and majesty of diction are the patural ex- pomp and wonder. Why does man seek pression of men who live greatly and think to surround his life with elegance and greatly. Live nobly, he says, scorn little splendor, when what is necessary to his things, and there is no fear that your existence may be gained with so little thoughts will be mean, or your words un effort? Why does he admire the Rhine worthy of them. Noble counsel, and such or the ocean more than the clear spring as he had a right to give, who lived and which supplies him with water to drink, thought so grandly himself. Very sugges- the devastating fires of Ætna more than tive too is that eloquent passage in which the stove and the lamp which lights and he enlarges on the reflected beauty and warms his room? Because, it is ansublimity which is gained by an earnest swered, “there is a divinity which stirs study of great models. “ Many gather the within us and compels us to admire the divine impulse from another's spirit, just mightier forces of nature, even when they as the Pythian priestess when she takes are put forth to waste and to destroy. her seat on the holy tripod is straightway We may remark here a curiously unique filled with inspiration, and utters her ora- modernness of tone in the thoughts. The cles; so also from the mighty genius of Hellenic spirit is quite out of sympathy antiquity there is carried into the scholar's with the wilder and more tumultuous assoul an effluence which breathes upon it, pects of pature. A tempestuous sea, a until, even though his natural genius be thunderstorm, an active volcano, have for but cold, he shares the sublime enthusiasm the Greek none of that strange fascination of his masters.” How much of what is of fearful beauty which they exercise upon best in literature do we owe to this bor-us. To him they are scenes of pure horrowed or secondary inspiration! Almost ror, manifestations of a ispis in nature, all that we value most in Latin poetry is of a force alien from and inimical to social due to a happy adaptation from the Greek. order and progress. When Pindar deIndeed, with rare exceptions, it may al- scribes, in lines of wonderful vividness most be said that with the Greeks the age and power, an eruption of Ætna, he views of spontaneous, untaught genius ends. the phenomenon as a type of social anThe most illustrious writers of modern archy, as a breaking up of the boods times have generally been accomplished necessary to the well-being of mankind. scholars, not a few have been men of vast Æschylus, depicting the

scene, attainments. The example which Longi- dwells on the devastation of the fertile nus here gives may seem to us at first fields of Sicily, – it is the ruin of agricul. sight a little startling. He speaks of ture, the demolition of man's labor, that Plato as the disciple, and the emulous he thinks of first. rival, of Homer. We need not, however, In what follows we are presented with press his words too closely. Doubtless a very curious theory as to the respective he does not mean more than that Plato, provinces of literature and art. The paswhen he set himself to write his more sage is somewhat obscure, but Longinus's elevated and figurative passages — those contention appears to be this, that the end digressions which many of us agree with of literature is to be great, the end of art the speaker in the “ Theætetus” in liking to be correct. In sculpture we look for better than the argument - had fired his accurate imitation in the human form, in imagination by a recent perusal of Homer. literature for something which transcends

Nowhere, perhaps, is this writer so humanity. That one who was surrounded strangely near to us, nowhere, certainly, by all the glories of ancient art should does he approach more nearly to his own have found nothing more in thein than a ideal of the sublime, than in those noble dull copy of living forms is not a little chapters, where, quitting those minutiæ curious. To us the end of art, subject to of rhetoric, which elsewhere take up too those restrictions which are placed upon much of his attention, he rises to an ex. it by the materials it employs, appears to alted and extensive view of his subject. be the same as that of poetry. Both aim Man, he says, was born for a nobler des at an objective realization of our higher tiny than “ to grunt and sweat under a nature, a sensible or intelligible expresweary life.” He is placed in the vast sion of an ideal beauty in the mind. Nor theatre of the universe, to be a spectator should we, perhaps, be more disposed to of the great drama of existence. But he acquiesce in that tumultuous irregularity, is something more than a spectator. He that uncurbed revelry of force, which Lon. too has his part to play in the great Olym- ginus here (hardly in agreement with what pic festival of nature, he enters as her he says elsewhere) seems to regard as ambitious rival into that scene full of linseparable from the highest efforts of


