CONGRUITY, INCONGRUITY, AND COMPREHENSIVENESS
The order of the arrangement of the methods in the last chapter corresponds to that of the use of them by the artist
Who in each art must start with a mental conception, and the condition of mind underlying comparison based upon congruity
General effect of this
Incongruity in nature and art
Congruity in poetry
At the basis of the law of the unities
Why the latter is not applicable to the drama
Congruity, incongruity, and comprehensiveness in Hamlet
The same in the development of musical themes
As in the overture and opera of Tannhauser
Congruity uniting by association different appearances in the arts of sight
Mainly this that keeps artists from using together forms of gothic and Greek architecture
Incongruity and comprehensiveness in the arts of sight
Same methods in architecture.
The methods of art-composition not already treated will now be considered in the order in which they are arranged to one reading line by line the list of them given on page 131. It is well to notice, too, that this order is the one in which, as a rule, they are used by the artist. As has been said, he is influenced first by mental and then by material considerations. He begins with a conception which, in his mind, is associated with certain forms or series of forms. To represent this conception is his primary object. But he cannot attain it, unless the forms, or series of forms, added by him in the process of elaboration, continue to have the same general
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 133]
effect as those with which he starts. About the latter therefore, as a nucleus, he arranges other like forms according to the general method of comparison. Controlled at first chiefly by a desire to have them manifest this, in order to express a like thought, or to be alike by way of congruity, afterwards, descending to details, he is careful to make them alike by way of repetition and consonance. While thus securing unity of effect, however, he is confronted by the variety and complexity of the natural forms from which he is obliged to construct his art-work. But he soon finds that these can be adapted to his purposes through the methods of contrast and complement; and, when it comes to grouping, he is able still to suggest unity by fulfilling the requirements of order, in spite of confusion, through counteraction and the arrangement of factors in accordance with methods of principality, subordination, balance, and organic form.
Corresponding conditions in the cases also of congruity, repetition, and consonance lead to the use of the methods associated with them. For these reasons, it is evident that the order in which these methods are to be considered here is the order in which, as a rule, they are used by the artist in his practical work of composition.
He begins this work, as has been said, with conceptions which are associated in his mind with certain forms or series of forms; and he develops it artistically by grouping around these other forms that are like them. So long, however, as the thought appears more important than the mode of its expression, all forms to him seem to be symbols; and any of them seem sufficiently alike for the purpose of art if they are alike in what they symbolize. The conditions of nature, moreover, are such that this kind of likeness may be affirmed of many objects
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 134]
that in other regards differ greatly. There are things like bats and owls, seals and whales, wind and rain, cloud and darkness, that are found so often growing or going together as to be recognized as naturally congruous. Because of this, when seen in nature, they give rise to like suggestions; and, of course, they do the same in art. Nothing further is needed to explain why forms in the latter should be compared and grouped because they have like effects upon the mind, or have what we have termed congruity.
As thus interpreted, congruity differs little, if at all, from the familiar rhetorical requirement of propriety and all that is essential for it is a concurrence, sufficient to suggest unity, in the impressions legitimately conveyed by different parts of. a composition as compared either with each other or with the whole.
Effects of congruity thus produced are necessarily accompanied largely by those of incongruity. This is partly because so many things that are congruous in what they suggest to thought, are incongruous in what they are in form, and partly because so many things that suggest the congruous to one mind suggest to another, differently disposed or informed, the incongruous. For instance, the sounds of a fife and of a drum compare by way of congruity. Both are elements of the same kind of martial music, the conception of which, therefore, both are alike in suggesting. Again, on the western plains of our country, prairie-dogs and rattlesnakes live in the same sand-holes; and congruity in a picture of the latter would represent the two side by side. But it is evident that there is no reason in their forms why a fife and a drum, a prairie-dog and a rattlesnake, should go together; nor would they suggest a reason to any one not conversant
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with the conventionalities of music, or the facts of frontier observation. He would be obliged to consider both combinations incongruous. A similar judgment is certain to be passed by some upon any group of factors, no matter what, whenever they depend for the unity of their effect upon the way in which, as in the case of congruity, they commend themselves to individual taste and experience.
When an art-product contains results both of comparison in the congruous and of contrast in the incongruous, yet brought together in such a way that both, through counteractive, are clearly perceived to be complementary parts of one and the same composition, the impression produced upon thought is that of comprehensiveness. This term has been chosen because it involves a conception of diversity both in quantity and quality, and also of grasp which makes of all a unity. Breadth might express the same idea, but it already has a technical meaning indicating an effect of composition entirely different from this. (See Chapter XIII.)
