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And ye five other wand'ring fires that move
In the following examples, where the word first introduced imports a relation, the disjunction will be found more violent.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Sing heavn❜ly muse.
For what could else? to our almighty foe
Clear victory, to our part loss and rout.
-Forth rush'd, with whirlwind sound,
The chariot of paternal Deity.
Language would have no great power, were it confined to the natural order of ideas. I shall soon have opportunity to make it evident, that by inversion a thousand beauties may be compassed, which must be relinquished in a natural arrangement. In the mean time it ought not to escape observation, that the mind of man is happily so constituted as to relish inversion, though in one respect unnatural; and to relish it so much, as in many cases to admit a separation between words the most intimately connected. It can scarce be said that inversion has any limits; though I may venture to pronounce, that the disjunction of articles, conjunctions, or prepositions, from the words to which they belong, has very seldom a good effect. The following example with relation to a preposition, is perhaps as tolerable as any of the kind:
He would neither separate from, nor act against them.
I give notice to the reader, that I am now ready to enter on the rules of arrangement; beginning with a natural style, and proceeding gradually to what is the most inverted. And in the arrangement of a period, as well as in a right choice of words, the first and great object being perspicuity, the rule above laid down, that perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty, holds equally in both. Ambiguities occasioned by a wrong arrangement are of two sorts; one where the arrangement leads to a wrong sense, and one where the sense is left doubtful. The first, being more culpable, shall take the lead, beginning with examples of words put in a wrong place :
How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe merely from the influence which an ordinary presence has over men.Characteristics, vol. 1. p. 7.
This arrangement leads to a wrong sense; the adverb merely seems by its position to affect the preceding word; whereas it is intended to affect the following words, an ordinary presence; and therefore the arrangement ought to be thus:
How much the imagination of such a presence must exalt a genius, we may observe from the influence which an ordinary presence merely has over men. [Or, better]-which even an ordinary presence has over men.
The time of the election of a poet-laureat being now at hand, it may be proper to give some account of the rites and ceremonies anciently used at that solemnity, and only discontinued through the neglect and degeneracy of later times. Guardian.
The term only is intended to qualify the noun degeneracy, and not the participle discontinued; and therefore the arrangement ought to be as follows:
-and discontinued through the neglect and degeneracy only of
Sixtus the Fourth was, if I mistake not, a great collector of books at least. Letters on History, vol. 1. let. 6. Bolingbroke.
The expression here leads evidently to a wrong sense; the adverb at least, ought not to be connected with the substantive books, but with collector thus:
Sixtus the Fourth was a great collector at least of books.
Speaking of Lewis XIV.
If he was not the greatest king, he was the best actor of majesty at least, that ever filled a throne.-Ibid. letter 7.
If he was not the greatest king, he was at least the best actor of majesty, &c. This arrangement removes the wrong sense occasioned by the juxtaposition of majesty and at least.
The following examples are of a wrong arrangement of members.
I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which are in the power of a prince limited like ours by a strict execution of the laws. -A Project for the Advancement of Religion. Swift.
The structure of this period leads to a meaning which is not the author's, viz. power limited by a strict execution of the laws. That wrong sense is removed by the following arrangement :
I have confined myself to those methods for the advancement of piety, which, by a strict execution of the laws, are in the power of a prince limited like ours.
This morning, when one of Lady Lizard's daughters was looking over some hoods and ribands brought by her tirewoman, with great care and diligence, I employed no less in examining the box which contained them.-Guardian, No. 4. The wrong sense occasioned by this arrangement, may be easily prevented by varying it thus :
This morning when, with great care and diligence, one of Lady Lizard's daughters was looking over some hoods and ribands, &c.
A great stone that I happened to find after a long search by the sea-shore, serv ed me for an anchor.-Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 8.
One would think that the search was confined to the sea-shore; but as the meaning is, that the great stone was found by the sea-shore, the period ought to be arranged thus:
A great stone, that, after a long search, I happened to find by the sea-shore, served me for an anchor.
Next, of a wrong arrangement where the sense is left doubtful; beginning, as in the former sort, with examples of wrong arrange. ment of words in a member :
These forms of conversation by degrees multiplied and grew troublesome.-Spectator, No. 119.
Here it is left doubtful whether the modification by degrees relates to the preceding member or to what follows: it should be,
These forms of conversation multiply by degrees.
Nor does this false modesty expose us only to such actions as are indiscreet, but very often to such as are highly criminal.-Spectator, No. 458.
The ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement :
Nor does this false modesty expose us to such actions only as are indiscreet, &c. The empire of Blefuscu is an island situated to the north-east side of Lilliput, from whence it is parted only by a channel of 800 yards wide.-Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 5.
The ambiguity may be removed thus:
From whence it is parted by a channel of 800 yards wide only. In the following examples the sense is left doubtful by wrong arrangement of members.
The minister who grows less by his elevation, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal, will always have his jealousy strong about him.-Dissertation upon Parties, Dedication. Bolingbroke.