[ocr errors]

literature. In Homer, in Milton, in Soph- temper, this dissection and anatomizing ocles, we seem to find the same majestic of genius, makes us little wiser, and cer. repose, the same chastened continence of tainly makes us no better. What we want posver, as in that miracle of ancient statu. is a criticism which appeals not only to our ary, the figure of Hermes with the young heads, but to our hearts. And happy in. Dionysius. Longinus appears indeed bere deed would it be for us, if we could carry hardly to do justice to himself, to exhibit a some of the spirit of Longinus, his connarrowness and insensibility which is diffi- tempt of what is base, his ardor for what cult to reconcile with his ordinary mood. is noble, his intelligent enthusiasm, into

In his last chapter Longinus gives a our studies and our lives. melancholy picture of his own times. Turning from Longinus to Burke, we Liberty, he says, " that kind nurse of seem to pass from the torrid to the frigid genius,” has disappeared from the world. zone of criticism. It is not a little reSociety lies paralyzed under the numbing markable that a man of so warm and imhand of a world-wide tyranny. Every aginative a temperament as Burke should higher impulse, every nobler aspiration, have approached this subject, a subject has given place to low desires and an calculated almost beyond any other to ignoble passion for gold. No wonder appeal to a man of sensibility and culture, that literature will not flourish in so foul in a spirit of cold and passionless specu. an atmosphere. We have no writers, and lation. He discusses the sources of very few readers, who care for what is beauty and sublimity in the spirit of an good. Nay, so low has human nature anatomist, and seeks to confine these sunk, that we may even think ourselves volatile and subtle essences within the fortunate in being confined by the bonds iron fetters of a mechanical system of of despotism. We are so vile that we are psychology. He failed, because he sought not fit to be free. Liberty would simply to refer the noblest emotions of the soul mean for us the triumph of anarchy, the to some sensuous and material impulse. breaking up of the whole structure of soci." When we go,” he says, one step beety. And so he turns in calm content yond the immediate and sensible qualities from the humiliating spectacle of fallen of things we go out of our depth. The humanity, and withdraws into the seclusion sublime he defines as an idea belonging of his own lettered solitude.

to self-preservation. As might be supTo us of to-day he remains a remarkable posed from this strange definition, he will asd deeply interesting figure. Cut off by allow of no relation between beauty and temper and pursuits from all sympathy sublimity. Beauty, according to him, with his contemporaries, he sought and belongs exclusively to the tenderer part of found in books, and in books alone, the our nature. It is associated, again, with whole aliment of his mind. He lived in imperfection! “ Women are very sensible the past, in close and constant communion of this; for which reason they learn to with its finest spirits. From his page the lisp, to totter in their walk, to counterfeit great voice of antiquity speaks again; the weakness, and even sickness." A notable stately cadence, the flexibility, the all-em- discovery, which we commend to the at: bracing sweep of the Greek period cometention of our fair sisters of to-day. Then to a second birth. It is said to be the fate we have a wonderful summary of the ele. of genius to live alone ; but in no one was ments of beauty. They consist. in. (1) that destiny so strangely and so com smallness, (2) smoothness, (3) variation in pletely realized as in Longinus. Com the direction of parts, as in Hogarth's pelled to give utterance to the voice within Line of Beauty, (4) absence of angularity, him, he knows that he will find no audience (5) delicacy, (6) clearness and brightness among the men of his own day. And so of color; but it would be trifling with our be speaks to posterity; his tones still readers' patience to continue this foolish souod in our ears, reading us a lesson list any further. We are reminded of which is good for all time. There will that portentous catalogue of physical per. always be the need for teachers like Lonfections which Lessing quotes from Congious. We have speculations, and the stantine Manasses, and by means of which ories, and discussions about" tendencies” that ingenious poct seeks to give us an and revivals” enough, and more than idea of the beauty of Helen. enough. One solution of the “Homeric If terror, as Burke asserts, be a ruling problem "succeeds to another, but a hun. principle of the sublime, it follows that, dred such solutions bring us no nearer to the greater our terror, the greater will be Homer; they carry us farther and far- our sense of sublimity. How absurd such ther from him. This cold and scientific la conclusion is, every child must see.


