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The Temple of Nature

By Erasmus Darwin




I. Urania and the Muse converse 1. Progress of the Mind 42. II. The Four sensorial powers of Irritation, Sensation, Volition, and Association 55. Some finer senses given to Brutes 93. And Armour 108. Finer Organ of Touch given to Man 121. Whence clear ideas of Form 125. Vision is the Language of the Touch 131. Magic Lantern 139. Surprise, Novelty, Curiosity 145. Passions, Vices 149. Philanthropy 159. Shrine of Virtue 160. III. Ideal Beauty from the Female Bosom 163. Eros the God of Sentimental Love 177. Young Dione idolized by Eros 186. Third chain of Society 206. IV. Ideal Beauty from curved Lines 207. Taste for the Beautiful 222. Taste for the Sublime 223. For poetic Melancholy 231. For Tragedy 241. For artless Nature 247. The Genius of Taste 259. V. The Senses easily form and repeat ideas 269. Imitation from clear ideas 279. The Senses imitate each other 293. In dancing 295. In drawing naked Nymphs 279. In Architecture, as at St. Peter's at Rome 303. Mimickry 319. VI. Natural Language from imitation 335. Language of Quails, Cocks, Lions, Boxers 343. Pantomime Action 357. Verbal Language from Imitation and Association 363. Symbols of ideas 371. Gigantic form of Time 385. Wings of Hermes 391. VII. Recollection from clear ideas 395. Reason and Volition 401. Arts of the Wasp, Bee, Spider, Wren, Silk-Worm 411. Volition concerned about Means or Causes 435. Man distinguished by Language, by using Tools, labouring for Money, praying to the Deity 483. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil 445. VIII. Emotions from Imitation 461. The Seraph; Sympathy 467. Christian Morality the great bond of Society 483-496.



I. Now rose, adorn'd with Beauty's brightest hues,
The graceful HIEROPHANT, and winged MUSE;
Onward they step around the stately piles,
O'er porcelain floors, through laqueated ailes,
Eye Nature's lofty and her lowly seats,
Her gorgeous palaces, and green retreats,
Pervade her labyrinths with unerring tread,
And leave for future guests a guiding thread.

First with fond gaze blue fields of air they sweep,
Or pierce the briny chambers of the deep;                      10
Earth's burning line, and icy poles explore,
Her fertile surface, and her caves of ore;
{84} Or mark how Oxygen1 with Azote-Gas
Plays round the globe in one aerial mass,
Or fused with Hydrogen in ceaseless flow
Forms the wide waves, which foam and roll below.

Next with illumined hands through prisms bright
Pleased they untwist the sevenfold threads of light;
Or, bent in pencils by the lens, convey
To one bright point the silver hairs of Day.                   20 
Then mark how two electric streams2 conspire 
To form the resinous and vitreous fire;
{85} Beneath the waves the fierce Gymnotus arm,
And give Torpedo his benumbing charm;
Or, through Galvanic chain-work as they pass,
Convert the kindling water into gas.

How at the poles opposing Ethers dwell,
Attract the quivering needle, or repel.
How Gravitation by immortal laws
Surrounding matter to a centre draws;                          30
How Heat, pervading oceans, airs, and lands,
With force uncheck'd the mighty mass expands;
And last how born in elemental strife
Beam'd the first spark, and lighten'd into Life.

{86} Now in sweet tones the inquiring Muse express'd
Her ardent wish; and thus the Fair address'd.
"Priestess of Nature! whose exploring sight
Pierces the realms of Chaos and of Night;
Of space unmeasured marks the first and last,
Of endless time the present, future, past;                     40
Immortal Guide! O, now with accents kind
Give to my ear the progress of the Mind.
How loves, and tastes, and sympathies commence
From evanescent notices of sense?
How from the yielding touch and rolling eyes
The piles immense of human science rise? --
With mind gigantic steps the puny Elf,
And weighs and measures all things but himself!"

The indulgent Beauty hears the grateful Muse,
Smiles on her pupil, and her task renews.                      50
Attentive Nymphs in sparkling squadrons throng,
And choral Virgins listen to the song;
{87} Pleased Fawns and Naiads crowd in silent rings,
And hovering Cupids stretch their purple wings.

II. "FIRST the new actions of the excited sense,
Urged by appulses from without, commence;
With these exertions pain or pleasure springs,
And forms perceptions of external things.
Thus, when illumined by the solar beams,
Yon waving woods, green lawns, and sparkling streams,          60
In one bright point by rays converging lie
Plann'd on the moving tablet of the eye;
The mind obeys the silver goads of light,
And IRRITATION moves3 the nerves of sight.

{88} "These acts repeated rise from joys or pains,
And swell Imagination's flowing trains;
So in dread dreams amid the silent night
Grim spectre-forms the shuddering sense affright;
Or Beauty's idol-image, as it moves,
Charms the closed eye with graces, smiles, and love;           70
Each passing form the pausing heart delights,
And young SENSATION4 every nerve excites.

"Oft from sensation quick VOLITION springs,5
When pleasure thrills us, or when anguish stings;
{89} Hence Recollection calls with voice sublime
Immersed ideas from the wrecks of Time,
With potent charm in lucid trains displays
Eventful stories of forgotten days.
Hence Reason's efforts good with ill contrast,
Compare the present, future, and the past;                     80
Each passing moment,6 unobserved restrain
The wild discordancies of Fancy's train;
But leave uncheck'd the Night's ideal streams,
Or, sacred Muses! your meridian dreams.

{90} "And last Suggestion's mystic power describes
Ideal hosts arranged in trains or tribes.
So when the Nymph with volant finger rings
Her dulcet harp, and shakes the sounding strings;
As with soft voice she trills the enamour'd song,
Successive notes, unwill'd, the strain prolong;                90
The transient trains ASSOCIATION steers,7
And sweet vibrations charm the astonish'd ears.

"ON rapid feet o'er hills, and plains, and rocks,
Speed the scared leveret and rapacious fox;
On rapid pinions cleave the fields above
The hawk descending, and escaping dove;
With nicer nostril track the tainted ground
The hungry vulture, and the prowling hound;
{91} Converge reflected light with nicer eye
The midnight owl, and microscopic fly;                        100
With finer ear pursue their nightly course
The listening lion, and the alarmed horse.

