Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

as an ingenious author has well observed, it is one thing to make an idea clear, and another to make it affecting to the imagination; and the imagination may be strongly affected, and, in fact, often is so, by objects of which we have no clear conception. Thus we see that almost all the descriptions given us of the appearances of supernatural beings, carry some sublimity, though the conceptions which they afford us be confused and indistinct. Their sublimity arises from the ideas, which they always convey, of superior power and might, joined with an awful obscurity. We may see this fully exemplified in the following noble passage of the book of Job :" In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up; it stood still ; but I could not discern the form thereof; an image was before mine eyes; there was silence; and I heard a voice-Shall mortal man be more just than God !" (Job iv. 15). No ideas, it is plain, are so sublime as those taken from the Supreme Being, the most unknown, but the greatest of all objects; the infinity of whose nature, and the eternity of whose duration, joined with the omnipotence of his power, though they surpass our conceptions, yet exalt them to the highest. In general, all objects that are greatly raised above us, or far removed from us, either in space or in time, are apt to strike us as great. Our viewing them as through the mist of distance or antiquity is favourable to the impressions of their sublimity.

As obscurity, so disorder too is very compatible with grandeur ; nay, frequently heightens it. Few

things that are strictly regular and methodical appear sublime. We see the limits on every side; we feel ourselves confined; there is no room for the mind's exerting any great effort. Exact proportion of parts, though it enters often into the beautiful, is much disregarded in the sublime. A great mass of rocks, thrown together by the hand of nature with wildness and confusion, strike the mind with more grandeur than if they had been adjusted to one another with the most accurate symmetry.

In the feeble attempts which human art can make towards producing grand objects (feeble, I mean, in comparison with the powers of nature), greatness of dimensions always constitutes a principal part. No pile of buildings can convey any idea of sublimity, unless it be ample and lofty. There is, too, in architecture, what is called greatness of manner, which seems chiefly to arise from presenting the object to us in one full point of view, so that it shall make its impression whole, entire, and undivided upon the mind. A Gothic cathedral raises ideas of grandeur in our minds by its size, its height, its awful obscurity, its strength, its antiquity, and its durability.

There still remains to be mentioned one class of sublime objects, which may be called the moral or sentimental sublime, arising from certain exertions of the human mind, from certain affections and actions of our fellow-creatures. These will be found to be all, or chiefly of that class, which comes under the name of magnanimity or heroism ; and they produce an effect extremely similar to what is produced by the view of grand objects in nature; filling the mind with admiration, and elevating it above itself. Wherever, in some critical and high situation, we behold a man uncommonly intrepid, and resting upon himself, superior to passion and to fear; animated by some great principle to the contempt of popular opinion, of selfish interest, of dangers, or of death, there we are struck with a sense of the sublime.

High virtue is the most natural and fertile source of this moral sublimity. However, on some occasions, where virtue either has no place, or is but imperfectly displayed, yet if extraordinary vigour and force of mind be discovered, we are not insensible to a degree of grandeur in the character; and from the splendid conqueror, or the daring conspirator, whom we are far from approving, we cannot withhold our admiration.

MACKENZIE.

(1745-1831.)

The principal literary work of HENRY MACKENZIE is his Man of Feeling, published in 1771. He wrote also the Man of the World, and was a liberal contributor to the Mirror, and the Lounger. The Story of La Roche is one of his contributions to the former of these Periodicals. The character of the Philosopher, drawn in this beautiful story, is supposed to have been intended for Mr. Hume.]

Story of La Roche. More than forty years ago, an English philosopher, whose works have since been read and admired by all Europe, resided at a little town in France. Some disappointments in his native country had first driven him

abroad, and he was afterwards induced to remain there, from having found, in this retreat, where the connexions even of nation and language were avoided, a perfect seclusion and retirement highly favourable to the development of abstract subjects, in which he excelled all the writers of his time.

Perhaps in the structure of such a mind as Mr. - 's, the finer and more delicate sensibilities are seldom known to have place; or, if originally implanted there, are in a great measure extinguished by the exertions of intense study and profound investigation. Hence the idea of philosophy and unfeelingness being united has become proverbial, and in common language the former word is often used to express the latter. Our philosopher has been censured by some as deficient in warmth and feeling; but the mildness of his manners has been allowed by all; and it is certain that, if he was not easily melted into compassion, it was at least not difficult to awaken his benevolence.

One morning, while he sat busied in those speculations which afterwards astonished the world, an old female domestic, who served him for a housekeeper, brought him word that an elderly gentleman and his daughter had arrived in the village the preceding evening on their way to some distant country, and that the father had been suddenly seized in the night with a dangerous disorder, which the people of the inn where they lodged feared would prove mortal; that she had been sent for as having some knowledge in medicine, the village surgeon being then absent; and that it was truly piteous to see the good old man, who seemed not so much afflicted by his own distress as by that which it caused to his daughter. Her

master laid aside the volume in his hand, and broke off the chain of ideas it had inspired. His night-gown was exchanged for a coat, and he followed his gouvernante to the sick man's apartment.

’T was the best in the little inn where they lay, but a paltry one notwithstanding. Mr. -- was obliged to stoop as he entered it. It was floored with earth, and above were the joists, not plastered, and hung with cobwebs. On a flock-bed, at one end, lay the old man he came to visit; at the foot of it sat his daughter. She was dressed in a clean white bedgown; her dark locks hung loosely over it as she bent forward, watching the languid looks of her father. Mr. -- and his housekeeper had stood some moments in the room without the young lady's being sensible of their entering it. “Mademoiselle!” said the old woman at last in a soft tone. She turned, and showed one of the finest faces in the world. It was touched, not spoiled with sorrow; and when she perceived a stranger, whom the old woman now introduced to her, a blush at first, and then the gentle ceremonial of native politeness which the affliction of the time tempered, but did not extinguish, crossed it for a moment, and changed its expression. 'T was sweetness all, however, and our philosopher felt it strongly. It was not a time for words; he offered his services in a few sincere ones. “Monsieur lies miserably ill here,” said the gouvernante ; “ if he could possibly be moved anywhere.” “ If he could be moved to our house,” said her master. He had a spare bed for a friend, and there was a garret room unoccupied, next to the gouvernante's. It was contrived accordingly. The scruples of the stranger, who could look scruples

« AnteriorContinuar »