attach this worth to itself; it is able, consequently, to surround death with more cheerful images. Man only fears the[Pg 289] loss of that which is of great worth to him[215]. Life possesses, however, only this infinite worth for mind if the subject thereof, as spiritual and self-conscious, is reality in its absolute unity, and is compelled with an apprehension, in this way justified, to image itself as doomed to negation by death. From another point of view, however, death also fails to secure from classical art the positive significance which it receives from romantic art. The Greeks never treated with real seriousness what we understand by immortality. It was only in later times that the doctrine of immortality received at the hands of Socrates a profounder significance for the introspective reflection of human intelligence. When, for example, Odysseus[216] praises the happiness of Achilles in the lower world as one excelling that of all others who were before or came after him on the ground that he, once revered as a god, is now greatest chief among the dead, Achilles in the well-known words rates this fortune at a very low rank indeed, and makes answer that Odysseus had better utter no word of comfort to him on the score of death; nay, he would rather be a mere serf of the soil, and poor enough serve a poor man for wage, than rule as lord over all the ghosts of the dead who have vanished to Hades. In romantic art, on the contrary, death is merely a decease of the natural soul and finite consciousness, a decease, which only proclaims itself as negative as against that which is itself essentially negative and abolishes what has no real substance, and is consequently the deliverance of Spirit[Pg 290] from its finitude and division, mediating at the same time the spiritual reconciliation of the individual subject with the Absolute[217]. Among the Greeks life in its union with the existence of Nature and the external world was the only life about which you could affirm anything, and death was consequently pure negation, the dissolution of immediate reality. In the romantic view of the world, however, death receives the significance due to its negativity, in other words the negation of the negative[218], and returns back to us thereby equally as the affirmative, as the resurrection of Spirit from the bare husk of Nature and the finiteness which it has outgrown. The pain and death of the extinguished light of individual being awakes again in its return upon itself in fruition, blessedness, and in short that reconciled existence which Spirit is unable to attain to save through the dying of its negative state, in which it is shut off from its most veritable truth and life. This fundamental principle does not therefore merely affect the fact of death as it approaches man in his relation to the world of Nature, but it is bound up with a process, which Spirit has to sustain in itself, quite independently of this external aspect of negation, if life and truth are to join hands.

(c) The third presentment of this absolute world of Spirit is co-ordinated by man, in so far as he neither makes manifest the Absolute and Divine in its immediate and essential mode as such Divine, nor declares positively the process in which he is exalted to the Supreme Being, and reconciled with Him, but rather continues within the ordinary sphere of his human life. Here it is the purely finite aspect of that existence which constitutes the content, whether we regard it in the light of its spiritual purposes, its worldly interests, passions, collisions, suffering, and enjoyments, or from that point of view which is wholly external, that of Nature, its kingdom, and all its detailed phenomena. In order to[Pg 291] apprehend this content with adequacy, however, we must take up two distinct positions relatively to it. In other words, it is true that Spirit, for the reason that it has secured the principle of self-affirmation, expatiates in this province, as one on which it has a just claim, and one which, as native to it, provides satisfaction, an element from which it merely extracts this positive character[219], and is permitted thereby itself to be reflected in its positive satisfaction and intimacy; yet, on the other hand, we have the fact that this content is brought down to the level of pure contingency, a contingency which is unable to claim any independent validity, for the reason that mind cannot discover therein it veritable existence, and consequently only preserves its substantial unity by independently on its own account breaking up again this finite aspect of Spirit and Nature as a thing of finitude and negation.

3. In conclusion, then, so far as the relation of this content in its entirety to its mode of presentation is concerned, it would appear, in the first place, agreeably to what we have above stated, that the content of romantic art, relatively to the Divine, at any rate, is very limited.

(a) For, first, as we have already indicated, Nature is divested of the Divine principle; in other words, the sea and mountains, valleys, Time, and Night, briefly all the general processes of Nature, have here lost the worth which they carry when related to the presentation and content of the Absolute. The images of Nature receive no further expansion in a symbolic significance. The thesis that their shapes and activities might possibly sustain traits of Divine import is taken away from them. For all the mighty questions in regard to the origin of the world, in regard to the Whence, Wherefore, and Whither, of created Nature and humanity, and all the symbolical and plastic experiments in the resolution and exposition of these problems disappear at once in the revelation of God in Spirit; and we may add that also in the spiritual sphere the world of variety and colour, with the characters, actions, and events, as they were envisaged by classical art, are now concentrated in one single light-focus of the Absolute and its eternal[Pg 292] history of redemption. The whole content meets, therefore, at this single point of the Inmost of Spirit[220]—that is, of feeling, imagination, soul—all that strains after a union with truth, that seeks and wrestles to bring to birth the Divine in consciousness, and to maintain it; and, furthermore, is constrained to execute the world's aims and undertakings, not so much for the world's sake as to further the unique and essential undertaking of its heart by means of the spiritual conflict of man's inward nature and his reconciliation with God, presenting personality and its conservation no less than all that paves the way to them for this object, and this alone. The heroism, which makes its appearance as the result of such aspirations, is not the kind of heroism which prescribes laws by its own fiat, establishes new systems, creates and informs circumstances, but rather a heroism of submission, which accepts everything as predetermined and ordered above it, and whose energies are now wholly restricted to the task of regulating temporal events in line with such direction, and making that which is in keeping with the higher order and of independent stability a valid factor in the world as if is and in the Time-process. For the reason, however, that this absolute content appears as concentrated to a focus in the inward life of the soul, and the entire process is imported into the life of mankind, the range of this content is thereby also infinitely extended. It expands, in fact, to a manifold variety practically without limit. For although every objective history supplies what is substantive in that self-concrete soul-life, yet for all that the subject of the same reviews it in all its aspects, presents isolated features taken from it, or unfolds it as it appears in continually novel human traits by way of addition, and may very well into the bargain both import the entire expanse of Nature, as environment and locale of Spirit, and divert them to the one single object referred to. By this means the history of soul-life is infinitely rich, and can adapt its form to ever shifting conditions and situations in every possible way. And, further, if the individual at last steps forth from this absolute sphere and actively engages in worldly affairs, the range of interests, objects, and emotions will be difficult to count on the score[Pg 293] in proportion as the spiritual self-possession is profound, agreeably to the principle in its fullest application; man is consequently distracted by an infinitely multiplied profusion of interior and exterior collisions, revolutions, and gradations of passion, and the most manifold degrees of satisfaction. The Absolute in its unqualified and essential universality, in so far, that is, as it is unfolded in the conscious life of the human soul, constitutes the spiritual content of romantic art; and for this reason his collective humanity, no less than its entire evolution, becomes its inexhaustible material.

(b) Romantic art does not, however, as art educe this content in the way we found was the case for the most part in symbolic art, and, above all, in the classical type and its ideal gods. Romantic art, as we have seen already, is not, in its specific capacity, the instructive revelation, which, merely in the form of art, makes the content of truth visible to the senses. The content is already present in the conceptive mind, and the emotions independently and outside the sphere of art. Religion, as the consciousness of truth in its universality, is here an essential premiss of art to a degree totally different from what it was in the previous cases; and, even if we look at the position in its wholly exterior aspect for the consciousness that is actual in the reality of the material world, it lies before us as the prosaic fact of the very present. That is to say, inasmuch as the content of revelation to mind is the eternal absolute nature of mind[221] itself, which breaks itself loose from Nature in its bareness and subordinates the same, its manifestation in the immediacy of present life is such that the external material, in so far as it consists and is existent, only continues as a contingent world, out of which the Absolute recollects itself in the secret wealth of Spirit, and only by such means attains independence and truth. The external show receives thus the imprimatur of an indifferent medium, in which Spirit can repose no ultimate trust, and in which it can find no dwelling-place. The more it conceives the conformation of external reality as unworthy of its fulness the less it becomes able to seek consolation therein, or to discover its task of self-reconcilement consummated by a union therewith.

[Pg 294]

(c) The manner in which, therefore, romantic art gives to itself a real embodiment agreeably to the spirit of the principle above indicated, and on the side of its external appearance, is not one which essentially overleaps the ordinary presentment of reality: it is by no means averse to accept as cover for itself real existence in its finite defects and definition. That beauty therefore disappears from it, which tended to raise the outside envisagement above the soilure of Time, and the traces that unite it with a Past, in order to declare the beauty of existence in its blossom in the room of what had otherwise been a dismantled image. Romantic art has no longer for its aim the freedom and life of existence in its infinite tranquillity and absorption of the soul in the bodily presence; no more a life such as this arrests it. It turns its back on this pinnacle of beauty. It interweaves the threads of its soul experience with the contingent material of Nature's workshop, and gives unfettered play to the emphatic features of ugliness itself. We have, in short, two worlds included in the Romantic, a spiritual realm essentially complete in itself, the soul-kingdom, which finds reconciliation in its own sphere, and therewith the otherwise straightforward repetition of birth, death, and resurrection now for the first time perfected in the true circular orbit, doubled back in the return upon itself, the genuine Phoenix life of Spirit. On the other hand, there is the realm of external Nature simply as such, which, released as it is from its secure association and union with Spirit, becomes now a completely empirical reality, concerning the form of which the soul cares little or nothing. In classical art Spirit controlled the empirical phenomenon and transpierced it through and through, because it was the very thing which it had to accept as its completed reality. But now the ideal kingdom is indifferent to the mode of configuration in the world of immediate sense, because this immediacy is beneath the sphere of the blessedness of essential soul-life. The external phenomenon is no longer able to express this inward life; and if any call is made upon it for this purpose, it merely is utilized to make plain that the external show is an existence which does not satisfy, and is forced to point back by suggestion to the spiritual content, the soul and its emotions, as the truly essential medium. Precisely for[Pg 295] the same reason romantic art suffers externality on its own part to go on its way freely; and in this respect permits all and every material, flowers, trees, and so on, down to the most ordinary domestic utensils, to appear in its productions just as they are, and as the chance of natural circumstance may arrange them. Such a content as this, however, carries at the same time with it the result, that as purely exterior matter, its worth is of no validity and insignificant; it only receives its genuine worth when the soul has made itself a home in it, and it is taken to express not merely the ideal, but spiritual inwardness[222] itself, which, instead of blending itself with the exterior thing, appears simply to have attained its own reconciliation with itself. The ideality thus brought home to a point is that mode of expression which is without externality, invisibly declaring itself, and only itself, in other words, a tone of music simply, which is neither an object nor possesses form, a wavelet over waters[223], a ringing sound over a world, which, in sounds such as this, and the varied phenomena which are united with it, can only receive and reflect one reverberation of this self-absorption of the soul.

To sum up, then, in a word, this relation of content and form in the romantic type, where it remains true to its distinctive character, we may affirm that the fundamental note of the same, for this very reason that its principle constitutes an ever expanding universality and the restlessly active depths of heart and mind, is that of music, and when combined with the definite content of imagination, lyrical. This lyrical aspect is likewise the primary characteristic of romantic art, a tone which gives the key-note also to the epic poem and drama, and which is wafted as a breath of soul even around the works of the plastic arts, since here, too, spirit and soul are desirous of speaking by means of the plastic shape to soul and mind.

As regards the division of our subject, which we must now in conclusion determine for the examination of this our third extensive domain of artistic production on the lines of its development, we shall find that the basic notion of the romantic relatively to its substantive and progressive[Pg 296] articulation is comprised most conveniently in three branches of division we may define as follows.

The first sphere is the province of religion strictly, in which the redemption history, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ constitute the central interest. The principle which is emphasized as all-important here is that self-involution which mind accomplishes by negating its immediacy and finitude, overcoming the same, and by means of this liberation secures its own self-possessed infinity and absolute self-subsistence in its own kingdom.

This self-subsistence passes, then, in the second place from the Divine dwelling of essential Spirit, surrenders its pure exaltation of finite man to God, in order to enter the temporal world. Here it is, in the first instance, the subject of consciousness simply, which has become self-affirmative, and which possesses as the substantive material of its content, no less than as the interest of its existence, the virtues of this positive subjectivity, such as honour, love, fidelity, and bravery, the aims and obligations, in short, of romantic chivalry.

The content and form of the third chapter may be generally indicated as the formal consistency of character. In other words, if the subjective life has been so far concentrated, that spiritual independence is its essential characteristic, it follows also that the particular content, with which such independence is associated as with what is strictly its own, will also partake of such a character; this self-subsistence, however, inasmuch as it does not, as was the case in the sphere appertinent to essential and explicit religious truth, repose in the substantive core of its life, is only able to reach a formal type. Conversely the configuration of external conditions, situations, and events is now also independently free, and is involved consequently in every sort of capricious adventure. For this reason we find, to put it in general terms, as the termination of the romantic, the contingency of the exterior condition and internal life, and a falling asunder of the two aspects, by reason of which Art commits an act of suicide, and betrays the fact that conscious life must now secure forms of loftier significance, than Art alone is able to offer, in which to grasp and retain truth.

[206] Throughout, of course, the German word translated in these paragraphs as mind or spirit is Geist.

[207] Absolute ideality may perhaps interpret the text more intelligibly.

[208] It is so because as self-identity it distinguishes itself from everything to which it is related.

[209] Das wirkliche Subjekt, Hegel means, of course, individual man.

[210] "Most intimate" would perhaps express the meaning more clearly.

[211] Hegel here gives expression to what is perhaps not wholly defensible logic, though it may be truly poetic mysticism.

[212] I would refer any reader who is inclined to gasp at this interpretation of Christian revelation to some useful remarks of Professor Bosanquet in his Preface to his translation, p. XXVIII.

[213] Die Ausbreitung dieses Selbstanschauens, In-sich-und-Bei-sich-seyns des Geistes ist der Frieden. One of Hegel's terrors for the translator, though the sense is obvious enough.

[214] The analysis no doubt has its interest. But among other difficulties it is not easy to see how the argument, based as it is on rational grounds, makes for anything but annihilation. Death is a negation—it, according to the argument, puts an end to the "process"—what remains then is apparently the evanescence of the finite spirit. This reference to "happiness" assumes that conscious individual life continues, which is a mere pelitio principii. If it continues the former dual aspect would seem to be implied in it. The analysis of the actual significance of death for Christendom and Greek paganism retains, of course, its validity.

[215] But surely in a sense personal life, if only limited to Earth's existence, may be, I do not say necessarily is, all the more valuable. This is an important aspect of the matter which is not here adequately answered, and it suggests a real grievance against the extravagant follies of a certain type of Christendom. The present feeling of the wisest minds of our own time will be inclined to regard a good deal of Hegel's remarks here as insufficient or lacking directness. One recalls those significant lines of a great writer but recently taken from us:

Sensation is a gracious gift
But were it cramped in station,
The prayer to have it cast adrift
Would spout from all sensation.

Hegel's point of view seems neither to be that of mysticism nor mere absorption.

[216] "Odyssey," XI, vv. 481-91. But this illustration is at least evidence of the high value a Greek attached to life on Earth.

[217] True enough as an analysis of the Christian consciousness; but the difficulty above pointed out remains so far as the writer refers to a future life, which he sometimes appears to do, sometimes not. Conditions are assumed for human personality of which we can form no conception.

[218] He means it is the negation of that which is itself a negation, finite existence. The conclusion is of course, as above suggested, replete with difficulty.

[219] That is, I presume, the positive character of natural conditions; but it may mean its own "affirmative" relation.

[220] Auf die Innerlichkeit des Geistes.

[221] Reason or Spirit are perhaps preferable.

[222] The German words are das Innerliche and die Innigkeit.

[223] This is obviously not wholly independent of form.

[Pg 297]



Inasmuch as romantic art, in the representation of the consciousness of absolute subjectivity, understanding this as the comprehension of all truth, the coalescence of mind with its essence—receives its substantive content in the satisfaction of soul-life, in other words the reconciliation of God with the world and therein with Himself, it follows that at this stage the Ideal for the first time is completely at home. For it was blessedness and self-subsistency, contentment, repose, and freedom which we declared as most fundamentally defining the Ideal. Of course, we cannot therefore on this account deduce the Ideal simply from the notion and reality of romantic art; but relatively to the classic Ideal the form it receives is entirely altered. This relation, already in general terms indicated, we must now before everything else establish in its fully concrete significance, in order to elucidate the fundamental type of the romantic mode of presentation. In the classical Ideal the Divine is in one aspect of it restricted to pure individuality; in another aspect the soul and spiritual blessedness of particular gods find their exclusive discharge through the physical medium; and as a third characteristic, for the reason that the inseparable unity of each individual both essentially and in its exterior form supplies the principle of the same, the negativity of the dismemberment implied in human life, that is the pain of both body and soul, sacrifice, and resignation are unable to appear as essentially pertinent to these godlike figures. The Divine of classical art falls, it is true, into an aggregation of gods, but there is no organic and essential self-division, no universally proclaimed essence such as we find in the particular presentment of man whether[Pg 298] in form and spirit, whether empirically or subjectively considered; and just as little has it confronting it, as being itself the Absolute in invisible form, a world of evil, sin, and ignorance, together with the task of resolving such contradictions in harmony, and only by thus growing on level terms with the very truth and divine out of this reconciliation. In the notion of the absolute subjectivity, on the contrary, this opposition between substantive universality and personality is inherent, an opposition, whose consummated mediation the subjective ideality perfects with its substance, exalting thereby the substantive presence to the articulate and absolute subject of self-knowledge and volition. But there is, secondly, appertinent to the reality of the subjective condition conceived as mind the profounder contradiction of a finite world, through whose abrogation as finite, and by whose resultant reconciliation with the Absolute the Infinite by virtue of its own absolute activity makes its proper being self-subsistent, and so for the first time exists as absolute Spirit. The appearance of this actuality on the terrain, and in the configuration of the human spirit receives consequently, in respect to its beauty, a totally different mode of relation to that presented by classical art. Greek beauty unfolds the inward aspect of spiritual individuality solely as it is envisaged by means of its bodily shape, actions, and events, wholly expressed in what is exterior, and living wholly therein. For romantic art, on the contrary, it is absolutely necessary that the soul, albeit envisaged in the exterior medium, should at the same time demonstrate its capacity of self-withdrawal from the tenement of the body and self-substantive life. The bodily frame can therefore now only express the inwardness of mind, in so far as it makes it plain that it is not in this material existence, but in itself, that the soul discovers its congruent reality. On account of this beauty is now no longer an idealization in respect to the objective form, but rather the ideal and essential configuration of the soul itself; it is in short a beauty of spiritual ideality, that is the specific mode of such, as every content is informed and elaborated within the temple of the subjective world, and without retaining the external medium in this its permeation with Spirit. For the reason, then, that by this means the interest[Pg 299] disappears, which consists in clarifying real existence to the point of our classical unity, and is concentrated in the contrary direction of wafting a new breath of beauty through the unseen content of the spiritual itself, art ceases to retain the old solicitude for what is exterior at all. It accepts the same directly as it may chance to find it, leaving it to take whatever form may happen to please it. The reconciliation with the Absolute is in the Romantic an act of the inward life, which no doubt is embodied externally, but which does not retain that exterior in its material realization as its essential content and object. We may observe that in close association with this indifference towards the idealizing union of soul and body, and in its relation to the external treatment of the more predominant individuality of a sitter, we find the art of portraiture, which does not entirely erase particular traits and lines, as they are found in Nature, and her inevitable deficiencies—defects inseparable from finite effects—in order to replace them with something more adequate. Generally speaking even here there is a certain limit to the licence given to Nature in this respect; but to the general aspect of form in the first instance it is quite indifferent; and no attempt is made to exclude wholly from it the accidental impurities of finite and sensuous existence.

We may adjoin a further quite sufficient reason for the imperative character of this radical definition of romantic art from another point of view. The classic Ideal, where we find it at the culminating point of its very truth, is self-exclusive, self-subsistent, retiring and not susceptible[224] in its nature, an orbed individual totality, which repels all else from itself. Its conformation is uniquely its own; its life is bound up in that and that exclusively, and it will harbour no affinity with what is purely empirical and contingent. Whoever, therefore, approaches an ideal such as this as spectator, is unable to appropriate its existence as an embodiment strictly akin to that of his own presence. The figures of the eternal gods, albeit human, do not belong to our mortality, for these gods have not themselves experienced the infirmities of finite existence, but are directly exalted above them. Their affinity with what is empirical and relative is interrupted. The infinite subjectivity, what[Pg 300] we call the Absolute of romantic art, is on the contrary not absorbed in its presentment; it is rather carried into its own domain, and for this very reason retains such external aspect as it possesses not so much for itself as for the contemplation of others, as, in short, an exterior presence which is freely offered for this purpose. This externality must further appear in the form of common fact, the human as our senses perceive it, since it is through that that God Himself descends to the level of finite and temporal existence, in order to mediate and reconcile the absolute antithesis, which is inherent in the notion of the Absolute. For this reason our empirical humanity also contains in its bodily presence an aspect, which unfolds to man a bond of affinity and kinship, by virtue whereof he is able to contemplate even his direct natural presence with assurance; and he can do so because the Divine incarnation does not, with the severity of the classical type, thrust on one side the particular and contingent, but presents to his vision that which he himself possesses, or that which he recognizes and loves in others around him. It is just this homeliness incidental to what we ordinarily meet with which attracts and enables romantic art to entrust itself to the external aspect of reality. Inasmuch, then, as the externality which is turned adrift is called upon, through this very abandonment, to suggest the beauty of soul, the lofty pretension of its spirituality and the sacred colour of the emotional life, so, too, at the same time, it is a condition of its doing so that it be absorbed itself within the ideal realm of mind and its absolute content, and that it appropriate the same.

