Oxford Lectures on Poetry
Book file PDF easily for everyone and every device.
You can download and read online Oxford Lectures on Poetry file PDF Book only if you are registered here.
And also you can download or read online all Book PDF file that related with Oxford Lectures on Poetry book.
Happy reading Oxford Lectures on Poetry Bookeveryone.
Download file Free Book PDF Oxford Lectures on Poetry at Complete PDF Library.
This Book have some digital formats such us :paperbook, ebook, kindle, epub, fb2 and another formats.
Here is The CompletePDF Book Library.
It's free to register here to get Book file PDF Oxford Lectures on Poetry Pocket Guide.
Update Location. If you want NextDay, we can save the other items for later. Yes—Save my other items for later. No—I want to keep shopping. Order by , and we can deliver your NextDay items by. In your cart, save the other item s for later in order to get NextDay delivery. We moved your item s to Saved for Later. There was a problem with saving your item s for later. You can go to cart and save for later there. Oxford Lectures on Poetry. Average rating: 0 out of 5 stars, based on 0 reviews Write a review.
Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Add to Cart. Arrives by Friday, Sep Bradley Classworks, Very Good. Oxford Lectures on Poetry Bradley, A.
Oxford Lectures on Poetry
London: Macmillan, First Edition. Original Cloth. London: Macmillan and Co, Second issue, reprint. Spine lightly tanned and bumped, lacks ffep, some foxing, pp clean and tidy.. Seller: Bookcase Published: Condition: Good. London: Macmillan and Co. From the collection of David Wight Prall, Professor of aesthetics and philosophy at Berkeley and Harvard, his bookplate pasted to ep, his owner info inked to ffep. Pages: clean, ivory, tight, f. C London, England, U. First published in , this volume consists of lectures delivered during the author's tenure of the Chair of Poetry at Oxford that were not included in his earlier volume, Shakespearean Tragedy; this volume includes his inaugural lectural, Poetry for Poetry's Sake; the others include The Sublime, Hegel's Theory of Tragedy, Wordsworth, Shelley's View of Poetry, The Long Poem in the Age of Wordsworth, The Letters of Keats, The Rejection of Falstaff, Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare the Man, and Shakespeare's Theatre and Audience blue textured cloth with gold lettering on spine is very slightly rubbed; otherwise a bright, clean, tight copy.
Hard Cover. Ltd, Very Good Plus. Blue cloth binding. Small bump to upper corner of front board, otherwise in excellent condition throughout.
A lovely example of the first edition, scarce thus. Overall condition is Very Good Plus. Size: 6 x 9 inches Printed pages: ix, London: MacMillan and Co, Ex library - fair. Blue cloth hardcover. Corners worn, spine ends have small tears, hinges cracked internally. Ex library with label on rear pastedown. Ink inscription on front free endpaper. Some spots and roughened text block edge. Includes: Poetry for Poetry's Sake; Hegel's theory of tragedy; Wordsworth; Shelley's view of poetry; the long poem in the age of Wordsworth; the letters of Keats; Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra; Shakespeare's theatre and audience; etc.
Margaret Newbolt's copy, with a dedication to her on their 20th wedding anniversary 15 August , by her husband Sir Henry Newbolt. Some bumping, wear to covers, spine, offsetting to endpapers, some spotting throughout. Association Copy. First Edition.. Blue Cloth. Good, Black Cloth, shelf-wear. Seller: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts. London: Macmillan; New York, St. Martin's Press, Oxford lectures on poetry Bradley, A. C MacmillanSt. Martin's Press. Used - Good. Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. Macmillan, This book has hardback covers.
In poor condition, suitable as a reading copy. No dust jacket. Re-bound by library. Please note the Image in this listing is a stock photo and may not match the covers of the actual item,grams, ISBN:. The reader will now see where, in my judgment, the paragraph is wrong. Elsewhere it is, I think, right, though it deals with a subject far too large for a paragraph. Poetry, whatever its kind, would be pure as far as it preserved the unity of content and form; mixed, so far as it failed to do so—in other words, failed to be poetry and was partly prosaic.
It is possible therefore that the poem, as it existed at certain stages in its growth, may correspond roughly with the poem as it exists in the memories of various readers. A reader who is fond of the poem and often thinks of it, but remembers only half the words and perhaps fills up the gaps with his own words, may possess something like the poem as it was when half-made. And what they possess may have, I think, an immense value. The poem, of course, it is not; but it may answer to the state of imaginative feeling or emotional imagination which was the germ of the poem.
