[Longinus],   On the Sublime

-   Chapters 23-44


Translated by W.H. Fyfe (1927). Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of each chapter.   


Previous chapters (1-22)

[23] G   Again, accumulation, variation, and climax, the so-called "figures of many cases," ** are, as you know, a most effective aid in giving ornament and every kind of sublime and emotional effect. And consider, too, what variety and liveliness is lent to the exposition by changes of case, tense, person, number, gender. 2 Now in the category of number not only are those uses ornamental where the singular form is found on consideration to signify a plural - take the lines :   
  And straightaway a numberless people 
  Scatter the length of the beaches and thunder, "the Tunny, the Tunny!" **   

- but it is still more worthy of notice that the plural sounds more full-mouthed, while the very idea of multitude which the plural number conveys is itself impressive. 3 This is the case with Sophocles' lines about Oedipus :   
  Curse on the marriages 
   That gave us birth and having given birth 
   Flung forth the self-same seed again and showed 
   Fathers and sons and brothers all blood-kin.   
  And brides and wives and mothers, all the shame 
   Of all the foulest deeds that men have done. **   

These all mean one person, Oedipus, and on the other side Jocasta, but the expansion into the plural serves to make the misfortunes plural as well. There is the same sense of multiplication in "Forth came Hectors and Sarpedons too," ** and in the passage of Plato about the Athenians, ** which we have also quoted elsewhere : 4 "For no Pelopes nor Cadmi nor Egypti and Danai nor any other hordes of born barbarians share our home, but we are pure Greeks here, no semi-barbarians," and so on. The facts naturally sound more imposing from the accumulation of names to signify groups instead of individuals. This device should not, however, be employed except where the subject invites heroics or redundancy or exaggeration or emotion, either one or more of these. To sound bells ** in every sentence would be unduly pretentious.   

[24] G   Yet again, the converse of this, the contraction of plural to singular, sometimes gives a great effect of sublimity. "Moreover, the whole Peloponnese was split," says Demosthenes. ** Again, "when Phrynichus produced his Capture of Miletus the theatre burst into tears." ** In the case of separate individuals to compress the number into the singular gives more sense of a single whole. 2 The ornamental effect is due in both to the same cause. Where the words are singular, to make them plural suggests unforeseen emotion : where they are plural and you combine a number of things into a well-sounding singular, then this opposite change gives an effect of surprise. 

[25] G   Again, if you introduce events in past time as happening at the present moment, the passage will be transformed from a narrative into a vivid actuality. "Someone has fallen," says Xenophon, ** "under Cyrus's horse and, being trodden under foot, is striking the horse's belly with his dagger. The horse rearing throws Cyrus and he falls." Thuccydides uses such effects as frequently as anybody.   

[26] G   Change of person gives an equally vivid effect, and often makes the audience feel themselves set in the thick of the danger.   
  ... You would say that unworn and with temper undaunted 
   Each met the other in war, so headlong the rush of their battle. **   

And Aratus's line :   
  Be not thou in that month in the midst of the surge of the ocean. **   

2 Herodotus does much the same : "You will sail up from the city of Elephantine and there come to a smooth plain. And when you have passed through that place you will board again another ship and sail two days and then you will come to a great city, the name of which is Meroë." ** You see, friend, how he takes you along with him through the country and turns hearing into sight. All such passages with a direct personal application set the hearer in the centre of the action. 3 By appearing to address not the whole audience but a single individual -   
  Of Tydeus' son thou couldst not have known with which of the hosts he was fighting **    

- you will move him more and make him more attentive and full of active interest, if you rouse him by these personal appeals.   

[27] G   Again sometimes a writer, while speaking of one of his characters, suddenly turns and changes into the actual character. A figure of this kind is a sort of outbreak of emotion :   
  Hector lifted his voice and cried afar to the Trojans 
  To haste them back to the galleys and leave the blood-spattered booty. 
  Whomsoever I spy of his own will afar from the galleys, 
  Death for him there will I plan. **   

There the poet has assigned to himself the narrative as his proper share, and then suddenly without any warning attached the abrupt threat to the angry champion. To insert "Hector said so and so" would have been frigid. As it is, the change of construction suddenly anticipates the change of speaker. 2 So this figure is useful, when a sudden crisis will not let the writer wait, and forces him to change at once from one character to another. There is an instance in Hecataeus ** : "Ceyx took this ill and immediately bade the younger descendants of Heracles be gone. For I cannot help you. 3 So to prevent perishing yourselves and hurting me, away with you to some other people." By a somewhat different method Demosthenes in the Aristogeiton has used the change of person to suggest the quick play of emotion. "And will none of you," he says, "be found to feel indignation at the violence of this shameless rascal, who - oh you most accursed of villains, when you were cut off from free speech not by gates and doors which one might very well open . . . " ** Leaving his sense incomplete he has made a sudden change and in his indignation almost split a single phrase between two persons - "who - oh you most accursed" - and thus, while swinging his speech round on to Aristogeiton and appearing to abandon the jury, ** he has yet by means of the emotion made his appeal to them much more direct. 4 Penelope does the same :   
  Herald, oh why have they sent thee hither, those high-born suitors ? 
  Is it to tell the hand-maidens that serve in the house of Odysseus 
  To cease them now from their tasks and make ready a feast for the suitors ? 
  Would that they never had wooed me nor ever met here in our halls, 
  Would they might make in my house their last and latest of banquets. 
  Ye that assemble together and woefully minish our substance !
  . . . nor ever from your fathers 
  Heard ye ever at home long ago in the days of your childhood 
  What manner of man was Odysseus. **

