Friday, October 19, 2018

Invention and the Oxfordian Sublime

sublimity is the echo of the noble mind

The Oxfordian Sublime: The Mystery of Sublime Courtship


The Sublime and the Bible: Longinus, Protestant Dogmatics, and the “Sublime Style” – Dietmar Till

Longinus’s short treatise, once called a “small golden book” by the famous French philologist Isaac Casaubon, was transmitted only fragmentarily. It had a greater influence on aesthetics than any other theoretical text during the early modern period. Since the first edition of the Greek text (by Francesco Robortello in 1554), the treatise had been understood as a scholarly piece on the grand style, clearly situated within the context of the theory of the rhetorical genera dicendi, the three canons of style. The potential of Peri hypsous to break these norms was not discovered until the end of the 17th century. Nicolas Boileau’s French translation, kpublished I 1674 together with his influential Art Poetique, played a decisive role in the is process. He was among the first to recognize that Longinus’s category of hypsos was not identical to the grand style of the three genera dicendi, which is also mirrored in the title he gave his translation: Traite du sublime (previous editions had always referred to the grand style in their titles).

    While Boileau’s predecessors had most frequently translated the Greek word hypsos wit reference ot the rhetorical genus grande, Boileau used the Latin word sublimitas. This was still a relatively fresh term and not frequently used in Latin rhetorical terminology. In the preface to his translation, Boileau describes the effect of the sublime hypsos as ‘not a style, and by no means identical to what the ancient rhetoricians called the grand style (le stile sublime). The sublime should rather be understood as the extraordinary, the delightful properties of a speech that carry the audience away.’

In his preface Boileau thus carefully distinguishes the rhetorical ‘grand style’ from the sublime (hypsos) in Longinus’s sense. For Boileau, the chief theorist of the French classical period, rhetorical grand style and the sublime were clearly opposed to each other. The grand style, he writes, always aims at the use of ‘great words’, but one could find the hypsos-sublime in one single thought or one single rhetorical figure. It is not a style in terms of a style “level” or style “register”, but rather a momentary effect the appears unexpectedly and surprises the audience. Longinus himself compares hypsos to a lightning that, like the passion of the orator, flashes up suddenly. A matter could be sublime, he continues, with regard to the style in use (the rhetorical norms of the genera dicendi-theory), and still not meet the criteria of the sublime in Longinus’s concept of the hypsos, because it has no extraordinary and surprising effect on the audience.

It is crucial for my argument that Boileau refers to a theological example in his discussion of le sublime. This is surprising for a treatise that is often considered as the origin of a modern, ‘secular’ aesthetics. The example is from the beginning of the Genesis (Gen. 1.1), where the world is created through God’s speech. Boileau sonctrasts two stylistically different accounts of the same Act of Creation to make his point clear and show the difference between the grand style and the sublime: “The Almighty who rules over the earth creates light through one single sentence.” According to Boileau, this phrase is written in grand style, but it is not sublime in the true – i.e. Longinian – sense of the word. Compare the second example: “God said, “Let there be light’: and there was ight. “ According to Boileau, this phrase is truly sublime; it is even divine. The extraordinary, the wonderful, the striking spark is fully achieved in this phrase.

Boileau, of course, odes not invent here a new example of le sublime. He quotes this passage from the Bible, but at the same time he is also citing and example Longinus himself uses in Peri hypsous, the fiat lux. Longinus – a pagan author – thus quotes the Bible in Peri hypsous. This is unusual at least (if not unique) and of course this quotation alone makes Longinus an interesting case. When he discusses his five categories of the sublime, Longinus classifies the ‘fiat lux’ as a type of the sublime that originates from the sublimity of thoughts. The ability to have ‘sublime thoughts’ depends solely on the physis (Latin:natura) of the orator, thus on his natural disposition and not on the mastery of the rhetorical techne (Latin: ars) – like rhetorical figures, tropes or the effective composition, which are Longinus’s three techne-based types of the sublime.


Shakespeare ‘wanted art’  - Jonson
Shakespeare as ‘Nature’s Child’


Sending up the Oxfordian Sublime – Pillorying 'Megalophues' Amorphus/Oxford:

Cynthia’s Revels, Ben Jonson

Amorphus. That's good, but how Pythagorical?
Phi. I, Amorphus. Why Pythagorical Breeches?

