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The soul is naturally elevated by the true sublime, and, lifted up with exultation, is filled with transport and inward pride.- LONGINUS.

The beautiful has reference to the form of an object, and the facility with which it is comprehended. For beauty, magnitude is an impediment. Sublimity, on the contrary, requires magnitude as its condition, and the formless is not unfrequently sublime.- SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON.


NY object, thought, or emotion, which conveys an impression of surpassing greatness or power, is sublime. The tempest-tossed ocean, the roaring and impassable cataract, the shout of a multitude, eclipses, thunder, and abysses, depth beyond depth of the starry heavens, lands swept with hurricanes, the wide expanse of earth, barren with moor or waving with corn and forest, stand, with other similar scenes, in the first rank of material sublimity. Unflinching courage, towering ambition, victory over self, uncommon intrepidity and perfect composure in some critical and high situation, as devotion to truth in defiance of popular fury, or the deliberate measurement of the death-doom, are types of sublimity in the moral world. Of this description are the historic words of Cæsar to the terrified pilot, 'What fear you? You carry Cæsar'; of Hildebrand, who, dying at Salerno after a long and bitter struggle, said, 'I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile'; of Luther on departing for Worms, 'Though there were as many devils in Worms as tiles on the housetops, still I would enter'; of Raleigh, as he felt the edge of the axe before laying his head on the block, ‘It is a

sharp remedy, but will cure all diseases'; of Sidney, as he motioned away the water to the expiring soldier, "Thy necessity is greater than mine'; of Gilbert, going down. at sea, Never mind, we are as near heaven at sea as ashore'; of Nelson, on the eve of battle, 'England expects every man to do his duty'; of Napoleon, 'Soldiers, from the summits of yonder pyramids forty centuries look down upon you'; of the martyred Latimer to his companion at the stake, as the lighted faggots were brought, 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man: we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.'

Every one is conscious that the effect produced by the contemplation of such things is peculiar — pleasurable, indeed, but altogether of the serious kind, marked even by a degree of awfulness and solemnity at its height; an elevation and expansion of the mind much above and beyond its ordinary state. Thus a chief test of the sublime is that it banishes littleness of thought and feeling. In the domain of the physical, most objects of sublimity, it will be readily seen, excite emotions of a mixed nature,― humiliation and awe, perhaps, or aspiring purpose, overcoming the timid and feeble, rousing the lofty and daring. Witness the exultation of Byron in an Alpine thunderstorm:

The sky is changed! and such a change! O Night,
And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong,

Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light

Of a dark eye in woman! Far along,
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!
And this is in the night:- Most glorious night!
Thou wert not sent for slumber! let me be

A sharer in thy fierce and far delight,—
A portion of the tempest and of thee!
How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea,
And the big rain comes dancing to the earth!
And now again 'tis black,—and now, the glee

Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain mirth,

As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth. It will be understood from these remarks that the leading elements of the sublime, or sources of its accompanying emotion, are, externally, the vast and illimitable, darkness, obscurity, and silence, which last three ideas affect powerfully the imagination, as is fully exemplified in Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, particularly in these lines:

Still as a slave before his lord,

The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the moon is cast.

Also in Campbell's Last Man :

Earth's cities had no sound nor tread,

And ships were drifting with the dead
To shores where all was dumb.

And in this noble passage of Job:

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face, the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still; but I could not discern the form thereof; an image was before mine eyes; there was silence; and I heard a voice-Shall mortal man be more just than God?' If to these elements of sublimity we add spiritual heroism, self-sacrifice, Promethean endurance, martyr-like constancy in brief, the more forceful and massive phenomena of the moral world,— we shall perceive the truth of the statement that sublimity is only another word for the effect of greatness-greatness of matter, space, power, virtue, beauty. Which of them does not enter into Emerson's picturesque-sublime conception of the Procession of

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Life, 'the eternal picture which nature paints in the streets with moving men and children, beggars and fine ladies, draped in red and green and blue and gray; long-haired, grizzled, white-faced, wrinkled, giant, dwarf, expanded, elfish,-capped and based by heaven, earth, and sea.'

The foundation of the sublime in literature is in the thought, the subject or object of which must be such as, in itself, is able, with sovereign power, to fill, expand, and move the soul. The Bible abounds in highest instances, especially where, as in the following passage, the Almighty is described:

He stood, and measured the earth;

He beheld, and drove asunder the nations;
The everlasting hills were scattered,

The perpetual hills did bow.

The mountains saw thee, and they trembled;

The overflowing of the waters passed by;

The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. The first, second, and third books of Paradise Lost are a sustained flight into the regions of the sublime. Take, for example, the description of Satan as he appears at the head of the vanquished infernal hosts:

He, above the rest,

In shape and gesture proudly eminent,

Stood like a tower; his form had not yet lost
All her original brightness, nor appear'd
Less than archangel ruin'd; and the excess
Of glory obscur'd; as when the sun new risen,
Looks through the horizontal misty air,

Shorn of his beams; or, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Darken'd so, yet shone
Above them all th' archangel.

Then this spectacle of a superior nature erecting itself against distress, annihilating by its own fire that of the hell into which it is plunged:

Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,
Said then the lost archangel, this the seat

That we must change for heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he

Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid

What shall be right: farthest from him is best,

Whom reason hath equall'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell happy fields,
Where joy forever dwells! Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world! and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.

It will be seen that in the above descriptions there is nothing trivial to degrade the whole; no unnecessary words to relax the tension of the mind; no incongruity between swelling diction and a commonplace subject. Abstract and general terms are avoided; the most striking circumstances are selected; and capital images are brought close together, each worthy of that which it illustrates or supports; in short, there is grandeur of manner conspiring with grandeur of substance. These qualities are further exemplified when Satan, surprised in the garden of Eden, is preparing to battle with the angel sentinels:

Th' angelic squadron bright

Turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns
To hem him round,

On the other side, Satan, alarmed,

Collecting all his might, dilated stood,

Like Teneriffe or Atlas, unremoved;

His stature reached the sky, and on his crest

Sat Horror plumed.

And again when he is stricken down by the sword of Abdiel:

Ten paces huge

He back recoil'd; the tenth on bended knee,
His massy spear upstay'd; as if on earth
Winds under ground, or waters forcing way,

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