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Let none thy charms presume to tell,
CRITICISM ON FEMALE BEAUTY.NO. II.
Eyes. The finest eyes are those that unite sense and sweetness. They should be able to say much, and all charmingly. The look of sense is proportioned to the depth from which the thought seems to issue ; the look of sweetness to an habitual readiness of sympathy, an unaffected willingness to please and be pleased. We need not be jealous of
Eyes affectionate and glad, That scem to love whate'er they look upon. They have always a good stock in reserve for their favourites ; especially if like those mentioned by the poet, they are conversant with books and nature. Voluptuaries know not what they talk about, when they profess not to care for sense in a woman. Pedantry is one thing : sense, taste, and apprehensiveness are another. Give me an eye that draws equally from head above and heart beneath ; that is equally full of ideas and feelings, of intuition and sensation. If either must predominate, let it be the heart. Mere beauty is nothing at any time but a doll, and should be packed up and sent to Brobdignag. The colour of the eye is a very secondary matter. Black eyes are thought the brightest, blue the most feminine, grey the keenest. It depends entirely on the spirit within. I have seen all these colours change characiers ; though I must own, that when a blue eye looks ungentle, it seems more out of character than the extremest diversity expressed by others. The ancients appear to have associated the idea of gladness with blue eyes ; which is the colour given to his heroine's by the author just alluded to. Anacreon attributes a blue or a grey eye to his mistress, it is difficult to say which : but he adds, that it is tempered with the moist delicacy of the eye of Venus. The other look was Minerva's, and required softening. It is not easy to distinguish the shades of the various colours anciently given to eyes; the blues and greys, sky-blues, sea-blues, sea-greys, and even cat-greys.* But it is clear that the expression is every thing. The poet demanded this or that colour, according as he thought it favourable to the expression of acuteness, majesty, tenderness, or a mixture of all. Black eyes were most lauded; doubtless because in a southern country the greatest number of beloved eyes must be of that colour. But on the same account of the predominance of black, the abstract taste was in favour of lighter eyes and fair complexions. Hair being of a great variety of tint, the
* Casio veniam obvius leoni. Catullus. See glaucus, crauleus, &c. and their Greek correspondents. Xaporos, glad-looking, is also rendered in the Latin, blue. eyed: and yet it is often translated by ravus, a word which at one time is made to signify blue, and at another something approximating to hazel. Casius, in like manner, appears to signify both grey and blue, and a tinge of green.
poet had great licence in wishing or feigning on that point. Many a head of hair was exalted into gold, that gave slight colour for the pretension; nor is it to be doubled, that auburn, and red, and yellow, and saud-coloured, and brown with the least surface of gold, all took the same illustrious epithet on occasion. With regard to eyes, the ancients insisted much on one point, which gave rise to many happy expressions. This was a certain mixture of pungency with the look of sweetness. Sometimes they call it severity, sometimes sternness, and even acridity, and terror. The usual word was Gorgon-looking. Something of a frown was implied, mixed with a radiant earnestness.
This was commonly spoken of men's eyes. Anacreon, giving directions for the portrait of a youth, says
Dark and gorgon be his eye,
Tempered with hilarity. * A taste of it, however, was sometimes desired in the eyes of the ladies. Theagenes, in Heliodorus’s Ethiopics, describing his mistress Chariclea, tells us, that even when a child, something great, and with a divinity in it, shone out of her eyes; and encountered his, as he examined them, with a mixture of the gorgon and the alluring.f Perhaps the best word in general for translating gorgon would be fervent; something earnest, fiery, and pressing onward. Anacreon, with his usual exquisite taste, allays the fierceness of the term with the word kekerasmenon, tempered. The nice point is, to see that the terror itself be not terrible, but only a poignancy brought in to assist the sweetness. It is the salt in the tart; the subtle sting of the essence. It is to the eye intellectual, what the apple of the eye is to the eye itself,—the dark part of it, the core, the innermost look ; the concentration and burning-glass of the rays of love. I think, however, that Anacreon did better than Heliodorus, when he avoided attributing this look to his mistress, and confined it to the other sex. He tells us, that she had a look of Minerva as well as Venus ; but it is Minerva without the gorgon. There is sense and apprehensiveness, but nothing to alarm. No drawback upon beauty ought to be more guarded against, than a character of violence about the eyes. I have seen it become very touching, when the violence had been conquered by suffering and reflection, and a generous turn of mind; nor perhaps does a richer soil for the production of all good things take place any where than over these spent volcanoes. But the experiment is dangerous, and the event rare.
Large eyes were admired in Greece, were they still prevail. They are the finest of all, when they have the internal look ; which is not common. The stag or antelope eye of the orientals is beautiful and lamping, but is accused of looking skittish and indifferent. “ The epithet of stag-eyed,” says Lady Wortley Montague, speaking of a Turkish love-song, "pleases me extremely; and I think it a very lively image of the fire and indifference in his mistress's eyes.” We lose in depth of expression, when we go to inferior animals for comparisons with human beauty. Homer calls Juno ox-eyed; and the epithet suits well with the eyes of that goddess, because she may be supposed, with
* « Μελαν ομμα γοργον εστω,
Κεκερασμενον γαληνη.” + Æ hiop. Lib. 11. apud Judium.
all her beauty, to want a certain humanity. Her large eye looks at you with a royal indifference. Shakspeare has kissed them, and made them human. Speaking of violets, he describes them as being
“ Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes." This is shutting up their pride, and subjecting them to the lips of love: Large eyes may become more touching under this circumstance than any others; because of the field they give for the veins to wander in, and the trembling amplitude of the ball beneath. Little eyes must be good-tempered, or they are ruined. They have no other resource. But this will beautify them enough. They are made for laughing, and should do their duty. In Charles the Second's time, it was the fashion to have sleepy, half-shut eyes, sly and meretricious. They took an ex. pression, beautiful and warrantable on occasion, and made a commonplace of it, and a vice. So little do “men of pleasure” understand the business froin which they take their title. A good warm-hearted poet shall shed more light upon real voluptuousness and beauty, in one verse from his
than a thousand rakes shall arrive at, swimming in claret, and bound on as many voyages of discovery.
