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be likely to suppose, but, like those of beauty, are multiplied and various. The measure of the sublimity of the object is the character of the emotion which it excites
S; and if the sublime emotion exists, as unquestionably it does on various occasions, this of itself is decisive as to the remark which has been made. Accordingly, the proper object before us, in the first instance, seems to be to indicate some of these occasions.
$ 55. Great extent or expansion an occasion of sublimity. In endeavouring to point out some of the sources of sublimity, our first remark is, that the emotion of the sublime may arise in view of an object which is characterized by vast extent or expansion; in other words, by the attribute of mere horizontal amplitude. Accordingly, it is with entire propriety that Mr. Stewart makes a remark to this effect, that a Scotchman, who had never witnessed anything of the kind before, would experience an emotion approaching to sublimity on beholding for the first time the vast plains of Salisbury and Yorkshire in England. Washington Irving also, in a passage of the Alhambra, has a remark to the same purport.
“ There is something," he observes, “ in the sternly simple features of the Spanish landscape that impresses on the soul a feeling of sublimity. The immense plains of the Castiles and La Mancha, extending as far as the eye can reach, derive an interest from their very nakedness and immensity, and have something of the solemn grandeur of the
In regard to the ocean, one of the most sublime objects which the human mind can contemplate, it cannot be doubted that one element of its sublimity is the unlimited expanse which it presents.
$ 56. Great height an element or occasion of sublimity. Mere height, independently of considerations of expansion or extent, appears also to constitute an occasion of the sublime. Every one has experienced this when standing at the base of a very steep and lofty cliff, hill, or mountain. When, in the silence of the night, we stand under the clear open sky, we can hardly fail, as we look upward, to experience a sublime emotion, occasion
ed partly by the immensity of the object, but also, in part, by its vast height Travellers have often spoken of the sublime emotion occasioned by viewing the celebrated Natural Bridge in Virginia from the bottom of the deep ravine over which it is thrown. This bridge is a single solid rock, about sixty feet broad, ninety feet long, and forty thick. It is suspended over the head of the spectator, who views it at the bottom of the narrow glen, at the elevation of two hundred and thirty feet; an immense height for such an object. It is not in human nature to behold without strong feeling such a vast vault of solid limestone, springing lightly into the blue upper air, and remaining thus outstretched, as if it were the arm of the Almighty himself, silent, unchangeable, eternal.
0 57. Of depth in connexion with the sublime. It is a circumstance confirmatory of the view that it is impossible to resolve the grounds of sublimity into a single occasion or element, that we find the depth as well as the height of things, the downward as well as the upward, the antecedent and cause of this emotion. We are doubtful, however, whether depth is so decisively, as it is certainly not so frequently a cause, as elevation or height; which last, on account of its frequent connexion with their existence, has given the name to this class of feelings. But others may think differently. Mr. Burke has the following passage on this point : “ I am apt to imagine that height is less grand than depth, and that we are more struck at looking down from a precipice than looking up at an object of equal height; but of that I am not very positive.”
But, however this may be, there is no doubt that sublime emotions may arise from this cause. When we are placed on the summit of any high object, and look downward into the vast opening below, it is impossible not to be strongly affected. The sailor on the wide ocean, when in the solitary watches of the night he casts his eye upward to the lofty illuminated sky, has a sublime emotion; and he feels the same strong sentiment stirring within him, when, a moment afterward, he thinks of the vast unfathomable abyss beneath him, over which he is suspended by the frail plank of his vessel. No one, we imagine, can read Shakspeare's description of Dover Cliffs without feeling that there is a sublimity in the depths beneath as well as in the heights above.
