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Loud as a bull makes hill and valley ring ;
So roar'd the lock when it reieas'd the fpring.
She moves majeftic through the wealthy room
Where treafur'd garments caft a rich perfume j
There from the column where aloft it hung,
Reach'd, in its fplendid cafe, the bow unflrung,

Virgil fometimes errs againft this rule : in
the following paflages minute circumftances are
brought into full view ; and, what is ftill worfe,
they are defcribed with all the pomp of poetical
di£lion ; Jineid, L, i. A 214. to 219. L. 6.
/. 176. to 182. L, 6. /. 212. to 231.: and the
laft, which defcribes a funeral, is the lefs ex-
cufable, as the man whofe funeral it is makes
no figure in the poem»


fch.lV. AND SUBLIMITY. 237

The fpeech of Clytemneftra, defcending from
her chariot in the Iphigenia of Euripides *, is
Huffed with a number of common and trivial

But of all writers, Lucan, as to this article, is
the mod injudicious : the fea-fight between the
Romans and Maffilians f, is defcribed fo much
in detail, without exhibiting any grand or total
view, that the reader is fatigued with endlefs cir-
cumftances, without ever feeling any degree of
elevation ; and yet there are fome fine incidents,
thofe for example of the two brothers, and of
the old man and his fon, which, taken feparate-
ly, would affed us greatly. But Lucan, once
engaged in a defcription, knows no end. See
other paiTages of the fame kind, L. 4. /. 292. to
337. L. 4. /. 750. to 765. The epifode of the
forcerefs Eridho, end of book 6, is intolerably
minute and prolix.

To thefe I venture to oppofe a palTage from
an old hiftorical ballad :

Go, little page, tell Hardiknute

That lives on hill fo high t,
To draw his fword, the dread of faes^

And hafte to follow me.

* Beginning of aft 3.
f Lib. 3. beginning at line 567.
:f High, in the old Scotch language, is pronounced hee.



The little page flew fwift as dart

Flung by his maftcr's arm*
" Come down, come down, Lord Hardiknute,

" And rid your king from harm."

This rule is alfo applicable to other fine arts.
In painting it is eftablifhed, that the principal
figure muft be put in the ftrongeft light ; that
the beauty of attitude confifts in placing the
nobler parts moft in view, and in fuppreffing the
fmaller parts as much as poflible j that the folds
of the drapery mufl be few and large ; that fore-
fhortenings are bad, becaufe they make the parts
appear little ; and that the mufcles ought to be
kept as entire as poflible, without being divided
into fmall fedions. Every one at prefent lub-
fcribes to that rule as applied to gardening, in
oppofition to parterres fplit into a thoufand fmall
parts in the ItifFeft regularity of figure. The
moft eminent architeds have governed them-
felves by the fame rule in all their works.

Another rule chiefly regards the fublime, tho'
it is applicable to every fort of literary perform-
ance intended for amufement ; and that is, to
avoid as much as poflible abftrad and general
terms. Such terms, fimilar to mathematical
figns, are contrived to exprefs our thoughts in
a concife manner ; but images, which are the
life of poetry, cannot be raifed in any perfedion
but by introducing particular objefts. General
terms that comprehend a number of individuals,



mufl be excepted from that rule : our kindredj,
our clan, our country, and words of the like
import, tho' they fcarce raife any image, have
however a wonderful power over our paffions :
the greatnefs of the complex objed overbalances
the obfcurity of the image.

Grandeur, being an extreme vivid emotion,
is not readily produced in perfedion but by re-
iterated impreffions. The eifeft of a fingle im-
prelTion can be but momentary ; and if one feel
fuddenly fomewhat like a fwellrng or exaltation
of mind, the emotion vanifheth as foon as felto
Single thoughts or fentiments, I know, are often
cited as examples of the fublime \ bu: their ef-
ieO; is far inferior to that of a grand fubjed dif-
played in its capital parts. I (hall give a few ex^
amples, that the reader may judge for himfelf,
In the famous a£lion of Thermopylae, where
Leonidas the Spartan king, with his chofen band,
fighting for their country, were cut off to the
laft man, a faying is reported of Dieneces, one
of the band, which, expreffing chearful and un-
difturbed bravery, is well entitled to the firft place
in examples of that kind. Refpeding the nura-^
ber of their enemies, it was obferved, that the
arrows fhot by fuch a multitude would intercept
the light of the fun. So much the better, fays
he, for we fhall then fight in the ihade *.

* Herodotus, book 7.

240 G R A N D EUR Ch. IV,

Somerfet. Ah ! Warwick, Warwick, wert thou as
we are,
We might recover all our lofs again.
The Queen from France hath brought a puifiant power,
Ev'n now we heard the news. Ah ! could ft thou fly I
Warwick. Why, then I would not fly.

Third part, Henry VI. aB I' fc, 3.

Such a fentiment from a man expiring of his
■wounds, is truly heroic, and mufl elevate the
mind to the greateft height that can be done by
a fingle expreffion : it will not fufFer in a com-
parifon with the famous fentiment ^^il mourut
of Corneille : the latter is a fentiment of indig-
nation merely, the former of firm and chearful

To cite in oppofition many a fublime paflagCj
enriched with the finert images, and dreffed in
the moft nervous expreffions, would fcarce be
fair : I fhall produce but one inftance, from
Shakefpear, which fets a few objeds before the
eye, without much pomp of language : it ope-
rates its effedl by reprefenting thefe objedls in a
climax, railing the mind higher and higher till
it feel the emotion of grandeur in perfedion :

The cloud-capt tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces.
The folemn temples, the great globe itfelf.
Yea all which it inherit, fhall diflblve, ^c.

The cloud-capt tow'rs produce an elevating emo-
tion, heightened by the gorgeous palaces ; and



the mind is carried ftill higher and higher by
the images that follow. Succeffive images, ma-
king thus deeper and deeper impreffions, muft
elevate more than any fmgle image can do.

As, on the one hand, no means dire£lly ap-
plied have more influence to raife the mind than
grandeur and fublimity 5 fo, on the other, no
means indirectly applied have more influence to
fink and deprefs it : for in a flate of elevation,
the artful introdudlion of an humbling objed,
makes the fall great in proportion to the eleva-
tion. Of this obfervation Shakefpear gives a
beautiful example, in the paflage lafl quoted :

The cloud-capt tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces.
The folemn temples, the great globe itfelf,
Yea all which it inherit, fhall dilTolve,
And, like the bafelefs fabric of a vifion,
Leave not a rack behind.

Tempe/lf a5I 4. fc. 4.

The elevation of the mind in the former part of
this beautiful paflage, makes the fall great in
proportion, when the mofl: humbling of all
images is introduced, that of an utter diflblution
of the earth and its inhabitants. The mindj
when warmed j is more fufceptible of impreflions
than in a cool fliate ; and a deprefling or me-
lancholy objeQ: liftened to, makes the flirongeft
imprefllon when it reaches the mind in its high-
eft: ftate of elevation or chearfulnefs.

Vol. I. Q^ . But



But a humbling Image is not always neceffary
to produce that efFed; : a remark is made above,
that, in defcribing fuperior beings, the reader's
imagination, unable to fupport itfelf in a {train-
ed elevation, falls often as from a height, and
fmks even below its ordinary tone. The follow-
ing inftance comes luckily in view j for a better
cannot be given : " God faid. Let there be
*' light, and there was light." Longinus quotes
this paflage from Mofes as a fhining example of
the fublime ; and it is fcarce poffible, in fewer
words, to convey fo clear an image of the infi-
nite power of the Deity : but then it belongs to
the prefent fubjed to remark, that the emotion
of fublimity raifed by this image is but momen-
tary ; and that the mind, unable to fupport it-
felf in an elevation fo much above nature, im-
mediately fmks down into humility and venera-
tion for a being fo far exalted above groveling
mortals. Every one is acquainted with a difpute
about that paffage between two French critics *,
the one pofitively affirming it to be fublime,
the other as pofitively denying. What I have
remarked fhows that both of them have reached
the truth, but neither of them the whole truth :
the primary effed of the palTage is undoubtedly
an emotion of grandeur ; which fo far juftifies
Boileau : but then every one muft be fenfible,
that the emotion is merely a flafh, which, va-