Further facts with reference to these methods can be best considered as we notice how they operate as applied in each art. Congruity in poetry is that which causes one, when writing an elegy, a love-song, or an epic, to select in each case not only an entirely different phase of thought and illustration, but a different form of verse. The following lines, for instance, not only enjoin but exemplify this method:
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.
Essay on Criticism: Pope.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 136]
When scenes or events represent a certain country or period, congruity requires that all the delineations conform strictly to the conditions of each. In connection with the allied method of consonance, it underlies, too, the old law of criticism ascribed to the Greeks, enjoining that a drama should contain only as much as might be supposed to take place in the time given to the representation, or, at most, in one day, and in one place, and with one kind of action, by which latter was meant with either tragic or comic situations, but not with both. This law of the unities of time, place, and action, as it is called, was based at least upon a true principle. Brevity, local color, and directness are always elements of artistic excellence. It is largely the degree in which these are manifested that imparts the peculiar flavor, the pervasive atmosphere, that seems to be the distinctive characteristic of poems like Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea, Keats St. Agnes Eve, Goldsmiths Deserted Village, Campbells Gertrude of Wyoming, and Tennysons Gardener's Daughter and Enoch Arden, not to speak of longer poems like the Fairy Queen and the Idyls of the King.
But, however acceptable this "law of the unities" may have been to the ancient Greeks, who were less interested than people of our day in the analysis of motives and the development of character, it does not allow sufficient comprehensiveness for the purposes of modern literary art, least of all of the dramatic. Anything in art is right which enhances an effect legitimate to the product in which it is used. In order to show the results of the influences at work in motives and character, length of time is almost indispensable. So, too, is change of place; while the incongruous, association of tragedy and comedy in the action, not only prevents monotony,
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 137]
but, as universally in the case of contrast, increases the distinctive impression of both. Imaginative people never have so strong an inclination to laugh as at a funeral, and tears never flow so freely as immediately after a burst of merriment.
In the drama of Hamlet, for instance, the grave-scene at the opening of the fifth act, filled as it is with its grim humor, is to some extent incongruous; yet in view of the play that Hamlet has made of all the serious matters of life, love, and death, in his dealings with his fathers murderers as well as with Ophelia and Laertes, it is evident that the comedy introduced here, while counteracting, distinctly complements the main action of the drama, and thus serves to make more comprehensive the general conception that organizes it.
What, too, could be more effective than the suggestions of congruity in one sense and of incongruity in another, and thus of a comprehensiveness of every possible situation that are given in the storm scene in King Lear, representing the feigned folling and madness of Edgar, the real folling of the fool, and the real madness of the King.
Edgar (almost unclothed). Toms a-cold.O, do de do de do de.Bless thee from whirlwinds, star-blasting, and taking. Do poor Tom some charity. whom the foul fiend vexes. There could I have him nowand there and thereand there againand there
Lear. What, have his daughter's brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?
Fool. Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed.
Lear. Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air
Hang fated oer mens faults, light on thy daughters!
Kent. He hath no daughters, sir.
Lear. Death, traitor! Nothing could have subdued nature
To such lowness but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 138]
Judicious punishment! T was this flesh begot
Those pelican daughters.
Edg. Pillicock sat on pillicock-hill:
Hallo, hallo, loo, loo.
Fool. This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
Edg. Take heed o the foul fiend.
King Lear, iii., 4: Shakespeare
And to descend from the sublime to the ridiculous, who that has ever seen and heard the lackadaisical maidens in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, side by side with their robust soldier suitors, can doubt the artistic value of incongruity? In fact, as is everywhere acknowledged, it is always one, if not the chief, source of the ludicrous. It is not invariably recognized, however, how large a part of the effect of the latter is owing to the implied comprehensiveness of view in which have been included both the incongruous and the congruous; or, in other words, how large a part of wit is the wisdom of it.
In the following, for instance, it would be difficult to determine which of the two effects is greatestthat of congruity caused by the judgments based upon dress, characterizing the estimates of each, or that of incongruity caused by the philosophic seriousness with which they are expressed, as well as by the different views indicated in the forms of expression. No better illustration than this, by the way. could be given of antithesis, which, as will be recalled, was defined in Chapter II., as an effect produced when two objects differ diametrically in at least one particular, and yet agree in others.
Patience: But I have some news for you. The Thirty-fifth Dragoon Guards have halted in the village, and are even now on their way to this very spot.
