Beauty is a function of life, and not of matter and form. Let us go to animals and try to track the sense of beauty to its source. We are wrong if we suppose that man alone is gifted with aesthetic feeling. We think that we alone are conscious of beauty, because we associate beauty in our species with sight and visible form.
The sense of hearing may also have aesthetic value for the beasts. Certain of our quadruped ancestors are notoriously susceptible to music. Experiments among a variety of animals in the Zoological Gardens with performances on various instruments showed that with the exception of some seals none were indifferent, and all felt a discord as offensiveâ€¦A tiger, which has obviously soothed with the violin, was infuriated by the piccolo; the violin and the flute were preferred by most animals. Dogs whined and howled at a nocturne, but went to sleep indifferent when a cheerful piece was played.
The eyes are also sensitive to beauty. Certain birds adorn their nests with gaily colored leaves and shells, with stones, and feathers, and bits of cloth or ribbon found in the haunts of men.
The bower-bird builds a special nest for his mate, covered with brush-wood and carpeted with gathered grass; he brings white pebbles from the nearest brook and places them artist-wise on either side; he adorn the walls with bright feathers, red berries and any pretty object he may find; at last he dignifies the entrance and the exit with mussel shells and gleaming tones: this is the place the bower-bird builds for his love.
Some birds have been seen gazing at themselves in the mirrors. The lark can be caught in large numbers by a small mirror made to glitter in the sun; despite decimating shots the birds come toward it with all the fatality of blind desire. The magpie, raven and other birds steal and secrete bright objects, silver, jewels, etc; whether through vanity, or curiosity, or greed, or aesthetic taste.
These cases of beauty found by animals in inanimate things are exceptional.