IN the contemplation of the Aspect before him, what gave that

aesthetic man the most immediate and undoubted pleasure was its

colour, or, more correctly speaking, its colours. Psycho-Physiologists

have not yet told us why colours, taken singly and apart

from their juxtaposition, should possess so extraordinary a

power over what used to be called our animal spirits, and through

them over our moods; and we can only guess
from analogy with

what is observed in plants, as well as from the nature of the

phenomenon itself, that various kinds of luminous stimulation must

have some deep chemical repercussion throughout the human

organism. The same applies, though in lesser degree, to sounds,

quite independent of their juxtaposition as melodies and harmonies.

As there are colours which feel, i.e. make us feel, more or less

warm or cool, colours which are refreshing or stifling, depressing or

exhilarating quite independent of any associations, so also there are

qualities of sound which enliven us like the blare of the trumpet, or

harrow us like the quaver of the accordion. Similarly with regard to

immediacy of effect: the first chords of an organ will change our

whole mode of being like the change of light and colour on first

entering a church, although the music which that organ is playing

may, after a few seconds of listening, bore us beyond endurance;

and the architecture of that church, once we begin to take stock of it,

entirely dispel that first impression made by the church's light and

colour. It is on account of this doubtless physiological power of

colour and sound, this way which they have of invading and

subjugating us with or without our consent and long before our

conscious co-operation, that the Man-on-the-Hill's pleasure in the

aspect before him was, as I have said, first of all, pleasure in colour.

Also, because pleasure in colour, like pleasure in mere sound-quality

or timbre, is accessible to people who never go any further in their

aesthetic preference. Children, as every one knows, are sensitive to

colours, long before they show the faintest sensitiveness for shapes.

And the timbre of a perfect voice in a single long note or shake used

to bring the house down in the days of our grandparents, just as the

subtle orchestral blendings of Wagner entrance hearers incapable of

distinguishing the notes of a chord and sometimes even incapable of

following a modulation.

The Man on the Hill, therefore, received immediate pleasure from

the colours of the landscape. Received pleasure, rather than

took it, since colours, like smells, seem, as I have said, to invade

us, and insist upon pleasing whether we want to be pleased or not. In

this meaning of the word we may be said to be passive to sound

and colour quality: our share in the effects of these sensations, as in

the effect of agreeable temperatures, contacts and tastes, is a

question of bodily and mental reflexes in which our conscious

activity, our voluntary attention, play no part: we are not doing,

but done to by those stimulations from without; and the pleasure

or displeasure which they set up in us is therefore one which we

receive, as distinguished from one which we take.

Before passing on to the pleasure which the Man on the Hill did

take, as distinguished from thus passively receiving, from the

aspect before him, before investigating into the activities to which

this other kind of pleasure, pleasure taken, not received, is due,

we must dwell a little longer on the colours which delighted him,

and upon the importance or unimportance of those colours with

regard to that Aspect he was contemplating.

These colours--particularly a certain rain-washed blue, a pale lilac

and a faded russet--gave him, as I said, immediate and massive

pleasure like that of certain delicious tastes and smells, indeed

anyone who had watched him attentively might have noticed that he

was making rather the same face as a person rolling, as Meredith

says, a fine vintage against his palate, or drawing in deeper draughts

of exquisitely scented air; he himself, if not too engaged in looking,

might have noticed the accompanying sensations in his mouth,

throat and nostrils; all of which, his only active response to the

colour, was merely the attempt to receive more of the already

received sensation. But this pleasure which he received from the

mere colours of the landscape was the same pleasure which they

would have given him if he had met them in so many skeins of silk;

the more complex pleasure due to their juxtaposition, was the

pleasure he might have had if those skeins, instead of being on

separate leaves of a pattern-book, had been lying tangled together in

an untidy work-basket. He might then probably have said, "Those

are exactly the colours, and in much the same combination, as in

that landscape we saw such and such a day, at such and such a

season and hour, from the top of that hill." But he would never have

said (or been crazy if he had) "Those skeins of silk are the landscape

we saw in that particular place and oh that particular occasion." Now

the odd thing is that he would have used that precise form of words,

"that is the landscape," etc. etc., if you had shown him a pencil

drawing or a photograph taken from that particular place and point

of view. And similarly if you had made him look through stained

glass which changed the pale blue, pale lilac and faded russet into

emerald green and blood red. He would have exclaimed at the loss

of those exquisite colours when you showed him the monochrome,

and perhaps have sworn that all his pleasure was spoilt when you

forced him to look through that atrocious glass. But he would have

identified the aspect as the one he had seen before; just as even the

least musical person would identify "God save the King" whether

played with three sharps on the flute or with four flats on the


There is therefore in an Aspect something over and above the

quality of the colours (or in a piece of music, of the sounds) in

which that aspect is, at any particular moment, embodied for your

senses; something which can be detached from the particular colours

or sounds and re-embodied in other colours or sounds, existing

meanwhile in a curious potential schematic condition in our memory.

That something is Shape.

It is Shape which we contemplate; and it is only because they enter

into shapes that colours and sounds, as distinguished from

temperatures, textures, tastes and smells, can be said to be

contemplated at all. Indeed if we apply to single isolated colour or

sound-qualities (that blue or russet, or the mere timbre of a voice or

an orchestra) the adjective beautiful while we express our liking

for smells, tastes, temperatures and textures merely by the adjectives

agreeable, delicious; this difference in our speech is doubtless due

to the fact that colours or sounds are more often than not connected

each with other colours or other sounds into a Shape and thereby

become subject to contemplation more frequently than temperatures,

textures, smells and tastes which cannot themselves be grouped into

shapes, and are therefore objects of contemplation only when

associated with colours and sounds, as for instance, the smell of

burning weeds in a description of autumnal sights, or the cool

wetness of a grotto in the perception of its darkness and its murmur

of waters.

On dismissing the practical and the scientific man because they were

thinking away from aspects to things, I attempted to inventory the

aspect in whose contemplation their aesthetic companion had

remained absorbed. There were the colours, that delicious

recently-washed blue, that lilac and russet, which gave the man his

immediate shock of passive and (as much as smell and taste) bodily

pleasure. But besides these my inventory contained another kind of

item: what I described as a fan-like arrangement of sharply

convergent lines and an exquisitely phrased sky-line of hills, picked

up at rhythmical intervals into sharp crests and dropping down

merely to rush up again in long rapid concave curves. And besides

all this, there was the outline of a distant mountain, rising flamelike

against the sky. It was all these items made up of lines (skyline,

outline, and lines of perspective!) which remained unchanged when

the colours were utterly changed by looking through stained glass,

and unchanged also when the colouring was reduced to the barest

monochrome of a photograph or a pencil drawing; nay remained the

same despite all changes of scale in that almost colourless

presentment of them. Those items of the aspect were, as we all know,

Shapes. And with altered colours, and colours diminished to just

enough for each line to detach itself from its ground, those Shapes

could be contemplated and called beautiful.