第48章 PEN,PENCIL AND POISON -A STUDY IN GREEN(35)
The energy of creation hurries him blindly on to his own goal.The wheels of his chariot raise the dust as a cloud around him.The gods are hidden from each other.They can recognise their worshippers.That is all.
ERNEST.You say that a great artist cannot recognise the beauty of work different from his own.
GILBERT.It is impossible for him to do so.Wordsworth saw in ENDYMION merely a pretty piece of Paganism,and Shelley,with his dislike of actuality,was deaf to Wordsworth's message,being repelled by its form,and Byron,that great passionate human incomplete creature,could appreciate neither the poet of the cloud nor the poet of the lake,and the wonder of Keats was hidden from him.The realism of Euripides was hateful to Sophokles.Those droppings of warm tears had no music for him.Milton,with his sense of the grand style,could not understand the method of Shakespeare,any more than could Sir Joshua the method of Gainsborough.Bad artists always admire each other's work.They call it being large-minded and free from prejudice.But a truly great artist cannot conceive of life being shown,or beauty fashioned,under any conditions other than those that he has selected.Creation employs all its critical faculty within its own sphere.It may not use it in the sphere that belongs to others.
It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it.
ERNEST.Do you really mean that?
GILBERT.Yes,for creation limits,while contemplation widens,the vision.
ERNEST.But what about technique?Surely each art has its separate technique?
GILBERT.Certainly:each art has its grammar and its materials.
There is no mystery about either,and the incompetent can always be correct.But,while the laws upon which Art rests may be fixed and certain,to find their true realisation they must be touched by the imagination into such beauty that they will seem an exception,each one of them.Technique is really personality.That is the reason why the artist cannot teach it,why the pupil cannot learn it,and why the aesthetic critic can understand it.To the great poet,there is only one method of music -his own.To the great painter,there is only one manner of painting -that which he himself employs.The aesthetic critic,and the aesthetic critic alone,can appreciate all forms and modes.It is to him that Art makes her appeal.
ERNEST.Well,I think I have put all my questions to you.And now I must admit -GILBERT.Ah!don't say that you agree with me.When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong.
ERNEST.In that case I certainly won't tell you whether I agree with you or not.But I will put another question.You have explained to me that criticism is a creative art.What future has it?
GILBERT.It is to criticism that the future belongs.The subject-matter at the disposal of creation becomes every day more limited in extent and variety.Providence and Mr.Walter Besant have exhausted the obvious.If creation is to last at all,it can only do so on the condition of becoming far more critical than it is at present.The old roads and dusty highways have been traversed too often.Their charm has been worn away by plodding feet,and they have lost that element of novelty or surprise which is so essential for romance.He who would stir us now by fiction must either give us an entirely new background,or reveal to us the soul of man in its innermost workings.The first is for the moment being done for us by Mr.Rudyard Kipling.As one turns over the pages of his PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS,one feels as if one were seated under a palm-tree reading life by superb flashes of vulgarity.The bright colours of the bazaars dazzle one's eyes.The jaded,second-rate Anglo-Indians are in exquisite incongruity with their surroundings.
The mere lack of style in the story-teller gives an odd journalistic realism to what he tells us.From the point of view of literature Mr.Kipling is a genius who drops his aspirates.
From the point of view of life,he is a reporter who knows vulgarity better than any one has ever known it.Dickens knew its clothes and its comedy.Mr.Kipling knows its essence and its seriousness.He is our first authority on the second-rate,and has seen marvellous things through keyholes,and his backgrounds are real works of art.As for the second condition,we have had Browning,and Meredith is with us.But there is still much to be done in the sphere of introspection.People sometimes say that fiction is getting too morbid.As far as psychology is concerned,it has never been morbid enough.We have merely touched the surface of the soul,that is all.In one single ivory cell of the brain there are stored away things more marvellous and more terrible than even they have dreamed of,who,like the author of LEROUGE ET LE NOIR,have sought to track the soul into its most secret places,and to make life confess its dearest sins.Still,there is a limit even to the number of untried backgrounds,and it is possible that a further development of the habit of introspection may prove fatal to that creative faculty to which it seeks to supply fresh material.I myself am inclined to think that creation is doomed.It springs from too primitive,too natural an impulse.However this may be,it is certain that the subject-matter at the disposal of creation is always diminishing,while the subject-matter of criticism increases daily.There are always new attitudes for the mind,and new points of view.The duty of imposing form upon chaos does not grow less as the world advances.
There was never a time when Criticism was more needed than it is now.It is only by its means that Humanity can become conscious of the point at which it has arrived.