Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

to behold without terrour and amazement, this | Deity, will easily perceive, that it is not the first, immense and glorious fabrick of the universe : the most natural and the most striking, effect which

proceeds from that idea. Thus we have traced Hunc solem, et stellas, et decedentia certis Tempora momentis, sunt qui formidine nulla

power through its several gradations unto the Imbuti spectant.

highest of all, where our imagination is finally

lost; and we find terrour, quite throughout the Lucretius is a poet not to be suspected of giving progress, its inseparable companion, and growing way to superstitious terrours ; yet when he sup- along with it, as far as we can possibly trace them. poses the whole mechanism of nature laid open hy Now as power is undoubtedly a capital source of the master of his philosophy, his transport on this the sublime, this will point out evidently from magnificent view, which he has represented in the whence its energy is derived, and to what class of colours of such bold and lively poetry, is overcast | ideas we ought to unite it. with a shade of secret dread and horrour:

SECT. VI.- PRIVATION.
His tibi me rebus quædum divina voluptas
Percipit, atque horror, quod sic Natura tua vi
Tum munifista patet ex omni parte retecta.

All general privations are great, because they

are all terrible; Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude, and But the Scripture alone can supply ideas answer- Silence. With what a fire of imagination, yet able to the majesty of this subject. In the Scrip with what severity of judgment, has Virgil amassed ture, wherever God is represented as appearing or all these circumstances, where he knows that all speaking, every thing terrible in nature is called the images of a tremendous dignity ought to be up to heighten the awe and solemnity of the di- united, at the mouth of hell! Where, before he vine presence. The Psalms, and the prophetical unlocks the secrets of the great deep, he seems to books, are crowded with instances of this kind. be seized with a religious horrour, and to retire The earth shook, (says the Psalmist,) the heavens astonished at the boldness of his own design: also dropped at the presence of the Lord. And, what is remarkable, the painting preserves the Dii, quibus imperium est animarun, umbræque same character, not only when he is supposed de

silentes!

Et Chaos, et Phlegethon! loca nocte silentia late? scending to take vengeance upon the wicked, but

Sit mihi fas audita loqui! sit numine vestro even when he exerts the like plenitude of power Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas ! in acts of beneficence to mankind. Tremble, Ihant obscuri, sola sub nocte, per umbram, thou earth ! at the presence of the Lord ; at the

Perque domos Ditis vacuas, et inania regna. presence of the God of Jacob ; which turned

Ye subterraneous gods whose awful suay the rock into standing water, the flint into a foun- The gliding ghosts and silent shudes obey ; tain of waters ! It were endless to enumerate all O Chaos hoar! and Phlegethon profound! the passages, both in the sacred and profane

Who:e solenın empire stretches wide around; writers, which establish the general sentiment of

Give me, ye greui, tremendous piwers to tell

Of scenes and wonders in the depth of hell ; mankind, concerning the inseparable union of a Give me your mighty secrets to display sacred and reverential awe, with our ideas of the From those black realms of darkness to the day, divinity. Hence the common maxim, Primus in

Pirt orbe deos fecit timor. This maxim may be, as I

Obscure they went through dreary shades that led believe it is, false with regard to the origin of re- Along the waste dominions of the dead. ligion. The maker of the maxim saw how inse

DEYDLI parable these ideas were, without considering that the notion of some great power must be

SECT. VII. -VASTNESS. always precedent to our dread of it. But this dread must necessarily follow the idea of such a GREATNESS* of dimension is a powerful power, when it is once excited in the mind. It of the sublime. This is too evident, and the is on this principle that true religion has, and observation too common, to need any illustration : must have, so large a mixture of salutary fear; it is not so common to consider in what wasi and that false religions have generally nothing greatness of dimension, vastness of extent of else but fear to support them. Before the Chris- quantity, has the most striking effect. For, tian religion had, as it were, humanized the idea tainly, there are ways and modes, wherein the of the Divinity, and brought it somewhat nearer same quantity of extension shall produce greates to us, there was very little said of the love of effects than it is found to do in others. Extension God. The followers of Plato have something is either in length, height, or depth. Of these of it, and only something; the other writers of the length strikes least; an hundred vards of eren pagan antiquity, whether poets or philosophers, ground will never work such an effect as a tout? nothing at all. And they who consider with an hundred yards high, or a rock or mountain of what infinite attention, by what a disregard of that altitude. I am apt to imagine likewise, that every perishable object, through what long habits height is less grand than depth; and that we are of piety and contemplation it is that any man is more struck with looking down from a precipice, able to attain an entire love and devotion to the than looking up at an object of equal heiglıt; but

