It is this admirable, this immortal sense of Beauty which makes us regard the Earth and its sights as a glimpse, a correspondence of Heaven. Our insatiable thirst for everything which is beyond and which is revealed by life is the most living proof of our immortality. It is at once by and through poetry, by and through music that the soul catches a glimpse of the splendors which lie on the other side of the grave; and when an exquisite poem brings tears to our eyes, these tears are not the proof of excessive enjoyment; they are much more the sign of an irritated melancholy, a nervous postulation, a nature exiled in an imperfect world which would like to take possession at once on this very earth of a revealed paradise. Thus the principle of poetry is strictly and simply human aspirations towards a higher beauty and this principle appears in an enthusiasm which is completely independent of passion, which is the intoxication of the heart, and of truth which is the field of reason. For passion is a natural thing, too natural, indeed, not to introduce a painful, discordant note into the realm of pure beauty; too familiar not to scandalize the pure Desires, the gracious Melancholy, the noble Despair which dwell in the supernatural regions of poetry.
And the task of modern art, too, suddenly becomes clear: stupefaction or delirium! To put to sleep or to intoxicate! To silence the conscience, by one means or the other! To help the modern soul to forget its feeling of guilt, not to help it to return to innocence! And this at least for moments at a time! To defend man against himself by compelling him to silence and to an inability to hear! – the few who have felt what this most shameful of tasks, this dreadful degradation of art, really means will find their souls filling to the brim with regret and pity: but also with a new mighty longing. he who desired to liberate art, to restore its desecrated sanctity, would first have to have liberated himself from the modern souls; only when innocent himself could he discover the innocence of art, and he thus has two tremendous acts of purification and consecration to accomplish. If he were victorious, if he spoke to men out of his liberated soul in the language of his liberated art, only then would he encounter his greatest danger and his most tremendous battle; men would rather tear him and his art to pieces than admit they must perish for shame in the face of them. It is possible that the redemption of art, the only gleam of light to be hoped for in the modern age, will be an event reserved to only a couple of solitary souls, while the many continue to gaze into the flickering and smoky fire of their art: for they do not want light, they want bedazzlement; they hate light – when it is thrown upon themselves.
Thus they avoid the new bringer of light; but, constrained by the love out of which he was born, he pursues them and wants to constrain them. ‘You shall pass through my mysteries’, he cries to them, ‘you need their purifications and convulsions. Risk it for the sake of your salvation and desert for once the dimly lit piece of nature and life which is all you seem to know; I lead you into a realm that is just as real, you yourselves shall say when you emerge out of my cave into our daylight which life is more real, which is really daylight and which cave. Nature is in its depths much richer, mightier, happier, more dreadful; in the way you usually live you do not know it: learn to become nature again yourselves and then with and in nature let yourselves be transformed by the magic of my love and fire.
Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations – Richard Wagner in Bayreuth
What makes a poet a poet is the fact that he sees himself surrounded by figures who live and act before him, and into his innermost essence he gazes…What allows Homer to depict things so much more vividly than all other poets? It is the fact that he looks at things so much more than they do. We talk so abstractly about poetry because we are usually all bad poets. Fundamentally the aesthetic phenomenon is simple; one only has to have the ability to watch a living play continuously and to live constantly surrounded by crowds of spirits, then one is a poet; if one feels the impulse to transform oneself and to speak out of other bodies and souls, then one is a dramatist.
Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
Art, like prayer, is a hand outstretched in the darkness, seeking for some touch of grace which will transform it into a hand that bestows gifts.
Whenever ‘form’ is nowadays demanded, in society and in conversation, in literary expression, in traffic between states, what is involuntarily understood by it is a pleasing appearance, the antithesis of the true concept of form as shape necessitated by content, which has nothing to do with ‘pleasing’ or ‘displeasing’ precisely because it is necessary and not arbitrary.
Full of the living burden of his great knowledge, he looked into the faces of those about him like one who knows the future. This gives to his portraits their extraordinary clear definiteness, but also that prophetic greatness which, in the statues of Victor Hugo and of Balzac, rises to an indescribable perfection. To create a likeness meant for him to seek eternity in some given face, that part of eternity by which the face participated in the great life of eternal things. He made none which he did not lift a little from its place into the future; as we hold an object against the sky in order to see its form with greater clarity and simplicity. This is not what we call beautifying a thing, nor is it right to speak of giving it characteristic expression. It is more than that; it is separating of the permanent from the ephemeral, the passing of a judgment, the executing of justice.
This is not particularly a pretty world. we have uglified what is most beautiful in it. We have come very close to losing that sense of beauty and harmony and proportion, and in the absence of that sense we won’t even be aware of what we are doing to ourselves by making our house a fitful and horrific spectacle of a place. We more or less have given up on the idea that government has a central part to play in the cultivation of the civic dimension of life. We’ve given up very much the idea that there is something so universally expressed in human nature that there are certain cultural forms capable of nurturing this nature. In our multicultural tolerance we are losing out on something that gives substance to a shared humanity. We’ve come to think of beauty as an option and the greeks knew better; it’s a necessity. And it should finally be the source of all we prize and all the might we might will in the world. To be beautiful is to be true and to be those things is to be good. That was the ancient ideal and to lose that is to live in a mechanical and meaningless and empty life.
Prof. Daniel Robinson
I believe in God, mozart and beethoven…I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, individual Art…I believe that through this Art all men are saved, and therefore each may die of hunger for Her…I believe…that true disciples of high Art will be transfigured in a heavenly veil of sun-drenched fragrance and sweet sound, and united for eternity with the divine fount of all Harmony. may mine be the sentence of grace! Amen!
Fortunate is he who at an early age knows what art is.
The artist ought to believe in art and rely upon art, and live in it, for in the palace of the soul are many mansions, and his is not the least capacious nor the least permanent, whilst we are all aware that it is certainly not the least beautiful.
Philip Gilbert Hamerton, Thoughts About Art