Ang. (contemptuously). The Thirty-fifth Dragoon Guards!
Saph. They are fleshly men, of full habit.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 139]
Ella. We care nothing for Dragoon Guards.
Patience: But, bless me, you were all in love with them a year ago!
Saph. A year ago!
Ang. My poor child, you dont understand these things. A year ago they were very well in our eyes. But since then our tastes have been etherealized, our perceptions exalted. (To others.)
Come! It is time to lift up our voices in morning carol to our Reginald. Let us to his door.
(The ladies go off, two and tow, singing refrain of)
Twenty lovesick maidens we,
And we die for love of thee!
Twenty lovesick maidens we,
Lovesick all against our will,
Twenty years hence we shall be
Twenty lovesick maidens still!
(Enter offices of Dragoon Gurds from behind rock, led by Major. They march round stage.)
Chorus of Dragoons.
The soldiers of our Queen
Are linked in friendly tether;
Upon the battle-scene
They fight the foe together.
There every mothers son
Prepared to fight and fail is;
The enemy of one
The enemy of all is:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Chorus of Ladies.
In a doleful train
Two and two we walk all day:
For we love in vain;
None so sorrowful as they
Who can only sigh and say,
Woe is nine, alackaday!
Col. This is all very well, but you seem to forget that you are engaged to us!
Saph. It can never be. Your are not Empyrean. You are not Della Cruscan. You are not even Erly Eglish. Oh, be Early English ere it is too late! (Officers look at each other in astonishment.)
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 140]
Jane (looking at uniform). Red and yellow! Primary Colors! Oh, South Kensington!
Duke. We didnt design our uniforms, but we dont see how they could be improved.
Jane. No, you wouldnt. Still, there is a cobwebby gray velvet, with a tender bloom like cold gravy, which made Florentine fourteenth century, trimmed with Venetian leather and Spanish altar-lace, and surmounted with something Japaneseit matters not whatwould at least be Early English!Come, maidens! (Exeunt ladies, singing refrain of In a melancholy train.)
Duke. Gentlemen, this is an insult to the British uniform
Col. A uniform that has been as successful in the courts of Venus as on the field of Mars!
When I first put this uniform on,
I said as I looked in the glass:
Its one to a million
That any civilian
My figure and form will surpass.
Gold lace has a charm for the fair,
And Ive plenty of that and to spare,
While a lovers professions,
When uttered in Hessians,
Are eloquent everywhere.
A fact that I counted upon
When I first put this uniform on!
Chorus of Dragoons.
By a simple coincidence few
Could ever have reckoned upon,
The same thing occurred to me too
When I first put this uniform on!
Patience, i.: Gilbert.
The necessity of the methods which we are considering is equally apparent in music too. Every one feels that there is an essential difference, which should be manifest throughout all the parts of a composition, between the effects produced upon throughout by a wedding-march, a
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 141]
funeral dirge, a waltz, and a sonata. But if this fact show the influence of the congruous, a very frequent employment of contrasting themes shows, as well, the influence of the incongruous.
Who that has heard the earlier composed overture, of Wagners Tannhauserand the same question would apply to the whole opera which this overture represented and epitomizedcan fail to recognize either how themes thus contrasted may add to the interest, or how, by the way in which they complement each other, they may augment the comprehensiveness of the result? In this overture, a slow choral, representative of the religious element, is at first entirely interrupted by wild contrasting movements, representing the surgings of the passions; then, after a little, it reappears again, gains strength, and finally by main force seems to crush the others down, and in the final strain entirely to dominate them. Here, in the blending of the most intensely spiritual and material of motives, is incongruity, and with it a comprehensiveness including the widest extremes. Yet how artistically the like features are grouped with like, and each phase of expression made to complement the other; and when the two clash, how principality gets the better of what would else be insubordinate, and reduces all to order! Incongruity in such cases really adds to the general effect of congruity, because it suggests, as nothing else could, the overwhelming power of that tendency to produce a single effect upon thought, which finally blends the whole into a unity. [footnote 1]
Turning now to effects produced in the arts that are seen, it is probable that few of us have not noticed in our-
[footnote 1: Compare what is said here with the arrangement of the methods on page 131.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 142]
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Fig. 43 Village Dance, by David Teniers
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 143]
