Books and Culture eBook

Hamilton Wright Mabie
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 123 pages of information about Books and Culture.
ends towards which they are moving, the ideas which they are working out; but, in the exact degree of his greatness, he is one with them in sympathy, experience, and comprehension.  They live for him, and he lives with them; they work out ideas in the logic of free life, and he clarifies, interprets, and illustrates those ideas.  The world is not saved by the remnant, as Matthew Arnold held; it is saved through the remnant.  The elect of the race, its prophets, teachers, artists,—­and every great artist is also a prophet and teacher,—­are its leaders, not its masters; its interpreters, not its creators.  The race is dumb without its artists; but the artists would be impossible without the sustaining fellowship of the race.  In the making of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” the Greek race was in full partnership with Homer.  The ideas which form the summits of human achievement are sustained by immense masses of earth; the higher they rise the vaster their bases.  The richer and wider the race life, the freer and deeper the play of that vital logic which produces the formative ideas.

Chapter XII.

The Imagination.

The Lady of Shalott, sitting in her tower, looked into her magic mirror and saw the whole world go by,—­monk, maiden, priest, knight, lady, and king.  In the mirror of the imagination not only the world of to-day but the entire movement of human life moves before the eye as the throngs of living men move on the streets.  For the imagination is the real magician, of whose marvels all simulated magic is but a clumsy and mechanical imitation.  It is the real power, of which all material powers are very inadequate symbols.  Rarely taken into account by teachers, largely ignored by educational systems and philosophies, it is the divinest of all the powers which men are able to put forth, because it is the creative power.  It uses thought, but, in a way, it is greater than thought, because it builds out of thought that which thought alone is powerless to construct.  It is, indeed, the essential element in great constructive thinking; for while we may have thoughts untouched by the imagination, one cannot think along high constructive lines without its constant aid.  Isolated thoughts come unattended by it, but the thinking which issues in organised systems, in comprehensive interpretations of things and events, in those noble generalisations which have the splendour of the discovery of new worlds in them, in those concrete embodiments of idea which we call works of art, is conditioned on the use of the imagination.  Plato’s Dialogues were fashioned by it as truly as Homer’s poems; Hegel’s philosophy was created by it as definitely as Shakespeare’s plays, and Newton and Kepler used it as freely as Dante or Rembrandt.

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