To sum up finally what is implied in this act of surrender we may assert that it consists in the general conception, that in romantic art the infinite subjectivity does not abide in solitary self-sufficiency, as the Greek god did, living in the full perfection and blessedness of his self-exclusion; rather it moves out of itself in relation to somewhat else, which, however, is its own substance, in which it discovers itself again and continues all the time in union with itself. This condition of self-unity in some other that is yet its own is the real form of beauty appropriate to romantic art, the Ideal of the same, which receives for its mode and envisagement what is, in its essence, subjective ideality or inwardness,[Pg 301] soul-life and its attendant emotions. The romantic Ideal expresses, therefore, the relation to another spiritual correlative, which is so closely associated with the ideal possessions of the first one, that it is only by virtue of this further one that the soul lives in the complete wealth of its own kingdom. This essential life of the soul in another is, when expressed in terms of emotion, the inwardness of love.

We may consequently affirm lave to be the general content of the romantic, so far as the sphere of religion is concerned. Love, however, only receives its truly ideal configuration when it expresses the positive reconcilement of Spirit in its immediacy. Before, however, we shall be in a position to examine this stage of the fairest and most ideal spiritual satisfaction, we must first pass in review the process of negation, which the absolute Subject enters in overcoming the finiteness and immediacy of its human envisagement, a process which is divulged in the life, death, and suffering of God for the world and humanity, and its possible reconcilement with God. And, secondly, we have on the other side, humanity, which is called upon conversely on its own account to pass through the very same process in order to make actual the reconciliation which is implicitly contained in its nature. Midway within the steps of this process, in which the negative aspect of the sensuous and spiritual passage 011 to death and the grave constitutes the central act of achievement, we shall find that the expression of affirmative blessedness is conspicuous, which in this sphere characterizes art's most beautiful creations. For the better division of this first chapter we may examine its subject-matter as it falls into three distinct heads of inquiry.

First, we have the redemption-history of Christ; the phasal moments of absolute Spirit presented in the person of God Himself, in so far as He becomes man, and takes to Himself an actual existence in the world of finitude and its concrete conditions, and in this to start with isolated existence gives visible shape to the Absolute itself.

Secondly, we shall consider love in its positive presentment as the feeling of reconciliation between the human and the Divine; in other words the Holy Family, the maternal love of Mary, the love of Christ and that of his disciples.

[Pg 302]

Thirdly, we have the community before us. Here it is the Spirit of God as present by virtue of the conversion of soul and the mortification of the natural and finite sense, in short, the return of man to God, a return in which penances and pains mediate in the first instance this union of God and man.


The reconciliation of God with His own substance, history in its absolute significance, or, in one word, the process of realization, is made visible to our senses and assured to our minds by the revelation of God in the world. The content of this reconcilement as expressed in the most direct way is the coalescence in unity of the absolute essence of reality with the individual subject of human consciousness. An individual man is God and God is an individual man. In this truth is implied the fact that the human spirit intrinsically, that is, relatively to its notion and essence, is Spirit in truth; and every particular individual in virtue of the humanity he connotes possesses the infinite vocation no less than the infinite significance of being an object of God and in union with God. But along with this and of a like importance the obligation is imposed on man to realize this notion, which, in the first instance, he merely possesses under the implication of his nature. In other words, he has to place before himself and attain to this union with God as the seal of his existence. Only when he has thus consummated his proper destiny does he become essentially free and infinite Spirit. This he can only do in so far as that unity is itself the origination, the eternal ground-root of the human and Divine nature. The goal is here the explicit beginning of the process, namely, the presupposition for the religious consciousness exhibited in romantic art, that God is Himself man and flesh, that He has become this particular human individual, in whom the reconciliation consequently no longer remains as only implicit, so that it is merely to be inferred from its notional existence, but asserts itself in objective existence also before the perception of human sense as this particular and actually existing man. The importance[Pg 303] of this aspect of particularity consists in this that it enables all other individuals to find in the same the picture of his own reconcilement with God; it is now no longer a mere possibility, but a fact which has on this very account appeared as really accomplished in this one person. Inasmuch, however, as this unity, conceived as the ideal reconciliation of opposed factors of one process, is no immediately unified mode of being, it is inevitable, in the second place, that the process of Spirit as exemplified in this one individual—the process, that is, by means of which consciousness is for the first time Spirit in Truth—should receive the form of its existence in the history of this very person. This history of Spirit attaining its consummation in one personal life consists simply in all that we have already adverted to; that is to say, the particular man casts on one side his singularity both in its bodily and spiritual presence, in other words he suffers and dies, but furthermore through the agony of death rises again out of death and ascends as glorified God, very and real Spirit, who now, it is true, has entered actual existence as this particular person, yet is with equal truth only very God as Spirit in His community.

(a) This history furnishes the fundamental material for the romantic art of the religious consciousness, in its attitude to which, however, art, taken simply as Art, is to some extent a superfluity. For the main thing here is spiritual conviction, the feeling and conception of this eternal truth, and the faith which is essential evidence to itself of the truth, and becomes in consequence a vital possession of the ideality of that conception. In other words, faith in its developed condition consists in the immediate conviction that it has confronting soul, in the organic movement of this history, the truth itself. If, however, the consciousness of truth is the main point of importance it follows that the beauty of the artistic reflection and presentation is of incidental value to which we may be comparatively indifferent, for the truth is present to mind quite independently of art.

(b) From another point of view, however, the religious content comprises at the same time within its compass a certain aspect of this process, by virtue of which it not merely admits of artistic treatment, but, in a specific relation, admits of it as necessary. In the religious conception[Pg 304] of romantic art, as we have more than once explained it, it is an inseparable concomitant of the content that it carries anthropomorphism to the verge of an extreme; and this is so because it is precisely this content which possesses for its main centrum the complete coalescence of the Absolute and Divine with the human consciousness as a visible part of sensuous reality, in other words, as envisaged in the external bodily frame of man, and further, is compelled to represent the Divine in the form of individuality such as is associated with the deficiencies of Nature and the mode of finite phenomena. In this respect Art supplies to the consciousness which seeks to envisage the Divine manifestation, the definite presence of an individual and real human figure, a concrete image, moreover, of the exterior traits of events, in which the birth, life, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ are more widely circulated to the glory of God; so that it is exclusively by Art that the real and visible presence of the Divine is for ever renewed over again in a permanent form.

(c) In so far as, in this Divine manifestation, an emphasis is laid on this, namely, that God is essentially a particular individual to the exclusion of others, and does not merely present to us the union of Divine and human consciousness in its universal significance, but rather as that of this particular man, to that extent, the very nature of the content makes it inevitable that all the features of contingency and particularity incidental to finite existence assert themselves, from which the beauty which characterized the consummation of the classic Ideal had purified itself. That which the free notion of beauty had removed from itself as unfitting, in other words, the non-ideal, is in the present case accepted as a necessary aspect, which actually originates in the movement of the content itself and is consequently made explicit.

(α) And it follows from this that when the person of Christ is selected for the object of art, as so frequently occurs, artists, no matter when or where, have taken the very worst course of all who create in their presentment of Christ an Ideal in the meaning and mode of the classical Ideal. Such heads or figures of Christ may no doubt display earnestness, repose, and ethical worth: but the true Christ presentment[Pg 305] should rather possess on the one hand soul-intensity and pre-eminently spirituality in its widest comprehension, on the other, intimate personality and individual distinction. Both these contrasted aspects are inconsistent with that blissful repose in the sensuous environment of our humanity. To combine these two termini of artistic reproduction, expression and form, as above defined, is a matter of the greatest difficulty, and painters especially have almost always got themselves into difficulties when they diverged from the traditional type[225].

Earnestness and depth of consciousness should no doubt be prominent in the expression of such heads, but the specific features and lines both of countenance and figure ought as little to be of a simply ideal beauty as they are entitled to fall short in the direction of the commonplace and the ugly, or erroneously to aspire after the bare pretensions of the Sublime. The truest success in respect to the external figure will be found in a mean between the directness of Nature's detail and the ideal of beauty. Rightly to hit on this just mean is difficult. It is pre-eminently in this that the ability, taste, and genius of an artist will assert itself. And in general we may assert that in all artistic execution of this character—putting on one side entirely the different nature of the content, which is inseparable from religious faith—there is more scope offered for the exercise of the artist's private judgment than is the case when dealing with the classic Ideal. In classical art the artist seeks to present the spiritual and Divine immediately in the lines of the bodily shape itself, in the organism of the human figure; the lines of the human form, therefore, in this ideal divergence from what is ordinarily met with in finite existence, are fundamentally necessary to the interest. In the kind of art we are now discussing the configuration remains that of ordinary experience; its specific lines are up to a certain point unessential, detail, in short, that may indifferently be treated in divers ways and with greater artistic licence. The supreme interest, therefore, is concentrated, on the one hand, in the mode and manner whereby our artist makes that which is spiritual and ideal within the content under[Pg 306] the mode of Spirit itself shine forth through this envisagement of ordinary experience; and, on the other hand, in the individual discretion exercised in the execution, the technical means and shifts employed, by virtue of which he is able to impart to his creations the breath of spiritual life and to bring home this finer essence to our hearts and senses.

(β) With regard to the further aspect of the content we have already pointed out that it is referable to the history of the Absolute under the mode that the same is deducible from the notion of Spirit itself; a history which makes objective in the real world bodily and spiritual singularity as infused with its own essential and universal nature. For the reconciliation of our individual consciousness with God does not immediately appear as an original harmony, but rather as a harmony which only is modulated from infinite pain, from resignation, sacrifice, and the mortification of the finite, sensuous, and particular. We see here the finite and the infinite brought into unity; and this reconciliation only asserts itself in its true profundity, intimacy, and power by means of the grossness and severity of the contradiction which yearns for resolution. We may therefore without fear assert that the entire asperity and dissonance of the suffering, torture, and agony, which such a contradiction brings in its train, is inseparable from the very nature of spiritual life, whose final consolation constitutes here the content.

This process of Spirit is, if accepted frankly for all it implies and unfolds, the essence, the notion of Spirit absolutely. It consequently determines for conscious life that universal history[226] which is for ever repeated in every individual consciousness. For it is nothing less or more than this consciousness as the universal mind or Spirit is explicated in the multiplicity of individual life, reality and existence. In the first instance, however, for the reason that the essential significance of the spiritual process is concentrated in that mode of reality which is purely individual, this universal history comes before us itself merely in the form of one person, to which it is conjoined as its own, as the history,[Pg 307] that is, of his birth, his suffering, death, and return from death; at the same time there is the further significance attached to this personal history, namely, that it is the history of universal and absolute Spirit itself.

The supreme turning-point of this life of God is the putting aside of individual existence as the life of a particular man simply—the story of the Passion, the suffering on the Cross, the Calvary of Spirit, the agony of death. In so far as the content here comprises the fact that the external and bodily form—immediate existence in its personal mode—is, in the pain of its inherent contradiction, propounded in this aspect of negation in order that Spirit may secure its truth and its blessedness by the sacrifice of the sensuous and its individual singularity, to that extent we reach the extreme line of division between it as an artistic creation and the classic or plastic Ideal. From one point of view no doubt the earthly body and the frailty of human Nature is expressly exalted and honoured in the fact that it is God Himself who is made manifest within it. On the other hand, however, it is just this human and bodily side which is posited as negative, and declares itself in its pain. In the classic Ideal the undisturbed harmony in no way vanishes before the co-essential Spirit. The main incidents of that Passion, the mocking of Christ, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the final death on the same in the agony of a torturing and tedious death, are wholly incompatible with the presentment of the Greek type of beauty. The lofty aspect in such situations as these is the essential holiness implied in them, the depth of the Spirit's inmost, the eternal significance of the agony in its relation to the spiritual process, the endurance and Divine repose.

The personal environment of this sublime figure is in part composed of friends and in part of enemies. The friends are throughout no ideal creations, but relatively to the notion[227], particular individualities typical of ordinary men, which the impulse of Spirit attaches to Christ: the enemies, on the other hand, by virtue of the fact that they place themselves in hostility to God, judge, mock, put to torture, and crucify Him, are presented to us as spiritually evil, and[Pg 308] this conception of their wickedness of heart and enmity to God brings in its train on its exterior side ugliness, grossness, barbarity, the rage and distortion of Spirit. In all these respects, in contrast with the classical beauty we have before us in such representations the non-beautiful as an inevitable concomitant.

(γ) The process of death, however, in the Divine nature is only to be regarded as a point of transition, by means of which the self-reconcilement of Spirit is effected; and the aspects of the Divine and human, the out and out universal and the phenomenal individuality, to mediate the division of which is the main object in view, are positively suffered to coalesce. This positive affirmation, which is the underlying root and origination of the process, is consequently also forced to exhibit itself in a like positive way. As emphatic situations in the Christ-history the resurrection and ascension supply conspicuously the very means to put that affirmation in the clearest light. In more isolated fashion we have over and above this for the same purpose those occasions in which Christ appears to His own as teacher. Here, however, plastic art is confronted with an exceptional situation of difficulty. For in a measure it is Spirit in its purity, which is to be presented in this very impalpable ideality, and in a measure, too, it is nothing less than absolute Spirit, which in the full pregnancy of its infinitude and universality is affirmatively propounded in union with an individual consciousness and exalted above immediate existence; and yet notwithstanding such preconceptions it has undertaken the task to envisage for sense in the bodily configuration of this person the entire expression of the infinite and innermost spiritual profundity which it refers to him[228].

[Pg 309]


Mind in its ultimate and most complete explication as reason is, as such, not the immediate object of art. Its highest and most essentially realized reconciliation can only find such satisfied consummation in the intellectual medium as such, that is to say, the ideal medium which is withdrawn from the reach of artistic expression; for absolute Truth stands on a higher level than the show of beauty, which is unable to break away from the sensuous and phenomenal. If, then, Spirit is to receive an existence as Spirit in its positive reconciliation through the medium of art, an existence which is apprehended not merely as ideal, in other words, as pure thought, but can be felt and envisaged, it follows that the only mode left to us, which supplies this two-fold condition of spirituality on the one hand and of its capability of being conceived and presented by art on the other, is that of the inner realm of Spirit itself, what we understand by the soul and its emotional experience. And the condition of that kingdom which alone fully answers to the notion of free Spirit brought into peace and joy with itself is Love.

(a) In other words, if we look at the content, we shall see that its articulation is in its important features similar to the fundamental notion of absolute Spirit, the return of a reconciled presence from its Other to itself. This Other in the sense of the Other, in which Spirit continues by itself, can only be itself something spiritual, or rather a spiritual personality. The true essence of love consists in the surrender of the self-consciousness, in the forgetting oneself in another self, yet for all that to have and possess oneself for the first time in this very act of surrender and oblivion. This mediation of Spirit with itself and surcharge of its own to the unit of totality is the Absolute, not, however, of course, under the mode in which the Absolute coalesces with itself as merely singular and thereby finite individuality in another finite subject; rather the content of the spiritual individuality which is here self-mediated in another is the Absolute itself. It is, in short, Spirit which is only the knowledge and volition of its own substance as the Absolute by being in another, and which receives therewith the fruition of such knowledge.

[Pg 310]

(b) More closely regarded this content as love has the form of self-concentrated emotion, which, instead of making its content more explicit, that is to say, presenting it to consciousness in its definite terms and universality, rather converges the infinite breadth of the same directly to one focus in the clear profundity of the soul, without further unfolding in other directions for the imagination the wealth which it essentially includes. By this means a content of equal significance, which would be inconformable to artistic presentation, is fresh from the mint of its pure and ideal universality, is none the less capable of being the subject-matter of art in this individual existence of subjective emotion; for while under a mode such as this it is not on the one hand compelled to accept an articulation of perfect clarity by reason of its still undisclosed depth, which is the obvious characteristic of soul-life, yet on the other hand it receives under this mode a medium that it is possible for art to make use of. For soul-life, heart, feeling, however self-contained and spiritual they may remain, have none the less a bond of affiliation with the sensuous and material, so that they are able also on the outside show of things through the bodily members themselves, through a look, the facial expression, or in a still more spiritual way through the voice tones or a word to disclose the inmost life and existence of Spirit. But this exterior medium is in such a case only acceptable in so far as it strictly expresses this most intimate life of soul in ways that reflect the inward nature of the soul itself.

(c) We defined the notion of the Ideal to be the reconciliation of the inward life with its reality; we may now in like manner point to the emotion of love as the Ideal of romantic art in the sphere of the religious consciousness. It is spiritual beauty in its pure emanation. The classic Ideal also exhibited the mediation and reconcilement of Spirit with its Other. But here the opposing factor of Spirit was the exterior medium suffused with that Spirit, it was its bodily organism. In love, on the contrary, the opposing presence of that which is spiritual is not the phenomenon of Nature, but a spiritual consciousness itself, another subject of such; and the realization of Spirit is consequently effected by Spirit itself in its own kingdom, in that medium which is uniquely its own. It follows from this that love in[Pg 311] this its positive self-fruition and essentially tranquillized and blessed realization is ideal, but before everything else spiritual beauty, which can only be expressed for the sake of the ideal virtue it possesses and further only in and as a part of the inmost shrine of the soul. For that Spirit, which is present in spirit to itself and is immediately aware of its own, which withal possesses what is spiritual for the substance and bottom of its very existence, abides in intimacy with itself, and, best definition of all, is the inward being of Love.

(α) God is Love; and consequently it is this most profound essence which, in this form native to artistic presentation, is thus apprehended and presented in the person of Christ. Christ is, however, Divine love in the sense that from one aspect of it declares God Himself as its object, that is, God in the mode of His invisible essence, and from another it as truly reveals humanity under the seal of its redemption; and for this reason it is not so much in Him[229] that the passage of one individual into another particular individual is made manifest in His love, as the fact that we have here the idea of Love itself in its universality, in other words, the Absolute, the spirit of Truth in the medium and mode of emotion. With the universality of its object the expression of Love is also universalized in pursuance of which the purely individual concentration of heart and soul is not made the important point, just as among the Greeks in the ancient Titan Eros and Venus Urania we find, though, of course, in an entirely different connection, that it is the universal idea rather than the individual side of personal form and feeling which is the factor emphasized. Only when Christ is, in the presentation of romantic art, rather conceived as at the same time the isolate self-absorbed personality himself, is the expression of love clothed in the form of individual inwardness, and even then it is, of course, always exalted and uplifted by the universality of the content.

(β) The kind of love, however, which in this sphere of art is most within its reach and is generally the most successful object of the romantic and religious imagination, is the love of Mary, the mother's love. It stands closest to Nature's reality, is very human, and yet entirely spiritual, without either the interest or the egotism of sensual desire, not sensuous[Pg 312] and yet present inward bliss in its absolute condition of fruition. It is a love that has no longing in it, not friendship, for friendship, albeit also so rich in soul quality, requires a substantive content, an essential material as the associating object. A mother's love, on the contrary, possesses without any mutuality[230] of aim or interests an immediate basis in the natural maternal bond. But in this particular case the mother's love is just as little restricted to the purely natural affiliation. Mary possesses in the child which she has carried under her heart and borne with travail the perfected knowledge and feeling of her very self, and this selfsame child, the blood of her blood, is also in equal degree exalted above her, and yet for all that she is conscious that this higher belongs to herself, and is precisely that she gains in her act of self-oblivion and possession. The natural intimacy of the mother's love is absolutely spiritualized, it receives for its very embodiment the Divine; but this spiritual coherence remains lowly and unaware, permeated in a wonderful manner with the unity of Nature and the emotion of womanhood. It is the blessed mother's love, and pertains only to the one mother, who first was recipient of its joy[231]. It is quite true that even this love is not without its pain, but the pain is merely the grief of loss, the lament over the suffering, dying, and dead son, and, as we shall find it at a later stage[232], has nothing to do with the injustice and torture suffered from a force without, or with the infinite conflict with sin, still less with agonies and pangs that arise in the soul. The inwardness of soul such as we have analysed is the beauty of Spirit, the Ideal, the human identification of man with God, with Spirit, with Truth; oblivion in its pure selflessness, the surrender of the ego, which, however, in this surrender, is from beginning to end at unity with that in which it is absorbed, and it is in this coalescence that the feeling of blessedness is consummated.

Under such a fair aspect we have maternal love embodied in romantic art, and it is at the same time a picture of Spirit[Pg 313] itself, because Spirit is only apprehensible by art in the form of feeling; and the feeling of that union of the individual with God in its most original, most real, and most vivid form is only present in the mother's love of the Madonna. It must inevitably form the subject-matter of art, if in the representation of this, the sphere of the religious imagination, the Ideal, the affirmative reconciliation in its joy is not to fall short of its aim. There has consequently been a time when the maternal love of the Blessed Virgin has been placed as the highest and holiest of Earth's possessions, and as such has been revered and presented to mankind. When, however, Spirit is brought before the human consciousness in its own native element, separated, that is, from all underlying emotion, the free mediation of Spirit that is built up on such a foundation can alone be regarded as the free road to Truth; and consequently we find that in Protestantism, as contrasted to this worship of Mary whether in art or belief, it is the Holy Spirit, and the inmost mediation of Spirit which has become the loftier truth.

(γ) Thirdly, and in conclusion, the positive reconciliation of spiritual life is embodied in the feelings of Christ's own disciples, the women and friends who follow him. Such are for the most part characters who have personally taken on themselves the severity of the idea of Christianity, hand iii hand with their Divine friend, by virtue of the friendship, teaching, and sermons of Christ, without passing through the external and inward pangs of spiritual conversion, who have carried it forward, made themselves masters both of it and themselves, and in the depth of their hearts remain strong in the same. From such, no doubt, the immediate unity and intimacy of that mother's love in a measure vanishes; but they still possess as the bond which unites them the presence of Christ, the common service to a great life which they share, and the direct impulse of Spirit[233].


In making our passage over to a concluding stage of the subject under discussion we can hardly do better than associate it with that which we have already touched upon in connection[Pg 314] with the history of Christ. The immediate existence of Christ, as this particular man, who is God, is assumed to be wiped out, in other words, the truth itself asserts itself that in the manifestation of God as man, the true reality of God thus envisaged is not immediate sensuous existence but Spirit. The reality of the Absolute regarded as infinite subjectivity[234] is simply Spirit itself; God is in knowledge, in the element of the inner life, and only there. This absolute existence of God, as absolutely ideal to the same extent as it is subjective[235] universality, does not therefore admit of the limitations of this particular individual, who has in the story of his life made manifest the reconciliation between the Divine and human self-consciousness, but on the contrary is enlarged to the full measure of the human consciousness which is reconciled to God, that is, in general terms to our humanity, which exists as an aggregate of many individuals. In his independence, however, taken, that is, as a specific personality, man is not under any immediate mode the Divine, but on the contrary finite and human, which only in so far as it really propounds itself as a negation, which it essentially is, and thereby annuls itself in this negative aspect, can attain to the reconcilement with God. It is only by virtue of this deliverance from the frailty of finitude that our humanity declares itself as the vehicle of the existence of the absolute Spirit, as the spirit of the community, in which the union of the human and Divine Spirit within the bounds of human reality itself, in the sense of its realized mediation, carries into fulfilment what essentially, if we look at it in the light of the notion of Spirit, it is from the first in that very union.

The principal modes which are of importance in respect to this new content of romantic art may be distinguished as follows:

The individual, who in his separation from God lives in a condition of sinfulness and conflict with the immediacy and frailty of finite existence, possesses the eternal destiny to come into reconciliation with himself and God. Inasmuch, however, as we find that in the redemption-history of Christ the negative relation of immediate singularity is affirmed and[Pg 315] declared an essential feature in the spiritual process, so, too, every particular individual is only through a conversion from the natural state and his finite personality uplifted to the free condition and into the peace of God.

This abrogation of finitude asserts itself in a threefold manner as follows:

First, as the repetition in actual life of the history of the Passion, a repetition of real bodily suffering—martyrdom.

Secondly, the above conversion is removed to the inmost life of soul, as spiritual mediation by means of repentance, penance, and conversion.

Thirdly, and finally the manifestation of the Divine is so conceived in the world of Nature's reality that the ordinary course of Nature and the natural mode of occurrences as they otherwise take place is arrested, in order to display the might and presence of the Divine. Wonder or miracle is consequently the form of presentation.

(a) The Martyrs

The earliest mode under which the spirit of the community makes itself actively present in the human consciousness is effected when man forms a mirror in himself of the Divine process and so makes himself a new form of existence for the eternal Life[236] of God. Here we find once more that the expression of that immediate and positive reconciliation disappears, inasmuch as man can only attain to this by abrogating his finite existence. Everything, therefore, that was of central importance in the first stage returns to us again here only in an aggravated degree, because the incompatibility and unworthiness of our humanity is here presupposed, and to remedy this defect is assumed to be man's supreme and unique duty.

(α) The specific content of this phase is consequently the endurance of torments, and along with such the individual's willing renunciation, sacrifice, and self-imposed renunciation with the express aim of arousing sufferings, tortures, and anguish of every kind in order that Spirit may reveal itself therein, and feel itself in union with the fruition and[Pg 316] blessedness of its heaven[237]. The negative aspect of pain is an object in itself for the true martyr, and the greatness of the revelation is such that it can treat with indifference the awful aspect of that which man has thus suffered, and the dreadful nature of that to which he submits himself. The first thing, then, which will be brought beneath the ruthless mace of negation in order that the individual who still experiences this drought of the soul may wean himself from the world and become sanctified, will be his natural existence, his life, the satisfaction of the most essential necessaries of his bodily existence. The main subject-matter therefore of the type we are now dealing with will be torments of the body, sufferings which have been perpetrated on the believer either by his enemies and persecutors out of hatred and persecution, or have been deliberately accepted by himself on principle by way of expiation. In both cases the individual accepts them in the full fanaticism of his readiness to endure, not, that is to say, as an injustice to himself, but as a blessing through which alone he is enabled to break down the walls of what he feels to be his sinful flesh, heart, and soul, and so obtain reconcilement with his God.

In so far, however, as this conversion of the soul can only manifest itself in such situations, in atrocities and awful treatment of the bodily frame the beauty of the presentation of such subjects may be very readily impaired; and, in fact, we may say that the treatment of all subjects of this kind is a perilous undertaking for art. For, on the one hand, it is obvious that individuals here, impressed as they are wholly with the hall-mark of finite existence, and its inevitable blemishes and defects, will have to be represented in an entirely different atmosphere from that we claimed for the history of Christ's Passion; and, from a further point of view, we unfortunately meet with unheard of agonies and horrors in such cases, distortion, and dislocation of limbs, bodily torments, scaffolds, decapitation, burning or roasting in oil, flaying alive, and every other sort[Pg 317] of frightful, repugnant, and loathsome abuse of the body, such as lie much too remote from beauty for any sane art to think of selecting them for its subject-matter. The artistic dexterity of the artist may, in such cases, no doubt, so far as execution is concerned, be of the highest class; but, at best, such manual dexterity will merely possess a personal interest, we may indeed find before us the technique of an admirable painter; but it will be equally obvious that all his efforts have been unable to produce out of such material a harmonious work of art.

(β) For these reasons it will be necessary that the artistic presentation of this negative process should emphasize another aspect of it, which stands out thereby above this agony of the body and soul, and establishes in relief the positive presence of reconciliation. This is just that essential reconcilement of Spirit which is finally won as the result sought for of the pain suffered. Under an aspect such as this the martyrs may be depicted as the guardians of the Divine in conflict with the grossness of material force and barbarism of unbelief. For the sake of their heavenly treasure they endure pain and death, and this courage, steadfastness, endurance, and consolation must consequently, with equal truth, appear upon them. And yet for all that this intimate possession of their faith and love in its spiritual beauty is no sanity of soul which brings to them a sense of the sanity of their body; rather it is a sense of inward life, which has worked its way through their pain itself, or at least is made manifest in their suffering, and which, even in the moment of their ecstasy, retains the experience of pain as an essential condition of their beatitude. The art of painting has, in particular, made this attitude of saintly humiliation the object of its efforts. What this art mainly should strive after here is to delineate the bliss of such torments in the pure and simple lines of the countenance and its expression, as contrasted with the offensive laceration of the flesh; and to present such an ecstasy as may reflect the surrender and victory over pain, the fruition, in short, of the Divine Presence in the temple of the soul. If, on the contrary, the art of sculpture seeks to give a visible form to such a content, it will inevitably find itself less qualified to depict this ecstasy of soul-life at this strain[Pg 318] of its intensity with such a concentrated power, and will consequently be compelled to emphasize that aspect of pain and laceration in so far as it declares itself in its full force on the bodily frame.

(γ) Thirdly, it is to be observed that in the kind of examples with which we are now dealing it is not merely the existence of Nature and immediate finite conditions which is affected by this attitude of self-abnegation and endurance, but the impulse of the soul is transported by such feelings to an extreme point of this heavenly rapture to such an extent, in fact, that what is merely human and of the world, even when it is essentially beyond reproach on ethical or rational grounds, is none the less thrust behind and scorned. In other words, just in proportion as the Spirit, which here makes vivid to itself the idea of its conversion, is in the first instance deficient in an educated sense, to that extent it will with so much the more uncontrollable and logical frenzy—the entire force of its piety being concentrated on this one object—turn its back on everything which as finite opposes this bare and abstract infinitude of its religious fanaticism, that is to say, on every definite human emotion, all the manifold ethical impulses, relations, and obligations of the heart. For the moral life of the family, the bonds of friendship, of blood, of love, of the State, and a man's calling, every one of them belong to the things of the world; and all that is of the world, in so far as it is not as yet suffused with the absolute conceptions of faith and developed in unity and harmony with the same, appears to this form of abstract spiritual intensity of the soul of faith so far from being something acceptable to its emotional life and sense of obligation, that it is, on the contrary, a thing of no worth at all, and therefore both hostile and hurtful to its religious state. The moral organism of the human world is consequently not as yet respected, because its significant features and duties are not as yet recognized as necessary, integrated members in the concatenation of an essentially rational reality, in which nothing, it is true, ought to assert itself in a one-sided and independent isolation, yet, none the less, as an essential factor in the organic process, must be maintained as such and not be sacrificed. In this respect the religious reconciliation remains[Pg 319] itself one-sided, and declares itself in the truly simple heart as an intensity of belief which is deficient in comprehensiveness, that is, as the piety of the self-secluded soul, which has not yet attained in its growth to the fully expanded self-reliance of maturity, and to conviction based on genuine insight and circumspection. When the force of a soul deficient in these qualities maintains its opposition to the world which is thus treated in a purely negative way, and forcefully breaks loose from all human ties, even though they may originally be the very closest, we can only characterize such conduct as the rawness of Spirit and a barbaric result of the power of abstraction, which is simply repulsive. So we may say that though from the point of view of the religious consciousness, as we find it to-day, it is indeed possible to honour, and to honour highly, this opening germ of religiosity in such representations, if, however, such a pious tendency proceeds to such lengths that we find it advancing to lay siege to what is both essentially rational and moral, then, so far from sympathizing with such a fanaticism of sanctity, we can only protest that a kind of abnegation such as this, which casts off from itself, shatters and treads upon that which is independently justifiable, and even sacred, appears to us both immoral in itself and subversive of the very type of religion it represents. There are many legends, tales, and poems which deal with this extreme form of the pious craze. We have, for example, the tale of a man who, though full of tenderness for his wife and family, and, moreover, beloved by all his friends, leaves his home and makes a pilgrimage. When at last he returns home in the guise of a beggar he refuses to disclose his identity. Alms are given him, and out of compassion a permanent lodging provided under the stairs. In this plight he lives for twenty years; he sees the grief of his family on his account, and only declares who he is on his death-bed. This kind of thing, which we are asked to revere as sanctity, is, of course, merely the egotism of a fanatic which revolts us. This long endurance of renunciation may remind us of the distrait nature of those penances, which the Hindoos voluntarily impose on themselves on religious grounds. But the endurance of the Hindoo has a very different significance. In that case a man deliberately places himself in a[Pg 320] condition of vacuum and unconsciousness; in the case which we are now considering the pain, and the deliberate consciousness and feeling of the same is the real object, which it is assumed will be attained with just so much more purity as the suffering is associated with the consciousness of the value of and devotion to the severities which are accepted, and is, moreover, united with a vision for ever concentrated on the renunciation thus made. The richer the heart which takes on itself the burden of such ordeals, the nobler the content of its own possessions, and yet withal believes that it is bound to condemn them as of no merit, just so much the more difficult grows the task of reconciliation, and the more prone it is to bring about the most terrible convulsions and the most raving distraction. Indeed, to our vision, it is clear enough that a soul such as this, which is only at home in a world which, however full of ideas, is not the world of common experience, and which consequently only feels its grasp slipping from the stable and paramount centres of activity and aims of this our actual world, ay, and although it be with heart and soul held in and associated with that world, yet regards all that is moral there simply as something which contradicts its absolute destination—we can only say that such a soul, both in its self-inflicted sufferings and its renunciations, is from the rational point of view simply mad, so mad that we can neither feel any profound compassion for it, nor propose any means of liberation. What is lamentably lacking to a mode of life of this kind is an object of real substance and valid significance; what it proposes to secure is an aim wholly personal, an object sought for by the individual for himself alone, for the salvation of his own soul, for his own blessedness. Few are likely to concern themselves very deeply whether an individual, at any rate one of this type, is or ever will be happy[238].

[Pg 321]

(b) The inward Penance and Conversion

The kind of representation, in the same general class of cases which we shall now contrast with the one above examined, turns aside from the extremity of merely bodily suffering, as it is also from a further point of view more indifferent to the purely negative impulse directed against what is essentially just and right in the actual conditions of the world; the material of such representations consequently, both in respect to its content and its form, opens up a ground which is more conformable with ideal art. And this ground is the conversion of the inner life of the soul, which only here seeks to express itself in its spiritual pain, and its change of heart. Here, therefore, we find in the first place that we have no more of those ever repeated horrors and barbarities of pain inflicted on man's poor body: and, secondly, that which we have referred to as the barbarian religiosity of the soul no longer holds fast to its antagonism as against the purely ethical aspects of humanity in order to trample under iron foot in the abstraction of its purely conceptive satisfaction[239], and in the pain of an absolute renunciation that other kind of sensuous enjoyment; for the most part its attention is now solely directed against what is in fact sinful, criminal, and evil in human Nature. We find here a lofty assurance that faith, this spiritual impulse towards God, is capable of converting the past action, even though it be a sin or a crime, into something alien to the man who perpetrated it, washing it away in fact. This withdrawal out of evil, that wholly negative condition, which is realized in the individual by the subjective volition and spirit at once scorning and confounding itself under its former state of evil—this return to the positive which is now self-established as the only real in contrast to the former state of sinfulness, is the truly infinite content of religious love, the presence and actuality of absolute Spirit in the individual soul itself. The feeling of the stability and endurability of the personal existence, which through God, to which it addresses itself, triumphs over evil, and in so far as it is thus mediated with[Pg 322] Him is aware of itself as one with Him, produces as its effect the fruition and blessedness of contemplating God, it is true, in the first instance as the absolute Other in His opposition to the sin inherent in finite existence, but further of knowing this Infinite Presence as identical with me as this particular person, of knowing, in short, that I carry this self-consciousness of God, as the seat of my own personality, that is to say, my own self-consciousness, as certainly as I carry the sense of my own self-identity. Such a revolution takes place no doubt entirely within the shrine of the soul, and belongs, therefore, rather to religion than art: for the reason, however, that it is the intimate movement of the soul, which pre-eminently makes itself master of this act of conversion, and also is able to throw a gleam of light through the external embodiment, a plastic art such as painting can also claim to make visible the history of such conversions. If it attempts, however, to depict the entire course of events which belong to such a transition, much that is very far from being beautiful may readily appear in the result, because in such a case both that which is sinful and repulsive requires to be depicted, as, for example, in the story of the prodigal son. Painting, therefore, achieves its greatest success when it concentrates the act of conversion into one picture where that is the prevailing motive, and pays little or no attention to the previous course of events. The ordinary presentations of Mary Magdelene may be noted as an admirable example of this kind of work, and particularly in the hands of the old Italian masters has been treated in a way both excellent in itself and throughout consistently with fine Art. She is depicted here both in the characterization of her soul and her external presence as the fair sinner, in whom the sin no less than the sanctity is intended to exercise a sort of fascination on the spectator. But at the same time neither sin nor sanctity are treated with any great intensity. She is forgiven much because she has loved much, and her forgiveness is in a measure the portion both of her love and her beauty. And what affects us most of all in this picture is this, that she makes for herself a conscience as it were out of her love, and robed in the beauty of her sensitive soul pours forth her sorrow in a flood of tears. We are not led to feel that the fact that she has loved so much is her error, but rather that[Pg 323] her fair and fascinating folly is this, namely, that she believes herself to be a sinner,[240] for her exquisitely sensitive beauty only leaves us the impression that in her love she is both noble and profound.

(c) Miracles and Legends

The final aspect, which is closely associated with the two above considered, and is frequently asserted as a concomitant of both, is that of miracle. It plays in fact an important part throughout this stage of our inquiry. In this connection we may define miracle as the conversion-history of the immediate existence of Nature. Such reality lies before us as a commonplace, contingent existence. This finite substance is touched by the hand of God, which, in so far as it strikes upon what is purely external and particular, breaks it up, transmutes it into something entirely different, interrupting what in ordinary parlance we call the natural course of things. To bring before us the soul arrested by such inexplicable phenomena, in which it imagines it recognizes the presence of the Divine, vanquished, in short, in its ordinary view of finite events, this is the main subject-matter of a host of legends. In fact, however, the Divine can only touch and dominate Nature as Reason, that is, in the unalterable laws of Nature herself, as implanted therein by God, and the Divine has no occasion to exploit Himself in the supreme sense of this term in particular circumstances and modes of causation which run contrary to these laws of Nature, for it is only the eternal laws and determinations of reason which apply in any real sense to Nature. From[Pg 324] another point of view legends frequently carry with them quite unnecessarily an amount of matter which is abstruse, out of taste, senseless, and ridiculous, inasmuch as the intention is that both intellect and heart should be stimulated to believe in the presence and activity of God by precisely those things which are essentially irrational, false, and heathenish. The consequent emotion, piety, and conversion of the soul may even then awake our interest, but in that case it is only on the one side, namely, that of the soul: so soon as that enters into relation with somewhat else outside it, and the idea is that this external correlative shall effect the conversion of the heart, then we inevitably require that such should not be wholly a meaningless and irrational sequence of events.

Such, then, would be the fundamental divisions of the substantive content at this particular stage of our inquiry, regarding that content as the self-subsistent Nature of God, or in its aspect as a spiritual process, through which and in which He is Spirit. We have here the absolute object, which art neither creates nor reveals out of itself, but which it has received from religion which it approaches with the conviction that it is essentially true that it may express and represent the same conformably to its modes. It is the content of the believing, yearning soul, which is intrinsically the infinite totality itself, so that for it the external medium remains to a more or less degree outside it, or a matter of indifference, and is unable to be brought completely into harmony with that inner life. And for this reason it frequently presents a repellent material which art finds itself unable wholly to subdue to its aims.

[224] Nicht aufnehmend. Not ready to absorb extraneous matter.

[225] This of course is an opinion which may be strongly contested in its application to particular artists.

[226] Hegel means not so much the history in which the whole totality of events is comprised as that aspect of human history which declares its universal significance as infinite spirit.

[227] That is, of self-consciousness in all that it implies—the personality of Christ, for example.

[228] Hegel does not further dwell upon this relativity. But the next paragraph explains what is really in his mind. The important question, however, how far such events are worthy of credence as objective history, to say nothing of the inadequacy of their artistic presentation, one cannot but feel is deliberately evaded. What Hegel would say no doubt was that the bare historical aspect was only of relative importance. The main question was their significance in the spiritual process. It is in this direction that much of our noblest modern thought finds a certain indissoluble unreality of statement.

[229] That is in Christ.

[230] Gleichkeit. Equality, reciprocity.

[231] We are reminded of our treasures in Christian art such as the Virgin and Child in Tintoret's "Flight into Egypt," Rafael's San, Sisto Madonna and the rest.

[232] In other words as regarded at a later date by the Church.

[233] This statement hardly does justice to the profound idealism of the epistles of St. Paul.

[234] Perhaps "the infinite form of subjectivity" is better. He means "the infinite form of individual self-consciousness."

[235] That is, characterized by personality.

[236] Geschichte. Life as an evolved Process.

[237] Compare the poem of Meredith, "Theodolinda," in his ballads of the Tragic Life. It is, in another aspect, that iron crown which that thoughtful contemporary writer, Mr. H. W. Nevinson, refers to in his Essays on Rebellion.

[238] The elimination even of sympathy with such fanaticism where it is quite sincere, a rare case no doubt, seems severe. The best illustration in modern literature I know of the principle "all or nothing," is Ibsen's great drama "Brandt." Readers of Carlyle will doubtless recall from "Past and Present" and elsewhere that prophet's repeated denunciations of the craze for personal happiness.

[239] By intellectuellen Befriedigung Hegel does not mean "intellectual" in a good sense, but merely that the man imagines his happiness in his mind rather than feels it through the senses. The psychology of religious ecstasy, however, is a rather involved problem.

[240] This analysis is rather surprising. Did Hegel, the robust Swabian, really think the above the finest type of art's presentations of the Magdalene? Does it not lean very closely to that soft sentimentalism which a Carlo Dolci gives us in its decadence? At any rate the idea that the Magdalene was not really a sinner flatly contradicts the original references to her in the gospels, and to my mind at any rate seems from the artistic point of view also to destroy half the rare beauty of her repentance. The principle of such an interpretation is surely the entirely pagan one, whether Greek or French, that a great passion is its own justification quite irrespective of moral considerations. She is the historical impersonation of the frailty of a love too dependent on the senses, not of one in which either nobility of bearing or extreme selflessness is conspicuous. Hegel's analysis may be true enough of certain pictures—but do they really present us the ideal; most assuredly not.

[Pg 325]



The principle of the essentially infinite subjective consciousness possesses for the content of faith and art in the first instance, as we have already discovered, the Absolute itself, in other words the Spirit of God as it is mediated and reconciled with the conscious spirit of man and thereby is first itself independently free. This romantic mysticism in its self-limitation to the sense of blessedness in the Absolute Presence remains a mode of spiritual inwardness which is abstract, because it confronts the things of the world in opposition and rejects the same. Faith is, in an abstraction of this kind, alienated from life, from the concrete reality of human existence, removed from the positive relations of mankind to one another, who only know and love each other in faith, and for the sake of their belief as completely bound together in yet a third association, namely, the spirit of the Christ community. This association is alone the clear spring in which the image of that blessedness is reflected, without it being necessary for man to look his brother first in the face, to enter into any direct relation with another, or to experience the unity of love, of trust, of confidence, of mutual aims and actions in contact with the living concrete presence. That which constitutes the hope and yearning of the inner life man here, in this sense of exclusive religious intimacy, can only discover as actual life in the kingdom of God, in the society of the Church. He has not as yet[241] withdrawn this single identity in a third factor from his conscious life in order that he may possess all that he is really himself in his entire spiritual concreteness no less before his[Pg 326] eyes directly in the knowledge and volition of that other whole. The collective religious content, it is true, assumes the mode of real existence, but it is still an existence which is located in the ideal world of an imagination which consumes the expanding boundaries of actual life. It is still far away from attempting to satisfy its own life also in that abundance which it receives from the world and its realization in the world as the higher demand in the medium of life itself.

