« AnteriorContinuar »
sible beauty. But we must beware of carrying our attention to this beauty too far. It ought only to be occasionally studied, when comparison or opposition of objects naturally leads to it. If such a construction as this be aimed at in all our sentences, it leads to a disagreeble uniformity; produces a regularly returning clink in the period, which tires the ear; and plainly discovers affectation. Among the ancients, the style of Isocrates is faulty in this respect; and on that account, by some of their best critics, particularly by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, he is severely censured.
This finishes what I had to say concerning sentences, considered, with respect to their meaning, under the three heads of perspicuity, unity, and strength. It is a subject on which I have insisted fully, for two reasons: First, because it is a subject which, by its nature, can be rendered more didactic, and subjected more to precise rule, thari many other subjects of criticism; and next, because it appears to me of considerable importance and use.
For, though many of those attentions which I have been recommending, may appear minute, yet their effect, upon writing and style, is much greater than might at first be imagined. A sentiment which is expressed in a period, clearly, neatly, and happily arranged, makes always a stronger impression on the mind, than one that is feeble or embarrassed. Every one feels this upon a comparison; and if the effect be sensible in one sentence, how much more in a whole discourse, or composition, that is made up of such sentences ?
The fundamental rule of the construction of sentences, and into which all others might be resolved, undoubtedly is, to communicate, in the clearest and most natural order, the ideas which we mean to transfuse into the minds of others. Every arrangement that does most justice to the sense, and expresses it to most advantage, strikes us as beautiful. To this point have tended all the rules I have given. And, indeed, did men always think clearly, and were they, at the same time, fully masters of the language in which they write, there would be occasion for few rules. Their sentences would then, of course, acquire all those properties of precision, unity, and strength, which I have recommended. For we may rest assured, that, whenever we express ourselves ill, there is, besides the mismanagement of language, for the most part, some mistake in our manner of conceiving the subject. Embarrassed, obscure, and feeble sentences, are generally, if not always, the result of embarrassed, obscure, and feeble thought. Thought and language act and re-act upon each other mutually. Logic and rhetoric have here, as in many other cases, a strict connexion; and he that is learning to arrange his sentences with accuracy and order, is learning, at the same time, to think with accuracy and order; an observation which alone will justify all the care and attention we have bestowed on this subject.
QUESTIONS. WHA'r does our author term the sage. Here are how many ands? Of third quality of a correct sentence; and this agreeable writer, what is farther what does he mean by it? Of the two remarked? Of a writer, so accurate as former qualities, what is remarked ; Dean Swist, what is strange? Repeat but why is more than these requisite ? the sentence; and of it, what is remarkWhat is the first rule given for pro ed? What, in the next place, is worthy inoting the strength of a sentence ? of observation? Who makes this reWith what may these, sometimes, be mark; what examples are given; and consistent, but they always have what what is said of them ? Hence, what foleffect? What is a general maxim ? lows? What examples from Lord BoThey cannot be superfluous without lingbroke, and from Cæsar, are given to what; and what follows? What ex- illustrate this observation? Of the latter ample is given to illustrate this remark? illustration, what is remarked ? Why What, therefore, is considered one of is this attention to the copulative of the most useful of exercises, in cor- considerable importance to all who recting what we have written? Here, study eloquence? Hence, for what what should be employed; and what purpose, are the omission, and the rewill our sentences acquire, when thus petition of it, respectively used; and for retrenched ? Of what, however, must what reason? To illustrate this more we be careful; and why? To what fully, what example is given from the must some regard be had ; and what writings of the apostle Paul ? What is must be left? Besides redundant words, the third rule for promoting the strength of what should sentences be cleared ?! of a sentence? What must every one As every word ought to present a new see; and what is equally plain? What, idea, what follows? What fault stands however, cannot be ascertained by any opposed to this? What examples are precise rule? With what must this given to illustrate this remark? In both vary? What must be studied, in the these instances, what is observed of the first place; and of the nature of our second member of the sentence; and language, what is remarked? In our what remark follows? When words language, where, for the most part, are multiplied, without a corresponding are the important words placed ? To multiplication of ideas, what is their illustrate this remark, what example is effect? After removing superfluities, given; and of this order, what is obwhat is the second direction given for served? What, however, is sometimes promoting the strength of a sentence ? advantageous ? What example is Of these little words, what is remarked ? given from Mr. Pope ? From the great Why cannot a particular