"The branching forehead8 with diverging horns
Crests the bold bull, the jealous stag adorns;
Fierce rival boars with side-long fury wield
The pointed tusk, and guard with shoulder-shield;
Bounds the dread tiger o'er the affrighted heath
Arm'd with sharp talons, and resistless teeth;
The pouncing eagle bears in clinched claws
The struggling lamb, and rends with ivory jaws;               110
The tropic eel,9 electric in his ire,
Alarms the waves with unextinguish'd fire;
{92} The fly of night10 illumes his airy way,
And seeks with lucid lamp his sleeping prey;
Fierce on his foe the poisoning serpent springs,
And insect armies dart their venom'd stings.

"Proud Man alone in wailing weakness born,
No horns protect him, and no plumes adorn;
No finer powers of nostril, ear, or eye,
Teach the young Reasoner to pursue or fly. --                 120
Nerved with fine touch above the bestial throngs,
The hand, first gift of Heaven!11 to man belongs;
{93} Untipt with claws the circling fingers close,
With rival points the bending thumbs oppose,
Trace the nice lines of Form12 with sense refined,
And clear ideas charm the thinking mind.
Whence the fine organs of the touch impart
Ideal figure, source of every art;
Time, motion, number, sunshine or the storm,
But mark varieties in Nature's form.                          130

{94} "Slow could the tangent organ wander o'er
The rock-built mountain, and the winding shore;
No apt ideas could the pigmy mite,
Or embryon emmet to the touch excite;
But as each mass the solar ray reflects,
The eye's clear glass the transient beams collects;
Bends to their focal point the rays that swerve,
And paints the living image on the nerve.
So in some village-barn, or festive hall
The spheric lens illumes the whiten'd wall;                   140
O'er the bright field successive figures fleet,
And motley shadows dance along the sheet. --
Symbol of solid forms is colour'd light,
And the mute language of the touch13 is sight.

{95} "HENCE in Life's portico starts young Surprise14
With step retreating, and expanded eyes;
{96} The virgin, Novelty, whose radiant train
Soars o'er the clouds, or sinks beneath the main,
With sweetly-mutable seductive charms
Thrills the young sense, the tender heart alarms.             150
Then Curiosity with tracing hands
And meeting lips15 the lines of form demands,
Bouy'd on light step, o'er ocean, earth, and sky,
Rolls the bright mirror of her restless eye.
While in wild groups tumultuous Passions stand,
And Lust and Hunger head the Motley band;
Then Love and Rage succeed, and Hope and Fear;
And nameless Vices close the gloomy rear;
Or young Philanthropy with voice divine
Convokes the adoring Youth to Virtue's shrine;                160
{97} Who with raised eye and pointing finger leads
To truths celestial, and immortal deeds.

III. "As the pure language of the Sight commands
The clear ideas furnish'd by the hands;
Beauty's fine forms attract our wondering eyes,
And soft alarms the pausing heart surprise.
Warm from its cell the tender infant born
Feels the cold chill of Life's aerial morn;
Seeks with spread hands16 the bosoms velvet orbs,
With closing lips the milky fount absorbs;                    170
And, as compress'd the dulcet streams distil,
Drinks warmth and fragrance from the living rill;
Eyes with mute rapture every waving line,
Prints with adoring kiss the Paphian shrine,
And learns erelong, the perfect form confess'd,
IDEAL BEAUTY17 from its Mother's breast.

{98} "Now on swift wheels descending like a star
Alights young EROS18 from his radiant car;
On angel-wings attendant Graces move,
And hail the God of SENTIMENTAL LOVE.                         180
{99} Earth at his feet19 extends her flowery bed,
And bends her silver blossoms round his head;
Dark clouds dissolve, the warring winds subside,
And smiling ocean calms his tossing tide,
O'er the bright morn meridian lustres play,
And Heaven salutes him with a flood of day.

"Warm as the sun-beam, pure as driven snows,
The enamour'd GOD for young DIONE glows;
Drops the still tear, with sweet attention sighs,
And woos the Goddess with adoring eyes;                       190
Marks her white neck beneath the gauze's fold,
Her ivory shoulders, and her locks of gold;
Drinks with mute ecstacy the transient glow,
Which warms and tints her bosom's rising snow.
With holy kisses wanders o'er her charms,
And clasps the Beauty in Platonic arms;
{100} Or if the dewy hands of Sleep, unbid,
O'er her blue eye-balls close the lovely lid,
Watches each nascent smile, and fleeting grace,
That plays in day-dreams o'er her blushing face;              200
Counts the fine mazes of the curls, that break
Round her fair ear, and shade her damask cheek;
Drinks the pure fragrance of her breath, and sips
With tenderest touch the roses of her lips; --
O'er female hearts with chaste seduction reigns,
And binds SOCIETY in silken chains.

IV. "IF the wide eye the wavy lawns20 explores,
The bending woodlands, or the winding shores,
{101} Hills, whose green sides with soft protuberance rise,
Or the blue concave of the vaulted skies: --                  210
Or scans with nicer gaze the pearly swell
Of spiral volutes round the twisted shell;
Or undulating sweep, whose graceful turns
Bound the smooth surface of Etrurian urns,
When on fine forms the waving lines impress'd
Give the nice curved, which swell the female breast;
The countless joys the tender Mother pours
Round the soft cradle of our infant hours,
In lively trains of unextinct delight
Rise in our bosoms recognized by sight;                       220
{102} Fond Fancy's eye recalls the form divine,
And TASTE sits smiling upon Beauty's shrine.