It follows that the soul which found its initial consummation in the simple feeling of Divine blessedness must step forth from this heavenly kingdom peculiar to the religious sphere, must undertake the effort of self-introspection and assimilate a content which is, as vitally present, adequate to the demands of the individual consciousness in its fullest extension. And in this process that which was before a religious coalescence of soul is changed to one of secular type. Christ indeed said; "Ye must leave father and mother, and follow Me." And in the like spirit: "Brother shall hate brother; men shall crucify you and persecute you." But as soon as the kingdom of God has secured a foothold in the world, and is actively employed in transfusing with its spirit and illumining the aims and interests of that world; when father, mother, and brother are already numbered in the community, then the things of the world on their side commence to assert their just claim to recognition and furtherance. If this claim is not merely fought for but vindicated then also the negative attitude of the religious spirit, which was at first exclusively hostile to all that was merely human, vanishes; the spirit of man enlarges, it explores the full scope of its actual presence, and unfolds its heart in the entire world of reality[242]. The fundamental principle suffers no alteration; the substantive and infinite self-consciousness merely directs its attention to another province of its own kingdom. We may perhaps define this transition in the statement that the individual singularity is now as such singularity independent of its mediation with God and self-subsistently free. For precisely in that mediation, whereby it divested itself of its purely finite limitation and natural life, it has passed over the path of mere negation, and reappears[Pg 327] after having thus secured an essentially affirmative position, in the condition of a consciousness that is free and as such makes the demand that it shall, in virtue of its own infinitude, though the infinitude is here only in the first instance one of pure form, secure complete recognition both for itself and others. In this the religious mode of the individual consciousness is reposed the entire spiritual wealth of the infinite soul, which it has hitherto filled up with God. If we, however, made the inquiry, of what material the heart of man is suffused in this its inward repletion, such a content merely concerns the infinite relation of the subjective consciousness in its active self-relation; it is simply replete with its own formal medium, that is, as essentially infinite singularity without further and more concrete expansion and significance as a content of interests, aims, and actions which is itself essentially objective and substantive[243]. If we further examine the matter, however, more closely we shall see there are in the main three emotions, which in their independence rise up in the individual soul to the level of this infinite mode, namely personal honour, love, and fidelity. They are not so much moral qualities and virtues as simply modes which inform the intimate presence of the individual soul when fulfilled with its own self-relation as such is recognized by romance. For the personal self-subsistency for which honour contends does not assert itself as intrepitude on behalf of a communal weal, and the repute of thoroughness in relation to it and integrity of private life. On the contrary it contends simply for the recognition and formal inviolability of the individual person. The same principle applies to love, which forms the central subject-matter of this sphere. It is merely the adventitious passion of one individual for another; and however much it may expand under the wand of imagination or may be deepened by excess of emotion, it is for all that neither the ethical relation of marriage or family. Fidelity possesses no doubt more the[Pg 328] appearance of a moral character, inasmuch as it does not merely will its own but holds fast to something higher, something shared with itself, surrenders itself to another's will, whether it be the wish or behest of a master, and thereby renounces the personal desire and independence of its own particular volition. But the feeling of loyalty does not concern the objective interest of the social weal in its independent form, that is, in the concrete freedom of the developed state life, but associates itself merely with the person of a master, who, in his own fashion, acts with independence, or concentrates himself in more general relations and is active on their behalf[244]. These three modes of feeling taken together and as they reciprocally affect one another constitute with the exception of the religious relation, which also has its part to play here, the principal content of chivalry, and furnish the necessary steps of advance from the principle of purely religious enthusiasm to the entrance of the individual soul into the concrete social life of the world, in the kingdom of which romantic art now secures a platform on which it can from its own resources work out its independence, and at the same time embody a freer type of beauty. It stands here, so to speak, in the free room midway between the absolute content of the independently stable religious conceptions and the varied particularity and restricted boundaries of the finite world. Among the various arts it is pre-eminently poetry which has shown itself most qualified to master such a material, its modes of expression being directed to the life of the soul as wholly occupied with its own domain and as realized in its aims and events.

Inasmuch as we now have before us a material which man takes possession of in his own spiritual life, or rather, from the world of his pure humanity, we might at first suppose that romantic art occupied the same ground as that of classic art. This, therefore, is an excellent opportunity for placing[Pg 329] them together both in comparison and contrast. We have already defined classical art the Ideal of humanity certified as true in its objective self-subsistence. Its imaginative vitality requires as its core a content which is substantive in type and excludes an ethical pathos. The Homeric poems, the tragedies of Sophocles and Aeschylus, are in the main concerned with interests of an absolutely factual content, an austere treatment of the passions reflected therein, a solid style of speech and execution in conformity with the nature of the ideas expressed, and above this domain of heroes and other figures which alone are in their individual self-concentration at home in such an atmosphere of pathos we have the realm of the gods at a still more advanced stage of objective presentment. Even in the case where art, in more introspective fashion, is occupied with the infinite experiments of sculpture, bas-reliefs and similar forms, or the later elegies, epigrams, and other diversions of lyrical poetry, we still have the same type before us, that is to say, the type which portrays the object more or less as it finds it, and obedient to the claim that it already has secured its constructive presentment. We have, in short, represented figures of the imagination already established and defined in their characterization such as Venus, Bacchus, or the Muses. It is just the same with the later epigrams, where we get the description of a material already to hand or, as in the case of Meleager, a posy of well-known flowers, bound together with the cords of exquisite feeling and taste. It is, in short, an exhilarating mode of activity carried on in a wealthily furnished house overflowing in its stores with every kind of bounty, image and provision for every conceivable object. The poet and the artist is simply the magician, who wafts them into use, collects and groups them.

It is wholly different in romantic poetry. In so far as it is of the world worldly, and is not directly associated with the story of our Lord, the virtues and objects of its heroism are not those of the Greek heroes, whose type of morality Christendom in its early days simply regarded as a brilliant enormity. Greek morality presupposes the presence of humanity in its complete configuration, in which the volition then and there as it ought to act conformably to its essential[Pg 330] notion of independence has received a definite content and the actual conditions of freedom imperatively valid such as belong to that content. Such are the relations of parents and children, married persons, or of citizens of city or State in the realized liberty of such. Now inasmuch as this objective content of human affairs belongs to the evolution of man's spirit on the basis of Nature cognized and insured as actual fact, it is unable any longer to satisfy that self-absorbed introspection of the religious life, which seeks to destroy the natural aspect of human life, and must deviate considerably from the virtue of humility which opposes it, and the surrender of human freedom and its staunch self-dependence. The virtues of Christian piety simply prove the death of such a world-attitude if held in their extreme of abstraction, and only make the individual free, when he absolutely denies the human part of him. The individual freedom of our present sphere is no doubt no longer conditioned by mere endurance and self-sacrifice but essentially positive in the world arena; that infinite self-relation of the individual has, however, as we have already discovered, the inward realm of the soul as its content and only that, the subjective soul, that is, whose movement is in its own peculiar medium, as the secular ground of its own domain. In this connection poetry does not draw from any objective material already presented it, no mythology, for instance, no imaginative pictures and embodiments, which already lie ready waiting for its expression. It stands there wholly free, without any extraneous matter, purely creative and productive. It is free as a bird that sings straight from its breast. It follows, then, if this subjective activity proceeds also from a noble will and a profound soul, we shall merely have in its workings and relations and existence the evidence of caprice and contingency, for the reason that freedom and its aims proceed, relatively to a content which is throughout immaterial, from internal self-reflection. And, consequently, we do not find so much in individuals a particular pathos in the Greek conception of the term and a vital self-subsistency of character associated with it by the closest bonds, as that which is simply a grade of heroic conception in its connection with love, honour, bravery, and fidelity; a grade into which it is mainly the nobility or depravity of soul which imports the distinguishing[Pg 331] features. The characteristic trait, however, which the heroes of the Middle Ages possess in common with those of antiquity is that of bravery. Yet even this receives a totally different complexion. It is not so much a natural courage, which reposes on the character that is sane and sound, and flows forth from the growth of an unimpaired robustness of body and will, assisting the execution of objective interests. Rather it is the outcome of the secret wealth of the soul, its honour and chivalry, and is in the main a creation of the phantasy, which undertakes adventures that have their origin in individual caprice and the chance intricacies of external circumstance or the impulses of mystical piety, and we may add generally the personal attitude of the individual.

This romantic type of art finds a home, then, in two hemispheres, in the Western world as this penetration into the more intimate shrine of Spirit, in the Eastern this its first expansion of the self-absorbed consciousness as it frees itself from the finite environment. In the West poetry reposes on a soul which is withdrawn upon its resources, which has become the centre of its activity, yet possesses this flavour of secularly merely as one part of its complexion, as one aspect, over which is superposed a yet loftier world of belief. In the East it is the Arab above all, who as a solitary,[245] who in the first instance has nothing before his eyes but his dried-up desert and his heavens, stands forth in the full strength of life as the proclaimer of the splendour and primary extension of the world of Nature, and thereby still preserves at the same time the freedom of his soul. And generally we may say that in the Orient it is the Mohammedan religion, which has cleared the ground, made an end of all idolatry in the service of finite things or the imagination, and given the soul at the same time the personal freedom, which wholly floods the same, so that the secularity does not here only constitute another province, but runs beyond it into the universal licence, where heart and mind, without ascribing any objective reality to God, find their reconciliation in the jubilant lust of living just like beggars by throwing the glory of their fancy on the objects around them: enjoy their loves and are happy, blessed, and contented.

[Pg 332]


The motive of honour was unknown to ancient classic art. In the "Iliad" it is quite true that the wrath of Achilles constitutes both the content and the motive principle, so that the entire series of events is dependent upon it; but what we moderns understand by the term honour is not grasped here at all. Achilles believes himself to be insulted to all intents and purposes only in the fact that the share in the booty which he considers justly to belong to him and the reward of his personal merits, his γέρας, has been taken away by Agamemnon. The insult here has a direct reference to something actual, a bounty, in which no doubt a privilege, a recognition of fame and bravery was reposed, and Achilles is enraged because Agamemnon meets him unworthily and lets the Greeks know that they are not to pay any attention to him. An insult of this kind is not driven home to the real centre of personality in its abstract purity; in fact Achilles expresses himself satisfied with the restitution of the abducted slave and the addition of other goods and bounties, and Agamemnon finally makes this reparation although from our point of view they have both insulted one another in the grossest fashion. Maledictions of this kind, however, have only made them angry; and, after all, the particular insult, which has reference to a matter of fact, is done away with in the same matter of fact fashion.

(a) The honour of romance is, on the contrary, of another kind. Insult has no reference here to the factual values of real things, property, status, obligation, etc., but to personality simply, and its idea of its own importance, the work which the individual claims as his right. This worth is in the cases we are now discussing of an infinite significance equal to that of personality itself. In honour, therefore, man possesses the earliest positive consciousness of his infinite spiritual medium, independent of the content. What the individual has, what in him something peculiar creates, after the loss of which it may yet subsist precisely as it did before—in this elusive something the absolute validity of the entire subjective life is reposed and apprehended in it both for itself and others. The determining measure of honour therefore does not depend on what the individual really is,[Pg 333] but on what is contained in this personal self-regard. This regard, however, raises all particularity to the level of the universal conception that the personal core in its full significance resides in this particularity which it claims as its own. Honour is merely an outward show it is sometimes said. No doubt this is so: but from our present point of view we must, if we look at it more narrowly, accept it as the appearance and reappearance of the personal medium self-reflected, which as the semblance of an entity essentially infinite is itself infinite. And through this infinitude it is just this show or semblance of honour which is the real existence of the individual, its highest actuality; and every particular quality, into which honour is reflected and appropriates as its own is by virtue of this show exalted itself to an infinite worth. This type of honour constitutes a fundamental determinant in the romantic world, and presupposes that man has not merely passed beyond the limits of purely religious conception and inward life, but actually entered the arena of the great world and makes itself vital in the material of the same simply by virtue of the pure medium of its personal self-subsistence and absolute intension[246].

The content of honour may be of the most varied kind. For everything that I am, do, or is done to me by others affects my honour. We may consequently reckon within its boundaries the out and out substantive itself, loyalty towards princes, fatherland, a man's profession, fulfilment of obligations, marital fidelity, integrity in business affairs and conscientiousness in scientific research. For the point of view of honour, however, all these essentially valid and veritable relations are neither sanctioned nor recognized in and through themselves, but only so far as the individual reposes in them his personal relation and makes them thereby matters affecting his honour. A man of honour consequently always thinks first of all about himself, and the question for him is not if anything is on principle right or not, but whether it is the right thing for him to do, whether it becomes him then as a man of honour to make himself master in it and to stand by it. And consequently he may also perpetrate[Pg 334] the worst actions and still be a man of honour. He creates at the same time objects at will, imagines himself of a specific character, and appropriates to himself, both as he sees himself and is seen by others, that which in the natural order of things has nothing to do with him at all. Even then it is not the natural fact, but the personal view of it which places difficulties and devolutions in the path, because it has become an affair of honour to maintain that character. So, to take an example, Donna Diana conceives it to be derogatory to her honour to confess in any way the love she feels, because she has pledged herself not to listen to love. In general we may say, then, that the content of love is at the mercy of accident, because its validity depends purely on the personal attitude, and is not directed by that which is the essential mode of the inner life itself. For this reason we may observe that in romantic representations on the one hand that which is on principle justifiable is expressed as the law of honour, the individual associating with the consciousness of right at the same time the infinite self-conscious unit of his personality. What is then expressed by the statement that honour makes such and such a demand, or forbids it, is this that the entire personal attitude of consciousness implants itself within the content of such a demand or prohibition so that no trespass in any transaction can fail to attract its attention without a repair and restoration being effected; and we may add the individual is unable to attend to any other content. Conversely, however, honour may resolve itself into something wholly formal and contentless, in so far as it contains nothing but the shell of the Ego, which is formally infinite, or only accepts an entirely bad content as obligatory upon it. In this case, more particularly in dramatic representations, honour remains but a wholly frosty and unvitalized object: its aims express no longer an essential content but simply an abstract form of consciousness. But it is only an essentially substantive content which possesses the contingency of law, and is capable of explication in its multifold environment, and can be apprehended in its imperative sequence of consequences. This defect in profound content especially rises to the surface when casuistry of reflection includes within the embrace of honour matter which is purely accidental and[Pg 335] insignificant which the individual comes in contact with. There is never a lack of material, because this casuistical tendency analyses with great subtlety in its modes of distinction, and many aspects may be elicited and made the subject of honour which in themselves are quite unimportant Above all the Spaniards have elaborated this casuistry of reflection over matters of honour in their dramatic poetry, and made their particular heroes of honour deduce all their consequences in their speeches. In this way the fidelity of the married woman may form a subject of investigation into the minutest details, and the mere suspicion of another, nay, the possibility of such even when the husband is aware that the suspicion is false may be an affair of honour. If this leads to collisions we can derive no real satisfaction from the process, because we have nothing of material moment to arrest us, and consequently instead of the resolution of an antagonism which is causally inevitable we can only extract from it a painfully contracted feeling. Also in French plays we frequently find that it is an honour which is barren, that is entirely abstract, which is made the essential fulcrum of interest Still more extreme is this essentially frostlike and lifeless type of it apparent in the drama "Alarcos" of Herr Friedrich von Schlegel. The hero here murders his noble and loving wife. And we ask why. Simply for honour's sake; and this honour consists in this that he may marry the king's daughter, for whom he entertains no affection, and thus become the king's son-in-law. Such a pattern is of course contemptible and an ignoble conception which merely prides itself as something lofty and of infinite intension.

(b) Inasmuch, then, as honour is not only a semblance in me myself, but must also exist in the mind and recognition of another, which again on its part makes a claim to a similar honourable recognition, honour is the extreme embodiment of vulnerability. For it is purely a matter of personal caprice how far I choose to extend the claim and to what material I care to relate it. The smallest offence may be in this respect of significance; and inasmuch as man is placed relatively to concrete reality in the most manifold relations with a thousand things, and is able to extend practically without limit the sphere of that which he conceives to affect[Pg 336] him, and to which he is placed in the relation of honour it follows that when we come to deal with the independence of mankind and the obstinate isolation of their units, aspects for which the principle of honour is in the main responsible, there is no end to the strife and contention to which they give rise. Moreover, in the case of insult also no less than in that of honour generally, the important matter is not the content, in which I necessarily feel myself insulted; for that which is negated has reference to the personality which has appropriated such a content as its own, and now conceives itself as this ideal centrum of infinity attacked.

(c) For such reasons every insult to honour is regarded as essentially of an infinite significance. It can consequently only be repaired by means which possess that character. No doubt we may have many degrees of insult, and as many modes of satisfaction; what however at the stage we are now considering any man may take as an insult, how far he will feel himself as insulted and claim satisfaction therefore, such considerations depend once more wholly on the personal caprice of the particular person, which is justified in pursuing its object to the utmost point of scrupulosity and outraged feeling. In this process of satisfaction, which is here claimed, it is essential that the man who delivers the insult no less than he who receives it should be recognized as a man of honour. For the latter requires the free recognition of his honour from the former; but in order to have honour in his eyes and through his action that man must appear to the recipient of insult as a man of honour, in other words he must substantiate by virtue of his personality the infinite character of the insult which he has laid upon the outraged man and despite his personal enmity that is thereby directed against him.

It is, then, a fundamental determinant in the general principle of honour that no one through his actions can give to any one a right over himself; and consequently all that he has done and may have initiated will be regarded both previous to its commencement and after its conclusion as unalterably affiliated to infinity, and will be accepted and treated under such a qualitative relation.

Moreover, since honour, in its conflicts and its satisfaction in this respect, depends on personal independence, which is[Pg 337] conscious of itself as subject to no limitation, but acts directly from its own resources, we find a fact recur to our attention, which we previously observed fundamentally characterized the heroic figures of the Ideal, namely the self-subsistence of individuality. In honour, however, we have not merely the secure self-dependence and action from personal resources, but this self-subsistence is in this case united with the idea of itself; and it is just this preconception which constitutes the real content of honour in the sense that it perceives what is its own in that which is presented exterior to it, and envisages itself therein to the full extent of its personal life. Honour is consequently a self-subsistence, which is a self reflection, and possesses in such a reflection its exclusive essence, and moreover leaves it wholly to accident whether its content be that which is essentially moral and necessary, or contingent and insignificant.


The second emotional source which plays a predominant part in the productions of romantic art is love.

(a) We have found in honour that the individual conscious life, as it prefigures itself in its absolute independence, forms the fundamental determinant; in a similar way the highest attitude of love is the surrender of the personal life to some object of the opposed sex, a sacrifice of its independent consciousness and its personal isolation, which for the first time in the consciousness of another, is aware emotionally that it has thoroughly brought home to itself its own self-knowledge. In this respect we may contrast love and honour. Conversely, however, we are entitled to regard love as the realization of that which was already inherent in honour, in so far as honour claims recognition[247] that it should be received in another as the infinite significance of personality. This recognition is only true and complete when it is not merely my personality in the abstract, or in a concrete and consequently restricted case, is respected by another, but when I, in the' entire significance of my personal resources, with everything this either emphasizes or includes, as this particular person in all my past, present, and future[Pg 338] relations, both penetrate the conscious life of another, and, in fact, constitute the object of his real volition and knowledge, his effort and his property. In this respect it is this same inward infinitude of the individual which makes love of such importance to romantic art, an importance which is materially enhanced by the exalted character of the wealth which the notion of love itself carries.

More closely, then, love does not subsist, as may frequently happen in the case of honour, upon the subject-matter of the mind and the casuistry of reflection, but originates in the emotions, and for the reason that here the distinctions of sex play an important part, possesses at the same time for its basis natural conditions as already related to spirit life. This basis is, however, only present in the sense that the individual comes into relation with such conditions by way of his soul-life, that essentially infinite aspect of himself.

