« AnteriorContinuar »
-The Furies stood on hill
Ibid. Act V.
Abdalla. His victories we scarce could keep in view,
Abdemelech. Fate after him below with pain did move,
Conquest of Granada, Act II. at beginning.
Beaumont and Fletcher, Bonduca, Act III. Sc. 3. An actor on the stage may be guilty of bombast as well as an author in his closet; a certain manner of acting, which is grana when supported by dignity in the sentiment and force in the expres. sion, is ridiculous where the sentiment is mean, and the expres sion flat.
This chapter shall be closed with some observations. When the sublime is carried to its due height, and circumscribed within proper bounds, it enchants the mind, and raises the most delightful of all emotions: the reader, engrossed by a sublime object, feels himselt raised as it were to a higher rank. Considering that effect, it is not wonderful that the history of conquerors and heroes, should be uni.versally the favorite entertainment. And this fairly accounts for what I once erroneously suspected to be a wrong bias originally in human nature; which is, that the grossest acts of oppression and injustice scarcely blemish the character of a great conqueror: we, nevertheless, warmly espouse his interest, accompany him in his exploits, and are anxious for his success: the splendour and enthusi. asm of the hero transfused into the readers, elevate their minds fai above the rules of justice, and render them, in a great measure, in. sensible of the wrongs that are committed:
For in those days might only shall be admir'd,
Of triumph, to be stylid great conquerors,
Milton, b. ii. The irregular influence of grandeur reaches also to other matters · however good, honest, or useful, a man may be, he is not so much respected as is one of a more elevated character, though of less integrity; nor do the misfortunes of the former affect us so much as those of the latter. And I add, because it cannot be disguised, that the remorse which attends breach of engagement, is, in a great measure, proportioned to the figure that the injured person makes : the vows and protestations of lovers are an illustrious example; for these commonly are little regarded when made to women of inferior rank.
MOTION AND FORCE. Motion is agreeable, rest, indifferent-Motion agreeable, when it corresponds with
the course of our perceptions-Quick motion at first agreeable-By accelerating the course of our perceptions, it becomes painful-Slow motion becomes painful by retarding our perceptions-Regular motion more agreeable than irregularMotion uniformly accelerated, more agreeable than when uniformly retarded .-Upward motion agreeable-Motion in a straight line agreeable—In curve fines more so—Two kinds of force; one quiescent, and one exerted in motionTo see them both exerted in motion is agreeable-The difference between the emotions excited by motion and those excited by force-Downward motion quiets the mind-Upward motion elevates the mind— The animating effect of great force- The final cause, to promote industry.
That motion is agreeable to the eye without relation to purpose or design, may appear from the amusement it gives to infants. juvenile exercises are relished chiefly on that account.
If a body in motion be agreeable, one will be apt to conclude that at rest it must be disagreeable: but we learn from experience, that this would be a rash conclusion. Rest is one of those circumstances that are neither agreeable nor disagreeable, being viewed with perfeci indifferency. And happy is it for mankind to have the matter so ordered; if rest were agreeable, it would disincline us to motion, by which all things are performed: if it were disagreeable, it would be a source of perpetual uneasiness; for the bulk of the things we see, appear to be at rest. A similar instance of designing wisdom I have had occasion to explain, in opposing grandeur to littleness, and elevation' to lowness of place.* Even in the simplest matters, the finger of God is conspicuous: the happy adjustment of the internal nature of man to his external circumstances, displayed in the instances here given, is indeed admirable.
Motion is agreeable in all its varieties of quickness and slowness; but motion long continued admits some exceptions. That degree of
* See Chap. 4.
continued motion which corresponds to the natural course of our perceptions, is the most agreeable. The quickest motion is for an instant delightful; but soon appears to be too rapid: it becomes pain ful by forcibly accelerating the course of our perceptions. Slow continued motion becomes disagreeable from an opposite cause, that it retards the natural course of our perceptions.*
There are other varieties in motion, beside quickness and slow. ness, that make it more or less agreeable: regular motion is preferred before what is irregular; witness the motion of the planets in orbits nearly circular: the motion of the comets in orbits less regular, is less agreeable.
Motion uniformly accelerated, resembling an ascending series of numbers, is more agreeable than when uniformly retarded: motion upward is agreeable, by tendency to elevation. What then shall we say of downward motion regularly accelerated by the force of gravity, compared with upward motion regularly retarded by the same force ? Which of these is the most agreeable? This question is not easily solved.
Motion in a straight line is agreeable: but we prefer undulating motion, as of waves, of a flame, of a ship under sail; such motion is more free, and also more natural. Hence the beauty of a serpentine river.
