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LECT

IV.

Interdum scopulos, avulfaque viscera montis
Erigit eructans, liquefactaque faxa fub auras
Cum gemitu glomerat, fundoque exæftuat imo*,

Æn. III. 571.

Here, after several magnificent images, the Poet concludes with personifying the mountain under this figure,

" eructans viscera cum gemitu,” belching up its bowels with a groan; which, by likening the mountain to a sick, or drunk person, degrades the majesty of the defcription. It is to no purpose to tell us, that the Poet here alludes to the fable of the giant Enceladus lying under mount Ætna; and that he supposes his motions and tossings to have occafioned the fiery eruptions. He intended the description of a Sublime object; and the natural ideas, raised by a burning mountain, are infinitely more lofty, than the belchings of any giant, how huge foever. The debaling effect of the idea which is here presented,

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• The port capacious, and secure from wind,

Is to the foot of thundering Ætna joined,
By turns a pitchy claud the rolls on high,
By turns hoi embers from her entrails fly,
And Aakes of mounting flames that lick the sky.
Oft from her bowels maffy rocks are thrown,
And shivered by the force, come piece-meal down.
Oft liquid lakes of burning sulphur flow,

Fed from the fiery springs that buil below. Dryden. In this translation of Dryden's, the debafing circumstance to which I object in the original, is, with propriety, omitted.

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iv.

will appear in a stronger light, by seeing what LECT: figure it makes in a poem of Sir Richard Blackmore's, who, through a monstrous perversity of taste, had chosen this for the capital circumstance in his description, and thereby (as Dr. Arbuthnot humorously observes, in his Treatise on the Art of Sinking) had represented the mountain as in a fit of the cholic.

Ætna, and all the burning mountains find
Their kindled stores with inbred storms of wind
Blown up to rage, and roaring out complain,
As torn with inward gripes and torturing pain;
Labouring, they cast their dreadful vomit round,
And with their melted bowels spread the ground,

Such instances fhew how much the Sublime
depends upon a just selection of circumstances;
and with how great care every circumstance
must be avoided, which, by bordering in the
least
upon

the mean, or even upon the gay or the trifling, alters the tone of the emotion.

If it shall now be enquired, What are the proper sources of the Sublime? My answer is, That they are to be looked for every where in nature. It is not by hunting after tropes, and figures, and rhetorical asistances, that we can expect to produce it. No: it stands clear, for the most part, of these laboured refinements

It must come unsought, if it come at

of art.

all;

L E C T. all; and be the natural offspring of a strong

imagination.

IV.

El Deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo.

Wherever a great and awful object is presented in nature, or a very magnanimous and exalted affection of the human mind is displayed ; thence, if

you can catch the impression strongly, and exhibit it warm and glowing, you may draw. the Sublime. These are its only proper sources. In judging of any striking beauty in composition, whether it is, or is not, to be referred to this class, we must attend to the nature of the emotion which it raises; and only, if it be of that elevating, folemn, and awful kind, which distinguishes this feeling, we can pronounce it Sublime.

From the account which I have given of the nature of the Sublime, it clearly follows, that it is an emotion which can never be long protracted. The mind, by no force of genius, can be kept, for any considerable time, so far raised above its common tone; but will, of course, relax into its ordinary situation. Neither are the abilities of any human writer fufficient to furnish a long continuation of uninterrupted Sublime ideas. Tbe utmost we can expect is, that this fire of imagination should sometimes flash upon us like lightning from heaven, and then disappear. In Homer and

Milton,

IV.

Milton, this effulgence of genius breaks forth L E C T. more frequently, and with greater luftre than in most authors. Shakespeare also rises often into the true Sublimne. But no author whatever is Sublime throughout. Some, indeed, there are, who, by a strength and dignity in their conceptions, and a current of high ideas that runs through their whole composition, preserve the reader's mind always in a tone nearly allied to the Sublime; for which reason they may, in a limited sense, merit the name of continued Sublime writers; and, in this class, we may justly place Demosthenes and Plato.

As for what is called the Sublime style, it is, for the most part, a very bad one ; and has no relation whatever to the real Sublime. Persons are apt to imagine, that magnificent words, accumulated epithets, and a certain swelling kind of expression, by rising above what is usual or vulgar, contributes to, or even forms, the Sublime. Nothing can be more falfe. In all the instances of Sublime Writing, which I have given, nothing of this kind appears.

« God said, Let there be light, and " there was light.” This is striking and Sublime. But put it into what is commonly called the Sublime style : « The Sovereign « Arbiter of nature, by the potent energy of a fingle word, commanded the light to

s exist ;"

LEC T.

IV.

« exist ;” and, as Boileau has well observed, the style indeed is raised, but the thought is fallen. In general, in all good writing, the Sublime lies in the thought, not in the words; and when the thought is truly noble, it will; for the most part, clothe itself in a native dignity of language. The Sublime, indeed, rejects mean, low, or trivial expressions; but it is equally an enemy to such as are turgid. The main secret of being Sublime, is to say great things in few and plain words. It will be found to hold, without exception, that the most Sublime authors are the simplest in their ftyle ; and wherever you find a writer, who affects a more than ordinary pomp and parade of words, and is always endeavouring to magnify his subject by epithets, there you may immediately suspect, that, feeble in sentiment, he is studying to support himself by mere expression.

The same unfavourable judgment we must pass, on all that laboured apparatus with which some writers introduce a passage, or description, which they intend shall be Sublime; calling on their readers to attend, invoking their Mufe, or breaking forth into general, unmeaning exclamations, concerning the greatness, terribleness, or majesty of the object, which they are to describe. Mr. Addison, in his Campaign, has fallen into an error of this

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