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either presented to the eye, or exhibited to the imagination in description.
All ideas of the solemn and awful kind, and even bordering on the terrible, tend greatly to assist the sublime ; such as darkness, solitude, and silence. The firmament, when filled with stars, scattered in infinite pumbers and with splendid profusion, strikes the imagination with more awful grandeur, than when we behold it enlightened by all the splendour of the sun. The deep sound of a great bell, or the striking of a great clock, is at any time grand and awful; but, when beard amid the silence and stillness of night, they become doubly so. Darkness is very generally applied for adding sublimity to all our ideas of the Deity. • He maketh darkness his pavilion ; he dwelleth in the thick cloud." Thus Milton :
How oft amid Thick clouds and dark does heaven's all-ruling Sire Choose to reside, his glory unobscur’d; And with the majesty of darkness round Circles his throne
Obscurity is favourable to the sublime. The descriptions given us of appearances of supernatural beings, carry some sublimity; though the conception, which they afford us, be confused and indistinct. Their sublimity arises, from the ideas, which they always convey, of superior power and might connected with awful obscurity. No ideas, it is evident, are so sublime, as those derived from the Supreme Being, the most unknown, yet the greatest of all objects; the infinity of whose nature and the eternity of whose duration, added to the omnipotence of his pow
er, though they surpass our conceptions, yet exalt them to the highest.
Disorder is also very compatible with grandeur ; nay, frequently heightens it. Few things, which are exactly regular and methodical, appear sublime. We see the limits on every side ; we feel ourselves confined ; there is no room for any considerable exertion of the mind. Though exact proportion of parts enters often into the beautiful, it is much disregarded in the sublime. A great mass of rocks, thrown together by the hand of nature with wildness apd confusion, strikes the mind with more grandeur, than if they had been adjusted to each other with the most accurate symmetry.
There yet remains one class of sublime ob. jects to be mentioned, which may be termed the moral or sentimental sublime, arising from certain exertions of the mind; from certain affections and actions of our fellow creatures. These will be found to be chiefly of that class which comes under the name of magnanimity or heroism; and they produce an effect very similar to what is produced by a view of grand objects in nature, filling the mind with admiration, and raising it above itself. Wherever in some critical and dangerous situation we behold a man uncommonly intrepid, and resting solely upon himself; superior to passion and to fear; animated by some great principle to contempt of popular opinion, or selfish interest, of dangers, or of death; we are there struck with a sense of the sublime.
Thus Porus, when taken by Alexander, after a gallant defence, being asked, in what manner he would be treated; answered, “Like
a king ;" and Cæsar, chiding the pilot, who was afraid to set out with him in a storm, Quid times ? Cæsarem vehis," are good instances of the sentimental sublime.
The sublime in natural, and in moral objects, is presented to us in one view, and compared together in the following beautiful passage of Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination.
Look then abroad through nature to the range
It has been imagined by an ingenious author, that terror is the source of the sublime, and that no objects have this character, but such as prodace impressions of pain and danger. Many terrible objects are indeed highly sublime ; nor does grandeur refuse alliance with the idea of danger. Bat the sublime does not consist wholly in modes of danger and pain. In many grand objects there is not the least coincidence with terror; as in the magnificent prospect of widely extended plains, and of the starry firmament; or in the moral dispositions and sentiments, which we contemplate with high admiration. In many painful and terrible objects also, it is evident, there is no sort of grandeur. The amputation of a limb, or the bite of a snake, is in the highest degree teçrible; but they are destitute of all claim whatever to sublimity. It seems just to allow that mighty force or power, whether attended by terror or not, whether employed in protecting or alarming us, has a better title, than any thing yet mentioned, to be the fundamental quality of the sublime. There appears to be no sublime object, into the idea of which strength and force either enter not directly, or are not at least intimately associated, by conducting our thoughts to some astonishing power, as concerned in the production of the object.
SUBLIMITY IN WRITING.
THE foundation of the sublime in composition must always be laid in the nature of the object described. Unless it be such an object, as, if presented to our sight, if exhibited to us in reality, would excite ideas of that elevating, that awful, and magnificent kind, which we call sublime ; the description, however finely drawn, is not entitled to be placed under this class.
This excludes all objects, which are merely beautiful, gay, or elegant. Beside, the object must not only in itself be sublime, but it must be placed before us in such a light, as is best calculated to give us a clear and full impression of it; it must be described with strength, conciseness, and simplicity. This depends chiefly upon the lively impression, which the poet or orator has of the object, which he exhibits; and upon his being deeply affected and animated by the sublime idea, which he would convey. If his own feeling be languid, he can never inspire his reader with any strong emotion. Instances, which on this subject, are extremely necessary, will clearly show the importance of all these requisites.
It is chiefly among ancient authors, that we are to look for the most striking instances of the subline. The early ages of the world, and the uncultivated state of society were peculiarly favourable to the emotions of sublimity. The genius of men was then very prone to admiration and astonishment. Meeting continually new and strange objects, their imagination was kept glowing, and their passions were often raised to the utmost. They thought and expressed themselves boldly without restraint. In the progress of society the genius and manners of men have undergone a change more favourable to accuracy, than to strength or sublimity.
Of all writings, ancient or modern, the sacred scriptures afford the most striking instances of the sublime. In them the descriptions of the Supreme Being are wonderfully noble, both frona the grandeur of the object, and the manner of representing it. What an assemblage of awful and sublime ideas is presented to us in that passage of the eighteenth Psalm, where an appearance of the Almighty is described ! “In my distress I called upon the Lord; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the bills were moved; because he was wroth. He bowed the heavens, and came down, and darkness was under his feet; and he did