Amor. O most kindly of all, 'tis a conceit of that FORTUNE,

I am bold to hug my Brain for.

Pha. How is't, exquisite Amorphus?

Amor. O, I am rapt with it, 'tis so fit, so proper,
so happy. --

Phi. Nay do not rack us thus?

Amor. I never truly relisht my self before. Give me
your Ears. Breeches Pythagorical, by reason of their trans-
migration into several shapes.

Mor. Most rare, in sweet troth.


Pseudo-Longinus, Peri Hypsous and visual imagery

Pseudo-Longinus’s Peri Hypsous was first published in 1554 in Basel, Switzerland, shortly followed by another edition in VENICE. Over the next two hundred years around thirty further editions appeared in various languages across Europe.6 Intended essentially as a handbook on the rousing power of rhetoric, the treatise’s popularity demonstrates its sustained influence on early modern western culture. Its precise impact on the visual arts, or even on rhetoric, in Britain is not easily determined. Yet this period of interest in Peri Hypsous coincided with a time when effect and affect, as well as an intense identification with the spectator, were considered to be especially important and when both Church and state were attracted to powerful persuasive rhetorical systems. The emphasis of a ‘Longinian sublime’ on composition and effect, in order to excite, elevate and persuade an audience, has strong trans-disciplinary ramifications.
In Peri Hypsous Pseudo-Longinus described what he felt to be the best way of conveying a message to create the most heightened effect in the receiver (the audience or reader). He argued that the orator should maintain such a connection with the audience as to make them think that they had thought of the speaker’s idea themselves, or, in terms of classical rhetoric, could see what the orator described within their mind’s eye. The aim, reiterated throughout, was not merely to persuade but to move the receiver, to raise passions and to inspire. The attempt to identify with one’s audience and to maximise the potential for effect (and, indeed, affect) was to be achieved through various means, including composition, subject matter and capturing the imagination. To reach the highest form of rhetoric was Pseudo-Longinus’s goal but, paradoxically, perfection was far from vital and frequently rejected in the pursuit. He made no specific link between the sublime and terror (although terrible ideas could be sublime) and, similarly, no contrast was made between the sublime and the beautiful. If there happened to be a single quality that led to the sublime, it was not its form per se, but rather its impact on the receiver. As the critic and poet Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux wrote: ‘The sublime is not strictly speaking something which is proven or demonstrated, but a marvel, which seizes one, strikes one, and makes one feel.’ Far from perfect proportion being a prerequisite or even an ambition of the sublime, the sublime was to be found rather in the effects of such perfect harmony, and in this it reached beyond formal boundaries.

In the Mind's Eye I Shall Be Seen


Peri Hypsous in Translation: The Sublime in Sixteenth-Century Epic Theory
Kelly Lehtonen

Peri Hypsous made its way into Italy in manuscript form in the mid fifteenth century and was first published in 1554 by Francesco Robortello, followed by the Greek editions of Paolo Manuzio (1555) and Francesco Porto (1570), Latin translations by Domenico Pizzimenti (1566) and Pietro Pagano (1572), and an Italian translation by Giovanni Niccolo da Falgano (1575).
Although it may be true that many sixteenth-century theorists misinterpreted or oversimplified Longinus, I suggest that, at closer look, the early editions and translations of Peri Hypsous indicate that Renaissance scholars did engage deeply with the treatise *and its ideas about the sublime as a concept*, revealing a focus on the ontological and noetic sources of sublimity. While modern scholars note that early editions translate the title of Peri Hypsous with the adjective “sublimes” rather than the noun “sublimitas,” suggesting a reduction of the sublime to a category of style, these titles do not tell the whole story. For instance, in the body of his translation, da Falgano translates “hypsos” as “un concetto alto et pieno di vanto” (a lofty concept and full of significance), explicitly classifying the sublime as an abstract noun, rather than a stylistic quality. And Pizzimenti introduces his translation by noting of Longinus: ‘Nam multa non tantum ex grammaticae rivulis, (…)” (For we see that much has been drunk not only from rivulets of grammar, but also from the fountains of philosophy themselves). Thus, Pizzimenti suggests that Longinus was just as interested in ontological principles as he was in rhetorical concerns of language and style.
Across the early editions of Peri Hypsous, scholars reveal their interest in a “natural” sublime, particularly in their comments on and translations of Longinus’s discussion of the psychological makeup of the author. In an outline of the five sources of sublimity in section 8.1., Longinus privileges the first two – noesis/megalophues (power of great thoughts/greatness of soul, used interchangeably) and vehement emotion – as “natural” and primary, while subordinating the last three sources – diction, arrangement, and figures – as learned and secondary. He elaborates on this passage in section 9.1, writing that noesis/megalophues plays a greater role than any of the other sources:
Now, since the first – megalophues, I mean – plays a greater part than all the others, here too, even if it is rather a gift than an acquired quality, we should still do our utmost to train our minds into sympathy with what is noble and, as it were, impregnate them again and again with lofty thoughts).
In his edition, Robortello provides a marginal gloss loosely translating this key statement, calling attention to the importance of the author’s psychological condition:
(Since noesis holds the primary position in the classification, he reminds us how much more megalophues may be conferred by nature than by art: habituating the mind, so that it may conceive great things.
Robortello’s comments are somewhat sparing, and his decision to include such a substantial one shows his understanding that the sublime is first and foremost a feature of great concepts and thoughts (noesis/megalophues) stemming naturally from the author’s mind. While Longinus and Robortello both acknowledge the role of training, of active participation on the part of the poet, each stresses that such training is conceptual rather than technical: acclimatizing the mind to think lofty thoughts.
Pizzimenti and Pagano also follow Longinus’s focus on the mental condition of the author in their translations and occasional marginalia. In particular, for one of Longinus’s most central phrases, (sublimity is the echo of the noble mind), Pizzienti offers the marginal comment: “(sublimity in speech emanates from greatness of soul. Notably, Pizzimenti preserves the Greek “hypsos” in noun form, representing “sublimity” as a substance, while “in oratione” only incidentally modifies its subject. Moreover, given the infrequency of Pizzimenti’s marginalia, the fact that he comments on this key passage in the first place is significant, showing his understanding of the natural/noetic origin of sublimity. Pagano, for his part, amplifies his translation of the same Greek passage as follows: “(Greatness/sublimity lies in the outermost condition of the mind, and the nobility of the soul, and profundity of thought). Significantly expanding the original, Pagano triply emphasizes the elevated psychological and spiritual state to which Longinus refers. Importantly, with the phrase (greatness lies in the outermost condition…), Pagano suggests that the sublime is something at the very limits of human capacity and understanding. Thus he captures the key idea, noted elsewhere in Peri Hypsous, of the sublime being at the mind’s outermost borders and on the spectrum of the divine, which Longinus implies in his enigmatic expression (…) [the interval between earth and heaven]. Pagano, like Pizzimenti, understands sublimity here as an ontology, as a mysterious force channelled through the mind of the author.
(continues with description of ‘display of vehement emotion’)
…De Falgano’s Italian translation also expands on the original, claiming the second cause of sublimity to be (an emotional force as violent as one coming from DIVINE FUROR and apt to inspire [or inflame] others). Like Pagano, da Falgano emphasizes the violent potential of the sublime. And in translating the phrase to note that emotion will inspire or inflame others, he suggests that the sublime is a dynamic, animate, and unstable force, transferring inevitably from the author to the reader as well.
This leads to a final observation about the role of early modern translations: in perceiving that the sublime overwhelms readers, the translators recognize that Longinus revises the Aristotelian and Horatian telos of literature. As Longinus writes, the sublime (does not only persuade the audience, but enslaves). Both Pagano and da Falgano offer relatively faithful translations of this passage, Pagano writing that the sublime 9reduces to servitude), and da Falgano that it (makes one a slave); however, Pizzimenti takes liberties: the sublime “non solum auditorum…(not only has persuaded the audience, but truly emancipates them from themselves).  On a literal level, Pizzimenti’s translation amounts to the exact opposite of te original Greek, but in another sense, it is the most faithful to the spirit of Longinus. For Pizzimenti speaks to Longinus’s key idea that the sublime creates EKSTASIN, or TRANSPORT [see Cheney Amorphus/figure of transport], IN THE READER, WHO IS IN ONE SENSE A SLAVE (TO THE SUBLIME), AND IN ANOTHER SENSE, FREE, FROM THE LIMITS OF HUMAN NATURE.                 With this unusual translation, Pizzimenti represents the radical and transcendent character of the sublime as not simply instructing, persuading, or moving, but rapturing unresisting readers. 
...Tasso, in his representation of meraviglia, celebrates the epic poet’s “altezza d’ingegno,” a nobility of mind indicative of a poet’s divine vocation.