Such correspondences, naturally, must be very rough, if only because the readers have been at one time in contact with the fully grown poem. I should be sorry if what is said here and elsewhere were taken to imply depreciation of all attempts at the interpretation of works of art.
As regards poetry, such attempts, though they cannot possibly express the whole meaning of a poem, may do much to facilitate the poetic apprehension of that meaning. And, although the attempt is still more hazardous in the case of music and painting, I believe it may have a similar value. That its results may be absurd or disgusting goes without saying, and whether they are ever of use to musicians or the musically educated I do not know.
And I believe that such indications, however inadequate they must be, may greatly help the uneducated lover of music to hear more truly the music itself. The new question asks, What is it that the poem , the unity of this content and form, is trying to express? Of course, I should add, it is not merely beyond them or outside of them. They are a partial manifestation of it, and point beyond themselves to it, both because they are a manifestation and because this is partial.
The same thing is true, not only as is remarked in the text of the other arts and of religion and philosophy, but also of 34 what is commonly called reality. This reality is a manifestation of a different order from poetry, and in certain important respects a much more imperfect manifestation. Hence, as was pointed out pp. Not that the merest fancy can fail to reveal something of perfection. The lines quoted on p.
I am aware that, especially in the earlier pages, difficult subjects are treated in a manner far too summary, but they require an exposition so full that it would destroy the original form of the Lecture, while a slight expansion would do little to provide against misunderstandings. I am not arguing against this usage, or in favour of the usage which I have adopted for the sake of clearness.
It does not matter which we employ, so long as we and others know what we mean. Coleridge used to tell a story about his visit to the Falls of Clyde; but he told it with such variations that the details are uncertain, and without regard to truth I shall change it to the shape that suits my purpose best. Sublimity and prettiness are qualities separated by so great a distance that our sudden attempt to unite them has a comically incongruous effect. At the same time the first of these qualities is so exalted that the exhibition of entire inability to perceive it is distressing.
Astonishment, rapture, awe, even self-abasement, are among the emotions evoked by sublimity. Many would be inclined to pronounce it 38 the very highest of all the forms assumed by beauty, whether in nature or in works of imagination. I propose to make some remarks on this quality, and even to attempt some sort of answer to the question what sublimity is. Of beauty, thus understood, sublimity is one particular kind among a number of others, for instance prettiness. The beauty we have in view here is evidently not the same as beauty in the wider sense; it is only, like sublimity or prettiness, a particular kind or mode of that beauty.
Now that the lecture is printed I am able to avoid these qualifications by printing the words in inverted commas where they bear the narrower sense. Now, obviously, all the particular kinds or modes of beauty must have, up to a certain point, the same nature. They must all possess that character in virtue of which they are called beautiful rather than good or true.
And so a philosopher, investigating one of these kinds, would first have to determine this common nature or character; and then he would go on to ascertain what it is that distinguishes the particular kind from its companions. But here we cannot follow such a method.
The nature of beauty in general is so much disputed and so variously defined that to discuss it here by way of preface would be absurd; and on the other hand it would be both presumptuous and useless to assume the truth of any one account of it. Our only plan, therefore, must be to leave it entirely alone, and to consider merely the distinctive character of sublimity. And this plan is not merely the only possible one, but it is, I believe, quite justifiable, since, so far as I can see, the answer to our particular question, unless it is pushed further than I propose to go, is unaffected by the differences among theories of repute concerning beauty in general.
At the same time, it is essential to realise and always to bear in mind one consequence of this plan; which is that our account of what is peculiar to sublimity will not be an account of sublimity in its full nature. For sublimity is not those peculiar characteristics alone, it is that beauty which is distinguished by them, and a large part of 40 its effect is due to that general nature of beauty which it shares with other kinds, and which we leave unexamined. In considering the question thus defined I propose to start from our common aesthetic experience and to attempt to arrive at an answer by degrees.
It will be understood, therefore, that our first results may have to be modified as we proceed. And I will venture to ask my hearers, further, to ignore for the time any doubts they may feel whether I am right in saying, by way of illustration, that this or that thing is sublime. Such differences of opinion scarcely affect our question, which is not whether in a given case the epithet is rightly applied, but what the epithet signifies. And it has to be borne in mind that, while no two kinds of beauty can be quite the same, a thing may very well possess beauty of two different kinds.
