S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
That fine part of our constitution, the eye, seems as much the receptacle and seat of our passions, appetites, and applications, as the mind itself; and at least it is the outward portal to introduce them to the house within, or rather the common thoroughfare to let our affections pass in and out. Love, anger, pride, and avarice, all visibly move in those little orbs.
A beautiful eye makes silence eloquent; a kind eye makes contradiction an assent; an enraged eye makes beauty deformed. This little member gives life to every other part about us; and I believe the story of Argus implies no more than that the eye is in every part; that is to say, every other part would be mutilated were not its force represented more by the eye than even by itself.
If the eye were so acute as to rival the finest microscopes, and to discern the smallest hair upon the leg of a gnat, it would be a curse, and not a blessing, to us: it would make all things appear rugged and deformed; the most finely polished crystal would be uneven and rough; the sight of our own selves would affright us; the smoothest skin would be beset all over with rugged scales and bristly hairs.
What a curious workmanship is that of the eye, which is in the body as the sun in the world; set in the head as in a watch-tower, having the softest nerves for receiving the greater multitude of spirits necessary for the act of vision! How is it provided with defence, by the variety of coats to secure and accommodate the little humour and part whereby the vision is made! Made of a round figure, and convex, as most commodious to receive the species of objects; shaded by the eyebrows and eyelids; secured by the eyelids, which are its ornament and safety, which refresh it when it is too much dried by heat, hinder too much light from insinuating itself into it to offend it, cleanse it from impurities, by their quick motion preserve it from any invasion, and by contraction confer to the more evident discerning of things. Both the eyes seated in the hollow of the bone for security, yet standing out, that things may be perceived more easily on both sides. And this little member can behold the earth, and in a moment view things as high as heaven.
Large eyes were admired in Greece, where 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 mistresss 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 all her beauty, to want a certain humanity. Her large eyes look 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 Junos 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 which the large lids 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.
If eyes so framed could not view at once the hand and the hour-plate, their owner could not be benefited by that acuteness; which whilst it discovered the secret contrivance of the machine made him lose its use.
As our greatest pleasures and knowledge are derived from the sight, so has Providence been more curious in the formation of its seat, the eye, than in the organs of the other senses. That stupendous machine is composed, in a wonderful manner, of muscles, membranes, and humours. Its motions are admirably directed by the muscles; the perspicuity of the humours transmit the rays of light; the rays are regularly refracted by their figure; the black lining of the sclerotes effectually prevents their being confounded by reflection. It is wonderful indeed to consider how many objects the eye is fitted to take in at once, and successively, in an instant, and at the same time to make a judgment of their position, figure, and colour. It watches against our dangers, guides our steps, and lets in all the visible objects, whose beauty and variety instruct and delight.
A pair of bright eyes with a dozen glances suffice to subdue a man; to enslave him, and inflame; to make him even forget; they dazzle him so that the past becomes straightway dim to him; and he so prizes them that he would give all his life to possess them. What is the fond love of dearest friends compared to his treasure?