"Where Egypt's pyramids gigantic stand,
And stretch their shadows o'er the shuddering sand;
Or where high rocks o'er ocean's dashing floods
Wave high in air their panopoly of woods;
Admiring TASTE delights to stray beneath
With eye uplifted, and forgets to breathe;
Or, as aloft his daring footsteps climb,
Crests their high summits with his arm sublime.21             230

{103} "Where mouldering columns mark the lingering wreck
Of Thebes, Palmyra, Babylon, Balbec;
The prostrate obelisk, or shattter'd dome,
Uprooted pedestal, and yawning tomb,
On loitering steps reflective TASTE surveys
With folded arms and sympathetic gaze;
Charm'd with poetic Melancholy treads2
O'er ruin'd towns and desolated meads;
Or rides sublime on Time's expanded wings,
And views the fate of ever-changing things.                   240

"When Beauty's streaming eyes her woes express,
Or Virtue braves unmerited distress;
{104} Love sighs in sympathy, with pain combined,
And new-born Pity charms the kindred mind;
The enamour'd Sorrow every cheek bedews,
And TASTE impassion'd woos the tragic Muse.23

"The rush-thatch'd cottage on the purple moor,
Where ruddy children frolic round the door,
The moss-grown antlers of the aged oak,
The shaggy locks that fringe the colt unbroke,                250
{105} The bearded goat with nimble eyes, that glare
Through the long tissue of his hoary hair; --
As with quick foot he climbs some ruin'd wall,
And crops the ivy, which prevents its fall; --
With rural charms the tranquil mind delight,
And form a picture to the admiring sight.
While TASTE with pleasure bends his eye surprised
In modern days at Nature unchastised.24

"The GENIUS-FORM, on silver slippers born,
With fair dew-drops gems the rising morn;                     260
Sheds o'er meridian skies a softer light,
And decks with brighter pearls the brow of night;
{106} With finer blush the vernal blossom glows,
With sweeter breath enamour'd Zephyr blows,
The limpid streams with gentler murmurs pass,
And gayer colours tinge the watery glass,
Charm'd round his steps along the enchanted groves
Flit the fine forms of Beauties, Graces, Loves.

V. "Alive, each moment of the transient hour,
When Rest accumulates25 sensorial power,                      270
{107} The impatient Senses, goaded to contract,
Forge new ideas, changing as they act;
And, in long streams dissever'd, or concrete
In countless tribes, the fleeting forms repeat.
Which rise excited in Volition's trains,
Or link the sparkling rings of Fancy's chains;
Or, as they flow from each translucent source,
Pursue Association's endless course.

"Hence when the inquiring hands with contact fine
Trace on hard forms the circumscribing line;                  280
Which then the language of the rolling eyes
From distant scenes of earth and heaven supplies;
Those clear ideas of the touch and sight
Rouse the quick sense to anguish or delight;
Whence the fine power of IMITATION springs,
And apes the outlines of external things;
With ceaseless action to the world imparts
All moral virtues,26 languages and arts.
{108} First the charm'd Mind mechanic powers collects,
Means for some end, and causes of effects;                    290
Then learns from other Minds their joys and fears,
Contagious smiles and sympathetic tears.

"What one fine stimulated Sense discerns,
Another Sense27 by IMITATION learns. --
So in the graceful dance the step sublime
Learns from the ear the concordance of Time.
So, when the pen of some young artist prints
Recumbent Nymphs in TITIAN'S living tints;
The glowing limb, fair cheek, and flowing hair,
Respiring bosom, and seductive air,                           300
{109} He justly copies with enamour'd sigh
From Beauty's image pictured on his eyes.

"Thus when great ANGELO28 in wondering Rome
Fix'd the vast pillars of Saint Peter's dome,
Rear'd rocks on rocks sublime, and hung on high
A new Pantheon in the affrighted sky.
Each massy pier, now join'd and now aloof,
The figured architraves, and vaulted roof,
{110} Ailes, whose broad curves gigantic ribs sustain,
Where holy echoes chant the adoring strain;                   310
The central altar, sacred to the Lord,
Admired by Sages, and by Saints ador'd,
Whose brazen canopy ascends sublime
On spiral columns unafraid of Time,
Were first by Fancy in ethereal dyes
Plann'd on the rolling tablets of his eyes;
And his true hand with imitation fine
Traced from his Retina the grand design.

"The Muse of MIMICRY29 in every age
With silent language charms the attentive stage;              320
{111} The Monarch's stately step, and tragic pause,
The Hero bleeding in his country's cause,
O'er her fond child the dying Mother's tears,
The Lover's ardor, and the Virgin's fears;
The tittering Nymph, that tries her comic task,
Bounds on the scene, and peeps behind her mask,
The Punch and Harlequin, and graver throng,
That shake the theatre with dance and song,
With endless trains of Angers, Loves, and Mirths,
Owe to the Muse of Mimicry their births.                      330

"Hence to clear images of form belong
The sculptor's statue, and the poet's song,
The painter's landscape, and the builder's plan,
And IMITATION marks30 the mind of Man.

{112} VI. "WHEN strong desires or soft sensations move
The astonish'd Intellect to rage or love;
Associate tribes of fibrous motions rise,
Flush the red cheek, or light the laughing eyes.
Whence ever-active Imitation finds
The ideal trains, that pass in kindred minds;                 340
Her mimic arts associate thoughts excite
And the first LANGUAGE31 enters at the sight.

{113} "Thus jealous quails or village-cocks inspect
Each other's necks with stiffen'd plumes erect;
Smit with the wordless eloquence, they know
The rival passion of the threatening foe.
So when the famish'd wolves at midnight howl,
Fell serpents hiss, or fierce hyenas growl;
Indignant Lions rear their bristling mail,
And lash their sides with undulating tail.                    350
Or when the Savage-Man with clenched fist
Parades, the scowling champion of the list;
With brandish'd arms, and eyes that roll to know
Where first to fix the meditated blow;
Association's mystic power combines
Internal passions with external signs.

"From these dumb gestures first the exchange began
Of viewless thought in bird, and beast, and man;
And still the stage by mimic art displays
Historic pantomime in modern days;                            360
{114} And hence the enthusiast orator affords
Force to the feebler eloquence of words.

"Thus the first LANGUAGE, when we frown'd or smiled,
Rose from the cradle, Imitation's child;
Next to each thought associate sound accords,
And forms the dulcet symphony of words;
The tongue, the lips articulate; the throat
With soft vibration modulates the note;
Love, pity, war, the shout, the song, the prayer
Form quick concussions of elastic air.                        370

"Hence the first accents32 bear in airy rings
The vocal symbols of ideal things,
{115} Name each nice change appulsive powers supply
To the quick sense of touch, or ear or eye.
Or in fine traits abstracted forms suggest
Of Beauty, Wisdom, Number, Motion, Rest;
Or, as within reflex ideas move,
Trace the light steps of Reason, Rage, or Love.
The next new sounds adjunctive thoughts recite,
As hard, odorous, tuneful, sweet, or white.                   380
{116} The next the fleeting images select
Of action, suffering, causes and effect;
Or mark existence, with the march sublime
O'er earth and ocean of recording TIME.