* Boileau and Huet,



nifhing inftantaneoufly, gives way to humility
and veneration. That indirect efFed of fubli-
mity juftifies Huet, who, being a man of true
piety, and probably not much carried by ima-
gination, felt the humbling paffion more fenfi-
bly than his antagonifl did. And, laying afide
difference of charader, Huet's opinion may, I
think, be defended as the more folid ; becaufe
in fuch images, the depreffing emotions are the
more fenfibly felt, and have the longer endu-

The {training an elevated fubjeft beyond due
bounds, is a vice not fo frequent as to require
the corredionof criticifm. But falfe fublime is
a rock that writers of more fire than judgment
commonly fplii on ; and therefore a colledion
of examples may be of ufe as a beacon to future
adventurers. One fpecies of falfe fublime,
known by the name of bombaji, is common
among writers of a mean genius : it is a ferious
endeavour, by (trained defcription, to raife a
low or familiar fubject above its rank ; which,
inftead of being fublime, becomes ridiculous.
I am extremely fenfible how prone the mind is,
in fome animating paflions, to magnify its ob-
jects beyond natural bounds : but fuch hyper-
bolical defcription has its limits ; and, when car-
ried beyond the impulfe of the propenfity, it
degenerates into burlefque. Take the following



Sejanus Great and high

The world knows only two, that's Rome and I.
My roof receives me not ; 'tis air I tread,
And at each ftep I feel my advanc'd head
Knock out a ftar in heav'n.

SejcnuSy Ben Johnfon, aB 5-

A writer who has no natural ekvation o£ mindg
deviates readily into bombaft : he ilrains above
his natural powers ; and the violent effort carries
him beyond the bounds of propriety. Boileau=
expreffes this happily :

L'autre a peur de tamper, il fe perd'dans la nue *.

The fame author, Ben Johnfoh, abounds iii
the bombaft °. ^

'Pl^e mother.

Th^ expulfed Apicata, finds them there \
"Whom when ihe faw lie fpread on the degreesj
After a world of fury on herfelf,
Tearing her hair, defacing of her face,
Beating her breafts and womb, kneeling amaz'd;.
Crying to heav'n, then to them ; at iaft
Her drowned voice got up above her woes :
And with fuch black and bitter execrations,
(As might affright the gods, and force the fun
Run backward to the eaft ; nay, make the old
Deformed chaos rife again t' o'erwhelna

* L'art poet, chant, i. L 68.



Them, us, and all the world), fhe fills the air,
Upbraids the heavens with their partial dooms.
Defies their tyrannous powers, and demands
What fhe and thofe poor innocents have tranfgrefs'd,
That they muft fuffer fuch a fhare in vengeance.

■SejanuSf aEl ^'fc. lajl^

• — Lentulus, the man,

If all our fire were out, would fetch down new
Out of the hand of Jove ; and rivet him
To Caucafus, fhould he but frown ; and let
His own gaunt eagle fly at him to tire.

■Catiline ^ acl 3.

Can thefe, or fuch, be any aid to us ?

Look they as they were built to fhake the world.

Or be a moment to our enterprife ?

A thoufand, fuch as they are, could not make

One atom of our fouls. They fhould be men

"Worth heaven's fear, that looking up, but thus,

Would make Jove iland upon his guard,and draw

Himfelf within his thunder *, which, amaz'd,

lie fhould dlfcharge in vain, and they unhurt.

