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CHAPTER XVIII: Beauty of Language 1 - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, vol. 2 
Elements of Criticism, Edited and with an Introduction by Peter Jones (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). 2 vols. Vol. 2.
Part of: Elements of Criticism, 2 vols.
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Beauty of Language1
Of all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature imitative. An ornamented field is not a copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture is productive of originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in some measure be imitated by music; but for the most part music, like architecture, is productive of originals. Language copies not from nature, more than music or architecture; unless where, like music, it is imitative of sound or motion. Thus, in the description of particular sounds, language sometimes furnisheth words, which, beside their customary power of<4> exciting ideas, resemble by their softness or harshness the sounds described; and there are words which, by the celerity or slowness of pronunciation, have some resemblance to the motion they signify. The imitative power of words goes one step farther: the loftiness of some words makes them proper symbols of lofty ideas; a rough subject is imitated by harsh-sounding words; and words of many syllables pronounced slow and smooth, are expressive of grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the mind, abstracting from their signification and from their imitative power: they are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the fulness, sweetness, faintness, or roughness of their tones.
These are but faint beauties, being known to those only who have more than ordinary acuteness of perception. Language possesseth a beauty superior greatly in degree, of which we are eminently sensible when a thought is communicated with perspicuity and sprightliness. This beauty of language, arising from its power of expressing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of the thought itself: the beauty of thought, transferred to the expression, makes it appear more beautiful.* But these beauties, if we wish to<5> think accurately, must be distinguished from each other. They are in reality so distinct, that we sometimes are conscious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the subject expressed is disagreeable: a thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make one’s hair stand on end, may be described in a manner so lively, as that the disagreeableness of the subject shall not even obscure the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty of language, considered as significant, which is a branch of the present subject, will be explained in their order. I shall only at present observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, that of communicating thought: and hence it evidently appears, that of several expressions all conveying the same thought, the most beautiful, in the sense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.
The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different kinds, ought to be handled separately. I shall begin with those beauties of language that arise from sound; after which will follow the beauties of language considered as significant: this order appears natural; for the<6> sound of a word is attended to, before we consider its signification. In a third section come those singular beauties of language that are derived from a resemblance between sound and signification. The beauties of verse are handled in the last section: for though the foregoing beauties are found in verse as well as in prose, yet verse has many peculiar beauties, which for the sake of connection must be brought under one view; and versification, at any rate, is a subject of so great importance, as to deserve a place by itself.
Beauty of Language with respect to Sound.
This subject requires the following order. The sounds of the different letters come first: next, these sounds as united in syllables: third, syllables united in words: fourth, words united in a period: and in the last place, periods united in a discourse.
With respect to the first article, every vowel is sounded with a single expiration of air from the wind-pipe, through the cavity of the mouth. By varying this cavity, the different vowels are sounded: for the air in passing through cavities differing in size, produceth various sounds, some high or<7> sharp, some low or flat; a small cavity occasions a high sound, a large cavity a low sound. The five vowels accordingly, pronounced with the same extension of the wind-pipe, but with different openings of the mouth, form a regular series of sounds, descending from high to low, in the following order, i, e, a, o, u.* Each of these sounds is agreeable to the ear: and if it be required which of them is the most agreeable, it is perhaps safest to hold, that those vowels which are the farthest removed from the extremes, will be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the first article: for consonants being letters that of themselves have no sound, serve only in conjunction with vowels to form articulate sounds; and as every articulate sound makes a syllable, consonants come naturally under the second article; to which we proceed.
A consonant is pronounced with a less cavity than any vowel; and consequently every syllable into which a consonant enters, must have more than one sound, though pronounced with one expiration of air, or with one breath as commonly expressed: for however readily two sounds may unite, yet where they differ in tone, both of them must<8> be heard if neither of them be suppressed. For the same reason, every syllable must be composed of as many sounds as there are letters, supposing every letter to be distinctly pronounced.
