Winslow Homer - The Obtuse Bard (draft 20150402) screen 012
A very similar view is reflected in the writings of William Ellery Channing, Allston's longtime friend and brother of Allston's first wife, Ann. Ann died in 1815 in England, where Washington Allston, she, and Samuel F. B. Morse, Allston's painting student at that time, had been living since 1811. Especially see W E Channing's The True End of Life [sermons first published in 1873, thirty years after he died], On the Character and Writings of Milton [1826] and Evidences of Revealed Religion [1821].

Consider this from Channing's The True End of Life
I refer to man's power of conceiving of more Perfect Beauty than exists within the limits of actual experience. Philosophers denote this power by the word Imagination. The term to many suggests a faculty, that exaggerates or distorts reality, that feeds on dreams, and wastes itself on impracticable visions. Were these the true workings of the Imagination, instead of its excesses, I should still think them indications of a being who has a sublime destiny to fulfil. The reveries of youth, in which so much energy is wasted, are the yearnings of a Spirit made for what it has not found but must forever seek as an Ideal. It is not the proper use of the Imagination, however, to lose itself in dreams. This power, when acting, as it always should act, in unison with the Moral Principle, is a Divine Witness to the Spiritual End of human nature. Imagination passes beyond the transient and the bounded. It delights to bring together, and to blend in just proportion, whatever is lovely in Nature and the Soul. ... Imagination thus exalts and refines whatever it touches. For ever it sees in the visible the type of the Invisible, and in the outward world an image of the Inward, thus bringing them into harmony, and throwing added brightness over both. All things which it looks upon reveal a Being higher than themselves. Perfection! This is the vital air and element in which the Imagination breathes and lives. What a celestial power! What a testimony to the End of our being! Whence comes this tendency in human thought towards the Perfect, if man be not born for a progress which can never end?

or this from Channing's Evidences of Revealed Religion
This argument of Hume proves too much, and therefore proves nothing. It proves too much; for if I am to reject the strongest testimony to miracles, because testimony has often deceived me, whilst nature's order has never been found to fail, then I ought to reject a miracle, even if I should see it with my own eyes, and if all my senses should attest it; for all my senses have sometimes given false reports, whilst nature has never gone astray; and, therefore, be the circumstances ever so decisive or inconsistent with deception, still I must not believe what I see, and hear, and touch, what my senses, exercised according to the most deliberate judgment, declare to be true. All this the argument requires; and it proves too much; for disbelief, in the case supposed, is out of our power, and is instinctively pronounced absurd; and what is more, it would subvert that very order of nature on which the argument rests; for this order of nature is learned only by the exercise of my senses and judgment, and if these fail me, in the most unexceptionable circumstances, then their testimony to nature is of little worth.


Copyright 1992-2015 Peter Bueschen
The presentation is available at The Obtuse Bard website