Page images

[The remainder of the author's remarks on

Amplification is lost. What comes next is imperfect, but it is evident from what follows, that Longinus is drawing a parallel between

Plato and Demosthenes.] (Plato) may be compared to the ocean, whose waters, when hurried on by the tide, overflow their ordinary bounds, and are diffused into a vast extent. And in my opinion, this is the cause that the orator (Demosthenes) striking with more powerful might at the passions, is inflamed with fervent vehemence, and passionate ardour; whilst Plato, always grave, sedate, and majestic, though he never was cold or flat, yet fell vastly short of the impetuous thundering of the other.

And it is in the same points, my dear Terentianus, that Cicero and Demosthenes (if we Grecians may be admitted to speak our opinions) differ in the Sublime. The one is at the same time grand and concise, the other grand and diffusive. Our Demosthenes, uttering every sentence with such force, precipitation, strength, and vehemence, that it seems to be all fire, and bears down every thing before it, may justly be resembled to a thunderbolt or an hurricane. But Cicero, like a wide conflagration, devours and spreads on all sides; his flames are numerous, and





their heat is lasting ; they break out at different times in different quarters, and are nourished up to a raging violence by successive additions of proper fuel. I must not however pretend to judge in this case so well as you. But the true season of applying so forcible and intense a Sublime as that of Dea mosthenes, is, in the strong efforts of discourse, in vehement attacks

upon passions, and whenever the audience are to be stricken at once, and thrown into consternation. And recourse must be had to such diffusive eloquence, as that of Cicero, when they are to be soothed and brought over by gentle and soft insinuation. Besides, this diffuse kind of eloquence is most proper for all familiar topics, for perorations, digressions, for easy narrations or pompous aniusements, for history, for short accounts of the operations of nature, and


other sorts.

[ocr errors]


SECTION XIII. To leave this digression. Though Plato's style particularly excels in smoothness, and an

To leave this digression.] These words refer to what Longinus had said of Plato in that part of the preceding section, which is now almost wholly lost: and from hence it is abundantly evident, that the person whom he had there compared with the orator, was Plato.DR. PEARCE.


[ocr errors]

easy and peaceable flow of the words, yet neither does it want an elevation and grandeur?: and of this you cannot be ignorant,

* That archbishop Tillotson was possessed in an eminent degree of the same sweetness, fluency of style, and elevated sense, which are so much admired in Plato, can be denied by none who are versed in the writings of that author. The following passage, on much the same subject as the instance here quoted by our Critic from Plato, may be of service in strengthening this assertion. He is speaking of persons deeply plunged in sin.

“ If consideration, says he, happen to take them at any advantage, and they are so hard prest by it, that

they cannot escape the sight of their own condition, “ yet they find themselves so miserably entangled and “hampered in an evil course, and bound so fast in “ chains of their own wickedness, that they know not “ how to get loose. 'Sin is the saddest slavery in the “ world ; it breaks and sinks mens spirits, and makes “ them so base and servile, that they have not the cou

rage to rescue themselves. No sort of slaves are so “poor-spirited as they that are in bondage to their “ Justs. Their power is gone; or if they have any left,

they have not the heart to make use of it. And “ though they see and feel their misery, yet they choose “, rather to sit down in it, and tamely to submit to it, “ than to make any resolute attempts for their liberty.And afterwards" Blind and miserable men! that in “ despite of all the merciful warnings of God's word “ and providence, will run themselves into this despe“ rate state, and never think of returning to a better “ mind, till their retreat is difficult, almost to an impos4 sibility.". 29th Sermon, 1st Vol. Folio.


as you have read the following passage in his Republic *. “Those wretches (says he) who “never have experienced the sweets of wis“ dom and virtue, but spend all their time « in revels and debauches, sink downwards

day after day, and make their whole life " one continued series of errors. They never " have the courage to lift the eye upwards “ towards truth, they never felt any the least “ inclination to it. They taste no real or sub“ stantial pleasure, but resembling so many “ brutes, with eyes always fixed on the earth, “ and intent upon their loaden tables, they pamper themselves up in luxury and ex

So that hurried on by their vora“ cious and insatiable appetites, they are “ continually running and kicking at one “ another with hoofs and horns of steel, and

are embrued in perpetual slaughter.”

This excellent writer, if we can but resolve to follow his guidance, opens here before us another path, besides those already mentioned, which will carry to the true Sublime, -And what is this path ?-Why, an imitation and emulation of the greatest orators and poets that eyer flourished. And let this,

ç cess.

* Plato, 1. 9. de Rep. p. 586. edit. Steph.


my friend, be our ambition ; be this the fixed and lasting scope of all our labours.

For hence it is, that numbers of imitators are ravished and transported by a spirit not their own, ø like the Pythian Priestess, when she approaches the sacred tripod. There is, if Fame speaks true, a chasm in the earth, from whence erhale divine evaporations, which impregnate her on a sudden with the inspiration of her god, and cause in her the utterance of oracles and predictions. So, from the sublime spirit of the ancients, there arise some fine effluvia, like vapours from the sacred vents, which work themselves insensi


* This parallel or comparison drawn between the Pythian priestess of Apollo, and imitators of the best authors, is happily invented, and quite complete. Nothing can be more beautiful, more analogous, more expressive. It was the custom for the Pythian to sit on the tripod, till she was rapt into divine phrenzy by the operation of etfluvia issuing out of the clefts of the earth. In the same manner, says Longinus, they who imitate the best writers, seem to be inspired by those whom they imitate, and to be actuated by their sublime spirit. In this comparison, those divine writers are set on a level almost with the gods; they have equal power attributed to them with the deity presiding over ora. cles, and the effect of their operations on their imitators is honoured with the title of a divine spirit.DR. PEARCE,


« PreviousContinue »