Or, if they were, like Capaneus at Thebes,

They fhould hang dead upon the highefl: fpires

And afk the fecond bolt to be thrown down.

Why Lentulus talk you fo long ? This time

Had been enough t'have fcatter'd all the flars,

T'have quench'd the fun and moon, and made the

Defpair of day, or any light but ours.

Catllinij aB-/\.

<^3 This


This is the language of a madman :

Guildford. Give way, and let the gufhing torrent come.
Behold the tears we bring to fwell the deluge.
Till the flood rife upon the guilty world
And make the ruin common.

Lady Jane Gray^ aB 4. near the end.

I am forry to obferve that the following bom-
baft ftuff dropt from the pen of Dryden.

To fee this fleet upon the ocean move,

Angels drew wide the curtains of the fli:ies ;

And heaven, as if there wanted lights above,
For tapers made two glaring comets rife.

Another fpecies of falfe fublime is ftill more
faulty than bombaft j and that is, to force ele-
vation by introducing imaginary beings without
preferving any propriety in their adlions j as if
it v/ere lawful to afcribe every extravagance and
inconfiftence to beings of the poet's creation.
No writers are more licentious in that article
than Johnfon and Dryden :

Methinks I fee Death and the furies waiting
What we will do, and all the heaven at leifure
For the great fpedacle. Draw then your fwor is :
And if our deftiny envy our virtue
The honour of the day, yet let us care
To fell ourfelves at fuch a price, as may
Undo the world to buy us, and make Fate,
"While ihe tempts ours, to fear her own eflate.

Catiline y aB 5,


Ch. IV. GRANDEUR, &c. 247

-The Furies flood on hill

Circling the place, and trembled to fee men
Do more than they ; whilft Piety left the field,
Griev'd for that fide, that in fo bad a caufe
They knew not what a crime their valour was.
The Sun flood ftill, and was, behind the cloud
The battle made, feen fweating to drive up
His frighted horfe, whom flill the noife drove backward.

Ibid. aSi. 5.

Ofmyn. While we indulge our common happinefs.
He is forgot by whom we all polTefs,
The brave Almanzor, to whofe arms we owe
All that we did, and all that we fhall do ;
Who like a tempefl that outrides the wind.
Made a jufl battle ere the bodies join'd.

Ahdalla. His victories we fcarce could keep in view.
Or polifh 'em fo fall as he rough drew.

Abdemelech. Fate after him below with pain did move,
And Viclory could fcarce keep pace above.
Death did at length fo many flain forget.
And loft the tale, and took 'em by the great.

Conquejl of Grenada y a^ 2. at beginning.

The gods of Rome fight for ye ; loud Fame calls ye,

Pitch'd on the toplefs Apenine, and blows

To all the under w,orld, all nations

The feas, and unfrequented deferts, where the fnow

dwells, /

Wakens the ruin'd monuments, and there,
Where nothing but eternal death and fleep is.
Informs again the dead bones.

Bsamnont and Fletcher , Bonduca, acf 3 . />. 3 .

(^4 An

248 GRANDEUR. Ch.lV,

An ador on the ftage may be guilty of bom-
baft as well as an author in his clofet ; a cer-
tain manner of afting, which is grand when
fupported by dignity in the fentiment and force
in the expreffion, is ridiculous where the fenti-
ment is mean, and the expreffion flat.

