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ticular; for it ought to be observed, that this melancholy kind of greatness, though it be certainly the highest, ought not to be studied in all sorts of edifices, where yet grandeur must be studied: in such cases the sublimity must be drawn from the other sources; with a strict caution however against anything light and riant; as nothing so effectually deadens the whole taste of the sublime.
SECT. XVII.-SOUND AND LOUDNESS.
The eye is not the only organ of sensation by which a sublime passion may be produced. Sounds have a great power in these as in most other passions. I do not mean words, because words do not affect simply by their sounds, but by means altogether different. Excessive loudness alone is sufficient to overpower the soul, to suspend its action, and to fill it with terror. The noise of vast cataracts, raging storms, thunder, or artillery, awakes a great and awful sensation in the mind, though we can observe no nicety or artifice in those sorts of music. The shouting of multitudes 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 forbear being borne down, and joining in the common cry, and common resolution of the crowd.
A SUDDEN beginning or sudden cessation of sound of
any considerable force, has the same power. The attention is roused by this; and the faculties driven forward, as it were, on their guard. Whatever, either in sights or sounds, makes the transition from one extreme to the other easy, causes no terror, and consequently can be no cause of greatness. In everything sudden and unexpected, we are apt to start; that is, we have a perception of danger, and our nature rouses us to guard against it. It may be observed that a single sound of some strength, though but of short duration, if repeated after intervals, has a grand effect. Few things are more awful than the striking of a great clock, when the silence of the night prevents the attention from being too much diesi. pated. The same may be said of a single stroke on a drum, repeated with pauses, and of the successive firing of cannon at a distance. All the effects mentioned in this section have causes very nearly alike.
A low, tremulous, intermitting sound, though it seems in some respects opposite to that just mentioned, is productive of the sublime. It is worth while to examine this a little. The fact itself must be determined by every man's own experience and reflection. I have already observed,' that night increases our terror, more perhaps than anything else; it is our nature, when we do not know what may happen to us, to fear the worst that can happen; and hence it is, that uncertainty is so terrible, that we often seek to be rid of it, at the hazard of certain mischief. Now, some low, confused, uncertain sounds, leave us in the same fearful anxiety concerning their causes, that no light, or an uncertain light, does concerning the objects that surround 118.
Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna
- A faint shadow of uncertain light,
SPENSER. But light now appearing and now leaving us, and so off and on, is even more tenible than total darkness : and a sort of uncertain sounds are, when the necessary dispositions cncur, more alarming than a total silence.
SECT. XX.—THE CRIES OF ANIMALS.
SUCH sounds as imitate the natural inarticulate voices of men, or any animals in pain or danger, are capable of corveying great ideas; unless it be the well-known voice of some creature, on which we are used to look with contemp. The angry tones of wild beasts are equally capable of carising a great and awful sensation.
I Soct. 3
Ainc exaudiri gemitus iræque leonum
Sævire ; et formæ magnorum ululare luporum. It might seem that these modulations of sound carry soine counexion with the nature of the things they represent, and are not merely arbitrary ; because the natural cries of all animals, even of those animals with whom we have not been acquainted, never fail to make themselves sufficiently understood; this cannot be said of language. The modifications of sound, which may be productive of the subline, are almost infinite. Those I have mentioned are only a few instances to show on what principles they are all built.
SECT. XXI. -SMELL AND TASTE.
BITTERS AND STENCHES.
Smells and Tastes have some share too in ideas of great. ness; but it is a small one, weak in its nature, and confined in its operations. I shall only observe, that no smells or tastes can produce a grand sensation, except excessive bitters, and intolerable stenches. It is true that these affections of the smell and taste, when they are in their full force, and lean directly upon the sensory, are simply painful, and accompanied with no sort of delight; but when they are moderated, as in a description or narrative, they become sources of the sublime, as genuine as any other, and upon the very same principle of a moderated pain. А сир
of bitterness ; “ to drain the bitter cup of fortune ; "the bitter apples of Sodom;” these are all ideas suitable to a sublime description. Nor is this passage of Virgil without sublimity, where the stench of the vapour in Albunea conspires so happily with the sacred horror and gloominess of that prophetic forest :
At rex sollicitus monstris oracula Fauni
Fonte sonat ; sævamque exhalat opaca Mephitim. In the sixth book, and in a very sublime description, the poisonous exhalation of Acheron is not forgotten, nor does it at all disagree with the other images amongst which it is introduced:
Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatu,
Faucibus effundens supera ad convexa ferebat. I have added these examples, because some friends, for whose judgment I have great deference, were of opinion that if the sentiment stood nakedly by itself, it would be subject, at first view, to burlesque and ridicule; but this I imagine would principally arise from considering the bitterness and stench in company with mean and contemptible ideas, with which it must be owned they are ofter united; such an union degrades the sublime in all other instances as well as in those. But it is one of the tests by which the sublimity of an image is to be tried, not whether it becomes mean when associated with mean ideas; but whether, when united with images of an allowed grandeur, the whole composition is supported with dignity. Things which are terrible are always great; but when things possess disagreeable qualities, or such as have indeed some degree of danger, but of a danger easily overcome, they are merely odious; as toads and spiders.
OF feeling, little more can be said than that the idea of bodily pain, in all the modes and degrees of labour, pain, anguish, torment, is productive of the sublime; and nothing else in this sense can produce it. I need not give here any fresh instances, as those given in the former sections abundantly illustrate a remark that, in reality, wants only an attention to nature, to be made by everybody.
Having thus run through the causes of the sublime with reference to all the senses, my first observation (sect. 7) will be found very nearly true; that the sublime is an idea belonging to self-preservation ; that it is therefore one of the most affecting we have; that its strongest emotion is an emotion of distress; and that no pleasure from a positive cause belongs to it. Nuinberless examples, besides those mentioned, might be brought in support of these truths, and many perhaps useful consequences drawn from them
i Vide Part I. sect. 6.
Sed fugit interea, fugit irrevocabile tempus,
SECTION 1.-OF BEAUTY.
It is my design to consider beauty as distinguished from the sublime; and, in the course of the inquiry, to examine how far it is consistent with it. But previous to this, we must take a short review of the opinions already entertained of this quality ; which I think are hardly to be reduced to any fixed principles ; because men are used to talk of beauty in a figurative manner, that is to say, in a manner extremely uncertain, and indeterminate. By beauty I mean that quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love, or some passion similar to it. I confine this definition to the merely sensible qualities of things, for the sake of preserving the utmost simplicity in a subject, which must always distract us whenever we take in those various causes of sympathy which attach us to any persons or things from secondary considerations, and not from the direct force which they have merely on being viewed. I likewise distinguish love (by which I mean that satisfaction which arises to the mind upon contemplating anything beautiful, of whatsoever nature it may be) from desire or lust; which is an energy of the mind, that hurries us on to the possession of certain objects, that do not affect us as they are beautiful, but by means altogether different. We shall have a strong desire for a woman of no remarkable beauty ; whilst the greatest beauty in men, or in other animals, though it causes love, yet excites nothing, at all of desire. Which shows that beauty, and the passion caused by beauty, which I call love, is different from desire, though desire may sometimes operate along with it; but it is to this latter that we must attribute those violent and tem.