This state of a man's losing his own consciousness in another, this appearance of disinterestedness and unselfishness, by virtue of which a man first really finds himself and comes to himself—this oblivion of his own, so that the lover no longer exists, or is careful for himself, but discovers the roots of that life in another, and yet only comes into the full enjoyment of himself in that other is what gives us the infinite relation of love; and we must look for beauty mainly in so far as this feeling does not persist as mere impulse and emotion, but through the imagination makes its world conform to such a condition, exalts everything which otherwise belongs by virtue of its interest, circumstances, and objects to real existence and life, into an adornment of this feeling, bears away all else into the charmed circle, and only attaches a value to it in this relation. More particularly it is in female characters that love appears in most beautiful guise because this sacrifice, this surrender, is with them as the culmination of everything else. It is these qualities, in fact, which concentrate and extend life in its spiritual breadth and reality to the wealth of this emotion, which alone discover within it a stay for existence, and if any misfortune sweeps across the path, vanish like a light which is extinguished by the first rude breath[248]. In this personal and[Pg 339] intimate sense of feeling love is not presented in classical art, and only appears as a feature of quite secondary importance for the representation, or is only conspicuous under its aspect of physical enjoyment. In Homer, either we find it is not emphasized at all, or love appears in its most respected type as wedded love in the sphere of the domestic state, exemplified in the figure of Penelope, or as solicitude of wife and mother, exemplified in the case of Andromache, or in other ethical relations of a similar character. The tie, on the other hand, which unites Paris to Helen is recognized as immoral, and the cause of the horror and fatal course of the Trojan war. The love, too, of Achilles for Briseis has little depth of sentiment or spiritual flavour, for Briseis is a slave entirely at his disposition. In the odes of Sappho it is true that the language of love receives the dramatic emphasis of lyrical enthusiasm; yet it is rather the insinuating and devouring flame of the blood which is here expressed than the profound emotion of the singer's heart and soul. From another aspect we find in the short and charming odes of Anacreon a wider and more jovial sense of enjoyment, which sports with delight on the immediate sense of enjoyment as over something to be simply accepted as it falls without troubling itself with infinite heartaches, without this overmastering of the entire life or the pious submission of a burdened, yearning, and yielding soul; in this type the point of infinite importance whether it is precisely this or that girl which you possess is as absolutely disregarded as the monkish notion that you should shun maidenhood altogether. The lofty tragedy of the ancients does not recognize the passion of love in its romantic significance. Pre-eminently in the case of both Aeschylus and Sophocles we find that it makes no pretension to contribute to the main interest of the drama. For although Antigone is the accepted lover of Haemon, and Haemon claims her before his father, nay, goes to the length of committing suicide because he is unable to deliver her,[Pg 340] yet it is the external aspects of the case rather than the power of his own personal passion, which, we may also note, is not that of a modern lover, which he emphasizes before Creon. As a more essential type of pathos love is treated by Euripides in the "Phaedra." But here, too, it rather makes itself felt as a criminal aberration of the blood, as a passion of the senses, initiated by Aphrodite, who is desirous of slaying Hippolytus, because he refuses to sacrifice to her. In the same way we have, no doubt, in the Medicean Aphrodite a plastic figure of love, whose exquisite pose and lovely elaboration of bodily form is quite consummate; but any profound expression of soul-life such as romantic art demands is wholly absent. On the other hand, the immortality of Petrarca, although he himself treated his sonnets in the light of recreation, and it was rather through his Latin poems and other works that he appealed to posterity, is due to this very love of the fancy which, under an Italian sky, joined sisterly hands with religion in the medium of a somewhat artificial outpouring of the heart. Dante's exaltation, too, originated in his love for Beatrice, which was transfigured in his soul to the white fervour of religious ecstasy, while the courage and boldness of his genius created energetically a religious outlook on the world, in which he dared, an attempt impossible without such gifts, to constitute himself the judge of mankind, and to apportion to individuals hell, purgatory, or paradise. In contrast to an exaltation of this kind love is placed before us by Boccaccio in those romances of his, in which he brings before our eyes the morals and life of his country, partly in all its impetuosity of passion, partly, too, in the spirit of frivolity without any ethical aim whatever. In the songs of the German Minnesingers we find a type of love, sensitive, tender, without much generosity of imagination, sportive, melancholy, and monotonous. Among the Spaniards it is copious in imaginative expression, chivalrous, somewhat casuistical in its discovery and defence of rights and duties, so far as they relate to private affairs of honour; and in this respect also possesses all the richest splendour of enthusiasm. In contrast to this among Frenchmen of more modern times love is more an affair of gallantry with a distinct bias toward vanity, an artificial state of feeling converted to the uses of poetry with[Pg 341] a kind of sophistry of the senses often marked with the finest wit, at one time expressing a kind of sensuous enjoyment which is devoid of passion, at another a passion that brings with it no enjoyment, a sublimated condition of feeling and sensibility which feeds upon the maxims of reflection. But I must here break off these general indications which our subject does not permit me now to carry further.

(b) More closely looked at the secular interest may be treated under two general divisions. We have on the one side secularity as actually organized, such as family life, the tie of citizenship and politics, law, justice, morality, and the rest; and in opposition to this[249] independent and assured existence love springs up in noble and impetuous spirits; this world-religion of hearts, which at one time we find joining hands with religion in every respect, while at another it supersedes it, forgets it, and by constituting itself the single essential, or rather the unique and supreme condition of life, is not only prepared to renounce all else, and to fly for refuge to a desert with the beloved, but proceeds in this extremity of its passion, which we can only exclude from the domain of beauty, to sacrifice all the worth of humanity in a manner at once servile, degrading, and despicable. An example of this we have in "Kätchen von Heilbronn." On account of this cataclysm of life's essential interests the objects of love cannot be realized without collisions in the theatre of the world. For despite of love the general conditions of life make their demand and assert their claims and the despotism of love's passion is unable to maintain itself against them with impunity.

(α) The first and most frequently exemplified type of collision we may draw attention to is that between honour and love. In other words, honour possesses just as love possesses in its own right this infinitude of claim, and may accept a content, which may confront love as a positive obstacle in its path. The obligations of honour may require the sacrifice of love. From a certain point of view it would be, for example, dishonourable for a man of high rank to wed one of the lower classes. The distinction between class and class is a necessary fact of natural condition as ordinarily[Pg 342] presented[250]. And so long as our secular life has not been emancipated through the infinite notion of true freedom, whatever may be the class or profession from which that life in the particular individual and his free choice takes its rise, to that extent it will always be Nature, that is, the birth condition, which to a greater or less degree will, on the one hand, determine the social position; and, on the other, these distinctions of status, as they thus originate, and quite independently of general grounds of honour, in so far as social position is made an affair of honour, will maintain themselves as of absolute and infinite stability.

(β) Quite apart, however, from questions of honour we must add as a further example of collision that the eternal and substantive powers themselves, the interests of the State, love of country, family obligations, and the rest, come into conflict with love and preclude its realization. Particularly in modern representations, in which the objective conditions of life have been already elaborated in all their available stringency, this is a favourite type of collision. Love is in such cases, as itself an important right of the personal soul, either set forth in opposition to other rights and duties, or despite of its own recognition of such it enters upon a conflict with them reliant upon itself and with the power of its private passion. The "Maid of Orleans"[251] is an example of a drama which rests upon a collision of this kind.

(γ) And in the third case we may find in a general way that external condition and its impediments oppose obstacles in the path of love. Such are the ordinary course of events, the prose of ordinary existence, misfortunes, passion, prejudice, follies, the selfishness of others, occurrences of every conceivable complexity and kind. Much will here present itself that is hateful, terrible, and mean, for it is mainly the evil, ruthless, and savage aspects of other forms of human passion which work contrary to the tender spiritual beauty of love. More particularly in later times we frequently come across external collisions of this sort in dramas, narratives, and romances, works whose main interest centres in a sympathy[Pg 343] for the sufferings, expectations, and ruined prospects of unhappy lovers and affect or satisfy us by means of their bad or happy endings, or merely provide entertainment. This type of conflict, however, on the ground that it merely depends upon accidental matters, is a subordinate one.

(c) No doubt love, from whatever of these points of view you choose to regard it, possesses a lofty quality, in so far as it does not merely remain an impulse of sex-attraction, but emphasizes the bounty of a really rich, beautiful, and noble soul, and is a living, active, courageous, and disinterested bond of union between one person and another. But romantic love is also not without its limitation. That which disappears from its content is the essentially realized universality.[252] It is merely the personal feeling of one particular individual, which does not attest itself as fulfilled with interest of eternal import and the actual content of organic human life, as made up of family, political aims, one's own country, obligations of profession, status, freedom, and religion, but merely with the personal consideration which is intent upon receiving again such private feeling as reflected back from some one else. Such a content of what is itself still but a formal mode of spiritual life does not correspond in full truth to the totality, which the essentially complete personality[253] ought to be. In the family, marriage, duty, and the State the personal feeling simply as such and the unity which issues from it with some particular person and no other is not the main point of interest. In the love of romance, however, all centres in the fact that this man or woman loves that woman or man and no one else. Yet it is precisely this fact that it is only this or that person, which is solely based upon personal idiosyncracy, in other words, the contingency of caprice.[Pg 344] There is no lover who does not think his beloved, no maiden who does not fancy her lover, as the fairest and most supreme, to the exclusion of all others, although they may appear very ordinary mortals in the eyes of other folk. But in just this fact that all the world or, let us say, a large number, act thus exclusively, and will not make an exception in favour of the unique Aphrodite herself, but rather possess an Aphrodite of their own, and very easily somewhat more than Aphrodite, we can only very obviously conclude that there are many who pass for the same fairy Princess, as no doubt every one knows well enough, that there are a whole bevy of pretty or good and excellent girls in the world, all of whom, or let us hope the majority, will secure their own lovers, adorers, and husbands, to whom they doubtless appear as gifted in like manner with all the beauty and virtue of Christendom. To bestow in every case our preference on one, and only one, is obviously a wholly private affair of the heart and of the separate individuality of each person, and the incommensurable obstinacy in discovering as though by a law of necessity one's life and supremest sense of such in just that one individual is proof that it is a caprice no less infinite in its significance than it is inevitable. We have without question in this attitude the loftier freedom of the personal life and its absolute power of choice recognized, the power to be, not merely as we find in the "Phaedra" of Euripides, under the constraint of a pathos, a divinity; but in regard to the absolutely individual volition, from which such a liberty proceeds, such a choice appears at the same time to be a mere idiosyncrasy, an inflexibility of that which is wholly self-exclusive.

For this reason the collisions of love, more particularly when it is set in hostile opposition to substantive interests, retain an aspect of contingency and lack of authorization, because it is the personal life as such which confronts in opposition with a demand not independently justifiable that which for its own essential sake has a claim to recognition. The personalities in the lofty tragedy of the ancients such as Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes, Oedipus, Antigone, and Creon have, it is true, among other things a personal object; but the substantive thing, the pathos, which as the content of their action is the compelling force behind them,[Pg 345] is of absolute authority, and for this very reason, is also itself essentially of universal interest. The destiny which affects them on account of their action does not therefore move us on the ground that it is a fate of misfortune, but because it is a misfortune which affects or redounds to their honour. In other words the pathos, which will not rest until it is satisfied, possesses an essentially necessary content. When the guilt of Clytemnestra, in this concrete case of it, receives no punishment, when the insult which Antigone receives as sister[254] is not removed, in both cases we have a substantial wrong. These sufferings of love, however, these shattered hopes, this being in love generally, these infinite pains experienced by lovers, this measureless happiness and bliss which such imagine, are no such essential interest but rather something that merely affects themselves. All men, it is true, should be sensitive to love and may claim satisfaction in this respect. But when a man fails to secure that object in some particular place, in precisely this or that association, under just these circumstances and in respect to one unique maiden we can admit no absolute wrong. There is nothing essentially inevitable in the fact that a man should capriciously select any particular young woman, and that we should interest ourselves consequently for that which is in the highest degree accidental, a caprice of his own conscious life, which carries with it no impersonal expansion or universal significance. We have here the source of that tendency to cool which we cannot help feeling in the representation of the passion of romantic love however that passion may be emphasized.


The third type of soul-life which is of importance to the romantic consciousness on the field of its activity in the world is fidelity. By fidelity in the sense we are now using it we do not mean either the permanent adherence to the avowal of love once given, nor yet the stability of friendship in the beautiful image of the same such as we have left us by the ancients in that of Achilles and Patroclus, or with yet more intimacy, that of Orestes and Pylades. Youth is pre-eminently both the soil and the occasion from which[Pg 346] friendship of this latter type originates. Every man has to construct his path of life independently, to work out and sustain a given mode of realization. The time of youth, when individuals still live in an undefined atmosphere of external relations which they share, is the one in which they associate closely, and are bound together so nearly in one mode of thought, volition, and activity, that everything that any one of them undertakes becomes at the same time the undertaking of another. When men attain maturity this is no longer the case. The circumstantial life of the grown man pursues its independent course and will not admit of so close an affiliation with that of another that we can affirm of it that one cannot accomplish it without the other. Men make acquaintances and then separate; their interests and business are at one time disjoined, at another they coalesce; friendship, intimacy of mutual opinions, of principles, and the general trend of their life may remain; but this is not the friendship of youth, in which no individual unit either makes a decision or carries it into effect without inevitably making it a matter in which another is concerned. It is an essential principle at the very root of our life that in general every man must look after himself, must, in other words, prove by himself his capacity to confront the reality which affects him.

(a) Fidelity in friendship and love, then, subsists solely between equals. The fidelity which we have now to consider is relative to a superior, one more highly placed, a master. A fidelity of this type is to be found even among the ancients in that of servants to the family, the house of their lord. The most beautiful example of such a relation is supplied us by the swine-herd of Odysseus, who sweats by night and through tempest in order that he may look after his swine; who is full of anxiety on his master's account, to whom he finally gives loyal assistance against the suitors. Shakespeare offers us a picture of fidelity no less moving, though it is here shown entirely on the side of the feelings, in his "King Lear."[255] Lear asks Kent, "Dost thou know me, fellow?" And Kent replies: "No, sir; but you have that in your countenance which I would fain call master." This borders as close as possible on that which[Pg 347] we would make clear as romantic fidelity. Fidelity at this stage is not the loyalty of slaves and churls, however true and pathetic such unquestionably may be, which is none the less devoid of the free independence of individuality and its unrestricted aims and actions, and is consequently of subordinate rank. What we, in short, have before us is the liege-service of chivalry, in which each vassal preserves intact his own free self-dependence as an essential element in the attitude of subordination to one of higher rank, whether lord, king, or emperor. This type of fidelity, however, is a principle of supreme importance in chivalry for the reason that it forms the fundamental bond of union in a common society and its social co-ordination at least in the original form of its appearance.

(b) The object which thus receives a fuller content and is made apparent in this new type of association between individuals is not, however, by any means patriotism regarding that as an objective and universal interest, but a bond merely with one person, the lord, and for this reason conditioned by private honour, personal advantage and opinion. In its fullest brilliancy we find fidelity of this kind in a surrounding world that is unregulated and uncouth, beyond the control of right and law. Within a lawless reality of this kind the most powerful and commanding spirits stand out as fixed points of attraction, as leaders and nobles, and the rest rally round them of their own free will. Such a condition is later on elaborated into a legalized co-ordination of fealty, in which every vassal has his own claim to rights and privilege. The fundamental principle, however, upon which the entire system reposes is in its primary origins free choice, no less in relation to the dependent vassal than to the conditions under which he remains faithful to his vassalage. For this reason the fidelity of chivalry is quite prepared to maintain property, right, and personal independence and honour, and is on this account not simply recognized as an obligation which may be enforced to the entire disregard of the private inclinations of the vassal however they may arise. Quite the contrary. Every subordinate unit only continues there and helps to establish the general social order so long as the same falls in with his own wishes, inclinations, and opinions.

[Pg 348]

(c) On this account fidelity and obedience to the feudal lord can very readily clash with private feelings, an exasperated sense of honour, sensitiveness to insult, love, and many other chance incidents of the personal or external life. It is consequently of a highly precarious character. A knight, for example, is loyal to his lord, but a friend of his happens to quarrel with him. He has now to choose between the two objects of his fidelity, and, chief of all, he has to consider himself, the claims of his personal honour and advantage. The most beautiful example of such a conflict we have in the "Cid." He remains as true to himself as he is to his king. If the king acts wisely he assists him with his arm's strength; if his feudal lord acts wrongly or the Cid feels touched on the point of honour this powerful support is withdrawn. The paladins of Charles the Great exhibit much the same attitude. It is a tie of chieftainship and obedience not unlike that which we have already observed between Zeus and the other gods. The superior lord commands, blusters, and scolds, but the independent and powerful individualities resist him precisely when and as they please. We find the most consistent and charming picture of the conditional and easy terms under which this bond is maintained in the "Reinecke Fuchs." Just as the magnates in this kingdom are most really true to their own aims and independence, we find that the German barons and knights in the Middle Ages were not at home when called upon to act for the sake of the general weal and their emperor; and it really looks as though our chief praise of the Middle Ages must consist in this that no man is in such a period justified in his own eyes or a man of honour, except in so far as he runs after his own inclinations, in other words, does precisely that which he is not suffered to do in a State which is organized on a rational basis.

In all these three stages of honour, love, and fidelity, we shall find the soil on which the self-subsistency of personality, the soul, is supported, an independence which, however, constantly unfolds in a wider and more affluent content, remaining in the same self-reconciled. Here stretches before us in romantic art the fairest strip of country which we can find anywhere outside the enclosure of religion in its strict sense, Its objects are concerned with that which[Pg 349] is simply human, a relation with which we can at least from one aspect of it, namely, that of personal freedom, absolutely sympathize, and we do not find here, as we do now and again in the religious field, both a material and modes of representation which clash with our modern notions. But at the same time we must add that our present subject matter may very frequently be brought into direct relation to religion so that religious interests are interwoven with those of the world of chivalry; as, for example, was the case in the adventures of the knights of the round table in their quest of the Holy Grail. In this interfusion we find not only much that is mystical and fantastical, but also much that is allegorical added to the poetry of chivalry. And conversely this secular sphere of the interests of love, honour, and fidelity may also be totally unconnected with the deepening of their content with religious aims and opinions, and only bring to view the earliest movement of soul-life in the secular aspect of its spiritual intensity. That which, however, drops away from the present levels is the repletion of this inner life with the concrete content of human conditions, characters, passions, and realized existence generally. In contrast to this variety the essentially infinite soul still remains abstract and formal, and has therefore in front of it the task, to accept as part of its own this further material with what it held before, and to exhibit the same in the forms congenial to artistic composition.

[241] He has not in this exclusive sense of religiosity identified himself with the spirit of the Christian community. Der Anderen refers to Gemeinschaft. Such appears to me the sense.

[242] Zur Wirklichkeit entfaltetes Leben.

[243] Put more simply we may say in popular terminology that it is filled up or amplified by virtue of the sense of individual personality. This Hegel himself further elucidates below. Falstaff undoubtedly possessed a strong personality, but in his famous soliloquy on honour he deliberately emptied himself of any sense of it by refusing to view himself under the self-relation, that is self-respect.

[244] I fail to appreciate this distinction, except in a very qualified form. Even in the Middle Ages when the feudal relation was in full force, the relation between the master and the servant was surely one of the institutions of the State, though no doubt the rights of the dependent were not always very readily enforced. Even in the case of slavery in the Southern States of America the relation between master and slave carried with it quite definite ethical obligations—there was in general at least quite a distinct social if not actually political status.

[245] I suppose Hegel means by ein Punkt a centre or point of life. The expression is rather unusual.

[246] Absoluten Geltung, that is its absolute validity in its ideal character.

[247] The punctuation in text is defective.

[248] So runs the text. It comes from such a writer with a shock. Why such qualities should vanish (schwinden) in the presence of unhappiness it is not easy to see. It would rather appear that such was the condition to evoke them. What is meant is, I suppose, that the failure of reciprocity, especially in the love of women, often brings complete collapse. We may illustrate it in several of Meredith's novels such as "Diana" and "Sandra Belloni."

[249] The two sides would appear to be the secularity of the social organism and "free" love.

[250] This I think is the meaning. Until the full notion of liberty is apprehended the divisions of class will have the appearance of natural necessity.

[251] Schiller's drama of that name.

[252] Die an und für sich seyende Allgemeinheit. The universal notion as explicitly made actual in life.

[253] Ein in sich konkretes Individuum. The whole of this analysis appears to me a rather abstract and professorial consideration of romantic attachment, separating love from its reality of association and relation in actual life. In so far as it is true it is purely abstract truth, and must be regarded as such. In actual life it is no more true that even in the average case misfortune blights the blossom than it is true that the love of the individual concentrates itself solely on the mere attachment between two persons. It is bound up with the idea of family and continuation of the race, and so indirectly with the State.

[254] As sister of her violated brother Polyneices.

[255] Act I, sc. 4.

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If we take a glance back on the territory we have passed through, we see in the first instance that the object of our investigation was the life of the soul[256] in its most absolute capacity, in other words, consciousness in its mediation with God, the universal process of the self-reconciling spirit. The abstraction of this point of view consisted in this that the soul by an effort of abnegation withdrew itself from all that was secular, purely natural and human—even when the same had ethical features, and for this reason possessed a claim upon us—into its own distinctive domain in order to satisfy its yearning for the pure heaven of spirit. Secondly, we found ourselves able, it is true, to bring into view the human consciousness without this factor of abstract negation which was included in that mediation, in other words, positively in its independence and as related to others[257], but the content of this secular infinitude as such was none the less only the personal self-subsistency of honour, the intensiveness[258] of love and the vassalage of fidelity, a content which, no doubt, may appear before us in many relations, in a many-folded variety and many gradations of feeling and passion, subject to the most extensive changes of external condition, yet for all that only propounds just this personal independence and inwardness within such examples. The third aspect, then, which we have now left us to examine is the mode and manner in which that further material of human[Pg 351] existence, both on the side of its inward and its external life, that is to say, Nature and its apprehension and significance for soul-life, is able to enter into the romantic type of art. We have here to deal with the world of particular objects, determinate existence generally, regarded in its unfettered independence, and which, in so far as it does not appear transparent to religion and spiritual synthesis, bringing it into unity with the Absolute, asserts itself on its own foothold and declares its self-subsistence in its own kingdom.

In this third province of the romantic type of art consequently the purely religious material and chivalry with those lofty views and aims that we found it brings to birth from its spiritual womb[259], but which were not directly concordant with anything visible in the reality of the existing world, have vanished. The new object of satisfaction is a thirst for this actual presence itself, a delight in the facts of existence, a contentment of the soul with the dwelling that confronts it, with the finitude of our humanity, and what is finite, particular, and the true counterfeit of such generally. Man is intent to recreate for his own world the world as he actually finds it, although such may imply a sacrifice of the Beauty and ideality of the content and manifestation will reflect it as it stands before him endowed with life in his art, will have that present life before his eyes as the work of his own mind. The religion of Christianity as we have already seen has not sprung up from the soil of the imagination as was the case with the divinities of the East and Greece, whether we consider them relatively to form or content. It is the imagination which fashions the vital significance out of its own resources in order to promote the unity between the reality of soul life with the perfected embodiment of the same. In classical art this complete coalescence is actually attained. In the Christian religion, on the other hand, the secular aspect in its exclusive character is from the first accepted for just that which it really is as an essential factor of the Ideal; and the soul of man finds satisfaction in the ordinary and contingent presence of the external world without the necessary interposition of beauty. But man is nevertheless in the first instance reconciled to[Pg 352] God only by implication, and as a possible result. All men are called to the blessed condition, but few are chosen; and the soul for which both the kingdom of heaven and that of this world still remain as a "beyond" is constrained to renounce both that which is spiritual in the external world and its own presence therein. The point of departure is from a distance infinitely remote from that world; and to make this reality, which in the first instance is simply surrendered, a positive constituent of that which is man's own, in other words to bring about this rediscovery of himself and his volition in his own present life, from which all takes its rise, this it is which supplies us first with a terminating point in the elaboration of romantic art, and is the final outlook to which the spiritual penetration of man is carried and on which it is concentrated.