• Part IV. sect. 9.

cause

cer

[ocr errors]

of that I am not very positive. A perpendicular selves to other things; but they continue in their 1 has more force in forming the sublime, than an old channel until the strength of the first mover

inclined plane; and the effects of a rugged and decays. This is the reason of an appearance very broken surface seem stronger than where it is frequent in madmen; that they remain whole smooth and polished. It would carry us out of days and nights, sometimes whole years, in the

our way to enter in this place into the cause of constant repetition of some remark, some comin these appearances; but certain it is they afford a plaint, or song; which having struck powerfully

large and fruitful field of speculation. However, on their disordered imagination in the beginning

it may not be amiss to add to these remarks upon of their phrensy, every repetition reinforces it with Hii magnitude, that, as the great extreme of dimen- new strength; and the hurry of their spirits, un

sion is sublime, so the last extreme of littleness is restrained by the curb of reason, continues it to the in some measure sublime likewise : when we at- end of their lives. tend to the infinite divisibility of matter, when we pursue animal life into these excessively small, and SECT. IX.--SUCCESSION AND UNIFORMITY. Fet organized beings, that escape the nicest inquisition of the sense; when we push our discoveries Succession and uniformity of parts are what

vet downward, and consider those creatures so constitute the artificial infinite. l. Succession ; in many degrees yet smaller, and the still diminishing which is requisite that the parts may be continued

scale of existence, in tracing which the imagina- so long and in such a direction, as by their frequent

tion is lost as well as the sense; we become amazed impulses on the sense to impress the imagination ; and confounded at the wonders of minuteness ; with an idea of their progress beyond their actual

por can we distinguish in its effect this extreme of limits. 2. Uniformity; because if the figures of the littleness from the vast itself. For division must parts should be changed, the imagination at every be infinite as well as addition ; because the idea change finds a check; you are presented at every of a perfect unity can no more be arrived at, than alteration with the termination of one idea, and

that of a complete whole, to which nothing may the beginning of another ; by which means it i be added.

becomes impossible to continue that uninterrupted

progression, which alone can stamp on bounded SECT. VIII. - INFINITY.

objects the character of infinity. I It is in this kind

of artificial infinity, I believe, we ought to look ANOTHER source of the sublime is Infinity : if for the cause why a rotund has such a noble effect. It does not rather belong to the last. Infinity has For in a rotund, whether it be a building or a plana tendency to fill the mind with that sort of de- tation, you can no where fix a boundary; turn lightful horrour, which is the most genuine effect which way you will, the same object still seems to and truest test of the sublime. There are scarce continue, and the imagination has no rest. But any things which can become the objects of our the parts must be uniform, as well as circularly senses, that are really and in their own nature in- disposed, to give this figure its full force; because finite. But the eye not being able to perceive the any difference, whether it be in the disposition, or bounds of many things, they seem to be infinite, in the figure, or even in the colour of the parts, and they produce the same effects as if they were is highly prejudicial to the idea of infinity, which reaily so. We are deceived in the like manner, if every change must check and interrupt, at every the parts of some large object are so continued to alteration commencing a new series. On the same any indefinite number, that the imagination meets principles of succession and uniformity, the grand ng check which may hinder its extending them appearance of the antient heathen temples, which at pleasure.

were generally oblong forms, with a range of uniWhenever we repeat any idea frequently, the form pillars on every side, will be easily accounted trind, by a sort of mechanism, repeats it long after for. From the same cause also may be derived the the first cause has ceased to operate.* After whirl- grand effect of the ailes in many of our own old caing about, when we sit down, the objects about thedrals. The form of a cross used in some churches is still seem to whirl. After a long succession of seems to me not so eligible as the parallelogram of Dolses, as the fall of waters, or the beating of forge- the antients; at least, I imagine it is not so proper hammers, the hammers beat and the water roars for the outside. For, supposing the arms of the in the imagination long after the first sounds have cross every way equal, if you stand in a direction ceased to affect it; and they die away at last by parallel to any of the side walls, or colonnades, adations which are scarcely perceptible. If you instead of a deception that makes the building huld up a straight pole, with your eye to one end, more extended than it is, you are cut off from a it will seem extended to a length almost incredi- considerable part (two thirds) of its actual length; Wet Place a number of uniform and equi-dis- and to prevent all possibility of progression, the tant marks on this pole, they will cause the same arms of the cross taking a new direction, make a 1:ception, and seem multiplied without end. right angle with the beam, and thereby wholly The senses, strongly affected in some one manner, turn the imagination from the repetition of the cannot quickly change their tenour, or adapt them former idea. Or suppose the spectator placed • Part IV. sect. 12.

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

† Part IV. sect. 14.

cause.

sense.

SECT. XIII.-MAGNIFICENCE.

where he may take a direct view of such a build- | the full-grown; because the imagination is entering, what will be the consequence ? the necessary tained with the promise of something more, and consequence will be, that a good part of the basis does not acquiesce in the present object of the of each angle formed by the intersection of the In unfinished sketches of drawing, I have arms of the cross, must be inevitably lost; the often seen something which pleased me bevond whole must of course assume a broken unconnect- the best finishing; and this I believe proceeds from ed figure; the lights must be unequal, here strong, the cause I have just now assigned. and there weak; without that noble gradation, which the perspective always effects on parts dis

SECT. XII.- DIFFICULTY. posed uninterruptedly in a right line. Some or all of these objections will lie against every figure * Another source of greatness is Difficulty. of a cross, in whatever view you take it. I exem- When

any work seems to have required immense plified them in the Greek cross, in which these force and labour to effect it, the idea is grand. faults

appear the most strongly; but they appear Stonehenge, neither for disposition nor ornament, in some degree in all sorts of crosses. Indeed has any thing admirable; but those huge rude there is nothing more prejudicial to the grandeur masses of stone, set on end, and piled each on of buildings, than to abound in angles; a fault other, turn the mind on the immense force necesobvious in many; and owing to an inordinate sary for such a work. Nay, the rudeness of the thirst for variety, which, whenever it prevails, is work increases this cause of grandeur, as it exsure to leave very little true taste.

cludes the idea of art and contrivance; for des.

terity produces another sort of effect, which is SECT. X.-MAGNITUDE IN BUILDING.

different enough from this. To the sublime in building, greatness of dimension seems requisite; for on a few parts, and those small, the imagination cannot rise to any idea of Magnificence is likewise a source of the subinfinity. No greatness in the manner can effec-lime. A great profusion of things, which are tually compensate for the want of proper dimen- splendid or valuable in themselves, is magnificent

. sions. There is no danger of drawing men into The starry heaven, though it occurs so very freextravagant designs by this rule; it carries its own quently to our view, never fails to excite an idea caution along with it. Because too great a length of grandeur. This cannot be owing to the stars in buildings destroys the purpose of greatness, themselves, separately considered. The number which it was intended to promote; the perspective is certainly the cause. The apparent disorder will lessen it in height as it gains in length; and augments the grandeur, for the appearance of care will bring it at last to a point ; turning the whole is highly contrary to our ideas of magnificence. figure into a sort of triangle, the poorest in its Besides, the stars lie in such apparent confusion, a3 effect of almost any figure that can be presented makes it impossible on ordinary occasions to reckon

I have ever observed, that colon- them. This gives them the advantage of a sort of nades and avenues of trees of a moderate length, infinity. In works of art, this kind of grandeur, were, without comparison, far grander, than when which consists in multitude, is to be very cauthey were suffered to run to immense distances. tiously admitted ; because a profusion of excellent A true artist should put a generous deceit on the things is not to be attained, or with too much spectators, and effect the noblest designs by easy difficulty; and because in many cases this splendid methods. Designs that are vast only by their confusion would destroy all use, which should be dimensions, are always the sign of a common and attended to in most of the works of art with the low imagination. No work of art can be great, greatest care; besides, it is to be considered, that but as it deceives; to be otherwise is the prero- unless you can produce an appearance of infinity gative of nature only. A good eye will fix the by your disorder, you will have disorder only medium betwixt an excessive length or height, without magnificence. There are, however, a sot (for the same objection lies against both,) and a of fireworks, and some other things, that in this short or broken quantity: and perhaps it might way succeed well, and are truly grand. There are be ascertained to a tolerable degree of exactness, also many descriptions in the poets and orators, if it was my purpose to descend far into the par- which owe their sublimity to a richness and proticulars of any art.

fusion of images, in which the mind is so dazzled

as to make it impossible to attend to that exact SECT. XI.-INFINITY IN PLEASING OBJECTS.

coherence and agreement of the allusions, which

we should require on every other occasion. I do INFINITY, though of another kind, causes not now remember a more striking example of much of our pleasure in agreeable, as well as of this, than the description which is given of the our delight in sublime, images. The spring is the king's army in the play of Henry the Fourth: pleasantest of the seasons; and the young of most animals, though far from being completely

All furnish'd, all in arms,

All plum'd like ostriches that with the wind fashioned, afford a more agreeable sensation than Bailed like eagles having lutely bathed :

• Part IV. Sect. 4, 5, 6.

to the eye.

a

As full of spirit as the month of May,

that profusion of magnificent images, which the and gorgeous us the sun in Midsummer,

grandeur of his subject provokes him to pour out Wanton us youthful goats, wild as young bulls. sa young Harry with his beaver on

upon every side, he is far from forgetting the obRue from the ground like feather'd Mercury ;

scurity which surrounds the most incomprehensiAnd vaulted with such euse into his seat,

ble of all beings, but ds if an angel dropped from the clouds To turn and wind u fiery Pegasus.