[28] G   That periphrasis contributes to the sublime, no one, I fancy, would question. Just as in music what we call ornament** enhances the beauty of the main theme, so periphrasis often chimes in with the literal expression of our meaning and gives it a far richer note, especially if it is not bombastic or discordant but agreeably in harmony. 2 A sufficient proof of this is the opening of Plato's Funeral Oration, ** "First then in deeds we have given them their due reward, and, this won, they pass now along the appointed path, escorted all in common by their country and each man severally by his kinsmen." Here he calls death an appointed path and their enjoyment of due rites a sort of public escort by their country. Notice what a supreme dignity this gives to the thought ; how he has taken the literal expression and made it musical, lapping it, as it were, in the tuneful harmonies of his periphrasis. 3 Again Xenophon says, "You hold that hard work is a guide to the pleasures of life and you have stored in your hearts the best and most knightly of all treasures. For nothing pleases you so much as praise." ** By saying "You make hard work a guide to the pleasures of life" instead of "You are willing to work hard," and by similarly expanding the rest of his sentence, he has extended his eulogy to include a fine idea. Then there is that inimitable phrase in Herodotus : "Upon those Scythians that sacked her temple the goddess sent a female malady." **   

[29] G   However it is a risky ** business, periphrasis, more so than any of the other figures, unless used with a due sense of proportion. For it soon falls flat ; smacks of triviality and slow wits. So that critics have even made fun of Plato - always so clever at a figure, sometimes unseasonably so - for saying in his Laws "that we should not let silvern treasure nor golden settle and make a home in a city." ** Had he been forbidding people to possess sheep, says the critic, he would clearly have said "ovine and bovine treasure."   

2 But, my dear Terentianus, this digression must suffice for our discussion of the use of figures as factors in the sublime. Our conclusion is that they all serve to lend emotion and excitement to the style. But emotion is as much an element in the sublime, as is the study of character in agreeable writing. **  

[30] G   Now, since thought and diction often explain each other, we must further consider whether there are any elements of style still left untouched. It is probably superfluous to explain at length to those who know, how the choice of the right word and the fine word has a marvellously moving and seductive effect upon an audience and how all orators and historians make this their supreme object. For this of itself gives to the style at once grandeur, beauty, a classical flavour, ** weight, force, strength, and a sort of glittering charm, like the bloom on the surface of the most beautiful bronzes, and endues the facts as it were with a living voice. Truly, beautiful words are the very light of thought. 2 However, their majesty is not for common use, since to attach great and stately words to trivial things would be like fastening a great tragic mask on a simple child. However in poetry and [history] . . .    

{ Four pages of the ms. are here lost. }   

[31] G   ... is most illuminating ** and typical ; so, too, with Anacreon's "No more care I for the Thracian colt." ** In the same way the phrase used by Theopompus, though less admirable, seems to me highly expressive in virtue of the analogy implied, ** though Cecilius for some reason finds fault with it. "Philip," he says, "had a wonderful faculty of stomaching things." Thus the vulgar phrase sometimes proves far more enlightening than elegant language. Being taken from our common life it is immediately recognised, and what is familiar is halfway to conviction. Applied to one whose greedy ambition makes him glad to endure with patience what is shameful and sordid, "stomaching things" forms a very vivid phrase. 2 It is much the same with Herodotus's phrases :  "In his madness," he says, "Cleomenes cut his own flesh into strips with a dagger, until he made mincemeat of himself and perished," ** and "Pythes went on fighting in the ship until he was all cut into collops." ** These come perilously near to vulgarity, but are not vulgar because they are so expressive,   

[32] G   As to the proper number of metaphors, Cecilius seems on the side of those who lay down a law that two or at the most three should be used together. Demosthenes assuredly is the canon in these matters too. And what decides the occasion for their use ? Why, the right moment, when emotion sweeps on like a flood and inevitably carries the multitude of metaphors along it. 2 "Men," he says, "of evil life, flatterers, who have each foully mutilated their own country and pledged their liberty in a cup of wine first to Philip and now to Alexander, men who measure happiness by their bellies and their basest appetites, and have strewn in ruins that liberty and freedom from despotism which to Greeks of older days was the canon and standard of all that was good." ** Here it is the orator's indignation against the traitors which screens the multitude of metaphors. 3 Accordingly, Aristotle and Theophrastus say that bold metaphors are softened by inserting "as if" or "as it were" or "if one may say so" or "if one may risk the expression." 4 The apology, they tell us, mitigates the audacity of the language. I accept this, but at the same time, as I said in speaking of "figures," the proper antidote for a multitude of daring metaphors is strong and timely emotion and genuine sublimity. These by their nature sweep everything along in the forward surge of their current, or rather they positively demand bold imagery as essential to their effect, and do not give the hearer time to examine how many metaphors there are, because he shares the excitement of the speaker.   

