Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

a

contribute to grandeur as well as to beauty ; but with a remarkable difference, that in passing from small to great, they are not required in the same degree of perfection. This remark serves to explain the extreme delight we have in viewing the face of nature, when sufficiently enriched and diversified with objects. The bulk of the objects in a natural landscape are beautiful, and some of them grand : a flowing river, a spreading oak, a round hill, an extended plain, are delightful ; and even a rugged rock or barren heath, though in themselves disagreeable, contribute by contrast to the beauty of the whole : joining to these the verdure of the fields, the mixture of light and shade, and the sublime canopy spread over all, it will not appear wonderful, that so extensive a group of splendid objects should swell the heart to its utmost bounds, and raise the strongest emotion of grandeur. The spectator is conscious of an enthusiasm which cannot bear confinement nor the strictness of regularity and order : he loves to range at large : and is so enchanted with magnificent objects, as to overlook slight beauties or deformities.

The same observation is applicable in some measure to works of art : in a small building, the slightest irregularity is disagreeable ; but in a magnificent palace, or a large Gothic church, irregularities are less regarded ; in an epic poem we pardon many negligences that would not be permitted in a sonnet or epigram. Notwithstanding such exceptions, it may be justly laid down for a rule, That in works of art, order and regularity ought to be governing principles ; and hence the observation of Longinus, *

* " In works of art we have regard to exact proportion ; in those of nature, to grandeur and magnificence."

The same reflections are in a good measure applicable to sublinity; particularly, that, like grandeur, it is a species of agreeableness ; that a beautiful object placed high, appearing more agreeable than

a formerly, produces in the spectator a new emotion, termed the emotion of sublimity; and that the perfection of order, regularity, and proportion, is less required in objects placed high, or at a distance, than at hand.

The pleasant emotion raised by large objects, has not escaped the poets :

-He doch bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs. Julius Cæsar, act 1. sc. 3.

Cleopatra. I dreamt there was an Emp'ror Antony ;
Oh such another sleep, that I might see
But such another man !
His face was as the beavens: and therein stuck
A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted
The little 0 o'th' earth.
His legs bestrid the ocean, his rear'd arm
Crested the world. - Antony and Cleopatra, act 5. sc. 3.

-Majesty
Dies not alone, but, like a gulph, doth draw
What's near it with it. 'Tis a massy wheel

Chap. 30.

[ocr errors]

Fix'd on the summit of the bighest mount ;
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis'd and adjoin'd; which when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,

Attends the boist'rous ruin. Hamlet, act 3. sc. 8. The poets have also made good use of the emotion produced by the elevated situation of an object.

Quod si me lyricis vatibus inseres,
Sublimi feriam sidera vertice. —Horat. Carm, l. 1. ode 1.
O thou! the early author of my blood,
Whose youtbful spirit, in me regenerate,
Doth with a twofold vigour lift me up,
To reach at victory above my head. Richard II. act 1. sc. 4.
Northumberland, thou ladder wherewithal
The mounting Bolingbroke ascends my throne.— Rich. II. act 5. sc. 2.

Anthony. Why was I rais'd the meteor of the world,
Hung in the skies, and blazing as I travellid,
Till all my fires were spent; and then cast downward

To be trod out by Cæsar ? -Dryden, Au for love, act 1. The description of Paradise in the fourth book of Paradise Lost, is a fine illustration of the impression made by elevated objects ;

So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her inclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champaign head
Of a steep wilderness; whose hairy sides
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
Access deny’d; and over head up grew
Iosuperable beight of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,
A sylvan scene: and as the ranks ascend,
Shade above shade, a woody theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops
The verd'rous wall of Paradise up sprung;
Which to our general sire gave prospect large
Into bis nether empire neighb'ring round.
And higher than that wall a circling row
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,

Appear’d, with gay enameli'd colours mix'd.-B. 4. 1. 131. Though a grand object is agreeable, we must not infer that a little object is disagreeable; which would be unhappy for man, considering that he is surrounded with so many objects of that kind. The same holds with respect to place: a boly placed high is agreeable ; but the same body placed low, is not by that circumstance rendered disagreeable. Littleness and lowness of place are precisely similar in the following particular, that they neither give pleasure nor pain. And in this may visibly ve discovered peculiar attention in fitting the internal constitution of man to his external circumstances : were littleness and lowness of place agreeable, greatness and elevation could not be so; were littleness and lowness of place disagreeable, they would occasion perpetual uneasiness.

