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Even in the works of nature, one of the chief sources of their Beauty to a philosophical eye, is the Unity of Design which they everywhere exhibit.—On the mind of St Augustine, who had been originally educated in the school of the Manicheans, this view of the subject might reasonably be expected to produce a peculiarly strong impression.
Note (R r.) p. 507.
The same remark will be found to hold in all the fine arts.“A true connoisseur,” says a late writer, who has had the best opportunities to form a just opinion on this point, “who sees the “work of a great master, seizes, at the first glance, its merits and “its beauties. He may afterwards discover defects; but he al“ways returns to that which pleased him, and would rather admire “ than find fault. To begin with finding fault where there are “beauties to admire, is a sure proof of want of taste. This remark “is the result of several years of my observation in Italy. All the “young men looked for defects in the finest works of Corregio, “Guido, and Raphael, in the Venus de Medicis, the Apollo Belvi“ dere, and the Church of St Peter; whereas, those who profited “by the lessons which were given them saw only beauties.”—Dutensiana, p. 110.
Taste is defined by the same writer to be “the discernment of “the beautiful.” The definition is obviously much too confined and partial; as the discernment of faults as well as of beauties is a necessary ingredient in the composition of this power. But it has the merit of touching on that ingredient or element which is the most essential of the whole; inasmuch as it is the basis or substratum of all the rest, and the only one where education can do but little to supply the deficiencies of nature. According to the vulgar idea, Taste may be defined to be “the discernment of blemishes.”
“Have you read,” says Gray, in one of his letters, “Lord Cla“rendon's Continuation of his History Do you remember Mr “*'s “ account of it before it came out? How well he recollected all the “faults, and how utterly he forgot all the beauties: Surely the “grossest taste is better than such a sort of delicacy.”—Memoirs of Gray by Mason. Letter 35.
Note (S s.) p. 536.
The account given by Reynolds himself of what he felt upon this occasion, does not accord literally with the fiction of the poet; as it appears that his first raptures were inconsiderable, in comparison of those which he experienced afterwards, upon a careful and critical examination of Raffaelle's Works. The fact, therefore, is incomparably more favourable than the fiction, to the argument stated in the text.
The following is a very imperfect abstract of Dr Parr's observations on the etymology of the word sublimis. I regret that circumstances rendered it impossible for me, before sending it to the press, to submit it to the revisal and corrections of my learned friend; but as I have, in every sentence, scrupulously copied his words, I trust that I have done no injustice to his argument, but what is the necessary consequence of the mutilated and disjointed form in which it is exhibited. As I have not mentioned in the Note which gave occasion to Dr Parr's strictures, the grounds on which I presumed to call in question the common etymology of sublimis, I think it proper to acknowledge here, that he has pointed his arguments, with the most sagacious precision, against the two considerations which tacitly weighed with me in rejecting that etymology as unsatisfactory. The one is the base and abject origin which it assigns to a word, identified, both in ancient and modern languages, with all our loftiest and most unearthly conceptions.” The other,
* In yielding so readily to this consideration, I am now fully aware how completely I lost sight of what, in the beginning of the preceding Essay, I had written on the gradual and successive transitions in the meaning of words, so often exemplified in the history of all languages. Of this general fact, not less interesting to the philosopher than to the philologer, a copious variety of curious and highly instructive instances are produced by Dr Parr, in the course of the different communications with which he has lately favoured me. While perusing these, I have frequently recollected a passage which struck me forcibly some years ago, in an anonymous pamphlet published at Oxford; and which expresses so happily my own idea of the nature and value of Dr Parr's philological disquisitions, that I shall take the liberty to adopt it as part of this Note. Whether the learned author, in writing it, had in view the illustrious scholar to whom I at present apply it, or some philosophical grammarian yet unknown to fame, I am not entitled to conjecture.
“There is, I doubt not, a clue to every mazy dance of human thought, which we trace in the texture of language. When once unravelled, it ap: pears simple enough : And the more simple it is, the greater is the merit of the discovery. And yet in such matters the world are apt to shew ingratitude and contempt, when they ought most to admire and to be thankful. * * * * Such injustice will not, I trust, deter a philosophical critic from attempting to solve the intricate phenomena of language which still rethe anomalous, and (as I conceived) inexplicable extension which it gives to the preposition sub to convey a meaning directly contrary to that in which it is generally understood. I shall take the liberty, accordingly, to arrange Dr Parr’s observations under two separate heads, corresponding to the two distinct objections which they are intended to obviate.
Mr Stewart rejects the commonly received derivation of sublimis from supra limum. But, when a language furnishes all the constituent parts of a compound word, and when no other part of that language offers, even to our conjecture, any other terms, there surely is abundant reason for our acquiescence in that etymology, which contains nothing irrational and absurd.
That phrase, which, to us, who live at a distant time, appears degrading, may not have borne the same appearance to those who spoke and wrote in that language. By the force of mere custom, figurative expressions acquire grandeur and energy from the subjects to which they are applied; and even the insignificant or of. fensive notions which adhere to the parts separately considered, may be unseen and unfelt, when they are compounded, and, in that compounded state, are applied metaphorically.
