Art, Awe, and Poetry in Translation
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
There’s now a burgeoning science around awe, and its awakening of what researchers call “the small self.” Directing your attention to things greater than yourself produces measurable effects on the body and mind. As everyday preoccupations subside, you become more attuned to the world and to others. I didn’t know the concept has such deep cultural roots.
Tempted to tell the John Wayne story about awe again.
The word sublime caught my eye in the title because just today I heard about it at a conference. Not that I had never heard it pronounced, but the speaker's meaning of it was interesting. As is well known, it comes from the Latin 'sub limen', meaning 'below the [highest] threshold'. According to this person, this definition also indicates a dimension, a distance. So the sublime is the very powerful feeling we get when we are faced with something, but being at a safe distance from it. We are safe but also shocked - positively or negatively. Interesting.
Sublimity is a very fascinating and entrancing concept. Edmund Burke was certainly one of its greatest theorists. "No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear" (Burke, 1757).