5 Moreover in the treatment of a commonplace and in descriptions there is nothing so expressive as a sustained series of metaphors. It is thus that in Xenophon ** the anatomy of the human tabernacle is magnificently depicted, and still more divinely in Plato, ** The head he calls the citadel of the body, the neck is an isthmus built between the head and chest, and the vertebrae, he says, are planted beneath like hinges ; pleasure is evil's bait for man, and the tongue is the touchstone of taste. The heart is a knot of veins and the source whence the blood runs vigorously round, and it has its station in the guard-house of the body. The passage-ways of the body he calls alleys, and for the leaping of the heart in the expectation of danger or the arising of wrath, since this was due to fiery heat, the gods devised a support by implanting the lungs, making them a sort of buffer, soft and bloodless and full of pores inside, so that when anger boiled up in the heart it might throb against a yielding surface and get no damage/' The seat of the desires he compares to the women's apartments and the seat of anger to the men's. The spleen again is the napkin of the entrails, "whence it is filled with the offscourings and becomes swollen and fetid." "After this," he goes on, "they shrouded the whole in a covering of flesh, like a felt mat, to shield it from the outer world." Blood he calls the fodder of the flesh, and adds, "For purposes of nutriment they irrigated the body, cutting channels as one does in a garden, and thus, the body being a conduit full of passages, ** the streams in the veins were able to flow as it were from a running stream." And when the end comes, the soul, he says, is loosed like a ship from its moorings and set free. These and thousands of similar metaphors occur throughout. 6 Those we have pointed out suffice to show that figurative writing has a natural grandeur and that metaphors make for sublimity : also that emotional and descriptive passages are most glad of them. However, that the use of metaphor, like all the other beauties of style, always tempts writers to excess is obvious without my stating it. 7 Indeed it is for these passages in particular that critics pull Plato to pieces, on the ground that he is often carried away by the intoxication of his language into harsh and intemperate metaphor and allegorical bombast. "It is by no means easy to see," he says, "that a city needs mixing like a wine-bowl, where the mad wine seethes as it is poured in, but is chastened by another and a sober god and finding good company makes an excellent and temperate drink." ** To call water "a sober god " and mixing "chastisement," say the critics, is the language of a poet who is far from sober.   

8 Cecilius, too, laying his finger on such defects as this, has actually had the face to declare in his writings in praise of Lysias that Lysias is altogether superior to Plato. Here he has given way to two uncritical impulses: for though he loves Lysias even better than himself, yet his hatred for Plato altogether outweighs his love for Lysias. However he is the victim of prejudice and even his premises are not, as he supposed, admitted. For he prefers his orator on the ground that he is immaculate and never makes a mistake, whereas Plato is full of mistakes. But the truth, we find, is different, very different indeed.   

[33] G   Suppose we illustrate this by taking some altogether immaculate and unimpeachable writer, must we not in this very connection raise the general question : Which is the better in poetry and in prose, grandeur with a few flaws or correct composition of mediocre quality, yet entirely sound and impeccable? Yes, and we must surely ask the farther question whether in literature the first place is rightly due to the largest number of merits or to the merits that are greatest in themselves. These inquiries are proper to a treatise on the sublime and on every ground demand decision. 2 Now I am well aware that the greatest natures are least immaculate. Perfect precision runs the risk of triviality, whereas in great writing as in great wealth there must needs be something overlooked. Perhaps it is inevitable that the humble, mediocre natures, because they never run any risks, never aim at the heights, should remain to a large extent safe from error, while in great natures their very greatness spells danger. 3 Not indeed that I am ignorant of this second point, that whatever men do is always inevitably regarded from the worst side : faults make an ineradicable impression, but beauties soon slip from our memory. 4 I have myself noted a good many faults in Homer and the other greatest authors, and though these slips certainly offend my taste, yet I prefer to call them not wilful mistakes but careless oversights, let in casually almost and at random by the heedlessness of genius. In spite, then, of these faults I still think that great excellence, even if it is not sustained throughout at the same level, should always be voted the first place, if for nothing else, for its inherent nobility. Apollonius, for instance, in his Argonauiica is an impeccable poet and Theocritus - except in a few extraneous matters - is supremely successful in his pastorals. Yet would you not rather be Homer than Apollonius ? 5 And what of Eratosthenes ** in his Erigone? Wholly blameless as the little poem is, do you therefore think him a greater poet than Archilochus with all the manifold irrelevance ** he carries on his flood; greater than those outbursts of divine inspiration, which are so troublesome to bring under any rule ? In lyrics, again, would you choose to be Bacchylides rather than Pindar, or in tragedy Ion of Chios rather than (save the mark !) Sophocles ? In both eases the former is impeccable and a master of elegance in the smooth style. On the other hand Pindar and Sophocles sometimes seem to fire the whole landscape as they sweep across it, while often their fire is unaccountably quenched and they fall miserably flat. Yet would anyone in his senses give the single tragedy of Oedipus for all the works of Ion in a row ?   

[34] G   If excellence were to be judged by the number of merits and not by greatness, Hypereides would then be altogether superior to Demosthenes. He has more strings to his lute and his merits are more numerous. He may almost be said to come a good second in every competition, like the winner of the pentathlon. In each contest he loses to the professional champion, but comes first of the amateurs. ** 2 Besides reproducing all the virtues of Demosthenes, except his skill in arrangement, ** Hypereides has, moreover, embraced all the merits and graces of Lysias. He talks plainly, where necessary, does not make all his points in a monotonous series, as Demosthenes is said to do, and has the power of characterisation, seasoned moreover (Heaven knows) by simplicity and charm. Then he has an untold store of polished wit, urbane sarcasm, well-bred elegance, supple turns of irony, jests neither tasteless nor ill-bred, apposite according to the best models of Attic wit, clever satire, plenty of pointed ridicule and well-directed fun, and therewithal what I may call an inimitable fascination. Nature endowed him fully with the power of evoking pity and also of telling a tale fluently and winding his way through a description with facile inspiration, while he is also admirably versatile. His story of Leto, ** for instance, is highly poetical and his Funeral Oration an almost unsurpassed example of a show piece. 3 Demosthenes, on the other hand, has no gift of characterisation or of fluency, is far from facile and no show orator. Speaking generally, he has no part in any one of the merits we have just mentioned. When he is forced into attempting a jest or a witty passage, he rather raises the laugh against himself ; and when he tries to achieve something like charm, he is farther from it than ever. If he had tried to write the little speech on Phryne or Athenogenes, ** he would have recommended Hypereides still further to our praise. 4 But nevertheless I feel that the beauties of Hypereides, many as they are, yet lack grandeur ; they are dispassionate, born of sober sense, and do not trouble the peace of the audience. No one, for instance, is panic-stricken while reading Hypereides. But Demosthenes no sooner "takes up the tale" ** than he shows the merits of great genius in their most consummate form, sublime intensity, living emotion, redundancy, readiness, speed - where speed is in season - and his own unapproachable vehemence and power : snatching into his arms all the wealth of these mighty, heaven-sent gifts - it would be impious to call them human - he thus by those beauties that he has invariably defeats all comers, and to make up for those he lacks, he seems to dumbfound the world's orators with his thunder and lightning. You could sooner open your eyes to the descent of a thunderbolt than face unblinking his repeated outbursts of emotion.   