“ How fearful
$ 58. Of colours in connexion with the sublime. The colours, also, as well as the forms of bodies, may, to a limited extent, furnish the occasion of sublime emotions. The lightning, when at a distance it is seen darting to the earth in one continuous chain of overpowering brightness; the red meteor shooting athwart the still, dark sky; the crimson Aurora Borealis, which occasionally diffuses the tints of the morning over the hemisphere of midnight, are sublime objects; and although there are other elements which unite in forming the basis of the sublime emotion, it is probably to be ascribed
part to the richness and vividness of colours. What object is more sublimely impressive than the contrasted hues of the mingling fires and smoke of a burning volcano! Darkness particularly is an element of the sublime. When the clouds are collecting together on some distinct and distant portion of the sky, how intently the eye fixes itself on those masses, which wear the visage of the deepest gloom! Forests, and frowning cliffs, and mountains, and the wide ocean itself, and whatever other objects are susceptible of sublimity, are rendered still more sublime by the shades and darkness that are sometimes made to pass over them. The poets of all countries have represented the Deity, the most sublime object of
contemplation, as enthroned in the midst of darkness.“ He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about were dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.”
$59. Of sounds as furnishing an occasion of sublime emotions.
We find another element of the sublime in sounds of a certain description. There are some cries and voices of animals which are usually regarded as sublime. The roar of the lion, not only in the solitudes of his native deserts, but at all times, partakes of the character of sublimity. The human voice, in combination with a suitable number of other voices, is capable of uttering sublime sounds, and does in fact utter them, in performing many of the works of the great masters and composers sic. There is no small degree of sublimity in the low, deep murmur of the organ, independently of the moral and religious associations connected with it. It is presumed no one will doubt that the trumpet, in the hands of a skilful performer, is capable of originating sublime sounds. Almost every one must have noticed a peculiarly impressive sound, sent forth by a large and compact forest of pines when waved by a heavy wind, which obviously has the same character. The heavy and interminable sound of the ocean, as it breaks upon the shore, is sublime; and hardly less so, the ceaseless voice of the congregated waters of some vast cataract. To these instances may be added the sound of a cannon, not only when it comes from the field of battle, but at any time; and still more, the mighty voice of thunder. The latter sound is often mentioned in the Scriptures, in connexion with the attributes of the Supreme Being, and apparently for the purpose of heightening the idea
of his sublimity. “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice.”_" The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thundereth.”
We leave this part of the subject with introducing a remark from Coleridge, which goes to confirm the general doctrine of the sublimity of some sounds. He had been saying something of the scenery of the Lake of Ratzeburg, when he adds: “About a month ago, before the thaw came on, there was a storm of wind. During the whole night, such were the thunders and howlings of the breaking ice, that they left a conviction on my mind that there are sounds more sublime than any sight can be, more absolutely suspending the power of comparison, and more utterly absorbing the mind's self-consciousness in its total attention to the object working upon it.”*
Ø 60. Of motion in connexion with the sublime. It will be noticed, from the train of thought which has been pursued, that there is a close analogy between beauty and sublimity, not only in the feelings which are originated, but also in the occasions of their origin. As the sentiments of beauty were found to be connected not only with the forms of objects, but also with colours and sounds, so also are those of sublimity. And, furthermore, as we found beauty connecting itself with certain kinds of motion, we find motion the basis likewise, in some of its modifications, of emotions of the sublime.
We often experience, for instance, emotions of sublimity in witnessing objects that move with great swift
This is one source of the feelings we have at beholding bodies of water rushing violently down a cataract. For the same reason, although there are undoubtedly other elements of the emotions we feel, the hurricane, that hastens onward with irresistible velocity, and lays waste whatever it meets, is sublime. And here also we find a cause of part of that sublime emotion which men have often felt on seeing at a distance the electric fluid darting from the cloud to the earth, and at witnessing the sudden flight of a meteor. $ 61. Indications of power accompanied by emotions of the sublime.
The contemplation of mental objects as well as of material, may be attended with this species of emotion. Power, for instance, is an attribute of mind, and not of matter; and the exhibition of it is frequently sublime. It is hardly necessary to say, in making this remark, that power is not anything which is directly addressed to the
* The Friend, Am. ed., p.