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and rude periods of society, is found, without exception, to be full of figures; hyperbolical and picturesque in a high degree. We have a striking instance of this in the American languages, which are known, by the most authentic accounts, to be figurative to excess. The Iroquois and Illinois carry on their treaties and public transactions with bolder metaphors, and greater pomp and style, than we use in our poetical productions.*
Another remarkable instance is the style of the Old Testament, which is carried on by constant allusions to sensible objects. Iniquity, or guilt, is expressed by “aspotted garment;" misery, by“ drinking the cup of astonishment;” vain pursuits, by “feeding on ashes;" a sinful life, by“ a crooked path;” prosperity, by“ the candle of the Lord shining on our head;" and the like, in innumerable instances. Hence we have been accustomed to call this sort of style the oriental style ; as fancying it to be peculiar to the nations of the east; whereas, from the American style, and from many other instances, it plainly appears not to have been peculiar to any one region or climate; but to have been common to all nations in certain periods of society and language.
Hence we may receive some light concerning that seeming paradox, that poetry is more ancient than prose. I shall have occasion to discuss this point fully hereafter, when I come to treat of the nature and origin of poetry. At present, it is sufficient to observe, that, from what has been said, it plainly appears that the style of all language must have been originally poetical; strongly tinctured with that enthusiasm, and that descriptive metaphorical expression, which distinguishes poetry.
As language in its progress began to grow more copious, it gradually lost that figurative style, which was its early character. When men were furnished with proper and familiar names for every object, both sensible and moral, they were not obliged to use so many circumlocutions. Style became more precise, and, of course, more simple. Imagination, too, in proportion as society advanced, had less influence over mankind. The vehement manner of speaking
* Thus, to give an instance of the singular style of these nations, the Five Nations of Canada, when entering on a treaty of peace with us, expressed themselves by their chiefs, in the following language : “ We are happy in having buried under " ground the red axe, that has so often been dyed with the blood of our brethren. “ Now, in this sort, we inter the axe, and plant the tree of peace. We plant a tree "whose top will reach the sun, and its branches spread abroad, so that it shall be
seen afar off. May its growth never be stifled and choaked; but may it shade both “ your country and ours with its leaves! Let us make fast its roots and extend them " to the utmost of your colonies. If the French should come to shake this tree, we " would know it by the motion of its roots reaching into our country. May the Great “ Spirit allow us to rest in tranquillity upon our mats, and never again dig up the axe u to cut down the tree of peace! Let the earth be trod hard over it, where it lies khuried. Let a strong stream run under the pit, to wash the evil away out of our « sight and remembrance. The fire that had long burned in Albany is extinguished. “ The bloody bed is washed clean, and the tears are wiped from our eyes. We now “ renew the covenant chain of friendship. Let it be kept bright and clean as silver, " and not suffered to contract any rust. "Let not any one pull away his arm from it.” These passages are extracted from Cadwallader Colden's History of the Five Indian Nations : where it appears, from the authentic documents he produces, that such is their genuine style.
by tones and gestures, began to be disused. The understanding was more exercised; the fancy less. Intercourse among mankind becoming more extensive and frequent, clearness of style, in signifying their meaning to each other, was the chief object of attention. In place of poets, philosophers became the instructors of men; and in their reasonings on all different subjects, introduced that plainer and simpler style of composition which we now call prose. Among the Greeks, Pherecydes of Scyros, the master of Pythagoras, is recorded to have been the first who, in this sense, composed any writing in prose. The ancient metaphorical and poetical dress of language was now laid aside from the intercourse of men, and reserved for those occasions only, on which ornament was professedly studied.
Thus I have pursued the history of language through some of the variations it has undergone : I have considered it, in the first structure and composition of words; in the manner of uttering or pronorncing words; and in the style and character of speech. I have yet to consider it in another view, respecting the order and arrangement of words ; when we shall find a progress to have taken place, similar to what I have been now illustrating.