We next enquire, how far syllables are agreeable to the ear. Few tongues are so polished, as entirely to have rejected sounds that are pronounced with difficulty; and it is a noted observation, That such sounds are to the ear harsh and disagreeable. But with respect to agreeable sounds, it appears, that a double sound is always more agreeable than a single sound: every one who has an ear must be sensible, that the dipththong oi or ai is more agreeable than any of these vowels pronounced singly: the same holds where a consonant enters into the double sound; the syllable le has a more agreeable sound than the vowel e, or than any vowel. And in support of experience, a satisfactory argument may be drawn from the wisdom of Providence: speech is bestowed on man, to qualify him for society; and his provision of articulate sounds is proportioned to the use he hath for them: but if sounds that are agreeable singly were not also agreeable in conjunction, the necessity of a painful selection would render language intricate and difficult to be attained in any perfection; and this selection, at the same time, would abridge the number of useful sounds, so as perhaps not to leave sufficient for answering the different ends of language.<9>
In this view, the harmony of pronunciation differs widely from that of music properly so called. In the latter are discovered many sounds singly agreeable, which in conjunction are extremely disagreeable; none but what are called concordant sounds having a good effect in conjunction. In the former, all sounds, singly agreeable, are in conjunction concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfil the purposes of language.
Having discussed syllables, we proceed to words; which make the third article. Monosyllables belong to the former head: polysyllables open a different scene. In a cursory view, one would imagine, that the agreeableness or disagreeableness of a word with respect to its sound, should depend upon the agreeableness or disagreeableness of its component syllables: which is true in part, but not entirely; for we must also take under consideration, the effect of syllables in succession. In the first place, syllables in immediate succession, pronounced, each of them, with the same or nearly the same aperture of the mouth, produce a succession of weak and feeble sounds; witness the French words dit-il, pathetique: on the other hand, a syllable of the greatest aperture succeeding one of the smallest, or the contrary, makes a succession, which, because of its remarkable disagreeableness, is distinguished by a proper name, hiatus. The most agreeable succession is, where the cavity is increased and diminished alternately<10> within moderate limits. Examples, alternative, longevity, pusillanimous. Secondly, words consisting wholly of syllables pronounced slow, or of syllables pronounced quick, commonly called long and short syllables, have little melody in them; witness the words petitioner, fruiterer, dizziness: on the other hand, the intermixture of long and short syllables is remarkably agreeable; for example, degree, repent, wonderful, altitude, rapidity, independent, impetuosity.* The cause will be explained afterward, in treating of versification.
Distinguishable from the beauties above mentioned, there is a beauty of some words which arises from their signification: when the emotion raised by the length or shortness, the roughness or smoothness, of the sound, resembles in any degree what is raised by the sense, we feel a very remarkable pleasure. But this subject belongs to the third section.
The foregoing observations afford a standard to every nation, for estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that enter into<11> their own language: but they are not equally useful in comparing the words of different languages; which will thus appear. Different nations judge differently of the harshness or smoothness of articulate sounds; a sound, for example, harsh and disagreeable to an Italian, may be abundantly smooth to a northern ear: here every nation must judge for itself; nor can there be any solid ground for a preference, when there is no common standard to which we can appeal. The case is precisely the same as in behaviour and manners: plain-dealing and sincerity, liberty in words and actions, form the character of one people; politeness, reserve, and a total disguise of every sentiment that can give offence, form the character of another people: to each the manners of the other are disagreeable. An effeminate mind cannot bear the least of that roughness and severity, which is generally esteemed manly when exerted upon proper occasions: neither can an effeminate ear bear the harshness of certain words, that are deemed nervous and sounding by those accustomed to a rougher tone of speech. Must we then relinquish all thoughts of comparing languages in point of roughness and smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether; for we may proceed a certain length, tho’ without hope of an ultimate decision. A language pronounced with difficulty even by natives, must yield to a smoother language: and supposing two languages pronounced with equal<12> facility by natives, the rougher language, in my judgment, ought to be preferred, provided it be also stored with a competent share of more mellow sounds; which will be evident from attending to the different effects that articulate sound hath on the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by calming the mind, and lulling it to rest: a rough bold sound, on the contrary, animates the mind; the effort perceived in pronouncing, is communicated to the hearers, who feel in their own minds a similar effort, rousing their attention, and disposing them to action. I add another consideration: the agreeableness of contrast in the rougher language, for which the great variety of sounds gives ample opportunity, must, even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the smoother language.* This appears all that can be safely determined upon the present point. With respect to the other circumstances that constitute the beauty of words, the standard abovementioned is infallible when apply’d to foreign languages as well as to our own: for every man, whatever be his mother-tongue, is equally capable to judge of the length or shortness of words, of the alternate opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the relation that the<13> sound bears to the sense: in these particulars, the judgment is susceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible prejudice.
