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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Nor do we view the tiny flame of oonginus own kindling guarded in lasting purity as its light ever is with greater awe than the celestial fires though they are often shrouded in darkness; nor do we deem it a greater marvel than the craters of Etna, longinux eruptions throw up stones from its depths and great masses of rock, and at times pour forth rivers of that pure and unmixed subterranean fire. XXXVI Now as regards the manifestations of the sunlimity in literature, in which grandeur is never, as it sometimes is in nature, found apart from utility and advantage, it is fitting to observe at once that, though writers of this magnitude are far removed from faultlessness, they none the less all rise above what is mortal; that all other qualities prove their possessors to be men, but sublimity raises them near the majesty of God; and that while immunity from errors relieves from censure, it is grandeur that excites admiration.

There lieth Ajax the warrior wight, Achilles is there, There is Patroclus, whose words had weight as a God he were; There lieth mine own dear son. 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.

But would anyone in his senses regard all the compositions of Ion put together as an equivalent for the single play of the Oedipus?

The “sublime” in the title has been translated in various ways, to include senses of elevation and excellent style. In Demosthenes the oath is framed for vanquished men, with the intention that Chaeroneia should no longer appear a failure to the Athenians.

On the Sublime by Longinus

And the worst of it all is that, just as petty lays draw their hearer away from the point and compel his attention to themselves, so also overrhythmical style does not communicate the feeling of the words but simply the feeling of the rhythm. So the constituents of grandeur, when separated from one another, carry with them sublimity in distraction this way and that, but when formed into a body by association and when further encircled in a chain of harmony they become sonorous by their very rotundity; and in periods sublimity is, as it were, a contribution made by a multitude.

The use of puerility spoils the sublimity. He was learned and ingenious, but very prone to criticise the faults of others while blind to his own. If you introduce things which are past as present and now taking place, you will make your story no longer a narration but an actuality.


Anaphora, polybaton, periphrasis etc. Yes, and the tones of the harp, although in themselves they signify nothing at all, often cast a wonderful spell, as you know, over an audience by means of the variations of sounds, by their pulsation against one another, and by their mingling in concert.

Credited with writing a number of literary works, Longinus was disciple of Plotinusand considered “the most distinguished sublimitty of his day.

V All these ugly and parasitical growths arise in literature from a single cause, that pursuit of novelty in the expression of ideas which may be regarded as the fashionable craze of the day. Homer, however, does not for one moment set a limit to the terror of the scene, but draws a vivid picture of men continually in peril of their lives, and often within an ace of perishing with each successive wave. Thus the treatise is clearly centred linginus the burning onn which raged in the 1st century AD in Latin literature.

Cicero, on the other lontinus, it seems to me, after the manner of a widespread conflagration, rolls on with all-devouring flames, having within him an ample and abiding store of fire, distributed now at this point now at that, and fed by an unceasing succession. IMAGES, moreover, contribute greatly, my young friend, to dignity, elevation, and power as a pleader.

On the Sublime | work by Longinus |

XX A powerful effect usually attends the union of figures for a common object, when two or three mingle sublmiity as it were in partnership, and contribute a fund of strength, persuasiveness, beauty.

At the same time the narrative carries conviction; for the event does not seem to be introduced for the sake of the hyperbole, but the hyperbole to spring naturally from the event. They never look upwards to the truth, nor do they lift their heads, nor enjoy any pure and lasting pleasure, but like cattle they have their eyes ever cast downwards and bent upon the ground and upon their feeding-places, and they graze and grow fat and breed, and through their insatiate desire of these delights they kick and butt lomginus horns and hoofs of iron and kill subljmity another in their greed.

So he at once rushes forward and carries his hearer off his feet. Demosthenes] in his utterance shows, as one who appeals more to the passions, all the glow of a fiery spirit. In this sense, sublime is lofty and excellent poetic creation with power to please, persuade and move the readers through the upliftment of their souls.

On the Sublime

It is no doubt true that those which are found in the poets contain, as I said, a tendency to exaggeration in the way of the fabulous and that they transcend in every way the credible, but in oratorical imagery the best feature is always its reality and truth.

Seven Against Thebes 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.


Now, therefore, if you choose to submit to hardships, you will have toil for the moment, but you will be able to overcome your foes Histories, 6. Demosthenes in dealing with Aristogeiton has, somewhat differently, employed this variation of person to betoken the quick play of emotion.

The effect desired is that not one passion only should be seen in her, but a concourse of the passions. What was the natural way of treating the subject? Moreover, in the treatment of commonplaces and in descriptions there is nothing so impressive as a number of tropes following close one upon the other.

In short, the use of figures must be physical and intimately connected with thoughts and emotions. These two components of the sublime are for the most part innate.

Choosing proper and striking words that fit the thought ; [Lacuna]. Loving Lysias better even than himself, he nevertheless hates Plato more perfectly than he loves Lysias. Pleasure is a lonbinus which tempts men to ill, the tongue the test of taste; the heart is the knot of the veins and the wellspring of the blood that courses round impetuously, and it is stationed in the guard-house of the body.

Altogether, tumidity seems particularly hard to avoid. But on the contrary, he thought that literature could sublimty a soul, and that a soul could pour itself out into a work of art. This is so when the plea is addressed to a judge with absolute powers, and particularly to despots, kings, and leaders in positions of superiority.

Sometimes, indeed, the lonhinus knowing beforehand the due terminations stamp their feet in time with the speaker, and as in a dance give the right step in anticipation. What fact, then, was before the eyes of those superhuman writers who, aiming at everything that was highest in composition, contemned an all-pervading accuracy?

Just as those who are really moved by anger, or fear, or indignation, or jealousy, or any other emotion for the passions are many and countless, and none can give their numberat times turn aside, and when they have taken one thing as their subject often leap to another, foisting in the midst some irrelevant matter, and then again wheel round to their original theme, and driven by their vehemence, as by a veering wind, now this way now that with rapid changes, zublimity their expressions, their thoughts, the order suggested by a natural sequence, into numberless variations of every kind; so also among the best writers it is by means of hyberbaton that imitation approaches the effects of nature.

For although light and shade, as depicted in colours, lie side by side upon the same surface, light nevertheless meets the vision first, and not only stands out, but also seems far nearer. Help us improve this article!