With majesty of darkness round

Circles his throne. In that excellent book, so remarkable for the vivacity of its descriptions, as well as the solidity And what is no less remarkable, our author had and penetration of its sentences, the Wisdom of the secret of preserving this idea, even when he the Son of Sirach, there is a noble panegyrick on seemed to depart the farthest from it, when he the high priest Simon the son of Onias; and it is describes the light and glory which flows from the very fine example of the point before us : divine presence; a light which by its very excess

is converted into a species of darknessHow was he honoured in the midst of the

Dark with excessive light thy skirts appear. people, in his coming out of the sanctuary! He uus as the morning star in the midst of a cloud, Here is an idea not only poetical in an high deand as the moon at the full; as the sun shining gree, but strictly and philosophically just. Exupon the temple of the Most High, and as the treme light, by overcoming the organs of sight, Tuinbow giring light in the bright clouds: and obliterates all objects, so as in its effect exactly to as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, resemble darkness. After looking for some time us lilies by the rivers of waters, and as the at the sun, two black spots, the impression which frankincense tree in summer; us fire and incense it leaves, seem to dance before our eyes. Thus in the censer, and as a vessel of gold set with are two ideas as opposite as can be imagined reprecious stones ; as a fair olive tree budding conciled in the extremes of both; and both in forth fruit, and as a cypress which groweth up spite of their opposite nature brought to concur to the clouds. When he put on the robe of in producing the sublime. And this is not the kononut, and was clothed with the perfection of only instance wherein the opposite extremes opeglory, when he went up to the holy altar, he rate equally in favour of the sublime, which in all mide the garment of holiness honourable. He things abhors mediocrity. himself stood by the hearth of the altar, compassed with his brethren round about ; as

SECT. XV.-LIGHT IN BUILDING. young cedar in Libanus, and as palm trees compassed they him about. So were all the sons As the management of light is a matter of of Aaron in their glory, and the oblations of the importance in architecture, it is worth enquiring, Lord in their hands, 8c.

how far this remark is applicable to building. I

think then, that all edifices calculated to produce SECT. XIV.-LIGHT,

an idea of the sublime, ought rather to be dark

and gloomy, and this for two reasons; the first Having considered extension, so far as it is is, that darkness itself on other occasions is known capable of raising ideas of greatness; colour comes by experience to have a greater effect on the pas1- xt under consideration. All colours depend on sions than light. The second is, that to make an Sight. Light therefore ought previously to be ex-object very striking, we should make it as differained; and with it its opposite, darkness. With ent as possible from the objects with which we Erard to light, to make it a cause capable of pro- have been immediately conversant; when thereducing the sublime, it must be attended with some fore you enter a building, you cannot pass into a recumstances, besides its bare faculty of shewing greater light than you had in the open air; to go tiver objects. Mere light is too common a thing into one some few degrees less luminous, can make !! make a strong impression on the mind, and only a trifling change; but to make the transition without a strong impression nothing can be sub- thoroughly striking, you ought to pass from the

But such a light as that of the sun, imme- greatest light, to as much darkness as is consistent crately exerted on the eye, as it overpowers the with the uses of architecture. At night the consense, is a very great idea. Light of an inferiour trary rule will hold, but for the very same reason ; strength to this, if it moves with great celerity, and the more highly a room is then illuminated, is the same power; for lightning is certainly pro- the grander will the passion be. Cuctive of grandeur, which owes chiefly to the Estreme velocity of its motion. A quick transi- SECT. XVI.-- COLOUR CONSIDERED AS PRODUCTIVE tion from light to darkness, or from darkness to right, has yet a greater effect. But darkness is urire productive of sublime ideas than light. Our Among colours, such as are soft or cheerful eat poet was convinced of this; and indeed so (except perhaps a strong red, which is cheerful) {sil was he of this idea, so entirely possessed with are unfit to produce grand images. An immense 1% power of a well-managed darkness, that in mountain covered with a shining green turf, is Cuenibing the appearance of the Deity, amidst nothing, in this respect, to one dark and gloomy;

'irce.

