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asked what he would have had him to have done ? “To have died," he answers. In the same manner Porus, taken prisoner by Alexander, after a gallant defence, and asked in what manner he would be treated ? answering, “Like a king;" and Cæsar chiding the pilot who was afraid to set out with him in the storm, “ Quid times ? Cæsarem vehis ;" are good instances of this sentimental sublime. Wherever, in some critical and high situation, we behold a man uncommonly intrepid, and resting upon himself; superior to passion and to fear; animated by some great principle to the contempt of popular opinion, of selfish interest, of dangers or of death; there we are struck with a sense of the sublime.*
High virtue is the most natural and fertile source of this moral sublimity. However, on some occasions, where virtue either bas no place, or is but imperfectly displayed, yet if extraordinary vigour and force of mind be discovered, we are not insensible to a degree of grandeur in the character; and from the splendid conqueror, or the daring conspirator, whom we are far from approving, we cannot withhold our admiration.t
I have now enumerated a variety of instances, both in inanimate objects and in human life, wherein the sublime appears. In all these instances, the emotion raised in us is of the same kind, although the objects that produce the emotion be of widely different kinds. A question next arises, whether we are able to discover some one fundamental quality in which all these different objects agree, and which is the cause of their producing an emotion of the same nature in our minds ? Various hypothesis have been formed concerning this ; but, as far as appears to me, hitherto un satisfactory. Some have imagined that amplitude, or great extent, joined with simplicity, is either immediately, or remotely, the fundamental
The sublime, in natural and in moral objects, is brought before us in one view, and compared together, in the following beautiful passage of Akènside's pleasures of the Imagination.
Look then abroad through nature, to the range
Book I. † Silius Italicus has studied to give an august idea of Hannibal, by representing kim as su rrounded with all his victories, in the place of guards. One who had formed a de sign of assassinating him in the midst of a feast, is thus addressed:
Fallit te, mensas, inter quod credis inermem;
Et Pauli stare ingentem miraberis umbram. A thought somewhat of the same nature occurs in a Erench author, "Il se eache; "mais sa reputation le decouvre; Il marche sans suite & saus equipage ; mais chacun, " dans son esprit
, le met sur un char de triomphe. On compte en le voiant, les ennemis " qu'il a vaincus, non pas les serviteurs qui le suivent. Tout seul qu'il est, on se figure, " autour de lui, ses vertus, et ses victoires qui l'accompagnent. Moins il est superbe, " plus il devient venerable.” Oraison funebre de M. de Turrenne, par M. Flechier. Both these passages are splendid, rather than sublime. In the first, there is a want of justgees in the thought: in the second, of simplicity in the expression.
quality of whatever is sublime ; but we have seen that amplitude is confined to one species of sublime objects, and cannot, without violent straining, be applied to them all. The author of "a Philosophical Inquiry into “ the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful, to whom we are indebted for several ingenious and original thoughts upon this subject, proposes a formal theory upon this foundation, that terror is the source of the sublime, and that no objects have this character, but such as produce impressions of pain and danger. It is indeed true, that many terrible objects are highly sublime; and that grandeur does not refuse an alliance with the idea of danger. But though this is very properly illustrated by the author (many of whose sentiments on that head I have adopted) yet he seems to stretch his theory too far, when he represents the sublime as consisting wholly in modes of danger, or of pain. For the proper sensation of sublimity appears to be very distinguishable from the sensation of either of these ; and on several occasions, to be entirely separated from them. In many grand objects, there is no coincidence with terror at all; as in the magnificent prospect of wide extended plains, and of the starry firmament; or in the moral dispositions and sentiments, which we view with high admiration ; and in many painful and terrible objects also, it is clear, there is no sort of grandeur. The amputation of a limb, or the bite of a snake, are exceedingly terrible ; but are destitute of all claim whatever to sublimity. I am inclined to think, that mighty force or power, whether accompanied with terror or not, whether employed in protecting, or in alarming us, has a better title, than any thing that has yet been mentioned, to be the fundamental quality of the sublime; as, after the review which we have taken, there does not occur to me any sublime object, into the idea of which, power, strength, and force, either enter not directly, or are not, at least intimately associated with the idea by leading our thoughts to some astonishing power, as concerned in the production of the object. However, I do not insist upon this as sufficient to found a general theory : it is enough, now, to have given this view of the nature and different kinds of sublime objects; by which I hope to have laid a proper foundation for discussing, with greater accuracy, the sublime in writing and composition.
