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of the foregoing rules is to substitute an artificial arrangement, in order to catch some beauty either of sound or meaning for which there is no place in the natural order. But seldom it happens, that in the same period there is place for a plurality of these rules: if one beauty can be retained, another must be relinquished; and the only question is, Which ought to be preferred? This question cannot be resolved by any general rule: if the natural order be not relished, a few trials will discover that artificial order which has the best effect; and this exercise, supported by a good taste, will in time make the choice easy. All that can be said in general is, that in making a choice, sound ought to yield to signification.
The transposing words and members out of their natural order, so remarkable in the learned languages, has been the subject of much speculation. It is agreed on all hands, that such transposition or inversion bestows upon a period a very sensible degree of force and elevation; and yet writers seem to be at a loss how to account for this effect. Cerceau* ascribes so much power to inversion, as to make it the characteristic of French verse, and the single circumstance which in that language distinguishes verse from prose: and yet he pretends not to say, that it hath any other effect but to raise surprise; he must mean curiosity, which is done by suspending the thought during the period, and bringing it out entire at the close. This indeed is one effect of inversion; but neither its sole effect, nor even that which is the most remarkable, as is made evident above. But waving censure, which is not an agreeable task, I enter into the matter; and begin with observing, that if conformity between words and their meaning be agreeable, it must of course be agreeable to find the same order or arrangement in both. Hence the beauty of a plain or natural style, where the order of the words corresponds precisely to the order of the ideas. Nor is this the single beauty of a natural style: it is also agreeable by its simplicity and perspicuity. This observation throws light upon the subject: for if a natural style be in itself agreeable, a transposed style cannot be so; and therefore its agreeableness must arise from admitting some positive beauty that is excluded in a natural style. To be confirmed in this opinion, we need but reflect upon some of the foregoing rules, which make it evident, that language by means of inversion, is susceptible of many beauties that are totally excluded in a natural arrangement. From these premises it clearly follows, that inversion ought not to be indulged, unless in order to reach some beauty superior to those of a natural style. It may with great certainty be pronounced, that every inversion which is not governed by this rule, will appear harsh and strained, and be disrelished by every one of taste. Hence the beauty of inversion when happily conducted; the beauty, not of an end, but of means, as furnishing opportunity for numberless ornaments that find no place in a natural style: hence the force, the elevation, the harmony, the cadence, of some compositions: hence the manifold beauties of the Greek and Roman tongues, of which living languages afford but faint imitations. * Reflections sur la Poësie Françoise.
Resemblance between articulate sounds and the things they represent-The beauty of this resemblance-A concord may exist without a resemblance-Examples given by critics of sense, may be resolved into a resemblance of effects-Slow motion imitated by long syllables; quick, by a succession of short ones—Interrupted motion, by monosyllables-Rough motion, rough sounds-Smooth, equable, smooth sounds--Prolonged motion, Alexandrian line-Gravity or solemnity, a period of long syllables-Melancholy, a period of polysyllables-Hard labor, long syllables made short-Rough words pronounced with difficulty-A climax of sound and sense, delightful-An anticlimax-The pleasure of a weak resemblance-The effect of pronunciation, or the resemblance between sense and sound -Difference between notes in singing and reading-The key note in readingCadence-Direction for pronunciation-In Greek, the tones marked-The comparison between pronunciation and singing-The former fixed; the latter, arbitrary-The notes of music, with respect to the first, agreeable-With respect to the second, music has its greatest variety-In pronunciation, in the third, the voice confined within three and a half notes-Last two equal singing.
A RESEMBLANCE between the sound of certain words and their signification, is a beauty that has escaped no critical writer, and yet it is not handled with accuracy by any of them. They have probably been of opinion, that a beauty so obvious to the feeling, requires no explanation. This is an error; and to avoid it, I shall give examples of the various resemblances between sound and signification, accompanied with an endeavor to explain why such resemblances are beautiful. I shall begin with examples where the resemblance between the sound and signification is the most entire; and shall next give examples where the resemblance is less and less so.
There being frequently a strong resemblance of one sound to another, it will not be surprising to find an articulate sound resembling one that is not articulate: thus the sound of a bow-string is mitated by the words that express it.
The string let fly,
Twang'd short and sharp, like the shrill swallow's cry.
The sound of felling trees in a wood:
Odyssey, XXI. 449.
Loud sounds the axe, redoubling strokes on strokes,
Iliad, XXIII. 144.
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
Dire Scylla there a scene of horror forms,
And here Charybdis fills the deep with storms:
The rough rock roars: tumultuous boil the waves. Pope.
No person can be at a loss about the cause of this beauty: it is obviously that of imitation.