OF THE SUBLIME.

SECT. XIX.-INTERMITTING.

SECT. XVII.-SOUND AND LOUDNESS.

the cloudy sky is more grand than the blue; and prevents the attention from being too much dissinight more sublime and solemn than day. There- pated. The same may be said of a single stroke on fore in historical painting, a gay or gaudy drapery a drum, repeated with pauses; and of the succescan never have a happy effect : and in buildings, sive firing of cannon at a distance. All the effects when the highest degree of the sublime is in- mentioned in this section have causes very nearly tended, the materials and ornaments ought neither alike. to be white, nor green, nor yellow, nor blue, nor of a pale red, nor violet, nor spotted, but of sad and fuscous colours, as black, or brown, or deep purple, and the like. Much of gilding, mosaicks, A Low, tremulous, intermitting sound, though painting, or statues, contribute but little to the it seems in some respects opposite to that just mensublime. This rule need not be put in practice, tioned, is productive of the sublime. It is worth except where an uniform degree of the most strik- while to examine this a little. The fact itself ing sublimity is to be produced, and that in every must be determined by every man's own expeparticular; for it ought to be observed, that this rience and reflection. I have already observed, melancholy kind of greatness, though it be cer- that * night increases our terrour, more perhaps tainly the highest, ought not to be studied in all than any thing else ; it is our nature, when we do sorts of edifices, where yet grandeur must be not know what may happen to us, to fear the studied : in such cases the sublimity must be drawn worst that can happen; and hence it is, that unfrom the other sources ; with a strict caution certainty is so terrible, that we often seek to be rid however against any thing light and riant; as of it, at the hazard of a certain mischief. Now, nothing so effectually deadens the whole taste of some low, confused, uncertain sounds, leave us in the sublime.

the same fearful anxiety concerning their causes, that no light, or an uncertain light, does concer

ing the objects that surround us. The

eye is not the only organ of sensation by Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna which a sublime passion may be produced. Sounds

Est iter in sylvis.-have a great power in these as in most other pas

A faint shadow of uncertain light, sions. I do not mean words, because words do Like as a lamp, whose life doth fade away; not affect simply by their sounds, but by means

Or as the moon clothed with cloudy night altogether different. Excessive loudness alone is

Doth shew to him who walks in fear and grent offright.

SPEXSER. sufficient to overpower the soul, to suspend its action, and to fill it with terrour. The noise of vast But light now appearing and now leaving us, cataracts, raging storms, thunder, or artillery, and so off and on, is even more terrible than total awake a great and awful sensation in the mind, darkness: and a sort of uncertain sounds are. though we can observe no nicety or artifice in when the necessary dispositions concur, those sorts of musick. The shouting of multitudes alarming than a total sile has a similar effect; and, by the sole strength of the sound, so amazes and confounds the imagination, that, in this staggering and hurry of the mind, the best established tempers can scarcely Such sounds as imitate the natural inarticuforbear being borne down, and joining in the late voices of men, or any animals in pain or dan! common cry, and common resolution of the ger, are capable of conveying great ideas ; unless crowd.

it be the well-known voice of some creature, om which we are used to look with contempt. The angry tones of wild beașts are equally capable of

causing a great and awful sensation. A SUDDEN beginning or sudden cessation of sound of any considerable force, has the same Hinc eraudiri gemitus, iraque leonum power. The attention is roused by this; and the Vincla recusantuin, et sera sub nocte rulentum ; faculties driven forward, as it were, on their

Srligerique sues, atque in pra sepibus ursi

Savire; et forma magnorum ululare luporum. guard. Whatever, either in sights or sounds, makes the transition from one extreme to the other easy, It might seem that these modulations of sound causes no terrour, and consequently can be no cause carry some connexion with the nature of the of greatness. In every thing sudden and unex- things they represent, and are not merely arhipected, we are apt to start; that is, we have a per- trary; because the natural cries of all animals

, ception of danger, and our nature rouses us to even of those animals with whom we have on guard against it. It may be observed that a single been acquainted, never fail to make themselves sound of some strength, though but of short sufficiently understood; this cannot be said of duration, if repeated after intervals, has a grand language. The modifications of sound, which effect. Few things are more awful than the strik- may be productive of the sublime, are almost ining of a great clock, when the silence of the night finite. Those I have mentioned are only a few

• Sect. 3.

more

SECT. XX.THE CRIES OF ANIMALS.

SECT. XVIII.-SUDDENNESS.

1

« ZurückWeiter »