Sunday, December 2, 2007


Definition from A Glossary of Literary Terms

1. the mind is checked by its inadequacy to comprehend as a toatlity the boundlessness or seeming infinity of natural magnitudes

2. the mind is checked by its helplessness before the seeming irresistibility of natural powers.

or as Burke believes: "a great and awful sensation in the mind"


"I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy,
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencings,
Holding an unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around;"

- Percy Shelley's "Mont Blanc" lines 35-40

Percy Shelley's "Mont Blanc" reflects sublime in its description of a wild mountain untainted by the hands of man. This poem definately reflects the "boundlessness or seeming [infinite]" nature that exists around the perceiver and how this perceiver's mind may feel "helpless" or "awed" by the Ravine of Arve.

The Ravine of Arve is sublime because it reflects a powerfully "awful" scene of nature that may scare the perceiver. Rather than leaving the perceiver feeling breathless, it evokes choking emotions such as fear or intimidation. What makes the Ravine of Arve sublime is Shelley's belief that we can look and learn from nature and realize that nature may bring life, but it also brings destruction. We must accept this cycle as it is.

However, William Wordsworth also includes sublime in his work "Tintern Abbey."

"...Nor less, I trust,
to them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery..."

-- lines 35-38

Unlike Shelley, Wordsworth usage of sublime refers to the aesthetic beauty of nature. We may achieve sublime (like Shelley) if we have elevated thoughts. Thus, Tintern Abbey briefly mentions sublime in its context, but this conversation poem believes that the perceiver can recognize nature and understand its aesthethic beauty, but must take a final step and learn to achieve elevated thoughts. These elevated thoughts and/or insights are the last steps that the perceiver must take in order to appreciate nature as a whole.

Cristina Khou, 1G

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