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at the flame of a candle, was originally a sprightly simile, but which by frequent use has lost all force; love cannot now be compared to fire, without some degree of disgust: it has been justly objected againit Homer, that the lion is too often introduced in his fimiles; all the variety he is able to throw into them, not being sufficient to keep alive the reader's surprise.
To explain the influence of comparison upon the mind, I have chosen the simplest case, that of two animals of the same kind, differing in size only, seen for the first time; but to complete the theory, other circumstances must be taken in. , And the next supposition I fall make, is where both animals, separately familiar to the spectator, are brought together for the first time. In this case, the effect of magnifying and diminihing, will be found remarkably greater than in that first mentioned. And the reason will appear upon analyzing the operation : the first thing we feel is surprise, occasioned by the uncommon difference of two creatures of the same fpecies: we are next fensible, that the one appears less, the other larger, than they did formerly; and this new circumstance is a second cause of furprise, augmenting it so as to make us imagine a still greater opposition between the animals, than if we had formed no notion of them beforehand.
I shall confine myself to one other supposition; That the spectator was acquainted beforehand
with one of the animals only; the lapdog, for example. This new circumstance will vary the effect; for instead of widening the natural difference, by enlarging in appearance the one animal, and diminishing the other in proportion, the whole apparent alteration will rest upon the lapdog: the surprise to find it less than judged to be formerly, will direct our whole attention to it, and make us conceive it to be of a most diminutive size : the mastiff in the mean time is quite neglected. I am able to illustrate this effect by a familiar example. Take a piece
paper or linen reckoned to be a good white, and compare it with a pure white of the fame kind : the judgement we formed of the first object is instantly varied; and the surprise occasioned by finding it less white than was thought, produceth a hasty conviction that it is much less white than it is in reality : withdrawing now the pure white, and putting in its place a deep black, the furprise occasioned by this new circumstance carries us to the other extreme, and makes us conceive the object first mentioned to be a pure white : and thus experience compels us to acknowledge, that our emotions have an influence even upon our eye-light. This experiment leads to a general observation; That whatever is found more strange or beautiful than was expected, is judged to be more strange or beautiful than it is in reality. Hence it is a common artifice, to de
pretiate beforehand what we wish to make a figure in the opinion of others.
The comparisons employ'd by poets and orators, are of the same nature with that last mentioned; for it is always a known object that is to be aggrandized or lessened. The former is effectuated by likening it to some grand object, or by contrasting it with one of an opposite character. To effectuate the latter, the method must be reversed : the object must be contrasted with something superior to itself, or likened to something inferior. The whole effect is produced upon the principal object, which by this means is elevated above its rank, or depressed below it.
In accounting for the effect that any unusual resemblance or diffimilitude hath upon the mind, no cause has been mentioned but surprise; and to prevent confusion and obscurity, it was proper to discufs that cause first. But surprise is not the only cause of the effect described : another concurs, which operates perhaps not less powerfully than surprise. This cause is a principle in human nature that lies still in obfcurity, not having been unfolded by any writer, though its effects are extensive; and as it is not distinguished by a proper name, the reader must be satisfied with the following description. No man who studies himself or others, but must be sensible of a tendency or propensity in the mind, to complete every work that is begun, and to carry things to their full perfection. This propensity has little
opportunity to display itself
upon tions, which are seldom left imperfect: but in the operations of art, it hath great scope; and displays itself remarkably, by making us persevere in our own work, and by making us wish for the completion of what is done by another : we feel a sensible pleasure when the work is brought to perfection; and our pain is not less fensible when we are disappointed. Hence our uneasiness, when an interesting story is broke off in the middle, when a piece of music ends without a close, or when a building or garden is left unfinished. The same propensity operates in making collections, such as the whole works good and bad of any author. A certain person attempted to collect prints of all the capital paintings, and succeeded except as to a few : La Bruyere remarks, that an anxious search was made for these; not for their value, but to complete the set *.
* The examples above given, are of fubjects that can be brought to an end or conclusion. But the same uneasiness is perceptible with respect to subjects that admit not any conclusion; witness a series that has no end, commonly called an infinite series. The mind running along such a series, begins soon to feel an uncaliness, which becomes more and more sensible, in cominuing its progress without hope of coming to an end.
An unbounded prospect doth not long continue agreeable: we foon feel a slight uncasiness, which increases with the time we bestow upon the prospect. An avenue without a terminating object, is one instance of an unbounded prospect; and we might hope 10 find the cause of its disagreeableness, if it resembled an infinite
The final cause of this propensity is an additional proof of its existence: human works are of no significancy till they be completed; and
ferics. The eye indeed promises no resemblance ; for the quickest eye con mands but a certain length of space, and there it is bounded, however obscurely. But the mind perceives things as they exist; and the line is carried on in idea without end; in which respect an unbounded prospect is similar to an infinite series. In fact, the uneasiness of an unbounded prospect, differs very little in its feeling from that of an infinite series and therefore we may reasonably conclude, that both proceed from the fame cause.
We next consider a prospect unbounded every way, as, for ex. ample, a great plain, or the ocean, viewed from an eminence. We feel here an uneasiness occasioned by the want of an end or termination, precisely as in the other cases. A prospect unbounded every way, is indeed fo far singular, as at first to be more pleasant than a prospect that is unbounded in one direction only, and afterward to be more painful. But these circumstances are ealily explained, without breaking in upon the general theory: the pleasure we feel at first, is a vivid emotion of grandeur, ariting from the immense extension of the object: and to increase the pain we feel afterward for the want of a termination, there concuirs a pain of a different kind, occalioned by. stretching the eye to comprehend so great a prospect ; a pain that gradually increases with the repcated efforts we make to grasp the whole.
It is the same principle, if I mistake not, which operates imperceptibiy wiih respect to quantity and number. Another's property indented into my field, gives me uneasiness; and I am ea' ger to make the purchase ; not for profit, but in order to square my field. Xerxes and his army, in their passage to Greece, were fumptuously entertained by Pythius the Lydian : Xerxes getting a particular account of his riches, recompensed him with 7oco Da. pics, which he wanted to complete the fum of four millions.