On the Sublime

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On the Sublime


Human excellence is not realized in reason alone, but in creativity.

Say a prefatory word on the simple, middle, and grand styles.

True sublimity is a matter of all the canons of rhetoric, plus:

DEPTH OF THOUGHT ————->“Ahhh!” (This gets the loud applause)

Veracity (Ring of truth– Dat’s right!)

Profundity (Imagination + genius) penetrates beyond the obvious

Relevance (To human condition and part. audience) pertinence

Transcendence (Beyond the occasion)

Originality (Comes from an active thought life)

EXCELLENCE OF STYLE ———-> “Ooooh!” (This, together with that, gets standing ovations!)

Vivacity (Imagery) as opposed to “tired”!

• Intensity (Rhythm, tempo, force)


Economy (compactness, lean)

Clarity (Like a clean window; natural)

Order (Avoid chaos)

Balance (Measure, modesty?) if it’s overdone …

Perspicuity (Eloquent, articulate)

It is striking.

For example, A striking contrast in ideas:

“They maintain that liberty is freedom “from” but true liberty, the liberty that truly makes one free, is freedom “to.” The former implies autonomy; the latter, responsibility.”

On the other hand, lots of imagery, repetition, alliteration, and so on, without substance is just fluff. It is not sublime.

As far as your speech goes, I’m not expecting you to compose a speech that is sublime from start to finish. That would be really unreasonable. I do, however, hope that you will have a moment or two of brilliance. That is, at one or two spots in your speech people will think, “Wow, that couldn’t have been said any better!” or “That was downright, elegant!”

I think an occasional stroke of genius is quite within your ability, and I’d like to see you try and compose a speech that elicits the kind of audience response described above! You can do it!