Elevation above the earth might be expressed by a term to which custom would give the sense of indefinite elevation, and elevation itself is a property so agreeable to the mind, that we at once approve of the term, which expresses it luminously. Even single terms acquire beauty or dignity by their union with other terms without the aid of composition; and hence the precept of Horace,
“Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Mire is, as a physical object, offensive. But who, upon that account, will object to the following passage in Juvenal :
“Quibus arte benigna,
main unexplained. To perform the task well requires not only extensive erudition, a strong memory, an acute and penetrating mind, but an acquaintance also, either self-taught or methodically acquired, with that, true logic which enables us to sort, to discriminate, and to abstract ideas, to know them again under all the changes of dress and posture, and to keep a steady eye upon them, as they mingle with the confused and shifting crowd. This coinbination of qualities is indeed rare: but there have been men so variously gifted, though few ; and some perhaps there still are: One l know there is, who could not render a more acceptable service to the lovers of aucient learning, than by guiding their footsteps through this perplexing labyrinth.”
When Cicero says, “Tria esse in verbo simplici quae orator “ afferat ad illustrandam atque ornandam orationem,” he adds, “conjungendis verbis, ut hac
“Tum pavor sapientiam mihi omnem ex animo expectorat.
“Widetis versutiloquas et expectorat, ex conjunctione facta esse “verba, non mata.” Cicero De Oratore, L. III. To an Englishman, when he reads expectorat in Latin, the word loses nothing of its force, because we have a word with a similar sound and an undignified literal sense in our own tongue, and the “junc“tura” with “pavor” and “sapientiam” heightened doubtless the effect to a Roman reader. When a Roman met with “ver“sutiloquas,” he felt, from the composition of the word, more than he would feel when he read “versutus” and “ loquor” separately. By the common experience of all readers, and the common consent of all critics, words compounded of parts, which have no grandeur, become grand from composition.
io * * * *
In the formation of sublimis, I suspect that not “dirtiness,” the property of limus, but “tenacity,” the effect of it, is included in the word, and that the addition of sub or super suggested the notion of exemption from that effect, and thus the notion of “soaring” indefinitely would be formed in the mind.
In the Ajax of Sophocles we read,
The effect of moisture, tenacity, is here suggested to the mind. It was that tenacity which would have kept the xxâgog from falling out from the helmet, and rescued Ajax from all hazard by not falling out. He disdained to use it. Now, is there any thing degrading in the phrase tygá; &goga; 2 No, surely. We read in Horace, Od. L. III. 2, 21,
“Wirtus recludens immeritis mori
Here we have a series of grand ideas, and the subject itself is grand. Is that grandeur diminished by that moisture of the earth with which we often associate the notion of dirtiness 2 No; for tenacity, the effect of moisture, not dirtiness, is here the associated idea. Baxter, I know, interprets udam by “pollutam et humidam.” But he has not shewn where udam, in any other pasSage, implies moisture with filthiness, though, in reality, the ex
ternal object, humus uda, must always be “dirty.” Janus says, ** Humidam, quatemus puro aetheri opponitur.” But no such opposition is expressed in the context, and the word itself certainly does not suggest it. I think that udam humum means “the “ground, which, by its moisture, would obstruct the motion of “ the body to which it adhered, in any attempt to rise.” Here, then, tenacity is the idea retained, and the idea of filthiness, which is naturally the concomitant of humus uda, is dropped.
In the formation of sublimis the process of the mind seems to me to be this. Limus has the property of “obstructing.” That to which the word sublimis was applied, is “raised above “ the obstructing cause.” It can soar—it does soar;-and thus the notion of “soaring indefinitely” is familiarized to the mind. The origin of the word, and its literal signification, did not present themselves to the mind of the speaker or hearer. By custom, the word had acquired the sense of “soaring” in the way probably which I have stated; and neither limus, nor the mere circumstance of being “raised super limum,” was ever thought of, when the power of the word to express elevation had been established. The idea of elevation itself is so agreeable and so interesting, as not to leave leisure or inclination for analyzing the word by which “elevation” was expressed.
+ * - or o: +
Here an objector might start up and say, how is it that in the Latin language sub means “under,” and “above,” or “up 2" I admit the fact; but contend that the same letters, with the same sound, are of different extraction, and so different, as to be adapted even to contrary significations. Let it be remarked, that I am going to speak of sub, when compounded with a verb, to express “elevation.”
“Quantum were novo viridis se subjicit alnus.”
“Infrenant alii currus, aut corpora saltu
Servius, “Subjīciunt in equos, super equos jaciunt; sed pro“prie non est locutus, magisque contrarie; nam suljicere est all* quid subterjacere.” The scholiast, whom we often very improperly call Servius, was puzzled, as must be many a modern reader, by the opposite senses of the same word; but I am confident in my ability to solve the difficulty even to the satisfaction of Mr Stewart. I must go on with examples.
“At ima exatstuat unda
“Verticibus, nigramgue alte suljectat arenam.”