[35] G   There is, as I said, ** a further point of difference in the case of Plato. Lysias is far inferior both in the greatness and the number of his merits ; and the excess of his faults is still greater than the defect of his merits. 2 What then was in the mind of those demigods who aimed only at what is greatest in writing and scorned detailed accuracy ? Among many other things this, that Nature has distinguished man, as a creature of no mean or ignoble quality. As if she were inviting us rather to some great gathering, she has called us into life, into the whole universe, there to be spectators of all that she has made and eager competitors for honour ; and she therefore from the first breathed into our hearts an unconquerable passion for whatever is great and more divine than ourselves. 3 Thus within the scope of human enterprise there lie such powers of contemplation and thought that even the whole universe cannot satisfy them, but our ideas often pass beyond the limits that enring us. Look at life from all sides and see how in all things the extraordinary, the great, the beautiful stand supreme, and you will soon realise the object of our creation. 4 So it is by some natural instinct that we admire, surely not the small streams, clear and useful as they are, but the Nile, the Danube, the Rhine, and far above all, the sea. The little fire we kindle for ourselves keeps clear and steady, yet we do not therefore regard it with more amazement than the fires of Heaven, which are often darkened, or think it more wonderful than the craters of Etna in eruption, hurling up rocks and whole hills from their depths and sometimes shooting forth rivers of that pure Titanic fire. 5 But on all such matters I would only say this, that what is useful and indeed necessary is cheap enough ; it is always the unusual which wins our wonder.   

[36] G   In dealing, then, with writers of genius, whose grandeur is of a kind that comes within the limits of use and profit, ** we must at the outset form the conclusion that, while they are far from unerring, yet they are all more than human. Other qualities prove their possessors men, sublimity lifts them near the mighty mind of God. Correctness escapes censure ; greatness earns admiration as well. 2 We need hardly add that each of these great men again and again redeems all his mistakes by a single touch of sublimity and true excellence ; and, what is finally decisive, if we were to pick out all the faults in Homer, Demosthenes, Plato and all the other greatest authors and put them together, we should find them a tiny fraction, not the ten-thousandth part, of the true excellence to be found on every page of these demi-gods. That is why the judgement of all ages, which no jealousy can prove to be amiss, has awarded them the crown of victory, guarding it as their inalienable right, and is likely so to preserve it,   
  So long as the rivers run and the tail trees flourish in green. **   

3 As to the statement that the faulty Colossus is no better than Polycleitus's spearman, ** there are many obvious answers to that. In art we admire accuracy, in nature grandeur ; and it is nature that has given man the power of using words. Also we expect a statue to resemble a man, but in literature, as I said before, we look for something greater than human. 4 However, to come back again to the doctrine with which we began our treatise,** since the merit of impeccable correctness is, generally speaking, due to art, and the height of excellence, though not sustained, to genius, it is proper that art should always assist Nature. Their co-operation may thus result in perfection. This much had to be said to decide the questions before us. But everyone is welcome to his own taste.   

[37] G   To return to metaphors. Closely akin to them are illustration and imagery. The only difference is . . .   

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[38] G   . . . ** Laughable also are such things as "If you do not carry your brains trodden down in your heels."  ** One must know, then, where to draw the line in each case. The hyperbole is sometimes ruined by overshooting the mark. Overdo the strain and the thing sags, and often produces the opposite effect to that intended. 2 For instance Isocrates fell into unaccountable puerility through his ambition to amplify everything. The theme of his Panegyric is that Athens surpasses Sparta in her benefits to Greece. But at the very outset ** he puts this : "Moreover words have such power that they can make great things humble and endue small things with greatness, give a new guise to what is old and describe recent events in the style of long ago" - "Why Isocrates," says someone, "do you intend by this means to change the roles of the Spartans and the Athenians?" For his praises of the power of words have all but published a prefatory advertisement to the audience that he himself is not to be believed. 3 Perhaps then, as we said above of figures, ** the best hyperbole is the one which conceals the very fact of its being a hyperbole. And this happens when it is uttered under stress of emotion to suit the circumstances of a great crisis. This is what Thucydides does in speaking of those who perished in Sicily. "For the Syracusans went down and began to slaughter chiefly those in the river. The water was immediately tainted but none the less they kept on drinking it, foul though it was with mud and gore, and most of them were still ready to fight for it." ** That a drink of mud and gore should yet be worth fighting for is made credible only by the height of the emotion which the circumstances arouse. It is the same with Herodotus's description of those who fought at Thermopylae. 4 "On this spot," he says, "while they defended themselves with daggers, such as still had daggers left, and with hands and teeth, they were buried by the barbarians." ** Here you may well ask what is meant by actually "fighting with teeth" against armed men or being "buried" with missiles ; yet all the same it carries credence, because Herodotus does not seem to have introduced the incident to justify the hyperbole, but the hyperbole seems the natural outcome of the incident. 5 As I am never tired of saying, to atone for a daring phrase the universal specific is found in actions and feelings that almost carry one away. Thus, too, comic expressions, though they go so far as to be incredible, yet sound convincing because they are laughable :   
  His field was briefer than a Spartan's letter.   

