On The Sublime by Longinus
Longinus describes five sources of sublimity--"great thoughts,strong emotion,certain figures of thought and speech,noble diction and dignified word arrangement."
On The Sublime by Longinus
"On The Sublime" is a small treatise of great significance. Longinus has not used the word 'sublime' in its modern, narrow and limited sense. What he means by the word 'sublime' is 'elevation' or 'loftiness'.
Thus by sublimity Longinus means, “a certain distinction and excellence in composition." The effect of this quality is not mere persuasion or pleasure.
Unlike Aristotle, he is not interested in the natural history of literature, or in the tragedy or the epic. He is interested in the phrase or passage which strikes fire from his mind. Form in the larger sense is not important.
He says: “Sublimity flashing forth at the right moment scatters everything before it like a thunderbolt, and at once displays the power of the orator in all its plenitude.”
Longinus speaks of faults to be avoided. He gives examples of the false sublime, bombast, ill-timed pathos, and frigidity. He measures these things not by rules but by the touch-stone of his own taste.
There are five fountains of Sublimity:-
1. Grandeur of Thought ,
2. Capacity for Strong Emotion,
3. Appropriate use of Figures of speech,
4. Nobility of Diction, and
5. Dignity and Elevation in Composition.
Nobody can produce a sublime work unless his thoughts are sublime. For, ‘Sublimity is the echoes of greatness of soul’ .To have great ideas one must have greatness. Men with mean ideas cannot produce anything that is admirable and worthy of immortality. He compares the odyssey and the Iliad. He then quotes a great poem of Sappho and preserves it for posterity. Mean and ignoble thoughts can never inspire a lofty utterance. What Longinus has in mind is that, “men catch fire from the spirit of others.”
Longinus puts emphasis on genuine emotion. Its contribution to loftiness of tone in writing is immense.
The third fountain of Sublimity is Figures of Speech. He considers it very important. Figures of Speech should not be used mechanically; rather they must be rooted in genuine emotion. ‘True emotions’ should be ‘in the right place’. The use of figures of speech must be psychological—intimately connected with thought and emotion, and not merely mechanical.
The forth source of the ‘Sublime’ is diction which includes choice and arrangements of words as well as the use of metaphor and simile. Both ordinary and striking words must be suitably chosen--- for impressive style. “Beautiful words are in truth the very light of thought.”He believes that sublimity is recognizable because within each of us is a power which aspire towards the great and noble.
Lastly Longinus considers the arrangement of words .Words must be harmoniously set. By arrangement and composition he simply means verbal order which is usually called rhythm. Such harmonious combination of words appeals to the soul.