Of the consideration of language, with equal difficulty ? Upon considering what is remarked ? In what order does what, do difficulties increase upon us; our author propose to treat of it? What and for what, consequently, does there does language, in general, signify? By appear no small reason? If we admit these sounds what are meant? What that language had a divine origin, will appear from what is afterwards that can we not suppose; why; and to be offered ? From what does it ap- what consequence follows? Or this pear, that words and ideas may, in history, what is observed ? If we supgeneral, be considered arbitrary and pose that there was a period, before .conventional ? Of which, what is a words were invented or known, what clear proof? In what state do we now follows; and why? How is this illusbehold this artificial method of com- trated ? Of those exclamations, theremunicating thought? What has lan- fore, what is remarked ? When more guage become ? By what remark is enlarged communications became nethis illustrated ? Of what has language cessary, in what manner did men pro become the instrument; and how is ceed in the assignation of names ? this also illustrated! How long has What illustrations follow ? Under what language been found in this refined circumstances, could he not do other state; and what is the consequence? wise ? What would be supposing an To have reason for the highest asto- effect without a cause; and why? In nishment, to what period must we this case, what motive would operate carry our thoughts back; and on what most generally? Where was the imitamust we reflect ? What do we admire; tion of words abundantly evident; and and on what do we plume ourselves? why? Thus, in all languages, what What remark follows? In what cir- do we find ? How is this illustrated ? cumstances did mankind live, when Where does this analogy seem to fail ? language began to be formed ? Of this Many learned men, however, have situation, what is remarked? What been of what opinion ? With regard to would one naturally think; and why? moral and intellectual ideas, and also What two points seem to be attended with regard to sensible objects that adaress themselves merely to the sight, our modern pronunciation have apwhat do they remark? How is this il- peared to them? To what did the lustrated ? Of this system, what is re- declamation of their orators approach; marked? What question was much and of what was it capable? If this agitated among the ancient Stoic and was the case among the Romans, of Platonic philosophers? Which opinion the Greeks what is well known ? How aid the Platonic school favour ? When, did Aristotle consider the music of only, can this principle of natural rela-tragedy? Why was the case parallel ion be applied ? Though in every with regard to gestures? How is actongue, some remains of it can be tion treated of by all the ancient traced, yet what were utterly vain ; critics? Of the action of the Greeks and why? What may words, as we and Romans what is remarked ? How now employ them, be considered; but would Roscius have seemed to us? of what can there be no doubt; and From the importance of gesticulation what remark follows? From what is a on the ancient stage, what have we second character of language drawn ? reason to believe? What do we learn What have been shown to have been from Cicero? Under the reigns of Authe first elements of speech? How did gustus and Tiberius, what became the men labour to communicate their feel- favourite entertainment of the pubings to one another? After words began lic? To how great an extent was it to be invented, why could not this mode carried, and what laws consequently of speaking, by natural signs, be at became necessary? What evidence once disused? What rendered these have we that such public entertainhelps absolutely necessary, for explain- ments as have been mentioned, could ing their conceptions ? How would never have been relished by a nation rude and uncultivated men labour to whose tones and gestures were as make themselves understood; and why? languid as ours are? What effect was How is this further illustrated ? To produced by the barbarians, when they what would this plan also naturally spread themselves over the Roman emlead ? For all those reasons, what may pire ? As the Latin tongue was lost in be assumed as a principle ?
their idiom, so what followed? To what Though necessity gave rise to this was not the same attention paid ? mode of speaking, yet, what must we What became more simple and plain; observe ? Of nations possessing much and without what ? What is said of fire and vivacity, what is observed; the genius of language at the restoraand why? For what does Dr. War- tion of letters ? Of our plain manner burton account; and what illustration of speaking in these northern countries, is given? In like manner, what were what is remarked ? What is the effect found to be much used among the of more varied tones, and more animanorthern American tribes; and how ted motions ? Accordingly, what effect were they accustomed to declare their is produced; and how is this illustrated? meaning? With regard to inflections From the pronunciation of language, to of voice, what is observed? With what vhat do we proceed ? What reason nation, particularly, is this the practice? have we to believe that the language As the number of words in their lan- of the ancients was full of figures and guage is not great, how do they vary metaphors ? What are we, upon a suthem? What appearance must this perficial view, apt to imagine ? How give to their speech; why; and hence does it appear that the contrary of this is formed what? What is remarkable, is the truth? What is the first reason and deserves attention? Without having for this? What is the second; hence, attended to this, in understanding what, what follows; and why? What other shall we be at a loss? From many cir- circumstances, besides necessity, concumstances, with regard to the prosody tributed to produce this figurative style; of the Greeks and the Romans, what and what, consequently, follows ? Of appears manifest? Of the quantity of the style of the earliest languages, their syllables what is observed ? Be- what is observed ? Where have we a sides quantities, what were placed up-striking instance of this? What examon most of their syllables; and of their ple is given ? Repeat it. What is anouse, what is remarked?' How would liher remarkable instance; and how is
this illustrated ? Hence, to what have
ANALYSIS. we been accustomed; and why? From the American style, what plainly ap- 1. Language. pears ? Concerning what, may we A. Its signification. consequently receive some light? On B. Its present state. this subject, what, at present, is it suffi- Its origin. cient to observe ? When did language D. The first method of communilose this figurative character; and why? cating thoughts. As style became more concise, what E. The principle upon which lanfollowed ; and what was its influence guage was formed. on the imagination? As intercourse 2. Pronunciation. among mankind became more exten- A. Inflections, sive, what was the chief object of atten- B. Gestures. tion? How was prose introduced ? 3. Thecharacterof Languagechanged. Among the Greeks, who was the first 4. The style of early Languages. prose writer; what was now laid aside A. The employment of figures. from the intercourse of men; and for B. These reasonings confirmed. what occasions was it resumed? Thus, c. The origin of Prose. how has language been considered ; and what remains to be done ?
