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Now it is readily granted that external objects are sublime, merely as, by means of that curious operation of the mind called the association of ideas, they suggest something of mind that is so.
But then it is too evident to be insisted on, that the ideas must be such as are familiar to the mind, and the association such as is wont to be made. Now we venture to affirm, that of those who have been accustomed to mountain scenery, and have felt its sublimity too, very few (if any) have been wont to consider the awful pile” “as if it had been reared at once by some tremendous effort,” or even “been lost in admiration at the incomparably more than human might which would be required to move it from its base.” If the essayist should say that the force of the association may be felt, even when the association itself is not perceived-We grant it; but then the association itself must have been formerly perceived, or, at least, the two objects must have passed through the mind together; or it is utterly incomprehensible how the one should have caught any thing of sublimity from the other.
It appears to us that the way of conducting such an inquiry is, to begin by accurately examining the emotion of mind produced the “emotion of sublimity.” That our readers may be the better able to do so, we shall lay before them a few passages of acknowledged sublimity, and beg them to inquire a little into the feelings roused in their minds. The passages are indeed familiar to every one, but are not, therefore, very easily recalled when wanted.
“Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts, from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; and the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof : an image was before mine eyes; there was silence, and I heard a voice." Job.
“ And it came to pass, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God. And mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the whole inount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.” Exodus.
“ See'st thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
Casts pale and dreadful ? Par. Lost.
• What though the field be lost ?
“I have given suck, and know
A human foot shall tread,
The thousand palaces were seen
Seemed reared by giants for the immortal Gods. How silent and how beautiful they stand
Like things of nature, the eternal rocks
"O happy, cried the priests,
Clash'd on their sounding shields the din of war,
.66 Thee, Lord! he sung
6. These our actors,
Now it appears to us, upon a consideration of these and many such like passages, that there are distinctly three kinds of emotion raised in our mind, sufficiently familiar to every one, and in general confounded under the name of the sublime-the emotions of magnanimity, of reverence, and of terror. The third Mr. Burke would make exclusively the source of the sublime. Our essayist considers the terrible and the sublime as perfectly distinct, though often united in the same subject; and accordingly, after a long chapter on the sublime, devotes the whole of the next to terror. It is enough for us that the emotion of terror is in general accounted sublime. The emotion of magnanimity is what Longinus appears to have had exclusively in his eye, when he says that “our mind is raised by the true sublime, and receiving a certain proud elevation, rejoices and glories as if it had actually produced what it had
We may just remark that the same passage may excite this feeling in one, and the feeling of veneration in another. For instance, a young and ardent spirit puts itself in the place of Guatimozin,* imagines itself stretched out upon the burning bed, and feels endued, during the moment of enthusiasm, with the same supernatural fortitude. A calmer mind, conscious of its own want of heroism, may yet feel a deep and awful reverence for it in
* See Robertson's America.
another; and the feeling is undoubtedly in general called sublime. There are, however, objects calculated to inspire exclusively the sublime emotions of awe and reverence. Such are the gloom of a gothic building, and the solitude of mountain scenery, perhaps ; such are the Mosaic account of the creation, and in general the contemplation of the goodness and greatness of the deity.
It is a curious thing that " our admiration is awakened by extraordinary force of mind in whatever form it is displayed, and even when unhappily it is exerted for the worst of purposes." Thus, forgetting the wickedness of Lady Macbeth, or Satan, in the passages above quoted, we feel ourselves for the time fully possest with the grandeur of their sentiments. We suppose that the explication of this fact will be found to be the same as of another which our readers may have observed in real life ;-viz. that most men would rather be thought knaves than fools. That the swelling consciousness of superiority in ourselves, or the sense of it in others, should be agreeable sensations, there seems no reason to wonder: but that terror should be a source of pleasure appears at first sight a phenomenon almost inexplicable. It is to be accounted for, we imagine, on the theory of Hume, the theory which we endeavoured to explain in our last number but one, to which we must refer our readers. Terror, according to this, is but a necessary stimulus to send forth the imagination on its daring flights.
On the subject of terror there are some very good, though not very new, observations in the essayist.
“ The effect of terrible objects is greatly heightened by obscurity. A particular and still more minute description defeats its own purpose. Even when the objects are before us, our terror is much diminished, as soon as we can prevail upon ourselves to look at them steadily. There is then no longer room for the exaggeration of the fancy, which produces by far the greatest part of the emotion. The description ought, therefore, to be conducted by alarining hints, and in such a manner as to leave an uncertainty with regard to the extent of what is dangerous or dreadful in the objects represented. “How now,' says Macbeth to the weird sisters, when he went to their cave at the dead hour of night,
How now, ye secret, black, and midnight hags,
“Their answer is,
A deed without a name.' “In Paradise Lost, when Raphael relates to our first parents the history of the apostate angels, our horror at the fate of their leader
is greatly increased by a stroke of the same kind, but of still higher effect. It is where Raphael says, that the angelic host were reposing,
• Save those who, in their course,
his former name Is heard no more in heav'n.' Book V. pp. 99, 100. “Upon the same principle, in paintings and theatrical representations, the objects of terror ought to be placed in obscurity. The witches in Macbeth, and the ghost in Hamlet, as they are generally represented, have rather a ludicrous effect. But I am persuaded it would be very different, if they were removed to a great distance at the bottom of the stage, and seen as obscurely as possible. It was a good observation of an exquisite artist, that he could conceive a picture in which no human figure, or action, nor any object very terrible in itself was represented, which yet should raise a high degree of horror. Such, he imagined, would be the effect of a picture representing a bedchamber, with a lady's slipper and a bloody dagger on the floor; and at the door, the foot of a man as just leaving the room.” P. 102, 103.
In the art of creating terror by obscurity and mystery, no one was a greater adept than Mrs. Radcliffe. Her scenes are frequently very counterparts of Mr. Brown's picture. The rustling of a garment, a half-heard whisper, the tolling of a bell;—this is all; and the rest is utter silence and gloom : and yet there is terror even to suspension of breath.
“ One great advantage of language above painting is this, that the author has it in his power to prepare us for the great impression. Now, in order that the scenes of terror may have their full effect, we should previously be brought to a serious, and even a melancholy frame, and startled by sudden and obscure alarms.
“ In the first scene of Hamlet we are well prepared for the entry of the ghost, merely by having our attention turned to sublime objects, together with a single hint to alarm us. “Last night of all,' says Bernardo to the officers who were on watch with him at midnight, and who had heard of the apparition;
* Last night of all,
The bell then beating onePeace, break thee off,' interrupted Marcellus; 'Look where it comes again.'”
Another instance of Shakspeare's skill in “preparing us for the great impression” is in Julius Cæsar. The little page falls asleep at his harp; and Brutus is left alone at the “witching