Page images


[merged small][ocr errors]

All plum'd like oftriches that with the wind
Baited like eagles having lately bathed :
As full of Spirit as the month of May,
And gorgeous as the fun in midfummer,
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls.
I faw young Harry with his beaver on

Rife from the ground like feather'd Mercury;
And vaulted with fuch eafe into his feat
As if an angel dropped from the clouds
To turn and wind a fiery Pegafus.

In that excellent book, fo remarkable for the vivacity of its defcriptions, as well as the folidity and penetration of its fentences, the Wisdom of the fon of Sirach, there is a noble panegyrick on the -high priest Simon the fon of Onias; and it is a very fine example of the point before us:

How was he honoured in the midst of the people, in his coming out of the fanctuary! He was as the morn ing ftar in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon af the full; as the fun fhining upon the temple of the Moft -High, and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds and as the flower of rofes in the fpring of the year, as lilies by the rivers of waters, and as the frankincenfe tree in fummer; as fire and incenfe in the cenfer, and as a veffel of gold fet with precious stones as a fair olive tree budding forth fruit, and as a cypress

which groweth up to the clouds. When he put on the robe of honour, and was clothed with the perfection of glory, when he went up to the holy altar, he made the garment of holiness honourable. He himself stood by the hearth of the altar, compaffed with his brethren round about; as a young cedar in Libanus, and as palm trees compassed they him about. So were all the fons of Aaron in their glory, and the oblations of the Lord in their hands, c.



HAVING confidered extenfion, fo far as it is capable of raising ideas of greatness; colour comes next under confideration. All colours depend on light. Light therefore ought previously to be examined; and with it its oppofite, darkness. With regard to light, to make it a cause capable of producing the fublime, it must be attended with fome circumstances, besides its bare faculty of shewing other objects. Mere light is too common a thing to make a strong impreffion on the mind, and without a strong impreffion nothing can be fublime. But fuch a light as that of the fun, immediately exerted on the eye, as it overpowers the fense, is a very great idea. Light of an inferiour ftrength to this, if it moves with great celerity, has the fame power; for lightning is certainly preductive

ductive of grandeur, which it owes chiefly to the extreme velocity of its motion. A quick tranft tion from light to darkness, or from darkness to light, has yet a greater effect. But darkness is more productive of fublime ideas than light. Our great poet was convinced of this; and indeed fo full was he of this idea, fo entirely poffeffed with the power of a well-managed darkness, that in describing the appearance of the Deity, amidft that profufion of magnificent images, which the grandeur of his fubject provokes him to pour out upon every fide, he is far from forgetting the obscurity which furrounds the most incomprehenfible of all beings, but

--With the majesty of darkness round
Circles his throne.

And what is no less remarkable, our author had the fecret of preferving this idea, even when he seemed to depart the fartheft from it, when he describes the light and glory which flows from the divine presence; a light which by its very excefs is converted into a species of darkness.

Dark with exceffive light thy fkirts appear.

Here is an idea not only poetical in an high de gree, but ftrictly and philofophically juft. Extreme

light, by overcoming the organs of fight, oblite rates all objects, fo as in its effect exactly to refemble darkness. After looking for fome time at the fun, two black fpots, the impreffion which it leaves, feem to dance before our eyes. Thus are two ideas as oppofite as can be imagined reconciled in the extremes of both; and both in spite of their oppofite nature brought to concur in producing the fublime. And this is not the only inftance wherein the oppofite extremes operate equally in favour of the sublime, which in all things abhors mediocrity.




AS the management of light is a matter of importance in architecture, it is worth inquiring, how far this remark is applicable to building. I think then, that all edifices calculated to produce an idea of the fublime, ought rather to be dark and gloomy, and this for two reasons; the firft is, that darkness itself on other occafions is known by experience to have a greater effect on the paffions than light. The fecond is, that to make an object very ftriking, we fhould make it as different as poffible from the objects with which we have been immediately converfant; when therefore you enter a building, you cannot pafs into a


greater light than you had in the open air; to go into one some few degrees lefs luminous, can make only a trifling change; but to make the tranfition thoroughly ftriking, you ought to pass from the greateft light, to as much darknefs as is confiftent with the uses of architecture. At night the contrary rule will hold, but for the very fame reason; and the more highly a room is then illuminated, the grander will the paffion be.



AMONG colours, fuch as are soft or cheerful (except perhaps a ftrong red which is cheerful) are unfit to produce grand images. An immense mountain covered with a fhining green turf, is nothing, in this refpect, to one dark and gloomy; the cloudy sky is more grand than the blue; and night more fublime and folemn than day. Therefore in hiftorical painting, a gay or gaudy drapery can never have a happy effect: and in buildings, when the highest degree of the fublime is intended, the materials and ornaments ought neither to be white, nor green, nor yellow, nor blue, nor of a pale red, nor violet, nor fpotted, but of fad and fufcous colours, as black, or brown, or deep purple, and the like. Much of gilding, mofaicks, VOL. I.


[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »