what is the superlative degree of brust
WHEN wrath and terror changed Jove's regal port
And the rash-leaping thunderbolt fell short.
For Art, for Music overthrilled,
The wine-cup shakes, the wine is spilled
THE doctrine of temperance is one of many degrees. It is usually taught on a low platform, but one of great necessity, - that of meats and drinks, and its importance cannot be denied and hardly exaggerated. But it is a long way from the Maine Law to the heights of absolute self-command which respect the conservatism of the entire energies of the body, the mind, and the soul. I wish to point at some of its higher functions as it enters into mind and character.
There is a superlative temperament which has no medium range, but swiftly oscillates from the freezing to the boiling point, and which affects the manners of those who share it with a certain desperation. Their aspect is grimace. They go tearing, convulsed through life, - wailing, praying, ex-claiming, swearing. We talk, sometimes, with people whose conversation would lead you to suppose that they had lived in a museum, where all the objects were monsters and extremes. Their good people are phÃ¯Â¿Â½nixes ; their naughty are like the prophet's figs. They use the superlative of gram-mar : " most perfect," " most exquisite," " most horrible." Like the French, they are enchanted, they are desolate, because you have got or have not got a shoe-string or a wafer you happen to want, - not perceiving that superlatives are diminutives, and weaken ; that the positive is the sinew of speech, the superlative the fat. If the talker lose a tooth, he thinks the universal thaw and dissolution of things has come. Controvert his opinion and he cries "Persecution! " and reckons himself with Saint Barnabas, who was sawn in two.
Especially we note this tendency to extremes in the pleasant excitement of horror-mongers. Is there something so delicious in disasters and pain ? Bad news is always exaggerated, and we may challenge Providence to send a fact so tragical that we cannot contrive to make it a little worse in our gossip.