T'he difference between great and little with respect to agreeableness, is remarkably felt in a series, when we pass gradually from the one extreme to the other. A mental progress from the capital to the kingdom, from that to Europe-to the whole earth—10 the planetary system-to the universe, is extremely pleasant: the heart swells, and the mind is dilated, at every step.

The returning in an opposite direction is not positively painful, though our pleasure lessens at every step, till it vanish into indifference; such a progress may sometimes produce pleasure of a different sort, which arises from taking a narrower and narrower inspection. The same observation holds in a progress upward and downward. Ascent is pleasant because it elevates us : but descent is never painful; it is for the most part pleasant from a different cause, that it is according to the order of nature. The fall of a stone from any height is extremely agreeable by its accelerated motion. I feel it pleasant to descend from a mountain, because the descent is natural and easy. Neither is looking downward painful ; on the contrary, to look down upon objects makes part of the pleasure of elevation : looking down becomes then only painful when the object is so far below as to create dizziness; and even when that is the case, we feel a sort of pleasure mixed with the pain, witness Shakspeare's description of Dover cliffs :

How learful
And dizzy 'tis, to cast one's eye so low!
The crows and cboughs, that wing the midway.air,
Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half-way down
Hangs one that gathers kamphire; dreadful trade !
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach,
Appear like mice; and yon tall anchoring bark
Dininish'd to her cock ; ber cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
That on th’unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight

Topple down headlong.--King Lear, act 4. sc. 6. A remark is made above, that the emotions of grandeur and sublimity are nearly allied. And hence it is, that the one term is frequently put for the other : an increasing series of numbers, for example, producing an emotion similar to that of mounting upward, is commonly termed an ascending series : a series of numbers gradually decreasing, producing an emotion similar to that of going downward, is commonly termed a descending series : we talk familiarly of going up to the capital, and of going down to the country: from a lesser kingdom we talk of going up to a greater; whence the anabasis in the Greek language, when one travels from Greece to Persia. We discover the same way of speaking in the language even of Japan ;* and it universally proves it the offspring of a natural feeling.

The foregoing observation leads us to consider grandeur and sublimity in a figurative sense, and as applicable to the fine arts. Hitherto these terms have been taken in their proper sense, as applicable to objects of sight only: and it was of importance to bestow some pains upon that article; because, generally speaking, the

Kempfer's History of Japan, b. y. ch. 2.

:

а

*

.

[ocr errors]

figurative sense of a word is derived from its proper sense, which holds remarkably at present. Beauty in its original signification is confined to objects of sight; but as many other objects, intellectual as well as moral, raise emotions resembling that of beauty, the resemblance of the effects prompts us to extend the term beauty to these objects. This equally accounts for the terms deur and sublimity taken in a figurative sense. Every emotion, from whatever cause proceeding, that resembles an emotion of grandeur or elevation, is called by the same name: thus generosity is said to be an elevated emotion, as well as great courage ; and that firmness of soul which is superior to misfortunes, obtains the peculiar name of magnanimity. On the other hand, every motion that contracts the mind, and fixeth it upon things trivial or of no importance, is termed low, by its resemblance to an emotion produced by a little or low object of sight; thus an appetite for trifling amusements is called a loro taste. The same terms are applied to characters and actions : we talk familiarly of an elevated genius, of a great man, and equally so of littleness of mind : some actions are great and elevated, and others are little and grovelling. Sentiments, and even expressions, are characterized in the same manner : an expression or sentiment that raises the mind is denominated great or elevated ; and hence the SUBLIME* in poetry. In such figurative terms, we lose the distinction between great and elevated in their proper sense ; for the resemblance is not so entire as to preserve these terms distinct in their figurative application. We carry this figure still farther. Elevation, in its proper sense, imports superiority of place; and lowness, inferiority of place : and hence a man of superior talents, of superior rank, of inferior parts, of inferior taste, and such like. The veneration we have for our ancestors, and for the ancients in general, being similar to the emotion produced by an elevated object of sight, justifies the figurative expression, of the ancients being raised above us, or possessing a superior place. And we may remark in passing, that as words are intimately connected with ideas, many, by this form of expression, are led to conceive their ancestors as really above them in place, and their posterity below them :

