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best sorts of painting, as well as the best sorts of poetry, are not much understood in that spbere : but it is most certain that their passions are very strongly roused by a fanatic preacher, or by the ballads of Chevy-chase or the Children in the Wood, and by other little popular poems and tales that are current in that rank of life. I do not know of any paintings, bad or good, that produce the same effect: so that poetry, with all its obscurity, has a more general, as well as a more powerful dominion over the sions than the other art. And I think there are reasons in nature why the obscure idea, when properly conveyed, should be more affecting than the clear. It is our ignorance of things that causes all our admiration, and chiefly excites our passions. Knowledge and acquaintance makes the most striking causes affect but little. It is thus with the vulgar; and all men are as the vulgar in what they do not understand. The ideas of eternity and infinity are among the most affecting we have; and perhaps there is nothing of which we understand so little as of infinity and eternity. We do not any where meet a more sublime description than this justly celebrated one of Milton, wherein he gives the portrait of Satan with a dignity so suitable to the subject.
. He above rest
Perplexes monarchs. Here is a very noble picture; and in what does this poetical picture consist? in images of a tower, an
archangel, the sun rising through mists, or in an eclipse, the ruin of monarchs, and the revolutions of kingdoms. The mind is hurried out of itself by a crowd of great and confused images, which affect because they are crowded and confused : for, separate them, and you lose much of the greatness: and join them, and you infallibly lose the clear. ness. The images raised by poetry are always of this obscure kind; though in general the effects of poetry are by no means to be attributed to the images it raises : - which point we shall examine more at large hereafter. But painting, when we have allowed for the pleasure of imitation, can only affect simply by the images it presents; and even in painting, a jadicious obscurity in some things contributes to the effect of the picture; because the images in painting are exactly similar to those in nature : and in nature, dark, confused, uncertain images have a greater power on the fancy to form the grander passions, than those have which are more clear and determinate. But where and when this observation may be applied to practice, and how far it shall be extended, will be better deduced from the nature of the subject, and from the occasion, than from any rules that can be given.
I am sensible that this idea has met with opposition, and is likely still to be rejected by several. But let it be considered, that hardly any thing can strike the mind with its greatness which does not make some sort of approach towards infinity; which nothing can do whilst we are able to perceive its bounds : but to see an object distinctly, and to perceive its bounds, is one and the same thing. A clear idea is therefore another name for a little idea. There is a passage in the book of Job amaz
* Part V.
ingly sublime, and this sublimity is principally due to the terribleuncertainty of the thing described. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, fear came upon me and trembling, which made all any bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face. 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, Shall mortal man be more just than God! We are first prepared with the utmost solemnity for the vision : we are first terrified before we are let even into the obscure cause of our emotion: but when the grand cause of terror makes its appearance, what is it? is it not wrapt up in the shades of its own incomprehensible darkness, more awful, more striking, more terrible than the liveliest description, than the clearest painting, could possibly represent it! When painters have attempted to give us clear representations of these very fanciful and terrible ideas, they have, I think, almost always failed; insomuch that I have been at a loss, in all the pictures I have seen of hell, whether the painter did not intend something ludicrous. Several painters have handled a subject of this kind with a view of assembling as many horrid phantoms as their imaginations could suggest; but all the designs I have chanced to meet of the temptations of St. Anthony were rather a sort of odd wild grotesques than any thing capable of producing a serious passion. . In all these subjects poetry is very happy. In apparitions its chimeras, iis harpies, its allegorical figures are grand and affecting; and though Virgil's Fame and Homer's Discord are obscure, they are magnificent figures. These figures in painting would be clearenough, but I fear they might become ridiculous.
SECT. VI.-POWER. Besides these things which directly suggesi the idea of danger, and those which produce a similar effect from a mechanical cause, I know of nothing sublime which is not some modification of power. And this branch rises, as naturally as the other two branches, from terror, the common stock of every thing that is sublime. The idea of power, at first view, seems of the class of these indifferent ones which may equally belong to pain or to pleasure. But, in reality, the affection arising from the idea of vast power is extremely remote from that neutral character. For first, we must remember, that the idea of pain, in its highest degree, is much stronger than the highest degree of pleasure; and that it preserves the same superiority through all the subordinate gradations. From hence it is that, where the chances for equal degrees of suffering or enjoy. ment are in any sort equal, the idea of the suffering must always be prevalent. And indeed the ideas of pain, and, above all, of death, are so very affecting, that whilst we remain in the presence of whatever is supposed to have the power of inflicting either, it is impossible to be perfectly free from terror. Again, we know by experience that, for the enjoyment of pleasure, no great efforts of power are at all neces. sary; nay, we know that such efforts would go a great way towards destroying our satisfaction ; for pleasure must be stolen, and not forced upon us; pleasure follows the will; and therefore we are generally affected with it by many things of a force greatly inferior to our own. But pain is always inflicted by a power in some way superior,
# Part I, sect 7.
because we never submit to pain willingly. So that strength, violence, pain, and terror, are ideas that rush in upon the mind together. Look at a man, or any other animal of prodigious strength, and what is your idea before reflection? Is it that this strength will be subservient to you, to your ease, to your pleasure, to your interest in any sense? No: the emotion you feel is, lest the enormous strength should be employed to the purposes of * rapine and destruction. That power derives all its sublimity from the terror with which it is generally accompanied will appear evidently from its effect in the very few cases in which it may be possible to strip a considerable degree of strength of its ability to hurt. When you do this, you spoil it of every thing sublime, and it immediately becomes contemptible. Anox is a creature of vast strength: but he is an innocent creature, extremely serviceable, and not at all dangerous ; for which reason the idea of an ox is by no means grand. A bull is strong too; but his strength is of another kind; often very destructive, seldom (at least amongst us) of any use in our business: the idea of a bull is therefore great, and it has frequently a place in sublime descriptions and elevating comparisons. Let us look at another strong animal in the two distinct lights in which we may consider him. The horse, in the light of a useful beast, fit for the plough, the road, the draught, in every social useful light the horse has nothing of the sublime : but is it thus that we are affected with him, whose neck is clothed with thunder, the glory of whose nostrils is terrible, who swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage, neither believeth that it is the sound of the trumpet ? In this description the useful character of the horse
* Vide Part III. sect. 21.