Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/475

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IMAGINATION

Here I would repeat with emphasis, what I intimated in the beginning, that the microscopic eye which peers too long and too intently upon the motes of facts which play in the sunbeam, will be blinded to the force and beauty of the truths which both the motes and the beam conspire to announce.

In thus insisting upon the intimate relationships which I believe subsist between the offices of the imaginative and those of the reasoning faculty, I must not be misunderstood to depreciate or disparage the mighty prowess of the latter, which I love to contemplate. Pure reason, as expressed—I had nearly said symbolized—in the simple, faultless syllogism, has nothing to fear from the sovereignty of the imagination. It is beautiful and fearful to see that clear, cold, naked blade, gleaming with steel-blue temper, resistlessly incisive—to see it cleave with equal ease the solid ingot of ignorance and the gossamer web of illusion—to see it work like a giant steam-hammer, smoothly, noiselessly, and irresistibly, whether its power be adjusted to the cracking of an egg-shell of superfine subtilties, or the forging of the massive links by which it is anchored secure in a storm of error. Yet this Titan is not omnipotent; its powers are limited; and it is precisely at the point where reason hesitates that the office of imagination begins. The higher faculty takes up the story when reason omits to point the moral, and adorns the tale that Nature tells to man. It brings her seeming discords into one grand harmony, and crowns the noble shaft of Science with the immortal wreath of Art.

I speak of imagination in its full development, and in the truest, highest, and best sense that the term can bear; and I am reminded here to draw a broad, even if a devious and uncertain, line of distinction between this splendid faculty and mere Fancy—a pert Miss, whose wills-o'-the-wisp are too often mistaken for the head-light of the imagination. I will not weary you with over-nice formalities of definition in a case where shades of difference blend. Know, by their fruits, that fancy is a parody on imagination. The play of fancy is quips and quirks and airy nothings, and the whole mob of littlenesses we call smart and clever. The working of imagination breathes life into marble and canvas, inspires the drama, the poem, the symphony, and vivifies systems of religion.

What faculty but the imaginative can conceive, what but the power of the imagination itself can convey, the full meaning of this soul of genius? It is creative; and, when this is said, expression falters by the wayside of anticlimax. If there be within us one single spark of the divine fire, this spark it is that sends "the long light shaking" from pillar to pillar of the temple that the lesser god of the imagination rears to a God eternal, till it irradiates the shrine where all men sooner or later must kneel in devotion; and we, who now gaze wistfully at the veil which screens the inner sanctuary from eyes