Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

of which, how far soever we may travel on the earth's surface, the summit or cope is always exactly coincident with our shifting zenith), it is farther observable, that its sublime effect is much increased by the mathematical regularity of its form ; suggesting the image of a vast Rotundo, having its centre everywhere, and its circumference nowhere;—a circumstance which forces irresistibly on the mind the idea of something analogous to architectural design, carried into execution by Omnipotence itself. This idea is very strongly stated in the passage which was last quoted; and it is obviously implied in the familiar transference of the words Vault and Dome, from the edifices of the builder to the Divine handywork.-‘This “majestical roof, fretted with golden fires,”—an expression which Shakespeare applies to the firmament, has been suggested by the same analogy. As the natural bias of the imagination, besides, is to conceive the firmament to be something solid, in which the sum, moon, and stars, are mechanically fixed, a sentiment of Wonder at the unknown means by which the law of gravity is, in this instance, counteracted, comes to be superadded to the emotion excited by the former combination of circumstances. This sentiment is very frequently expressed by children; and the feelings of childhood have often an influence of which we are little aware (more especially in matters of Taste) on those which are experienced in the maturity of our judgment.” The sublime effect of the clesia vault is still far

* “Aspice convexo nutantem pondere mundum.” Virg. Bucol. iv. 1.50.

ther heightened by the vast and varied space which the eye has to travel over in rising gradually from the horizon to the zenith —contemplating, at one time, the permanent glories of the starry expanse; at another, enjoying the magical illusions with which, from sunrise till sunset, the clouds diversify the sky. To this immediate impression produced upon the senses, must be added the play given to the imagination, supplying the remainder of that grand spectacle under which we are placed, and of which the sight can take in only, at one and the same moment, a limited portion. As the smallest arch of a circle enables us to complete the whole circumference, so the slightest glance of the heavens presents to our conceptions the entire hemisphere; inviting the thoughts to grasp, at once, what the laws of vision render it impossible for us to perceive, but in slow succession. The ingenious and well-known remark which Mr Burke has made on the pleasure we receive from viewing a Cylinder, appears to me to hold, with much greater exactness, when applied to the effect of a Spacious Dome on a spectator placed under its concavity. - - In all such cases, however, as have been now under our consideration, notwithstanding the variety of circumstances by which the effect is augmented or modified, I am inclined to think, that Sublimity, literally so called, will be found, in one way or another, the predominant element or ingredient. In the description, for example, which Mr Brydone has given of the boundless prospect from the top of AEtna, the effect is not a little increased by the astonishing elevation of the spot from whence we conceive it to have been enjoyed; and it is increased in a degree incomparably greater, by the happy skill with which he has divided our attention between the spectacle below, and the spectacle above.—Even in the survey of the upper regions, it will be acknowledged by those who reflect carefully on their own experience, that the eye never rests till it reaches the zenith; a point to which numberless accessary associations, both physical and moral, unite in lending their attractions. After the remarks which have been already made on the natural association between the ideas of elevation, and of horizontal amplitude in general, it may, at first sight, appear superfluous to say anything farther with respect to the Sublimity which is universally ascribed to the Ocean, even when its waves are still. In this particular case, however, the effect is so peculiarly strong, that it may be fairly presumed, other collateral causes conspire with those which have been hitherto mentioned; and, accordingly, a variety of specific circumstances instantly occur, as distinguishing the surface of a smooth sea from all the other instances in which the epithet Sublime is applied to what is perfectly flat or level. 1. Of these circumstances one of the most prominent is the unfathomable depth of the ocean; or, in other words, the immeasurable elevation aboveitsbottom, of those who navigate upon its surface. Agreeably to this idea, mariners are described in Scripture’ as those “who see the wonders of the great deep;” and the same language is employed by Gray, to ex

alt our conceptions even of the sublime flight of the eagle.

“Sailing with supreme dominion
“Thro' the azure deeps of air.”

2. The sympathetic dread associated with the perilous fortunes of those who trust themselves to that inconstant and treacherous element. It is owing to this, that, in its most placid form, its temporary effect in soothing or composing the spirits is blended with feelings somewhat analogous to what are excited by the sleep of a lion; the calmness of its surface pleasing chiefly, from the contrast it exhibits to the terrors which it naturally inspires. *

3. The idea of literal sublimity inseparably combined with that of the sea, from the stupendous spectacle it exhibits when agitated by a storm. The proverbial phrase of mountain billows sufficiently illustrates the force and the universality of this combination. A tempestuous Sea of mountains is accordingly an expression applied by an ingenious writer, to the prospect which is seen in one direction from the top of Skiddaw ; and it would not be easy, in the same number of words, to convey a juster conception of what he wished to describe. To those who have actually navigated the deep, at a distance from every visible coast, the same combination of ideas must present itself, even when the surface of the water is perfectly tranquil. Homer has accurately seized this natural impression of the fancy. * AXX &rs on rmy wrooy s?.āorousy, gös rig oxy.” powero youzay, axx' egowog, os Saxo.co.” " Odyss. Lib. 12. l. 403. 4. The complete dependence of the state of the ocean on that of the atmosphere; and the association, or rather identification, of winds and waves in the common images of danger which they both suggest. In the descriptions of shipwrecks, which occur in the ancient poets, the sublimity will be found to result in no inconsiderable degree from this identification; and, indeed, in this, as in many other instances, the language of mythology is little more than a personification of the natural workings of the mind. “'Qg stroy, ovyayev vspixaç, oragaš da Toyrov, “Xsga, rgiana, owy. oraca; 3 ogovoy as axa: “IIavrouw awsuwy. guy 6s vipesdal za?voys

* Gray had manifestly this analogy in his view when he wrote the following lines:

“ Unmindful of the sweeping whirlwind's sway
“That bush'd in grim repose expects its evening prey.”

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

* “Past sight of shore, along the surge we bound;
“And all above is sky, and ocean all around.”

+ “He spoke, and high the forky trident hurl’d
“Rolls clouds on clouds, and stirs the watery world,
“At once the face of earth and sea deforms,
“Swells all the winds, and rouses all the storms.”

“Now o'er the ocean sweep the eastern gales,

t “And now the south, and now the north prevails, : - » “And now the west winds rend the fluttering sails.

« AnteriorContinuar »