Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

With this continued understanding, therefore, it may be said that there are seen occasionally certain embodiments of perfect grace. It is almost impossible to conceive anything human more nearly reaching perfection than the symmetry and grace which Rachel presented in "Phédre." Every step seemed to flow naturally out of what preceded, her every gesture moved in rhythmical accord with the verses that flowed from her lips, while, robed in the superbly ample peplum of the Greeks, this high-priestess of the histrionic art moved a goddess on the mimic scene. In an entirely different sphere of grace, Ellen Terry, in "Much Ado about Nothing," where the line occurs, "Look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, moves close to the ground to hear our conference," thrilled the spectator by the sight of her agile flight across the stage.

Grace is fundamentally, then, beauty of movement in living or life-like things. It gratifies in the mind the associated ideas of accordance with each other of form and movement, and that condition best satisfies the mind which harmonizes the two elements concerned in the greatest unity of effect. We experience great pleasure at the sight of gracefulness, and corresponding uncomfortableness at the sight of intense awkwardness.

Looking at the effect from a mechanical point of view, and it is from that point of view which we must examine it, if we wish thoroughly to understand and promote gracefulness, it depends upon close co-ordination between the nervous system and the trunk and limbs of the body. Extreme deficiency in that co-ordination may be illustrated by citing the case of one who has St. Vitus's dance, and moderate deficiency by that of one who is muscularly well developed, but does everything awkwardly. Grace, on the contrary, represents the complete adaptation of movement to the mechanism of the body. It presents ocular evidence of the smallest expenditure of force.

for a given effect. When its constituent qualities are analyzed, it is found to be manifesting itself by curvilinear movement within the bounds associated with mechanical effectiveness and the appearance of perfect ease. Hence the superiority of women over men in gracefulness.

Let not the reader, however, for a moment confound the concomitant of ease with the constituents of gracefulness. An athlete may raise from the ground, hold at arm's length, or otherwise handle with what may be called ease, a very heavy weight, but that does not make any of his movements necessarily easy in the sense of their being graceful. Even if he were able to perform all his movements with the curvilinear differences that would be inseparable from female deployment of the same muscles, he would not thereby become more graceful, because the resulting action would not be appropriate to the masculine form. Nothing is more open to observation than that to each sex difference of physical conformation assigns difference of movement; for we find that women, when they approach the masculine type of form, are exceedingly awkward and unattractive, and that men, when they approach the feminine type, become thereby positively emasculated in appearance, and repulsive. There are certain well-defined bounds within which gracefulness can be exhibited by individuals of the male sex, as in the Spanish and some other national dances, but no bounds can be assigned to individuals of the opposite sex within which action must be confined to insure gracefulness. The première danseuse is admirable, but the premier danseur is abominable. Beyond the simpler order of movements, the latter degenerates into an exhibition of pure athleticism, while, with the former, the most pronounced exhibition of athleticism is completely veiled by the quality of feminine grace.

The appearance of ease is, as has been indicated, the effect of curvilinear movements. First in the sequence of causes and

effects comes co-ordination of the nervous system with the body and limbs. Next in order of importance comes symmetrical development in accordance with sex. The product of these is the individual of either sex who represents a good organization for the ordinary purposes of life. Beyond that is the highest possible co-ordination of the nervous system with a form of the highest symmetry. These conjoined, with physical education, lead to the highest possible manifestation of the special physical aptitude and grace appropriate to each sex. Anatomical differences between the sexes causing the movements of women to be executed in lines more curved than they are when executed by it comes about that when, according to their type, women are beautiful in face and form, and nervously highly organized, and are at the same time physically and socially well trained, they present the highest possible example of development, for they, the fairest of creatures, are thus endowed, in grace, with nature's final embellishment.

men,

It is easy to see why certain movements executed by individuals of one sex are not equally well performed by individuals of the opposite one. It would follow from what has been said,

that those movements which are least curved would be best executed by men, and observation bears out the statement that they are. Men strike horizontally straight from the shoulder, throw with admirable precision, and kick and run with the utmost directness of movement. Women, on the contrary, that is, typically well-formed women, cannot execute any of these movements with either ease or grace. Woman's arm is articulated lower at the shoulder than is that of man, because it is placed with reference to the position of her more slanting shoulders, and the arm itself is not so straight as his, and she cannot in consequence throw a stone well, or, to save her life, hit a straight blow from the shoulder. She is, too, if wellformed, what would be called in a man slightly knock-kneed,

and in consequence she cannot, on the run, avoid a lateral movement representing a waste of energy for the purpose to be accomplished. The cancan, performed by young, slim girls, instead of being available as the basis of an argument against the view that women are unable to kick effectively, is confirmatory of it, for one of the prominent elements in the dance is the ridiculousness of the kicking. But if we, personally, could have any doubt of feminine kicking being ridiculous, through unadapted physical conformation, it would be removed by the revival in our mind of a scene which we once witnessed at a country-seat, where four young ladies from the city, visiting one afternoon, and finding a Rugby foot-ball on the lawn, were inspired to have a game, and were instigated thereto by the host and hostess and two or three guests who occupied the porch. The spot was so sequestered as to be entirely beyond the possi bility of observation, and so, the newcomers taking sides of two against two, the game began. So painful an exhibition we have never before or since witnessed. The ball was mounted by one of the girls missing it on the run and kicking herself into the air, whence she descended collapsed, to be tumbled over by her partner in an indiscriminate heap. And so the game went on for twenty minutes, with the players half the time on the ground making revolving efforts to rise, while the people on the porch, from being suffocated with laughter, roared with most inelegant shouts, wept, and became weak and hysterical, while they besought the equally-exhausted lawn-party to desist. Painful!

there were moments when we were so sore and aching all over that we would have given anything to be miles away from the extraordinary fascination of that sport!

CHAPTER XI.

THE ART OF WALKING.

IN

Na very interesting work which appeared two or three years ago, entitled "Romantic Love and Personal Beauty," lately supplemented by the author, Mr. Henry T. Finck, in an article in which he descants admiringly on the beauty of Spanish women as enhanced by their singularly graceful carriage, he incidentally makes some erroneous statements in regard to the art of walking, all the more remarkable as coming from an observer and connoisseur in the charms which he depicts. Incidentally, however, to noticing this error, we feel bound in honor to say that, with the exception of only one other, which we shall have occasion to notice in the next chapter,-that as to his view of the future virtual extirpation of the blonde by the brunette type of beauty,-Mr. Finck's work is most instructive, and to be cordially recommended to every one desirous of closely studying beauty as influenced by romantic love. To the demonstration of this hitherto much-overlooked source of beauty, his work is especially devoted. The present state of physiological knowledge fully supports the conclusions which he reaches by ample discussion and illustration. If, as undoubtedly they do, drunkenness and other causes which have a deleterious influence upon the human organism, and, on the other hand, all that conduces to its health, impress themselves upon offspring, it is impossible that it should be otherwise than that the sexual congress which is necessary to the extension of life, by which, in effect, parents are perpetuated in their children, should not, when associated with romantic love, in creatures so highly endowed as are human beings with the faculty of ideation, produce the happiest effect upon health, vigor, and beauty of offspring.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »