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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/367

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ÆSTHETIC EVOLUTION IN MAN.

tains and forests and waterfalls became more easy to visit; and in the "Georgics" we see the result of the change. Yet even in the "Georgics" the view of nature is still very anthropinistic, and the feeling for scenery decidedly urban. What should we say of a poet nowadays who should apostrophize the beauties of an Italian lake "Fluctibus et fremitu assurgens, Benace, marino"? Would he not seem in our eyes to have missed entirely the whole spirit of the scene? The words might do for Huron or Ontario, but fancy applying them to Como or Garda! Nevertheless, the Roman mind had decidedly advanced in the love of nature. The Alps were still to Juvenal mere masses of snow barring the way from Gaul to Italy; the ocean was still to Tacitus a boundless waste of western waters; but the falls of Tivoli, the little fountain-head of Bandusia, the sweeping coast-line of Baiæ, the beetling crags of Terraciha, the deep volcanic basin of the Alban lake—all these could rouse æsthetic admiration and delight in the eyes of a Horace, a Virgil, or a Claudian. With the recession of the middle ages, when men were again confined to the narrow limits of towns, aesthetic feeling went back once more to the naïve anthropinism of an earlier age; but, since the Renaissance, the love of scenery has grown perpetually, and it now probably reaches the farthest development that it has ever yet attained.

But we must never forget that the taste for scenery on a large scale is confined to comparatively few races, and comparatively few persons among them. Thus, to the Chinese, according to Captain Gill, in spite of their high artistic skill, "the beauties of nature have no charm, and in the most lovely scenery the houses are so placed that no enjoyment can be derived from it." The Hindoos, "though devoted to art, care but little, if at all, for landscape or natural beauty." The Russians "run through Europe with their carriage-windows shut." Even the Americans in many cases seem to care little for wild or beautiful scenery: they are more attracted by smiling landscape gardening, and, as it seems to us, flat or dull cultivation. I have heard an American just arrived in Europe go into unfeigned ecstasies over the fields and hedges in the flattest part of the Midlands.

The reason for this slow development may be briefly traced. The minor component elements of scenery must always have been to a great extent beautiful on their own account even to children and savages. Thus, the same bright color which gave attractiveness to flowers and gems must also have given it, though more vaguely, to the rainbow and the sunset clouds, which could not similarly be utilized for purposes of ornament. Color must also always have formed an element of beauty in blue sky and sea, red-sandstone cliffs, white chalk, green meadows, and golden corn-fields. All these objects, however, being comparatively remote from personal interest, would be little regarded by the primitive mind. But, when cultivation began, the care of the husbandman and the æsthetic interest aroused by his regu-