This chapter ihall be ciofed with fome obfer-
vations. When the fublime is carried to its due
height, and circumfcribed within proper bounds,
it enchants the mind, and raifes the moft delight-
ful of all emotions : the reader, engrolTed by a
fublime objeft, feels himfelf raifed as it were to
a higher rank. Confidering that effeft, it is not
v*^onderful that the hiftory of conquerors and
heroes, ihould be univerfally the favourite en-
tertainment. And this fairly accounts for what
I once erroneoufly fufpefted to be a wrong bias
originally in human nature ; which is, that the
groffeft ads of oppreffion and injuftice fcarce ble-
miih the charaOier of a great conqueror : we,
neverthelefs, warmly efpoufe his intereft, accom-
pany him in his exploits, and are anxious for
his fuccefs : the fplendour and enthufiafm of the
hero transfufed into the readers, elevate their
minds far above the rules of juftice, and render
them in a great meafure infenfible of the wrongs
that are-committed : -

For in thofe days might only fliall be admir'd.
And valour and heroic virtue cali'd ;
To overcome in battle, and fubdue
Nations, and bring home fpoils with infinite



Manflaughter, fliall be held the higheft pitch

Of human glory, and for glory done
I Of triumph, to be ftyl'd great conquerors,
|: Patrons of mankind, gods, and fons of gods |
* Deftroyers rightlier call'd, and plagues of men.

Thus fame fhali be atchiev'd, renown on earth,

And what moft merits fame in filence hid.

Milton f b. 11.

The irregular influence of grandeur reaches
alfo to other matters : however good, honeft, or
ufeful, a man may be, he is not fo much refpeQ:-
ed as is one of a more elevated charader, the'
of lefs integrity ; nor do the misfortunes of the
former affect us fo much as thofe of the latter.
And I add, becaufe it cannot be difguifed, that
the remorfe which attends breach of engage-
ment, is in a great meafure proportioned to the
figure that the injured perfon makes : the vows
and proteftations of lovers are an illuftrious ex-
ample ; for thefe commonly are little regarded
when made to women of inferior rank.





THAT motion is agreeable to the eye with-
out relation to purpofe or defign, may ap-
pear from the amufement it gives to infants :
juvenile exercifes are relifhed chiefly on that

If a body in motion be agreeable, one will be
apt to conclude that at reft it muft be difagree-
able : but we learn from experience, that this
would be a ralh conclufion. Reft is one of
thofe circumftances that are neither agreeable
nor difagreeable, being viewed with perfect in-
differency. And happy is it for mankind to
have the matter fo ordered : if reft were agree-
able, it would difmcline us to motion, by which
all things are performed : if it were difagree-
able, it would be a fource of perpetual uneafi-
nefs ; for the bulk of the things we fee appear
to be at reft. A fimilar inftance of defigning
wifdom I have had occafion to explain, in op-
pofing grandeur to littlenefs, and elevation to
lownefs of place *. Even in the fimpleft mat-
ters, the finger of God is confpicuous : the hap-
py adjuftment of the internal nature of man to

* See Chap. 4.



his external circumftances, difplayed in the in-
flances here given, is indeed admirable.

Motion is agreeable in all its varieties of
quicknefs and ilownefs ; but motion long con-
tinued admits fome exceptions. That degree of
continued motion which correfponds to the na-
tural courfe of our perceptions, is the moft a-
greeable. The quickeil motion is for an in-
ftant delightful ; but foon appears to be too ra-
pid : it becomes painful by forcibly accelera-
ting the courfe of our perceptions. Slow con-
tinued motion becomes difagreeable from an
oppofite caufe, that it retards the natural courfe
of our perceptions *.

There are other varieties in motion, befide
quicknefs and Ilownefs, that make it more or lefs
agreeable : regular motion is preferred before
what is irregular ; witnefs the motion of the pla-
nets in orbits nearly circular : the motion of the
comets in orbits lefs regular, is lefs agreeable.

Motion uniformly accelerated, refembling an
afcending feries of numbers, is more agreeable
than when uniformly retarded : motion upward
is agreeable, by tendency to elevation. What
then ihall we fay of downward motion regularly
accelerated by the force of gravity, compared
with upward motion regularly retarded by the
fame force ? Which of thefe is the mod a-
greeable ? This queflion is not eafily folved.

f This will be explained more fully afterward, ch. ^.



