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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/226

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

not seen his wonderful prestige still potent in dominating the sickly mind of Louis II of Bavaria? In his desire to copy his chosen model Louis ruined himself in building palaces. In this folly he showed discrimination. Louis XIV, when dying, may have accused himself of having indulged too great a love for building; but his edifices, with their majestic grandeur and the opulence of their decoration, gave that royal life a frame which had much to do with the dazzling which all Europe experienced when in the presence of le Roi Soleil. In order to recognize and experience, though but for a moment, a little of the impression felt by all contemporaries, Versailles must be visited; the apartments of the palace, the terraces, and the alleys of the park must be traversed. Thus will be thrown upon this historic figure a light far more brilliant and true than could possibly be the result of learning by heart accounts of all the campaigns of Turenne or Condé, or all the clauses of the treaties of Nimègue and Ryswick.

"The same may be said of the eighteenth century, of which only an incomplete idea can be had without a knowledge of its art. This century, to which Voltaire gave the note, seems to have had no sentiment of poetry. Down to the time of André Chenier everything called poetry was no more than rhymed prose. The imagination, however, did not lose its rights. Like a stream which changes its bed, it withdrew from literature to flow into the arts of design. There it gives evidence of invention and of light and spontaneous grace. Architects adopt plans of happy arrangement. They employ forms of rare elegance both in the elements of construction and in the ornaments which decorate them. Such sculptors as Capperi and Houdon give to portraiture a marvelous intensity of life, while the terra cottas of Clodion, with their fantastic and voluptuous charm, recall the clay modelers of antiquity. Such painters as Greuze, Lancret, and Boucher spread before the eyes living idyls, while Watteau and Frangonard conjure dreams of ideal Cytheras, of a chimerical paradise where reign eternal youth and eternal desire. The politics of our kings and of our ministers of the period is but a succession of faults and weaknesses. The best concerted plans come to naught. The most brilliant victory produces no useful results. If France, in spite of so many reverses, still held her supremacy in Europe, she owed it to her writers and to her artists."

Perrot's arguments might be used with even greater force in reference to those notions which have had no Comines, no Joinville, no Froissart, no Villehardouin, but the history of whose civilization may be traced in monuments along the Rhine and the Danube, the Ems and the Elbe. In the last part of the article