The breathing is hurried. The heart beats quickly, wildly, and violently; but whether it pumps the blood more efficiently through the body may be doubted, for the surface seems bloodless and the strength of the muscles soon fails. In a frightened horse I have felt through the saddle the beating of the heart so plainly that I could have counted the beats. The mental faculties are much disturbed. Utter prostration soon follows, and even fainting. A terrified canary-bird has been seen not only to tremble and to turn white about the base of the bill, but to faint;[11] and I once caught a robin in a room, which fainted so completely, that for a time I thought it dead.

[11] Dr. Darwin, `Zoonomia,' 1794, vol. i. p. 148.

Most of these symptoms are probably the direct result, independently of habit, of the disturbed state of the sensorium; but it is doubtful whether they ought to be wholly thus accounted for. When an animal is alarmed it almost always stands motionless for a moment, in order to collect its senses and to ascertain the source of danger, and sometimes for the sake of escaping detection. But headlong flight soon follows, with no husbanding of the strength as in fighting, and the animal continues to fly as long as the danger lasts, until utter prostration, with failing respiration and circulation, with all the muscles quivering and profuse sweating, renders further flight impossible. Hence it does not seem improbable that the principle of associated habit may in part account for, or at least augment, some of the above-named characteristic symptoms of extreme terror.

That the principle of associated habit has played an important part in causing the movements expressive of the foregoing several strong emotions and sensations, we may, I think, conclude from considering firstly, some other strong emotions which do not ordinarily require for their relief or gratification any voluntary movement; and secondly the contrast in nature between the so-called exciting and depressing states of the mind. No emotion is stronger than maternal love; but a mother may feel the deepest love for her helpless infant, and yet not show it by any outward sign; or only by slight caressing movements, with a gentle smile and tender eyes. But let any one intentionally injure her infant, and see what a change! how she starts up with threatening aspect, how her eyes sparkle and her face reddens, how her bosom heaves, nostrils dilate, and heart beats; for anger, and not maternal love, has habitually led to action. The love between the opposite sexes is widely different from maternal love; and when lovers meet, we know that their hearts beat quickly, their breathing is hurried, and their faces flush; for this love is not inactive like that of a mother for her infant.

A man may have his mind filled with the blackest hatred or suspicion, or be corroded with envy or jealousy, but as these feelings do not at once lead to action, and as they commonly last for some time, they are not shown by any outward sign, excepting that a man in this state assuredly does not appear cheerful or good-tempered. If indeed these feelings break out into overt acts, rage takes their place, and will be plainly exhibited. Painters can hardly portray suspicion, jealousy, envy, &c., except by the aid of accessories which tell the tale; and poets use such vague and fanciful expressions as "green-eyed jealousy." Spenser describes suspicion as "Foul, ill-favoured, and grim, under his eyebrows looking still askance," &c.; Shakespeare speaks of envy "as lean-faced in her loathsome case;" and in another place he says, "no black envy shall make my grave;" and again as "above pale envy's threatening reach."

Emotions and sensations have often been classed as exciting or depressing. When all the organs of the body and mind,--those of voluntary and involuntary movement, of perception, sensation, thought, &c.,--perform their functions more energetically and rapidly than usual, a man or animal may be said to be excited, and, under an opposite state, to be depressed. Anger and joy are from the first exciting emotions, and they naturally lead, more especially the former, to energetic movements, which react on the heart and this again on the brain.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 33

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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