6 Laughter indeed is an emotion based on pleasure. Hyperbole may tend to belittle as well as to magnify : the common element in both is a strain on the facts. In a sense too satire is an exaggeration of pettiness.   

[39] G   Of those factors of sublimity which we specified at the beginning, ** one still remains, good friend - I mean the arrangement of the words themselves in a certain order. On this question I have in two treatises given a sufficient account of such conclusions as I could reach, and for our present purpose I need only add this, that men find in melody ** not only a natural instrument of persuasion and pleasure, but also a marvellous instrument of grandeur and emotion. 2 Does not the flute, for instance, induce certain emotions in those who hear it ? Does it not seem to carry them away and fill them with divine frenzy ? It sets a particular rhythmic movement and forces them to move in rhythm. The hearer has to conform to the tune, though he may be utterly unmusical. Why, the very tones of the harp, themselves meaningless, by the variety of their sounds and by their mutual pulsation and harmonious blending often exercise, as you know, a marvellous spell. 3 Yet these are only a bastard counterfeit of persuasion, not, as I said above, a genuine activity of human nature. We hold, then, that composition, which is a kind of melody in words - words which are part of man's nature and reach not his ears only but his very soul - stirring as it does myriad ideas of words, thoughts, things, beauty, musical charm, all of which are born and bred in us ; while, moreover, by the blending of its own manifold tones it brings into the hearts of the bystanders the speaker's actual emotion so that all who hear him share in it, and by piling phrase on phrase builds up one majestic whole - we hold, I say, that by these very means it casts a spell on us and always turns our thoughts towards what is majestic and dignified and sublime and all else that it embraces, winning a complete mastery over our minds. Now it may indeed seem lunacy to raise any question on matters of such agreement, since experience is a sufficient test, 4 yet surely the idea which Demosthenes attaches to his decree strikes one as sublime and truly marvellous : "This decree made the peril at that time encompassing the country pass away like as a cloud." **   

But its ring is due no less to the melody than to the thought. Its delivery rests wholly on the dactyls, which are the noblest of rhythms and make for grandeur - and that is why the most beautiful of all known metres, the heroic, is composed of dactyls. ** For to be sure if you transfer it ** anywhere you like from its proper place - τοῦτο τὸ ψήφισμα ὥσπερ νέφος ἐποιήσε τὸν τότε κίνδυνον παρελθεῖν - or indeed if you only cut off a single syllable - ἐποιήσε παρελθεῖν ὡς νέφος - you will realize how truly the melody chimes in with the sublimity. Indeed the actual effect of ὥσπερ νέφος depends on the first "foot" being a long one, equivalent to four beats. Cut out the one syllable - ὡς νέφος - the curtailment at once mutilates the grandeur. So again if you lengthen it - παρελθεῖν ἐποιήσεν ὡσπερεὶ νέφος - the meaning is the same, but it does not strike the same upon the ear, because the sheer sublimity loses its solidity and tension by lengthening out the concluding beats.   

[40] G   Nothing is of greater service in giving grandeur to such passages than the composition ** of the various members. It is the same with the human body. None of the members has any value by itself apart from the others, yet one with another they all constitute a perfect organism. Similarly if these effects of grandeur are separated, the sublimity is scattered with them to the winds : but if they are united into a single system and embraced moreover by the bonds of rhythm, then by being merely rounded into a period they gain a living voice. In a period, one might say, the grandeur comes from a multitude of contributors. 2 We have indeed abundantly show that many writers both in prose and poetry, who are not by nature sublime, perhaps even the very opposite, while using for the most part current vulgar language, which suggests nothing out of the common, yet by the mere force of composition and verbal carpentry have achieved dignity and distinction and an effect of grandeur ; Philistus, ** for instance, among many others, Aristophanes occasionally, Euripides almost always. 3 After the slaughter of his children Heracles says :   
  I am stowed full with woes and have no room for more. **   

The phrase is indubitably vulgar, yet becomes sublime by being apt to the setting. ** If you put the passage together in any other way, you will realise that Euripides is a poet rather in virtue of his composition than his ideas. 4 Speaking of Dirce being torn away by the bull, he says,   
  And wheresoever he chanced 
   To wheel around, he seized and haled at once 
   Woman or rock or oak, now this, now that. **   

The idea itself is a fine one, but it gains additional force from the fact that the rhythm is not hurried along as if it ran on rollers, but the words offer resistance to each other ** and derive support from the pauses, planting themselves in an attitude of stable grandeur. 

