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Sublimity in Objeots.
why regularity and variety produce in our minds the sensation of beauty; any reason we can assign is extremely imperfect. Those first principles of internal sensation nature appears to have studiously concealed.
It is some consolation however, that, although the efficient cause is obscure, the final cause of those sensations lies commonly more open ; and here we must observe the strong impression, which the powers of Taste and Imagination are calculated to give us of the benevolence of our Creator. By these powers he hath widely enlarged the sphere of the pleasures of human life; and those too of a kind the most pure and innocent. The necessary purposes of life might have been answered, though our senses of seeing and hearing bad only served to distinguish external objects, without giving us any of those refined and delicate sensations of beauty and grandeur, with which we are now so much delighted.
The pleasure, which arises from SUBLIMITY or GRANDEUR, deserves to be fully considered; because it has a character more precise and distinctly marked, than any other of the pleasures of the imagination, and because it coincides more directly with our main subject. The simplest form of external grandeur is seen in the vast and boundless prospects, presented to us by nature; such as widely extended plains, of which the eye can find no limits; the firmament of heaven; or the boundless expanse of the ocean. All vastness produces the impression of sublimity. Space, however, extended in length, makes not so strong an impression, as height or depth. Though a boundless plain is a grand object; yet a lofty
Sublimity in Objects.
mountain, to which we look up, or an awful precipice or tower, whence we look down on objects below, is still more so. The excessive grandeur of the firmament arises from its height, added to its boundless extent; and that of the ocean, not from its extent alone, but from the continual motion and irresistible force of that mass of waters. Wherever space is concerned, it is evident, that amplitude or greatness of extent in one dimension or other is necessary to grandeur. Remove all bounds from any object and you immediately render it sublime. Hence infinite space, endless numbers, and eternal duration fill the mind with great ideas.
The most copious source of sublime ideas seems to be derived from the exertion of great power and force. Hence the grandeur of earthquakes and burning inountains; of great conflagrations; of the boisterous ocean ; of the tempestuous storm; of thunder and lightning; and of all the unusual violence of the elements. A stream, which glides along gently within its banks is a beautiful object ; but when it rushes down with the impetuosity and noise of a torrent, it immediately becomes a sublime one. A race-horse is viewed with pleasure; but it is the war-horse, - whose neck is clothed with thunder," that conveys grandeur in its idea. The engagement of two powerful armies, as it is the highest exertion of human strength, combines various sources of the sublime; and has consequently been ever con
; sidered as one of the most striking and magnificent spectacles, which can be either presented to the eye, or exhibited to the imagination in description.
Sublimity in Objects.
All ideas of the solemn and awful kind, and even bordering on the terrible, tend greatly to assist the sublime, such as darkness, solitude, and silence. The firmament, when filled with stars, scattered in infinite numbers, and with splendid profusion, strikes the imagination with more awful grandeur, than when we behold it enlightened by all the splendour of the sun.-The deep sound of a great bell, or the striking of a great clock, is at any time grand and awful ; but when heard amid the silence and stillness of night, they become doubly so. Darkness is very generally applied for adding sublimity to all our ideas of the Deity. “He maketh darkness his pavilion; he dwelleth in the thick cloud.". Thus Milton....
-How oft amid
Obscurity is favourable to the sublime. The descriptions given us of appearances of supernatural beings, carry some sublimity; though the conception, which they afford us, be confused and indistinct. Their sublimity arises from the ideas which they always convey, of superior power and might connected with awful obscurity. No ideas, it is evident, are so sublime, as those derived from the Supreme Being, the most unknown, yet the greatest of all objects; the infinity of whose nature and the eternity of whose duration, added to the omnipotence of his power, though they surpass our conceptions, yet exalt them to the highest.
Sublimity in Objects.
Disorder is also very compatible with grandeur; nay, frequently heightens it. Few things, which are exactly regular and methodical, appear sublime. We see the limits on every side; we feel ourselves confined; there is no room for any considerable exertion of the mind. Though exact proportion of parts enters often into the beautiful, it is much disregarded in the sublime. A great mass of rocks, thrown together by the hand of nature, with wildness and confusion, strikes the mind with more grandeur, than if they had been adjusted to each other, with the most accurate symmetry
There yet remains one class of Sublime Objects to be mentioned, which may be termed the Moral or Sentimental Sublime, arising from certain exertions of the mind; from certain affections and actions of our fellow-creatures. These will be found to be chiefly of that class, which comes under the name of Magnanimity or Heroism; and they produce an affect very similar to what is produced by a view of grand objects in nature, filling the mind with admiration, and raising it above itself. Wherever in some critical and dangerous situation we behold a man uncommonly intrepid, and resting solely upon himself! superior to passion and to fear; animated by some great principle to contempt of popular opinion,
of selfish interest, of dangers, or of death; we are there struck with a sense of the Sublime. Thus Porus, when taken by Alexander, after a gallant defence, being asked in what manner he would be treated, answered, “ Like a King;" and Cæsar, chiding the pilot, who was afraid to set out with him in a storm, “Quid
Sublimity in Ohjeets.
times ? Cæsarem vehis," are good instances of the Sentimental Sublime.
The sublime in natural and in moral objects is presented to us in one view, and compared iogether, in the following beautiful passage of Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination.
Look then abroad through nature to the range
In has been imagined by an ingenious author, that terror is the source of the sublime; and that no objects bave this character, but such as produce impressions of pain and danger. Many terrible objects are indeed highly sublime; nor does grandeur refuse alliance with the idea of danger. But the sublime does not consist wholly in modes of danger and pain. In many grand objects there is not the least coincidence with terror; as in the magnificent prospect of widely extended plains, and of the starry firmament; or in the moral dispositions and sentiments, which we contemplate with high admiration. In many painful and terrible objects also, it is evident, there is no sort of grandeur. The amputation of a limb, or the bite of a snake, is in the highest degree terrible ; but tủey are destitute of all claim whatever to