* This beautiful poem is now for the first time brought out in holiday style, with original illustrations by W. St. John Harper and W. F. Freer.
Thomas Hood's own sketch about his thoughts on sculpture:
There is something sublime in the pale repose of fine sculpture: colour is as noise and motion.—Harlequin is motley and active—but a Statue is a thing only of light and shade; and stillness and silence are its proper attributes, and the first inspiration of its presence.
On entering the repository of the Elgin Marbles, the voice is instantly subdued to a whisper, and the foot is restrained in its tread; there is no occasion for the written request of the students to preserve silence—it will keep itself, the best peace-officer of the place. We seem to be, not among imitations, but petrifactions of life,—feel as if noise, or mirth, or ungentle motion, were an insult to their constrained quietness. The most impassioned, the most ruffled, are as mute as Niobe when she turned to stone: evf.n that snorting horse, wild and fiery as he may once have been, distends only a breathless nostril to the air, and is fixed for ever. If he move not now, he will never move more, so much has he the look of fierce intent. Theseus sits too, as if he would never rise again; but in him you might fancy it merely the fault of his will. This repose seems the proper mood of a statue. It should be pale in act, as pale in substance—either above or beneath all violence—too rock-like to be rudely acted on, or too delicate and aerial, too sylph-like for touch—too pure even (as it seems) to be stained by the light. I remember a female figure of this nature, which might have been a personification of silence,—a mprble metaphor of peace. Alone, and still, and hushed, it stood in the dark of a long passage, like an embodied twilight,— not dead, but with such a breathless life as we conceive in a solemn midnight apparition;—passionless, yet not incapable of passion, as if only there was no cause mighty enough in this world to disturb her divine rest. There she stood, with her blank eyes*, gazing no one knew whither—not asleep,—but as in one of those dreams which make up the life of gods, blissful, serene, and eternal—herself almost a dream, she seemed so pale, and shadowy, and unreal—as unreal as if only framed out of moonlight, or (what is quite possible) only the fanciful creation of my own theory.
* These blank eyes (wherein there is no indication of the pupil) are the true eyes in sculpture. They seem to hold no communion with your own, but to gaze, not on points, but on all space, like the eyes of gods, or of prophets looking into the future.