[41] G   Nothing demeans an elevated passage so much as a weak and agitated rhythm, pyrrhics { ⏑⏑ }for instance, and trochees { –⏑ } and dichorees { –⏑–⏑ }which fall into sheer dance-music. For all over-rhythmical passages at once become merely pretty and cheap ; the effect of the monotonous jingle is superficial and stirs no emotion. 2 Moreover, the worst of it is that, just as lyrics ** divert the attention of the audience from the action and forcibly claim it for themselves, so, too, over-rhythmical prose gives the audience the effect not of the words but of the rhythm. Thus they sometimes foresee the due ending for themselves and keep time with their feet, anticipating the speaker and setting the step as if it were a dance. 3 Equally deficient in grandeur are those passages which are too close-packed and concise, broken up into tiny fragments and short syllables . They give the impression of being roughly dovetailed together with close-set pins.**   

[42] G   Extreme conciseness again has a lowering effect. The grandeur is mutilated by being too closely compressed. You must understand here not proper compression, but absolutely short sentences, the small change of literature. For extreme conciseness cripples the sense ; true brevity goes straight to the point. 3 Conversely, it is plain that prolix passages are lifeless ; their undue length makes them drag.   

[43] G   The use of trivial words has a terribly debasing effect on a grand passage. The storm, for instance, in Herodotus is, as far as the ideas go, wonderfully described, but it includes certain things which are, Heaven knows, beneath the dignity of the subject. One might instance perhaps "the sea seething" : ** the word "seething" is so cacophonous that it takes off a great deal of the sublimity. But he does worse. "The wind,'' he says, "flagged," ** and "For those who were clinging to the wreck there awaited an unpleasing end." ** "Flagged"  is too colloquial a word to be dignified, and "unpleasant" ill befits so terrible a disaster. 2 Similarly Theopompus, after fitting out the Persian king's descent into Egypt in the most marvellous manner, discredited the whole description by the use of some paltry words. " For what city or what people of those in Asia did not send envoys to the king ? What was there of beauty or of value whether born of the earth or perfected by art that was not brought as an offering to him ? Were there not many costly coverlets and cloaks, some purple, some variegated, some white; many pavilions of gold furnished with all things needful, many robes of state and costly couches ? Then, moreover, there was plate of beaten silver and wrought gold, cups, and bowls, some of which you might have seen studded with jewels and others embellished by some other means both cunning and costly. Besides these there were countless myriads of weapons, some Greek, some barbarian ; baggage animals beyond number, and victims fatted for slaughter ; many bushels of spice, and many the bags and sacks and pots of edible roots and of all other things needful ; and such a store of salted meat of every kind that it lay in heaps so large that those who approached from a distance took them for mounds and hills confronting them.   

3 He runs away from the sublime to the trivial, where he needs rather a crescendo. As it is, by introducing bags and spices and sacks in the middle of his wonderful description of the whole equipage he has almost given the effect of a cook-shop. Suppose that in all this elaborate show someone had brought bags and sacks and set them in the middle of the gold and jewelled bowls, the beaten silver, the pavilions of solid gold and the drinking-cups - that would have presented an unseemly sight. In the same way the untimely introduction of such words as these disfigures the description, brands it, so to speak, with infamy. 4 He might have given a comprehensive description both of what he calls the heaped-up mounds and of the rest of the equipage by altering his description thus, "camels and a multitude of baggage animals laden with all that serves the luxury and pleasure of the table" : or he might have called them "heaps of every kind of grain and of all known aids to cookery and good living" : or, if he must at all hazards be explicit "all the dainties known to caterers and cooks." 5 One ought not in elevated passages to have recourse to what is sordid and contemptible, except under pressure of extreme necessity, but the proper course is to suit the words to the dignity of the subject and thus imitate Nature, the artist that created man. Nature did not place in full view our dishonourable parts nor the drains that purge our whole frame, but as far as possible concealed them and, as Xenophon says,** thrust their channels into the furthest background, for fear of spoiling the beauty of the whole figure.   

6 There is, however, no immediate need for enumerating and classifying all the factors of mean style. As we have already laid down all the qualities that make our utterance noble and sublime, it obviously follows that the opposite of these will generally make it trivial and ungainly.   

