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perhaps be given. The proper length of each interval is better ascertained by trial, the ear deciding what is agreeable to it, and the organs of speech, what is easy to them.
In the use of alliteration we ought to remember that it must not be used to the exclusion of greater beauties. The greatest beauty should always be preferred; and as this, though not the least, is nevertheless inferior to some others, it must be relinquished when it would displace them. There is the greatest danger of sacrificing perspicuity and propriety to it; because when we seek among words, nearly synonymous, for such as produce it, we are apt to admit such words, in preference to those wbich would express our meaning with greater precision: yet such is the multitude of our synonymous words, that there is great scope for the use of alliterative language, without any injury to precision or propriety. Thus the writer can say, “deepest dye,” instead of deepest hue—“ battle blade," instead of sword—“soon he soothed his soul to pleasures,” instead of soon he lulled his mind to pleasure. In this choice of words, he may even avail himself of many which contain alliteration in themselves. Of these compound adjectives, as we may call them, some are peculiarly elegant, as “ blood-bought,” “ blast-beaten,” “ war-worn.” Alliteration conveys different degrees of pleasure, according to the nature and arrangement of the letters which produce it. Some letters have a richer sound than others, and therefore produce this beauty in a greater degree. Sometimes two consonants blended, form a kind of compound consonant; and a repetition of this is more beautiful than a repetition of one of its component letters only. Thus, “the cynic's snuff and critic's sneer," is more beautiful than
“ The one writes the Snarler-the other the Scourge.”
It has already been remarked, that when letters of similar powers begin the accented syllables, this beauty is greater than when they begin the unaccented ones. It should be added, that when these coincide with emphasis, the beauty is still more evident. In verse the same effect follows, when they coincide with the poetic accent. The reason is, they then occupy conspicuous places, and therefore more completely seize the at
tention. When the emphasis, and the verbal and poetic accents all coincide, the effect is peculiarly pleasant. Such is the effect in the following lines:
« Ruin seize thee, ruthless king.”
“ Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." It also adds to the beauty of alliteration to have related words begin with letters of similar powers. Even where there is only a grammatical relation, as between a noun and an adjective, or a verb and its agent or object, it gives additional beauty: but where the relation is in the sense, it gives still more. This is especially the case in comparisons, either by similitude or contrast, when the words, standing for the things compared, begin with letters of similar powers, as, “ To be really holy is to be relatively holy”« I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound—“that man may last, but never lives,” &c. In comparisons, alliteration sets the words compared in a stronger point of light, and thus aids expression. This is the excellence to which lord Kaimes alludes, in the quotation which we made from him. It therefore not only has all the beauty which we have asserted, by occupying the most conspicuous place in the sentence, but it possesses that fineness of language which arises from its aptitude to convey ideas. It is on account of this force that it is so often used in proverbs, as, “the more rain, the more rest”_" when wine is in, wit is out.” Indeed the force of this manner of expression seems to have much the same effect upon the vulgar which fondness for rhyme produces. While the one leads them to vary the
pronunciation of words, to make them chime with other words, the other often suggests words different from their meaning, to form alliterative proverbs, as, “ If you dont like it, you must lump it.”.
But perhaps the artful repetition of the aspiration is most successful where the language is intended as an echo of the sense. This will appear from the following lines:
“ So talk'd the spirited sly snake.”
« Soon he sooth'd his soul to pleasures.”
It ought to be observed, that this, like all other beauties, may be used too profusely, and produce satiety and disgust. Who is not cloyed with it, in the following eulogy on a young lady, which appeared some time since, in the public prints? “ If boundless benevolence be the basis of beatitude, and harmless humanity a harbinger of hallowed heart, these christian concomitants composed her characteristics, and conciliated the esteem of her cotemporary acquaintances, who mean to model their manners after the mould of their meritorious monitor."
But we have some specimens of alliteration, in which there are none of the beauties which we have ascribed to it.
