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laid down. I proceed as usual to illustrate this rule by examples. The following period is placed in its natural order :
Were instruction an essential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether & single instance could be given of this species of composition in any language. The period thus arranged admits a full close upon the word composition; after which it goes on languidly, and closes without force. This blemish will be avoided by the following arrangement :
Were instruction an essential circumstance in epic poetry, I doubt whether, in any language, a single instance could be given of this species of composition. Some of our most eminent divines have made use of this I latonic notion, as far as it regards the subsistence of our passions after death, with great beauty and strength of reason.-Spectator, No. 90.
Some of our most eminent divines have, with great beauty and strength of reason, made use of this Platonic notion, &c.
Men of the best sense have been touched, more or less, with these groundless horrors and presages of futurity, upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature. Spectator, No. 505.
Upon surveying the most indifferent works of nature, men of the best sense, &c.
She soon informed him of the place he was in, which, notwithstanding all its horrors, appeared to him more sweet than the bower of Mahomet, in the company of his Balsora.-Guardian, No. 167.
She soon, &c. appeared to him, in the company of his Balsora, more sweet, &c.
The Emperor was so intent on the establishment of his absolute power in Hungary, that be exposed the empire doubly to desolation and ruin for the sake of it -Letters on History, vol. 1. let. 7. Bolingbroke.
-that for the sake of it he exposed the empire doubly to desolation
None of the rules for the composition of periods are more liable. to be abused than those last mentioned; witness many Latin writers, among the moderns especially, whose style, by inversions too violent, is rendered harsh and obscure. Suspension of the thought till the close of the period ought never to be preferred before perspicuity. Neither ought such suspension to be attempted in a long period, because in that case the mind is bewildered amidst a profusion of words: a traveller, while he is puzzled about the road, relishes not the finest prospect.
All the rich presents which Astyages had given him at parting, keeping only some Median horses, in order to propagate the breed of them in Persia, he distributed among his friends whom he left at the court of Ecbatana. -Travels of Cyrus, book 1.
The foregoing rules concerning the arrangement of a single period; I add one rule more concerning the distribution of a discourse into different periods. A short period is lively and familiar; a long period, requiring more attention, makes an impression grave and
solemn.* In general, a writer ought to study a mixture of long and short periods, which prevent an irksome uniformity, and entertain the mind with a variety of impressions. In particular, long periods ought to be avoided till the reader's attention be thoroughly en gaged and therefore a discourse, especially of the familiar kind, ought never to be introduced with a long period. For that reason, the commencement of a letter to a very young lady on her marriage is faulty.
Madam, The hurry and impertinence of receiving and paying visits on account of your marriage being now over, you are beginning to enter into a course of life where you will want much advice to divert you from falling into many errors, fopperies, and follies, to which your sex is subject.—Swift.
See another example still more faulty, in the commencement of Cicero's oration, Pro Archia poeta.
Before proceeding farther, it may be proper to review the rules laid down in this and the preceding section, in order to make some general observations. That order of the words and members of a period is justly termed natural, which corresponds to the natural order of the ideas that compose the thought. The tendency of many 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 transposi tion 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. Cerceauf 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 * Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, sect. 44.) observes, that long members in a period make an impression of gravity and importance. The same observation is applicable to periods. Reflections sur la poësie François.
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 Ro man tongues, of which living languages afford but faint imitations.
BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE, FROM A RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN
- A RESEMBLANCE between the sound of certain words and their signification, is a beauty that has escaped no critical writer, and yet 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 sig. nification, accompanied with an endeavour to explain why such resemblances are beautiful. I begin with examples where the resemblance between the sound and signification is the most entire ; and next, 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 bowstring is imitated by the words that express it :
-The string let fly
Twang'd short and sharp, like the shrill swallow's cry.-Odyssey, xxi. 449
The sound of felling trees in a wood :
Loud sounds the axe, redoubling strokes on strokes,
On all sides round the forest hurls her oaks
Headlong. Deep echoing groan the thickets brown,
Then rustling, crackling, crashing, thunder down.-Iliad, xxiii. 144.
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore.
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar.
Pope's Essay on Criticism, 369
Bire Scylla there a scene of horror forms,
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 the 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.
* See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 5.
↑ Poet. L. 3. 365--454.
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 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 following fact, that the term movement in all languages is equally applied to 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 magna vi brachia tollunt.-Georg. 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,
* See chap. 2. part 4