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If external nature abounds with poetry, be able to expatiate in the realms of nature how much more forcibly does it pervade with the most perfect fruition of delight. the faculties and sentiments of the human mind. Consider only three-love, hope, and memory. What power even in the visions of the alchemist was ever able to transform like the passion of love ? Invest
INDIVIDUAL ASSOCIATIONS. ing what is real with all that we desire, converting deformity into loveliness, ex- The difference of taste not unfrequently changing discord for harmony, giving to the found in persons whose station and habits eye the exquisite faculty of beautifying of life are similar may be attributed both to whatever it beholds, and to the ear a secret individual conformation, and to those incharm that turns every sound to music. stances of early bias received from local cirAnd hope would be hope no longer if it did cumstances which none can remember, and not paint the future in the colours we most which, consequently, no pen can record. admire. Its very existence depends upon | That variety of taste is chiefly owing to the the power it possesses to sweeten to the influence of association, is shown by those latest dregs, the otherwise bitter cup of life. minor preferences or antipathies which cerYet love and hope may be degraded by the tain individuals evince for things possessing false estimate we sometimes form of what is no quality inherent in themselves to justify worthy of our admiration. Passion too such peculiar choice or rejection, and which often asserts her mastery over both, compell- have no corresponding value in the opinion ing her blind and willing slaves to call evil of mankind in general. good, and good evil ; while memory, if not Without returning to the days of infancy, always faithful to her trust, is at least dis- when the first impressions were made upon posed to hold it charitably, and thus pre- our senses, when our eyes were first able to serves in their genuine distinctness, the fair- see, and our ears to hear, it would be imest passages of life, but kindly obscures possible to trace to their origin all our pecuthose which are most revolting in remem- liarities of taste and feeling, or to assign the brance. In looking baek upon the past, precise reason why we are subject to sensahow little that is sordid, mean, or selfish, tions of pleasure or disgust from causes appears conspicuous now. Past hours of which do not influence the rest of mankind simple, every-day enjoyment, are invested in a similar manner-sensations which, from with a charm they knew not at the time. their singularity, and, to others, apparent A veil is thrown over the petty cares of by- absurdity, necessarily fall under the stigma gone years-passion is disarmed of its of caprice. earth-born violence, and sorrow looks so Who can say how far his peculiar ideas lovely in the distance, that we almost per- of beauty and melody may have been desuade ourselves it was better to weep such rived from the countenance of the kind nurse tears as we wept then, than to smile as we who first smiled upon him in his cradle, and smile now.
the sweet voice that first sung him to sleep; But why pursue this theme? It is evi- or of deformity and discord from the harsh dent that neither sounds, objects, nor sub-brow whose frowns he first learned to dread, jects of contemplation are poetical in them and the voice whose threatening tones were selves, but in their associations; and that they followed by punishment and pain. are so just in proportion as these associa- If the taste of one individual is gratified tions are intellectual and refined. Nature is by a picture upon which a strong and vivid full of poetry, from the high mountain to the light is thrown, and another prefers that sheltered valley, from the bleak promontory which exhibits the cool tints of a cloudy atto the myrtle grove, from the star-lit hea- mosphere, it is attributed to some peculiarity vens to the slumbering earth ; and the mind in their several organs of sight; but is it not that can most divest itself of ideas and sen- equally possible to be in some measure owsations belonging exclusively to matter, will / ing to one having been too much confined to
darkness in his infancy, and the other pain- negro slaves; unless that schoolboys have fully exposed to the glare of too much light? generally enjoyed the honour of naming
These may appear but idle speculations, their fathers' dogs, when they were more since we are, and ever must remain in want familiar with Cæsar's Commentaries, than of that master key to the human under- with the character of the illustrious Roman. standing—the knowledge of the state of the Why are we not able for many years after infant mind, its degree of susceptibility, and our emancipation, to perceive and relish the the manner in which it first receives impres- beauties of those selections from the ablest sions through the organs of sense. So far poets, which we were compelled to learn by as we can recollect, however, it is clear to heart, as punishments at school ? It is beall who will take the trouble to examine the cause our first acquaintance with them was subject, that strong partialities and preju- formed under sensations of pain and compuldices are imbibed in very early life, before sion, which time is long in wearing out. we are capable of reasoning, and that these If, by the mere sound of a name, such difsometimes remain with us to the last.