In so far as the form of this new content is concerned we have already observed that romantic art from its first initiation was infected with the contradiction that the essentially infinite mode of the self-conscious life is, in its independence, incapable of being united with the external material, and is bound to remain in such separation. This independent opposition of both aspects and the withdrawal of the inwardness of spirit into its own domain is that which constitutes the content of romance. These two aspects are continually separated anew by self-rehabilitation[260], until at length they fall entirely apart, and thereby demonstrate that we must search for some other field than Art to secure their absolute union. And by this falling apart we find that these aspects in their relation to art are formal; in other words they fail to appear as a totality in that complete type of unity which was secured to them by the Classic Ideal. Classical art is placed in a region of stable figures, that is in the midst of a mythology and its irresoluble types perfected by art. The resolution of the classical form is consequently brought about—as we found in discussing its transition to the romantic form—leaving out of our present consideration the generally more restricted territory of the comic and satyric modes—by an over-elaboration in the[Pg 353] direction of all that pleases the senses or an imitation which loses itself in the deadly frost of a pedantic learning, till it at length entirely degenerates into a negligent and inferior technique. The objects of art remain, however, the same throughout the process, and merely play truant to the earlier intelligent mode of production with a presentation that is increasingly more spiritless and a purely traditional and mechanical technique. The progress and conclusion of romantic art on the contrary is the resolution of the material of art within its own boundaries[261] altogether, a material which falls apart into its elements, an increase of freedom in the several parts, along with which process and in contrast to the previous case, the individual craftsmanship and artistic mode of presentment is enhanced; and in proportion as the substantive content tends to break up to that extent attains a fuller perfection.

We may now attempt a more specific subdivision of this the final chapter of this part of our subject in the following terms.

In the first place we have before us the self-subsistency of character, which is, however, a particular one, that is, a definite individual self-absorbed in its world, its specific qualities and aims.

In opposition to this formal particularity of character we have the external conformation of situations, events, and actions. For the reason, moreover, that the inward spirituality of romance stands generally in an indifferent relation to that which is external the actual phenomenon[262] appears in the present case independently free, that is as neither permeated by the spiritual content of human aims and actions nor clothed in modes adequate to retain them. By reason of its unrelated and loose mode of manifestation it therefore enforces the contingency of natural processes[263], circumstances, the sequence of events, and manner of its realization as the unexpected.[264]

In the third place, and finally, the severation of the two factors asserts itself, the complete identity of which supplies[Pg 354] us with the real notion of art. This is consequently the dismemberment and dissolution of art itself. On the one hand we find that art passes to a representation of wholly commonplace reality, to the reflection of objects precisely as they appear in their contingent isolation and its equally singular characteristics. Its interest is now wholly absorbed in reproducing this objective existence by means of the technical ability of the artist. On the other hand we have, in what is a mode of conception and representation entirely dependent on the accidental idiosyncracy of the artist himself, that is in humour, a complete reversal of the pictorial style above mentioned. For in humour we meet with the perversion and overthrow of all that is objectively solid in reality; it works through the wit and play of wholly personal points of view, and if carried to an extreme amounts to the triumph of the creative power of the artist's soul over every content and every form.


The fundamental determinant of our present subject-matter is once again that infinitude implied in the very nature of the human consciousness which was our point of departure in the romantic type of art. The new accretions we have now, however, to add to our conception of this mode of self-subsistent infinity consist partly in the particularity of content, which constitutes the world of the individual mind, as to a further aspect of it in the immediate coalescence of the ego with this its particularity, its wishes and objects, and thirdly, in the living individuality, in which the substantive character is self-determined. We are not, therefore, entitled to understand under the expression "character" as now employed that which the Italians represented in their masks. The Italian masks are also no doubt definite characters, but this definition is only presented by them in its abstraction and generality, without a personal individuality. The characters, on the other hand, of the type under discussion are each of them a character unique in itself, an[Pg 355] independent whole, an individual person[265]. If we have, therefore, occasion here to refer to the formalism and abstraction of character, such an expression is entirely relative to the fact that the fundamental content, the world of such a character appears, on the one hand, as restricted and to that extent abstract, and, on the other, as qualified by accidental causes. What the individual is is not carried or sustained by virtue of what is substantive or essentially self-accredited[266] in its content, but through the naked personality asserted by the character, which consequently reposes formally on its own individual self-subsistency rather than on its content and its independently secured pathos.

Within the limits of this formalism we may now observe two main lines of distinction.

On the one hand we have the stability of character in the energy of its executive power, which restricts its line of action to specific aims, and entrusts the concentrated force of individuality thus restricted to the realization of such objects. On the other hand we have character under the aspect of a totality that is personal, which, however, persists not wholly articulated throughout the content of that inward life and in the unsounded[267] depths of the soul, and is unable to unravel itself wholly, or express itself with absolute clarity.

(a) What we have therefore before us, in the first instance, is the particular character which wills to be that its immediate presence proposes, Just as animals differ from each other and discover themselves as independent creatures in this difference, so, too, here we have different characters whose range and idiosyncracy remains subject to the element of contingency[268], and is not to be accurately determined by the mere notion.

(α) An individuality of this kind built up entirely on itself consequently has no ready thought-out opinions and objects, which it has associated with any universal principle of pathos:[Pg 356] all that it-possesses, does, and accomplishes it creates right away with no further reflection out of its own specific nature; which is just what it happens to be, and has no wish to be rooted in anything more exalted, to be resolved in that and to find its justification in something substantive. Rather it reposes unyielding and unmalleable on itself, and in this stability either goes on its way or goes to ground. A self-subsistency of character of this kind is only able to appear, where the secular or natural man[269], in other words, humanity in its particularity has secured its fullest claim. Pre-eminently the characters of Shakespeare are of this type. It is just this iron[270] steadfastness and exclusiveness which constitutes the aspect of them which most excites our wonder. We have no word here of religion for religion's sake, or action as the embodiment of human reconciliation, in the unqualified religious sense, or of morality pure and simple. On the contrary we are presented with individuals, conceived as dependent solely on themselves, possessed with aims that are their own exclusively, exclusively deducible from their individuality, and which they carry through as best satisfies them with the unmitigated consequences of passion, and with no incidental reflection on the principles involved. In particular the tragedies, such as "Macbeth," "Othello," "Richard III" and others contain one character of this type for their main interest surrounded by others less pre-eminent for such elemental energy. Macbeth is forced by his character, for example, into the fetters of his ambitious passion. At first he hesitates, then he stretches his hand to seize the crown; he commits a murder in order to secure it, and in order to maintain it storms on through the tale of horror. This regardless tenacity, this identity of the man with himself, and the object which his own personality brings to birth is the source to him of an abiding interest. Nothing makes him budge, neither the respect for the sacredness of kingship, nor the madness of his wife, nor the rout of his vassals, nor destruction as it rushes upon him, neither divine nor human claims—he withdraws from them all into himself and persists.[Pg 357] Lady Macbeth is a character of the same mould, and it is merely the chatter of our latter-day tasteless criticism which can find in her the least flavour of affection. At her very first entrance, on reading Macbeth's letter reporting his meeting with the witches and their prophecy in the words[271]: "Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! Hail to thee king that shall be!" she exclaims, "Glamis thou art and Cawdor; and shall be what thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o' the milk of human kindness, to catch the nearest way." She shows no affectionate trait, no joy over the happiness of her husband, no moral emotion, no sympathy, no pity of a noble soul; she simply fears lest the character of her husband will stand in the path of his ambition. She regards him simply as a means. With her there is no recoil, no uncertainty, no consideration, no retreating, as we find is at first the case with Macbeth, no repentance, but the pure abstraction and rigour of character, which perpetrates that which falls in with it, until it finally breaks. This collapse which comes in a tempest on Macbeth from the outside as he executes his object, becomes madness of the mind in Lady Macbeth. Of the same type is Richard III, Othello, the old Margaret and many another also. We have its opposite in the wretched coherence[272] of modern characters, such as those of Kotzebue, which are outwardly noble in the highest degree, great and excellent, yet in their soul-force are all rags and tatters. Later writers have done no better in other relations, despite their supreme contempt for Kotzebue. Heinrich von Kleish is an example with his Kätchen and Prince von Homburg[273], characters in which, in contrast to the alert condition of real causal effect, magnetism, somnambulism, and sleep-walking are depicted as that which is of highest and most effective moment. This Prince von Homburg is a most pitiable exhibition of a general; he is distracted when he makes his military dispositions, writes out his orders in a way none can decipher them, is engaged in the night previous to the battle with morbid forebodings, and acts on the day of battle like a fool. And despite such duality, raggedness, and[Pg 358] lack of harmony in their characters these writers imagine that they tread in the footsteps of Shakespeare. Wide indeed is the distance which separates them, for the characters of Shakespeare are essentially consequent in what they do; they remain staunch to their master passion; in what they are and in what confronts them, nothing makes them veer round but what is in strict accord with their rigidly determinate character.

(β) The more particular, then, the character is, which relies purely on itself, and consequently readily approaches evil, to that extent it is forced in the concrete world of reality to maintain itself, not merely against the obstacles which lie in its path and prevent the realization of life's aims, but so much more by this very realization such is driven headlong to its downfall. In other words, on account of the fact that it achieves its object, the fate that has its origin in the specific nature of its character itself, deals it a blow in a mode of destruction it has itself prepared. The development of this fatality is, however, not merely a development from the action of the particular personality, but quite as much a growth of the soul[274], a development of the character itself in its headlong movement, its running wild, its shattering in pieces or exhaustion. Among the Greeks, for whom pathos, the substantive content of action, rather than the personal character, is the important feature, a destiny affects the character that is thus sharply defined to a less degree for this reason, that it is not further evolved within the sphere of its activities, but remains at their conclusion what it was at the start. In the compass of our present subject-matter, however, by the carrying through of the action itself, the inner life of the personality is evolved quite as much as the progress of the action; the advance is not simply on the outside. The action of Macbeth appears at the same time a descent of the soul into savagery, accompanied by a result which, when all irresolution is thrown to the winds, and the dice is cast, leaves nothing further able to restrain it. His wife is from the very first decided: development is shown here merely as the anxiety of the soul, which is carried to the point of physical and spiritual ruin, the madness, in short, which strikes her down. And[Pg 359] this is the kind of process which we can follow in the majority of Shakespeare's characters, whether important or unimportant. The characters of ancient drama assert themselves, no doubt, also on fixed lines, and we find them even face to face with opposed forces, relief from which is no longer possible except through the advent of a deus ex machina. Yet this stability, as in the case of Philoctetes, is united to a content, and, on the whole, penetrated with a pathos which may be vindicated on ethical grounds.

(γ) In the sphere of presentation we are now considering, owing to the contingent nature of all that the characters which belong to it seize upon as their aim and the independence of their individuality, no objective reconciliation is possible. The environment of all that they are, and what opposes their progress, is in part without defined lines, but also in part we see that there is neither a "Whence" nor a "Whither" unriddled for themselves. Here we have once more presented to us that Fate which is the most abstract form of Necessity. The only reconciliation of the individual issues from the infinite mode of his soul-life, his own steadfastness, in which he stands supreme over his passion and his destiny. "Thus it came to pass,"[275] whatever falls in his way, whether it be due to a controlling destiny, necessity or accident, there is his "Wherefore"; he accepts it at once without further reflection. It is fact, and man adjusts himself thereto, and tries to make himself as stone toward its authority.

(b) In absolute contrast to the above, however, there is a further or second mode in which the formal aspect of character may find its seat within the innermost of soul-life, and in which the individual may remain fixed without being able to extend its range or execute its effects.

(α) Such are those spiritual natures of intrinsic substance, who, while self-absorbed in a complex whole, are only able in the simplicity of their compactness[276] to perfect that profound activity within the shrine of the soul without further development or explication in the world around them. The formalism which we have hitherto been examining was[Pg 360] relative to the defined character of the content, the entire self-concentration[277] of the individual upon one object, which it makes to appear in all its unrelieved severity, a concentration which expressed itself, was carried out, and in which, just as circumstances fell out, either collapsed or held on to the end. This further mode of formalism is emphasized in a converse way by its undisclosed and formless character, and by its defect of expression and expository power. A soul of this type is like some precious jewel, which is only visible at certain points, a manifestation which is that of a lightning flash.

(β) And the reason that such state of self-seclusion should still be of worth and interest to us is due to the fact that it presupposes a secret wealth of the soul, which, however, only permits its infinite depth and fulness, and precisely, by means of this silence, to show itself in a few and so to speak half-muted ways of expression. Such simple natures, unconscious of what they possess, and without speech, may exercise an extraordinary fascination. But that this may be so their silence must be like the unruffled stillness of the sea upon its surface, over its unsounded depths, not the silence of all that is shallow, hollow, and stupid. It is quite possible sometimes for the dullest fellow to succeed by means of an external demeanour that manages very little to expose itself, and merely presents now and again something that is but half intelligible, to awake in others the opinion that it is the veil of a profound wisdom and spiritual depth, so that people wonder what in the world lies hidden in such a heart and soul, where we find in the end there is just nothing. The infinite content and profundity of silent souls of the genuine type is made clear to us—and to declare it makes the greatest demand on the intuitive powers and executive ability of the artist—by means of isolated, unrelated, naïve, and involuntary expressions of soul-life, which quite unintentionally make it plain to all who can grasp their significance that such a soul has seized upon the substantial import of all that confronts it with the richest quality of spiritual insight, that its reflective capacity, however, is not carried further by positive expansion into the general environment of particular interests, motives, and[Pg 361] finite aims, but rather preserves its original purity that the fact it refuses to have its powers dissipated by the commonplace excitements of the heart and the serious quests and modes of sympathy which are thus inevitable, may remain unknown to the world.

(γ) A time must, however, arrive for a soul of this type in which it becomes uniquely affected at one definite point of attachment in that inward worlds it concentrates the whole of its undivided powers in one supreme form of emotion that dominates its life-current; it adheres to this with a force that refuses to be diverted, and secures happiness therein, or goes to ground from lack of support. To retain a hold on life a man requires a constantly expanding breadth of ethical sustenance, which alone supplies an objective stability. To this type of character belong some of the most fascinating figures in romantic art, whose full perfection of beauty we shall find among the creations of Shakespeare. As an illustration we may take the Juliet in his "Romeo and Juliet." It is possible at this moment to see a reproduction of this play in this city[278]. It is well worth going to. The picture we have given us there of this character is a moving, lifelike, passionate, talented, highly finished and noble one. But for all that it is possible to entertain a somewhat different conception of the part. In other words, we may figure for ourselves a maiden in the first instance simple as a child, of only fourteen or fifteen years of age, who, it is quite clear, has as yet no self-knowledge or world wisdom, no emotional activity, no strong inclination or wishes of the heart, but has rather glanced into the motley show of the world as into some laterna magica without learning anything from it, or reflecting upon what is seen there. All in a twinkling we behold the development of the entire strength of this soul, of its artfulness[279], its circumspection, its force; it is prepared to sacrifice everything and to submit itself to the severest ordeals, so that in its entirety it now suddenly appears to be the first breaking forth of the full rose in all its petals and folds, an infinite outburst of the innermost purity which gushes from the spring source of the soul, in[Pg 362] which it had held itself back previously as yet undiscerned, unmoulded and undeveloped; which moreover, as the now existing creation of one awakened interest, betrays itself unpremeditated in the fulness and strength of its beauty from the previous seclusion of spirit. It is a brand which one spark has kindled, a bud which at the first bare touch of love breaks unawares before us in full bloom. And yet the faster it unfolds the more rapidly it also sinks, and its petals fall from it. An impetuous progress is still more conspicuous in the case of Miranda. Brought up in seclusion we have her portrayed for us by Shakespeare at the critical moment when she first makes the acquaintance of manhood[280]. He depicts her in a few scenes, but in those we get a picture that is complete and unforgettable. We may also include Schiller's Thecla under the same type, despite the fact that it is rather the creation of a reflective kind of poetry[281]. Though placed in the midst of a life of such amplitude and richness she remains unaffected by it; she remains within it without vanity, without reflection, purely absorbed by the one interest which alone dominates her soul. And as a general rule it is chiefly the beautiful and noble natures of women, in which the world and their own heart-life blossoms for the first time in love, so that it is as though their spiritual birth here takes its rise.

Under the same type of spiritual intensity, which is unable fully to unfold itself, we may for the most part classify those folksongs, more particularly our German ones, which, in the copious compactness of the soul-life therein reflected, and however much such is displayed to us as carried away by any one absorbing interest, are yet unable to express the same except in broken flashes, and thereby fully reveal just this very depth. It is a mode of artistic presentment, which in its reserve is apt to fall back on the effects of symbolism. What it offers us is not so much the open, transparent display of the entire inward life as it is purely a sign and indication of that life. But we do not get, however, from it a symbol, the significance of which, as was the case previously, remains a general abstraction, but an expression[Pg 363] the inward content of which is nothing more nor less than this personal, living, and actual soul. In times like our own, dominated by a critical reflectiveness, which lies so far removed from a self-absorbed naïveté of this kind, such presentations are of the greatest difficulty, and if successful, are a sure proof of an original creative genius. We have already seen that Goethe, more particularly in his lyrics, has shown himself a master in this respect, namely, that he can depict and unfold to us in a symbolical way, in other words with a few simple, apparently external and insignificant traits, the entire truth and infinite wealth of a soul. His poem, "The King of Thule," one of his most lovely bits of poetical work, is of this class. The king here makes us aware of his love by just one thing only, namely, the drinking cup which the old man preserved as a gift of his beloved. The old carouser stands up there on the point of death in his lofty palace hall; his knights, his kingdom, his possessions are around him; and he bequeaths them all to his heir, but the goblet he flings into the waves; no one shall have that.

Er sah ihn stürzen, trinken,
Und sinken tief in's Meer,
Die Augen thäten ihm sinken,
Trank nie ein Tropfen mehr[282].

A soul, however profound and still of this kind, which retains its energy of spirit pent up like the spark in the flint, unopened to form, which does not elaborate its existence and reflection beyond its own boundaries, has also failed to free itself by such expansion. It remains exposed to the remorseless contradiction that, if the false note of unhappiness ring through its life, it possesses no remedial aptitude, no bridge as a way of passage between the heart and reality; it is equally unable to ward off external conditions from itself, and by so doing to preserve an independent ground of vantage in its own self-reliance. When the collision comes therefore it is helpless; it acts hastily and[Pg 364] without circumspection, or bows passively to the movement of events. So, for example, we have in Hamlet a beautiful and noble soul; one not so much spiritually weak, but one that wanders astray without a strong grasp of life's realities, moving in an atmosphere of dejection, a sombre and half articulate melancholy. Gifted with a finely intuitive sense he feels that all is not well with him, that things are not as they should be though he has no external sign, no single ground for suspicion; nevertheless he surmises the atrocious deed that has been perpetrated. The ghost of his father gives yet closer embodiment to his feelings. He is at once ready in spirit to revenge, his sense of duty is always before him reflecting the innermost craving of his heart, but he is not carried away with the flood, as Macbeth; he cannot either kill, rage, or strike with the directness of a Laertes; he persists in the inactivity of a beautiful, introspective soul, which can neither realize its aims nor make itself at home in the conditions of actual life. He dallies, seeks for more positive certainty buoyed up by the fair integrity of his soul; he can, however, come to no firm decision, much as he has sought it, and permits himself to follow the course of external events. In this atmosphere of unreality he goes yet further astray in matters that lie directly in his path; he kills the old Polonius instead of the king; he acts in a hurry where he should have been more circumspect, yet persists in his self absorption, where decided action is essential; until at length, without any action on his part, the fated dénouement of the entire drama, including that of his own persistently self-retiring personality, has unravelled itself on the broad highway of Life's external incidents and accidents.

We are particularly presented with this attitude in modern times among men of the lower levels of life, who are without an education which extends to aims of universal significance, or are devoid of the variety of objective interests. Consequently when some particular aim of their life fails they are unable to secure any further stay of their spiritual forces and a centre of control for their activities. This lack of education tends to make reserved natures, in proportion as it is undeveloped, adhere with the more rigidness and obstinacy to that which, through its appeal to their entire individuality, makes a claim upon them however limited in[Pg 365] its range it may be. We find pre-eminently such a monotonous attitude incidental to this class of self-absorbed and speechless men among German characters, who for this reason appear in their seclusion inclined to stubbornness, ready to bristle up, crabbed, inaccessible, and in their dealings and expressions wholly unreliable and contradictory. As a master in the delineation and exposition of such obtuse characters of the poorer classes we will mention but one example, Hippel, the author of "Life's Careers in the Line of Ascent,"[283] one of our few German works stamped with original humour. He keeps himself wholly removed from Jean Paul's sentimentality and want of taste in plot construction, and possesses moreover an astonishing individuality, freshness, and vitality. He understands, in quite an exceptional way, and one that seizes on our interest at once, how to depict the thickset type of people who are unable to breathe freely and who consequently, when they do give themselves the rein, do so with a violence that is simply fearful. They put an end of their own accord to the infinite contradiction of their spiritual life and the unhappy circumstances in which they are involved in an appalling manner; and bring about by such means that which is otherwise the result of an external fate, as we find, for instance, in "Romeo and Juliet," where external accidents mar all the wise and able offices of the holy father's intervention and cause the death of the lovers.

(c) We find, then, that characters of this formal quality generally either expose merely the infinite volitional force of the individual's personality, which asserts itself frankly just as it is and storms ahead in the bare impulse of the will; or, to take the further aspect, present to us an essential self-contained[284], if not wholly articulate soul, which, affected as it becomes by one specific aspect of its spiritual experience, concentrates the entire breadth and depth of its personality on this point, yet, owing to the fact of its possessing no development externally, is unable to find its proper place or to act with practical sense when it comes into collision with[Pg 366] that world. We have yet a third point[285] to mention, which consists in this, that when characters of this type, wholly one-sided and restricted as they are in respect to their aims if at the same time fully developed in mental power, awake in us not merely a formal, but also a substantial interest, we cannot fail to receive the impression that this limitation of their personal life is itself only a condition that is inevitable; in other words it is a result which grows out of the particular way in which their character is defined along with the profounder content of their personal life. Shakespeare in fact enables us to see this depth and wealth in such characters. He presents them to us as men of imaginative power and genius by showing how their reflective faculty commands them and lifts them above that which their condition and definite purpose would make them, so that they are all the while as it were forced by the misfortune of circumstances and the obstacles of their position into doing that which they accomplish. At the same time we do not mean this to the extent of asserting, for example, that the bad witches were to blame for all that Macbeth dared after consulting them. These witches are rather to be looked at as the reflex of his own obstinate will. All that the characters of Shakespeare execute, that is the particular purpose they propose, originates and finds the taproot of its force in their own personality. But along with this they maintain in one and the same individuality a loftiness, which brushes aside that which they actually are, so far as their aims, interests, and actions are concerned, and which amplifies them and exalts them above themselves. In like manner Shakespeare's more vulgar characters, such as Stephano, Trinculo, Pistol, and that hero among them all, Falstaff, though saturated with their own debasement, assert themselves as fellows of intelligence, whose genial quality is able to take in everything, to possess a large and open atmosphere of its own, and in short makes them all that great men are. In the tragedies of the French on the contrary even the greatest and most worthy characters only too frequently, if viewed critically, assert themselves as so many evil offshoots of the brute creation, whose only intelligence consists in this that it can furnish dialectical[Pg 367] arguments in its vindication. In Shakespeare we find neither vindication nor damnation, but merely a review of the general condition of destiny, which inevitably places such characters uncomplaining and unrepentant where they are, and from the starting-point of which they see everything, themselves included; and yet as independent spectators of themselves decline and fall.

In all these respects the realm which is peopled by such individual characters is an infinitely rich one, a kingdom, however, which very easily collapses in hollowness and dulness, so that only quite a few masters have received the gifts of poetical and intuitional power sufficient to enable them to reveal its truth.


Now that we have examined the aspect of the inward soul-life, which may, at this stage of our inquiry, be presented by art, we must direct our attention to that which lies without it, to the particularity of circumstances and situations which affect character, also to the collisions in which its development proceeds, and finally review the entire collective form, which this inward life assumes within the boundaries of concrete reality.

It is, as we have more than once pointed out, a fundamental determinant of romantic art, that the spiritual sense, in other words, the soul in its aspect of self-reflection, should constitute a whole, and relates itself for this reason to the external world, not, in its own reality, inter-penetrated by this world, but as though related to something purely external and separated from it, which goes on its way independently disjoined from Spirit, is thus evolved, and thus disposes of itself as a finite and continuously fluid, changing, and complicate object of contingent causality[286]. To the self-absorbed soul it is as wholly a matter of indifference what particular circumstances it confronts, as it is an affair of chance what those circumstances are which appear before[Pg 368] it. For in its action it is less a matter of importance that it should carry out a work whose essential basis is rooted in itself and owes its subsistency to its own character than that it should generally make itself effective in action.

(a) We have, in short, before us here a process which we may from one point of view describe as the rejection of the Divine from Nature. Spirit has here withdrawn itself from the externality of phenomena, which, for the reason that the inward life no longer sees itself reflected in this sphere[287], is now independently clothed on its part under a relation of indifference exterior to the subject of consciousness. Relatively to its truth Spirit is, no doubt, in its own medium mediated and reconciled with the Absolute: but in so far as we now take up our position on the ground of self-subsistent individuality, which proceeds from itself as it discovers itself in its immediacy, this divesting of the Divine[288] affects character in its active capacity. It moves forward, that is to say, with its own contingent aims into a world equally subject to chance, with which it fails to unite itself in an essentially harmonious whole. This relative character of purpose in an environment which is relative, whose determination and development does not subsist in the individual mind, but is defined externally and contingently and is responsible for collisions equally adventitious, which appear as offshoots that are unexpectedly interwoven with it, creates that to which we give the name of "the adventurous," which supplies the fundamental type of romance for the mode of its events and actions.

It is necessary that the action and dramatic event in so far as they apply strictly to the Ideal and classic art, should be referable to an essentially true or, in other words, independently explicit and necessary end, in whose conformation that which is also the determinating factor for the external form, for the particular type and mode of execution, is an object of real existence. In the case of the acts and events of romantic art this is not the case. For, although essentially universal and substantive ends are also presented in their manner of realization by this type, the definition of the action which is referable to such ends, and the principle of co-ordination and articulation which appears in its progress[Pg 369] on its spiritual side[289] is not the direct result of those ends themselves; this aspect of realization is inevitably left independent and subject to the operation of contingency.

(α) The romantic world had one and only one absolute work to accomplish, namely, the extension of Christendom, and the bringing into manifest performance the spirit of the community[290]. Situated in the midst of a hostile world consisting in part of the unbelieving ancient régime, and in part of a human life which was barbarous and coarse, the character of its actual accomplishment, in so far as it passed from mere theory to deeds, was, in the main, the passive endurance of pain and torture, the sacrifice of its own temporal existence for the eternal salvation of the soul. A further product of its energies, which is equally a portion of the same essential content, is, in the Middle Ages, that carried out by Christian Chivalry, the driving forth of the Moors, Arabs, and Mohammedans generally from Christian countries, and, above all, along with it, the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre in the Crusades. This, however, was not an object which affected man simply as human[291], but one which a mere collection of isolated individuals had to accomplish under conditions in which the individuals which composed it streamed together at their own free will and pleasure as such. From such a point of view we may call the Crusades the collective adventure of the Christian Middle Ages; an adventure, which was essentially subject to lapses[292], and fantastical, of a spiritual tendency, and yet devoid of a truly spiritual aim, and in its relation to action and character delusive. For in its relation to the processes of religion, the supreme object of the Crusades is in the highest degree empty and external. Christianity purported to secure its salvation solely in Spirit, in Christ, who is raised to the right hand of God; it finds its living reality and stay in Spirit, not in the grave of Spirit, or in the sensuous, immediately present localities of its former temporal abiding-place. The[Pg 370] impulse and religious yearning of the Middle Ages, however, was centred on the spot, the external locality of the Passion and the Holy Sepulchre. In just the same direct contradiction with the religious object we find that wholly worldly one which was bound up with conquest; a possession, which in its relation to the secular world, carried a totally different character to that of a truly religious purpose. Men would fain win for themselves what was spiritual and health to their souls, and they set before them as an aim a purely material locality, from which Spirit had vanished; they strained after a gain that was temporal, and united this which was of the world to the pure substance of religion. It is this distraction which gives us the discordant and fantastic note in such enterprises in which we find that which is of the world confound the life of soul, or the latter prove the confounding of the former instead of a harmony which is the result of both. And for the same reason much that is contradictory appears in the execution unresolved. Piety is carried to the point of rawness and barbarous cruelty. And this rawness permits every kind of selfishness and passion to break forth, or casts itself conversely once more upon the eternal depths which either move or bruise the human spirit, and which are, in truth, the heart and substance of the matter. In the medley of elements so discrepant, there is also an absence of all unity in the object proposed by the exploits and events themselves, or in the consequential power of authority. The host of men is diverted and split up in single adventures, victories, defeats, and a variety of accidents; and the outcome of it all fails to correspond to the means and enormous preparations which were involved. Nay, the object itself is stultified in the execution. For the Crusades would once again bring truth to the sentence: "Thou couldst not leave him in peace in the grave, thou didst not suffer thy holy one to see corruption." But it is precisely this longing to find Christ and spiritual content in such places and spaces, even the grave itself, the place of death, which is itself, whatever essential worth even a Chateaubriand may make out of it, a corruption of Spirit, out of which Christianity must rise in resurrection in order to return once more to the fresh and abundant life of the concrete world.

[Pg 371]

An object of much the same kind, mystical from one point of view, equally fantastical from another, and adventurous in its undertaking, is the search of the Holy Grail.

(β) A more exalted emprise is that which every man has to go through in his own domain, his life, in the course of which he determines his eternal destiny. It is this object which Dante has, consistently with the catholic standpoint, seized upon in his "Divine Comedy" as he conducts us in turn through hell, purgatory, and paradise. In this poem, too, despite the strenuous co-ordination of the whole, we have abundant evidence of conceptions which are fantastic[293], aspects that are suffused with the spirit of adventure, in so far, at any rate, as this work in its blessing and cursing is not carried through merely in the explicit form of universal statement, but as referable to an almost innumerable company of distinct personalities, not to mention the fact that the poet takes upon himself the fiat of his church, seizes the keys of heaven in his hand, adjudicates both bliss and damnation, and so constitutes himself the judge of the v world, who places the best known individuals both of the ancient and Christian eras, whether poets, citizens, cardinals, or popes, respectively in hell, purgatory, or paradise.

(γ) The remaining material, on the basis of the worldly life, which leads up to action and event, consists in the infinitely manifold and venturesome experiments of imaginative idea, all that element of chance in what arises either without or within the soul from love, honour, and fidelity. At one time we may see men thus affected box the compass for their own reputation's sake, at another leap to help persecuted innocence, carry out amazing exploits in defence of the honour of their lady, or vindicate some right that is invaded with the strength of their own arm, and the able use of their own weapons; and this albeit the innocence which is delivered prove only a company of knaves. In the majority of such cases there is absolutely no condition, no situation, no conflict before us in virtue of which we can assert that action follows as a necessary result. The soul simply wills it and intentionally looks out for adventure.[Pg 372] The exploits of love, for instance, in such cases have for the most part, if we look at their more specific content, no other real principle of determination beyond the effort to give proof of the steadfastness, fidelity, and constancy of love, to testify that all the surrounding world, together with the entire complexus of its relations, is merely of value as so much material in which love may be brought to light. For this reason the specific act of such manifestation, since the only thing that matters is the proof, is not determined by its own course, but is left dependent on a freak of chance, the mood of the lady, the caprice of external accidents. The same principle holds where the objects are honour or bravery. They are proper to an individual who holds himself far aloof from all further content of a more substantive character, who is perfectly able to enter into any and every content as it may chance to occur, to find himself the object of insult therein, or to look for an opportunity in which he may display his courage and shrewdness. As we have here absolutely no criterion as to what should or what should not form part of this content, in the same way also we have no principle in accordance with which we can fix what in each case is really an attack upon honour or the true subject-matter of bravery. It is just the same with the treatment of right, which is likewise an object of chivalry. In other words, right and law are here not as yet asserted as a condition and object which is of essentially independent stability, or as a system which is continuously made more perfect in accordance with law and its necessary content, but as themselves purely the product of individual caprice, so that their interposition, no less than the judgment passed upon that which in every particular case is held to be right or wrong, is throughout relegated to the entirely haphazard criteria of individual judgment.

(b) What we have before us generally, more particularly on the secular field, in chivalry and the formalism of character above indicated, is not merely, to a more or less degree, the contingency of the circumstantial conditions of human action, but also that of the soul in its attitude of volition. For individuals of this one-sided characterization are capable of accepting as the substance of their life that which is wholly contingent, conduct that is only sustained[Pg 373] by virtue of the energy of their character, and is carried out, or fails in its contact with the inevitable collisions which the condition of the world opposes to it. The same thing is true of the chivalry which receives in honour, love, and fidelity a more lofty ground of justification, and one entitled to rank with a truly ethical basis. On the one hand, it is still emphatically a matter of chance on account of the particular aspect of the circumstances on which it reacts; we find that here the object is to carry out aims peculiar to some particular person, instead of some work of general significance, and the modes of its attachment with the rest of life fail to possess independent stability. On the other hand, precisely at the point where we consider such action as part of the personal life of individuals, we are aware of the presence of caprice and illusion in respect to all that it either projects, originates, or undertakes. The net result of such a spirit of enterprise consequently, through all that it performs or enters upon, no less than in its ultimate effects, is no other than a world of events and fatalities which is self-dissolvent, a world of comedy for this very reason.

This self-dissolution of Chivalry we find set before us and artistically reproduced, pre-eminently and with unsurpassed adequacy, by Ariosto and Cervantes, and, so far as it affects the fate of such highly individual characters as those above described in their isolation, by Shakespeare.

(α) In Ariosto, more particularly, an attempt is made to delight the reader with the infinitely varied developments of personal destiny and aims, the fabulous complexity of fantastic relations and ludicrous situations over which the adventurous fancy of the poet plays to the point of absolute frivolity. The heroes of these dramas are seriously engaged in what is often unadulterated folly and the wildest eccentricity. And, to note especial points, love is frequently degraded from the Divine love of a Dante, or the romantic tenderness of a Petrarca, to sensual tales and ludicrous collisions; or heroism appears to be screwed up to a pitch that is so incredible it ceases to amaze, and merely excites a smile over the fabulousness of such exploits. By virtue, however, of this indifference in respect to the particular manner in which dramatic situations are brought about,[Pg 374] astonishing complications and conflicts are introduced, broken off and once more interwoven, chopped about, and finally resolved in a surprising way; yet, despite his ludicrous treatment of chivalry, Ariosto is as able to secure and display to us the true nobility and greatness which we may find in chivalry, or the exhibition of courage, love, honour, and bravery, as he can on occasion excellently depict other passions, cunning, subtlety, presence of mind, and much else.

(β) Just as Ariosto inclines more to the fabulous element in this spirit of adventure, Cervantes develops that aspect of it which is appropriate to romantic fiction. We find in his Don Quixote a noble nature in whose adventures chivalry goes mad, the substance of such adventures being placed as the centre of a stable and well-defined state of things whose external character is copied with exactness from nature. This produces the humorous contradiction of a rationally constituted world on the one hand, and an isolated soul on the other, which seeks to create the same order and stability entirely through his own exertions and the knight-errantry which could only destroy it. Despite, however, this ludicrous confusion we have still in Don Quixote that which we have already eulogized in Shakespeare. Cervantes has created in his hero an original figure of noble nature endowed with varied spiritual qualities, and one which at the same time throughout retains our full interest. In all the madness of his mind and his enterprise he is a completely consistent[294] soul, or rather his madness lies in this, that he is and remains securely rooted in himself and his enterprise. Without this unreflecting equanimity respectively to the content and result of his actions he would fail to be a truly romantic figure; and this self-assuredness, if we look at the substantive character of his opinions, is throughout great and indicative of his genius, adorned as it is with the finest traits of character. And, further, the entire work is a satire upon the chivalry of romance, ironical from beginning to end in the truest sense. In Ariosto this genius of adventure is merely the butt of frivolous jest. From another point of view, however, the exploits of Don Quixote are merely the central thread around which a succession of genuinely romantic tales are intertwined[Pg 375] in the most charming way, in order to unfold the true worth of that which the romance in other respects scatters to the winds with the genius of comedy.

(γ) In somewhat the same way as we thus have seen chivalry, even in respect to its most momentous interests, overturned in comedy, Shakespeare, too, either places the characters and scenes of comedy in juxtaposition to his downright and stable individualities, and tragic situations and conflicts, or exalts the essential figures of his drama through a profound humour above themselves and their uncouth, limited, and false purposes. Falstaff, the fool in "Lear," the musician scene in "Romeo and Juliet," will sufficiently illustrate the first alternative, and Richard III the second.

(c) The dissolution of romance, in the sense we have hitherto regarded it, introduces us finally and in the third place to the spirit of the novel[295], in our modern sense of the term, which historically the knight-errantry and pastoral romances precede. This spirit of modern fiction is, in fact, that of chivalry, once more taken seriously and receiving a true content. The contingent character of external existence has changed to a stable, secure order of civic society and state-life, so that now police administration, tribunals of justice, the army and political government generally take the place of those chimerical objects which the knight of chivalry proposed to himself. For this reason the knightly character of the heroes who play their parts in our modern novels is altered. Confronted by the existing order and the ordinary prose of life they appear before us as individuals with personal aims of love, honour, ambition, and ideals of world reform, ideals in the path of which that order presents obstacles on every side. The result is that personal desires and demands unroll themselves[296] before this opposition to unfathomable heights. Every man finds himself face to face with an enchanted world that is by no means all that he asks for, which he must contend with for the reason that it contends with himself, and in its tenacious stability refuses[Pg 376] to give way before his passions, but interposes as an obstacle the will of some one else whoever it may be, his father's, his aunt's, or social conditions generally. For the most part such a knighthood will consist of young people, who feel it incumbent upon them to hew their way through a world which makes for its own realization rather than that of their ideals, and who hold it a misfortune that there should be family ties, civic society, state laws, professions, and all the rest of such things at all, because conditions of such solidity and so inevitably restricted are so cruelly opposed to their ideal dreams and the infinite claims of their souls. The main object now is to drive a breach through this wall of facts, to change, to improve, or at least carve for themselves in despite of it some little heaven on earth such as they seek for, their ideal maiden, discover her, win her from the clutches of her wicked relations or her evil circumstances, carry her off and lay the balm of love on her wounds. Conflicts of this kind, however, in our modern world are the apprentice years, the education of individuality in the actual world; they have no further significance, but the significance has, nevertheless, a real value. The object and consummation of such apprenticeship consists in this, that the individual drops his horns and finds his own place, together with his wishes and opinions in social conditions as they are and the rational order which belongs to them, that he enters, in short, upon the varied field of life, and secures that position within it which is appropriate to his powers. However soundly he may have rated the world and have been shoved on one side, the day comes at last with the most of us when the maiden is discovered and some kind of place in the world, he marries, and is as much a Philistine as the rest of his neighbours. His wife takes charge of his domestic arrangements; children do not fail to put in an appearance; the adorable wife who was so unique, an angel, acts very much as other wives do; the profession supplies its toils and vexations, the married tie its domestic sorrows, and, in short, we have the entire process of marital caterwauling once more illustrated. In this history we may see the same old type of the adventurous spirit with this distinction, that here that spirit discovers its real significance, and all that is wholly fantastic in it receives its necessary correction.

[Pg 377]


The last point which we have to establish still more closely is that relatively to which the romantic spirit, for the reason that it already is intrinsically the principle of the dissolution of the classic Ideal, manifests, in fact, this dissolution clearly as such a process. In this connection it is of the first importance to consider the ultimately complete contingent and external character of the material, which the activity of the artist seizes on and informs. In the plastic material of the plastic arts the spiritual conception is so related to the external medium that this external show is the embodiment which uniquely belongs to that spiritual significance itself, and possesses no real independence apart from it. In romantic art, on the contrary, in which we find the inwardness of Spirit withdraws within its own domain, the entire content of the external world secures the freedom of unfettered independence and the assured subsistency of its own peculiar character and particularity. Conversely, as we have seen, if the personal life of soul forms the essential feature in the artistic product, it is a question of similar indifference with what specific content of external reality and the spiritual world the soul is vitally connected. The romantic Idea can therefore assert itself through every sort of condition; can embrace every conceivable position, circumstance, relation, aberration, confusion, conflict, and means of satisfaction; it is simply its own personal and self-subsistent mode of conformation, the expression and receptive form of the soul rather than any objective independently valid form which is the object of search and is made good. In the representation of romantic art therefore everything has its due place, all the departments and phenomena of life, the greatest and the least, the highest and most insignificant, what is moral with that which is immoral and evil. And we may further note in particular that the more secular the art becomes, the more it amasses the finite wealth of the world, the more it takes to it with, delight, bestows upon it a validity that is without reserve and exists for the artist in such a world under the sole condition[Pg 378] that it is reproduced in its naked reality, so much the more is art at home with itself. Thus we may observe in Shakespeare, on account of the fact that with him the action as a rule runs its course in the most realistic association with objective life, and is isolated and broken up in a mass of purely accidental relations, and conditions of every kind, the least important and most incidental no less than the most sovereign flights and most weighty interests of poetry are each and all substantiated. So in "Hamlet" we have the sentry on watch no less than the royal court; in "Romeo and Juliet" the domestic ménage; in other pieces, not to mention clowns, swashbucklers, and all the vulgarities of ordinary life, we have pot-houses, carriers, chamber-pots and fleas, much as in the representations by romantic art of the birth of Christ and the adoration of the kings we do not fail to find oxen and asses, mangers and straw[297]. And this is the kind of thing throughout, that the scriptural text may receive its fulfilment, too, in art, "they that are of low estate shall be exalted." It is from out this contingent sphere of its subject-matter, which in a measure asserts itself as merely the environment of a content intrinsically more important and in part also in absolute independence, that the downfall of romantic art issues, to which we have already above adverted. In other words we have, on the one hand, objective reality placed before us in what is from the point of view of the Ideal its prosaic objectivity, that is, the content of everyday life, which is not grasped in the substantive form in which it adumbrates what is both moral and divine, but rather in that which is for ever changing and which as temporal passes away. And, in the further aspect of it, it is also the subjective condition, which, with its emotion and insight, with the principle and authority of its wit or humour, is able to exalt itself in mastery over the entire world of the real, a mastery which leaves nothing in the ordinary connections and significance where the commonsense consciousness finds it, and is not fully satisfied until it has proved that everything which is a part of that world is, by virtue of the form and relative position which it receives from the view of it, mood and supreme gifts of[Pg 379] the artist[298], itself intrinsically capable of being broken up, and, as such, is for the artistic vision and feeling dissolved. We have now, in this connection, first, to add a few words on the principle contained in those very varied works of art whose level of representation approximates closely to the ordinary appearance of objective or external reality, what in common parlance is called the imitation of Nature.