To My Beloved Master – hyperbolic, rapturous encomium – Volume’s ‘light’. Wormwood Jonson as the Horatian 'lying slave'.

Divine Furor/Horace's Mad Poet:

Tom O'Bedlam

Of thirty bare years have I
Twice twenty been enragèd,
And of forty been three times fifteen
In durance soundly cagèd
On the lordly lofts of Bedlam,
With stubble soft and dainty,
Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips ding-dong,
With wholesome hunger plenty,
And now I sing, Any food, any feeding,
Feeding, drink, or clothing;
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.


Following from: Courtly Performances Masking and Festivity in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier ,Wayne A. Rebhorn

When the courtier's audience claps enthusiastically in response to his performance and rewards him with the grace of its praise, Castiglione defines its characteristic reaction with a most important term: maraviglia. For instance, Ludovico da Canossa urges the courtier to use sprezzatura to hide the effort involved in difficult or unusual feats: "Because everyone knows the difficulty involved in matters that are rare and well done, whence facility in them generates great marvel". Later, in Book II, Frederico Fregosa sums up his own advice to the ideal courtier, again focusing on maraviglia as the response he should seek in his audience: <>

These key passages leave no doubt that marvel or wonder is the basic response the courtier seeks to arouse in everyone about him and that it is essential for his social success.

Tasso, in his representation of meraviglia, celebrates the epic poet’s “altezza d’ingegno,” a nobility of mind indicative of a poet’s divine vocation. –  Kelly Lehtonen

Vico, metaphor, and the origin of language
 By Marcel Danesi
...The ingegno - "ingenuity," "invention" - emerged as the faculty the conscious mind required for organizing the meaning-making units produced by the fantasia into new units and structures. Whereas the fantasia is an epiphenomenal product of brain activity, the ingegno is a derivative of the fantasia - a kind of "epi-epiphenomenal activity. It is thus not connected directly to bodily processes, operating totally within mental space as it concatenates meaningful units to form context-free models of world events. Primordial "meaning" was a product of the ingegno as it sought to impose pattern onto the units that the fantasia had stored into memory. The ingegno is, therefore, the source of syntax in language and of narrative structure in verbal discours. It generated the earliest myths that humanity literally invented. Laws, scientific theories, fictional narrations, etc., are all traceable to the ability of the ingegno "to beget" - the word ingegno derives etymologically from Latin in "in" + gignere "to beget." (p.51)



A phrase selected by Puttenham as an example of an 'intollerable vice' in writing had been associated with the Earl of Oxford. This phrase was subsequently spoken by the affected courtier Amorphus in Jonson's _Cynthia's Revels_. Curiously, the phrase does not appear in full in the 1601 Quarto (while Oxford was alive) - but does appear in the 1616 and 1640 editions of Jonson's 'Works'.

Jonson, _Cynthia's Revels_. 

AMORPHUS. And there's her minion, Crites: why his advice more than

Amorphus? Have I not invention afore him? Learning to better


Southern, Pandora (1584)

To the right honourable the Earl of Oxenford etc.
No, no, the high singer is he
Alone that in the end must be
Made proud with a garland like this,
And not every riming novice
That writes with small wit and much pain,
And the (God’s know) idiot in vain,
For it’s not the way to Parnasse,
Nor it will neither come to pass
If it be not in some wise fiction
And of an ingenious INVENTION,
For it alone must win the laurel,
And only the poet WELL BORN
Must be he that goes to Parnassus,
And not these companies of asses
That have brought verse almost to scorn.