set of rules liberty of inversion, what advantage respecting them be given? What, then, did the Greek and Latin writers enjoy? must here direct us? Of the splitting Who endeavoured to imitate them in of particles, what is observed ? What this? What was the consequence; and example is given ? In such instances why? What two instances are given what effect is produced ; and why are from Mr. Gordon, to illustrate this rewe, in thought, put to a stand ? What mark? But, notwithstanding these indo some writers needlessly multiply ? stances, of our language, what is reWhat example is given ? Where is marked? What example illustrates such a style proper ? But, in the ordi- this remark; and of it, what is evident? nary current of discourse, how should of some writers, what is observed ? we express ourselves? Where do other what instance is given ; and to it, what writers make it a practice of omitting is owing ? From what will this appear? the relative ? What examples are of what is he speaking ? Repeat the given? Of this eliptical style, what is passage. Or this passage, what is obremarked ? How, therefore, should served ? On opening any page of Mr. these sentences be written? What is Addison, what will we see? What exthe first observation, made on the copu- ample is given? How does this style lative and; and what sort of effect has compare with the style of Lord it? To illustrate this remark, from Shaftesbury ? whom is an example taken; and of Whether we practice inversion or what is he speaking ? Repeat the pas-not, what is a point of great moment? How is this remark illustrated ? How How would the two circumstances, will this be made clearer? Repeat it. Of some time ago, and in conversation, this sentence, what is observed? What have had a better effect? What fur does it contain ; yet of these, what is ther illustration is given from Lord remarked ? Further to illustrate this Bolingbroke; and how may the arsubject, what different arrangement is rangement be improved? What is the given; and what is said of it? What last rule given, relating to the strength is the fourth rule for constructing sen- of a sentence? Why is this rule given? tences with strength? What is it call- When it is otherwise, what is the coned; and how is it always considered ? sequence? Thus, what says Lord BoWhy does this sort of arrangement | lingbroke ; and how might the opposiplease? What says Quintilian ? Of this tion have been rendered more complete? beauty, whose orations furnish us with Repeat the passage from Mr. Pope's many examples? What naturally led preface to his Homer, which fully exhim to the study of it; and what does emplifies this rule ? Of periods, thus he generally do? What instance is constructed, what is remarked; but of given from him, and also from Lord what must we beware? When only Bolingbroke? What observation must, ought it to be studied ? If such a conhowever, be made ? What remark fol- struction be aimed at in all our sentenlows? What is there approaching to a ces, what will be the consequence? Of climas, which it is a general rule to the style of Isocrates, among the anfollow? What twofold reason is there cients, what is remarked? This refor this last direction? What illustra- mark, finishes what? For what two tion follows? In general, what is al- reasons has our author insisted on this ways agreeable? What illustration of subject fully; and why? How is this this remark is given from Mr. Addison? illustrated ? In what does every one What is the fifth rule for the strength feel this; and what follows ? What is of sentences ? Of such conclusions, the fundamental rule for the construcwhat is observed? There are sentences tion of sentences? What arrangements of what kind; and in this case, what strike us as beautiful ; and to this point, follows? What illustration is given what have tended ? 'Under what cir: from Lord Bolingbroke? Of what parts cumstances, would there be occasion of speech does our author now speak; for few rules ? What properties would and how should they always be dispo- their sentences then acquire; and why? sed? Agreeably to this rule, what Of what are embarrassed, obscure, and should we always avoid ? What in- feeble sentences, the result? What have stance is noticed? Why do all correct hereastrictconnexion;and what follows? writers shun this phraseology? For the same reason, what verbs should we
ANALYSIS. not employ in closing sentences? InStrength. preference to which, what should be 1. Redundant words. used? Of the pronoun it, as a closing A. Redundant members. word, what is remarked; and when, 2. Copulatives, relatives, and other especially, should it be avoided ? In
particles. what noble sentence from the Specta A. The splitting of particles. tor, is the bad effect of this close sen B. The multiplication, and omissibly perceived? With what word
sion of them. should it have closed ? Besides parti c. The copulative and. cles and pronouns, what always brings D. Copulatives further illustrated. up the rear of a sentence with a bad 3. The proper disposition of the capigrace ? By what sentence may we
tal words. judge of this? Of the last phrase, to A. The advantages of the Greek say no more, what is observed ? With
and Latin languages. what is the proper disposition of such R. The subject further illustrated. circumstances in a sentence often at- 4. Theorderof succession in sentences. tended; and why? What says Quin- 5. Sentences not to be concluded with tilian ? When the sense admits it,
adverbs, &c. where should they be placed ? On this 6. Similarity of language in contrastsubject, what rule is given; and with
ed eentences. what provision? What instance follows?! 7. A fundamental rule.
