Imágenes de páginas

b-ar urging one observation, borrowed from that author : several tenses of our verbs are formed by adding the final syllable ed, which, being a weak sound, kas remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most conspi. cuous place in the word; upon which account, the vowel in common speech is generally suppressed, and the consonant added to the foregoing syllable ; and hence the following rugged sounds, drudy'd, disturbid, rebukd, ftedg'd. It is tili less excusable to follow this practice in writing ; for the hurry of speaking may excuse what would be altogether iniproper in a composition of any value: the syllable ed, it is true, makes but a poor figure at the end of a word; but we ought to submit to that defect, rather than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all that has been done, bear an overproportion in our tongue. The author above-mentioned, by showing a good example, did all in his power to restore that fyllable; and he well deserves to be imitated. Some exceptions however I would make : a word that fignifies labour, or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth; therefore fori'd, with an apostrophe, is better than forced, without it: another exception is, where the penult syllable ends with a vowel ; in that case the final syllable ed may be apostrophized without making the word harsh : examples, betray'd, carry'd, destroy'd, employ'd.

The article next in order, is the music of words as united in a period. And as the arrangement of words in succession so as to afford the greatest pleasure to the ear, depends on principles pretty remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise some general obfervations upon the appearance that a number of objects make when placed in an increasing or decreasing series ; which appearance will be very different, accordingly as resemblance or contrast prevails. Where the objects vary by small differences to as to have a mutual resem. blance, we in ascending conceive the second object of no greater size than the first, the third of no greater size than the second, and so of the rest; which diminisheth in appearance the size of the whole : but when, beginning at the largest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as large


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

as the first, and the third as large as the second ; which
in appearance magnifies every object of ite series ex-
cept the first. On the other hand, in a series varying
by great differences, where contrast prevails, the effects
are directly opposite: a large object succeeding a small
one of the same kind, appears by the oppofition larger
than usual, and a small object, for the same reason,
succeeding one that is large, appears less than usual *.
Hence a remarkable pleasure in viewing a series ascend.
ing by large differences ; directly opposite to what we
feel when the differences are small. The smallest object
of a series ascending by large differences has the same
effect upon the mind as if it stood single without mak-
ing a part of the series: but the second object, by ineans
of contrast, makes a much greater figure than when
viewed singly and apart, and the same effect is perceiv-
ed 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, makes
a less figure than when yiewed separately and indepen-
dent of the series. We may then lay down as a max-
iin, which will hold in the composition of language as
well as of other subjects, That a strong impulse fuc-
ceeding a weak, makes a double impression on the mind;
and that a weak impulle succeeding a itrong, makes ;
scarce any impression. ; .

Afterrestablishing this maxim, we can be at no lofs :
about its application to the subject in hand. The fol-
lowing rule is laid down by Diomedes t. “ In verbis
“ obiervandum eft, ne a majoribus ad minora descendat
16 oratio ; melius enim dicitur, Vir eft optimus, quam,
Vir optimus eft." This rule is also applicable to en-
tire inembers of a period, which, according to our au-
thor's expression, ought not, more than single words, ta
proceed from the greater to the less, 'but from the less
to the greater I. In arranging the members of a peri-
od, no writer equals Cicero : The beauty of the follow-

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* See the reason, chap. 8.
+ De structura perfectæ orationis, 1, 2.

See Demetrius Phalereus of Llocution, fect. 18.

ing examples out of many, will not suffer me to Our them over by a reference.

Quicum quæstor fueram,
Quicum me fors consuetudoque majorum,
Quicum me deorum hominumque judicium conjunx-

erat. .
Again :
Habet honorem quem petimus,
Habet spem quam præpofitam nobis habemus,
Habet exiftimationem, multo fudore, labore, vigiliif-
· que, collectam.
Again :
Eripite nos ex miferiis,
Eripite nos ex faucibus eorum,
Quorum crudelitas noftro fanguine non poteft expleri.

De oratore, l. 1. §. 52. This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, fo far as concerns the pleasure of sound fingly, be denominated a climax in found. · The last article is the music of periods as united in a discourse ; which shall be dispatched in a very few words. By no other human means is it possible to pre. sent 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 fort of composition. Hence a rule Jegarding the arrangement of the members of different periods with relation to each other, That to avoid a tecious uniformity of found and cadence, 'the arrangemiant,' the cadence, and the length of these members, ought to be diversified as much as possible: and if the mrembers of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the periods themfelves will be equally fo.

i '; . SECT. II. Beauty of language with respect to fignification. TT is well said by a nored writer*, That by means 1“ of speech we can divet our forrows, mingle our


* Scot's Chriitian life.

" mirth, impart our secrets, communicate our counsels, « and make mutual compacts and agreements to supply " and assist each other.” Considering speech as contri. buting 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 hand. led 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 I humbly decline. Nor do li propose to exhaust all the other beauties of language with respect to signification: the reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly expect more than a flighi sketch of those that make the greatest figure. This tak I attempt the more willingly, as being connected with certain principles in human nature, and the rules I shall have occasion to lay down, will, if I judge rightly, be agreeable illustrations of these principles. Every subject must be of importance that tends to unfold the human heart; for what other science is of greater use to human beings?...

The present subject is too extensive to be discussed without dividing it into parts; and what follows fuge gests, 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 forner resembling the stones that compose a building, and the latter resembling .che order in which they are placed. Hence the beauties of language with rel. pect to its meaning, may not improperly be distinguished into two kinds: firit, 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 as. Tangement of these words or materials. I begin with Jules 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 principal end of language, it is a rule, That perspicuity ought not to be facrifices to any other beauty whatever : if it should be doubied whether per


spicuity 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, than to prevent all obscurity in the expression; for to have no meaning, is but one degree worse than to have a meaning that is not understood. Want of perspicuity from a wrong arrangement, belongs to the next branch. I thall here give a few examples where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of words; and as this defect is too comion in the ordinary herd of writers to inake exain ples from them necessary, I confine myself to the most celebrated authors.

Livy, speaking of a rout after a battle, Multique in ruina majore quam fuga oppreffi obtruncatique.

2.4. 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, l. 28. cap. 30. is extremely perplexed. Unde tibi reditum certo fubtemine Parcæ Rupere.

(Horace, epod. xiii. 22.
Qui perfæpe cava testudine Alevit amorem,
Non elaboratum ad pedem. [Horace, epod. xiv. 11.
Me fabulofa Vulture in Appulo,
Altricis extra liinen Apulia,
Ludo, fatigatuinque fomno,

Fronde nova' puerum palumbes

(Horace, Carm. l. 3. ode 4.
Puræ rivus aquæ, filvaque jugerum
Paucorum, et segetis certa fides meæ,
Fulgentem imperio fertilis Africæ

Fallit forte'beatior. [Horace, Carm. I. 3. ode 16. Cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinuin Discernunt avidi. [llorace, Carm. !. 1. ode 18. Ac fpem fronte serenat.

(Æneid. iv. 477. I am in greater pain abnut the foregoing passages than about any I have ventured to criticise, being aware that

a vague

« AnteriorContinuar »