RISE AND PROGRESS OF LANGUAGE, AND OF
When we attend to the order in which words are' arranged in a sentence, or significant proposition, we find a' very remarkable difference between the ancient and the modern tongues. The consideration of this will serve to unfold farther the genius of language, and to show the causes of those alterations, which it has undergone in the progress of society.
In order to conceive distinctly the nature of that alteration of which I now speak, let us go back, as we did formerly, to the most early period of language. Let us figure to ourselves a savage, who beholds some object, such as fruit, which raises his desire, and who requests another to give it to him. Supposing our savage to be unacquainted with words, he would, in that case, labour to make himself be understood, by pointing earnestly at the object which he desired, and uttering at the same time a passionate cry. Supposing him to have acquired words, the first word which he uttered would, of course, be the name of that object. He would not express himself, according to our English order of construction, "give me fruit;" but according to the Latin order, "fruit give me;" fructum da mihi ;” for this plain reason, that his attention was wholly directed towards fruit, the desired object. This was the exciting idea ; the object which moved him to speak; and of course would be the first named. Such an arrangement is precisely putting into words the gesture which nature taught the savage to make, before he was acquainted with words; and therefore it may be depended upon as certain, that he would fall most readily into this arrangement.
Accustomed now to a different method of ordering our words, we call this an inversion, and consider it as a forced and unnatural order of speech. But though not the most logical, it is, however, in one view, the most natural order; because it is the order suggested by imagination and desire, which always impel us to mention their object in the first place. We might therefore conclude, a priori, that this would be the order in which words were most commonly arranged at the beginnings of language; and accordingly we find, in fact, that, in this order, words are arranged in most of the ancient tongues; as in the Greek and the Latin; and it is said also, in the Russian, the Sclavonic, the Gaelic, and several of the American tongues.
In the Latin language, the arrangement which most commonly obtains, is, to place first in the sentence, that word which expresses the principal object of the discourse, together with its circumstances; and afterwards, the person or the thing that acts upon it. Thus Sallust, comparing together the mind and the body:“Animi imperio, corporis servitio, magis utimur,” which order certainly renders the sentence more lively and striking, than when it is arranged according · to our English construction; "we make most use of the direction of the soul, and of the service of the body.” The Latin order gratifies more the rapidity of the imagination, which naturally runs first to that which is its chief object; and having once named it, carries it in view throughout the rest of the sentence. In the same manner in poetry:
Justum et tenacem propositi virum,
Non vultus instantis tyranni,
Mente quatit solidà. Every person of taste must be sensible, that here the words are arranged with a much greater regard to the figure which the several objects make in the fancy, than our English construction admits; which would require the “ Justum et tenacem propositi virum," though undoubtedly the capital object in the sentence, to be thrown into the last place.
I have said, that, in the Greek and Roman languages, the most common arrangement is, to place that first which strikes the imagination of the speaker most. I do not, however, pretend, that this holds without exception. Sometimes regard to the harmony of the period requires a different order; and in languages susceptible of so much musical beauty, and pronounced with so much tone and modulation as were used by those nations, the harmony of periods was an object carefully studied. Sometimes, too, attention to the perspicuity, to the force, or to the artful suspension of the speaker's meaning, alter this order; and produce such varieties in the arrangement, that it is not easy to reduce them to any one principle. But, in general, this was the genius and character of most of the ancient