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size than the second, and so of the rest; which diminisbeth in appearance the size of every object except the first: but when, beginning at the greatest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as great as the first, and the third as great as the second; which in appearance magnifies every object except the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by large differences, where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite : a great object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears greater than usual; and a little object succeeding one that is great, appears less than usual.* Hence a remarkable pleasure in viewing a series ascending by large differences; directly opposite to what we feel when the differences are small. The least object of a series ascending by large differences has the same effect upon the miod, as if it stood single with out making a part of the series : but the second object, by means of contrast, appears greater than when viewed singly and apart; and the same effect is perceived in ascending progressively, till we arrive at the last object. The opposite effect is produced in descending; for in this direction, every object, except the first, appears less than when viewed separately and independent of the series. We may then assume as a maxim, which will hold in the composition of language as well as of other subjects, That a strong impulse succeeding a weak, makes double impression on the mind; and that a weak impulse succeeding a strong, makes scarce any impression.
After establishing this maxim, we can be at no Joss about its application to the subject in hand. The following rule is laid down by Diomedes.t
* See the reason, Chapter VIII. † De structura perfectæ orationis, 1. 2.
« In verbis observandum est, ne a majoribus ad
Habet honorem quem petimus,
collectam. Again :
Eripite nos ex miseriis,
De Oratore. l. i. sect. 52. This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, as far as concerns the pleasure of sound, be denominated a climax in sound.
The last article is the music of periods as united in a discourse; which shall be despatched in a very few words. By no other human means is it possis ble to present to the mind, such a number of objects and in so swift a succession, as by speaking or writing; and for that reason, variety ought more to be studied in these, than in any other sort of composition. Hence a rule for arranging the mem
See Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, sect. 18.
18. bers of different periods with relation to each other, That to avoid a tedious uniformity of sound and cadence, the arrangement, the cadence, and the length of the members, ought to be diversified as much as possible: and if the members of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the periods themselves will be equally so.
Beauty of Language with respect to Signification.
It is well said by a noted writer, * “ That by 66 means of speech we can divert our sorrows, min
gle our mirth, impart our secrets, communicate 66 our counsels, and make mutual compacts and
agreements to supply and assist each other." Considering speech as contributing to so many good purposes, words that convey clear and distinct ideas, must be one of its capital beauties. This cause of beauty, is too extensive to be bandled as a branch of any other subject : for to ascertain with accuracy even the proper meaning of words, not to talk of their figurative power, would require a large volume ; an useful work indeed, but not to be attempted without a large stock of time, study, and reflection. This branch, therefore, of the subject 1 humbly decline. Nor do I propose to exhaust all the other beauties of language that relate to signification: the reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly expect more than a slight sketch of those that make the greatest figure. This task is the more to my taste, as being connected with certain natural principles; and the rules I shall bave occasion to lay down, will, if I judge rightly, be agreeable illustrations of these principles. Every
• Scot's Christian Life.
subject mast be of importance that tends to unfold the human heart; for what other science is of greater use to human beiogs ?
The present subject is too extensive to be discussed without dividing it into parts ; and what follows suggests a division into two parts. In every period, two things are to be regarded : first, the words of which it is composed; next, the arrangement of these words; the former resembling the stones that compose a building, and the latter resembling the order in which they are placed. Hence the beauties of language with respect to signification, may not improperly be distinguished into two kinds : first, the beauties that arise from a right choice of words or materials for constructing the period; and next, the beauties that arise from a due arrangement of these words or materials. I begio with rules that direct us to a right choice of words, and then proceed to rules that concern their arrangement.
And with respect to the former, communication of thought being the chief end of language, it is a rule, That perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever: if it should be doubted whether perspicuity be a positive beauty, it cannot be doubted that the want of it is the greatest defect. Nothing therefore in language ought more to be studied, that to prevent all obscurity in the expression; for to have no meaning, is but one de gree worse, than to have a meaning that is not un derstood. Want of perspicuity from a wrong ar: rangement, belongs to the next branch. I shall bere give a few examples where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of words; and as this defect is too common in the ordinary berd of writers to make examples from them necessary, ,
myself to the most celebrated authors.
Livy, speaking of a rout after a battle,
Multique in ruina majore quàm fuga oppressi obtruncatique.
L. iv. sect. 46. This author is frequently obscure, by expressing but part of his thought, leaving it to be completed by his reader. His description of the sea-fight, 1. xxvii. cap. 30. is extremely perplexed.
Unde tibi reditum certo subtemine Parcæ
Horace, chod. xii. 22.
Ludo, fatigatumque somno,
Horace, Carm. l. iii. ode 4. Puræ rivus aquæ, silvaque jugerum Paucorum, et segetis certa fides meæ, Fulgentum imperio fertilis Africæ Fallit sorte beatior.
Horace, Carm. I. iii, ode 1€. Cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinum Discernunt avidi.
Horace, Carm. l. i. ode 18. Ac spem fronte serenat.
Æneid, iv. 477. I am in greater pain about the foregoing passages, than about
I have ventured to criticise, being aware that a vague or obscure expression, is apt to gain favour with those who neglect to examine it with a critical eye. To some it carries the sepse that they relish the most; and by suggesting various meanings at once, it is admired by others as concise and comprehensive : which by the way fairly accounts for the opinion generally entertain. ed with respect to most languages in their infant state, of expressing much in few words. This ob. servation may be illustrated by a passage from