Ulysses-Politropus-Amorphus - Cynthia's Revels
(Revels - drawing humours from the body)


In Dante's Wake - John Freccero
Epitaph for Guido

...The first words of Cavalcante's interruption, referring to a descent to the underworld by "altezza d'ingegno," identify both Guido [Cavalcante] and Dante as philosophers and poets. The sentence has often been misread, as tough Cavalcante were simply an achievement-oriented parent, complaining that his son is not being equally honored with the prize of a free trip to Hell. In Dante's day, "ingegno" (Latin ingenium) [invention] meant 'natural endowment,' usually contrasted with "arte," meaning the mastery of a discipline. It is a faculty, not an achievement, *as is obvious when Dante recalls the punishment of Ulysses and vows to rein in his "ingegno," lest it run unguided by virtue.* Winthrop Wetherbee has shown that ingenium was often associated with the faculty of the imagination, particularly of poets, but it admitted of all degrees. Apuleius's summary of Plato states that ingenium is a faculty "neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but readily tending in either direction." "Altezza" is comparative, meaning "high," the "ingegon" of a poet or a sage, rather than the "ingenium infimum" of a sensualist...(p.60)


Sublimation of Billy Budd/Sacrifice/Book/Heir/Foundling - Melville, Billy Budd, ch.25

At sea in the old time, the execution by halter of a military sailor was generally from the fore-yard. In the present instance, for special reasons the main-yard was assigned. Under an arm of that lee-yard the prisoner was presently brought up, the Chaplain attending him. It was noted at the time and remarked upon afterwards, that in this final scene the good man evinced little or nothing of the perfunctory. Brief speech indeed he had with the condemned one, but the genuine Gospel was less on his tongue than in his aspect and manner towards him. The final preparations personal to the latter being speedily brought to an end by two boatswain's mates, the consummation impended. Billy stood facing aft. At the penultimate moment, his words, his only ones, words wholly unobstructed in the utterance were these--"God bless Captain Vere!" Syllables so unanticipated coming from one with the ignominious hemp about his neck-- a conventional felon's benediction directed aft towards the quarters of honor; syllables too delivered in the clear melody of a singing-bird on the point of launching from the twig, had a phenomenal effect, not unenhanced by the rare personal beauty of the young sailor spiritualized now thro' late experiences so poignantly profound.
Without volition as it were, as if indeed the ship's populace were but the vehicles of some vocal current electric, with one voice from alow and aloft came a resonant sympathetic echo--"God bless Captain Vere!" And yet at that instant Billy alone must have been in their hearts, even as he was in their eyes.
At the pronounced words and the spontaneous echo that voluminously rebounded them, Captain Vere, either thro' stoic self-control or a sort of momentary paralysis induced by emotional shock, stood erectly rigid as a musket in the ship-armorer's rack.
The hull deliberately recovering from the periodic roll to leeward was just regaining an even keel, when the last signal, a preconcerted dumb one, was given. At the same moment it chanced that the vapory fleece hanging low in the East, was shot thro' with a soft glory as of the fleece of the Lamb of God seen in mystical vision, and simultaneously therewith, watched by the wedged mass of upturned faces, Billy ascended; and, ascending, took the full rose of the dawn.
In the pinioned figure, arrived at the yard-end, to the wonder of all no motion was apparent, none save that created by the ship's motion, in moderate weather so majestic in a great ship ponderously cannoned. 