ferent sensations are excited in different There are seldom two persons who agree minds, liow much more extensive must be exactly in their admiration of the proper the variety of those called up by words of names of individuals. One approves what more comprehensive signification! Let us the other rejects, and scarcely one instance suppose four individuals-a newly elected in twenty occurs in which their feelings are member of parliament, a tradesman, a pauthe same: nor is it merely the harmony or per, and a poet-each at liberty to pursue discord of the sound which occasions their his own reflections, when the word winter is preference or dislike. Each attaches to the suddenly introduced to his mind. The name in question a distinct character, most statesman immediately thinks of the next probably owing to some association of ideas convocation of the representatives of the between that name and a certain individual people, when he shall stand forth to make known in early life; and though they may his maiden speech; of the important subhave both known and lived amongst the jects that will, probably, be laid before the same individuals, it is hardly probable that consideration of the house, of the part he two minds should have regarded them pre- shall feel himself called upon to take in the cisely in the same manner. Hence from discussion of these, and how he may be able different associations arises a difference of to act so as to satisfy the claims of his contaste.
stituents, and his conscience, without offendIn the present state of society there are ing either. The tradesman thinks of his few persons who have not, in the course of bills, and his bad debts; of the price of their reading, become familiarized with coals, and the winter fashions. The pauper Scripture names earlier than with any other; thinks—and shivers while he thinks—of the and this, one would suppose, should lead to cold blasts of that inclement season, of the their being generally preferred and adopted. various signs and prophecies that fortell a Yet so far from this being the case, they are hard winter, and of how much, or rather many of them regarded with a degree of how little the parish overseers will be likely ridicule and disgust, which can only be ac. to allow to his necessities for clothing, food, counted for by our first becoming acquainted and fire. By a slight, and almost instantawith them before we have been inspired neous transition of thought, one of these with love, gratitude, or reverence for the thinkers has alrealy arrived at the idea of Record in which they are found. Nor is it conscience, another at that of fashion, and a easy to account for the perversion of the third at that of fire. But the poet (provided fine, full-sounding Roman names, in their he be not identified with the pauper) passusual application to our dogs, and other ani- ing over subjects of merely local interest, mals; and next to them to those miserable knows no bounds to his associations. His outcasts from human fellowship, which a lively and unshackled fancy first carries him professedly Christian world has deemed northward, to those frozen regions which unworthy of a Christian nomenclature-the man has visited but in thought. Here he
floats through the thin and piercing air, then before his mind's eye the picture of a brilglides upon a sea of ice, or looks down from liant sunset, he insensibly recalls that scenhills of everlasting snow; until wearied with ery in the midst of which his youthful imagithe voiceless solitude, he seeks the abodes nation was first warmed into poetic life by of man, and follows the fur-clad Laplander the “ golden day's decline.” He sees, bright with his faithful reindeer over trackless and and gorgeous with sunbeams, the distant uncultivated wastes. But the poet, though hill, which his boyish fancy taught him to a wanderer by profession, yet still faithful to believe it would be the height of happiness home and early attachments, returns after to climb;-the somibre woods that skirt the every wayward excursion to drink of his na- horizon—the valley, misty and indistinct betive well, and to enjoy the peace of his pa- low-the wandering river, whose glancing ternal hearth. Here, in the clime he loves waters are here and there touched as they best, he beholds a scene of picturesque and gleam out, with the radiance of the resplenfamiliar beauty--a still and cloudless morn- dent west-and while memory paints again ing, when the hoar frost is glittering upon the long deep shadows of the trees that every spray, and the trees, laden with a grew around his father's dwelling, he feels fleecy burden, cast their deep shadows here the calm of that peaceful hour mingling with and there upon the silvery and unsullied bo- the thousand associations that combine to som of the sheeted earth. He sees the soli- form his most vivid and poetical idea of sunset. tary robin perched upon the leafless thorn, In this manner we not unfrequently single and hears its winter song of melancholy out from the works of art some favorite obsweetness—that plaintive touching strain to ject, upon which we bestow an interest so which every human bosom echoes