Here, as far as can be gathered from the arrangement, it is doubt. ful, whether the object introduced by way of simile, relates to what goes before or to what follows: the ambiguity is removed by the following arrangement :
The minister, who, like a little statue placed on a mighty pedestal, grows less by his elevation, will always, &c.
Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, if his expectation be not answered, shall he form a lasting division upon such transient motives?—Ibid. Better thus:
Since this is too much to ask of freemen, nay of slaves, shall he, if his expectations be not answered, form, &c.
Speaking of the superstitious practice of locking up the room where a person of distinction dies:
The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a manner shut out of his own house, upon the death of his mother, ordered all the apartments to be flung open, and exorcised by his chaplain.-Spectator, No. 110. Better thus:
The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself
& manner shut out of his own house, ordered, upon the death of his mother, all the apartments to be flung open.
Speaking of some indecencies in conversation :
As it is impossible for such an irrational way of conversation to last long among a people that make any profession of religion, or show of modesty, if the country gentlemen get into it, they will certainly be left in the lurch.
Spectator, No. 119. The ambiguity vanishes in the following arrangement :
-the country gentlemen, if they get into it, will certainly be left in the lurch. Speaking of a discovery in natural philosophy, that colour is not an equality of matter :
As this is a truth which has been proved incontestably by many modern philosophers, and is indeed one of the finest speculations in that science, if the English reader would see the notion explained at large, he may find it in the eighth chapter of the second book of Mr. Locke's essay on human understanding.
Spectator, No. 413.
As this is a truth, &c. the English reader, if he would see the notion explained at large, may find it, &c.
A woman seldom asks advice before she has bought her wedding-clothes. When she has made her own choice, for form's sake she sends a congé d'elire to her friends.-Ibid. No. 475.
-she sends, for form's sake, a congé d'elire to her friend's.
And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud ispermitted or connived at, or hath no law lo punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.-Gulliver's Travels, part 1. chap. 6.
And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, the honest dealer, where fraud is committed or connived at, or hath no law to punish it, is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.
From these examples, the following observation will occur, that a circumstance ought never to be placed between two capital members of a period; for by such situation it must always be doubtful, as far as we gather from the arrangement, to which of the two members it belongs: where it is interjected, as it ought to be, between parts of the member to which it belongs, the ambiguity is removed, and the capital members are kept distinct, which is a great beauty in composition. In general, to preserve members distinct that sig. nify things distinguished in the thought, the best method is, to place first in the consequent member some word that cannot connect with what precedes it.
If it shall be thought that the objections here are too scrupulous, and that the defect of perspicuity is easily supplied by accurate punctuation, the answer is, That punctuation may remove an am biguity, but will never produce that peculiar beauty which is per
ceived when the sense comes out clearly and distinctly by means of a happy arrangement. Such influence has this beauty, that by a natural transition of perception, it is communicated to the very sound of the words, so as in appearance to improve the music of the period. But as this curious subject comes in more properly afterward, it is sufficient at present to appeal to experience, that a period, so arranged as to bring out the sense clear, seems always more musical than where the sense is left in any degree doubtful.
A rule deservedly occupying the second place is, That words expressing things connected in the thought, ought to be placed as near together as possible. This rule is derived immediately from human nature, prone in every instance to place together things in any manner connected:* where things are arranged according to their connexions, we have a sense of order; otherwise we have a sense of disorder, as of things placed by chance and we naturally place words in the same order in which we would place the things they signify. The bad effect of a violent separation of words or members thus intimately connected, will appear from the following example :
For the English are naturally fanciful, and very often disposed, by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which is so frequent in our nation, to many wild notions and visions, to which others are not so liable.
Spectator, No. 419.
Here the verb or assertion is, by a pretty long circumstance, violently separated from the subject to which it refers; this makes a harsh arrangement: the less excusable that the fault is easily pre-. vented by placing the circumstance before the verb, after the fol. lowing manner :
For the English are naturally fanciful, and, by that gloominess and melancholy of temper which is so frequent in our nation, are often disposed to many wild notions, &c.
For as no mortal author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows to what use his works may, some time or other, be applied, &c.
Spectator, No. 85.
For as in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, no mortal author knows to what use, some time or other, his works may be applied, &c.
From whence we may date likewise the rivalship of the house of France; for we may reckon that of Valois and that of Bourbon as one upon this occasion, and the house of Austria, that continues at this day, and has oft cost so much blood and so much treasure in the course of it.
Letters on History, vol. 1. let. 6. Bolingbroke.
It cannot be impertinent or ridiculous, therefore, in such a country, whatever it might be in the Abbot of St. Real's, which was Savoy, I think; or in Peru, under the Incas, where Garcilasso de la Vega says it was lawful for none but the nobility to study-for men of all degrees to instruct themselves in those af fairs wherein they may be actors, or judges of those who act, or controllers of those that judge.-Ibid. let. 5.
If Scipio, who was naturally given to women, for which anecdote we have, if I mistake not, the authority of Polybius, as well as some verses of Nevius preserved by Aulus Gellius, had been educated by Olympias at the court of Philip, it is improbable that he would have restored the beautiful Spaniard.
*Sea chap. 1.
Ibid, let. 3.