Imagens da página

they bear witness to each other; nature is, as it were, scrutinized: and we report nothing of her, but what we receive from her own information.


COMPARED, On closing this general view of beauty, it naturally occurs that we should compare it with the sublime; and in this comparison there appears a remarkable contrast; for sublime objects are vast in their dimensions, beautiful ones comparatively small; beauty should be smooth and polished; the great, rugged and negligent; beauty should shun the right line, yet deviate from it insensibly; the great, in many cases, loves the right line; and when it deviates, it often makes a strong deviation : beauty should not be obscure : the great ought to be dark and gloomy: beauty should be light and delicate: the great ought to be solid, and even massive. They are, indeed, ideas of a very different nature, one being founded on pain, the other on pleasure; and however they may vary afterward from the direct nature of their causes, yet these causes keep up an eternal distinction between them, a distinction never to be forgotten by any whose business it is to affect the passions. In the infinite variety of natural com. binations, we must expect to find the qualities of things the most remote imaginable from each other, united in the same object. We must expect also to find combinations of the same kind in the works of art. But when we consider the power of an object upon our passions, we must know, that when any thing is intended to affect the mind by the force of some predominant property, the affection produced is like to be the more uniform and perfect, if all the other pro ies or qualities of the object be of the


same nature, and tending to the same design as the principal;

If black and white blend, soften, and unite

A thousand ways, are there no black and white? If the qualities of the sublime and beautiful are sometimes found united, does this prove that they are the same; does this prove that they are any way allied; does it prove even that they are not opposite and contradictory? Black and white may soften, may blend; but they are not therefore the same. Nor, when they are so softened and blended with each other, or with different colours, is the power of black as black, or of white as white, so strong as when each stands uniform and distin. guished.




SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL. When I say I intend to inquire into the efficient cause of sublimity and beauty, I would not be understood to say that I can come to the ultimate

I do not pretend that I shall ever be able to explain why certain affections of the body produce such a distinct emotion of mind, and no other, or why the body is at all affected by the mind, or the mind by the body. A little thought will shew this to be impossible. But I conceive, if we can discover what affections of the mind produce certain emotions of the body, and what distinct feelings and qualities of body shall produce certain de. terminate passions in the mind, and no others, I fancy a great deal will be done; something not unuseful towards a distinct knowledge of our pas. sions, so far at least as we have them at present under our consideration. This is all, I believe, we can do. If we could advance a step farther, difficulties would still remain, as we should be still equally distant from the first cause. When Newton first discovered the property of attraction, and set. tled its laws, he found it served very well to explain several of the most remarkable phenomena in nature; but yet, with reference to the general system of things, he could consider attraction but as an effect, whose cause, at that time, he did not attempt to trace. But when he afterward began to account for it by a subtile elastic æther, this great man (if in so great a man it be not impious to discover any thing like a blemish) seemed to have quitted his usual cautious manner of philosophizing ; since perhaps, allowing all that has been advanced on this subject to be sufficiently proved, I think it leaves us with as many difficulties as it found us. That great chain of causes, linking one to another, even to the throne of God himself, can never be unravelled by any industry of ours. When we go but one step beyond the immediately sensible qualities of things, we go out of our depth. All we do after is but a faint struggle, that shews we are in an element which does not belong to us. So that when I speak of cause, and efficient cause, I only mean certain affections of the mind, that cause certain changes in the body; or certain powers and properties in bodies, that work a change in the mind : as if I were to explain the motion of a body falling to the ground, I would say it was caused by gravity; and I would endeavour to shew after wbat manner this power operated, without attempting to shew why it operated in this manner : or if I were to explain the effects of bodies striking one another

by the common laws of percussion, I should not endeavour to explain how motion itself is commu. nicated.


It is no small bar in the way of our inquiry into the cause of our passions, that the occasions of many of them are given, and that their governing motions are communicated at a time when we have not capacity to reflect on them; at a time, of which all sort of memory is worn out of our minds; for, besides such things as affect us in various manners, according to their natural powers, there are associations made at that early season which we find it

very hard afterward to distinguish from natural effects. Not to mention the unaccountable antipathies which we find in many persons, we all find it impossible to remember when a steep became more terrible than a plain ; or fire or water more dreadful than a clod of earth; though all these are very probably either conclusions from experience, or arising from the premonitions of others : and some of them impressed, in all likelihood, pretty late. But as it must be allowed that many things affect us after a certain manner, not by any natural powers they have for that purpose, but by associa. tion; so it would be absurd, on the other hand, to say that all things affect us by association only; since some things must have been originally and naturally agreeable or disagreeable, from which the others derive their associated powers; and it would be, I fancy, to little purpose to look for the cause of our passions in association, until we fail of it in the natural properties of things.

SECT. III.CAUSE OF PAIN AND FEAR. I HAVE before observed, * that whatever is qualified to cause terror, is a foundation capable of the sublime; to which I add, that not only these, but many things from which we cannot probably apprehend any danger, have a similar effect, because they operate in a similar manner. I observe too, thatt whatever produces pleasure, positive and original pleasure, is fit to have beauty engrafted on it. Therefore, to clear up the nature of these qualities, it may be necessary to explain the nature of pain and pleasure, on which they depend. A man who suffers under violent bodily pain (I suppose the most violent, because the effect may be the more obvious), I say, a man in great pain has his teeth set, his eyebrows are violently contracted, his forehead is wrinkled, his eyes are dragged inwards and rolled with great vehemence, his hair stands on end, the voice is forced out in short shrieks and groans, and the whole fabric totters. Fear or terror, which is an apprehension of pain or death, exhibits exactly the same effects, approaching in violence to those just mentioned, in proportion to the nearness of the cause and the weakness of the subject. This is not only so in the human species : but I have more than once observed in dogs under an apprehension of punishment, that they have writbed their bodies, and yelped and bowled, as if they had actually felt the blows. From whence I conclude, that pain and fear act upon the same parts of the body, and in the same manner, though somewhat differing in degree; that pain and fear consist in an unnatural tension of the nerves; that this is sometimes accompanied with an unnatural strength, * Part I. sect. 2.

art I. sect. 10.


« AnteriorContinuar »