with a deep, a regard so earnest, that they wear sad response. But quickly comes the roar- the character of admiration which no pering blast, like a torrent rushing down from ceptible quality in the object itself can justify, the hills. The light snow is tossed like foam and which other beholders are unable to unupon the waves of the wind; and the moun- derstand. In a collection of paintings we tain pine, shaking off the frosty spangles look around for those which are most worfrom his boughs, for one moment quails be- thy of general notice, when suddenly our fore the fury of the thundering tempest, and attention is struck with one little unpretendthen stands erect again upon the craggy ing picture, almost concealed in an obscure steep, where his forefathers have stood for corner, and totally unobserved by any one ages. Night gathers in with darkness and beside. It is the representation of a village dismay, and while the moaning of the ven- church-the very church where we first erable oak resounds through the forest like learned to feel, and, in part, to understand the voice of a mighty and unseen spirit, and the solemnity of the Sabbath. Beside its the bellowing of the blast seems mingled venerable walls are the last habitations of with the wilder shrieks of bewildered travel- our kiudred; and beneath that dark and lers, or seamen perishing on the deep, the mournful yew is the ancient pastor's grave. poet beholds in the distance the glimmering Here is the winding path so familiar to our lights of some hospitable mansion, and in an steps, when we trod the earth more lightly instant he is transported to a scene of happi- | than we do now—the stile on which the litness, glowing with social comforts, festivity, tle orphan girl used to sit, while her brothers and glee; where the affrighted wanderer were at play—and the low bench beside the finds safety, the weary are welcomed to re- cottage-door, where the ancient dame used pose, and the wretched exchange their tears to pore over her Bible in the bright sunfor joy.
shine. Perhaps the wheels of Time have Impressions made upon our minds by lo- rolled over us with no gentle pressure since cal circumstances, are frequently of so deep we last beheld that scene;—perhaps the darkand durable a nature, as to outlive all the ness of our present lot makes the brightness accidents of chance and change which oc- of the past more bright. Whatever the cure to us in aster life. Should the poet, or cause may be, our gaze is fixed and fascithe painter in his study, endeavour to place nated, and we turn away from the more
wonderful productions of art, to muse upon though quite as common, and equally nathat little picture again, and again, when all tural, is not so generally understood. The but ourselves have passed it by without a room may be the least commodious in the thought.
house, the table the least convenient, the It is not, however, the earliest impressions chair the least easy, yet they are valued made upon the mind which are always the not the less, because they are associated most lasting or vivid. We are all subject with the image of one who was more dear, to the influence of strong and overpowering perhaps more dear than any one will ever associations with circumstances which occur be again. in after life, and of which we retain a clear I have known the first wild rose of sumrecollection. We are apt to be deeply, yet mer gathered with such faithful recollecdifferently affected by certain kinds of music. tions, such deep and earnest love, such In the same apartment, and while the same yearnings of the heart for by-gone pleasures, air is sung or played by a minstrel un
that for a moment its beauty was obscured conscious of its secret power, and some of the by falling tears. The tolling of a bell after audience will be thrown into raptures of de- it has been heard for a departed friend, has light, applauding and calling forth the strain a tone of peculiar and painful solemnity. again with unabated enjoyment; while one, The face of one whom we have met with in whose sad heart the springs of memory comparative indifference in a season of hapare opened, will turn away unnoticed in that piness, is afterwards hailed with delight happy crowd, to hide the tears which the when it is all that remains to us of the past. thoughts of home and early days, when that The pebble that was gathered on a distant strain was first heard, have called forth from shore, becomes valuable as a gem when we the
eyes of a stranger in a strange land. "If know that we shall visit that land no more. I might always listen to that tune," There is no sound, however simple or sweet, claims one, “I should never know unhappi- that may not be converted into discord when ness again!" Spare me that song of it calls up jarring sensations in the mind; mirth,” is the secret prayer of the stranger; nor is there any melody in nature compara“it belongs to my own country. It tells me ble to the tones of the voice that has once of the beauty and gladness of my native land. spoken to the heart. Spare me that song of mirth; for my heart Rosseau wept on beholding the little comis sorrowful, and I am alone.”