Translations of the Sublime: The Early Modern Reception and Dissemination of ...
edited by Caroline A. van Eck, Caroline Van Eck, Stijn Bussels, Maarten Delbeke, Jürgen Pieters

It is noticeable that the term hypsos does not have an important position in ancient rhetorical terminology. As Donald Russell writes in his seminal commentary on Peri hypsous, the term hypsos does not appear before the second half of the first century BC; it was not used widely among rhetoricians. The important metaphor of elevation – the soul is uplifted by the sublime – is untypical in (roman) rhetoric, as Josef-Hans Kuhn points out in his study on ‘Hypsos.[...]. Normally, bodily metaphors are used within rhetorical handbook to describe styles. The Greek word hadros for example – the genus grande in Latin rhetorical terminology – means “juicy”, “fat” or “strong”. (p.58)


 Sublime Melville

Chapter 26 - Melville, Billy Budd
When some days afterward in reference to the singularity just mentioned, the Purser, a rather ruddy rotund person more accurate as an accountant than profound as a philosopher, said at mess to the Surgeon, "What testimony to the force lodged in will-power," the latter--saturnine, spare and tall, one in whom a discreet causticity went along with a manner less genial than polite, replied, "Your pardon, Mr. Purser. In a hanging scientifically conducted--and under special orders I myself directed how Budd's was to be effected--any movement following the completed suspension and originating in the body suspended, such movement indicates mechanical spasm in the muscular system. Hence the absence of that is no more attributable to will-power as you call it than to horse-power--begging your pardon."
"But this muscular spasm you speak of, is not that in a degree more or less invariable in these cases?"
"Assuredly so, Mr. Purser."
"How then, my good sir, do you account for its absence in this instance?"
"Mr. Purser, it is clear that your sense of the singularity in this matter equals not mine. You account for it by what you call will-power, a term not yet included in the lexicon of science. For me I do not, with my present knowledge, pretend to account for it at all. Even should we assume the hypothesis that at the first touch of the halyards the action of Budd's heart, intensified by extraordinary emotion at its climax, abruptly stopt--much like a watch when in carelessly winding it up you strain at the finish, thus snapping the chain--even under that hypothesis, how account for the phenomenon that followed?"
"You admit then that the absence of spasmodic movement was phenomenal."
"It was phenomenal, Mr. Purser, in the sense that it was an appearance the cause of which is not immediately to be assigned."
"But tell me, my dear Sir," pertinaciously continued the other, "was the man's death effected by the halter, or was it a species of euthanasia?"
"Euthanasia, Mr. Purser, is something like your will-power: I doubt its authenticity as a scientific term-- begging your pardon again. It is at once imaginative and metaphysical,--in short, Greek. But," abruptly changing his tone, "there is a case in the sick-bay that I do not care to leave to my assistants. Beg your pardon, but excuse me." And rising from the mess he formally withdrew.


 Attici amoris ergo.
Hilliard Miniature, possibly Oxford


Sublimation of the Earl of Oxford:


Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos'd, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix' nest,
And the Turtle's loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
'Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem but cannot be;
Beauty brag but 'tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.


 Eulogizing the Sublime Courtier - 'Shake-speare' Rises from the ashes of Elizabeth's 'Turtle':

The following poem by John Marston is printed so that it faces (and appears to address) the Threnos in 'Love's Martyr':

 A narration and description of a most exact WONDROUS CREATURE, ARISING out of the Phoenix and Turtle Doues ashes.

O Twas a mouing Epicedium!
Can Fire? can Time? can blackest Fate consume
So rare creation? No; tis thwart to sence,
Corruption quakes to touch such excellence,
Nature exclaimes for Iustice, Iustice Fate,
Ought into nought can neuer remigrate.
Then looke; for see what glorious issue brighter
Then clearest fire, and beyond faith farre whiter
Then Dians tier) now springs from yonder flame?
Let me stand numb'd with WONDER, neuer came
So strong amazement on ASTONISH’D eie
As this, this measurelesse pure RARITIE.
Lo now; th'xtracture of deuinest ESSENCE,
The Soule of heauens labour'd Quintessence,
(Peans to Phoebus) from deare Louer's death,
Takes sweete creation and all blessing breath.
What STRANGENESS is't that from the Turtles ashes
Assumes such forme?
(whose SPLENDOR clearer flashes,
Then mounted Delius) tell me genuine Muse.
Now yeeld your aides, you spirites that infuse
A SACRED RAPTURE, light my weaker eie:
Raise my inuention on swift Phantasie,
That whilft of this same Metaphisicall
God, Man, nor Woman, but elix'd of all
My labouring thoughts, with strained ardor sing,
My Muse may mount with an vncommon wing. 


Of Mere Being
By Wallace Stevens

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.