The easy and sliding motion of a fluid, from the lubricity of its parts, is agreeable upon that account; but the agreeableness chiefly depends on the following circumstance, that the motion is perceived, not as of one body, but as of an endless number moving together with order and regularity. Poets struck with that beauty, draw more images from fluids in motion than from solids.
Force is of two kinds; one quiescent, and one exerted in motion. The former, dead weight for example, must be laid aside; for a body at rest is not, by that circumstance, either agreeable or disagreeable. Moving force only is my province; and, though it is not separable from motion, yet by the power of abstraction, either of them may be considered independent of the other. Both of them are agreeable, because both of them include activity. It is agreeable to see a thing move: to see it moved, as when it is dragged or pushed along, is neither agreeable nor disagreeable, more than when at rest. It is agreeable to see a thing exert force; but it makes not the thing either agreeable or disagreeable, to see force exerted upon it.
Though motion and force are each of them agreeable, the impressions they make are different. This difference, clearly felt
, is not easily described. All we can say is, that the emotion raised by a moving body, resembling its cause, is felt as if the mind were carried along: the emotion raised by force exerted, resembling also its cause, is felt as if force were exerted within the mind.
To illustrate that difference, I give the following examples. It has been explained why smoke ascending in a calm day, suppose from a cottage in a wood, is an agreeable object;t so remarkably agreeable, * This will be explained more fully afterward, ch. 9.
† Chap. I.
that landscape-painters introduce it upon all occasions. The ascent being natural, and without effort, is pleasant in a calm state of mind. it resembles a gently-flowing river, but is more agreeable, because ascent is more to our taste than descent. A fire-work or a jet d'eau rouses the mind more; because the beauty of force visibly exerted, is superadded 10 that of upward motion. To a man reclining indolently upon a bank of flowers, ascending smoke in a still morning is charming; but a fire-work or a jet d'eau rouses him from that supine posture, and puts him in motion.
A jet d'eau makes an impression distinguishable from that of a waterfall. Downward motion being natural and without effort, tends rather to quiet the mind than to rouse it: upward motion, on the contrary, overcoming the resistance of gravity, makes an impression of a great effort, and thereby rouses and enlivens the mind.
The public games of the Greeks and Romans, which gave so much entertainment to the spectators, consisted chiefly in exerting force, wrestling, leaping, throwing great stones, and such-like trials of strength. When great force is exerted, the effort felt internally is animating. The effort may be such, as, in some measure, to overpower the mind: thus the explosion of gun-powder, the violence of a torrent, the weight of a mountain, and the crush of an earthquake, create astonishment rather than pleasure.
No quality nor circumstance contributes more to grandeur than force, especially where exerted by sensible beings. I cannot make the observation more evident than by the following quotations.
-Him the almighty power
Paradise Lost, book I.
Ibid. book 6.
Blaz’d opposite, while Expectation stood
Ibid. book 6. We shall next consider the effect of motion and force in conjunction. In contemplating the planetary system, what strikes us the most, is the spherical figures of the planets, and their regular motions; the conception we have of their activity and enormous bulk being more obscure: the beauty accordingly of that system, raises a more lively emotion than its grandeur. But if we could comprehend the whole system at one view, the activity and irresistible force of these immense bodies would fill us with amazement: nature cannot furnish another scene so grand.
Motion and force, agreeable in themselves, are also agreeable by their utility when employed as means to accomplish some beneficial end. Hence the superior beauty of some machines, where force and motion concur to perform the work of numberless hands. Hence the beautiful motions, firm and regular, of a horse trained for war: every single step is the filtest that can be, for obtaining the purposed end.' But the grace of motion is visible chiefly in man, not only for the reasons mentioned, but because every gesture is significani. The power, however, of agreeable motion is not a common talent : every limb of the human body has an agreeable and disagreeable motion; some motions being extremely graceful, others plain and vulgar; some expressing dignity, others meanness. But the pleasure here, arising, not singly from the beauty of motion, but from indicating character and sentiment, belongs to different chapters.*
I should conclude with the final cause of the relish we have for motion and force, were it not so evident as to require no explanation. We are placed here in such circumstances as to make industry essential to our well-being; for without industry the plainest necessaries of life are not obtained. When our situation, therefore, in this world requires activity and a constant exertion of motion and force, Providence indulgently provides for our welfare by making these agreeable to us: it would be a gross imperfection in our nature, to make any thing disagreeable that we depend on for existence; and even indifference would slacken greatly that degree of activity which is indispensable
* Chap. 11. and 15.