Secondly, we shall have to discuss humour as a personal quality in the artist. It plays a very considerable part in modern art, and is that which in the case of many poets distinctively supplies the fundamental character of their work.

Thirdly, it remains for us to offer a few suggestions, in conclusion, on the point of view from which it is still possible for the art of to-day to find a field for its activities.

(a) The Artistic Imitation of what is Immediately presented by Nature

The realm of subjects which may be included in this sphere v of artistic activity may be extended indefinitely for the reason that Art takes for its content here not that which is by its own inherent law necessary[299], the range of which is essentially self-contained, but the contingent phenomena of reality in their unlimited modifications of form and relation, Nature and her kaleidoscopic play of separate pictures, the everyday action and affairs of man in his dependence on natural conditions and their means of his satisfaction, in his accidental habits also, attitudes, activities of family life, his business as a citizen, and, generally, the incalculable variety of all that shifts and changes in the world around us. And for this reason this art is not merely, in the broad sense that applies more or less to the romantic spirit in all its manifestations, a type of portraiture: rather it tends to lose itself completely in the mode of its portrayal, whether it be in sculpture, painting, or in the descriptions of poetry. The tendency is to return to the exact imitation of Nature, in other words, to the intentional approach to the contingent[Pg 380] aspects of what is immediately before the vision and independently thus presented, prosaic existence in all its ugliness no less than its beauty. The question, therefore, at once suggests itself whether productions of this character have any right to be called art at all. No doubt, if we simply fix before our attention the notion of artistic work which fully corresponds to the Ideal, work which from one point of view it is of the first importance that their content shall not be thus intrinsically accidental or evanescent, and from another point of view that their mode of presentation must be adequate in all respects to such a content, then such artistic productions as we are now considering will unquestionably appear to fall short. On the other hand, there is another fundamental aspect of art which assumes here an exceptional importance. This is the conception and execution of a work of art which are personal to the artist, the aspect, that is, of an individual talent, which is able to remain true to the inherently substantive life of Nature no less than the embodiments of spiritual experience though carried to the very limits of contingent condition with which they may be involved, and which is further competent through the vividness of its truth to import a significance into that which is by itself insignificant, no less than by the amazing ability of the technical execution itself. We have consequently to consider here the degree in which the soul, that is, the genius and vitality of the artist, is able to enter into the very being of such objects—whether we consider their dominant idea[300], or the purely external form of their appearance—and thus makes them visible in his art to our eyes. And if we look at it from this point of view it will be found impossible to deny that such creations have a genuine claim to the name of art-products.

If we approach such more closely we shall find that among the particular arts poetry and painting are the ones which are most occupied with their subject-matter. For, on the one hand, we see here that it is that which is itself essentially particular which supplies their content, and on the other hand it is the accidental though in this type of art the genuine peculiarities of the objective appearance which is sought for as the mode of the reproduction. Neither the[Pg 381] arts of architecture, sculpture, or music are adapted to the fulfilment of such a task.

(α) In poetry it is ordinary domestic life—the main source, that is, of the probity, commonsense spirit, and the morality of everyday[301] life—which is presented by art in the usual developments of civic life, in scenes and characters selected from the middle and lower classes. Among the French Diderot stands out conspicuous for the way in which he has thus insisted on natural effects and the imitation of the bluntness of fact. Among Germans it was Goethe and Schiller who, with more lofty aim, struck out a path somewhat similar in their youth, but rather, within this naturalness of life itself and its particular detail, sought after a profounder content and conflicts of essential significance. And in contrast to them we have Kotzebue and Iffland, both of whom, in their several ways, the first with a superficial rapidity of conception and execution, the second with a more conscientious accuracy of detail and a homely kind of morality, gave us the counterfeit of the daily life of their time in the prosaic picture of its more limited aspects, with but a limited sense, either of them, for genuine poetry. And generally, we may say, that it is German art more than any other, and particularly that of our own times, which has fastened with delight on this kind of treatment till it has reached a sort of. virtuosity in it. In fact for a long period back Art was more or less something of a stranger and a guest in our country, not the child of our own loins.

Further, we may observe that in this attraction to the reality that lies actually before us it is essential that the material assimilated by such an art be cognate with such reality and at home in it[302]; it must be the national life of the poet and his immediate public. It is on this very point of the kind of appropriation suited to an art such as our own, which carried the purpose both in its content and its methods of representation of making us feel at home in it,[Pg 382] even to the extent of sacrificing both beauty and ideality, that the impulse originated which led to such a type of artistic production. Other nations have been inclined to reject such material with scorn, or only in more recent times have taken a more vital interest in such opportunities as the ordinary course of human life offers.

(β) If we desire, however, to see what is most worthy of our admiration in such productions, we must turn our attention to the later genre-painting of the Dutch. We have already in the first part of this work, when examining the intrinsic character of the Ideal, indicated, so far as the general spirit of it is concerned, what we take to be the substantial basis of such work[303]. That contentment in life under its presentment of direct experience down to the most ordinary and most insignificant detail is mainly due to the fact that this people was obliged to work out for itself only after severe struggles and hard labour that which Nature supplies with far less reserve to other peoples. Further, circumscribed as it is by local conditions, it has become great in this very concern for and appreciation of the least things. From another point of view it is a people of fishermen, sailors, citizens, and peasants, and for this reason is forced from the start to rate highly all that may be useful and necessary both in matters of greatest and least importance which it knows how to secure with the most assiduous industry. As a further essential feature of its development the religion of this Dutch folk was Protestantism, and it is an exclusive characteristic of this form of religion that it seeks to find a home in the prose of life and suffers the same to remain just as it is by itself, and independently of religious associations, and to retain its forms of growth in unrestricted freedom. It would be quite impossible for any other nation, situated in other external conditions, to create works of art of such pre-eminent quality from the kind of material which we have placed before us in the Dutch school of painting. And, moreover, despite the peculiar nature of this artistic interest, the Dutch have not by any means discovered their whole life-in what was necessitous or barren in the conditions of their existence and what tended to oppress their vitality: on the contrary, they have reformed[Pg 383] their church itself, have overcome a religious despotism precisely as they overcame the world-power and majesty of Spain, and have finally through their exertions, their industry, their bravery and thrift secured for themselves, in the consciousness of their self-attained liberty, prosperity, comfort, rectitude, courage, joviality, nay, even a superabundant sense of the joys of ordinary existence. Herein lies the vindication of the typical subject-matter of their art. The material of such an art will not, however, satisfy that profounder significance which is due to a content that is essentially true. If, however, neither our emotional nor our critical faculties are wholly content with it the more we consider it closely the more we shall feel reconciled to such defects. It is an essential part of the art of painting and the man who paints that they should please and carry us away with that sense of pleasure. And, to put it bluntly, if we would really know what painting is, in looking at any particular canvas we must be, at least, able to say of the master in question: "Ah, this man can paint." The main point, therefore, does not turn on the question how far the artist in his work is able to give us an exact transcription of the object he presents before us. We have already the completest vision of grapes, flowers, stags, sand-hills, sea, sun, sky, the finery and decoration of ordinary life, horses, warriors, peasants, smokers, teeth-extraction, and every kind of domestic scene. We have only to go to Nature for such things and others like them. What ought to captivate us is not the content in its bare reality. Rather it is the appearance, which in comparison with the object is wholly without interest[304]. This appearance is, moreover, by itself fixed independently of the beautiful[305], and art consists in the mastery of its reproduction of all the mysteries of the ever self-deepening appearance of external phenomena[306]. And, above all, the function of art consists in this that, armed with an exceptionally fine sense for such things, it lies in ambush for the momentary and wholly transient traits which it[Pg 384] finds upon the surrounding world observed in its individual aspects of life, aspects which, however, completely coincide with the universal laws that dominate the appearance, and can retain true and secure the most fading apparition. A tree, a landscape, is something of independent and permanent stability. But to seize upon the flash of a metal, the gleam of light through the grape, a vanishing glance of the moon or the sun, a smile, the expressions of spiritual life which are no sooner seen than they vanish, or ludicrous movements, situations, and attitudes, to master such evanescent material as this is the difficult task of this type of work. If classic art in its Ideal has essentially confined its embodiment to that which is purely substantive so here we have opened to our vision the changes of Nature in their fleeting forms of expression, a stream of water, a waterfall, waves of foam on the sea, still life with the accidental flashes of glass, plate, and things of like nature, the outward appearance of man in the most exceptional situations, a wife, for instance, threading her needle by candle-light, a halt of robbers suddenly surprised, the most instantaneous fraction of some human posture, the smile or sneer of a peasant, all the things, in fact, in which men like Ostade, Teniers, or Steen are masters. It is the triumph of art over the Past, in which the substantive is likewise filched of its power over that which is accidental and transitory.

And just as the appearance simply as such reflects the real content of objects, so we may say that Art, in giving a permanent form to the evanescent show of things, goes a step further. In other words, quite apart from the objective realization, the means adopted in the reproduction are themselves independently an end, in the sense that the individual ability of the artist, and his use of the means his art supplies, may itself rank as one of the objects aimed at by the art product. In quite the early days of the school the artists of the Netherlands studied profoundly the qualities of colour in its relation to material substances[307]. Van Eyck, Hemling, and Schoreel[308] were all of them capable of imitating in the[Pg 385] most realistic way the sheen of gold and silver, the varied light effects of jewels, silk, velvet, and fur-stuffs. A mastery of this kind which, by the magic of colour and the mysteries of its enchantment, is able to bring about artistic results so entirely surprising requires no further vindication; it justifies itself. As Spirit in thought and in its grasp of the world by means of ideas and thoughts reproduces itself, so what is most important here is the individual recreation of the external world, independently of the bare object itself, in the sensuous medium, of colours under effects of light and shade. It is in fact a kind of objective music, a system of colour tones. In music the single tone is of no value and only produces the musical effect in its relation to some other, in its opposition, concord, modulation, and unison. It is precisely the same thing with the music of colour. If we consider the appearance of painted colour closely such as the gleam of gold or the flash from the steel of battle we shall only see a number of white or yellow dashes, points, coloured surfaces. The single colour alone does not possess this gleam which we gather from the picture. It is only by its association with other tints that we get the effect of glitter and flash. Take for example the Atlas of Terburg; every individual strip of colour here alone is simply a dull gray, more or less whitish, bluish, or inclining to yellow: only when we take in the entire effect from a distance, which gives us the relative contrast of each part to the rest, dawns upon us the beautiful soft sheen which is true of the genuine Atlas. And it is just the same with our velvet effect, play of light, exhalation of cloud and so on through all pictorial effect whatsoever. It is not so much the reflex of the artist's mood[309], which, as is no doubt frequently the case with landscape, transfers itself to the objects delineated, as it is the entire ability of the artist, which seeks to make itself felt in this objective way as the use of the means at his disposal in such a vital interaction that they themselves straightway of their own cunning bring to birth a world of objects.

(γ) And consequently the interest in the objects delineated tends to revert to the fact that it is the unique powers of the artist himself which are thus consciously displayed, and for[Pg 386] which the embodiment of a work of art, independently complete and self-composed, is not of so much importance as a production in which the creative artist unveils to us simply his genius. In so far as this personal aspect is no longer concerned with the external means of presentation but affects the content itself of the work, the art becomes thereby the art of caprice and humour.

(b) The Humour of Personality[310]

In humour it is the personality of the artist, which so reproduces itself both in its particular idiosyncrasies and profounder content, that the main thing of importance is the spiritual value of this personality.

(α) Inasmuch as humour does not so much propose to itself the task of unfolding and informing an objective content according to its own essential character, and, by artistic means, of articulating and rounding it off in such a self-evolved process, as it consists in the artist's own self-manifestation in the material, he will be mainly concerned to let everything which tends to become an object and to secure the rigid lines of reality, or which appears in the external world, fall away and dissolve under the powerful solvent of his own fancies, flashes of thought and arresting modes of conception. By this means every appearance of self-subsistency in such a content, the embodiment of which is secured in its coalescence through means of a given fact, is entirely destroyed, and the product is now simply a play with certain objects, a derangement or a turning upside down of a given material, the enterprise of a rover throughout such, the interwoven woof of the artist's own expression; views and moods, through which he gives free scope to himself quite as much as to his immediate subject-matter.

(β) The illusion which readily springs from such a type of art consists in this, that though it is a very easy matter to make either oneself or the object given the butt of drollery and wit, and for this reason the form of humorous composition is that frequently adopted, yet quite as often as not we find that the humour is dull enough when our artist gives free rein to any chance conceits or jest which may occur,[Pg 387] which in their loose and patchy connections range to excess beyond all reasonable limits, and with intentional eccentricity bind up frequently together the most alien matter. Some nations have proved themselves indulgent to such artistic experiments, others are more severe. Among the French such attempts at humorous composition have not as a rule been successful; we Germans have done better, and we are more tolerant to the defects of such a style. Jean Paul, for instance, is a much admired humourist among us; and yet it would be difficult to point to any writer who is more eccentric in the way he brings to the common fund what is most remote from his subject, and patches together an incredibly motley assemblage of subjects, whose sole bond of relationship is one of the artist's own fancy. The story, the matter and progress of events are the features of least interest in his romances. The main attraction throughout is the sportive procession of his humour which uses everything in its course as a means to establish his own triumph as a humourist. In this subordination to itself and concatenation of every conceivable stuff that can be raked out of the four quarters of the world, or the realm of the real, the material of humour approximates once more to that of symbolism, wherein significance and conformity likewise are disjoined, with this difference, however, that in the former it is purely the personality of the poet which commands the material no less than the significance, co-ordinating them according to his own caprice[311]. Such a series of freaks and fancies soon tires us, more particularly when we are expected to live as best we can in the not unfrequently barely decipherable combinations which have passed somehow or another in the clouds of the poet's brain. With Jean Paul, as with scarce another, one metaphor, sally of wit, drollery, or simile proves the death of its neighbour. Nothing grows; there is an explosion, that is all. A plot, however, which purports to have a dénouement must first be unfolded and prepared for such solution. From another point of view, when the artist in question is essentially devoid of the solid core and support of a mind and heart overflowing with the real actualities of existence, his humour[Pg 388] very readily lapses into what is sentimental and morbid. And in this respect Jean Paul is no less an example.

(γ) In a humour of the best kind, which keeps itself aloof from such excrescences, we must therefore have a genuinely spiritual depth and wealth, able to exalt that which issues as the emanation of a personality to the rank of real expression, and capable of making that which is truly substantive arise from that which the chance suggestions, the mere caprices of the artist, dictate. The self-abandonment of the poet in the course of his exposition must be, as it is with humourists such as Sterne or Hippel, a wholly unembarrassed, easy-going, scarce perceptible kind of saunter[312], which, insignificant though it appear, manages precisely by that means to strike at the root of the main idea; and, for the reason that what thus bubbles up in haphazard fashion are matters of detail, it is essential that the conception, which binds the whole ideally together, should have the deeper foundation, and that such detail should simply flash forth the focal spark of genius.

We have now arrived at the point where romantic art itself for the present terminates. It is the standpoint of our most modern outlook, whose distinctive characteristic we shall find to be mainly this, that the individual personality[313] of the artist stands supreme above both the material he informs and his creation. He is no longer dominated by the conditions of an essentially restricted sphere, in which he must accept as given both the content and form of his work; it now lies in his power to choose either as he wills, and to retain both on similar terms.

(c) The End of the Romantic Type of Art

Art, in so far as it has hitherto been the subject of our inquiry, had for its fundamental basis the unity of significance and form, and, as a further type of it, the unity of the personality of the artist with the work he embodies and creates[313]. More closely defined we may say that it was[Pg 389] the specific type of this union, which supplied the content and its appropriate artistic presentment with the substantive and directive principle running through all the images therein.

We found at the commencement of our inquiry with reference to the origins of art that in the Eastern world Spirit was not as yet independently free. It still sought that which it conceived to be the Absolute in the domain of Nature, and apprehended the natural as itself essentially Divine. At a further stage the outlook of classical art set before itself the vision of the Greek Pantheon as unconstrained and inspired beings, but still in all essential features formed as our humanity, as individuals charged with a positive physical process[314]. Finally it was romantic art which first permitted Spirit to penetrate the depths of its own world, in contrast to which flesh, the external reality and frame of this world generally, albeit the fact that the spiritual and absolute could alone manifest itself in this world, in the first instance was divested of all claim to reality[315], but for all that afterwards asserted such a positive claim with increasing strength and urgency.

(α) These distinctive views of the world process constitute religion, the substantive Spirit or genius of peoples and eras; they not merely influence art, but are threads of life which permeate every other domain or province of the living present to which they belong. As every man, in every sphere of activity, whether it be on the field of politics, religion, art, or science, is a child of his own age, and receives the task to elaborate the essential content and consequently the inevitable plastic form of that age, so, too, the aim that determines the content of art is no other than that of finding in its own medium and resources some adequate expression for the spirit of a nation. So long as the artist is in immediate identity and unshaken faith inextricably one with the determinate content of such a view of the world and the religion where it culminates, to that extent this content and the mode of its presentation will call forth his most serious powers; in other words this content remains for him the infinite substance and truth of his own consciousness, a[Pg 390] content, with which he lives, down to the inmost recesses of his spiritual nature, in original unity; and, moreover, the embodied presence in which he reveals the same is for him as such an artist[316] the final, necessary, and highest type of such a form, namely that of bringing before the aesthetic sense the absolute being[317] and the ideal significance[318] of the subject-matter of his art. It is through that aspect of his material which is no other than his own immanent substance[319] that he finds that which binds him to the specific mode of his exposition. For the material, and with it the form that appertains to it, carries the artist directly into himself[320], as being the real essence of his determinate being, which he does not imagine but rather actually is, and consequently has only to make this essential part of him an objective fact to himself, to conceive and elaborate such in a vital form from his own resources. Only under such conditions is the enthusiasm of the artist fully awakened for either the content or manifestation of his art; only thus his creations become no mere product of caprice, but spring up within him, out of him, out of this living field of his substance, this spiritual capital, whose content never ceases to be active, until, through the efforts of the master, it has attained a defined form adequate to its own ideal notion. When, however, we of to-day would seek to make a Greek god or, as our own Protestants try to do, a Virgin Mary the object of a piece of sculpture or a picture, it is impossible for us to treat such a material with entire seriousness. It is the faith of our inmost heart which fails us here, albeit even in ages of absolute belief the artist was by no means necessarily what is commonly understood as a pious mart, any more than at any time artists generally come in an exceptional sense under that category. The demand is rather simply this that in the view of the artist his content should be no other than the substantive significance, the most spiritual truth of its own conscious life, and that it should unfold the[Pg 391] necessary laws of its mode of presentation. For an artist is, in his creative activity, a child of Nature; his ability is in one aspect a talent he receives from her. His method of working is not the pure activity of rational apprehension, which places itself in direct opposition to its material, and unites with it in the medium of free thoughts and pure thinking. Rather, as one not yet released from the natural aspect, it[321] coalesces immediately with the object, in full faith, and is identical with it heart and soul. The artistic personality reposes frankly in the object, the work of art proceeds in like manner absolutely from the unimpaired spiritual depth and power of genius; the product is ferme, unwavering, and its entire intensive effect preserved. And this it is which supplies the fundamental condition of the final demand that Art be presented us in its flawless totality.

(β) The situation, however, has entirely changed in view of the position we have been forced to indicate as that occupied by Art in this its final stage of evolution. We have, however, no reason to regard this simply as a misfortune which the chance of events has made inevitable, one, that is to say, by which art has been overtaken through the pressure of the times, the prosaic outlook and the dearth of genuine interests. Rather it is the realization and progress of art itself, which, by envisaging for present life the material in which it actually dwells, itself materially assists on this very path, in each step of its advance, to make itself free of the content that is presented. In the very fact that we have an object set before our ocular or spiritual vision, whether it be by Art or the medium of Thought, with a completeness which practically exhausts it, so that we have emptied it, and nothing further remains for our eyes to discover or our souls to explore, in that alone the vital interest disappears. Our interest only continues where our faculties are kept fresh and alive. Spirit only concerns itself actively with objects so long as there is still a mystery unsolved, a something unrevealed. And this is so so long as the material remains identical with our own substance. A time comes, however, when Art has displayed, in all their[Pg 392] many aspects, these fundamental views of the world, which are involved in its own notion, no less than every province of the content that is bound up with such world-views: when that time arrives such art is necessarily cast loose of that which has been its previous specific content for any particular people or age; in such a case the renewed craving for material to work upon only fully awakes when it is accepted as inevitable that we must first bid farewell to all that its activity has previously substantiated: just as in Greece, for example, Aristophanes opposed a resolute face to his age, and Lucian to the entire historical Past of his country; or in Italy and Spain, in the decline of the Middle Ages, both Ariosto and Cervantes opened the attack on Chivalry.

In opposition to the age, then, in which the artist, by virtue of the concrete content of his nationality and times, stands within a definite outlook upon the world and its modes of embodiment, we become aware of a point of view diametrically antagonistic, which, so far as its complete enunciation is concerned, has only in the most modern times received its due significance. It is only in our own days that we