That there is any other natural resemblance of sound to signification, must not be taken for granted. There is no resemblance of sound to motion, nor of sound to sentiment. We are however apt to
be deceived by artful pronunciation: the same passage may be pronounced in many different tones, elevated or humble, sweet or harsh, brisk or melancholy, so as to accord with the thought or sentiment: such concord must be distinguished from that concord between sound and sense, which is perceived in some expressions independent of artful pronunciation: the latter is the poet's work; the former must be attributed to the reader. Another thing contributes still more to the deceit. In language, sound and sense being intimately connected, the properties of the one are readily communicated to the other: for example, the quality of grandeur, of sweetness, or of melancholy, though belonging to the thought solely, is transferred to the words, which by that means resemble, in appearance, the thought that is expressed by them.* I have great reason to recommend these observations to the reader, considering how inaccurately the present subject is handled by critics: not one of them distinguishes the natural resemblance of sound and signification, from the artificial resemblances now described; witness Vida in particular, who in a very long passage has given very few examples but what are of the latter kind.†
That there may be a resemblance of articulate sounds to some that are not articulate, is self-evident; and that in fact there exist such resemblances successfully employed by writers of genius, is clear from the foregoing examples, and from many others that might be given. But we may safely pronounce, that this natural resemblance can be carried no farther: the objects of the different senses, differ so widely from each other, as to exclude any resemblance. Sound in particular, whether articulate or inarticulate, resembles not in any degree taste, smell, or motion: and as little can it resemble any internal sentiment, feeling or emotion. But must we then admit, that nothing but sound can be imitated by sound? Taking imitation in its proper sense, as importing a resemblance between two objects, the proposition must be admitted: and yet in many passages that are not descriptive of sound, every one must be sensible of a peculiar concord between the sound of the words and their meaning. As there can be no doubt of the fact, what remains is to inquire into its cause.
Resembling causes may produce effects that have no resemblance; and causes that have no resemblance may produce resembling effects. A magnificent building, for example, resembles not, in any degree, an heroic action; and yet the emotions they produce, are concordant, and bear a resemblance to each other. We are still more sensible of this resemblance in a song, when the music is properly adapted to the sentiment: there is no resemblance between thought and sound; but there is the strongest resemblance between the emotion raised by music tender and pathetic, and that raised by the complaint of an unsuccessful lover. Applying this observation to the present subject, it appears, that in some instances, the sound, even of a single word, makes an impression resembling that which is made by the thing it signifies: witness the word running, composed of two short syllables; and more remarkably the words rapidity, impetuosity, precipitation. Brutal manners produce, in the See Chap. 2. Part I. scct. 5
t Poet. L. 3. 1. 365-454.
spectator, an emotion not unlike what is produced by a harsh and rough sound; and hence the beauty of the figurative expression rugged manners. Again, the word little, being pronounced with a very small aperture of the mouth, has a weak and faint sound, which makes an impression resembling that made by a diminutive object. This resemblance of effects is still more remarkable where a number of words are connected in a period: words pronounced in succession make often a strong impression; and when this impression happens to accord with that made by the sense, we are sensible of a complex emotion, peculiarly pleasant; one proceeding from the sentiment, and one from the melody or sound of the words. But the chief pleasure proceeds from having these two concordant emotions combined in perfect harmony, and carried on in the mind to a full close. Except in the single case where sound is described, all the examples given by critics of sense being imitated in sound, resolve into a resemblance of effects: emotions raised by sound and signification may have a resemblance; but sound itself cannot have a resemblance to any thing but sound.
Proceeding now to particulars, and beginning with those cases where the emotions have the strongest resemblance, I observe, first, that by a number of syllables in succession, an emotion is sometimes raised extremely similar to that raised by successive motion; which may be evident even to those who are defective in taste, from the folowing fact, that the term movement in all languages is equally applied o both. In this manner, successive motion, such as walking, running, galloping, can be imitated by a succession of long or short syllables, or by a due mixture of both. For example, slow motion may be justly imitated in a verse where long syllables prevail; especially when aided by a slow pronunciation.
Illi inter sese magnâ vi brachia tollunt.
Geor. IV. 174.
On the other hand, swift motion is imitated by a succession of short syllables:
Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.
Radit iter liquidum, celeres neque commovet alas.
Thirdly; a line composed of monosyllables, makes an impression, by the frequency of its pauses, similar to what is made by laborious interrupted motion:
With many a weary step, and many a groan,
First march the heavy mules securely slow;
Iliad, XXIII. 138.
Fourthly; the impression made by rough sounds in succession, resembles that made by rough or tumultuous motion: on the other hand, the impression of smooth sounds resembles that of gentle motion. The following is an example of both.
* See Chap. 2. Part 4,
Two craggy rocks projecting to the main,
Another example of the latter
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
Fifthly; prolonged motion is expressed in an Alexandrine line. The first example shall be of slow motion prolonged.
A needless Alexandrine ends the song;
That like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Essay on Criticism, 356.
The next example is of forcible motion prolonged:
The last shall be of rapid motion prolonged:
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Iliad, XIII. 1004.
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Essay on Criticism, 373.
Again, speaking of a rock torn from the brow of a mountain:
Still gath'ring force, it smokes, and urg'd amain,
Iliad, XIII. 197. Sixthly; a period consisting mostly of long syllables, that is, of syllables pronounced slow, produces an emotion resembling faintly that which is produced by gravity and solemnity. Hence the beauty of the following verse:
Olli sedato respondit corde Latinus.
It resembles equally an object that is insipid and uninteresting. Tædet quotidianarum harum formarum.
Terence, Eunuchus, Act II. Sc. 3.
Seventhly; a slow succession of ideas is a circumstance that belongs equally to settled melancholy, and to a period composed of polysyllables pronounced slowly: and hence by similarity of emotions, the latter is imitative of the former:
In those deep solitudes, and awful cells,
Where heav'nly pensive Contemplation dwells.
And ever-musing melancholy reigns. Pope, Eloisa to Abelard. Eighthly; a long syllable made short, or a short syllable made long, raises, by the difficulty of pronouncing contrary to custom, a feeling similar to that of hard labor:
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow. Essay on Crit. 370. Ninthly; harsh or rough words pronounced with difficulty, excite a feeling similar to that which proceeds from the labor of thought to a dull writer: