Slike strani

An actor on the stage may be guilty of bombast as well as an author in his closet; a certain manner of acting, which is grand when supported by dignity in the sentiment and force in the expression, is ridiculous where the sentiment is mean, and the expres

sion flat.

232. This chapter shall be closed with some observations. When the sublime is carried to its due height, and circumscribed within proper bounds, it enchants the mind, and raises the most delightful of all emotions: the reader, engrossed by a sublime object, feels himself raised as it were to a higher rank. Considering that effect, it is not wonderful that the history of conquerors and heroes should be universally the favorite entertainment. And this fairly accounts for what I once erroneously suspected to be a wrong bias originally in human nature; which is, that the grossest acts of oppression and injustice scarce blemish the character of a great conqueror: we, nevertheless, warmly espouse his interest, accompany him in his exploits, and are anxious for his success: the splendor and enthusiasm of the hero, transfused into the readers, elevate their minds far above the rules of justice, and render them in a great measure insensible of the wrongs that are committed :

For in those days might only shall be admired,
And valor an heroic virtue call'd;
To overcome in battle, and subdue

Nations, and bring home spoils with infinite
Manslaughter, shall be held the highest pitch
Of human glory, and for glory done
Of triumph, to be styled great conquerors,
Patrons of inankind, gods, and sons of gods,
Destroyers rightlier call'd, and plagues of men.
Thus fame shall be achieved, renown on earth,
And what most merits fame in silence hid.

Milton, B. xi. The irregular influence of grandeur reaches also to other matters: however good, honest, or useful a man may be, he is not so much respected as is one of a more elevated character, though of less integrity; nor do the misfortunes of the former affect us so much as those of the latter. And I add, because it cannot be disguised, that the remorse which attends breach of engagement, is in a great measure proportioned to the figure that the injured person makes the vows and protestations of lovers are an illustrious example; for these commonly are little rded when made to women of inferior rank.

231. False sublime in introducing imaginary beings.

Examples from Jonson and

Dryden. --Bombast in an actor.

232. Closing observations. Why the history of conquerors and heroes fascinates: why their crimes are palliated. Milton quoted.-The irregular influence of the sentiment of grandeur in other instances.



233. THAT motion is agreeable to the eye without relation to purpose or design, may appear from the amusement it gives to infants: juvenile exercises are relished chiefly on that account.

If a body in motion be agreeable, one will be apt to conclude that at rest it must be disagreeable; but we learn from experience, that this would be a rash conclusion. Rest is one of those circumstances that are neither agreeable nor disagreeable, being viewed with perfect indifferency. And happy is it for mankind to have the matter so ordered if rest were agreeable, it would disincline us to motion, by which all things are performed: if it were disagreeable, it would be a source of perpetual uneasiness; for the bulk of the things we see, appear to be at rest. A similar instance of designing wisdom I have had occasion to explain, in opposing grandeur to littleness, and elevation to lowness of place. (See chapter iv.) Even in the simplest matters, the finger of God is conspicuous: the happy adjustment of the internal nature of man to his external circumstances, displayed in the instances here given, is indeed


234. Motion is agreeable in all its varieties of quickness and slowness; but motion long continued admits some exceptions. That degree of continued motion which corresponds to the natural course of our perceptions is the most agreeable. The quickest motion is for an instant delightful; but soon appears to be too rapid : it becomes painful by forcibly accelerating the course of our perceptions. Slow continued motion becomes disagreeable from an opposite cause, that it retards the natural course of our perceptions. (See chapter ix.)

There are other varieties in motion, besides quickness and slowness, that make it more or less agreeable: regular motion is preferred before what is irregular; witness the motion of the planets in orbits nearly circular: the motion of the comets in orbits less regular, is less agreeable.

Motion uniformly accelerated, resembling an ascending series of numbers, is more agreeable than when uniformly retarded: motion upward is agreeable, by tendency to elevation. What then shall we say of downward motion regularly accelerated by the force of

283. Motion in itself agreeable.-Rest, a matter of indifference.-Advantage of this arrangement.

gravity, compared with upward motion regularly retarded by the same force? Which of these is the most agreeable? This question is not easily solved.

Motion in a straight line is agreeable; but we prefer undulating motion, as of waves, of a flame, of a ship under sail: such motion is more free, and also more natural. Hence the beauty of a serpentine river.

The easy and sliding motion of a fluid, from the lubricity of its parts, is agreeable upon that account; but the agreeableness chiefly depends upon the following circumstance, that the motion is perceived, not as of one body, but as of an endless number moving together with order and regularity. Poets, struck with that beauty, draw more images from fluids in motion than from solids.

Force is of two kinds; one quiescent, and one exerted in motion. The former, dead weight for example, must be laid aside; for a body at rest is not, by that circumstance, either agreeable or disagreeable. Moving force only is my province; and, though it is not separable from motion, yet by the power of abstraction, either of them may be considered independent of the other. Both of them are agreeable, because both of them include activity. It is agreeable to see a thing move: to see it moved, as when it is dragged or pushed along, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable, more than when at rest. It is agreeable to see a thing exert force; but it makes not the thing either agreeable or disagreeable to see force exerted upon it.

Though motion and force are each of them agreeable, the im pressions they make are different. This difference, clearly felt, is not easily described. All we can say is, that the emotion raised by a moving body, resembling its cause, is felt as if the mind were carried along the emotion raised by force exerted, resembling also its cause, is felt as if force were exerted within the mind.

To illustrate that difference, I give the following examples. It has been explained why smoke ascending in a calm day, suppose from a cottage in a wood, is an agreeable object (chapter i.); so remarkably agreeable, that landscape-painters introduce it upon all occasions. The ascent being natural, and without effort, is pleasant in a calm state of mind: it resembles a gently-flowing river, but is more agreeable, because ascent is more to our taste than descent. A fire-work, or a jet d'eau, rouses the mind more; because the beauty of force visibly exerted is superadded to that of upward motion. To a man reclining indolently upon a bank of flowers, ascending smoke in a still morning is charming; but a fire-work, or a jet d'eau, rouses him from that supine posture, and puts him in


A jet d'eau makes an impression distinguishable from that of a waterfall, Downward motion being natural and without effort, tends rather to quiet the mind than to rouse it: upward motion, on

the contrary, overcoming the resistance of gravity, makes an impression of a great effort, and thereby rouses and enlivens the mind.

235. The public games of the Greeks and Romans, which gave so much entertainment to the spectators, consisted chiefly in exerting force, wrestling, leaping, throwing great stones, and such-like trials of strength. When great force is exerted, the effort felt internally is animating. The effort may be such as in some measure to overpower the mind: thus the explosion of gunpowder, the violence of torrent, the weight of a mountain, and the crush of an earthquake, create astonishment rather than pleasure.

No quality nor circumstance contributes more to grandeur than force, especially when exerted by sensible beings. I cannot make the observation more evident than by the following quotations:

Him the almighty power

Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.

Paradise Lost, Book i.

Now storming fury rose,
And clamor such as heard in heaven till now
Was never; arms on armor clashing bray'd
Horrible discord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots raged; dire was the noise
Of conflict; overhead the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming volleys flew,
And flying, vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cone together rush'd
Both buttles main, with ruinous assault
And inextinguishable rage; all heaven
Resounded; and had earth been then, all earth
Had to her centre shook.

Ibid. Book vi.

They ended parle, and both address'd for fight
Unspeakable; for who, though with the tongue
Of angels, can relate, or to what things
Liken on earth conspicuous, that may lift
Human imagination to such height

Of godlike power? for likest gods they seem'd,
Stood they or moved, in stature, motion, arms,
Fit to decide the empire of great Heaven.
Now waved their fiery swords, and in the air
Made horrid circles: two broad suns their shields
Blazed opposite, while Expectation stood
In horror: from each hand with speed retired,
Where erst was thickest fight, th' angelic throng,
And left large field, unsafe within the wind
Of such commotion; such as, to set forth

Great things by small, if Nature's concord broke,
Among the constellations war were sprung,

234. Motion rapid and slow. Regular and irregular Uniformly accelerated, and uniformly retarded. In a straight line, and undulating.-Fluids in motion.-Force; quiescent and in motion. -Motion and force make different impressions on the mind.-Ascent of smoke from a cottage in a wood.-A fire-work or jet d'eau. The latter in its effect distinguished from a waterfall

235. Force exerted at Roman and Grecian games.-Forces that overpower the mindForce exerted by intelligent beings.-Quotations.

Two planets, rushing from aspect malign

Of fiercest opposition, in mid sky
Should combat, and their jarring spheres confound.

Ibid. Bock vi.

236. We shall next consider the effect of motion and force in conjunction. In contemplating the planetary system, what strikes us the most, is the spherical figures of the planets, and their regular motions; the conception we have of their activity and enormous bulk being more obscure: the beauty accordingly of that system raises a more lively emotion than its grandeur. But if we could comprehend the whole system at one view, the activity and irresistible force of these immense bodies would fill us with amazement: nature cannot furnish another scene so grand.

Motion and force, agreeable in themselves, are also agreeable by their utility when employed as means to accomplish some beneficial end. Hence the superior beauty of some machines, where force and motion concur to perform the work of numberless hands. Hence the beautiful motions, firm and regular, of a horse trained for war: every single step is the fittest that can be for obtaining the purposed end. But the grace of motion is visible chiefly in man, not only for the reasons mentioned, but because every gesture is significant. The power, however, of agreeable motion is not a common talent: every limb of the human body has an agreeable and disagreeable motion; some motions being extremely graceful, others plain and vulgar; some expressing dignity, others meanness, But the pleasure here, arising, not singly from the beauty of motion, but from indicating character and sentiment, belongs to different chapters. (Chapters xi. and xv.)

I should conclude with the final cause of the relish we have for motion and force, were it not so evident as to require no explanation. We are placed here in such circumstances as to make industry essential to our well-being; for without industry the plainest necessaries of life are not obtained. When our situation, therefore, in this world requires activity and a constant exertion of motion and force, Providence indulgently provides for our welfare by making these agreeable to us: it would be a gross imperfection in our nature to make any thing disagreeable that we depend on for existence; and even indifference would slacken greatly that degree of activity which is indispensable.

236. The effect of motion and force conjoined. The planetary system.-Motion and force also agreeable from their utility.-Beanty of some machines.-Motion of the warhorse.-Grace of motion in man. Not a common talent.-Final cause of our relish for motion and force.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »