The Seasons expresses a dynamic, Newtonian version of Longinus's sublime, that ancient rhetorical concept largely neglected, though generally known, in England throughout the seventeenth century and popularized by Boileau's translation (1674) and the critical writings of Joseph Addison. Addison formulated, in effect, "the first explicit statement" of a "natural sublime," which is based on the experience of unlimited greatness, of spatial extension, in external nature. Through Addison's efforts, an aesthetics of sublimity, which had previously been considered only as a rhetorical idea, developed with the emphasis on the visual pleasures of the imagination. It emerged in Addison's hands, to quote Samuel Holt Monk, "definitely related to nature, to mass, and to space." A leading exponent of the "natural sublime" is James Thomson, whose The Seasons (1726-46), which sets the seasonal round within Newton's gravity-bound, infinitely expanded model of nature, has been called the most enduring Newtonian poem of the period. Addison's formulations on the sublime may help to clarify Thomson's own theory and practice.



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