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triangle to the square, or the pyramid to the cube; and this figure lessened at one end, like the egg, thereby being more varied, is singled out by the author of all variety, to bound the features of a beautiful face.
When the oval has a little more of the cone added to it than the egg has, it becomes more distinctly a compound of those two most simple varied figures. This is the shape of the pine-apple*, which nature has particularly distinguished by bestowing ornaments of rich mosaic upon it, composed of contrasted serpentine lines, and the pips t, as the gardeners call them, are still varied by two cavities and one round eminence in each.
Could a more elegant simple form than this have been found, it is probable that judicious architect Sir Christopher Wren, would not have chosen the pine. apples for the two terminations of the sides of the front of St. Paul's: and perhaps the globe and cross, though a finely varied figure, which terminates the dome, would not have had the preference of situation, if a religious motive had not been the occasion.
Thus we see simplicity gives beauty even to variety, as it makes it more easily understood, and should be ever studied in the works of art, as it serves to prevent perplexity in forms of elegance; as will be shewn in the next chapter.
OF INTRICACY. ,
P. 24 The active mind is ever bent to be employed. Pur
suing is the business of our lives; and even abstracted from any other view gives pleasure. Every arising difficulty, that for a while attends and interrupts the pursuit, gives a sort of spring to the mind, enhances the pleasure, and makes what would else be toil and labour, become sport and recreation.
Wherein would consist the joys of hunting, shooting, fishing, and many other favourite diversions, without the frequent turns and difficulties, and disappointments, that are daily met with in the pursuit?
-how joyless does the sportsman return when the hare has not had fair play ? how lively, and in spirits, even when an old cunning one has baffled, and outrun the dogs !
This love of pursuit, merely as pursuit, is implanted in our natures, and designed, no doubt, for necessary and useful purposes. Animals have it evidently by instinct. The hound dislikes the game he so eagerly pursues; and even cats will risk the losing of their prey to chase it over again. It is a pleasing labour of the mind to solve the most difficult problems; allegories and riddles, trifling as they are, afford the mind amusement : and with what delight does it follow the well-connected thread of a play, or novel, which ever increases as the plot thickens, and ends most pleased, P.25 when that is most distinctly unravelled ?
The eye hath this sort of enjoyment in winding walks, and serpentine rivers, and all sorts of objects, whose forms, as we shall see hereafter, are composed principally of what, I call, the waving and serpentine lines.
Intricacy in form, therefore, I shall define to be that peculiarity in the lines, which compose it, that leads the eye a wanton kind of chase, and from the pleasure that gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful : and it may be justly said, that the cause of the idea of grace more immediately resides in this principle, than in the other five, except variety; which indeed includes this, and all the others.
That this observation may appear to have a real foundation in nature, every help will be required, which the reader himself can call to his assistance, as well as what will here be suggested to him.
To set this matter in somewhat a clearer light, the familiar instance of a common jack, with a circular fly, may serve our purpose better than a more elegant form: preparatory to which, let the figure * be considered, which represents the eye, at a common read. ing distance viewing a row of letters, but fixed with most attention to the middle letter A.
Now as we read, a ray may be supposed to be drawn from the center of the eye to that letter it looks at first, and to move successively with it from P.26 letter to letter, the whole length of the line: but if the
eye stops at any particular letter, A, to observe it more than the rest, these other letters will grow more and more imperfect to the sight, the farther they are situated on either side of A, as is expressed in the figure: and when we endeavour to see all the letters in a line equally perfect at one view, as it were, this imaginary ray must course it to and fro with great celerity. Thus though the eye, strictly speaking, can only pay due attention to these letters in succession, yet the amazing ease and swiftness, with which it performs this task, enables us to see considerable spaces with sufficient satisfaction at one sudden view.
Hence, we shall always suppose some such principal ray moving along with the eye, and tracing out the parts of every form, we mean to examine in the most perfect manner: and when we would follow with exactness the course any body takes, that is in motion, this ray is always to be supposed to move with the body.
In this manner of attending to forms, they will be found whether at rest, or in motion, to give movement to this imaginary ray; or, more properly speaking, to the eye itself, affecting it thereby more or less pleasingly, according to their different shapes and motions. Thus, for example, in the instance of
the jack, whether the eye (with this imaginary ray) P. 27 moves slowly down the line, to which the weight is
fixed, or attends to the slow motion of the weight itself, the mind is equally fatigued : and whether it swiftly courses round the circular rim of the flyer, when the jack stands; or nimbly follows one point in its circularity whilst it is whirling about, we are almost equally made giddy by it. But our sensation differs much from either of these unpleasant ones, when we observe the curling worm, into which the worm-wheel is fixed *: for this is always pleasing, either at rest or in motion, and whether that motion is slow or quick.
That it is accounted so, when it is at rest, appears by the ribbon, twisted round a stick (represented on one side of this figure) which has been a long-established ornament in the carvings of frames, chimneypieces, and door-cases; and called by the carvers the stick and ribbon ornament: and when the stick through the middle is omitted, it is called the ribbon edge; both to be seen in almost every house of fashion.
But the pleasure it gives the eye is still more lively when in motion. I never can forget my frequent strong attention to it, when I was very young, and that its beguiling movement gave me the same kind of sensation then, which I since have felt at seeing a country-dance; though perhaps the latter might be somewhat more engaging ; particularly when my eye eagerly pursued a favourite dancer, through all the windings of the figure, who then was bewitching to , the sight, as the imaginary ray, we were speaking of, P.28 was dancing with her all the time.
This single example might be sufficient to explain what I mean by the beauty of a composed intricacy of form; and how it may be said, with propriety, to lead the eye a kind of chase.