Page images
PDF
EPUB

stophanes, in some passages, and Euripides in
very many. Thus Hercules, after the mur-
der of his children, cries*,
I'm full of mis’ries; there's not room for more.

The words are very vulgar, but their turn answering so exactly to the sense, gives the period an exalted air. And if

And if you transpose them into any other order, you will quickly be convinced, that Euripides excels more in fine composition than in fine sentiments. So in his description of Dirce dragged along by the bull,

Whene'er

* Euripid. Hercules furens, ver. 1250, ed. Barnes.

* Zethus and Amphion tied their mother-in-law, Dirce, by the hair of her head to a wild bull, which image Euripides has represented in this passage. Langbaine observes, that there is a fine sculpture on this subject, by Taurisius, in the palace of Farnese at Rome, of which Baptista de Cavalleriis has given us a print in 1. iii. p. 3. antiq. statuarum urbis Romæ.

There is a much greater Image than this in the Paradise Lost, B. vi. 644. with which this remark of Longinus on the sedate grandeur and judicious pauses will exactly square:

From their foundations loos’ning to and fro,
They pluck'd the seated hills, with all their load,
Rocks, waters, woods; and by the shaggy tops
Up-lifting bore them in their hands
So again in Book ii. ver. 557.-When the fallen spi.
rits are engaged in deep and abstruse researches con-

cerning

[ocr errors]

Whene'er the mad’ning creature rag'd about
And whirl'd his bulk around in aukward circles,
The dame, the oak, the rock, were dragg'd along.

The thought itself is noble, but is more ennobled, because the terms used in it are harmonious, and neither run too hastily

off the ear, nor are, as it were, mechanically accelerated. They are disposed into due pauses, mutually supporting one another; these pausęs are all of a slow and stately measure, sedately mounting to solid and substantial grandeur.

SECTION XLI.

NOTHING so much debases Sublimity as broken and precipitate measures, such as

cerning fate, free-will, foreknowledge, the very struc-
ture of the words expresses the intricacy of the disa
course; and the repetition of some of the words, with
epithets of slow pronunciation, shews the difficulty of
making advancements in such unfathomable points.

Others apart sat on a hill retir'd,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate,
Fixt fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute;
And found no end in wand'ring mazes lost,

Pyrrics,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Pyrrics, Trochees, and Dichorees, that are fit for nothing but dances. Periods tuned in these numbers, are indeed neat and brisk, but devoid of passion; and their cadence being eternally the same, becomes very disagreeable. But what is still worse, as in songs the notes divert the mind from the sense, and make us attentive only to the music; so these brisk and rhyming periods never raise in the audience any passion suitable to the subject, but only an attention to the run of the words. Hence, foreseeing the płaces where they must necessarily rest, they have gestures answering to every turn, can even beat the time, and tell beforehand, as exactly as in a dance, where the pause will be.

In like manner, Periods forced into too narrow compass,

and

pent up in words of short and few syllables, or that are, as it were, nailed together in an aukward and clumsy manner, are always destitute of grandeur.

[ocr errors]

SECTION XLII. CONTRACTION of Style is another great diminution of Sublimity. Grandeur requires ·

A Pyrric is a foot of two short syllables ; a Trochee of one long and one short; and a Dichoree is a double Trochee.

room,

1

room,

and when under too much cónfine. ment, cannot move so freely as it ought. I do not mean here Periods, that demand a proper conciseness ; ; but, on the contrary, those that are curtailed and minced. Too much Contraction lays a restraint upon the sense, but Conciseness strengthens and adjusts it. And on the other side, it is evident, that when periods are spun out into a vast extent, their life and spirit evaporate, and all their strength is lost, by being quite overstretched.

. Low and sordid words are terrible ble. mishes to fine sentiments. Those of Herodotus, in his description of a tempest, are divinely noble, but the terms in which they are expressed, very much tarnish and impair their lustre. Thus, when he says*, “ The “ seas began to seeth,” how does the un

SECTION XLIII.

* Herod. 1. 7. c. 191.

1 To seeth.] I have chosen this word rather than boil, which is not a blemished term in our language: and besides, seeth resembles more the Greek word Geocons in the ill sound that it has upon the palate, which is the fault that Longinus finds with the word in Herodotus. Milton has something of the like sort which offends the ear, when we read in Book i. Azazel, as his right, &c.

couth

couth sound of the word seeth, lessen the grandeur? 'And further, “ The wind (says

he) was tired out, and those who were wrecked in the storm, ended their lives

very disagreeably.” To be tired out, is a mean and vulgar term ; and that, disagreeably, a word highly disproportioned to the tragical event it is used to express.

Theopompus, in like manner, after setting out splendidly in describing the Persian expedition into Egypt, has spoiled all, by the intermixture of some low and trivial words, 6 What city or what nation was there in all “ Asia, which did not compliment the king " with an embassy? What rarity was there, “ either of the produce of the earth, or the « work of art, with which he was not pre« sented? How many rich and

rich and gorgeous “ carpets, with vestments purple, white, and “ particoloured? How many tents of golden

texture, suitably furnished with all neces, “ saries?

How many embroidered robes “ and sumptuous beds, besides an immense

2

Theopompus was a Chian and a scholar of Isocrates. His genius was too hot and impetuous, which was the occasion of a remark of his master Isocrates, that

Ephorus always wanted a spur, but Theopompus a “ curb,”

“ quantity

« PreviousContinue »