Page images

he ever attempted an oration for a Phryne or an Athenogenes, he would in such attempts have only served as a foil to Hyperides.

Yet after all, in my opinion, the numerous beauties of Hyperides are far from having any inherent greatness. They shew the sedateness and sobriety of the author's genius, but have not force enough to enliven or to warm an audience. No one that reads him, is ever sensible of extraordinary emotion. Whereas Demosthenes adding to a continued vein of grandeur and to magnificence of diction (the greatest qualifications requisite in an orator), such lively strokes of passion, such copiousness of words, such address, and such rapidity of speech; and, what is his master-piece, such force and vehemence, as the greatest writers besides durst never aspire to; being, I say, abundantly furnished with all these divine (it would be sin to call them human) abilities, he excels

pretty things, divert his audience, and when a lady was the topic, quite outshine Demosthenes; whose eloquence was too grand to appear for any thing but honour and liberty. Then he could warm, transport, and triumph ; could revive in his degenerate countrymen a love of their country and a zeal for freedom ; could make them cry out in rage and fury, “Let us arm, let “ us away, let us march against Philip.N 2


all before him in the beauties which are really his own; and to atone for deficiencies in those he has not, overthrows all opponents with the irresistible force and the glittering blaze of his lightning. For it is much easier to behold, with stedfast and undazzled eyes, the flashing lightning, than those ardent strokes of the Pathetic, which come so thick one upon another in his orations.

SECTION XXXV. The parallel between Plato and his opponent must be drawn in a different light. For Lysias not only falls short of him in the excellence, but in the number also of his beauties. And what is more, he not only falls short of him in the number of his beauties, but exceeds him vastly in the number of his faults.

What then can we suppose that those godlike writers had in view, who laboured so much in raising their compositions to the highest pitch of the Sublime, and looked down with contempt upon accuracy and correctness? -Amongst others, let this reason be accepted. Nature never designed man to be a grovelling and ungenerous animal, but


[ocr errors]

brought him into life, and placed him in the world, as in a crowded theatre, not to be an idle spectator, but spurred on by an eager thirst of excelling, ardently to contend in the pursuit of glory. For this purpose, she implanted in his soul an invincible love of grandeur, and a constant emulation of whatever seems to approach nearer to divinity than himself. Hence it is, that the whole universe is not sufficient for the extensive reach and piercing speculation of the human understanding. It passes the bounds of the material world, and launches forth at pleasure into endless space. Let any one take an exact survey of a life, which, in its every scene, is conspicuous on account of excel. lence, grandeur, and beauty, and he will soon discern for what noble ends we were born. Thus the impulse of nature inclines us to admire, not a little clear transparent rivulet that ministers to our necessities, but the Nile, the Ister, the Rhine, or still much more, the Ocean.

We are never surprised at the sight of a small fire that burns clear, and blazes out on our own private hearth, but view with amaze the celestial fires, though they are often obscured by vapours


and eclipses. Nor do we reckon any thing in nature more wonderful than the boiling furnaces of Ætna, which cast up stones, and sometimes whole rocks, from their labouring abyss, and pour out whole rivers of liquid

We have a noble description of the volcano of Ætna in Virgil. Æn. l. iii. v. 571. which will illustrate this passage in Longinus :

Horrificis juxta tonat Ætna ruinis,
Interdumque atram prorumpit ad æthera nubem,
Turbine fumantem piceo & candente favilla.
Attollitque globos flammarum, & sidera lambit:
Interdum scopulos, avolsaque viscera montis
Erigit eructans, liquefactaque saxa sub auras
Cum gemitu glomerat, fundoque exæstuat imo.

-The coast where Ætna lies,
Horrid and waste, its entrails fraught with fire;
That now casts out dark fumes and pitchy clouds,
Vast show'rs of ashes hoy'ring in the smoke;
Now belches molten stones, and ruddy flames
Incens'd, or tears up mountains by the roots,
Or slings a broken rock aloft in air.
The bottom works with smother'd fire, involv'd
In pestilential vapours, stench, and smoke.

MR. ADDISON. Longinus's short description has the same spirit and grandeur with Virgil's. The sidera lambit, in the fourth line, has the swell in it, which Longinus, Sect. iii. calls super-tragical. This is the remark of Dr. Pearce ; and it is observable, that Mr. Addison has taken no no. tice of those words in his translation.


and unmingled flame. And from hence we may infer, that whatever is useful and necessary to man, lies level to his abilities, and is easily acquired ; but whatever exceeds the common size, is always great, and always amazing..

SECTION XXXVI. With regard therefore to those sublime writers, whose flight, however exalted, 'never fails of its use and advantage, we must add another consideration. Those other inferior beauties shew their authors to be men, but the Sublime makes near approaches to the height of God. What is correct and faultless, comes off barely without censure, but the grand and the lofty command admiration. What can I add further? alted and sublime sentiment in those noble

One ex

[ocr errors]

Never fails of its use and advantage.] Longinus, in the preceding Section, had said, that men “view with

amaze the celestial fires (such as the Sun and Moon), “ though they are frequently obscured ;" the case is the same with the burning mountain Ætna, though it casts up pernicious fire from its abyss: But here, when he returns to the sublime authors, he intimates, that the Sublime is the more to be admired, because far from being useless or amusing, it is of great service to its authors, as well as to the public.- DR. PEARCE.


« PreviousContinue »