THE SUBLIME IN WRITING. HAVING treated of grandeur and sublimity in external objects, the way seems now to be cleared, for treating, with more advantage, of the descriptions of such objects; or, of what is called the sublime in writing, Though I may appear early to enter on the consideration of this subject ; yet, as the sublime is a species of writing which depends less than any other on the artificial embellishments of rhetoric, it may be examined with as much propriety here, as in any subsequent part of the lectures.
Many critical terms have unfortunately been employed in a sense too
loose and vague; none more so, than that of the sublime. Every one is acquainted with the character of Cæsar's Commentaries, and of the style in which they are written : a style, remarkably pure, simple, and elegant; but the most remote from the sublime, of any of the classical authors. Yet this author has a German critic, Jobannes Gulielmus Bergerus, who #rote no longer ago than the year 1720, pitched upon as the perfect model of the sublime, and has composed a quarto volume, entitled De naturali pulchritudine Orachionis ; the express intention of which is to shew, that Cæsar's Commentaries contain the most complete exemplification of all Longinus's rules relating to sublime writing. This I mention as a strong proof of the confused ideas which have prevailed, concerning this subject. The true sense of sublime writing, undoubtedly, is such a description of objects, or exhibition of sentiments, which are in themselves of a sublime nature, as shall give us strong impressions of them. But there is another very indefinite, and therefore very improper, sense, which has been too often put upon it; when it is applied to signify any remarkable and distinguishing excellency of composition; whether it raise in us the ideas of grandeur, or those of gentleness, elegance, or any other sort of beauty. In this sense, Cæsar's Commentaries may indeed, be termed sublime, and so may many sonnets, pastorals, and love elegies, as well as Homer's Iliad. But this evidently confounds the use of words, and marks no one species, or character, of composition whatever.
I am sorry to be obliged to observe, that the sublime is too often used in this last and improper sense, by the celebrated critic Longinus, in his treatise on this subject. He sets out, indeed, with describing it in its just and proper meaning; as something that elevates the mind above itself, and fills it with high conceptions, and a noble pride. But from this view of it he frequently departs; and substitutes in the place of it, whatever, in any strain of composition, pleases highly. Thus, many of the passages which he produces as instances of the sublime, are merely elegant, without having the most distant relation to proper sublimity; witness Sappho's famous ode, on which he descants at considerable length. He points out five sources of the sublime. The first is boldness or grandeur in the thoughts; the second is, the pathetic; the third, the proper application of figures; the fourth, the use of tropes and beautiful expressions ; the fifth, musical structure and arrangement of words. This is the plan of one who was writing a treatise of rhetoric, or of the beauties of writing in general; not of the sublime in particular. For of these five heads, only the two first have any particular relation to the sublime; boldness and grandeur in the thoughts, and in some instances, the pathetic, or strong exertions of passion; the other three, tropes, figures, and musical arrangements, have no more relation to the sublime, than to other kinds of good writing ; perhaps less to the sublime, than to any other species what. ever ; because it requires less the assistance of ornament. From this it appears, that clear and precise ideas on this head are not to be expected from that writer. I would not, however, be understood, as if, I meant, by this censure, to represent his treatise as of small value.' I know no critic, ancient or modern, that discovers a more lively relish of the beauties of fine writing, than Longinus ; and he has also the merit of being himself an excellent, and, in several passages, a truly sublime, writer. But as his work has been generally considered as a standard on this subject, it was incumbent on me to give my opinion concerning the benefit to be derived from it. It deserves to be consulted, not so much for distinct in
struction concerning the sublime, as for excellent general ideas concerne. ing beauty in writing.
I return now to the proper and natural idea of the sublime in composition. The foundation of it must always be laid in the nature of the object described. Unless it be such an object as, if presented to our eyes, if exhibited to us in reality, would raise ideas of that elevating, that awful, and magnificent kind, which we call sublime; the description, however finely drawn, is not entitled to come under this class. This excludes all objects that are merely beautiful, gay or elegant. In the next place, the object must not only, in itself be sublime, but it must be set before us in such a light as is most proper to give us a clear and full impression of it; it must be described with strength, with conciseness, and simplicity. This depends principally, upon the lively impression which the poet, or orator, has of the object which he exhibits; and upon his being deeply affected, and warmed, by the sublime idea which he would convey. if his own feeling be languid, he can never inspire us with any strong emotion. Instances, which are extremely necessary on this subject, will clearly shew the importance of all those requisites which I have just now mentioned.
