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On A Landscape Of Nicolas Poussin
by [?]

Leaping like wanton kids in pleasant spring:

but those of Poussin have more of the intellectual part of the character, and seem vicious on reflection, and of set purpose. Rubens’ are noble specimens of a class; Poussin’s are allegorical abstractions of the same class, with bodies less pampered, but with minds more secretly depraved. The Bacchanalian groups of the Flemish painter were, however, his masterpieces in composition. Witness those prodigies of colour, character, and expression at Blenheim. In the more chaste and refined delineation of classic fable, Poussin was without a rival. Rubens, who was a match for him in the wild and picturesque, could not pretend to vie with the elegance and purity of thought in his picture of Apollo giving a poet a cup of water to drink, nor with the gracefulness of design in the figure of a nymph squeezing the juice of a bunch of grapes from her fingers (a rosy wine-press) which falls into the mouth of a chubby infant below. But, above all, who shall celebrate, in terms of fit praise, his picture of the shepherds in the Vale of Tempe going out in a fine morning of the spring, and coming to a tomb with this inscription: ET EGO IN ARCADIA VIXI! The eager curiosity of some, the expression of others who start back with fear and surprise, the clear breeze playing with the branches of the shadowing trees, ‘the valleys low, where the mild zephyrs use,’ the distant, uninterrupted, sunny prospect speak (and for ever will speak on) of ages past to ages yet to come![2]

Pictures are a set of chosen images, a stream of pleasant thoughts passing through the mind. It is a luxury to have the walls of our rooms hung round with them, and no less so to have such a gallery in the mind, to con over the relies of ancient art bound up ‘within the book and volume of the brain, unmixed (if it were possible) with baser matter!’ A life passed among pictures, in the study and the love of art, is a happy noiseless dream: or rather, it is to dream and to be awake at the same time; for it has all ‘the sober certainty of waking bliss,’ with the romantic voluptuousness of a visionary and abstracted being. They are the bright consummate essences of things, and ‘he who knows of these delights to taste and interpose them oft, is not unwise!’–The Orion, which I have here taken occasion to descant upon, is one of a collection of excellent pictures, as this collection is itself one of a series from the old masters, which have for some years back embrowned the walls of the British Gallery, and enriched the public eye. What hues (those of nature mellowed by time) breathe around as we enter! What forms are there, woven into the memory! What looks, which only the answering looks of the spectator can express! What intellectual stores have been yearly poured forth from the shrine of ancient art! The works are various, but the names the same–heaps of Rembrandts frowning from the darkened walls, Rubens’ glad gorgeous groups, Titians more rich and rare, Claudes always exquisite, sometimes beyond compare, Guido’s endless cloying sweetness, the learning of Poussin and the Caracci, and Raphael’s princely magnificence crowning all. We read certain letters and syllables in the Catalogue, and at the well-known magic sound a miracle of skill and beauty starts to view. One might think that one year’s prodigal display of such perfection would exhaust the labours of one man’s life; but the next year, and the next to that, we find another harvest reaped and gathered in to the great garner of art, by the same immortal hands–

Old GENIUS the porter of them was;
He letteth in, he letteth out to wend.–