mon flower that we call periwinkle. He Innumerable are the instances of daily, wept because he was alone, and it reminded and almost hourly occurrence, in which we him of the beloved friend at whose feet it perceive that some particular tone of feeling had been gathered. I remember being afis excited, but know not whence it takes its fected by this circumstance at a very early rise; as we listen to the wild music of the age, and the association has become so Æolian harp, that varies perpetually from powerful, that, in looking at this flower, I one melody to another. We see the thrill always feel a sensation of melancholy, and ing chords, we hear the sweet and plaintive persuade myself that the pale blue star, half sound, but we know not with all our wisdom concealed beneath the dark green leaves, is what particular note the unseen minstrel like a soft blue eye that scarcely ventures to will next produce, nor can we calculate the look up from beneath the gloom of sorrow. vibrations caused by his powerful but invisi- The crowing of the cock is generally conble hand.
sidered a lively and cheering sound; yet I When we hear the tender and affectionate knew one, who for many years could not expression, “I love this book because it was hear a cock crow at midnight without senmy mother's,” we know at once why a book sations of anguish and horror, because it had approved by a mother's judgment should be once been painfully forced upon her notice valued by a child; but when we hear any while she was watching the dead. one say, “I prefer this room, this table, or A gentleman of my acquaintance, in speakthis chair, to all others, because they being to me of his mother's death, which was longed to my mother," the expression sudden and unexpected, described the day
on which this event took place, as one of to one or two, but from which all others are those periods in our existence when the shut out. Books are selected, and read mind seems incapable of feeling what it aloud to those who will not listen. Pictures knows to be a painful truth. He had re- are exhibited to those who cannot see their tired to rest, with an indistinct idea of what beauty. Pleasures are proposed, which had occurred, but remained unable to realize from their want of adaptation, are converted the extent of his calamity. It had been his into pain. Kind intentions are frustrated; mother's custom to take away his candle and the best endeavours to be agreeable, every night-perhaps to breathe a prayer rewarded with disappointment and ingratiat his bed side. As he laid his head upon tude. In short, for want of that discriminathe pillow, he saw the light standing as ting, versatile, and most valuable quality usual, but no gentle form approached, and which mankind have agreed to call tact, in an instant he felt the full force of his be- and which might be fancifully described as reavement. He was setting off in life with the nerve of human society, many opportubrighter hopes than fall to the lot of many; nities of enjoyment are wasted, many good but that first and purest of earth's blessings people are neglected, and many good things -a mother's love, was lost to him for ever. are irrevocably lost.
Associations of this kind, however, are not It would be hard indeed if we might not such as constitute the fittest subjects for the indulge our individual fancies, by each poet; because, from their local or particular mounting the hobby we like best. The abnature, they excite no general interest. surdity consists in compelling others to ride They may be powerful in the mind of the with us, in forcing our favourites upon their writer, but will fail to awaken in other minds regard, and expecting from them the same a proportionate degree of feeling ; except tribute of admiration which we ourselves when the sensible object, or particular fact bestow. There is no moral law to prevent described, is introduced merely as a medium our being delighted with what is repulsive for subjects of a nature to be generally felt to others; but it is an essential part of good and understood, such as memory, hope, or manners, to keep back from the notice of love. Thus, the Poet may properly address society such particular preferences—a great an object of which he alone perceives the proof of good taste, so to discipline our feelbeauty, or describe a circumstance of which ings, that we derive the most enjoyment he alone feels the pathos, provided he does from what is generally pleasing. not dwell too long upon the object or circumstance, merely as such, but carries the mind onward, by some ingenious association, to recollections which they naturally recall, hopes which were then cherished, or love,
GENERAL ASSOCIATIONS. whose illimitable nature may be connected with all things lovely. By dwelling exclu- In turning our attention to the subject of sively upon one subject of merely local inter- general associations, we enter upon a field est, and neglecting such relative ideas as so wide and fertile, that to select suitable are common to all, the most egregious blun- materials for examination appears the only ders, in matters of taste, are every day com- difficulty. All our most powerful and submitted. Witticisms are uttered, which, how- | lime ideas are common to mankind in a civever entertaining to those who know to what ilized state, and arise in the minds of countcircumstances they owe their value, excite less multitudes from the same causes. By no corresponding risibility in the wondering the stupendous phenomena of nature, as well or insensible hearers. Anecdotes are re- as by the magnificent productions of art, we lated, which, from being out of place or ill- are all affected according to our various detimed, seem to fall from the lips of the grees of capability in precisely the same speaker as a wearisome and empty sound. manner. We all agree in the impressions Subjects of conversation are introduced in we receive from extreme cases, whether mixed society, perhaps, intensely interesting they belong to the majestic or the minute;