Does the sailor who is on a dismasted Could we, in some temporary aberration ship abandoned to the fury of a hurricane, of intellect, conceive them to be real, our on the point, we will say, of being dashed pleasure would be at once converted into to pieces on a rock-bound coast, realize pain. The child who screams with terror the sublimity of the situation?. The truth at the exhibition of some dreadful object is that the emotion of terror is the meanest on the stage is a familiar instance of this. of all human passions. Under its influ. To give another example; we know bow ence the mind shrinks, the will is para entertaining the mimicry of some grolyzed, the whole creature is dwarfed into a tesque or vulgar characteristic can be contemptible littleness. Whereas the made, so long as it is restrained within sublime exalts and expands every noble the limits of good taste. But if the perfaculty of our nature, lifting us up, as former has any taint of vulgarity himself, Longinus says, to an attitude of almost if the imitation becomes a reality, our divine elevation. Why is it, then, it may sense of artistic propriety is offended'; we be asked, that we feel a wild delight in are no longer pleased, but disgusted. It many objects or phenomena which are, or is only the refined who can mimic vulgarmay be, terrible in the highest degree, ity with success. in the roar of a tempest, in the glare of It would serve no useful purpose to the lightning, in the fires of Ætna, in the pursue our examination of this once celethunders of Niagara? Certainly not be- brated essay further. In truth we cause they are terrible, for, in proportion already weary of groping in this mine of as their terror operates upon us, our sense stale platitudes and exploded paradoxes. of their sublimity vanishes. So far as Burke has assembled a vast mass of facts, feelings so subtle and complex are capable but he shows little skill in reasoning upon of analysis, I would suggest that the them. Starting with a false theory of the source of that delight is to be sought in an sublime, the farther he goes the farther increased sense of power. The sense, be recedes from the truth. His mind and the exercise, of power, is a great, in- seems to have been little fitted for abstract deed the chief cause of all our pleasures. speculation. Had he been content to fol. And whatever intensifies that sense en low the lines laid down by Longinus, and hances the pleasure derived from it. given free play to his fine imagination, he Moreover there are many sublime objects might have produced one of the greatest which possess no element of terror. Sun-pieces of eloquence in the language. As rise and sunset, a calm sea illumined by it is, he has bent all his consummate powthe silent moonbeams, a young mother ers to the task of investing a fascinating watching over her sleeping child, these subject with dulness and obscurity; and, surely are sublime in a high degree. But as might be supposed, he has been signally no one would call them terrible. .In truth successful. it would seem that terror, so far from be.

H. L. HAVELL. ing indispensable to sublimity, is diametrically opposed to it. We are affected with a sense of sublimity by the picture of a good man struggling with adversity but not because the situation is a terrible

From The Spectator.

FROST AND FOG. For supposing the terror to culminate, supposing we see him lose all his The winter is here, and once again we fortitude, and break out into wailing and are sitting in cold and darkness. It is not complaint, in this case our feeling for him every city in the world that, having is at once changed to pity or contempt. usurped some hundred square miles of

Burke seems to ignore the fundamental the earth's surface for its foundations, distinction between the emotions which could actually create for itself an atmo. are aroused by art and those which are sphere of its own; and yet that is what caused by events in real life. To him the London succeeds in doing, though, insensations which we experience at the deed, the feat is hardly a matter for boast. representation of a tragedy, are the same ing or congratulation on the part of its in kind, differing only in degree, from citizens. For the atmosphere is not a good what passes in our minds at seeing a From millions of chimney-pots the fellow-creature hanged! To argue thus smoky vapors rise and gather, only to be is to overlook the essential nature of all chilled by the frosty air that prevents artistic pleasure. The sufferings of a their escape into the upper heavens, and tragic hero are only agreeable, so long as holds them in suspense above our heads ; we remember that they are fictitious. I thicker and more black the 'murky clouds