It is, generally speaking, among the most ancient authors, that we are to look for the most striking instances of the sublime. I am inclined to think that the early ages of the world, and the rude unimproved state of society, are peculiarly favourable to the strong emotions of sublimity. The genius of men is then much turned to admiration and astonishment. Meeting with many objects, to them new and strange, their imagination is kept glowing, and their passions are often raised to the utmost.
They think and express themselves boldly, and without restraint. In the progress of society, the genius and manners of men undergo a change more favourable to accuracy, than to strength or sublinity.
Of all writings, ancient oro modern, the sacred Scriptures afford us the highest instances of the sublime. The descriptions of the Deity, in them, are wonderfully noble ; both from the grandeur of the object and the manner of representing it. What an assemblage, for instance, of awful and sublime ideas is presented to us, in that passage of the xvijith psalm, where an appearance of the Almighty is described ? “In " my distress I called upon the Lord, he heard my voice out of his “ temple, and my cry came before him. Then, the earth shook sand trembled; the foundations also of the hills were moved ; be
cause he was wroth. He bowed the heavens, and came down, and 6 darkness was under his feet; and he did ride upon a Cherub, and did “fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made dark. “ness his secret place ; his pavilion round about him were dark waters, 16 and thick clouds of the sky." Here, agreeably to the principles established in the last lecture, we see with what propriety and success the circumstances of darkness and terror are applied for heightening the sublime. So, also, the prophet Habakkuk, in a similar passage : " He " stood and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the na“ tions. The everlasting mountains were scattered; the perpetual "bills did bow; his ways are everlasting. The mountains saw thee; " and they trembled. The overflowing of the water passed by. The " deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on igh.”
The noted instance given by Longinus, from .oses, “ God said, let " there be light; and there was light;" is not liable to the censure which I
passed on some of his instances, of being foreign to the subject. It belongs to the true sublime; and the sublimity of it arises from the strong conception it gives, of an exertion of power, producing its effect with the utmost speed and facility A thought of the same kind is magnificently amplified in the following passage of Isaiah : (chap. xliv. 24. 27. 28.) " Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from 5 the womb; I am the Lord that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth " the heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself-that " saith to the deep, be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers ; that * saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my plea"sure; even, saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built; and to the tem“ple, thy foundation shalt be laid." There is a passage in the psalms, which deserves to be mentioned under this head; “God," says the psalmist“ stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and “ the tumults of the people.” The joining together two such grand objects, as the raging of the waters, and the tumults of the people, between which there is so much resemblance as to form a very natural association in the fancy, and the representing them both as subject, at one moment, to the command of God, produces a noble effect.
Homer is a poet, who, in all ages, and by all critics, has been greatly admired for sublimity; and he owes much of his grandeur to that native and unaffected simplicity which characterises his manner. llis descriptions of hosts engaging; the animation, the fire, and rapidity, which he throws into his battles, present to every reader of the Iliad, frequent instances of sublime writing. His introduction of the gods, tends often to heighten, in a high degree, the majesty of his warlike scenes.Hence Longinus bestows such' high and just commendations on that passage, in the xvth book of the Niad, where Neptune, when preparing to issue forth into the engagement, is described as shaking the mountains with his steps, and driving his chariot along the ocean. Minerva, arming herself for fight in the fifth book; and Apollo, in the xvth, leading on the Trojans, and flashing terror with his Ægis on the face of the Greeks, are similar instances of great sublimity added to the description of battles, by the appearances of those celestial beings. In the xxth book, where all the gods take part in the engagement, according as they severally favour either the Grecians, or the Trojans, the poet seems to put forth one of the highest efforts, and the description rises into the most awful magnificence. All nature is represented as in com. motion. Jupiter thunders in the heavens ; Neptune strikes the earth with his trident; the ships, the city, and the mountains shake ; the earth trembles to its centre; Pluto starts from his throne, in dread, lest the secrets of the infernal region should be laid open to the view of mortals. The passage is worthy of being inserted.
Αυτας επε μεθ' όμιλος Ολύμπιοι ήλυθον ανδρών,