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of history. To descend through future duration, by anticipating events before they happen, is, of all employments of the understanding, the most difficult; and it is one, in which the soundest and most sagacious judgments are perpetually liable to error and disappointment. It is singular, that the use which Mr Hume has made, in the above sentence, of the metaphorical expressions ascending and descending, did not suggest to him a simpler solution of the problem. I will take the liberty of remarking further, with respect to this theory of Mr Hume's, that it is not “with our anticipations of the “future, that our veneration for the persons and objects of antiqui“ty” ought to have been contrasted, but with our sentiments concerning what is contemporary with ourselves, or of a very modern date. The idea of the future, which is the region of all our hopes, and of all our fears, is, in most cases, for that very reason, more interesting to the imagination than the idea of the past 3 and the idea of the eternity post (to borrow a scholastic phrase) incomparably more so than that of the eternity ante. The bias of the mind to connect together the ideas of antiquity, and of elevated place, is powerfully confirmed by another association, coinciding entirely with the former, in suggesting the same modes of expression. Among the various natural objects which attract a child’s curiosity, there is, perhaps, none which awakens a more lively interest, than the river which it sees daily and hourly hastening along its channel. Whence does it come? and where is it going? are questions which some of my readers may still remember to have asked: Nor is it even impossible, that they may retain a faint recollection of the surprise and delight with which they first learned, that rivers come down from the mountains, and that they all run into the sea. As the faculties of the understanding begin to open to notions abstracted from matter, an analogy comes invariably and infallibly to be apprehended between this endless stream of water, and the endless stream of time; an analogy rendered still more impressive by the parallel relations which they bear, the one to the Ocean, the other to Eternity. The flux of time, the lapse of time, the tide of time, with many other expressions of the same sort, afford sufficient evidence of the facility with which the fancy passes from the one subject to the other. Hence, too, it is, that the antiquary is said to trace the history of laws, of arts, and of languages, to their fountain heads, or original sources; and hence, the synonymous meanings, wherever time is concerned, of the words backward and upward. To carry our researches up or back to a particular aera, are phrases equally sanctioned by our best writers. Nor is it only in our own language that these terms are convertible. In the Greek, they are so to a still greater extent; the preposition awa, when in composition, sometimes having the force of the word sursum, sometimes that of the word retro.
From these remarks it sufficiently appears, how exactly all the different associations, pointed out in this note, conspire with each other in producing an uniformity of thought and of language among mankind, with respect to the two great modifications of time, the past and the future.
I shall only mention one other circumstance, contributing to the same end.—The filial respect with which we literally, as well as metaphorically look up to our parents, during our early years, insensibly extends itself to their progenitors, producing, not unnaturally, that illusion of the imagination which magnifies the endowments, both bodily and mental, of our ancestors, in proportion as we carry our thoughts backward from the present period; and which, in ruder ages, terminates at last in a sentiment approaching nearly to that of religion. Datur haec venia antiquitati, ut miscendo humana divinis, primordia urbium augustiora faciat.
In the Christian world, however, it is chiefly the Scripture history which has invested remote antiquity with a character of sublimity, blending our earliest religious impressions with the pictures of patriarchal manners, with the events of the antediluvian ages, with the story of our first parents, and, above all, with the emotions inspired by that simple and sublime erordium, “ In the begin“ning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.”
Note (Ff) p 417. Among the various instances of the sublime, quoted from Homer by Longinus, the following simile has always, in a more particular manner, attracted the attention of succeeding critics:—
Whatever sublimity may belong to these lines, I am inclined to ascribe almost entirely to the image of the elevated spectator, and of the boundless expanse of water, lying under his eye.
Note (G g.) p. 428. Marmontel, in one of the best of his elementary books, has laid hold of the same analogy, to explain to his pupils the respective effects of analysis and synthesis, as exemplified in the structure of language. “Vous voyez que c'est par foiblesse que l'esprit humain géné“ralise ses idées Pour l'homme c'est un besoin de
• Lib. V. I. 770.
