the man's joy, miss the artist's sorrow.
is the artist's sorrow? Can you ask? After all it is
a sorrow not so different from other men's. In one word
it is disappointment; and disappointment of a kind we
have all felt; the sense of thwarted and baffled expression.
Fancy the artist with his fair and enthralling ideal,
at first mistily afloat in his brain, then gradually
growing clearer and clearer as he broods over it in
serene happiness, and finally beginning to take created
form. Is there any greater or purer pleasure than his?
How fresh, how alluring, how untarnished is the beauty
of that thought! And with what untold delight he broods
upon it, expectant of the unique revelation never yet
vouchsafed to man, and which he alone is to communicate
to his fellows! No, not a vain or conscious brooding;
for I doubt if any artist pauses to think of himself.
His joy is too instinctive, too elemental; he cannot
himself quite tell why he is so happy; if you should
ask him, he would be at a loss to explain. But happy
he is, imperishable seed of immeasurable splendor. His
whole being, his character, his person, nay, his personality,
are illumined as with a sacred fire. He irradiates the
glad glory of the elect. He has been enkindled with
a coal from the altar of the very god. He is not consciously
better than others; he is consciously only a normal
man, and saddened only because others can be sad. In
this rapt state he walks the earth, his head in the
clouds-child of eternity and progenitor of unimagined
wait an hour! Wait until the vanishing, evanescent ideal
is nearer his grasp. Wait until he tries to embody it
in palpable form-in terms of color or sound or shape.
Ah, then you shall see a shadow of gloom overspread
his face. That magic thought, so new and lovely, which
seemed at first so easy to express, refuses to be made
manifest. Toil as he may, the artist is still at fault.
The report he can give of his wonderful vision is in
no wise a faithful representation. Perhaps by a sudden
flash, as of enchantment, he is able to render some
phase of his ideal almost perfectly; but then, alas!
the enchantment does not hold. The next instant he fails
again, and the harder he tries the more futile do his
attempts become. O artist, save thy tears! Vex not thy
heart at this bitter sorrow, for it is the common fate
of all thy guild-never to be satisfied with the effort.
and this is the common sorrow of all thy fellow mortals,
too. Are we not, every one, beset by this hinderance,
the impossibility of expression? And does not this difficulty
explain much of our disappointment and discontent with
life? Think for a moment what a relief and pleasure
it is to feel one's self thoroughly and adequately represented
or expressed, even for a moment. When the complete idea
in our mind, which may have been lying unexpressed for
a long time, suddenly some day finds its very self embodied
in a perfect phrase or line or sentence of literature,
how glad we are! How we welcome that artist, and how
grateful we are to him for giving voice to our very
thought! And when some sentiment or emotion finds a
like embodiment, what a feeling of satisfaction we have!
And in these cases, it is only the expression of another
which we have borrowed. How much more, then, are we
delighted when the expression is spontaneous, when we
can unaided find the fit and perfect form in which to
embody the breath of our own being, the word of the
same satisfaction, less in degree but not the least
different in kind, is ours in daily human intercourse,
when we move happily and easily among our fellow men-when
we feel ourselves perfectly understood. It seems to
me that we should come a shade nearer to happiness in
life if we constantly reminded ourselves of this truth:
that life as we live it is an art- is one of the greatest
of the fine arts-that, indeed, it is the one art which
embraces all others. We should, I think, keep in mind
the joy and the sorrow of the artist, and remember that
our own happiness and discontent are largely similar
to his. We should not forget that in the arts of speech
and gesture and dress-in the arts of human intercourse-we
are every instant using exactly the methods of all other
fine arts, and are making, for good or ill, undeniable
revelations of ourselves. It is inevitable that we should
make hourly impressions on our friends. And does it
not become an evident duty that those impressions should
be true-that they should actually represent us-that
they should at least be brought under our conscious
control, and made expressions as well as impressions.
If we allow a discrepancy between the impression we
make on others and the expression we intended to embody,
certainly nothing but unhappiness can result. For the
joy of life depends in no small measure in living close
to life, in filling our sphere, in leaving no chinks
between the veritable self and the great, beautiful,
fascinating dominion of the senses. A being placed on
this earth is fitted, you may be sure, both be inheritance
and training, for living in accord with his surroundings.
To bring himself into this close and satisfying relation
is the clear duty and first privilege of all. And it
can be done only through expression, only by honestly
making the inward self real to the outward world.
we neglect to secure for ourselves true, sincere, pleasing
and reliable expression, which shall enable us to reach
the utmost bounds of our being, it is as if a seed should
never grow to fill its outer shell. We should then hopelessly
rattle about in a vast, reverberating, empty world.
I should, indeed, like to be the master of some fine
art. I can fancy no more luxurious gladness in life.
At least I should insist on cultivating the lesser arts
of expression- the personal arts, the art of life.