« PreviousContinue »
SECTION II. in But we ought not to advance, before we clear the point, whether or no there be any art in the Sublime 1. For some are entirely of opinion, 'that they are guilty of a great mistake, who would reduce it to the rules of
“ The Sublime (say they) is born within us, and is not to be learned by precept. * The only art to reach it, is, to have the “ power from nature. And (as they reason) " those effects, which should be purely na
In all the editions is added a Bedos, or the profound : a perplexing expression, and which perhaps gave rise to a treatise on the Bathos. It was purposely omitted in the translation, for this plain substantial reason, because I could not make sense of it. I have since been favoured with a sight of the learned Dr, Tonstal's conjectural emendations on this author, and here for Babes he readeth wates. The minute alteration of a single letter enlightens and clears the whole passage: the context, the whole tenor of the piece, justifies the emendation. I beg leave therefore to give the following new version of the passage.--" But we ought not to advance before we “ clear the point, whether or no there be any art in the “ Sublime or the Pathetic. For some are entirely of
opinion, that they are guilty of a great mistake, who " would reduce them to the rules of art. These high “ attainments (say they) are born within us, and are not « to be learned by precept: the only art to reach them, " is to have the power from nature.”
“ tural, are dispirited and weakened by the dry impoverishing rules of art.”
But I maintain, that the contrary might easily appear, would they only reflect that2 though nature for the most part challenges a sovereign and uncontroulable power in the Pathetic and Sublime, yet she is not altogether lawless, but delights in a proper regulation.
These observations of Longinus, and the following lines of Mr. Pope, are a very proper illustration for one another,
First follow nature, and your judgment frame
At once the source, and end, and test of art.
Works without shew, and without pomp presides:
Essay on Criticism.
That again-though she is the foundation, and even the source of all degrees of the Sublime, yet that method is able to point out in the clearest manner the peculiar tendencies of each, and to mark the proper seasons in which they ought to be inforced and applied. And further—that Flights of grandeur are then in the utmost danger, when left at random to themselves, having no ballast properly to poise, no helm to guide their course, but cumbered with their own weight, and bold without discretion. Genius may sometimes want the spur, but it stands as frequently in need of the curb.
Demosthenes somewhere judiciously ob- ; serves, “That in common life success is the
greatest good ; that the next, and no less
important, is conduct, without which the “other must be unavoidably of short conti“ nuance.” Now the same may be asserted of Composition,where nature will supply the place of success, and art the place of conduct.
But further, there is one thing which deserves particular attention. For though it must be owned, that there is a force in eloquence, which depends not upon, nor can be learned by rule, yet even this could not be known without that light which we receive from art.
If therefore, as I said before, he who condenns such works as this in which I am now engaged, would attend to these reflexions, I have very good reason to believe he would no longer think any undertaking of this nature superfluous or useless.
Let them the chimney's flashing flames repel.
Streaming curls of flame, spewing against Heaven, and making Boreas a piper, with
Here is a great defect; but it is evident that the author is treating of those imperfections which are opposite to the true Sublime, and among those, of extravagant swelling or bombast, an example of which he produces from some old tragic poet, none of whose lines, except these here quoted, and some expressions below, remain at present.
Making Boreas a piper.] Shakespeare has fallen into the same kind of bombast:
the southern wind
First Part of Henry IV:
such like expressions, are not tragical, but super-tragical. For those forced and unnatural Images corrupt and debase the style, and cannot possibly adorn or raise it; and whenever carefully examined in the light, their shew of being terrible gradually disappears, and they become contemptible and ridiculous. Tragedy will indeed by its nature admit of some pompous and magnificent swellings, yet even in tragedy it is an unpardonable offence to soar too high ; much less allowable must it therefore be in Prose-writing, or those works which are founded in truth. Upon this account some expressions of 3 Gorgias the Leontine are highly ridiculed, who styles Xerxes
Gorgias the Leontine, or of Lcontium, was a Sicilian rhetorician, and father of the Sophists. He was in such universal esteem throughout Greece, that a statue was erected to his honour in the temple of Apollo at Delphos, of solid gold, though the custom had been only to gild them. His styling Xerxes the Persian Jupiter, it is thought, may be defended from the custom of the Persians to salute their monarch by that high title. Calling vultures living sepulchres, has been more severely censured by Hermogenes than Longinus. The authors of such quaint expressions (as he says) deserve themselves to be buried in such tombs. It is certain that writers of great reputation have used allusions of the same nature. Dr. Pearce has produced instances from Ovid, and even from Cicero ; and observed further, that Gregory Nazianzen has styled those wild beasts that devour inen,