The eye is a most wonderful and intricate organ, and fittingly so, since it is the means of allowing us to enjoy what Addison called "the most perfect and delightful of all our senses-the sight. Sight may be considered as a more delicate and diffusive kind of touch, that spreads itself over an infinite multitude of bodies, comprehends the largest figures, and brings within our reach some of the most remote parts of the universe."
This being so, it follows that the eye is recognised as the feature which denotes intellect. To use a hackneyed but useful phrase, the eye is the window of the soul, and the soul-like a housewife-can be fairly well judged by the aspect of her windows.
The restless soul darts glances hither and thither; for the mind, unable to concentrate, allows the eye to wander. The serene disposition looks out calmly upon life, and depth is, in time, added to the expression of its possessor's eye.
It follows, then, that the beauty of the eye is mainly psychological, and not physiological.
The eye does not depend upon its colour for beauty, since grey, brown, and black eyes, all may be equally beautiful. Indeed, it may happen that eyes of distinctive and unusual colours seem ugly because of their extraordinary tint. But an eye certainly depends for beauty upon its shape, the way it is set in the head, the whiteness of its ball, and the brilliancy of its pupil.
There is no greater beautifier of the eye than good health-health will even affect the expression of an eye, for a person in good health is more optimistic, has more faith in humanity, and is of better humour than one in ill health.
As health is the best eye-brightener, no one should be persuaded to drop eau-decologne or belladonna into the eye. When the effects of the stimulant have passed, the eye becomes once again dull if the health is below par. Moreover, Nature, who resents her best and cleverest work being roughly handled, quickly punishes the offender by poor sight, or even blindness.
The eye of a healthy child is always beautiful, provided the vision is correct, because body and spirit are both wholesome. Probably the same eye will appear to be smaller and less noticeable in later life, which is due to the fact that the eye grows very little, and thus appears smaller when the rest of the body is full-grown. The wear and tear of fife, too, by diminishing vitality, diminishes its brightness, and a loss of faith and trust contracts its outlook.
Legitimate beauty culture of the eye is confined, therefore, mainly to efforts to erase the effects of wear and tear.
The oculist can remove a disfiguring squint by training the eye of the child by means of corrective glasses, by eye-washes, by electricity, and by closing the other eye for an hour or so at a time, and thus forcing the faulty one to perform its duty. A final resort is an operation.
In the writer's opinion many people need not wear glasses as early as they do, for if the eye be exercised, and given space to view, it will not so soon become short-sighted. It is on account of their lack of practice in sighting long distances that town-bred people have resource to glasses too early in life.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," writes:
"If your eyes fail I can tell you something encouraging. There is now living in New York State an old gentleman who, perceiving his sight to fail, immediately took to exercising it on the finest print, and in this way fairly bullied Nature out of her foolish habit of taking liberties at five-and-forty, or thereabout. And now this old gentleman performs extraordinary feats with his pen, showing that his eyes must be a pair of microscopes."
It is safe to say that exercise is good for the eyes. From the point of view of appearance, short-sighted people have this advantage-that their eyes (generally brown) have a softer and more "velvety" expression because they are short-sighted.
There are some simple rules which, if observed whilst the sight is good, will preserve it far into the years. Never read or work in a poor light. Do not sew black work by artificial light, or strain the eyes by using them in an insufficient light. Avoid a glare of light (Frenchwomen have no scruple about wearing blue glasses when at the seaside in the summer), and do not subject the eyes to prolonged work. To avoid doing so it is well to look up occasionally from the book or the work, and to as great a distance as possible. An occasional glance at a patch of green grass or a growing plant rests and refreshes the eye wonderfully. Do not wear thick or patterned veilings. Keep the hair out of the eyes-this applies particularly to children-and avoid reading in a train, or when in a recumbent position.
Fog, dust, and sandy winds affect the eyes to their detriment, and so does the use of alcohol and tobacco. There is a certain colour-blindness induced from excessive smoking.
When the eyes are tired, it is a good plan to bathe them in cold water, and, if this is done regularly, the eyes, being opened while under the water-a matter of practice-they will be greatly refreshed and brightened.
If the eyes "water" when the weather is very cold or upon being subjected to a glare of light they may be strengthened by such lotions as boracic acid, or water in which poppy heads have been boiled. Both these baths should be weak, for, after all, the bathing is the important point.
Much can be done by means of colour in caring for the eyes. To gather blues and greens about one is to provide for the health of nerves and eyesight. The writer once knew a woman who found herself becoming more "nervy" daily, until she removed a blatant red wallpaper which challenged her eyesight every morning. White is also trying to the sight.
The general care of the eye rests upon a care of the health, and no one can hope to have beautiful eyes if the liver is out of order. Any local treatment of the eye must be of the simplest, and nothing must be dropped into it except under the direction of an oculist.