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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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Here is an example. Voltaire, one of the greatest of all French writers. Furthermore, he has put bounds to the danger by saying A plank keeps off death. The same is true of the words which Euripides attributes to his Cassandra: Summing up, I maintained that among the banes of the natures which our age produces must be reckoned that half-heartedness in which the life of all of us with few exceptions is passed, for we do not labour or exert ourselves except for the sake of praise and pleasure, never for those solid benefits which are a worthy object of our own efforts and the respect of others.

For just as if, in the case of those very adornments, between the golden vessels and the jewelled mixing-bowls and the silver plate and the pavilions of pure gold and the goblets, a man were to bring and set in the midst paltry bags and sacks, the proceeding would have been offensive to the eye, so do such words when introduced out of season constitute deformities and as it were blots on the diction.

What need to add thereto that each of these supreme authors often redeems all his failures by a single sublime and happy touch, and most important of all that if one were to pick out and mass together the blunders of Homer, Demosthenes, Plato, and all the rest of the greatest writers, they would be found to be a very small part, nay an infinitesimal fraction, of the triumphs which those heroes achieve on every hand?

In also with the manifestations of passion and the sublime in literature. In reply, however, to the writer who maintains that the faulty Colossus is not superior to the Spearman of Polycleitus, it is obvious to remark among many other things that in art the utmost exactitude is admired, grandeur in the works of nature; and that it is by nature that man is a being gifted with speech. The author’s identity has been debated for centuries.

On the Sublime by Longinus

And indeed, he there renders a tribute of mourning and lamentation to his heroes as though he were carrying out a long-cherished purpose. Most important of all, we must remember that the very fact that there are some elements of expression which are in the hands of nature alone, can be learnt from no other source than art. But at the present day the word is predominantly used in cases where, carried away by enthusiasm and passion, you think you see what you describe, and you place it before the eyes of your hearers.


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.

By heavenly power thus communicated she is impregnated and straightway delivers oracles in virtue of the afflatus. Again, how greatly do changes of cases, tenses, persons, numbers, genders, diversify and enliven exposition. The passages by which the blood races this way and that he names alleys. In the 10th-century reference manuscript Parisinus Graecusthe heading reports “Dionysius or Longinus”, an ascription by the medieval copyist that was misread as “by Dionysius Longinus.

On the Sublime

In all other cases of amplification, if you take away the sublime, you will remove as it were the soul from the body. For the thought is expressed throughout in dactylic rhythms, and these are most noble and productive of sublimity; and therefore it is that they subllimity the heroic, the finest metre that we know.

An apostrophe is a direct address to a person, thing, or abstraction, or readers that helps to move readers. Herein he succeeds more, perhaps, than in any other respect, although he is daring enough to invade all the other regions of the imagination.

On the Sublime by Longinus

His sublimities are not evenly sustained and free from the liability to sink; there is not the same profusion of accumulated passions, nor the supple and oratorical style, packed with images drawn from real life.

Plato will furnish an instance in proof at the opening of his Funeral Oration. All such cases of direct personal address place the hearer on the very scene of action. Despite Longinus’ critical acclaim, his writing is far from perfect. Accordingly this figure should be used by preference when a sharp crisis does not suffer om writer to tarry, but constrains him to pass at once from one person to another.

On the Sublime – Wikipedia

This is the first known instance in which greatness in literature is ascribed to qualities innate in the writer rather than his art. XXXIX The fifth of those elements contributing to the sublime which we mentioned, excellent friend, at the beginning, still remains to be dealt with, namely the arrangement of the words in a certain order. That is the true attitude of an Ajax.

Moreover, about one-third of the treatise is missing; [5] Longinus’ segment on similes, for instance, has only a few words remaining. If Petronius pointed out excess of rhetoric and the pompous, unnatural techniques of the schools of eloquence as the causes of decay, Tacitus was nearer to Longinus in thinking [1] that the root of this decadence was the establishment of Princedom, or Empire, which, though it brought stability and peace, also gave rise to censorship and brought an end to freedom of speech.

The cunning use of figures is peculiarly subject to suspicion, and produces an impression of ambush, plot, fallacy. And he lasheth himself into frenzy, and spurreth him on to the fight.

Works of nature are, they think, made worse and altogether feebler when wizened by the rules of art. VI The best means would be, friend, to gain, first of all, clear knowledge and appreciation of the true sublime.

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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 with horns and hoofs of iron and kill one another in their greed.

But this must only be done in cases in which the subject admits of amplification or redundancy or exaggeration or passion — one or more of these — since we all know that a richly caparisoned style is extremely pretentious. So also in the case of sublimity in poems and prose writings, we must consider whether some supposed examples have not simply the appearance of elevation with many idle accretions, so that when analysed they are found to be mere vanity — objects which a noble nature will rather despise than admire.

But since you have urged me, in my turn, to write a brief essay on the sublime for your special gratification, let us consider whether the views I have formed contain anything which will be of use to public men. 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.

They should be used genuinely and as per the demands of the contextual environment. 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.

Is it not precisely by the visualizing qualities of these figures that Demosthenes strives to make his speeches far more effective and impressive?

For the compression of the number from multiplicity into unity gives more fully the feeling of a single body. Now it is, no doubt, superfluous to dilate to those who know it well upon the fact that the choice of proper and striking words wonderfully attracts and enthralls the oj, and that such a choice is the leading ambition of all orators and writers, since it is the direct agency which ensures the presence in writings, as upon the fairest statues, of the perfection of grandeur, beauty, mellowness, dignity, force, power, and lonhinus other high qualities there may be, and breathes into dead things a kind of living voice.

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 lonhinus.

Wikisource has original text related to this article: Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. But enough; for these reflexions, and others like them, you can, I know well, dear Terentianus, yourself suggest loginus your own experience.