* simplifier ses idées, a mesure qu’elles se multiplient; et ces gé“ néralisations, dans lesquelles les différences spécifiques et indivi“ duelles sont oubliées, et qui réunissent une multitude de souve“mirs en un seul point de ressemblance, ne sont qu'une facilité “que se donne l'esprit pour soulager sa vue. C'est une position “commode qu'il prend pour dominer sur un plus grand nombre “ d'objets; et, de cette espèce d’éminence oil il s'est placé, sa vé“ritable action consiste a redescendre l'echelle des idées, en resti“tuant à chacune les différences de son objet, ses propriétés dis“tinctives; et en recomposant, parla synthèse ce que par l'analyse “il avoit simplifié.”—Grammaire, p. 8.
Note (H h.) p. 428.
Mr Maclaurin has taken notice of the former of these circumstances in the introduction to his Treatise of Fluxions:—“Others, “in the place of indivisible, substituted infinitely small divisible “elements, of which they supposed all magnitudes to be formed. “After these came to be relished, an infinite scale of infinitudes “ and infinitesimals (ascending and descending always by infinite “steps) was imagined and proposed to be received into geometry, “as of the greatest use for penetrating into its abstruse parts. “Some have argued for quantities more than infinite; and others “for a kind of quantities that are said to be neither finite nor infi“nite, but of an intermediate and indeterminate nature.
“This way of considering what is called the sublime part of geo“metry has so far prevailed, that it is generally known by no less a “ title than the science, the arithmetic, or the geometry of infinities. “These terms imply something lofty but mysterious; the contem“ plation of which may be suspected to amaze and perplex, rather “than satisfy or enlighten the understanding; and while it seems “greatly to elevate geometry, may possibly lessen its true and real “excellency, which chiefly consists in its perspicuity and perfect “evidence.”—Maclaurin's Flurions, Vol. I. p. 2.
Fontenelle, who possessed the rare talent of adorning mathematical science with the attractions of a refined wit and a lively eloquence, contributed perhaps more than any other individual, by the popularity of his writings, to give a currency to this paradoxical phraseology. In one passage he seems to reproach his predecessors for the timid caution with which they had avoided these sublime speculations; ascribing it to something resembling the holy dread inspired by the mysteries of religion :-A remark, by the way, which affords an additional illustration of the close alliance between the sublime and the awful. “Quand on y Étoit “arrivé, on s'arrêtoit avec une espèce d'effroi et de sainte hor“ reur. On regardoit l'infini comme un mystère qu'il falloit “respecter, et qu'il n'étoit pas permis d'approfondir.”—Préface des Elem. de la Géom. de l'Infini.
In the farther prosecution of the same subject, I have observed in the text, that, “with the exception of the higher parts of ma“ thematics, and one or two others, for which it is easy to ac“ count, the epithet universally applied to the more abstruse << branches of knowledge is not sublime but profound.” One of the exceptions here alluded to is the application occasionally made of the former of these words to moral speculations, and also to some of those metaphysical researches which are connected with the doctrines of religion; a mode of speaking which is fully accounted for in the preceding part of this Essay.
Agreeably to the same analogy, Milton applies to the metaphysical discussions of the fallen angels the word high in preference to deep. The whole passage is, in this point of view, deserving of attention, as it illustrates strongly the facility with which the thoughts unconsciously pass and repass from the literal to the metaphorical sublime.
“Others apart sat on a hill etired,
Note (I i.) p. 434.
In the effect of this superiority of stature, there seems to be something specifically different from that produced by an apparent superiority of strength. A broad Herculean make would suggest ideas much less nearly allied to sublimity, and would even detract from the respect which the same stature, with a less athletic form, would have commanded. A good deal must here be ascribed to that apprehended analogy between a towering shape and a lofty mind, which has transferred metaphorically so many terms from the former to the latter; and, perhaps, something also to a childish but natural association, graftiug a feeling of reverence on that elevation of body to which we are forced to look upwards.
The influence of similar associations may be traced in the universal practice of decorating the helmets of warriors with plumes of feathers; in the artificial means employed to give either a real or apparent augmentation of stature to the heroes of the buskin; and in the forms of respectful salutation prevalent in all countries; which forms, however various and arbitrary they may at first sight appear, seem all to agree (according to an ingenious remark of Sir Joshua Reynolds) in the common idea of making the body less, in token of reverence.
still more explicitly, his French translator, Boileau; “Le sublime “est en effet ce qui forme l'ercellence et la souveraine perfection du “ discours.” To this version Boileau adds, “Cela s'entend plus
“aisément que celane se peut rendre en François. Axford; veut
“dire summitas, l'ertremité en hauteur ; ce qu'il y a de plus élevé dans