תמונות בעמוד

These waters must be troubled before they can exert their virtues. A man who works beyond the surface of things, though he may be wrong himself, yet he clears the way for others, and may chance to make even his errors subservient to the cause of truth. In the following parts I shall inquire what! things they are that cause in us the affections of the sublime and beautiful, as in this. I have considered: the affections themselves. I only desire one favour, that no part of this discourse be judged of by itself, and independently of the rest : for I am sensible I have not disposed my materials to abide the test of a captious controversy, but of a sober and even forgiving examination; that they are not armed at all points for battle, but dressed to visit those who are willing to give a peaceful entrance to truth.


THE SUBLIME. THE passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor, by consequence, reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that, far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasonings, and hurries us on by an irresistible force. Astonishment, as I have said, is the effect of the sublime in its highest degree; the inferior effects are admiration, reverence,

and respect. * Part I. sect. 3, 4, 7.

SECT. II.-TERROR. No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear;* for fear being an apprehension of pain or death, it operates in a manner that resembles actual pain. Whatever therefore is terrible, with regard to sight, is sublime too, whether this cause of terror be endued with greatness of dimensions or not; for it is impossible to look on any thing as trifling or contemptible that may be dangerous. Tbere are many animals who, though far from being large, are yet capable of raising ideas of the sublime, because they are considered as objects of terror; as serpents and poisonous animals of almost all kinds. And to things of great dimensions, if we annex an adventitious idea of terror, they become without comparison greater. A level plain of a vast extenton land is certainly no mean idea; the prospect of such a plain may be as extensive as a prospect of the ocean : but can it ever fill the mind with any thing so great as the ocean itself? This is owing to see veral causes; but it is owing to none more than this, that this ocean is an object of no small terror. Indeed terror is, in all cases whatsoever, either more openly or latently the ruling principle of the sublime. Several languages bear a strong testimony to the affinity of these ideas. They frequently use the same word to signify indifferently the modes of astonishment or admiration, and those of terror. Daußos is, in Greek, either fear or wonder: decvog is terrible or respectable; aidew, to reverence or to fear. Vereor in Latin is what aidew is in Greek. The Romans used the verb stupeo, a term which strongly marks the state of an astonished mind, to express the effect either of simple fear or of astonishment: the word attonitus (thunderstruck) is equally expressive of the al. liance of these ideas; and do not the French étonnement, and the English astonishment and amaze. ment, point out as clearly the kindred emotions which attend fear and wonder? They who have a ·more general knowledge of languages could produce, I make no doubt, many other and equally striking examples.

* Part IV. sect. 3, 4, 5, 6.


To make any thing very terrible, obscurity* seems in general to be necessary. When we know the full extent of any danger, when we can accustom our eyes to it, a great deal of the apprebension va. nishes. Every one will be sensible of this, who considers how greatly night adds to our dread in all cases of danger, and how much the notions of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas, affect minds which give credit to the popular tales concerning such sorts of beings. Those despotic governments which are founded on the passions of men, and principally upon the passion of fear, keep their chief as much as may be from the public eye. The policy has been the same in many cases of religion. Almost all the heathen temples were dark. Even in the bararous temples of the Americans at this day they keep their idol in a dark part of the hut which is consecrated to his worship. For this purpose too the Druids performed all their ceremonies in the bosom of the darkest woods, and in the shade of the oldest and most spreading oaks. No person seems better to

# Part IV. sect. 14, 15, 16.

have understood the secret of heightening, or of setting terrible things, if I may use the expresion, in the strongest light, by the force of a judicious ob- scurity, than Milton. His description of death, in the second book, is admirably studied : it is astonishing with what a gloomy pomp, with what a significant and expressive uncertainty of strokes and .colouring, he has finished the portrait of the king of terrors:

The other shape,
If shape it might be call'd, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be call'd, thai shadow seem'd,
For each seem'd either; black he stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And shook a deadly dart: what seem'd his head

The likeness of a kingly crown had on. In this description all is dark, uncertain, confused, terrible, and sublime to the last degree.



TO THE PASSIONS. It is one thing to make an idea clear, and another to make it affecting to the imagination. If I make a drawing of a palace, or a temple, or a landscape, I present a very clear idea of those objects: but then (allowing for the effect of imitation, which is something) my picture can at most affect only as the pałace, temple, or landscape, would have affected in the reality. On the other hand, the most lively and spirited verbal description I can give, raises a very obscure and imperfect idea of such objects; but then it is in my power to raise a stronger emotion by the description, than I could do by the best painting. This experience constantly evinces. The proper manner of conveying the affections of the mind from one to another is by words: there is a great insufficiency in all other methods of communication; and so far is a clearness of imagery from being absolutely necessary to an influence upon the passions, that they may be considerably operated upon, without presenting any image at all, by certain sounds adapted to that purpose; of which we have a sufficient proof in the acknowledged and powerful effects of instrumental music. In reality, a great clearness helps but little towards affecting the passions, as it is in some sort an enemy to all enthusiasms whatsoever.

SECT. V.-THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED. There are two verses in Horace's Art of Poetry that seem to contradict this opinion, for which reason I shall take a little more pains in clearing it up. The verses are:

Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,

Quam quæ suut oculis subjecta fidelibus. On this the Abbé du Bos founds a criticism, wherein he gives painting the preference to poetry, in the article of moving the passions; principally on ac. count of the greater clearness of the ideas it represents. I believe this excellent judge was led into this mistake (if it be a mistake) by his system, to which he found it more conformable than I imagine it will be found by experience. I know several who admire and love painting, and yet who regard the objects of their admiration in that art with coolness enough, in comparison of that warmth with which they are animated by affecting pieces of poetry or rhetoric. Among the common 'sort of people, I never could perceive that painting had much influence on their passions. It is true that the

« הקודםהמשך »