gather and close together, hanging like a to say whether the evil is remediable or pall and shutting out the wintry light of a not, and to invent the remedy, if there be January day, and then gradually they sink not one already existing. But science, and fall until they rest upon the solid that has been kind enough to analyze fog ground itself, filling our streets with dark- into its component parts, and explain the ness and wrapping our houses in the foul nature of its particles and the reason of reek of their own chimneys. It is true their cohesion, is still silent as to the that the cold during the last few weeks means of its prevention. bas been exceptional, even for the time of A London winter is not a pleasant seayear, and it is also true that smoke is not son. In the country, one may derive a ibe only ingredient that goes towards the certain sense of exhilaration from the making of that atmospheric phenomenon, frosty air; from the beauty of the pure a London fog; but if not the only one, it and stainless covering that shrouds the is the principal cause of its peculiar ob- fields and hedges, and turns the trees into scurity; and though we cannot control our fantastic, ghostly forms of dazzling white; climate, with its mists and frosts, we from the cheerful sound of the horses' might well do something to mitigate the feet that ring like iron upon the frostblackness of our misery by consuming bound roads; and the pleasant contrast of our own smoke. The winter of our dis- the bright fireside with the frozen tracery content, of our discomfort and disgust, is upon the window-panes. There, and unsurely capable of being improved in that der such circumstances may a man be forrespect at least; it might be made less given for talking of a jolly winter and dark and dolorous. Though the improve seasonable weather. But not in London. ment is possible, we are fain to confess A Londoner who rubs his hands in pleased that it is a very unlikely one. Every year exultation, and prates of seasonable we are plunged into the same Cimmerian weather, when the ways are filled with darkness, and every year are our voices darkness and foul with besmirched spow, lifted up in complaint; but nothing ever is no true man, no true and charitable comes of our complaining, save that a Christian, but an enemy to his race. And few people find in it an opportunity for yet there are such people — people who advertising smoke-consuming furnaces persist in being jolly when everybody else and chimneys, or declaring the advantages is uncomfortable; not because they think, of smokeless coal, or perhaps raising a like Mark Tapley, that the more adverse lively controversy as to the beneficial the circumstances, the greater is the effect of London soot upon the London. credit, but because they really do enjoy er's lungs. As a nation, we are not in the what ought to be abhorrent, and because habit of consuming our own smoke, either the cruel cold, that grips the senses and in the literal or in the figurative sense. numbs the faculties of our shivering Whether the smoke rises from our kitchen selves, seems only to add further fuel to fires, or from the fires of party passions, their internal flames, until they glow redprivate hates, or public scandals, we view hot with health and satisfaction. To poor its black, rolling columns with a certain mortals like ourselves, there seems someair of complacency, and, should they en- thing uncanny about the possession of velop and befog us, we wait with an ad- uch outrageously good health ; at any mirable patience for the wind that will rate, we cannot help resenting its display. lift and clear them away. In many re- The streets and squares are dismal spects the Londoner is a much-enduring enough, but the wayfarers are more dismal and long-suffering man; but though those still. At the first sign of snow and frost, qualities are deserving of praise, they are misery comes forth from its hidden haunts, sometimes carried too far. The amount and stalks abroad. Not the real and gen. of real suffering and loss that is inflicted uipe wretchedness of poverty, for that, as by our winter fogs is almost incalculable; a rule, hides itself from the public gaze, the short-sighted man day after day has a cowering at home over such scanty tires double strain put upon his failing eyes; as it can scrape together; but the profesthe delicate and asthmatic cough them- sional misery that almost welcomes the selves into a state of suffocation; and old bitter weather as a means of extorting an age, in spite of all care and precaution, idle livelihood from compassionate charsuddenly and incontinently topples over ity. Fainting want could never bellow into the grave. The death-rate of the hymns with the lusty lungs that these registrar-general tells its own tale; but no gentlemen display. But even though one one can fully tell the tale of the human dis. knows that the burly ruffian who fills the comfort that survives. It is for science I whole street with his unmelodious song is