Before it come two terms, sublime and grand; and beyond it lie two others, graceful and pretty. It appears to be greatness. But whatever strikes us as sublime produces an impression of greatness, and more—of exceeding or even overwhelming greatness. And this greatness, further, is apparently no mere accompaniment of sublimity, but essential to it: remove the greatness in imagination, and the sublimity vanishes.
I will try, not to defend these statements by argument, but to develop their meaning by help of illustrations, dismissing from view the minor differences between these modes of beauty, and, for the most part, leaving grandeur out of account. Let us understand by the term, to begin with, greatness of extent,—of size, number, or duration; and let us ask whether sublime things are, in this sense, exceedingly great.
Some certainly are. The vault of heaven, one expanse of blue, or dark and studded with countless and prodigiously distant stars; the sea that stretches to the horizon and beyond it, a surface smooth as glass or breaking into innumerable waves; time, to which we can imagine no beginning and no end,—these furnish favourite examples of sublimity; and to call them great seems almost mockery, for they are images of immeasurable magnitude.
When we turn from them to living beings, of course our standard of greatness changes; 3 but, using the standard appropriate to the sphere, we find again that the sublime things have, for the most part, great magnitude.
Oxford Lectures On Poetry
A graceful tree need not be a large one; a pretty tree is almost always small; but a sublime tree is almost always large. If you were asked to mention sublime animals, you would perhaps suggest, among birds, the eagle; among fishes, if any, the whale; among beasts, the lion or the tiger, the python or the elephant. But you would find it hard to name a sublime insect; and indeed it is not easy, perhaps not possible, to feel sublimity in any animal smaller than oneself, unless one goes beyond the special kind of greatness at present under review.
Let us now take a further step. Can there be sublimity when such greatness is absent?
- Index for volumes 1–41.
- Oxford Lectures on Poetry by Bradley.
- The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel.
- Contemporary Western Artists;
- Hyperbolic Dynamics and Brownian Motion: An Introduction!
- Oxford lectures on poetry;
- Oxford Lectures on Poetry!
And, if there can, is greatness of some other sort always present in such cases, and essential to the sublime effect? The answer to the first of these questions is beyond doubt. A baby is still smaller, but a baby too may be sublime. The starry sky is not more sublime than the babe on the arm of the Madonna di San Sisto. A sparrow is more diminutive still; but that it is possible for a sparrow to be sublime is not difficult 44 to show.
I was on my way home from hunting, and was walking up the garden avenue. My dog was running on in front of me. I looked along the avenue; and I saw on the ground a young sparrow, its beak edged with yellow, and its head covered with soft down. It had fallen from the nest a strong wind was blowing, and shaking the birches of the avenue ; and there it sat and never stirred, except to stretch out its little half-grown wings in a helpless flutter.
My dog was slowly approaching it, when suddenly, darting from the tree overhead, an old black-throated sparrow dropt like a stone right before his nose, and, all rumpled and flustered, with a plaintive desperate cry flung itself, once, twice, at his open jaws with their great teeth.
It would save its young one; it screened it with its own body; the tiny frame quivered with terror; the little cries grew wild and hoarse; it sank and died. It had sacrificed itself. What a huge monster the dog must have seemed to it! And yet it could not stay up there on its safe bough. A power stronger than its own will tore it away. My dog stood still, and then slunk back disconcerted.
Plainly he too had to recognise that power. I called him to me; and a feeling of reverence came over me as I passed on. Yes, do not laugh. It was really reverence I felt before that little heroic bird and the passionate outburst of its love. Love, I thought, is verily stronger than death and the terror of death. By love, only by love, is life sustained and moved. This sparrow, it will be agreed, is sublime. What, then, makes it so?
Not largeness of size, assuredly, but, we answer, its love and courage. We often meet with love and courage, and always admire and approve them; but we do not always find them sublime. Why, then, are they sublime in the sparrow? From their extraordinary greatness. It is not in the quality alone, but in the quantity of the quality, that the sublimity lies.
And this may be readily seen if we imagine the quantity to be considerably reduced,—if we imagine the parent bird, after its first brave effort, flinching and flying 45 away, or if we suppose the bird that sacrifices itself to be no sparrow but a turkey.