[44] G   One problem now remains for solution, my dear Terentianus, and knowing your love of learning I will not hesitate to append it - a problem which a certain philosopher recently put to me. "It surprises me," he said, "as it doubtless surprises many others too, how it is that in this age of ours we find natures that are supremely persuasive and suited for public life, shrewd and versatile and especially rich in literary charm, yet really sublime and transcendent natures are no longer, or only very rarely, now produced. Such a world-wide dearth of literature besets our times. 2 Are we really to believe the hackneyed view that democracy is the kindly nurse of genius and that - speaking generally - the great men of letters flourished only with democracy and perished with it ? Freedom, they say, has the power to foster noble minds and to fill it with high hopes, and with freedom there spreads the spirit of mutual rivalry and eager competition for the foremost place. 3 Moreover, thanks to the prizes which a republic offers, an orator's intellectual gifts are whetted by practice, burnished, so to speak, by friction, and share, as is only natural, the light of freedom which illuminates the state. But in these days we seem to be schooled from childhood in an equitable slavery, swaddled, I might say, from the tender infancy of our minds in servile ways and practices. We never drink from the fairest and most fertile source of literature, which is freedom, and therefore we come to show a genius for nothing but flattery." 4 This is the reason, he alleged, that, while all other faculties are granted even to slaves, no slave ever becomes an orator. For his fear of candour ** promptly bubbles to the surface and the dungeoned air of one ever accustomed to the cudgel. 5 As Homer says : "Surely half of our manhood is reft by the day of enslavement." ** "And so," my friend adds, "if what I hear is true that not only do the cages in which they keep the pygmies or dwarfs, as they are called, stunt the growth of their prisoners, but their bodies even shrink in close confinement, on the same principle all slavery, however equitable it may be, might well be described as a cage for the human soul, a common prison." 6 However I took him up and said, "It is easy, my good friend, and it is characteristic of human nature always to find fault with things as they are at the moment. But consider. Perhaps it is not the world's peace that corrupts great natures but much rather this endless warfare which besets our hearts, yes, and the passions that garrison our lives in these days and make utter havoc of them. It is the love of money, that insatiable sickness from which we all now suffer, and the love of pleasure that enslave us, or rather, one might say, sink our lives, soul and all, into the depths ; for love of gold is a withering sickness, and love of pleasure utterly ignoble. 7 Indeed, I cannot discover on consideration how, if we value boundless wealth, or to speak more truly, make a god of it, we can possibly keep our natures free from its evil parasites. In close company with vast and unconscionable Wealth there follows, "step for step,'' as they say, Extravagance : and no sooner has the one opened the gates of cities or houses, than the other comes and makes a home there too. And when they have spent some time in our lives, philosophers tell us, they build a nest there and promptly set about begetting children ; these are Swagger and Conceit and Luxury, no bastards but their true-born issue. And if these offspring of wealth are allowed to grow to maturity, they soon breed in our hearts inexorable tyrants, Insolence and Disorder and Shamelessness. 8 This must inevitably happen, and men no longer then look upwards nor take any further thought for their good name. And what is the end of this process ? Step by step the ruin of their lives is completed, their greatness of soul wastes away from inanition and is no longer their ideal, since they value that part of them which is mortal and consumes away, and neglect the development of their immortal souls. 9 A man who has been bribed for his verdict can no longer give an unbiased and sound judgement on what is just and fair, for the corrupt judge inevitably regards his own interest as fair and just. And seeing that the whole life of each one of us is now governed wholly by bribery and by hunting after other people's deaths and laying traps for legacies, and we have sold our souls for profit at any price, slaves that we are to our luxury, can we then expect in such a pestilential ruin of our lives that there is left a single free and unbribed judge of the things that are great and last to all eternity ? Are we not all corrupted by our passion for gain ? 10 Nay, for such as we are perhaps it is better to have a master than to be free. Were we given complete liberty we should behave like released prisoners, and our greed for our neighbours' possessions would swamp the world in a deluge of evils. 11 "In fact," I said, "what spends the spirit of the present generation is the apathy in which all but a few of us pass our lives, only exerting ourselves or showing any enterprise for the sake of getting praise or pleasure out of it, never from the honourable and admirable motive of doing good to the world."   

12 " 'Tis best to leave this to a guess " ** and pass on to the next question, which is that of the Emotions, a topic on which I previously undertook to write a separate treatise, for they seem to me to form part of the subject of writing and especially of sublimity. . . .   

{ The rest is lost. }


92.   Strictly this means the use of more than one case {πτῶσις} of the same word, "Haeret pede pes, densusque viro vir," but it seems here to cover also rhetorical changes of tense, person, number, or gender.

93.   Author unknown. To the inhabitants of Sicily and S. Italy the tunny-fish was as important as the herring is to us. A "look-out" was stationed on a high place to signal the approach of a shoal. Here "numberless people" is presumably hyperbole for a crowd of fishermen.

94.   O.T. 1403.

95.   Unknown.

96.   Menexenus, 245 D.

97.   Lit. "to be hung all over with bells," as some war-horses were. In [Demosthenes] Aristogeiton § 90 κώδωνας ἐξαψάμενος is used of advertising what had better be concealed. A "figure" should be concealed not advertised, cf. chapter xvii. § 1 (sub fin.).

98.   De cor. 18.

99.   Herodotus, vi. 21 : "The Athenians showed in many ways their great distress at the capture of Miletus and when Phrynichus wrote and produced his Capture of Miletus the theatre burst ino tears and they fined him a thousand drachmae for reminding them of a disaster which touched them nearly and enjoined that the play should never be produced again."

100.   Cyrop. vii. 1. 37.

101.   Il. xv. 697. ἀλλήλοισιν is omitted after ἀτειρέας.

102.   Phaen. 287.

103.   Herod. ii. 29, abridged and slightly altered.

104.   Il. v. 85.

105.   Il. xv. 346.

106.   The Milesian historian, sixth century B.C.

107.   Aristog. i. § 27.

108.   As the difficulty of "understanding" an object to ἀπολιπεῖν seems too great, I have followed Toll's snggestion that τοὺς κριτὰς has fallen out of the text. The usual interpretation of the unamended ms. is "turning off his speech- to-Aristogeiton and appearing to abandon him." But Demosthenes does the exact opposite. He has not previously addressed his speech to Aristogeiton.

109.   Od, iv. 681. The first part of l. 687 (κτῆσιν Τηλεμάχοιο δαίφρονος) is omitted from the quotation.

110.   This word is used elsewhere of certain intervals which were considered a mean between harmony and discord. That meaning would not suit this passage. The sense of musical ornament or embellishment is appropriate here and etymologically probable. Saintsbury suggests "the dominant note is more sweetly brought out by accompanying trills and harmonies."

111.   Menexenus, 236 D.

112.   Cyrop. i. 5. 12.

113.   i. 105, i.e. one that made them women, The goddess was Aphrodite.

114.   Lit " perishable," likely to go bad.

115.   Verrall detects a buried iambic line :
  ὡς οὔτε Πλοῦτον ἀργυροῦν ἱδρυμένον
  ἐᾶν ἐνοικεῖν οὔτε δεῖ χρυσοῦν πόλει
and censures Longinus for not recognising a quotation introduced by Plato to enrich the passage with literary association,

116.   This may be explained by reference to what is said about the Iliad and Odyssey in chapter ix. The former, full of emotional incidents, is sublime; the latter depends on character study and is only agreeable.