A grandam's name is little less in love,
Than is the doting title of a mother:

They are as children but one step below.- Richard III. act 4. sc. 5. The notes of the gamut, proceeding regularly from the blunter or grosser sounds to the more acute and piercing, produce in the

Longinus gives a description of the sublime that is not amiss, though far from being just in every circumstance, " That the mind is elevated by it, and so sensibly affected, as to swell in transport and inward pride, as if what is only heard or read, were its own invention." But he adheres not to this description; in bis 6th chapter, he justly observes, that many passions have nothing of the grand, such as grief, fear, pity, which depress the mind instead of raising it; and yet in chap. 8. he mentions Sappbo's ode upon love as sublime: beautiful it is undoubtediy, but it cannot be sublime, because it really depresses the mind instead of raising it. His translator Boileaux is not more successful in his instances: in his 10th reflection, be cites a passage from Demosthenes and another from Herodotus as sublime, which have not the least tincture of that quality.

hearer a feeling somewhat similar to what is produced by mounting upward ; and this gives occasion to the figurative expressions, a high note, a low note.

Such is the resemblance in feeling between real and figurative grandeur, that among the nations on the east coast of Africa, who are directed purely by nature, the officers of state are, with respect to rank, distinguished by the length of the batoon each carries in his hand : and in Japan, princes and great lords show their rank by the length and size of their sedan-poles.* Again, it is a rule in painting, that figures of a small size are proper for grotesque pieces ; but that an historical subject, grand and important, requires figures as great as the life. The resemblance of these feelings is in reality 80 strong, that elevation, in a figurative sense, is observed to have the same effect, even externally, with real elevation :

K. Henry. This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe when this dry is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian. -Henry V. act 4. sc. 8.

The resemblance in feeling between real and figurative grandeur, is humorously illustrated by Addison in criticising upon English tragedy: “The ordinary method of making a hero, is to clap a huge plume of feathers upon his head, which rises so high, that there is often a greater length from his chin to the top of his head, than to the sole of his foot. One would believe, that we thought a great man and a tall man the same thing. As these superfluous ornaments upon the head make a great man, a princess generally receives her grandeur from those additional incumbrances that fall into her tail : I mean the broad sweeping train, that follows her in all her motions ; and finds constant employment for a boy, who stands behind her to open and to spread it to advantage."| The Scythians, impressed with the fame of Alexander, were astonished when they found him a little man.

A gradual progress from small to great is no less remarkable in figurative, than in real grandeur or elevation. Every one must have observed the delightful effect of a number of thoughts or sentiments, artfully disposed like an ascending series, and making impressions deeper and deeper : such disposition of members in a period is termed a climar.

Within certain limits, grandeur and sublimity produce their strong. est effects, which lessen by excess as well as by defect. This is remarkable in grandeur and sublimity taken in their proper sense : the grandest emotion that can be raised by a visible object, is where the object can be taken in at one view; if so immense as not to be comprehended but in parts, it tends rather to distract than satisfy the mind : I in like manner, the strongest emotion produced by ele

* Kempfer's History of Japan. † Spectator, No. 42. 1 It is justly observed by Addison, that perhaps a man would have been more astonished with the majestic air that appeared in one of Lysippus's statues of Alex. ander, though no bigger tban the life, than he might have been with Mount Athos, had it been cut into the figure of the hero, according to the proposal of Phidias, with a river in one hand, and a city in the other.- Speclator, No. 416.

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »