This text is adapted from Longinus on the Sublime, translated by W. Rhys Roberts (London: Cambridge University Press, ). II. First of all. The Project Gutenberg EBook of On the Sublime, by Longinus This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions. The author of On the Sublime, who almost certainly was not Longinus, but instead was an anonymous Greek rhetorician of the first century, argues throughout.

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Full-fraught am I with woes — no space for more. Men slip into this kind of error because, while they aim at the uncommon and elaborate and most of all at the attractive, they drift unawares into the tawdry and affected.

Now in the passage of Eupolis there is nothing but the mere oath, addressed to the Athenians when still prosperous and in no need of comfort. For the lines detached from one another, but none the less hurried along, produce the impression of an agitation which interposes obstacles and at the same time adds impetuosity.

For he talks with simplicity, where it is required, and does not adopt like Demosthenes one unvarying tone in all his utterances. And he lasheth himself into frenzy, and spurreth him on to the fight. For it is not possible that men with mean and servile ideas and aims prevailing throughout their lives should produce anything that is admirable and worthy of immortality.

Hence, while beauties of expression and touches of sublimity, and charming elegancies withal, are favourable to effective composition, yet these very things are the elements and foundation, not only of success, but also of the contrary. For instance, riches, honours, distinctions, sovereignties, and all other things which possess in abundance the external trappings of the stage, will not seem, to a man of sense, to be supreme blessings, since the very contempt of them is reckoned good in no small degree, and in any case those who could have them, but are high-souled enough to disdain them, are more admired than those who have them.

On the Sublime by Longinus

Contrast the way in which Homer magnifies the higher powers: Clearness, however, demands that we should define concisely how our present precepts differ from the point under consideration a moment ago, namely the marking-out of the most striking conceptions and the unification of them; and wherein, generally, the sublime differs from amplification.

For concision curtails the sense, but brevity goes straight to the mark. In like manner those words are destitute of sublimity which lie too close together, and are cut up into short and tiny syllables, and are held together as if with wooden bolts by sheer inequality and ruggedness. Is it not worth while, on this very point, to raise the general question whether we ought to give the preference, in poems and prose writings, to grandeur with some attendant faults, or to success which is moderate but altogether sound and free from error?


For the thought is expressed throughout in dactylic rhythms, and these are most noble and productive of sublimity; and therefore it is that they constitute the heroic, the finest metre that we know.

On the Sublime by Longinus

These form, as it seems to me, a material part of discourse generally and of the Sublime itself. On the Sublime is a compendium of literary exemplars, with about 50 authors spanning 1, years mentioned or quoted. In the treatise, suboimity author asserts that “the Sublime leads the listeners not to persuasion, but to ecstasy: Those mansions ghastly and grim, abhorred of the very Gods.

So it is when you seem to be speaking, not to all and sundry, but to a single individual: Owing to the correspondence between word and thing it seems to me to be highly expressive; and yet Caecilius for some unexplained reason finds fault with it. How unlike to this the expression which is used of Sorrow by Hesiod, if indeed the Shield is to be attributed to Lnginus. This is why, by a sort of natural impulse, we admire not the small streams, useful and pellucid though they be, but the Nile, the Danube or the Rhine, and still more the Ocean.

Such an one at once feels resentment if, like a foolish boy, he is tricked by the paltry figures of the oratorical craftsman. He rears and unseats Cyrus, who falls Xenophon, Cyropaideia 7. For since we have previously indicated those qualities which render style noble and lofty, it is evident that their opposites will for the most part make it low and base.

Introduction ; nature and source of the sublime ; Is there an art of the sublime? Starting from this point again, as suddenly as a gust of wind, he makes another attack.

Moreover, the expression of the sublime is more exposed to danger when it goes its own way without the guidance of knowledge, — when it is suffered to be unstable and unballasted, — when it is left at the mercy of mere momentum and ignorant audacity. Wherefore it is, I suppose, that the orator sublimith. There is further the case lonignus which a writer, when longimus something about a person, suddenly breaks off and converts himself into that selfsame person.

But those indicated are enough to show longinua figurative language possesses great natural power, and that metaphors contribute to the sublime; and at the same time that it is impassioned and descriptive passages which rejoice in them to the greatest extent.

Where the use of numbers is concerned, I would point out that style is not adorned only or chiefly by those words which are, as far as their forms go, in the singular but in meaning are, when examined, found to be plural: Longinus deals with some major figures of speech- to him; the proper use of rhetorical question makes an immediate appeal to the emotions.

It is a pedantic type of conceit adding to a pompous and frigid style. It is true that it often needs the spur, but it is also true that it often needs the curb. Neither author can be accepted as the actual writer of the treatise. You may find it helpful to search within the site to see how similar or related subjects are covered. Our defects usually spring, for the most part, from the same sources as our good points.


On the Sublime

O nuptials, nuptials, Oedipus Tyrannus Ye gendered me, and, having gendered, brought To light the selfsame seed, and so revealed Sires, brothers, sons, in one — all kindred blood! Consequently I do not waver in my view that excellences higher in quality, even if not sustained throughout, should always on a comparison be voted the first place, because of their sheer elevation of spirit if for no other reason.

Such effects should be subtle, flashing at the right moment, scattering everything before it like a thunder bolt and at once displaying the power of plentitude. Having, I say, absorbed bodily within himself these mighty gifts which we may deem heaven-sent for it would not be right to term them humanhe thus with the noble qualities which are his own routs all comers even where the qualities he does not possess are concerned, and overpowers with thunder and with lightning the orators of every age.

Thus oratory became merely an exercise in style. For not only in the degree of his excellences, but also in their number, Lysias is much inferior to Plato; and at the same time he surpasses him in his faults still more than he falls below him in his excellences. Please try again later. Has he not rather, starting with unadorned diction, made it musical, and shed over it like a harmony the melodious rhythm which comes from periphrasis? This besides many other things, that Nature has appointed us men to be no base nor ignoble animals; but when she ushers us into life and into the vast universe as into some great assembly, to be as it were spectators of the mighty whole and the keenest aspirants for honour, forthwith she implants in our souls the unconquerable love of whatever is elevated and more divine than we.

On the Sublime / Longinus

XXIX A hazardous business, however, eminently hazardous is subliimty, unless it be handled with discrimination; otherwise it speedily falls flat, with its odour of empty talk and its swelling amplitude. Thus it is that stately speech comes naturally to the proudest spirits.

Such a composition appeals to the soul and enables the readers to participate in the emotions of the author.

An example of a conception which is usually thought sublime and is really admirable is longins which Demosthenes associates with the decree: XVII I ought not, dear friend, to omit at this point an observation of my own, which shall be most concisely stated.

It is a statement in question form that suggests its own answer.

Wherefore a figure is at its best when the very fact that it is sublomity figure escapes attention. Something like this happens also in the art of painting.