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Sense of Beauty.—Beauty is an all-pervading presence. It unfolds in the numberless flowers of the spring. It waves in the branches of the trees and the green blades of grass. It haunts the depths of the earth and the sea, and gleams out in the hues of the shell and the precious stone. And not only these minute objects, but the ocean, the mountains, the cloud, the heavens, the stars, the rising and set­ting sun,—all overflow with beauty. The universe is its temple; and those men who are alive to it can­not lift their eyes without feeling themselves encom­passed with it on every side. Now, this beauty is so precious, the enjoyments it gives are so refined and pure, so congenial with our tenderest and most no­ble feelings, and so akin to worship, that it is painful to think of the multitude of men as living in the
midst of it, and living almost blind to it as if, in-stead of this fair earth and glorious sky, they were tenants of a dungeon. An infinite joy is lost to the world by the want of culture of this spiritual endow­ment. Suppose that I were to visit a cottage, and see its walls lined with the choicest pictures of Ra­phael, and every spare nook filled with statues of the most exquisite workmanship, and that I were to learn that neither man, woman, nor child ever cast an eye at these miracles of art, how should I feel their privation! how should I want to open their eyes and to help them to comprehend and feel the loveliness and grandeur which in vain courted their notice! But every husbandman is living in sight of the works of a diviner Artist; and how much would his existence be elevated could he see the glory
which shines forth in their forms, hues, proportions, and moral expression! I have spoken only of the beauty of Nature, but how much of this mysterious charm is found in the elegant arts, and especially in literature! The best books have most beauty. The greatest truths are wronged if not linked with beau­ty; and they win their way most surely and deeply into the soul when arrayed in this their natural and fit attire. Now, no man receives the true culture of a man in whom the sensibility to the beautiful is not cherished; and I know of no condition in life from which it should be excluded. Of all luxuries, this is the cheapest and most at hand; and seems to me to be the most important to those conditions where •coarse labor tends to give a grossness of mind. From the diffusion of the sense of beauty in ancient
Greece, and of the taste for music in modern Ger­many, we learn that the people at large may partake of refined gratifications which have hitherto been thought necessarily restricted to a few.—Channing I have always preferred cheerfulness to mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheer­fulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest transports of mirth who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy; on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquisite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sorrow. Mirth is like a flash of lightning that glitters for a moment; cheer­fulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind and fills it with steady and perpetual serenity.—Addison

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III