"But it is fit that the Past should be dark; though the darkness is not so much a quality of the past as of tradition. It is not adistance of time, but a distance of relation, which makes thus dusky its memorials. What is near to the heart of this generation is fair and bright still. Greece lies outspread fair and sunshiny in floods of light, for there is the sun and daylight in her literature and art. Homer does not allow us to forget that the sun shone,--nor Phidias, nor the Parthenon."
"There is a sort of homely truth and naturalness in some books which is very rare to find, and yet looks cheap enough. There may benothing lofty in the sentiment, or fine in the expression, but it is careless country talk. Homeliness is almost as great a merit in a book as in a house, if the reader would abide there. It is next to beauty, and a very high art. Some have this merit only."
"Nature is a greater and more perfect art, the art of God; though, referred to herself, she is genius; and there is a similarity between her operations and man's art even in the details and trifles. When the overhanging pine drops into the water, by the sun and water, and the wind rubbing it against the shore, its boughs are worn into fantastic shapes, and white and smooth, as if turned in a lathe. Man's art has wisely imitated those forms into which all matter is most inclined to run, as foliage and fruit."
"Perhaps our own woods and fields,--in the best wooded towns, where we need not quarrel about the huckleberries,--with the primitive swamps scattered here and there in their midst, but not prevailing over them, are the perfection of parks and groves, gardens, arbors, paths, vistas, and landscapes. They are the natural consequence of what art and refinement we as a people have.... Or, I would rather say, such were our groves twenty years ago."
"When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma. He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places."
"A great proportion of architectural ornaments are literally hollow, and a September gale would strip them off, like borrowed plumes, without injury to the substantials.... What if an equal ado were made about the ornaments of style in literature, and the architects of our bibles spent as much time about their cornices as the architects of our churches do? So are made the belles-lettres and the beaux-arts and their professors."
"Those summer days which some of my contemporaries devoted to the fine arts in Boston or Rome, and others to contemplation in India, and others to trade in London or New York, I thus, with the other farmers of New England, devoted to husbandry. Not that I wanted beans to eat, for I am by nature a Pythagorean, so far as beans are concerned, whether they mean porridge or voting, and exchanged them for rice; but, perchance, as some must work in fields if only for the sake of tropes and expression, to serve a parable-maker one day. It was on the whole a rare amusement, which, continued too long, might have become a dissipation."
"In this country, the village should in some respects take the place of the nobleman of Europe. It should be the patron of the finearts. It is rich enough. It wants only the magnanimity and refinement."
"You may melt your metals and cast them into the most beautiful moulds you can; they will never excite me like the forms which thismolten earth flows out into. And not only it, but the institutions upon it are plastic like clay in the hands of the potter."
"The most interesting dwellings in this country, as the painter knows, are the most unpretending, humble log huts and cottages of the poor commonly; it is the life of the inhabitants whose shells they are, and not any peculiarity in their surfaces merely, which makes them picturesque."
"The animal merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body, in a sheltered place; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up someair in a spacious apartment, and warms that.... Thus he goes a step or two beyond instinct, and saves a little time for the fine arts."
"A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work ofart. It is the work of art nearest to life itself. It may be translated into every language, and not only be read but actually breathed from all human lips;Mnot be represented on canvas or in marble only, but be carved out of the breath of life itself. The symbol of an ancient man's thought becomes a modern man's speech."