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of them presenting the most impressive images of an aspiring ambition, or of a tendency to rise higher ; in opposition to that law of gravity which, of all physical facts, is the most familiar to our senses. *
With these three circumstances, there is a fourth which conspires, in no inconsiderable degree, in imparting an allegorical or typical character to literal sublimity. I allude to the Rising, Culminating, and Setting of the heavenly bodies ;--more particularly to the Rising, Culminating, and Setting of the Sun; accompanied with a corresponding increase and decrease in the heat and splendour of his rays. It is impossible to enumerate all the various analogies which these familiar appearances suggest to the fancy. I shall only mention their obvious analogy to
* The foregoing considerations (to which many others of a similar tendency will be added in the sequel) sufficiently account for the frequent recurrence of the idea of Power or Force among the elements of the Sublime. According to a theory already mentioned, this idea is the radical or essential element of Sublimity; but granting, for a moment, this to be the case, the question still recurs, whence the connection (so remarkably exemplified in the phraseology both of ancient and of modern languages, between this moral emotion, and the physical idea of height or elevation ! Is not this the obvious, though overlooked consequence, of the universality of the law of gravitation; and of the vertical direction in which that power operates all over the surface of the earth?
The theory, however, which would resolve into the idea of Power all the impressions to which the epithet Sublime is applicable, will be found, on examination, much too narrow for such a superstructure ; while the Associations illustrated in the text afførd at once an explanation of all the facts on which this theory rests, and of many others to which it cannot be extended within out much straining and over-refinement.
the Morning, Noon, and Evening of life ; and to the short interval of Meridian Glory, which, after a gradual advance to the summit, has so often presaged the approaching decline of human greatness.
It is not, however, to be imagined, because Height is a source of Sublime emotion, that Depth must necessarily affect the mind with feelings of an opposite description. Abstracting altogether from the state of the fact, which is decisive against such a supposition, we should not be entitled to draw this conclusion from any of the theoretical considerations hither. to stated. For although, in most cases, motion downwards conveys the idea of a passive obedience to physical laws, it frequently implies active powers exactly the same with those which are displayed in the ascent of animated beings. Instances of this occur in the equable and regulated descent of a bird, when about to alight on the ground; and (what is still more to our purpose) in the stooping flight of a hawk or of an eagle, darting upon its quarry ;-a motion which is sometimes suddenly arrested in its accelerating career, and instantly succeeded by a retreat into the clouds.
It is to be remembered, besides, that, in the de. scent of bodies from a great height, their previous ascent is implied; and, accordingly, the active power by which their elevation was effected, is necessarily recalled to the imagination, by the momentum acquired during the period of their fall. *
* The same idea (as will afterwards appear more fully) is associated with the metaphorical use of the same language.
" Si cadendum est mili, cælo cecidisse velim."
The feelings produced by looking downwards from the battlement of a high tower, or from the edge of a precipitous rock, have also had a frequent place in sublime descriptions; and Mr Burke seems to have thought that they are still more powerful in their effect than those excited by the idea of great altitude. In this opinion I cannot agree with him, if it be understood to imply anything more than that a particular eminence may appear contemptible when viewed from below, while it produces an emotion allied to the sublime, on a spectator who looks down from its summit. Of the possibility of this every person must be satisfied from his own experience; but it is altogether foreign to the question, whether Height or Depth in general is capable of producing the strongest impression of Sublimity; a question, the decision of which appears to me to be not more difficult or dubious than that of the former ; and which I shall endeavour afterwards to place beyond the reach of controversy, in a subsequent part of this Essay.
The feelings, at the same time, of which we are conscious in looking down from an eminence, are extremely curious ; and are, in some cases, modified by certain intellectual processes, which it is necessay to attend to, in order to understand completely the principles upon which Depth has occasionally such a share in adding to the power of sublime emotions.
The first and the most important of these processes is, the strong tendency of the imagination to represent to us, by an ideal change of place, the feel
ings of those who are below; or to recal to us our own feelings, previous to our ascent. This tendenсу of the imagination we are the more disposed to indulge, as it is from below that altitudes are most frequently viewed ; and as we are conscious, when we look downwards, of the unusual circumstances in which we are placed. We compare the apparent Depth with the apparent Height, and are astonished to find how much we had underrated the latter. It is owing to this, that mountains, when seen from the contiguous plain, produce their sublimest effect on persons accustomed to visit their summits; and that a lofty building, like the dome of St Paul's, acquires ever after tenfold grandeur in our estimation, when we have once measured its height, step by step, and have looked down from it upon the humble abodes of its ordinary spectators.
On the other hand, in looking upwards to a precipice, if one of our fellow-creatures, or even one of the lower animals, should be placed on the brink, the principle of sympathy transports us instantly, in imagination, to the critical spot ; exciting in us some degree of the same feelings, which we should there have experienced.
- On the cliffs above,” says Gray, in the journal of one of his tours,“ hung a “ few goats; one of them danced and scratched an “ear with its hind foot, in a place where I would “ not have stood stock-still for all beneath the “ moon.” It is by such unexpected incidents as this, that the attention is forcibly roused to the secret workings of thought; but something of the same kind takes place on almost every occasion, when Al
titude produces the emotion of Sublimity. In general, whoever examines the play of his imagination, while his eye is employed either in looking up to a lofty eminence, or in looking down from it, will find it continually shifting the direction of its movements ;—" glancing," as the poet expresses it, “ from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.”
Of this mental process we are more peculiarly conscious in reading the descriptions of poetry :
« On a rock, whose haughty brow
“ Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air." Of these lines, the two first present a picture which the imagination naturally views from below: the rest transport us to the immediate neighbourhood of the bard, by the minuteness of the delineation.
As an obvious consequence of this rapidity of thought, it may be worth while here to remark, that the conceptions of the Painter, which are necessarily limited, not only to one momentary glimpse of a passing object, but to one precise and unchangeable point of sight, cannot possibly give expression to those ideal creations, the charm of which de. pends, in a great degree, on their quick and varied succession ; and on the ubiquity (if I may be allowed the phrase) of the Poet's eye. No better illustration of this can be produced than the verses just quoted, compared with the repeated attempts which