In either case love and courage would remain, but sublimity would recede or vanish, simply because the love and courage would no longer possess the required immensity. The sublimity of the sparrow, then, no less than that of the sky or sea, depends on exceeding or overwhelming greatness—a greatness, however, not of extension but rather of strength or power, and in this case of spiritual power. We shall find, in fact, that in the sublime, when there is not greatness of extent, there is another greatness, which without saying that the phrase is invariably the most appropriate we may call greatness of power and which in these cases is essential.
We must develop this statement a little. Naturally the power, and therefore the sublimity, will differ in its character in different instances, and therefore will affect us variously. It may be—to classify very roughly—physical, or vital, or in the old wide sense of the word moral, like that of the sparrow and the dog.
And physical force will 46 appeal to the imagination in one way, and vital in another, and moral or spiritual in another. But it is still power of some kind that makes a thing sublime rather than graceful, and immensity of power that makes it sublime rather than merely grand. For example, the lines of the water in a thin cascade may be exquisitely graceful, but such a cascade has not power enough to be sublime. The ocean, in those stanzas of Childe Harold which no amount of familiarity or of defect can deprive of their sublimity, is the untameable monster which engulfs men as lightly as rain-drops and shatters fleets like toys.
The sublimity of Behemoth and Leviathan in the Book of Job lies in the contrast of their enormous might with the puny power of man; that of the horse in the fiery energy of his courage and strength.
Think of sublime figures or ideas in the world of fiction or of history, and you find that, whether they are radiant or gloomy, violent or peaceful, terrible or adorable, they all impress the imagination by their immense or even irresistible might. It is so with Achilles, standing alone beyond the wall, with the light of the divine flame soaring from his head, while he sends across the trench that shout at whose far-off sound the hearts of the Trojans die within them; or with Odysseus, when the moment of his vengeance has come, and he casts off his rags, and leaps onto the threshold with his bow, and pours his arrows down at his feet, and looks down the long hall at the doomed faces of his feasting enemies.
Fate or Death, imagined as a lurking assassin, is not sublime, but may become so when imagined as inevitable, irresistible, ineluctabile fatum. The eternal laws to which Antigone appeals, like that Duty which preserves the strength and freshness of the most ancient heavens, are sublime.
- Guide to the Crystal Gems;
- Oxford Lectures on Poetry.
- Womens History for Beginners.
- Lonely Planet Russia (7th Edition)?
- More Books by Andrew Cecil Bradley;
Prometheus, the saviour of mankind, opposing a boundless power of enduring pain to a boundless power of inflicting it; Regulus returning unmoved to his doom; Socrates, serene and even joyous in the presence of injury and death and the lamentations of his friends, are sublime. It seems clear, then, that sublimity very often arises from an overwhelming greatness of power. So abundant, indeed, are the instances that one begins to wonder whether it ever arises from any other kind of greatness, and whether we were right in supposing that mere magnitude of extension can produce it.
Would such magnitude, however prodigious, seem to us sublime unless we insensibly construed it as the sign of power? In the case of living things, at any rate, this doubt seems to be well founded. A tree is sublime not because it 48 occupies a large extent of empty space or time, but from the power in it which raises aloft and spreads abroad a thousand branches and a million leaves, or which has battled for centuries with buffeting storms and has seen summers and winters arise and pass like the hours of our day.
It is not the mere bulk of the lion or the eagle that wins them their title as king of beasts or of birds, but the power exhibited in the gigantic head and arm or the stretch of wing and the piercing eye. And even when we pass from the realm of life our doubt remains. Would a mountain, a river, or a building be sublime to us if we did not read their masses and lines as symbols of force?
Would even the illimitable extent of sea or sky, the endlessness of time, or the countlessness of stars or sands or waves, bring us anything but fatigue or depression if we did not apprehend them, in some way and however vaguely, as expressions of immeasurable power—power that created them, or lives in them, or can count them; so that what impresses us is not the mere absence of limits, but the presence of something that overpowers any imaginable limit?
If these doubts are justified as in my opinion they are , the conclusion will follow that the exceeding greatness required for sublimity is always greatness of some kind of power, though in one class of cases the impression of this greatness can only be conveyed through immensity of extent. However this question may be decided, our result so far seems to be that the peculiarity of the sublime lies in some exceeding and overwhelming greatness.