"The GIANT FORM on Nature's centre stands,
And waves in ether his unnumber'd hands;
Whirls the bright planets in their silver spheres,
And the vast sun round other systems steers;
Till the last trump amid the thunder's roar
Sound the dread Sentence "TIME SHALL BE NO MORE!"             390

"Last steps Abbreviation, bold and strong,
And leads the volant trains of words along;
With sweet loquacity to HERMES springs,
And decks his forehead and his feet with wings.

VII. "As the soft lips and pliant tongue are taught
With other minds to interchange the thought;
{117} And sound, the symbol of the sense, explains
In parted links33 the long ideal trains;
From clear conceptions of external things
The facile power of Recollection springs.                     400

"Whence REASON'S empire34 o'er the world presides,
And man from brute, and man from man divides;
{118} Compares and measures by imagined lines
Ellipses, circles, tangents, angles, sines;
Repeats with nice libration, and decrees
In what each differs, and in what agrees;
With quick Volitions unfatigued selects
Means for some end, and causes of effects;
All human science worth the name imparts,
And builds on Nature's base the works of Arts.                410

"The Wasp, fine architect,35 surrounds his domes
With paper-foliage, and suspends his combs;
{119} Secured from frost the Bee industrious dwells,
And fills for winter all her waxen cells;
The cunning Spider with adhesive line
Weaves his firm net immeasurably fine;
The Wren, when embryon eggs her cares engross,
Seeks the soft down, and lines the cradling moss;
Conscious of change the Silkworm-Nymphs begin
Attach'd to leaves their gluten-threads to spin;              420
Then round and round they weave with circling heads
Sphere within Sphere, and form their silken beds.
-- Say, did these fine volitions first commence
From clear ideas of the tangent sense;
From sires to sons by imitation caught,
Or in dumb language by tradition taught?
Or did they rise in some primeval site
Of larva-gnat, or microscopic mite;
{120} And with instructive foresight still await
On each vicissitude of insect-state? --                       430
Wise to the present, nor to the future blind,
They link the reasoning reptile to mankind!
-- Stoop, selfish Pride! survey thy kindred forms,
Thy brother Emmets, and thy sister Worms!

"Thy potent acts, VOLITION,36 still attend
The means of pleasure to secure the end;
{121} To express his wishes and his wants design'd
Language, the means, distinguishes Mankind;
For future works in Art's ingenious schools
His hands unwearied form and finish tools;                    440
He toils for money future bliss to share,
And shouts to Heaven his mercenary prayer.
Sweet Hope delights him, frowning Fear alarms,
And Vice and Virtue court him to their arms.

"Unenvied eminence, in Nature's plan
Rise the reflective faculties of Man!
Labour to Rest the thinking Few prefer!
Know but to mourn! and reason but to err! --
In Eden's groves, the cradle of the world,
Bloom'd a fair tree with mystic flowers unfurl'd;             450
On bending branches, as aloft it sprung,
Forbid to taste, the fruit of KNOWLEDGE hung;
Flow'd with sweet Innocence the tranquil hours,
And Love and Beauty warm'd the blissful bowers.
{122} Till our deluded Parents pluck'd, erelong,
The tempting fruit, and gather'd Right and Wrong;37
Whence Good and Evil, as in trains they pass,
Reflection imaged on her polish'd glass;
And Conscience felt, for blood by Hunger spilt,
The pains of shame, of sympathy, and guilt!                   460

VIII. "LAST, as observant Imitation stands,
Turns her quick glance, and brandishes her hands,
With mimic acts associate thought excites,
And storms the soul with sorrows or delights;
Life's shadowy scenes are brighten'd and refin'd,
And soft emotions38 mark the feeling mind.

{123} "The Seraph, SYMPATHY, from Heaven descends,
And bright o'er earth his beamy forehead bends;
On Man's cold heart celestial ardor flings,
And showers affection from his sparkling wings;               470
Rolls o'er the world his mild benignant eye,
Hears the lone murmur, drinks the whisper'd sigh;
Lifts the closed latch of pale Misfortune's door,
Opes the clench'd hand of Avarice to the poor,
Unbars the prison, liberates the slave,
Sheds his soft sorrows o'er the untimely grave,
Points with uplifted hand to realms above,
And charms the world with universal love.

{124} "O'er the thrill'd frame his words assuasive steal,
And teach the selfish heart what others feel;                 480
With sacred truth each erring thought control,
Bind sex to sex, and mingle soul with soul;
From heaven, He cried, descends the moral plan,
And gives Society to savage man.

39"High on yon scroll, inscribed o'er Nature's shrine,
Live in bright characters the words divine.
-- Winds! wide o'er earth the sacred law convey,
Ye Nations, hear it! and ye Kings, obey!                      490

"Unbreathing wonder hush'd the adoring throng,
Froze the broad eye, and chain'd the silent tongue;
Mute was the wail of Want, and Misery's cry,
And grateful Pity wiped her lucid eye;
Peace with sweet voice the Seraph-form address'd,
And Virtue clasp'd him to her throbbing breast."



{84} 1. How Oxygen, l. 13. The atmosphere which surrounds us, is composed of twenty-seven parts of oxygen gas and seventy-three of azote or nitrogen gas, which are simply diffused together, but which, when combined, become nitrous acid. Water consists of eighty-six parts oxygen, and fourteen parts of hydrogen or inflammable air, in a state of combination. It is also probable, that much oxygen enters the composition of glass; as those materials which promote vitrification, contain so much of it, as minium and manganese; and that glass is hence a solid acid in the temperature of our atmosphere, as water is a fluid one.

