« AnteriorContinuar »
The hell within him ; for within him hell
In all this altercation of passions, those of an opposite nature, instead of destroying each other, appear to communicate to each other additional force; they all add to the quantity of the excitement, all violate the state of rest, and raise the mind into a state of unnatural agitation; and of such importance in our mental constitution does it seem, to overcome the state of tranquil apathy, and such is the proneness of all strong feelings, whether good or bad, that the progress from any one passion to any other, seems to be quite as easy and natural, as the progress from tranquillity to passion at all. It cost Timotheus, I dare say, a great deal of fine playing, to throw the soul of Alexander into a tumult of feeling; but that once accomplished, the bard harped him into any passion he pleased. However this be true of Timotheus and Alexander, it is certainly true of music in general. If we are stupid or indolent, we resist its powers for some time; but when the twangings, and the beatings, and the breathings once reach the heart, and set it moving with all its streams of life, the mind bounds from grief to joy, from joy to grief, without effort or pang, but seems rather to derive its keenest pleasure from the quick vicissitude of passion to which it is exposed. It is the same with acting. It is difficult to rouse the mind from an ordinary state, to a dramatic state; but that once done, we glide with ease from any passion, to one the most opposite.
All objects of sense, - everything that we hear and see,- excite the passions in an infinitely greater degree, than the same thing conceived by the description of others. This was the defence always made by the Roman Catholics, for the worship of images, that it was difficult to keep up any fervour of devotion by a mere speculative notion. It required the forcible impression of an object of sense, to invigorate the passion, and keep it alive. This is the use of colours, in the day of battle: when the carnage becomes very dreadful, the words duty, and country, and every other speculative notion that can be gathered together, are often of very tion; -- but the actual sight of their colours in danger, will do more in an instant, than all the stimulating ideas which the whole resources of language can present to men.
An appeal is made to the passions through the senses, and such appeals are always the most irresistible, particularly with the lowest class, who have fewer ideas of reflection, in comparison with their ideas of sense.
A thing, I am very sorry to say, is sometimes more pleasant because it is forbidden. This is because the love of power is excited by the prohibition ; — and any one excitement always increases any other excitement. The efforts made to surmount the obstacle, rouse the spirits, and enliven the passions. I forget what comedy it is in, where a lady, who is about to be married with the consent of her parents, refuses to give her hand to the husband in the usual manner, but insists upon the proper apparatus being provided, and that she should be stolen away, according to the strictest etiquette of clandestine marriages.
Uncertainty, has the same effect as opposition. The agitation of the thought; the quick turn which it makes, from one view to another; the variety of passions which succeed each other, according to the different views: all these, produce an emotion in the mind; and this emotion transfuses itself into the predominant pas
sion. Security, on the contrary, diminishes the passions : the mind, when left to itself, immediately languishes ; and, in order to preserve its ardour, must be every moment supported by a new flow of passion.
Nothing more powerfully excites any affection, than to conceal some part of its object, by throwing it into shade; which, at the same time that it shows us enough to prepossess us in favour of the object, leaves still some work for the imagination. Besides, that obscurity is always attended with a kind of uncertainty, the effort which the fancy makes to complete the idea, rouses the spirits, and gives an additional force to the passion.
“ The other shape,
The undaunted fiend what this might be admired;
Created thing naught valued he, nor shunn'd.” As despair and security, though contrary, produce the same effects; so, absence is observed to have contrary effects, and, in different circumstances, either increases or diminishes our affections. Rochefoucault has remarked, that “absence destroys weak passions, but “ increases strong; as the wind extinguishes a candle, " and blows up a fire.” Long absence, naturally weakens our idea, and diminishes the passion; but where the affection is so strong and lively as to support itself, the uneasiness arising from absence, increases the passion, and gives it fresh force and influence. The imagination and affections have together a close union; the vivacity of the former, gives force to the latter: hence, the prospect of
any pleasure with which we are acquainted, affects us more than any other pleasure which we may
own to be superior, but of the nature of which we are wholly ignorant : of the one we can form a particular and determinate idea, the other we conceive under the general notion of pleasure.
When we apply ourselves to the performance of any action, or the conception of any object, to which we are not accustomed, there is a certain unpliableness in the faculties, and a difficulty in the spirits, to inove in the new direction; hence, everything that is new is most affecting, and gives us either more pleasure, or pain, than what, strictly speaking, should naturally follow from it. When it often returns upon us, the novelty wears the passion subsides, the hurry of the spirits is over, and we survey the object with tranquillity and ease.
Any satisfaction we have recently enjoyed, and of which the memory is fresh and perfect, operates on the will with more violence than another, of which the traces are decayed and obliterated. Contiguity in time and place, has an amazing effect upon the passions. An enormous globe of fire, which fell at Pekin, would not excite half the interest which the most trifling phenomenon could give birth to nearer home. I am persuaded many men might be picked out of the streets, who, for 1000 guineas paid down, would consent to submit to a very cruel death, in fifteen years from the time of receiving the money. This, for the main, is a wise provision of nature; for the progress of life, generally speaking, and the order of the world, depend upon an attention to present objects: but this, like every other moral provision, is given without any limit or adjustment; and it becomes the great object of wisdom and of virtue to restrain it within proper limits. By all that we can look upon an object of sense, and (admitting its capacity of affording present pleasure,) steadily reckon up its influence upon future happiness; by all that, are we advanced in power of thought, and rectitude of action. The great labour is, to subdue the
tyranny of present impression; to hold down desire and aversion, with a firm grasp, till we have time to see where they would drive us. The men who can do this, are the men who do all the praiseworthy actions that are done in the world; — who write lasting books, make treaties, lead armies, and govern kingdoms; or, if their life be private, live pleasantly and safely. Those men, on the contrary, who can acquire no knowledge, enjoy no praise, and feel no peaceful happiness, seem only to have lived to destroy the moral order of the world, and dishonour the works of God.