Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/364

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as did the Crusades in the middle ages, the revival of Greek and Latin studies in the Renascence, and the Mussulman conquest in India.

It is also to be remarked that as art in a general way reflects certain wants and corresponds with certain sentiments, it is destined to share their fate, and therefore to vanish when they cease to be vital; but that condition is no sign of a decay of civilization. At no period has civilization been as high as now, and at none has art been more commonplace. From a spontaneous outgrowth of the devotion of the past it has become an accessory, a thing of luxury and convention, imitative rather than original. No people of the present has a national art, but all are contented with copies of the models of past ages.

If we study the shapes in which architecture, for instance, has been transmitted from one people to another since its historical beginning with the Egyptians, we shall find that in the hands of an inferior race—the Ethiopians, who, although they had centuries to work in, were deficient in cerebral capacity—it tended to inferior forms; while with the Greeks, a higher race, whose development also occupied several hundred years, it was improved upon and raised to a much higher level. The Persians, an inferior people to the Greeks, and whose independent career was much shorter, displayed considerable talent for adaptation, and were beginning to work a transformation in their art, when they were overthrown. A thousand years later they rose again, and devised an architecture having the stamp of originality, but combined with it marks of the influence of the ancient art and of the more recent Arabian art.

Another more modern school of architecture, of which specimens are yet standing, strikingly illustrates the extent to which a race modifies the arts which it adopts. The example is all the more typical because it is drawn from a group of peoples professing the same religion but having different origins. I mean the Mussulmans, whose structures in Spain, Africa, Syria, Persia, and India present so considerable differences that it is impossible to arrange them in one class as we do the different styles of the Gothic. The correctness of this illustration is enforced by a reference to India, where, although the same religions and the same rule prevail throughout the land, the temple in the north and the pagoda in the south, consecrated to the same divinity, are as different from each other as a Grecian temple and a Gothic cathedral. This great peninsula furnishes the most suggestive and the most philosophical of historical books. It is now, in fact, the single country in which we can, by simple changes of place, transfer ourselves at will into different periods of time and observe still in life the series of successive stages which mankind has had to pass