But before this result can be considered safe, two obstacles must be removed. In the first place, are there no negative instances? Is it impossible to find anything sublime which does not show this greatness? Naturally I can say no more than that I have conscientiously searched for exceptions to the rule and have searched in vain. I can 49 find only apparent exceptions which in reality confirm the rule; and I will mention only those which look the most formidable. They are cases where at first sight there seems to be not merely an inconsiderable amount of power or other greatness, but actually the negation of it.
For example, the silence of night, or the sudden pause in a storm or in stormy music, or again the silence and movelessness of death, may undoubtedly be sublime; and how, it may be asked, can a mere absence of sound and motion be an exhibition of immense greatness? It cannot, I answer; but neither can it be sublime.
If you apprehend the silence in these cases as a mere absence, no feeling of sublimity will arise in your mind; and if you do apprehend the silence as sublime, it is to you the sign of immense power, put forth or held in reserve. In either case there may be sublimity, but then there is the impression of immense power. In the same way the silence of night, when it seems sublime, is apprehended not as the absence but as the subdual of sound,—the stillness wrought by a power so mighty that at its touch all the restless noises of the day fall dumb,—or the brooding of an omnipotent peace over the world.
And such a peace it is, an unassailable peace, that may make the face of death sublime, a stillness which is not moveless but immovable. At present, then, our result seems to stand firm. But another danger remains. Granted that in the 50 sublime there is always some exceeding and overwhelming greatness, is that all there is? Is there not in every case some further characteristic? I do not find any other peculiarity that is always present. Several have been alleged, and one or two of these will be mentioned later, but none of them appears to show itself indubitably wherever sublimity is found.
It is easy to give a much fuller account of the sublime if you include in it everything that impresses you in a sublime baby while you omit to consider Behemoth, or if you build upon Socrates and ignore Satan, or if you confine yourself to the sublime thunderstorm and forget the sublime rainbow or sunrise. But then your account will not answer to the instances you have ignored; and when you take them in you will have to pare it down until perhaps you end in a result like ours.
At any rate we had better be content with it for the present, and turn to another aspect of the matter. So far, on the whole, we have been regarding the sublime object as if its sublimity were independent of our state of mind in feeling and apprehending it. When, on seeing or hearing something, we exclaim, How graceful! The thing wins us and draws us towards itself without resistance. Something in us hastens to meet it in sympathy or love. Our feeling, we may say, is entirely affirmative. For though it is not always untouched by pain for the thing may have sadness in it , 9 this touch of pain or sadness does not mean any disharmony between the thing and us, or involve any check in our acceptance of it.
In the case of sublimity, on the other hand, this acceptance does not seem to be so simple or immediate. This we may call by the convenient but too strong name of the negative stage. It is essential to sublimity; and nothing seems to correspond to it in our perception of loveliness or grace except sometimes a sense of surprise or wonder, which is wholly pleasant, and which does not necessarily qualify the lovely or graceful thing.
But this first stage or aspect clearly does not by itself suffice for sublimity. To it there succeeds, it may be instantaneously or more gradually, another: a powerful reaction, a rush of self-expansion, or an uplifting, or a sense of being borne out of the self that was checked, or even of being carried away beyond all checks and limits. These feelings, even when the sublime thing might be called forbidding, menacing, or terrible, are always positive,—feelings of union with it; and, when its nature permits of this, they may amount to rapture or adoration.
The union, we may say perhaps, has required a self-surrender, and the rapture or adoration is often strongly tinged with awe. Now, this peculiar doubleness in our apprehension of sublimity, this presence of two equally necessary stages or phases, a negative and a positive, seems to correspond with the peculiarity which we found in the sublime object when we were provisionally regarding it by itself.
It is its overwhelming greatness which for a moment checks, baffles, subdues, even repels us or makes us feel our littleness, and which then, forcing its way into the imagination and emotions, distends or uplifts them to its own dimensions. We burst our own limits, go out to the sublime thing, identify ourselves ideally with it, and share its immense greatness. But if, and in so far as, we remain conscious of our difference from it, we 53 still feel the insignificance of our actual selves, and our glory is mingled with awe or even with self-abasement. But it must have occurred to some of my hearers that the description recalls other kinds of experience.
And if they find it accurate in the main, they will appreciate, even if they do not accept, the exalted claim which philosophers, in various forms, have made for the sublime. It awakes in us, they say, through the check or shock which it gives to our finitude, the consciousness of an infinite or absolute; and this is the reason of the kinship we feel between this particular mode of aesthetic experience on the one side, and, on the other, morality or religion. For there, by the denial of our merely finite or individual selves, we rise into union with the law which imposes on us an unconditional demand, or with the infinite source and end of our spiritual life.
