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the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
Awfulness produces feelings of sublimity. Darkness, solitude, and silence, under certain conditions, impress us with intense awe; especially when connected with some apprehension of danger. The Scriptures give the following sublime description of Jehovah: “He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies."
Obscurity alone does not produce sublimity, but it cooperates powerfully with other circumstances in producing this feeling. To this circumstance may be attributed our dread of ghosts and goblins, of which none can form clear ideas; to it, also, belongs much of the power exercised by despotic governments, and by the priests that serve in heathen temples. In such governments, the chief is kept as much as may be from the public eye; in such temples, the idol is enveloped in all the obscurity that the darkest part of the temple can afford. For this purpose, too, the ancient Druids performed all their ceremonies in the bosom of the darkest woods, and in the shade of the oldest and most spreading oaks. Some of Milton's most sublime passages are due to the obscurity with which he has surrounded things terrible in themselves.
Sound that is excessively loud is alone sufficient to overpower the soul, to suspend its action, and to fill it with the most vivid conceptions of sublimity. The noise of vast cataracts, raging storms, thunder, or artillery, awakes a great and awful sensation in the mind; the shouting of
multitudes has a similar effect. The same effect is produced by a sudden beginning or a sudden cessation of sound. A single sound of strength, though but of short duration, if repeated after intervals, fills the mind with ideas of grandeur: the striking of a great clock in the deep silence of the night, the heavy stroke of a drum, repeated with pauses, the successive firing of cannon at a distance, are illustrations.
Moral Greatness. —Human actions strikingly great or noble never fail to awaken a feeling of the sublime.
When we see a man in some high and critical situation, equal in all respects to the demands of the moment, superior to passion and fear, ignoring selfish interest and popular opinion, unmindful of dangers, even willing to face death, we are struck with a sense of the sublime: the effect is similar to that produced by the grand objects in nature. History is full of these heroic actions.
From the foregoing remarks some idea may be formed of those qualities which awaken feelings of the sublime; the following are the most effective ways of imparting this feeling by means of discourse:
It is of prime importance that the subject be sublime; no high-sounding words marshaled in swelling periods can supply ideas of grandeur when they are wanting in the subject itself.
There should be a vivid conception of the strong points, and a concise and striking presentation of them. Napoleon, wishing to inspire his army in Egypt with enthusiasm for the battle, pointed to the Pyramids, and said, “Thirty centuries are looking down upon you." How grandly these wondrous monuments of antiquity, viewed in the light of the great chieftain's sublime conception, must have appealed to the valor of those weary, suffering legions! Not only
should we seize strongly upon the few grand features which constitute what is sublime in an object, but we should omit all details that are in themselves belittling.
Simplicity and conciseness of expression are essential to the sublime in writing. In sentences which men generally regard as sublime, the words are few and the construction plain. Many of the sayings and most of the miracles of our Lord, as recorded in the Gospels, are expressed with the utmost simplicity and plainness, yet they are in the highest degree sublime. For example, in stilling the tempest he commanded the waves with the words, “Peace, be still.” In healing the leper, he merely said to him, "Be thou clean: and immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” In raising the dead, the record is simply, “Lazarus, come forth: and he that was dead came forth.” When the disciples were in peril at sea, Jesus came unto them, and quieted their fears with the words, “It is I, be not afraid.” To the sinner whose guilt placed her beyond the pale of human mercy, he said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
His claims to authority as a teacher come from God, are put forth in few and simple words, but with a majesty of expression that forced even his enemies to say, “Never man spake like this man."
DIRECTION. — Study these sentences, point out those possessing beauty or elegance, those possessing sublimity, and tell what gives them this quality:
1. From his lip like balm, the psalmody of Israel's king in Hebrew streaming, floods his soul with joy, as though the solemn warbling bird of night sang peace, while every cadence of its song dropped manna-like its life's own nutriment. And as the nightingale, of russet plumage, sings, alone in darkness sown with stars of God, so
sings, 'mid shadows deeper than the night, sown like the night, with visions grand as stars, the philomel of ages.
2. We do not make our thoughts; they grow in us like grain in wood; the growth is of the skies, which are of nature—nature is of God.
3. Piety practiced in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of heaven, and delight those unembodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men: but it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and, however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendor of beneficence.
4. An image was before mine eyes, there was a silence, and I heard a voice saying, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?"
5. There is a charm connected with mountains, so powerful that the merest mention of them, the merest sketch of their magnificent features, kindles the imagination, and carries the spirit at once into the bosom of their enchanted regions. How the mind is filled with their vast solitude! how the inward eye is fixed on their silent, their sublime, their everlasting, peaks! How our heart bounds to the music of their solitary cries, to the tinkling of their gushing rills, to the sound of their cataracts! How inspiriting are the odors that breathe from the upland turf, from the rock-hung flower, from the hoary and solemn pine! how beautiful are those lights and shadows thrown abroad, and that fine, transparent haze which is diffused over the valleys and lower slopes, as over a vast, inimitable picture!
6. If ever, in autumn, a pensiveness falls upon us as the leaves drift by in their fading, may we not wisely look up in hope to their mighty monuments? Behold how fair, how far prolonged in arch and aisle, the avenues of the valley, the fringes of the hills! So statelyso eternal; the joy of man, the comfort of all living creatures, the glory of the earth—they are but the monuments of those poor leaves that fit faintly past us to die.
7. Unfading hope! when life's last embers burn,
When soul to soul, and dust to dust return,
Oh, then thy kingdom comes, immortal power ! 8. When dead of winter comes, how wondrous look the hills in their white robes! The round red ball of the sun looks through the
frosty steam. The far-off firth gleams strange and ghostly, with a sense of mysterious distance. The mountain loch is a sheet of blue, on which you may disport in perfect solitude from morn to night, with the hills white on all sides, save where the broken snow shows the rusted leaves of the withered bracken.
9. A ruined character is as picturesque as a ruined castle. There are dark abysses and yawning gulfs in the human heart, which can be rendered passable only by bridging them over with iron nerves and sinews.
10. The last stick on her andirons snaps asunder, and falls outward. Two faintly smoking brands stand there. Grandfather lays them together, and they flame up; the two smokes are one united flame. ‘Even so let it be in heaven,” says grandfather.
11. When the sun rose on Memnon, it was fabled to have uttered melodious noises; but what were the rude twangings of that huge, grotesque statue, compared with the soul's response when God rises upon it, and every part, like a vibrating chord, sounds forth, to his touch, its joy and worship?
12. There have been souls dedicated to heaven from childhood, and guarded by good angels as sweet seclusions for holy thoughts, and prayers, and all good purposes, wherein pious wishes dwelt like nuns, and every image was a saint; and yet in life's vicissitudes, by the treachery of occasion, by the thronging passions of great cities, have become soiled and sinful.
13. One by one the objects of our affection depart from us. But our affections remain, and like vines stretch forth their broken, wounded tendrils for support. The bleeding heart needs a balm to heal it; and there is none but the love of its kind, -none but the affection of a human heart.
14. Ever as that dreaded day drew nearer, more frequent was the haze in our eyes ; and in our blindness we knew not that such tears ought to have been far more rueful still, for that he then lay under orders for a longer and more lamentable voyage—a voyage over a narrow strait to the eternal shore.
15. The winds with wonder whist, smoothly the waters kissed. 16. And the sails did sigh like sedge.
17. There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave; there are no voices, 0 Rhodope, that are not soon mute, however tuneful; there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last.