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in the way of encouragement, a more expeditious method to form our taste, may perhaps, by the assistance of Rules, be successfully atteinpted.
SECTION VII. You cannot be ignorant, my dearest friend, , that in common life there is nothing great, a contempt of which shews a greatness of soul. So riches, honours, titles, crowns, and whatever is veiled over with a theatrical splendor, and a gawdy outside, can never be regarded as intrinsically good, in the opinion of a wise man, since by, despising such things no little glory is acquired. For the persons who have ability sufficient to acquire, but through an inward generosity scorn such acquisitions, are more admired than those who actually possess them.
In the same manner we must judge of whatever looks great both in great both in poetry and
prose. We must carefully examine whether it be not only appearance. We must divest it of all superficial pomp and garnish. If it cannot stand this trial, without doubt it is only swelled and puffed up, and it will be more for our ho
nour to contemn ihan to admire it. 'For the mind is naturally elevated by the true Sublime, and so sensibly affected with its lively strokes, that it swells in transport and an inward pride, as if what was only heard had been the product of its own invention.
He therefore who has a competent share of natural and acquired taste, may easily discover the value of any performance from a bare recital of it. If he finds that it transports not his soul, nor exalts his thoughts; that it calls not up into his mind ideas more enlarged than what the mere sounds of the words convey, but on attentive examination its dignity lessens and declines ; he may conclude, , that whatever pierces no deeper than the ears, can never be the true Sublime. ? That on
It is remarked in the notes to Boileau's translation, that the great prince of Condé, upon hearing this passage, cried out, Voilà le Sublime! voilà son véritable caractere!
2« This is a very fine description of the Sublime, and “ finer still, because it is very sublime itself. But it is “ only a description; and it does not appear that Longi“nus intended, any where in this treatise, to give an “ exact definition of it. The reason is, because he “ wrote after Cecilius, who (as he tells us) had em
ployed all his book, in defining and shewing what " the Sublime is. But since this book of Cecilius is
the contrary is grand and lofty, which the more we consider, the greater ideas we conceive of it; whose force we cannot possibly withstand; which immediately sinksdeep,and makes such impressions on the mind as can
as lost, I believe it will not be amiss to venture here a “ definition of it my own way, which may give at least “ an imperfect idea of it. This is the manner in which “ I think it may be defined. The Sublime is a certain “ force in discourse, proper to elevate and transport the “soul; and which proceeds either from grandeur of 6 thought and nobleness of sentiment, or from magni“ ficence of words, or an harmonious, lively, and ani“ inated turn of expression; that is to say, from any
one of these particulars regarded separately, or what “ makes the perfect Sublime, from these three particu“ lars joined together.”
Thus far are Boileau's own words in his 12th reflexion on Longinus, where, to illustrate the preceding definition, he subjoins an example from Racine's Athalie or Abner, of these three particular qualifications of sublimity joined together. One of the principal officers of the court of Judah represents to Jehoiada the highpriest, the excessive rage of Athaliah against him and all the Levites ; adding, that in his opinion, the haughty princess would in a short time come and attack God even in his sanctuary. To this the high-priest, not in the least moved, answers:
Celui qui met un frein à la fureur des flots,
not be easily worn out or effaced. In a word, you may pronounce that sublime, beautiful and genuine, which always pleases, and takes equally with all sorts of men. For when persons of different humours, ages, professions, and inclinations, agree in the same joint approbation of any performance; then this union of assent, this combination of so many different judgments, stamps an high and indisputable value on that performance, which meets with such general applause.
SECTION VIII. There are, if I may so express it, five very copious sources of the Sublime, if we presuppose an ability of speaking well, as a common foundation for these five sorts, and indeed without it, any thing besides will avail but little.
I. The first and most excellent of these is a boldness and grandeur in the Thoughts, as I have shewn in my essay on Xenophon.
II. The second is called the Pathetic, or the
power of raising the passions to a violent and even enthusiastic degree; and these two being genuine constituents of the Sublime, are
the gifts of nature, whereas the other sorts depend in some measure upon art.
III. The third consists in a skilful application of Figures, which are two-fold, of sentiment and language.
IV. The fourth is a noble and graceful manner of Expression, which is not only to chuse out significant and elegant words, but also to adorn and embellish the style, by the assistance of Tropes.
V. The fifth source of the Sublime, which completes all the preceding, is the Structure or composition of all the periods, in all possible dignity and grandeur.
I proceed next to consider each of these sources apart, but must first observe, that, of the five, Cecilius has wholly omitted the Pathetic. Now, if he looked upon the Grand and Pathetic as including one another, and in effect the same, he was under a mistake. For some
Some passions are vastly distant-&c.] The pathetie without grandeur is preferable to that which is great without passion. Whenever both unite, the passage will be excellent; and there is more of this in the book of Job, than in any other composition in the world. Longinus has here quoted a fine instance of the latter from Homer, but has produced none of the former, or the pathetic without grandeur.