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ample and diffuse manner of treating it; but as, in this discourse, we chiefly attach ourselves to the sublime, as it affects the eye, we shall consider particularly why a successive disposition of uniform parts in the same right line should be sublime, and upon what principle this disposition is enabled to make a comparatively small quantity of matter produce a grander effect than a much larger quan. tity disposed in another manner. To avoid the perplexity of general notions, let us set before our eyes a colonnade of uniform pillars planted in a right line; let us take our stand in such a manner that the eye may shoot along this colonnade, for it has its best effect in this view. In our present situation, it is plain that the rays from the first round pillar will cause in the eye a vibration of that species; an image of the pillar itself. The pillar im. mediately succeeding increases it; that which follows renews and enforces the impression; each in its order, as it succeeds, repeats impulse after impulse, and stroke after stroke, until the eye, long exercised in one particular way, cannot lose that object immediately; and being violently roused by this continued agitation, it presents the mind with a grand or sublime conception. But instead of viewing a rank of uniform pillars, let us suppose that they succeed each other, a round and a square one alternately. In this case, the vibration caused by the first round pillar perishes as soon as it is formed; and one quite of another sort (the square) directly occupies its place, which, however, it resigns as quickly to the round one: and thus the eye. proceeds, alternately, taking up one image, and laying down another, as long as the building continues : from whence it is obvious, that, at the last
# Part II. sect. 10.
pillar, the impression is as far from continuing as it was at the very first; because, in fact, the sen. sory can receive no distinct impression but from the last; and it can never of itself resume a dissimilar impression : besides, every variation of the object is a rest and relaxation to the organs of sight; and these reliefs prevent that powerful emotion so necessary to produce the sublime. To produce, therefore, a perfect grandeur in such things as we have been mentioning, there should be a perfect simplicity, an absolute uniformity in disposition, shape, and colouring. Upon this principle of succession and uniformity it may be asked, why a long bare wall should not be a more sublime object than a colonnade; since the succession is no way interrupted; since the eye meets no check ; since no. thing more uniform can be conceived? A long bare wall is certainly not so grand an object as a colonnade of the same length and height. It is not altogether difficult to account for this difference. When we look at a naked wall, from the evenness of the object, the eye runs along its whole space, and arrives quickly at its termination; the
eye meets nothing which may interrupt its progress; but then it meets nothing which may detain it á propër time to produce a very great and lasting effect. The view of a bare wall, if it be of a great height and length, is undoubtedly grand : but this is only one idea, and not a repetition of similar ideas; it is therefore great, not so much upon the principle of infinity, as upon that of vastness. But we are not so powerfully affected with any one impulse, unless it be one of a prodigious force indeed, as we are with a succession of similar impulses; because the nerves of the sensory do not (if I n
I may use the expression) acquire a habit of repeating the
same feeling in such a manner as to continue it longer than its cause is in action; besides, all the effects which I have attributed to expectation and surprise in Sect. II. can have no place in a bare wall.
SECT. XIV.-LOCKE'S OPINION CONCERNING
It is Mr. Locke's opinion, that darkness is not paturally an idea of terror; and that though an ex. cessive light is painful to the sense, that the great. est excess of darkness is no ways troublesome. He observes, indeed, in another place, that a nurse, or an old woman, having once associated the ideas of ghosts and goblins with that of darkness, night ever after becomes painful and horrible to the imagination. The authority of this great man is doubtless as great as that of any man can be, and it seems to stand in the way of our general principle.* We have considered darkness as a cause of the sublime : and we have all along considered the sublime as depending on some modification of pain or terror; so that if darkness be no way painful or terrible to any who have not had their minds early tainted with superstitions, it can be no source of the sublime to them. But, with all deference to such an authority, it seems to me that an association of a more general nature, an association which takes in all mankind, may make darkness terrible ; for, in utter darkness, it is impossible to know in what degree of safety we stand; we are ignorant of the objects that surround us; we may every moment strike against some dangerous obstruction: we may fall down a precipice
# Part II. sect. 3.
the first step we take; and, if an enemy approach, we know not in what quarter to defend ourselves; in such a case strength is no sure protection; wisdom can only act by guess; the boldest are stag. gered; and he who would pray for nothing else to. wards his defence, is forced to pray for light:
Ζευ πατερ, αλλα συ ρυσαι υπ’ ηερος υιας Αχαιων
As to the association of ghosts and goblins, surely it is more natural to think that darkness, being originally an idea of terror, was chosen as a fit scene for such terrible representations, than that such representations have made darkness terrible. The mind of man very easily slides into an error of the former sort; but it is very hard to imagine, that the effect of an idea so universally terrible in all times and in all countries, as darkness, could possibly have been owing to a set of idle stories, or to any cause of a nature so trivial, and of an operation so precarious.
SECT. XV.DARKNESS TERRIBLE IN
ITS OWN NATURE.
Perhaps it may appear, on inquiry, that blackness and darkness are in some degree painful by their natural operation, independent of any associations whatsoever. I must observe, that the ideas of darkness and blackness are much the same; and they differ only in this, that blackness is a more confined idea. Mr. Cheselden has given us a very curious story of a boy who had been born blind, and continued so until he was thirteen or fourteen years old; he was then couched for a cataract, by which operation he received his sight. Among many remarkable particulars that attended his first perceptions and judgments on visual objects, Cheselden tells us, that the first time the boy saw a black object, it gave him great uneasiness; and that some time after, upon accidentally seeing a negro woman, he was struck with great horror at the sight. The horror, in this case, can scarcely be sup posed to arise from any association. The boy ap. pears by the account, to have been particularly observing and sensible for one of his age; and there. fore it is probable, if the great uneasiness he felt ar the first sight of black had arisen from its connexion with any other disagreeable ideas, he would have observed and mentioned it; for an idea, disagreeable only by association, has the cause of its ill effect on the passions evident enough at the first impression; in ordinary cases, it is indeed frequently lost: but this is because the original association was made very early, and the consequent impression repeated often. In our instance, there was no time for such a habit; and there is no reason to think that the ill effects of black on his imagination were more owing to its connexion with any disagreeable ideas, than that the good effects of more cheerful colours were derived from their connexion with pleasing ones. They had both, probably, their effects from their natural operation.
SECT. XVI.-WHY DARKNESS IS TERRIBLE, It may be worth while to examine how darkness can operate in such a manner as to cause pain. It is observable, that, still as we recede from the light, nature has so contrived it that the pupil is enlarged by the retiring of the iris in proportion to our recess. Now, instead of declining from it but a little, suppose that we withdraw entirely from the