2. Two electric streams, l. 21. It is the opinion of some philosophers, that the electric ether consists of two kinds of fluids diffused together or combined; which are commonly known by the terms of positive and negative electricity, but are by these electricians called vitreous and resinous electricity. The electric shocks given by the torpedo {85} and by the gymnotus, are supposed to be similar to those of the Galvanic pile, as they are produced in water. Which water is decomposed by the Galvanic pile and converted into oxygen and hydrogen gas; see Additional Note XII.

The magnetic ether may also be supposed to consist of two fluids, one of which attracts the needle, and the other repels it; and, perhaps, chemical affinites, and gravitation itself, may consist of two kinds of ether surrounding the particles of bodies, and may thence attract at one distance and repel at another; as appears when two insulated electrised balls are approached to each other, or when two small globules of mercury are pressed together.

{87} 3. And Irritation moves, l. 64. Irritation is an exertion or change of some extreme part of the sensorium residing in the muscles or organs of sense in consequence of the appulses of external bodies. The word perception includes both the action of the organ of sense in consequence of the impact of external objects and our attention to that action; that is, it expresses both the motion of the organ of sense, or idea, and the pain or pleasure that succeeds or accompanies it. Irritative ideas are those which are preceded by irritation, which is excited by objects external to the organs of sense: as the idea of that tree, which either I attend to, or which I shun in walking near it without attention. In the former case it is termed perception, in the latter it is termed simply an irritative idea.

{88} 4. And young Sensation, l. 72. Sensation is an exertion or change of the central parts of the sensorium or of the whole of it, beginning at some of those extreme parts of it which reside in the muscles or organs of sense. Sensitive ideas are those which are preceded by the sensation of pleasure of pain, are termed Imagination, and constitute our dreams and reveries.

5. Quick Volition springs, l. 73. Volition is an exertion or change of the central parts of the sensorium, or of the whole of it terminating in some of those extreme parts of it which reside in the muscles and organs of sense. The vulgar use of the word memory is too unlimited for our purpose: those ideas which we voluntarily recall are here termed ideas of recollection, as when we will to repeat the alphabet backwards. And those ideas which are suggested to us by preceding ideas are here termed ideas of suggestion, as whilst we repeat the {89} alphabet in the usual order; when by habits previously acquired B is suggested by A, and C by B, without any effort of deliberation. Reasoning is that operation of the sensorium by which we excite two or many tribes of ideas, and then reexcite the ideas in which they differ or correspond. If we determine this difference, it is called judgement; if we in vain endeavour to determine it, it is called doubting.

If we reexcite the ideas in which they differ, it is called distinguishing. If we reexcite those in which they correspond, it is called comparing.

6. Each passing moment, l. 81. During our waking hours, we perpetually compare the passing trains of our ideas with the known system of nature, and reject those which are incongruous with it; this is explained in Zoonomia, Sect. XVII. 3. 7. and is there termed Intuitive Analogy. When we sleep, the faculty of volition ceases to act, and in consequence the uncompared trains of ideas become incongruous and form the farrago of our dreams; in which we never experience any surprise, or sense of novelty.

{90} 7. Association steers, l. 91. Association is an exertion or change of some extreme part of the sensorium residing in the muscles and organs of sense in consequence of some antecedent or attendant fibrous contractions. Associate ideas, therefore, are those which preceded by other ideas or muscular motions, without the intervention of irritation, sensation, or volition between them; these are also termed ideas of suggestion.

{91} 8. The branching forehead, l. 103. The peculiarities of the shapes of animals which distinguish them from each other, are enumerated in Zoonomia, Sect. XXXIX. 4. 8. on Generation, and are believed to have been gradually formed from similar living fibres, and are varied by reproduction. Many of these parts of animals are there shown to have arisen from their three great desires of lust, hunger, and security.

9. The tropic eel, l. 111. Gymnotus electricus.

{92} 10. The fly of night, l. 113. Lampyris noctiluca. Fire-fly.

11. The hand, first gift of Heaven, l. 122. The human species in some of their sensations are much inferior to animals, yet the accuracy of the sense of touch, which they possess in so eminent a degree, gives them a great superiority of understanding; as is well observed by the ingenious Mr. Buffon. The extremities of other animals terminate in horns, and hoofs, and claws, very unfit for the sensation of touch; whilst the human hand is finely adapted to encompass its object with this organ of sense. Those animals who have clavicles or collar-bones, and thence use their fore-feet like hands, as cats, squirrels, monkeys, are more ingenious than other quadrupeds, except the elephant, who has a fine sense at the extremity of his proboscis; and many insects from the possessing finer organs of touch have greater ingenuity, as spiders, bees, wasps.

{93} 12. Trace the nice lines of form, l. 125. When the idea of solidity is excited a part of the extensive organ of touch is compressed by some external body, and this part of the sensorium so compressed exactly resembles in figure the figure of the body that compressed it. Hence when we acquire the idea of solidity, we acquire at the same time the idea of figure; and this idea of figure, or motion of a part of the organ of touch, exactly resembles in its figure the figure of the body that occasions it; and thus exactly acquaints us with this property of the external world.

Now, as the whole universe with all its parts possesses a certain form or figure, if any part of it moves, that form or figure of the whole is varied. Hence, as motion is no other than a perpetual variation of figure, our idea of motion is also a real resemblance of the motion that produced it.

Hence arises the certainty of the mathematical sciences, as they explain these properties of bodies, which are exactly resembled by our ideas of them, whilst we are obliged to collect almost all our other knowledge from experiment; that is, by observing the effects exerted by one body upon another.

{94} 13. The mute language of the touch, l. 144. Our eyes observe a difference of colour, or of shade, in the prominences and depressions of objects, and that those shades uniformly vary when the sense of touch observes any variation. Hence when the retina becomes stimulated by colours or shades of light in a certain form, as in a circular spot, we know by experience that this is a sign that a tangible body is before us; and that its figure is resembled by the miniature figure of the part of the organ of vision that is thus stimulated.

Here whilst the stimulated part of the retina resembles exactly {95} the visible figure of the whole in miniature, the various kinds of stimuli from different colours mark the visible figures of the minuter parts; and by habit we instantly recall the tangible figures.

