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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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.

AN allied excellence to those already set forth is that which is termed amplification. For these faults mar the effect of the whole, just as though they introduced chinks or fissures into stately and co-ordered edifices, whose walls are compacted by their reciprocal adjustment.

On the Sublime by Longinus

Secondly, there is vehement and inspired passion. What need to add thereto that each of these supreme authors often redeems sublimitt his failures by a single sublime llonginus 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?

Uniting contradictions, she is, at one and the same time, hot and cold, in her senses and out of her mind, for she is either terrified or at the point of death. For he prefers the orator as faultless and longius to Plato as one who has often made mistakes.

On the Sublime – Wikipedia

Despite Longinus’ critical acclaim, his writing is far from perfect. 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!

Now as regards the manifestations of the sublime 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.


But those indicated are enough to show that 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.

XXIII THE figures, which are termed polyptota — accumulations, and variations, and climaxes — are excellent weapons of public oratory, as you are aware, and contribute to elegance and to every form of sublimity and passion. 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. The spleen he called the napkin of the inward parts, whence it is filled with secretions and grows to a great and festering bulk.

Other examples will be found in Amphicrates and Hegesias and Matris, for often when these writers seem to themselves to be inspired they are in no true frenzy but are simply trifling. The vertebrae, he says, are fixed beneath like pivots. Consequently I do not waver in my view that excellences higher in quality, even if not sustained throughout, should always oh a comparison be voted the first place, because of their sheer elevation of spirit if for no other reason.

The first is a statement of the subject; the other, which although second in order ranks higher in importance, is an indication of the methods by which we may attain our end.

The use of puerility spoils the sublimitu.

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.

Such are the decisions to which we have felt bound to come with regard to the questions proposed; but let every man cherish the view which pleases him best. For the vigour of the amplification at once loses its intensity and its substance when not resting on a firm basis of the loonginus.

So he at once rushes forward and carries his hearer off his feet. Although Plato thus flows on with noiseless stream, he is none the less elevated. For he will often leave in suspense the thought which he has begun to express, and meanwhile he will heap, into a position skblimity alien and unnatural, one thing upon another parenthetically and from any external source whatsoever, throwing his hearer into alarm lest the whole structure of his words should fall to pieces, and compelling him in anxious sympathy to share the peril of the speaker; and then unexpectedly, after a long interval, he adds the long-awaited conclusion at the right place, namely the end, and produces a far greater effect by this very use, so bold and hazardous, of hyperbaton.


After all, it does keep it off. Thus the treatise is clearly centred in the burning controversy which raged in the 1st century AD in Latin literature. There amidst of the forest-glens a beautiful palace we found.

On the Sublime / Longinus

Last updated Wednesday, December 17, at For he has a greater variety of accents than Demosthenes and a greater number of excellences, and like the pentathlete he falls just below the top in every branch.

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.

If he had attempted to write the short speech about Phryne or about Athenogenes, he would have all the more commended Hyperides to our regard. The due formation and use of figures of speech: Accordingly, in the Odyssey Homer may be likened to a sinking sun, whose grandeur remains without its intensity.

Further, with regard to the number of metaphors to be employed, Caecilius seems to assent to the view of those who lay it down that not more than two, or at the most three, should be ranged together in the same passage.

He runs off from the more elevated to the more lowly, whereas he should, on the contrary, have risen higher and higher. They are turbid in expression and confused in imagery rather than the product of intensity, and each one of them, if examined in the light of day, sinks little by little from the longibus into the contemptible. But it is folly to dispute concerning matters which are generally oj, since experience is proof sublikity.

The best means would be, friend, to gain, first of all, longius knowledge and appreciation of the true sublime.

In so doing he gave way to two blind impulses of passion. Power of forming great conceptions: Euripides, Iphigeneia in Taurus The image he has suggested is not terrible but rather loathsome.

It is by this means that in Xenophon the anatomy of the human tabernacle is magnificently depicted, and still more divinely in Plato. The verbal order should be rhythmic and harmonious which helps pull off persuasion and pleasure.