Motion in a ftraight line is agreeable : but
we prefer undulating motion, as of waves, of a
llamej of a llilp under fail j fuch motion is more
free, and alfo more natural. Hence the beauty
of a ferpentine river.

The eafy and Aiding motion of a fluid, from
the lubricity of its parts, is agreeable upon that
account i but the agreeablenefs chiefly depends
on the following circumftance, that the motion
is perceived, not as of one body, but as of an
endlefs number moving together with order and
regularity. Poets ftruck with that beauty, draw
more images from fluids in motion than from

Force is of two kinds ; one quiefcent, and
one exerted in motion. The former, dead weight
for example, mufl be laid afide ; for a body at
rell is not, by that circumftance, either agree-
able or difagreeable. Moving force only is my
province ; and, though it is not feparable from
motion., yet by the power of abilraftion, either
of them may be confidered independent of the
other. Both of them are agreeable, becaufe
both of them include adivity. It is agreeable
to fee a thing move : to fee it moved, as when
it is dragged or pulhed along, is neither agree-
able nor difagreeable, more than when at reft*
It is agreeable to fee a thing exert force ; but
it makes not the thing either agreeable or difa-
greeable, to fee force exerted upon it.



Though motion and force are each of th^m
agreeable, the impreffions they make are diffe-
rent. This difference, clearly felt, is not eafily
defcribed. All we can fay is, that the emotion
raifed by a moving body, refembling its caufe, is
felt as if the mind were carried along ; the emo-
tion raifed by force exerted, refembling alfo its
caufe, is felt as if force were exerted within the

To illuflrate that difference, I give the follow-
ing examples. It has been explained why fmoke
afcending in a calm day, fuppofe from a cottage
in a wood, is an agreeable objeft * ; fo remark-
ably agreeable, that landfcape-painters introduce
it upon all occafions. The afcent being natural,
and without effort, is pleafant in a calm ftate of
mind : it refembles a gently-flowing river, but is
more agreeable, becaufe afcent is more to our
tafle than defcent. A fire-work or a jet d'eau
roufes the mind more ; becaufe the beauty of
force vifibly exerted, is fuperadded to that of
upward motion. To a man reclining indolent-
ly upon a bank of flowers, afcending fmoke in
a flill morning is charming ; but a fire-woik or
2. jet (feau roufes him from that fupine poflure,
and puts him in motion.

A jet d'eau makes an impreffion diflinguilhable
from that of a water fall. Downward motion
being natural and without effort, tends rather to
quiet the mind than to roufe it : upward motion,

* Chap. z.



on the contrary, overcoming the refiftance of
gravity, makes an impreffion of a great efFort,
and thereby roufes and enlivens the mind.

The public games of the Greeks and Romans,
■which gave fo much entertainment to the fpedta-
tors, confifted chiefly in exerting force, wreft-
ling, leaping, throvs^ing great flones, and fuch-
like trials of ftrength. When great force is ex-
erted, the eifort felt internally is animating.
The effort may be fuch, as in fome meafure
to overpovi^er the mind : thus the explofion of
gun-powder, the violence of a torrent, the weight
of a mountain, and the crujQi of an earthquake,
create allonifhment rather than pleafure.

No quality nor circumftance contributes more
to grandeur than force, efpeciaily where exerted
by fenfible beings. I cannot make the obferva-
tion more evident than by the following quota-

: Him the almighty powei'

Hurl'd headlong flaming from th' ethereal iky,
With hideous ruin and combuftion, down
To bottomlefs perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
"Who durfl: defy th' Omnipotent to arms.

Paradife Lofty hook I.

— ~ — — Now ftorming fury rofe,

And clamour fuch as heard in heaven till now
Was never ; arms on armour clafhing bray'd
Horrible difcord, and the madding wheels
Of bra2en chariots rag'd j dire was the noife
Of conflidl: j over head the difmal hifs



Of fiery darts in flaming volHes flew.

And flying vaulted either hoft with fire.

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