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[End Page vi]
From “A Vision,” by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Pioneer 1 (March 1843): 13
A few evenings since, while sitting in deep reflection over a pamphlet that contains a new definition of life, and seeming to catch a gleam of light upon that mysterious death-in-life which so extensively characterizes modern genius, suddenly I found myself taken off my feet, and realized before my eyes at once all Time. And not only the real personages of history, but the fictitious beings of poetry and romance—equally palpable—were present, and all the creations of the masters of art. The pictures of which Pausanius gives an account, and which I supposed lost long ago, were before me, not only in all their original coloring, but even alive as they were not on the canvass. The lost statuary reappeared; and temples, whose decayed remnants alone have been seen since the period of recorded history, were fresh to my sense as the Gothic churches of the middle ages, and the mixed architecture of the present.
What was more remarkable still, the air seemed pervaded with music:—nay, music seemed the substance of the atmosphere. Now the Doric, now the Lydian, and even the lost Olympian measure, obeyed, as it were, my thought; and I heard Arion's and Orpheus's songs, no less plainly than the later music of modern times.
Vainly should I attempt to describe the ancient music. Its effect was not—like the [End Page vii] modern—to plunge the soul into dreams and prophecies and vain longings. It acted on my senses, and whirled me into an intoxication of delight. I understood at once all the wild forms on the Etruscan terra cotta; the stories of the Bacchanalian fervor; the martial deeds of high antiquity; the taming of monsters; the conquest of the infernal regions; the rising of the walls of Thebes, and the following of Orpheus by the rocks and trees. The fables of antiquity seemed to me no longer fables, but inevitable facts. I did not pretend to ask about probabilities; I did not question my perceptions; I saw, and believed my senses. Not more easily does the eye integrate with the distant horizon the various objects of the landscape, and even, in proportion to the sweep of vision, give the mind a sense of deeper repose, than, with the same calming effect, appeared in the world of time "one day as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." In this music life, Forms unfolded to me their meanings,—I mean more especially those forms which owe their existence to the plastic genius of men. I saw Architecture was solid harmony, and Painting liquid harmony; every statue a single chord, every picture a melody. [End Page viii]