So that though our visible ideas resemble in miniature the outline of the figure of coloured bodies, in other respects they serve only as a language, which by acquired associations introduce the tangible ideas of bodies. Hence it is, that this sense is so readily deceived by the art of the painter to our amusement and instruction. The reader will find much very curious knowledge on this subject in Bishop Berkeley's Essay on Vision, a work of great ingenuity.

14. Starts young Surprise, l. 145. Surprise is occasioned by the sudden interruption of the usual trains of our ideas by any violent stimulus from external objects, as from the unexpected discharge of a pistol, and hence does not exist in our dreams, because our external senses are closed or inirritable. The fetus in the womb must experience many sensations, as of resistance, figure, fluidity, warmth, motion, rest, exertion, taste; and must consequently possess trains both of waking and sleeping ideas. Surprise must therefore be strongly excited at its nativity, as those trains of ideas must instantly be dissevered by the sudden and violent sensations occasioned by the dry and cold atmosphere, the hardness of external bodies, light, sound, and odours; which are accompanied with pleasure or pain according to their quantity or intensity.

As some of these sensations become familiar by repetition, other objects not previously attended to present themselves, and produce the idea of novelty, which is a less degree of surprise, and like that is not perceived in our dreams, though for another reason; because in sleep we possess no voluntary power to compare our trains of ideas with our previous knowledge of nature, and do not therefore perceive their difference by intuitive analogy from what usually occurs.

As the novelty of our ideas is generally attended with pleasurable sensation, from this arises Curiosity, or a desire of examining a variety {95} of objects, hoping to find novelty, and the pleasure consequent to this degree of surprise; see Additional Note VII. 3.

15. And meeting lips, l. 152. Young children put small bodies into their mouths, when they are satiated with food, as well as when they are hungry, not with design to taste them, but use their lips as an organ of touch to distinguish the shapes of them. Puppies, whose toes are terminated with nails, and who do not much use their forefeet as hands, seem to have no other means of acquiring a knowledge of the forms of external bodies, and are therefore perpetually playing with things by taking them between their lips.

{97} 16. Seeks with spread hands, l. 169. These eight beautiful lines are copied from Mr. Bilsborrow's Address prefixed to Zoonomia, and are translated from that work; Sect. XVI. 6.

17. Ideal Beauty, l. 176. Sentimental Love, as distinguished from the {98} animal passion of that name, with which it is frequently accompanied, consists in the desire or sensation of beholding, embracing, and saluting a beautiful object.

The characteristic of beauty therefore is that it is the object of love; and though many other objects are in common language called beautiful, yet they are only called so metaphorically, and ought to be termed agreeable. A Grecian temple may give us the pleasurable idea of sublimity, a Gothic temple may give us the pleasurable idea of variety, and a modern house the pleasurable idea of utility; music and poetry may inspire our love by association of ideas; but none of these, except metaphorically, can be termed beautiful, as we have no wish to embrace or salute them.

Our perception of beauty consists in our recognition by the sense of vision of those objects, first, which have before inspired our love by the pleasure, which they have afforded to many of our senses; as to our sense of warmth, of touch, of smell, of taste, hunger and thirst; and, secondly, which bear any analogy of form to such objects.

18. Alights young Eros, l. 178. There were two deities of Love belonging to the heathen mythology, the one said to be celestial, and the other terrestrial. Aristophanes says, "Sable-winged Night produced an egg, from which sprung up like a blossom Eros, the lovely, the desirable, with his glossy golden wings." See Botanic Garden, Canto I. l. 412. Note. The other deity of Love, Cupido, seems of much later date, as he is not mentioned in the works of Homer, where there were so many apt situations to have introduced him.

{99} 19. Earth at his feet, l. 181.

Te, Dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila coeli,
Adventumque tuum; tibi suaves dædala tellus
Submittit flores; tibi rident æquora ponti;
Placatumque nitet diffuso lumine coelum. LUCRET.

{100} 20. The wavy lawns, l. 207. When the babe, soon after it is born into this cold world, is applied to its mother's bosom; its sense of perceiving warmth is first agreeably affected; next its sense of smell is delighted with the odour of her milk; then its taste is gratified by the flavour of it; afterwards the appetites of hunger and of thirst afford pleasure by the possession of their objects, and by the subsequent digestion of the aliment; and lastly, the sense of touch is delighted by the softness and smoothness of the milky fountain, the source of such variety of happiness.

All these various kinds of pleasure at length become associated with the form of the mother's breast; which the infant embraces with {101} its hands, presses with its lips, and watches with its eyes; and thus acquires more accurate ideas of the form of its mother's bosom, than of the odour and flavour or warmth, which it perceives by its other senses. And hence at our maturer years, when any object of vision is presented to us, which by its waving or spiral lines bears any similitude to the form of the female bosom, whether it be found in a landscape with soft gradations of rising and descending surface, or in the forms of some antique vases, or in other works of the pencil or the chisel, we feel a general glow of delight, which seems to influence all our senses; and if the object be not too large, we experience an attraction to embrace it with our arms, and to salute it with our lips, as we did in our early infancy the bosom of our mother. And thus {102} we find, according to the ingenious idea of Hogarth, that the waving lines of beauty were originally taken from the temple of Venus.

21. With his arm sublime, l. 230. Objects of the taste have been generally divided into the beautiful, the sublime, and the new; and lately to these have been added the picturesque. The beautiful so well explained in Hogarth's analysis of beauty, consists of curved lines and smooth surfaces, as expressed in the preceding note; any object larger than usual, as a very large temple or a very large mountain, gives us the idea of sublimity; with which is often confounded the terrific, and the melancholic: what is now termed picturesque includes objects, which are principally neither sublime nor beautiful, but which by their variety and intricacy joined with a due degree of regularity or uniformity convey to the mind an agreeable sentiment of novelty. Many other agreeable sentiments may be excited by visible objects, thus to the sublime and beautiful may be added the {103} terrific, tragic, melancholic, artless, &c. while novelty surperinduces a charm upon them all. See Additional Note XIII.

22. Poetic melancholy treads, l. 237. The pleasure arising from the contemplation of the ruins of ancient grandeur or of ancient happiness, and here termed poetic melancholy, arises from a combination of the painful idea of sorrow with the pleasurable idea of the grandeur or happiness of past times; and becomes very interesting to us by fixing our attention more strongly on that grandeur and happiness, as the passion of Pity mentioned in the succeeding note is a combination of the painful idea of sorrow with the pleasurable one of beauty, or of virtue.