All we can admire in them, and probably all that their authors intended we should admire, is their perseverance and ingenuity in hunting out so many words of the same initials, and arranging them in a connected discourse. Of such is the “Specimen of Alliteration,” found in the second volume of the Repository, in which most of the words begin with p. Of such is Hubald's Latin poem in praise of baldness, addressed to Carolus Calvus, or Charles the Bald. It consists of a hundred lines, all of which begin with C. Such also is the “ Pugna porcorum per Publium Portium poetam," a poem, published more than a hundred and sixty years ago, in which every word is said to begin with p. These we admire, not for any real beauty, but on account of the ingenuity which they display.
Alliteration is not adapted to the language of deep-toned passion. It is evident, that when the mind is engaged in a very
These two lines are quoted from a Port Folio, of an old date. The author of the former of them did not perceive this alliteration, until a long time after the ballad was published. The latter is the last line of the descrip. tion of a solitary smoker, who had exhausted his last cigar.
serious subject, or wound up to a high pitch of feeling, it cannot be disposed to attend to the smaller beauties of language: but it is principally when we are in a playful mood, or at best but moderately affected, that this beauty pleases most; for the mind has leisure then to attend to the minor beauties of language, and has a relish for them.
It may be added, that alliteration gives peculiar zest to wit. Those who have succeeded well, as ludicrous or facetious writers, have been more attentive to this than it has generaliy been supposed. It appears in the facetious names which they have invented, as,
Busby Birch,” “ Peter Pindar," “ Tabitha Tow. ser,” “ Whim Whams of Launcelot Longstaff;" also in their sallies of wit, as,
“For every why he had a wherefore."
A FACTIOUS MEMBER
Is sent out, laden with the wisdom and politics of the place he serves for, and has his own freight and custom free. He is trusted like a factor to trade for a society, but endeavours to turn all the public to his own private advantages. He has no instructions but his pleasure, and therefore strives to have his privileges as large. He is very wise in his politic capacity, as having a full share in the house, and an implicit right to every man's reason, though he has none of his own, which makes him appear so simple out of it. He believes all reason of state consists in faction, as all wisdom in haranguing, of which he is so fond, that he had rather the nation should perish than continue ignorant of his great abilities that way; though he that observes his gestures, words, and delivery, will find them so perfectly agreeable to the rules of the house, that he cannot but conclude that he learnt his oratory the very same way that jackdaws and parrots practise by. For he
doughs, and spits, and blows his nose with that discreet and prudent caution, that you would think he had buried his talent in a handkerchief, and were now pulling it out to dispose of it to a better advantage. He stands and presumes so much upon the privileges of the house, as if every member were a tribune of the people, and had as absolute power as they had in Rome, according to the established fundamental custom and practice of their quartered predecessors, of unhappy memory. He endeavours to show his wisdom in nothing more than in appearing very much dissatisfied with the present management of state-affairs, although he knows nothing of the reasons: so much the better; for the thing is more difficult, and argues his judgment and insight the greater; for any man can judge that understands the reasons of what he does, but very few know how to judge mechanically, without understanding why or wherefore. It is sufficient to assure him, that the public money has been diverted from the proper uses it was raised for, because he has had no share of it himself; and the government ill managed, because he has no hand in it: which, truly, is a very great grievance to the people, that understand, by himself and his party, that are their representatives, and ought to understand for them how able he is for it. He fathers all his own passions and concerns, like bastards, on the people; because, being trusted by them, without articles or conditions, they are bound to acknowledge whatsoever he does as their own act and deed.
Sir ROBERT WALPOLE was more than once heard to say, that sir John Barnard, a plain citizen of London, an honest man, and one of the representatives for that city, during six parliaments, was the only member whom he found it difficult to answer or refute.
“ There is,” said that able minister, “ so much evident integrity in all he says, that the preponderancy of good design makes up for any defect in argument, and wins the hearts of all parties."