Christian. Men do not stumble over what they know; and the day fades so imperceptibly into night that were it not for experience, darkness would surprise us long before we believed the day done: and, in relation to art, its revolutions are still more imperceptible in their gradations; and, in fulfilling themselves, they spread over such an extent of time, that in their knowledge the experience of one artist is next to nothing; and its twilight is so lengthy, that those who never saw other, believe its gloom to be day; nor are their successors more aware that the deepening darkness is the contrary, until night drops big like a great clap of thunder, and awakes them staringly to a pitiable sense of their condition. But, if we cannot have this experience through ourselves, we can through others; and that will show us that Pagan art has once—nay twice—already brought over Christian art a “darkness which might be felt;” from a little handful cloud out of the studio of Squarcione, it gathered density and volume through his scholar Mantegna—made itself a nucleus in the Academy of the Medici, and thence it issued in such a flood of “heathenesse” that Italy finally became covered with one vast deep and thick night of Pagandom. But in every deep there is a lower deep; and, through the same gods-worship, a night intenser still fell upon art when the pantomime of David made its appearance. With these two fearful lessons before his eyes, the modern artist can have no other than a settled conviction that Pagan art, Devil-like, glozes but to seduce—tempts but to betray; and hence, he chooses to avoid that which he believes to be bad, and to follow that which he holds to be good, and blots out from his eye and memory all art between the present and its first taint of heathenism, and ascends to the art previous to Raffaelle; and he ascends thither, not so much for its forms as he does for its THOUGHT and NATURE—the root and trunk of the art-tree, of whose numerous branches form is only one—though the most important one: and he goes to pre-Raffaelle art for those two things, because the stream at that point is clearer and deeper, and less polluted with animal impurities, than at any other in its course. And, Kalon and Kosmon, had you remembered this, and at the same time recollected that the words, “Nature” and “Thought” express very peculiar ideas to modern eyes and ears—ideas which are totally unknown to Hellenic Art—you would have instantly felt, that the artist cannot study from it things chiefest in importance to him—of which it is destitute, even as is a shore-driven boulder of life and verdure.
The sun looked over the highest hills,
And down in the vales looked he;
And sprang up blithe all things of life,
And put forth their energy;
The flowers creeped out their tender cups,
And offered their dewy fee;
And rivers and rills they shimmered along
Their winding ways to the sea;
And the little birds their morning song
Trilled forth from every tree,
On a Whit-sunday morn in the month of May.