{104} 23. The tragic Muse, l. 246. Why we are delighted with the scenical representations of Tragedy, which draw tears from our eyes, has been variously explained by different writers. The same distressful circumstance attending an ugly or wicked person affects us with grief or disgust; but when distress occurs to a beauteous or virtuous person, the pleasurable idea of beauty or of virtue becomes mixed with the painful one of sorrow and the passion of Pity is produced, which is a combination of love or esteem with sorrow; and becomes highly interesting to us by fixing our attention more intensely on the beauteous or virtuous person.

Other distressful scenes have been supposed to give pleasure to the spectator from exciting a comparative idea of his own happiness, as when a shipwreck is viewed by a person safe on shore, as mentioned by Lucretius, L. 3. But these dreadful situations belong rather to the terrible, or the horrid, than to the tragic; and may be objects of curiosity from their novelty, but not of Taste, and must suggest much more pain than pleasure.

{105} 24. Nature unchastised, l. 258. In cities or their vicinity, and even in the cultivated parts of the country we rarely see undisguised nature; the fields are ploughed, the meadows mown, the shrubs planted in rows for hedges, the trees deprived of their lower branches, and the animals, as horses, dogs, and sheep, are mutilated in respect to their tails or ears; such is the useful or ill-employed activity of mankind! all which alterations add to the formality of the soil, plants, trees, or animals; whence when natural objects are occasionally presented to us, as an uncultivated forest and its wild inhabitants, we are not only amused with greater variety of form, but are at the same time enchanted by the charm of novelty, which is a less degree of Surprise, already spoken of in note on 1. 145 of this Canto. [14]

{106} 25. When rest accumulates, l. 270. The accumulation of the spirit of animation, when those parts of the system rest, which are usually in motion, produces a disagreeable sensation. Whence the pain of cold and of hunger, and the irksomeness of a continued attitude, and of an indolent life: and hence the propensity to action in those confined animals, which have been accustomed to activity, as is seen in the motions of a squirrel in a cage; which uses perpetual exertion to exhaust a part of its accumulated sensorial power. This is one source of our general propensity to action; another perhaps arises from our curiosity or expectation of novelty mentioned in the note on l. 145. of this canto.[14]

But the immediate cause of our propensity to imitation above that of other animals arises from the greater facility, with which by the sense of touch we acquire the ideas of the outlines of objects, and afterwards in consequence by the sense of sight; this seems to have been observed by Aristotle, who calls man, "the imitative animal;" see Zoonomia, Vol. I. Sect. XXII.

{107} 26. All moral virtues, l. 288. See the sequel of this canto l. 453. on {108} sympathy; and l. 331. on language; and the subsequent lines on the arts of painting and architecture.

27. Another sense, l. 294. As the part of the organs of touch or of sight, which is stimulated into action by a tangible or visible object, must resemble in figure at least the figure of that object, as it thus constitutes an idea; it may be said to imitate the figure of that object; and thus imitation may be esteemed coeval with the existence both of man and other animals: but this would confound perception with imitation; which latter is better defined from the actions of one sense copying those of another.

{109} 28. Thus when great Angelo. l. 303. The origin of this propensity to imitation has not been deduced from any known principle; when any action presents itself to the view of a child, as of whetting a knife, or threading a needle; the parts of this action in respect of time, motion, figure, are imitated by parts of the retina of his eye; to perform this action therefore with his hands is easier to him than to invent any new action; because it consists in repeating with another set of fibres, viz. with the moving muscles, what he had just performed by some parts of the retina; just as in dancing we transfer the times of the motions from the actions of the auditory nerves to the muscles of the limbs. Imitation therefore consists of repetition, which is the easiest kind of animal action; as the ideas or motions become presently associated together; which adds to the facility of their production; as shown in Zoonomia, Vol. 1. Sect. XXII. 2.

It should be added, that as our ideas, when we perceive external objects, are believed to consist in the actions of the immediate organs of sense in consequence of the stimulus of those objects; so when we think of external objects, our ideas are believed to consist in the repetitions of the actions of the immediate organs of sense, excited by the other sensorial powers of volition, sensation, or association.

{110} 29. The Muse of Mimicry, l. 319. Much of the pleasure received from the drawings of flowers finely finished, or of portraits, is derived from their imitation or resemblance of the objects or persons which they represent. The same occurs in the pleasure we receive from mimicry on the stage; we are surprised at the accuracy of its enacted resemblance. Some part of the pleasure received from architecture, as when we contemplate the internal structure of gothic temples, as of King's College chapel in Cambridge, or of Lincoln Cathedral, may arise also from their imitation or resemblance of those superb avenues of large trees, which were formerly appropriated to religious ceremonies.

{111} 30. Imitation marks, l. 334. Many other curious instances of one part of the animal system imitating another part of it, as in some contagious diseases; and also of some animals imitating each other, are given in Zoonomia, Vol. I. Sect. XXII. 3. To which may be added, that this propensity to imitation not only appears in the actions of children, but in all the customs and fashions of the world; many thousand tread in the beaten paths of others, who precede or accompany them, for one who traverses regions of his own discovery.

{112} 31. And the first Language, l. 342. There are two ways by which we become acquainted with the passions of others: first, by having observed the effects of them, as of fear or anger, on our own bodies, we know at sight when others are under the influence of these affections. So children long before they can speak, or understand the language of their parents, may be frightened by an angry countenance, or soothed by smiles and blandishments.

Secondly, when we put ourselves into the attitude that any passion naturally occasions, we soon in some degree acquire that passion; hence when those that scold indulge themselves in loud oaths and violent actions of the arms, they increase their anger by the mode of expressing themselves; and, on the contrary, the counterfeited smile of pleasure in disagreeable company soon brings along with it a portion of the reality, as is well illustrated by Mr. Burke. (Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful.)

These are natural signs by which we understand each other, and on this slender basis is built all human language. For without some natural signs no artificial ones could have been invented or understood, as is very ingeniously observed by Dr. Reid. (Inquiry into the Human Mind.)