In attending to the hair and eyes, I have forgotten the eye-brows, and the shape of the head. They shall be despatched before we come to the lips ; as the table is cleared before the dessert. This is an irreverent simile, nor do I like it ; though the pleasure even of eating and drinking, to those who enjoy it with temperance, may be traced beyond the palate. The utmost refinements on that point are, I allow, wide of the mark on this. The idea of beauty, however, is lawfully associated with that of cherries and peaches ; as Eve set forth the dessert in Paradise.
EYEBROWS.-Eyebrows used to obtain more applause than they do. Shakspeare seems to jest upon this eminence, when he speaks of a lover.
“ Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow."
"Taking care her eyebrows be
O'er the eyes their darkest hue."
* In one of his Epistles, beginning
“ Nobles esprits de France poetiques."
“ Passing a bower last evening with my cows,
This taste in female beauty appears to have been confined to the ancients. Boccaccio, in his Ameto, the precursor of the Decameron, where he gives several pictures of beautiful women, speaks more than once of disjoined eyebrows.t Chaucer, in the Court of Love, is equally express in favour of a “due distaunce.” An arched eyebrow was always in request ; but I think it is doubtful whether we are to understand that the eyebrows were always desired to form separate arches, or to give an arched character to the brow considered in unison. In either case the curve should be very delicate. A strait eyebrow is better than a very arching one, which has a look of wonder and silliness. To have it immediately over the eye, is preferable, for the same reason, to its being too high and lifted. The Greeks liked eyes leaning upwards towards each other ; which indeed is a rare beauty, and the reverse of the animal character. If the brows over these took a similar direction, they would form an arch together. Perhaps a sort of double curve was required, the particular one over the eye, and the general one in the look altogether. But these are unnecessary refinements. Where great difference of taste is allowed, the point in question can be of little consequence. I cannot think, however, with Ariosto, that fair locks with black eyebrows are desirable. I see, by an article in an Italian catalogue, that the taste provoked a dissertation. It is to be found, however, in Achilles Tatius ; and in the poem beginning
Lydia, bella puella, candida," attributed to Gallus. A moderate distinction is desirable, especially where the hair is very light. Hear Burns, in a passage full of life and sweetness,
“ Sae flaxen where her ringlets,
Her eyebrows of a darker hue,
Twa laughing e'en o' bonny blue.” It is agreed on all hands, that a female eyebrow ought to be delicate, and nicely pencilled. Dante says of his mistress's, that it looked as if it was painted.
• The eyebrow,
* « Κημ' εκ των αντρω συνοφρυς κορα εχθες ιδoισα
ουδε λογον εκριθην απο τον πικρον αυτα,
Αλλα κατω βλεψας ταν άμετεραν οδον ειρπον.” + L'Ameto di Messer Giovanni Boccaccio. pp. 31, 32, 39. Parma, 1802.
See the Ameto, p. 32. 5 Barrotti, Gio. Andrea, le chiome bionde e ciglia nere d'Alcina, discorso accademico. Padova, 1746.
11 " Il ciglio
Brows ought to be calm and even.
“ Upon her eyelids many graces sat,
Faery Queen. Eyelids have been mentioned before. The lashes are best when they are dark, long, and abundant without tangling.–But I shall never get on at this rate.
SHAPE of Head and Face, EARS, CHEEKS, &c. The shape of the head, including the face, is handsome in proportion as it inclines from round into oval. This should particularly appear, when the face is looking down. The skull should be like a noble cover to a beautiful goblet. The principal breadth is at the temples, and over the ears. The ears ought to be small, delicate, and compact. I have fancied that musical people bave fine ears, in that sense, as well as the other. But the internal conformation must be the main thing with them. The same epithets of small, delicate, and compact, apply to the jaw; which Joses in beauty, in proportion as it is large and angular. The cheek is the seat of great beauty and sentiment. It is the region of passive and habitual softness. Gentle acquiescence is there; modesty is there; the lights and colours of passion play tenderly in and out its surface, like the Aurora of the northern sky. It has been seen how Anacreon has painted a cheek. Sir Philip Sidney has touched it with no less delicacy, and more sentiment :-“ Her cheeks blushing, and withal, when she was spoken to, a little smiling, were like roses when their leaves are with a little breath stirred.”—Arcadia, Book I. Beautiful cheeked is a favourite epithet with Homer. There is an exquisite delicacy, rarely noticed, in the transition from the cheek to the neck, just under the ear. Akenside has observed it; but hurts his real feeling, as usual, with common-place epithets :
“ Hither turn
Pleasures of Imagination.
The “ marble neck” is too violent a contrast ; but the picture is delicate.
" Effuse the mildness of their azure dawn" is an elegant and happy verse.
I will here observe, that rakes and men of sentiment appear to have agreed in objecting to ornaments for the ears. Ovid, Sir Philip Sidney, and, I think, Beaumont and Fletcher, have passages against earrings ; but I cannot refer to the last.
“Load not your ears with costly jewelry,
Which the swart Indian culls from his green sea." *
** Vos quoqne non caris aures o nerate lapillis, Quos legit in viridi decolor Indus aqua."
Artis Smat. Lib. 8.