[ocr errors]

an arrant impostor, that his face proclaims | rush wildly and aimlessly to and fro. him to be a drunkard, that he is probably Even in their case, however, it is pleasant warmly clothed beneath bis rags and that to watch the admirable good humor with he prefers tramping and shouting through which they knock others down, or are the inclement weather to doing an honest knocked down themselves; indeed, it day's work, — nevertheless, one can never must require a well-balanced mind as well hear his unmusical voice without feeling as a well-balanced body, in order to pre. pangs of compunction at the thought of a serve any sense of equanimity, while skatmisery that is more real, though less ob- ing upon the Serpentine. Nor are these trusive. Our fires burn less brightly, two requisitions any less necessary for our food is less appetizing, and the com- walking in the streets. The arrival of forts of our houses are less consoling, snow and frost in the winter months seems when that death's-head looks in through always to be an unexpected surprise for the window. It avails nothing to give our municipal authorities; at any rate, the brute sixpence; he will only spend it they do little or nothing towards making at the nearest public house, and the giver's the roads more passable. Perhaps it is conscience remains still questioning and that they can only grapple with one diffiunsatisfied: Christmastide is not a merry culty at a time, and are at present too season for any one over twenty years of much engrossed in contemplating measage. Probably it is only for the sake of ures against the fog, to think of anything our children that we keep up that fiction else. We wonder for how many years we of gaiety. Is it because we ourselves, or have suffered from the latter visitation ? because the world in general is growing Probably for centuries. When the inhabolder, that we find the fiction more and itants of London were counted only by more strained, and more difficult to sup- thousands, they petitioned Edward 1. to port? We cannot say. But these are but prohibit the use of sea-coal; and Edward gloomy reflections; reflections of the 1., being a complaisant monarch and anx. gloom that prevails out of doors. ious for his people's welfare, made the

'Tis an ill wind that blows no one good. use of that fuel a capital offence. Pos. To a small portion of the community, this sibly even in those days the city smoke iong.continued frost has been a source of converted the river misis into yellow fogs. unmixed pleasure ; not often before has Certainly fogs must have been fairly prev. the skater enjoyed such an opportunity alent in Charles I.'s time, when, accordfor indulging in his favorite pastime. ing to Sir Kenelm Digby, coal was the There is something very fascinating in principal, almost the only fuel in use in the exercise of skating, both to those ex- the Metropolis. While during the reigo perts who have mastered the mysteries of of Charles II., we find Shadwell frankly

grape.vines and “ rocking-turns,” and describing London as "a place of sea-coal to the beginners who hopefully struggle and sin.” If the atmosphere of the city to find a centre of gravity upon the "out- was murky then, it must be infinitely more side edge." To watch a really good skater murky now that the volume of smoke has is to watch the very poetry of motion; the been increased more than tenfold. On easy, balanced swing that glides in sweep the comparative degree of sin that existed ing circles without any visible effort, can then and now, we wi pass no opinion. only be compared to the slow beat of This at least we may say, that as London wings of a soaring bird. Unfortunately, seems disposed at the present moment to that is a form of skating which is not gen- turn an active attention to the moral dark. erally seen upon the waters of our public ness in its midst, we hope it may also be parks ; for the great majority of the skat- inclined to search for a method of doing ers, who assemble there in thousands, away with its atmospheric darkness as present anything but a graceful spectacle, well, or, at least, of making the ways of as, with outstretched arms and legs, they I life less slippery for its inhabitants.

[ocr errors]

SUBMARINE EXPLORATIONS. — The use of and a delicate strain dynamometer. It is exelectric light in submarine exploration, by cited by a battery, and allowed to drift with divers and others, has been successfully estab- the boat over the suspected place, when the lished. A novel proposal is the use of an sunken iron attracts the magnet, and the electro-magnet for indicating the exact site of dynamometer reveals the fact by the increased submerged torpedoes, lost anchors, or other strain. It is a pity that the magnet cannot iron masses. The magnet is lowered into the be serviceable in recoverir.g more precious sea, within a few feet of the bottom, by a line I metals than iron from the depths of the ocean.

« ElőzőTovább »