{114} 32. Hence the first accents, l. 371. Words were originally the signs or names of individual ideas; but in all known languages many of them by changing their terminations express more than one idea, as in the cases of nouns, and the moods and tenses of verbs. Thus a whip suggests a single idea of that instrument; but "to whip," suggests an idea of action, joined with that of the instrument, and is then called a verb; and "to be whipped," suggests an idea of being acted upon or suffering. Thus in most languages two ideas are suggested {115} by one word by changing its termination; as amor, love; amare, to love; amari, to be loved.

Nouns are the names of the ideas of things, first as they are received by the stimulus of objects, or as they are afterwards repeated; secondly, they are names of more abstracted ideas, which do not suggest at the same time the external objects, by which they were originally excited; or thirdly, of the operations of our minds, which are termed reflex ideas by metaphysical writers; or lastly, they are the names of our ideas of parts or properties of objects; and are termed by grammarians nouns adjective.

Verbs are also in reality names of our ideas of things, or nouns, with the addition of another idea to them, as of acting or suffering; or of more than one other annexed idea, as of time, and also of existence. These with the numerous abbreviations, so well illustrated by Mr. Horne Tooke in his Diversions of Purley, make up the general theory of language, which consists of the symbols of ideas represented by vocal or written words; or by parts of those words, as their terminations; or by their disposition in respect to their order or succession; as further explained in Additional Note XIV [omitted from the present edition].

{117} 33. In parted links, l. 398. As our ideas consist of successive trains of the motions, or changes of figure, of the extremities of the nerves of one or more of our senses, as of the optic or auditory nerves; these successive trains of motion, or configuration, are in common life divided into many links, to each of which a word or name is given, and it is called an idea. This chain of ideas may be broken into more or fewer links, or divided in different parts of it, by the customs of different people. Whence the meanings of the words of one language cannot always be exactly expressed by those of another; and hence the acquirement of different languages in their infancy may affect the modes of thinking and reasoning of whole nations, or of different classes of society; as the words of them do not accurately suggest the same ideas, or parts of ideal trains; a circumstance which has not been sufficiently analysed.

34. Whence Reason's empire, l. 401. The facility of the use of the voluntary power, which is owing to the possession of the clear ideas acquired by our superior sense of touch, and afterwards of vision, distinguishes man from brutes, and has given him the empire of the world, with the power of improving nature by the exertions of art.

Reasoning is that operation of the sensorium by which we excite two or many tribes of ideas, and then reexcite the ideas in which they differ or correspond. If we determine this difference, it is {118} called judgment; if we in vain endeavour to determine it, it is called doubting.

If we reexcite the ideas in which they differ, it is called distinguishing. If we reexcite those in which they correspond, it is called comparing.

35. The Wasp, fine architect, l. 411. Those animals which possess a better sense of touch are, in general, more ingenious than other. Those which have clavicuæ, or collar-bones, and thence use the forefeet as hands, as the monkey, squirrel, rat, are more ingenious in seizing their prey or escaping from danger. And the ingenuity of the elephant appears to arise from the sense of touch at the extremity of his proboscis, which has a prominence on one side of its cavity like at thumb to close against the other side of it, by which I have seen him readily pick up a shilling which was thrown amongst the straw he stood upon. Hence the excellence of the sense of touch in {119} many insects seems to have given them wonderful ingenuity so as to equal or even excel mankind in some of their arts and discoveries; many of which may have been acquired in situations previous to their present ones, as the great globe itself, and all that it inhabit, appear to be in a perpetual state of mutation and improvement; see Additional Note IX.

{120} 36. Thy potent acts, Volition, l. 435. It was before observed, how much the superior accuracy of our sense of touch contributes to increase our knowledge; but it is the greater energy and activity of the power of volition, that marks mankind, and has given them the empire of the world.

There is a criterion by which we may distinguish our voluntary acts or thoughts from those that are excited by our sensation: "The former are always employed about the means to acquire pleasurable objects, or to avoid painful ones; while the latter are employed about the possession of those that are already in our power."

The ideas and actions of brutes, like those of children, are almost perpetually produced by their present pleasures or their present pains; and they seldom busy themselves about the means of procuring future bliss, or of avoiding future misery.

Whilst the acquiring of languages, the making of tools, and the labouring for money, which are all only the means of procuring pleasure; and the praying to the Deity, as another means to procure happiness, are characteristic of human nature.

{122} 37. And gather'd Right and Wrong, l. 456. Some philosophers have believed that the acquisition of knowledge diminishes the happiness of the possessor; an opinion which seems to have been inculcated by the history of our first parents, who are said to have become miserable from eating of the tree of knowledge. But as the foresight and the power of mankind are much increased by their voluntary exertions in the acquirement of knowledge, they may undoubtedly avoid many sources of evil, and procure many sources of good; and yet possess the pleasures of sense, or of imagination, as extensively as the brute or the savage.

38. And soft emotions, l. 466. From our aptitude to imitation arises {123} what is generally understood by the word sympathy, so well explained by Dr. Smith of Glasgow. Thus the appearance of a cheerful countenance gives us pleasure, and of a melancholy one makes us sorrowful. Yawning, and sometimes vomiting, are thus propagated by sympathy; and some people of delicate fibres, at the presence of a spectacle of misery, have felt pain in the same parts of their bodies, that were diseased or mangled in the object they saw.

The effect of this powerful agent in the moral world, is the foundation of all our intellectual sympathies with the pains and pleasures of other, and is in consequence the source of all our virtues. For in what consists our sympathy with the miseries or with the joys of our fellow creatures, but in an involuntary excitation of ideas in some measure similar or imitative of those which we believe to exist in the minds of the persons whom we commiserate or congratulate!

{124} 39. High on yon scroll, l. 485. The famous sentence of Socrates "Know thyself," so celebrated by writers of antiquity, and said by them to have descended from Heaven, however wise it may be, seems to be rather of a selfish nature; and the author of it might have added "Know also other people." But the sacred maxims of the author of Christianity, "Do as you would be done by," and "Love your neighbour as yourself," include all our duties of benevolence and morality; and, if sincerely obeyed by all nations, would a thousand-fold multiply the present happiness of mankind.