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THE USE OF THE PASSIONS.
useful, when properly and lawfully exercised ; that is, when these passions are directed to their proper end, and rendered subservient to the dictates of nature and truth ; when an aversion to evil, and a love of goodness, is excited. And if the poet deviate on any occasion from this great end and aim, he is guilty of a most scandalous abuse and perversion of his art; for, the passions and affections are the elements and principles of human action; they are all in themselves good, useful, and virtuous; and, when fairly and naturally employed, not only lead to useful ends and purposes, but actually prompt and stimulate to virtue. It is the office of poetry to incite, to direct, to temper the passions, and not to extinguish them. professes to exercise, to amend, to discipline the affections; it
s is this which is strictly meant by Aristotle, when he speaks of the pruning of the passions, though certain commentators have strangely perverted his meaning.
But this operation on the passions is also more immediately useful, because it is productive of pleasure. Every emotion of the mind (not excepting even those which in themselves are allied to pain), when excited through the agency of the imitative arts, is ever accompanied with an exquisite sensation of pleasure. This arises partly from the contemplation of the imitation itself; partly from the consciousness of our own felicity, when compared with the miseries of others; but principally from the moral sense. Nature has endued man with a certain social and generous spirit; and commands him not to confine his cares to himself alone, but to extend them to all his fellow-creatures ; to look upon nothing which relates to mankind as foreign to himself. Thus, “to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and to weep with them that weep;" to love and to respect piety and benevolence; to cherish and retain an indignant hatred of cruelty and injustice ; that is, to obey the dictates of nature is right, is honest, is becoming, is pleasant.
The sublime and the pathetic are intrinsically very different ; and yet have in some respects a kind of affinity or connexion. The pathetic includes the passions which we feel, and those which we excite. Some passions may be expressed without
any of the sublime; the sublime also may exist where no passion is directly expressed : there is however no sublimity where no passion is excited. That sensation of sublimity which arises from the greatness of the thoughts and imagery, has admiration for its basis, and that for the most part connected with joy, love, hatred, or fear; and this I think is evident from the instances which were so lately under our consideration.
How much the sacred poetry of the Hebrews excels in exciting the passions, and in directing them to their noblest end and aim ; how it exercises them upon their proper objects; how it strikes and fires the admiration by the contemplation of the Divine Majesty, and, forcing the affections of love, hope, and joy, from unworthy and terrestrial objects, elevates them to the pursuit of the supreme good; how it also stimulates those of grief, hatred, and fear, which are usually employed upon the trifling miseries of this life, to the abhorrence of the supreme evil, is a subject which at present wants no illustration, and which, though not unconnected with sublimity in a general view, would be improperly introduced in this place. For we are not at present treating of the general effects of sublimity on the passions, but of that species of the sublime which proceeds from vehement emotions of the mind, and from the imitation or representation of passion.
Here, indeed, a spacious field presents itself to our view; for by far the greater part of the sacred poetry is little else than a continued imitation of the different passions. What in reality forms the substance and subject of most of these poems but the passion of admiration, excited by the consideration of the Divine power and majesty; the passion of oy from the
sense of the Divine favour, and the prosperous issue of events; the passion of resentment and indignation against the contemners of God; of grief, from the consciousness of sin ; and terror, from the apprehension of the divine judgment? Of all these, and if there be any emotions of the mind beyond these, exquisite examples may be found in the Book of Job, in the Psalms, in the Canticles, and in every part of the prophetic writings. On this account my principal difficulty will not be the selection of excellent and proper instances, but the explaining of those which spontaneously occur without a considerable diminution of their intrinsic sublimity.
Admiration, as it is ever the concomitant, so it is frequently the efficient cause of sublimity. It produces great and magnificent conceptions and sentiments, and expresses them in language bold and elevated, in sentences, concise, abrupt, and energetic.
“ Jehovah reigneth ; let the people tremble:
He sitteth upon the Cherubim ; let the earth be moved."' *
66 The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters :
The God of glory thunders :
“Who is like unto thee among the gods, O Jehovah ?
Who is like unto thee, adorable in holiness!
Joy is more elevated, and exults in a bolder strain : it produces great sentiments and conceptions, seizes upon the most splendid imagery, and adorns it with the most animated language ; nor does it hesitate to risk the most daring and unusual figures. In the Song of Moses, in the thanksgiving of Deborah and Baruch, what sublimity do we find, in sentiment, in language, in the general turn of the expression ! But nothing can excel in this respect that noble exultation of universal nature, in the psalm which has been so often commended, where the whole animated and inanimate creation unite in the praises of their Maker. Poetry here seems to assume the highest tone of triumph and exultation, and to revel, if I may so express myself, in all the extravagance of joy :
* Ps. xcix. 1. of Ps. xxix. 3, 4. Ex. xv. 11, 12.
Tell in high harmonious strains,
To judge the world by Truth's eternal laws.* Nothing, however, can be greater or more magnificent than the representation of anger and indignation, particularly when the Divine wrath is displayed. Of this the whole of the prophetic Song of Moses affords an incomparable specimen. I have formerly produced from it some instances of a different kind; nor ought the following to be denied a place in these lectures :
66 For I will lift my hand unto the heavens,
And I will say, I live for ever:
* Ps. xcvi. 10–13, and xcviii. 7-9.
If I whet the brightness of my sword,
From the bushy bead of the enemy." *
“ For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
And the year of my redeemed was come.
And I spilled their life-blood on the ground.” †
“ The enemy said, I will pursue, I will oveștake;
I will divide the spoil, my soul shall be satiated ;
* Deut. xxxii, 40--42.
op Isa. Ixiii. 4-6.
# Exod. xv. 9, 10.