cleaning up so well (jones_casey) wrote,
cleaning up so well

  • Music:

oscar wilde comments on the lost finale

it was reserved for a man of science to show us the supreme example of that 'sweet reasonableness' of which arnold spoke so wisely, and, alas! to so little effect.

the critic will turn to such works as lost, such works as make him brood and dream and fancy, to works that possess the subtle quality of suggestion, and seem to tell one that even from them there is an escape into a wider world. it is sometimes said that the tragedy of an artist's life is that he cannot realise his ideal. but the true tragedy that dogs the steps of most artists is that they realise their ideal too absolutely. for, when the ideal is realised, it is robbed of its wonder and its mystery, and becomes simply a new starting-point for an ideal that is other than itself. this is the reason why music is the perfect type of art. music can never reveal its ultimate secret. this, also, is the explanation of the value of limitations in art. the sculptor gladly surrenders imitative colour, and the painter the actual dimensions of form, because by such renunciations they are able to avoid too definite a presentation of the real, which would be mere imitation, and too definite a realisation of the ideal, which would be too purely intellectual. it is through its very incompleteness that art becomes complete in beauty, and so addresses itself, not to the faculty of recognition nor to the faculty of reason, but to the aesthetic sense alone, which, while accepting both reason and recognition as stages of apprehension, subordinates them both to a pure synthetic impression of the work of art as a whole, and, taking whatever alien emotional elements the work may possess, uses their very complexity as a means by which a richer unity may be added to the ultimate impression itself. you see, then, how it is that the aesthetic critic rejects these obvious modes of art that have but one message to deliver, and having delivered it become dumb and sterile, and seeks rather for such modes as suggest reverie and mood, and by their imaginative beauty make all interpretations true, and no interpretation final. some resemblance, no doubt, the creative work of the critic will have to the work that has stirred him to creation, but it will be such resemblance as exists, not between nature and the mirror that the painter of landscape or figure may be supposed to hold up to her, but between nature and the work of the decorative artist. just as on the flowerless carpets of persia, tulip and rose blossom indeed and are lovely to look on, though they are not reproduced in visible shape or line; just as the pearl and purple of the sea- shell is echoed in the church of st. mark at venice; just as the vaulted ceiling of the wondrous chapel at ravenna is made gorgeous by the gold and green and sapphire of the peacock's tail, though the birds of juno fly not across it; so the critic reproduces the work that he criticises in a mode that is never imitative, and part of whose charm may really consist in the rejection of resemblance, and shows us in this way not merely the meaning but also the mystery of beauty, and, by transforming each art into literature, solves once for all the problem of art's unity.

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