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ARRANGEMENT OF PREDICATE AND SUBJECT.
pressive nature with which it has been habitually connected; the imagination is prepared to clothe with high attributes whatever follows; and when the words, “Diana of the Ephesians,” are heard, all the appropriate imagery which can, on the instant, be summoned, is used in the formation of the picture: the mind being thus led directly, and with. out error, to the intended impression. When, on the contrary, the reverse order is followed, the idea, “Diana of the Ephesians,” is conceived with no special reference to greatness; and when the words, “is great,” are added, the conception has to be remodelled: whence arises a loss of mental energy, and a corresponding diminution of effect. The following verse from Coleridge's “Ancient Mariner," though somewhat irregular in structure, well illustrates the same truth:
“ Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Of course the principle equally applies when the predicate is a verb or a participle. And as effect is gained by placing first all words indicating the quality, conduct, or condition of the subject, it follows that the copula also should have precedence. It is true, that the general habit of our language resists this arrangement of predicate, copula, and subject; but we may readily find instances of the additional force gained by conforming to it. Thus in the line from “ Julius Cæsar".
“ Then burst this mighty heart,"
priority is given to a word embodying both predicate and copula. In a passage contained in “ The Battle of Flodden Field,” the like order is systematically employed with great effect:
6 The Border slogan rent the sky!
A Home! a Gordon ! was the cry;
The pennon sunk and rose;
It wavered 'mid the foes."
Pursuing the principle yet further, it is obvious that for producing the greatest effect, not only should the main divisions of a sentence observe this sequence, but the subdivisions of these should be similarly arranged. In nearly all cases, the predicate is accompanied by some limit or qualification called its complement. Commonly, also, the circumstances of the subject, which form its complement, have to be specified. And as these qualifications and circumstances must determine the mode in which the acts and things they belong to are conceived, precedence should be given to them. Lord Kaimes notices the fact that this order is preferable; though without giving the reason. He says:“When a circumstance is placed at the beginning of the period, or near the beginning, the transition from it to the principal subject is agreeable: is like ascending or going upward.” A sentence arranged in illustration of this will be desirable. Here is one :
-Whatever it may be in theory, it is clear that in practice the French idea of liberty is—the right of every man to be master of the rest.
In this case, were the first two clauses, up to the word “practices inclusive, which qualify the subject, to be placed at the end instead of the beginning, much of the force would be lost; as thus :
- The French idea of liberty is—the right of every man to be master of the rest; in practice at least, if not in theory.
ORDER OF THE PARTS OF SENTENCES.
Similarly with respect to the conditions under which any fact is predicated. Observe in the following example the effect of putting them last :
How immense would be the stimulus to progress, were the honour now given to wealth and title given exclusively to high achievements and intrinsic worth!
And then observe the superior effect of putting them first:
-Were the honour now given to wealth and title given exclusively to high achievements and intrinsic worth, how immense would be the stimulus to progress !
The effect of giving priority to the complement of the predicate, as well as the predicate itself, is finely displayed in the opening of “Hyperion":
“ Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Sat gray-haired Saturn, quiet as a stone." Here it will be observed, not only that the predicate sat” precedes the subject “ Saturn,” and that the three lines in italics, constituting the complement of the predicate, come before it; but that in the structure of that complement also, the same order is followed: each line being so arranged that the qualifying words are placed before the words suggesting concrete images.
The right succession of the principal and subordinate propositions in a sentence manifestly depends on the same law. Regard for economy of the recipient's attention, which, as we find, determines the best order for the subject, copula, predicate, and their complements, dictates that the subordinate proposition shall precede the principal one, when the sentence includes two. Containing, as the subordinate proposition does, some qualifying or explanatory idea, its priority prevents misconception of the
principal one; and therefore saves the mental effort needed to correct such misconception. This will be seen in the annexed example.
- The secresy once maintained in respect to the parliamentary debates, is still thought needful in diplomacy; and in virtue of this secret diplomacy, England may any day be unawares betrayed by its ministers into a war costing a hundred thousand lives, and hundreds of millions of treasure: yet the English pique themselves on being a self-governed people.
The two subordinate propositions, ending with the semicolon and colon respectively, almost wholly determine the meaning of the principal proposition with which it concludes; and the effect would be lost were they placed last instead of first.
The general principle of right arrangement in sen tences, which we have traced in its application to the leading divisions of them, equally determines the proper order of their minor divisions. In every sentence of any complexity the complement to the subject contains several clauses, and that to the predicate several others; and these may be arranged in greater or less conformity to the law of easy apprehension. Of course with these, as with the larger members, the succession should be from the less specific to the more specific-from the abstract to the concrete.
Now, however, we must notice a further condition to be fulfilled in the proper construction of a sentence; but still a condition dictated by the same general principle with the other: the condition, namely, that the words and expressions most nearly related in thought shall be brought the closest together. Evidently the single words, the minor clauses, and the leading divisions of every proposition, severally qualify each other. The longer the time that elapses between the mention of any qualifying mem
COMBINING THE MEMBERS OF A SENTENCE.
ber and the member qualified, the longer must the mind be exerted in carrying forward the qualifying member ready for use. And the more numerous the qualifications to be simultaneously remembered and rightly applied, the greater will be the mental power expended, and the smaller the effect produced. Hence, other things equal, force will be gained by so arranging the members of a sentence that these suspensions shall at any moment be the fewest in number; and shall also be of the shortest duration. The following is an instance of defective combination :
A modern newspaper-statement, though probably true, would be laughed at, if quoted in a book as testimony; but the letter of a court gossip is thought good historical evidence, if written some centuries ago.
A rearrangement of this, in accordance with the principle indicated above, will be found to increase the effect. Thus:
-Though probably true, a modern newspaper-statement quoted in a book as testimony, would be laughed at; but the letter of a court gossip, if written some centuries ago, is thought good historical evidence.
By making this change, some of the suspensions are avoided and others shortened; while there is less liability to produce premature conceptions. The passage quoted below from “Paradise Lost” affords a fine instance of a sentence well arranged; alike in the priority of the subordinate members, in the avoidance of long and numerous suspensions, and in the correspondence between the order of the clauses and the sequence of the phenomena described, which, by the way, is a further prerequisite to easy comprehension, and therefore to effect.
"As when a prowling wolf, Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,