never lighted on this orb

duydoan

Member
Vietnamese
Hi everyone,

I'm just come across these sentences when reading about Edmund Burke:
It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in,—glittering like the morning-star, full of life, and splendour, and joy.
As we can see, these sentences are quoted from Burke's famous work 'Reflections on the French Revolution', in a paragraph describing his feeling toward Marie Antoinette. The problem here is that I'm quite confused by the phrase "lighted on this orb": what does the word "orb" refer to? Does it mean "the eye" in its literary usage?
 
  • Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    It could mean the earth, "which she hardly seemed to touch". The following statement that he saw her "just above the horizon" would support that.
     

    duydoan

    Member
    Vietnamese
    It could mean the earth, "which she hardly seemed to touch". The following statement that he saw her "just above the horizon" would support that.
    Oh yes, you may be so right, thanks for your suggestion. I've also found an commentary on the Burke's style of wording in this paragraph:

    With a delicate pun that conflates earth and eye, Burke avers, “surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision” (8:126). Word for word, this image is a reversal of the horror felt by Cheselden’s boy at the sight of the African woman. Continuing with the rich ambiguity of the phrase “Oh what a revolution!”, Burke suggests sidereal, political and ocular motion at all once. The queen’s rise and fall is registered on his eye, on the earth, and in the political sphere, as a tragic event. For the older Burke, the sublime has destroyed the beautiful.
    - Srinivas Aravamudan, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804
     
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