These are ideas much too large to be considered now, and even later I can but touch on them. But the mere mention of them may carry us to the last enquiries with which we can deal. For it suggests this question: Supposing that high claim to be justified at all, can it really be made for all sublimity, or must it not be confined to the very highest forms? A similar question must be raised as to various other statements regarding the sublime; and I go on to speak of some of these.
We must answer, first, that if this check is part of an aesthetic experience and not a mere preliminary to it, it can never be fear in the common meaning of that word, or what may be called practical or real fear. So far as we are practically afraid of a storm or a mountain, afraid, for instance, for ourselves as bodily beings in this particular spatial and temporal position, the storm or mountain is not sublime to us, it is simply terrible.
That fear must be absent, or must not engage attention, or must be changed in character, if the object is to be for us sublimely terrible, something with which we identify ourselves in imaginative sympathy, and which so causes a great self-expansion. There is fear in the apprehension of some sublimity, but by no means in that of all. Instances of the sublime differ greatly in regard to the prominence and tone of this aspect.
And in general we may say that the distinctive nature of sublimity appears most clearly where this aspect is most prominent,—so prominent, perhaps, that we have a more or less explicit sense of the littleness and powerlessness of ourselves, and 55 indeed of the whole world of our usual experience. Only we must not give an account of the sublime which fully applies to these cases alone , or suppose that the negative aspect is absent in other cases. If a rainbow or sunrise is really sublime, it is overwhelming as well as uplifting.
Nor must we assume that the most distinctively sublime must also be the most sublime. The sunrise witnessed from an immense snowfield in the high Alps may be as sublime as an Alpine thunderstorm, though its sublimity is different. It is their essence, in fact, to be a harmonious unity of sense and spirit, and so to reconcile powers which in much of our experience are conflicting and dissonant.
But sublimity is harsh and hostile to sense. It makes us feel in ourselves and in the world the presence of something irresistibly superior to sense. And this is the reason why it does not soothe or delight, but uplifts us. This statement recalls some of the ideas we have been considering, but it may easily mislead. And if we take the phrase in another meaning, the statement may mislead still, for it attributes to sublimity in general what is a characteristic only of certain forms of the sublime.
Scores of examples could easily be quoted which show no hostility to sense: e. Diminish at all markedly in these cases the amount of light, colour, or sound, and the sublimity would vanish. Of course the appeal here is not merely to sense, but it is to sense. But undoubtedly there is another kind of sublimity; and it is particularly interesting. Here, it is true, a sort of despite is done to the senses and what speaks to them.
As we have seen, the greatness of soul in the sparrow is enhanced by contrast with the smallness and feebleness of its body, and pours contempt on the visible magnitude of the hound; and the stillness of night or death is sublime from its active negation of sound and motion. Again, there is a famous passage which depends for its effect on this, that, first, sublime things are introduced which appeal powerfully to sense, and then something else, which does not so appeal, is made to appear even more sublime and to put them to shame: first a great and strong wind, an earthquake, a fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
Sometimes, again, as Burke observed, sublimity depends on, or is increased by, darkness, obscurity, vagueness,—refusal of satisfaction to the sense of sight. Often in these cases the sublime object is terrible, and its terror is increased by inability to see or distinguish it. It has been observed that attempts to illustrate such passages as these dissipate their sublimity by diminishing the obscurity of the object. We imagine these powers as removed from sight, and indeed wholly immaterial, and yet as exercising sovereign dominion over the visible and material world.
And their sublimity would be endangered if we tried to bring them nearer to sense by picturing the means by which they exercise their control. I will take a last example. It has probably been mentioned in almost every account of the sublime since Longinus quoted it in his work on Elevation of Style.
Seamus Heaney | University Lectures
And it is of special interest here because it illustrates at one and the same time the two kinds of sublimity which we are engaged in distinguishing. The further idea that this transcendently glorious apparition is due to mere words, to a breath—our symbol of tenuity, evanescence, impotence to influence material bulk—heightens enormously the impression of absolutely immeasurable power.
To sum up, then, on this matter. The sublime may impress its overwhelming greatness in either of two ways, by 58 an appeal to sense, or by a kind of despite done to it. Nor can we assert, if we think of the sunrise, the thunderstorm, or of sublime music, that the second of these ways is more distinctive of the sublime than the first. But perhaps we may say this.
