תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

whether poets or philosophers, nothing at all. And they who consider with what infinite attention, by what a disregard of every perishable object, through what long habits of piety and contemplation it is, any man is able to attain an entire love and devo. tion to the Deity, will easily perceive that it is not the first, the most natural, and the most striking effect which proceeds from that idea. Thus we have traced power through its several gradations' unto the highest of all, where our imagination is finally lost; and we find terror, quite throughout the progress, its inseparable companion, and growing along with it as far as we can possibly trace them. Now, as power is undoubtedly a capital source of the sublime, this will point out evidently from whence its energy is derived, and to what class of ideas are ought to unite it.

SECT. VII.PRIVATION. ALL general privations are great, because they are all terrible ; Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude, and Si. lence. With what a fire of imagination, yet with what severity of judgment has Virgil amassed all these circumstances, where he knows that all the images of a tremendous dignity ought to be united, at the mouth of hell! where, before he unlocks the secrets of the great deep, he seems to be seized with a religious horror, and to retire astonished at the boldness of his own design:

Di quibus imperium, est animarum umbraque silentes!
Et Chaos, et Phlegethon! loca nocte silentia late!
Sit mihi fas audita loqui ! sit numine vestro
Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas!
Ibant obscuri, sola sub nocte per umbram,
Perque domos Ditis vacuas, et inania regna.
Ye subterraneous gods! whose awful sway
The gliding ghosts and silent shades obeyi,
O Chaos, hear! and Phlegethon profound'!
Whiose solemn empire stretches wide around !

Give me, ye great tremendous powers, to tell
Of scenes and wonders in the depth of hell:
Give me your mighty secrets to display
From those black realms of darkness to the day.--Pitt.
Obscure they went through dreary shades that led
Along the waste dominions of the dead.--Dryden.

SECT. VIII.--VASTNESS. GREATNESS* of dimension is a powerful cause of the sublime. This is too evident, and the observą. tion too common to need any illustration : it is not so common to consider in what ways greatness of dimension, vastness of extent, or quantity, has the most striking effect; for certainly there are ways and modes wherein the same quantity of extension shall produce greater effects than it is found to do in others. Extension is either in length, height, or depth. Of these the length strikes least; a hundred yards of even ground will never work such an effect as a tower a hundred yards high, or a rock or mountain of that altitude. I am apt to imagine likewise, that height: is less grand than depth; and that we are more struck at looking down from a pre. cipice, than looking up at an object of equal height: but of that I am not very positive. A perpendicu. lar has more force in forming the sublime than an inclined plane; and the effects of a rugged and broken surface seem stronger than where it is smooth and polished. It would carry us out of our way to enter in this place into the cause of these appearances; but certain it is they afford a large and fruitful field of speculation. However, it may not be amiss to add to these remarks upon magnitude, that as the great extreme of dimension is sublime, so the last extreme of littleness is in some measure sublime likewise; when we attend to the infinite divisibility of matter, when we pursue

# Part IV. sect. 9.

animal life into these excessively small, and yet organized beings, that escape the nicest inquisition of the sense: when we push our discoveries yet downward, and consider those creatures so many degrees yet smaller, and the still diminishing scale of existence, in tracing which the imagination is lost as well as the sense, we become amazed and confounded at the wonders of minuteness; nor can we distinguish in its effect this extreme of littleness. from the vast itself; for division must be infinite, as well as addition, because the idea of a perfect unity can no more be arrived at than that of a complete whole, to which nothing may be added.

SECT. IX.-INFINITY. ANOTHER source of this sublime is Infinity: if it does not rather belong to the last. Infinity has a tendency to fill the mind with that sort of delightful horror which is the most genuine effect and truest test of the sublime. There are scarce any things which can become the objects of our senses, that are really and in their own nature infinite : but the eye not being able to perceive the bounds of many things, they seem to be infinite, and they produce the same effects as if they were really so. We are deceived in the like manner, if the parts of some large object are so continued to any indefinite number, that the imagination meets no check which may hinder its extending them at pleasure.

Whenever we repeat any idea frequently, the mind by a sort of mechanism, repeats it long after the first cause has ceased to operate. After whirl. ing about, when we sit down, the objects about us still seem to whirl. After a long succession of noises, as the fall of waters, or the beating of forge.

# Part IV. sect. 12.

hammers, the hammers beat and the water roars in the imagination long after the first sounds have ceased to affect it; and they die away at last by gradations which are scarcely perceptible. If you hold up a straight pole, with your eye to one end, it will seem extended to a length almost incredible. * Place a number of uniform and equidistant marks on this pole, they will cause the same deception, and seem multiplied without end. The senses, strongly affected in some one manner, cannot quickly change their tenor or adapt themselves to other things; but they continue in their old channel until the strength of the first mover decays. This is the reason of an appearance very frequent in madmen, that they remain whole days and nights, sometimes whole years, in the constant repetition of some remark, some complaint, or song; which having struck powerfully on their disordered imagination in the beginning of their frenzy, every repetition reinforces it with new strength; and the hurry of their spirits, unrestrained by the curb of reason, continues it to the end of their lives.

SECT. X.-SUCCESSION AND UNIFORMITY. SUCCESSION and uniformity of parts are what con. stitute the artificial infinite. 1. Succession; which is requisite that the parts may be continued so long and in such a direction as, by their frequent impulses on the sense, to impress the imagination with an idea of their progress beyond their actual limits. 2. Uniformity; because, if the figures of the parts should be changed, the imagination at every change finds a check; you are presented at every alteration with the termination of one idea and the beginning of another; by which means it becomes impossible to continue that uninterrupted progression which alone can stamp on bounded objects the character ! of infinity. It is in this kind of artificial infinity, I believe, we ought to look for the cause why a rotund has such a noble effect; for in a rotund, whether it be a building or a plantation, you can no where fix a boundary; turn which way you will, the same object still seems to continue, and the imagination has no rest. But the parts must be uniform as well as circularly disposed, to give this figure its full force; because any difference, whether it be in the disposition or in the figure, or even in the colour of the parts, is highly prejudicial to the idea of infinity, which every change must check and interrupt at every alteration commencing a new series. On the same principles of succession and uniformity, the grand appearance of the ancient heathen temples, which were generally oblong forms, with a range of uniform pillars on every side, will be easily accounted for. From the same cause also may be derived the grand effect of our aisles in many of our own old cathedrals. The form of a cross used in some churches seems to me not so eligible as the parallelogram of the ancients; at least, I imagine it is not so proper for the outside; for, supposing the arms of the cross every way equal, if you stand in a direction parallel to any of the side walls or colonnades, instead of a deception that makes the building more extended than it is, you are cut off from a considerable part (two-thirds) of its actual length; and to prevent all possibility of progression, the arms of the cross, taking a new direction, make a right angle with the beam, and

* Part IV. sect. 14

* Mr. Addison, in the Spectators concerning the pleasures of the imagination, thinks it is, because in the rotund at one glance you see half the building. This I do not imagine to be the real

cause.

« הקודםהמשך »