selves a tendency to expect to find in them certain forms invariably associatedforms, too, with outlines and colors not at all similar, which in fact may belong to objects as dissimilar as human beings, buildings, trees, plains, hills, and clouds. A little thought will reveal that we expect to find these forms associated because we have become accustomed to think of them as associated in nature. We know that in the world they go together, therefore in art they seem congruous. Thus Oriental scenery and Moorish architecture, Italian scenery and Renaissance, Northern French and Gothic, are congruous. So are the costumes or attitudes of certain figures and certain places or periods. (See Geromes Pollice Verso, Fig. 26, page 81. So are certain outlines or colors, and delineations of war, of peace, of fright (Death of Ananias, Fig. 94, page 288), of sorrow (Rubens Descent from the Cross, Fig. 16, page 73), and of merriment (Tenier's Village Dance, Fig. 43, page 143). Sometimes the requirements of congruity, while evidently uppermost in the mind of the artist, are very closely allied to those of repetition and consonance, objects though different in themselves being made alike by being given like outlines or colors. See the fragment of the marble relief from the theatre of Dionysius, called The Dancer, Fig. 56, page 183; also The Storm by Millet, Fig. 44, page 145. In many compositions like this latter, as in some of Ruysdaels landscapes, or in the sculptured group of Niobe and her children in the Museum degl Uffizi at Florence, Fig. 45 page 146 every cloud, wave, leaf, limb, or shred of clothing on human forms may indicate the influence of the pervading fury of a tempest. In another, as in some of Claude Lorraines landscapes, the light reflected from every tree, rock, stream, and countenance, as well as the character or attitude of the forms which
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 144]
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Fig. 44 A Storm, by Jean-Francois Millet
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it illumines, may augment the suggested glow of the sunshine that pours from the sky. Notice the Evening of Claude, (Fig. 40, page 119) with the man and maid and attendant Cupid in the foreground.
The result of congruity are evident in architecture too. It is this mainly that causes most builders to associate Doric or Ionic pillars or pilasters with entablatures and
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Fig. 45 From group of Niobe at Florence.
horizontal openings, or, at times, with the round Roman arch; while the slender shafts and buttresses, gargoyles and other ornaments of the Gothic style are used with sharp or pointed arches. But so far as the appearance of forms alone is concerned, there is no reason why certain features of the Greek style should not accompany certain of the Gothic. To use them together would not violate in the least the fundamental principle of art, that like forms
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 146]
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Fig. 46 Transfiguration , by Raphael
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should be put with like. At the same time, to do so would cause art to associate features that have come to be clearly dissociated in the mind. For this reason, it is possible that, as long as the world lasts, no artist can mix them extensively without suggesting to some an amount of incongruity wholly inconsistent with those effects of unity invariable present in arts of the highest character.
The reference just made to Wagners overture to Tannhauser suggests mentioning a painting in which the effects of incongruity and comprehensiveness noticed as characterizing the overture, are almost exactly paralleled. It is Raphaels Transfiguration, Fig. 46, page 147. At the top of this picture, supposed to represent the summit of the mount, are the glorified forms of Christ, Moses, and Elias, on both sides of whom are the apostles present at the scene, bowing reverently before them. As suits the thought, in accordance with a principle that need not be now explained, almost everything in this half of the composition is delineated through a use of curves. At the bottom of the picture are others of the apostles, supposed to be at the foot of the mount, endeavoring in vain, amid the distress and consternation of the spectators, to cast out an evil spirit from a boy whom he is tormenting; and here, as suits the thought too, there is a more extensive use of straight lines and angles. The composition as a whole has been justly criticised because the distance between these two groups is too slight, the mount not being represented as sufficiently high. But this fault is not essential to the effect that we are now considering, of which it furnishes an excellent example. Few can fail to recognize the antithetic incongruity both of thought and form between the two parts of the picture, and, together with this, the grouping of like with like, so as to cause the
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 148]
one to complement the other. Besides this, and because of it, the picture is comprehensive, as would not otherwise be possible, of the entire range of spiritual power on earth, all the way from the rapture of the Christ transfigured by the power of the Deity to the terror of the boy transfixed by that of the Devil.
In architecture also it is possible to have a departure from the requirements of congruity that shall enhance the general effect by increasing that of comprehensiveness. This is true, too, as applied not only to that kind of congruity just mentioned, which consists in an adherence throughout a building to the traditional forms of one historic style; but also to that kind which is founded on first principles. Especially is this so with reference to incongruity introduced in the ways that will be explained in Chapter XVII, in connection with gradation. As there indicated, a building may be made to be comprehensive of almost every possible style, say Greek in the first story, Norman in the second, and Byzantine in the third; and yet the effect can be thoroughly artistic, manifesting almost everything demanded by the requirements of order and for this reason of unity.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IX, page 149]