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES....HARMONY.
HITHERTO we have considered sentences, with respect to their meaning, under the heads of perspicuity, unity, and strength. We are now to consider them, with respect to their sound, their harmony or agreeableness to the ear; which was the last quality belonging to them that I proposed to treat of.
Sound is a quality much inferior to sense ; yet such as must not be disregarded. For, as long as sounds are the vehicle of conveyance for our ideas, there will be always a very considerable connexion between the idea which is conveyed, and the nature of the sound which conveys it. Pleasing ideas can hardly be transmitted to the mind by means of harsh and disagreeable sounds. The imagination revolts as soon as it hears them uttered. Nihil,' says Quintilian, potest intrare in affectum, quod in aure, velut quodam vestibulo, statim offendit.** Music has naturally a great power over all men, to prompt and facilitate certain emotions; insomuch, that there are hardly any dispositions which we wish to raise in others, but certain sounds may be found concordant to those dispositions, and tending to promote them. Now, language may, in some degree, be rendered capable of this power of music; a circumstance which must needs heighten our idea of language as a wonderful invention. Not content with simply interpreting our ideas to others, it can give them those ideas enforced by corresponding sounds; and, to the pleasure of communicating thought, can add the new and separate pleasure of melody.
In the harmony of periods, two things may be considered. First, agreeable sound, or modulation in general, without any particular expression: Next, the sound so ordered, as to become expressive of the sense. The first is the more common; the second, the higher beauty.
First, let us consider agreeable sound, in general, as the property of a well-constructed sentence: and, as it was of prose sentences we have hitherto treated, we shall confine ourselves to them under this head. This beauty of musical construction in prose, it is plain, will depend upon two things; the choice of words, and the arrangement of them.
I begin with the choice of words; on which head, there is not much to be said, unless I were to descend into a tedious and frivolous detail concerning the powers of the several letters, or simple sounds, of which speech is composed. It is evident, that words are most agreeable to the ear which are composed of smooth and liquid sounds, where there is a proper intermixture of vowels and consonants; without too many harsh consonants rubbing against each other; or too many open vowels in succession, to cause a hiatus, or disagreeable aperture of the mouth. It may always be assumed as a principle, that whatever sounds are difficult in pronunciation, are, in the same proportion, harsh and painful to the ear. Vowels give softness; consonants, strength to the sound of words. The music of language requires a just proportion of both; and will be hurt, will be rendered either grating or effeminate,by an excess of either. Long words are commonly more agreeable to the ear than monosyllables. They please it by the composition, or succession of sounds which they present to it: and accordingly, the most musical languages abound most in them. Among words of any length, those are the most musical, which do not run wholly either upon long or short syllables, but are composed of an intermixture of them; such as repent, produce, velocity, celerity, independent, impetuosity.
* Nothing can enter into the affections, which stumbles at the threshold by offen ding the ear.
The next head, respecting the harmony which results from a proper arrangement of the words and members of a period, is more complex, and of greater nicety. For, let the words themselves be ever so well chosen, and well sounding, yet, if they be ill disposed, the music of the sentence is utterly lost. In the harmonious structure and disposition of periods, no writer whatever, ancient or modern, equals Cicero. He had studied this with care; and was fond, perhaps to excess, of what he calls, the · Plena ac numerosa oratio.' We need only open his writings to find instances that will render the effect of musical language sensible to every ear. What, for example, can be more full, round, and swelling, than the following sentence of the 4th Oration against Catiline? •Cogitate quantis laboribus fundatum imperium, quantâ virtute stabilitam libertatem, quanta Deorum benignitate auctas exaggeratasque fortunas, una nox pene delerit.' In English, we may take, for an instance of a musical sentence, the following from Milton, in his Treatise on Education: “We shall conduct you to a hill-side, laborious indeed, at the first ascent; but else, so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospects, and melodious sounds, on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming. Every thing in this sentence conspires to promote the harmony. The words are happily chosen ; full of liquid and soft sounds; laborious, smooth, green,goodly, melodious, charming: and these words so artfully arranged, that were we to alter the collocation of any one of them, we should, presently, be sensible of the melody suffering. For, let us observe, how finely the members of the period swell one above another. “So smooth, so green''so full of goodly prospects, and melodious sounds on every side;'-till the ear, prepared by this gradual rise, is conducted to that full close on which it rests with pleasure;—that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.'
The structure of periods, then, being susceptible of a very sensible melody, our next inquiry should be, how this melodious structure is formed, what are the principles of it, and by what laws