LONGINUS: SOURCES OF SUBLIMITY
|Dr. Hareshwar Roy|
WHAT IS SUBLIMITY: Sublimity is a certain loftiness, distinction and consummation of excellence in language, expression and composition. It is the echo of a great soul. It raises style above the ordinary. Some persons are of the view that sublimity is a gift of nature. They think that it has nothing to do with art. But one should not forget that nature needs the help of art to control its wild impulses. In fact, both nature and art contribute to sublimity in literature. According to Longinus, 'Art is perfect when it seems to be nature, and nature hits the mark when she contains art hidden within her'.
THE SOURCES OF THE SUBLIME: According to Longinus there are five principal sources of the sublime. These sources are -
 Grandeur of thought;
 Strong emotion;
 The use of figures;
 Noble diction;
 Dignified composition.
The 'grandeur of thought' and 'strong emotion' is inborn gifts of nature. The rest three sources are the gifts of art.
 GRANDEUR OF THOUGHT: 'Grandeur of thought' is one of the principal sources of the sublime. It is largely the gift of nature. It is essential for a sublime work. Men with mean and servile ideas can't attain sublimity. In fact, great thoughts spring from great souls. In short, it is the echo of a great soul. In the words of Longinus 'their words are full of sublimity whose thoughts are full of majesty'. Sublimity demands skilful selection and organisation of material. Details should be so chosen as to form an organic whole. The imitation is also one of the significant paths, which lead to sublimity.
 STRONG EMOTION: Strong and inspired passion is the second significant source of the sublime. The vigorous treatment of it is essential for acquiring sublimity. Strong emotion is an inborn gift of a genius. According to Longinus nothing makes so much for grandeur as true emotion in the right place. But the subject of emotion has not been dealt with in detail.
 THE USE OF FIGURES: The use of figures is the third principal source of the sublime. It can be acquired by art. It helps in the creation of the sublime. Figures of speech should be used in a natural manner. They should be employed in the right place, on the right occasion, in the right manner and with a right motive. Only such use strengthens the sublime and the sublime supports it. The chief figures like the rhetorical questions; adjuration, asyndeton, hyperbaton, periphrasis, anaphora, diatyposis and polyptota contribute much to the sublime and add greatly to the beauty of language.
 NOBLE DICTION: It is also a very important source of the sublime. It includes choice of proper words and the use of metaphors and ornamental language. The choice of proper and striking words is essential for producing sublimity. Longinus is of the view that beautiful words are the very light of lofty thought. Trivial subjects should not be treated in a grand manner. It means that inappropriate magnificence of diction should be avoided. The use of metaphors also contributes a great deal to the sublime.
 DIGNIFIED COMPOSION: Dignified composition or the harmonious arrangement of words is the fifth source of the sublime. It is a great source of persuasion as well as pleasure. It makes the reader or hearer share the emotion of the speaker. It is the sense of harmony that gives charm and organic unity to a word of art. The lack of harmony spoils dignity and elevation and gives the composition an appearance of meanness.
CONCLUSION: Thus Longinus is one of the greatest masters of criticism. He is the pioneer in the field of literary appreciations. His 'On the sublime' is the first and a unique treaty on style. His prescriptions for sublimity are universal.