117.   i.e. the mellowness of age, to be taken in close connexion with what he goes on to say about the mellowing effect of time - probably through oxidization - on bronze statues.

118.   Lit, "gives abundant food for thought." But a genitive governed by these two adjectives may be lost : "greatly promoting the growth and productive of . . ." The subject is now metaphor, as one kind of fine phrasing.

119.   A metaphor for a young girl, not uncommon in Greek and Latin lyrics. Mid-Victorian humourists thus used "filly."

120.   Aristotle explains in his Poetics (Ch, xxi. § 11) that a large class of metaphors rest on an implied analogy, e.g. we can call old age the evening of life, because old age : life : : evening : day. We might expound the analogy here as, insults : Philip : : training breakfasts : an oarsman, i.e. they are "stomached" for some ulterior motive. Theopompus of Chios was a fourth-century historian.

121.   Herod. vi, 75.

122.   Herod. vii. 181.

123.   De Cor. 296.

124.   Memorabilia, i. 4. 5.

125.   Timaeus, 65 C - 85 E. The illustrations are selected from passages in the Timaeus between 65 C and 85 E.

126.   Lit. perforated.

127.   Laws, vi. 773 C.

128.   Versatile scholar of the third century B.C., who wrote history, geography, astronomy, literary criticism, and other poems besides the elegy here mentioned.

129.   Lit. ill-arranged, undigested matter.

130.   Each of the five contests of the Pentathlon would doubtless be won by a different specialist, but the all-round athlete who was second in each contest would win. the prize.

131.   Or "composition" in the sense in which art-critics use the word.

132.   In his Deliacos, in which he upheld Athens' claim to the presidency of the Delian temple.

133.   A copy of the speech against Athenogenes was dug up in Egypt in 1888. The defence of Phryne, famous for the story of her disrobing in court, is lost.

134.   A Homeric phrase used of one minstrel taking up the tale where the other dropped it.

135.   See chapter xxxii.

136.   As the grandeurs of Nature, e.g. volcanoes, do not.

137.   Quoted in Plato, Phaedrus, 264 C, as part of an epitaph said to have been written for Midas.

138.   This statue by the great fifth-century sculptor was regarded as a canon of the true proportion. The statement is probably in Cecilius's treatise.

139.   See chapter ii.

140.   The mutilated word is assumed to be καταγέλαστος. Longinus has returned to the topics from which he digressed towards the end of chapter xxxii., where the comparison of Plato and Lysias led to the discussion of faultlessness and genius, just concluded. The hs. resumes with the discussion of hyperbole.

141.   From the speech entitled Halonnesus (§ 45), no longer attributed to Demosthenes.

142.   Paneg. § 8.

143.   See chapter xvii.

144.   Thuc. vii. 84.

145.   Herod. vii. 225.

146.   Chapter viii.

147.   ἁρμονία is a combination of elements in a proper proportion. In music these elements are treble and base and the result melody. In writing the composition of clauses, sentences, paragraphs is a "harmony," but Longinus is thinking here rather of the aural effect of good composition, the melody of words.

148.   Dem. De Corona, 188. The passage follows that mentioned in chap. x, in which Demosthenes vividly describes the alarm caused by Philip's capture of Elateia in 339 B.C. The decree, passed on Demosthenes' motion, provided for naval and military action against Philip and, more important still, for reconciliation with Thebes. Demosthenes served on the embassy to Thebes, and an alliance was made, and a joint army formed.

149.   If the second syllable of ἐποίησεν is taken as long, there are two dactyls in the sentence, τοῦτο τὸ at the beginning and ὥσπερ νέφος at the end. Longinus seems to regard the rhythmical effect as dependent upon the position of these. But he goes on to say that the effect of the last two words is due to the fact that ὥσπερ is a spondee, two long syllables, equivalent to four short syllables or four metrical beats.

150.   "It" seems to refer to the concluding dactyl to which Longinus attaches special importance. Or perhaps τέλος is omitted after τό τε. The sense would be the same.

151.   i.e. the way they are put together, the anatomy of the sentence.

152.   A Sicilian historian (fourth century) and an imitator of Thucydides.

153.   Her. Fur. 1245.

154.   The sense is doubtful. He seems to mean that common-place phrases gain grandeur from their position in the whole passage. A modern critic has said the same about the line, "It all comes to the same thing in the end," in Browning's "Any Wife to Any Husband." A common phrase becomes in that setting fine.

155.   From the lost Antiope. Loved by Jupiter, Antiope bore two sons, Amphion and Zethus. Later she fell into the clutches of her uncle Lycus, king of Thebes, and his wife Dirce, who condemned her to be dragged to death by a bull. Antiope's sons, entrusted with this execution, discovered that she was their mother, so they killed Lycus and tied Dirce by her hair to the bull. In this passage tlie bull is dealing with Dirce.

156.   He is referring probably to the clash of consonants which gives emphasis by delaying pronunciation, thus producing an "austere" effect. The words cannot be run together : each resists the other and claims full room, as it were, with straddled legs (διαβεβηκότα).

157.   On the stage.

158.   He seems to mean that the pauses do not come at the proper places to give the sentence an organic unity : it is like a piece of carpentry not properly jointed but roughly hammered together with a clumsy crowd of nails.

159.   vii. 188.

160.   vii. 191.

161.   vii. 13.

162.   Mem. i. 4. 6.

163.   The lack of free-specch (παρρησία) seemed to the ancients the greatest evil of slavery.

164.   Od. xvii. 322.

165.   Eur. El. 379.

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