In some forms of sublimity, again, the sensuous embodiment seems threatening to break in its effort to express what appears in it. And in others we definitely feel that the power which for a moment intimates its presence to sense is infinite and utterly uncontainable by any or all vehicles of its manifestation. The sublime has been said to awake in us the consciousness of our own infinity. It has been said, again, to represent in all cases the inadequacy of all finite forms to express the infinite.
Now, at the point we have reached, it would seem we might at once answer that a claim is here being made for the sublime in general which really holds good only of one kind of sublimity. Sometimes 59 the sublime object is apprehended as the Infinite, or again as an expression of it. This is, for example, a point of view frequent in Hebrew poetry. Sometimes, again, the object e. But how are we to say that a sublime lion or mountain, or Satan or Lady Macbeth, is apprehended as the Infinite, or as infinite, or usually as even an expression of the Infinite?
And how are we to say that the greatness of most sublime objects is apprehended as incomparable or immeasurable? I never could. Sublimity is Hebrew by birth. This reply, however, though sound so far as it goes, does not settle the question raised. It may still be maintained that sublimity in all cases, and even when we have no idea of infinity before us, does represent the inadequacy of all finite forms to express the infinite.
And it is unfortunately impossible for us to deal fully with this contention. It would carry us into the region of metaphysics; and, while believing that no theory of the sublime can be complete which stops short of that region, I am aiming in this lecture at no such theory, but only at a result which may hold good without regard to further developments. And the answer which I suggest and will go on to explain may be put thus: the greatness is only sometimes immeasurable, but it is always unmeasured.
We cannot apprehend an object as sublime while we apprehend it as comparably, measurably, or finitely great. Outside the consciousness of its sublimity we may be perfectly well aware that a thing is limited, measurable, equal or inferior to something else. But then we are not finding it sublime. And when we are so finding it, we are absorbed in its greatness, and have no thought either of the limits of that or of its equality or inferiority to anything else. But the absence of a consciousness of measure or finitude is one thing; the presence of a consciousness of immeasurableness or infinity is another.
The first belongs to all sublimity, the second only to one kind of it,—to that where we attempt to measure, or find limits to, the greatness of the thing. If we make this attempt, as when we try in imagination to number the stars or to find an end to time, then it is essential to sublimity that we should fail, and so fail that the idea of immeasurability or endlessness emerges.
In like manner, if we compare things, nothing will appear sublime whose greatness is surpassed or even equalled by that of something else; and, if this process of comparison is pursued, in the end nothing will be found sublime except the absolute totality however it may 61 be imagined. And this kind of sublimity, which arises from attempts to measure or compare, is often exceedingly striking. But it is only one kind. For it is an entire delusion—though a very common one in theories of the sublime—to suppose that we must attempt to measure or compare.
On the contrary, in the majority of cases our impression of overwhelming greatness is accompanied neither by any idea that this greatness has a measure, nor by the idea that it is immeasurable or infinite. It will not do, then, to lay it down that the sublime is the beautiful which has immeasurable, incomparable, or infinite greatness. And, this being so, it seems that we may say that all sublimity, and not only that in which the idea of infinite greatness or of the Infinite emerges, is an image of infinity; for in all, through a certain check or limitation and the overcoming of it, we reach the perception or the imaginative idea of something which, on the one hand, has a positive nature, and, on the other, is either not determined as finite or is determined as infinite.
Within an hour I could attempt no more than an outline of our subject. That is inevitable; and so is another defect, which I regret more. In analysing any kind of aesthetic experience we have to begin by disentangling the threads that meet in it; and when we can only make a beginning, no time is left for the further task of showing how they are interwoven. We distinguish, for example, one kind of sublimity from another, and we must do so; but in the actual experience, the single instance, these kinds often melt together. I take one case of this.
Trying to overlook the field in which sublimity appears, we say that there is a sublimity of inorganic things, and of things vital, and of things spiritual, and that these kinds differ. And this is true; and perhaps it is also true that sometimes we experience one of these kinds, so to say, quite pure and unmixed with others.
But it is not always, perhaps not usually so. More frequently kind mingles with kind, and we mutilate the experience when we name it after one of them. In life the imagination, touched at one point, tingles all over and responds at all points.