That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened by dropping in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is undoubtedly true: that it is not capable of being further mellowed without suffering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any one who possesses an ear; and yet such in Britain is the propensity for dispatch, that, overlooking the majesty of words composed of many syllables aptly connected, the prevailing taste is to shorten words, even at the expence of making them disagreeable to the ear, and harsh in the pronunciation. But I have no occasion to insist upon this article, being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever did, the true genius of the English tongue.* I cannot however forbear 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, has remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most conspicuous place in the word; upon which account, the vowel in common speech is generally suppressed, and the consonant added to the foregoing syllable; whence the following rugged sounds,<14> drudg’d, disturb’d, rebuk’d, fledg’d. It is still less excusable to follow this practice in writing; for the hurry of speaking may excuse what would be altogether improper in composition: the syllable ed, it is true, sounds poorly at the end of a word; but rather that defect, than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all, bear an over-proportion in our tongue. The author above-mentioned, by showing a good example, did all in his power to restore that syllable; and he well deserves to be imitated. Some exceptions however I would make. A word that signifies labour or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth; therefore forc’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 remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise some general observations upon the appearance that objects make when placed in an increasing or decreasing series. Where the objects vary by small differences so as to have a mutual resemblance, we in ascending conceive<15> 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 every object except the first: but when, beginning at the greatest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as great as the first, and the third as great as the second; which in appearance magnifies every object except the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by large differences, where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite: a great object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears greater than usual; and a little object succeeding one that is great, appears less than usual.* Hence a remarkable pleasure in viewing a series ascending by large differences; directly opposite to what we feel when the differences are small. The least object of a series ascending by large differences has the same effect upon the mind as if it stood single without making a part of the series: but the second object, by means of contrast, appears greater than when view’d singly and apart; and the same effect is perceived 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, appears less than when view’d separately and independent of the series. We may<16> then assume as a maxim, which will hold in the composition of language as well as of other subjects, That a strong impulse succeeding a weak, makes double impression on the mind; and that a weak impulse succeeding a strong, makes scarce any impression.
After establishing this maxim, we can be at no loss about its application to the subject in hand. The following rule is laid down by Diomedes.† “In verbis observandum est, ne a majoribus ad minora descendat oratio; melius enim dicitur, Vir est optimus, quam, Vir optimus est.” This rule is also applicable to entire members of a period, which, according to our author’s expression, ought not, more than single words, to proceed from the greater to the less, but from the less to the greater.* In arranging the members of a period, no writer equals Cicero: the beauty of the following examples out of many, will not suffer me to slur them over by a reference.
This order of words or members gradually increasing in length, may, as far as concerns the pleasure of sound, be denominated a climax in sound.
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 present 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 sort of composition. Hence a rule for arranging the members of different periods with relation to each other, That to avoid a tedious uniformity of sound and cadence, the arrangement, the cadence, and the length of the members, ought to be diversified as much as possible: and if the members of different periods be sufficiently diversified, the periods themselves will be equally so.<18>
Beauty of Language with respect to Signification.
It is well said by a noted writer,* “That by means of speech we can divert our sorrows, mingle our mirth, impart our secrets, communicate our counsels, and make mutual compacts and agreements to supply and assist each other.” Considering speech as contributing 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 handled 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 I propose to exhaust all the other beauties of language that relate to signification: the reader, in a work like the present, cannot fairly expect more than a slight sketch of those that make the greatest figure. This task is the more to my taste, as being connected with certain natural principles; and the<19> 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 suggests 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 former resembling the stones that compose a building, and the latter resembling the order in which they are placed. Hence the beauties of language with respect to signification, may not improperly be distinguished into two kinds: first, 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 arrangement of these words or materials. I begin with rules 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 chief end of language, it is a rule, That perspicuity ought not to be sacrificed to any other beauty whatever: if it should be doubted whether perspicuity 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 ob-<20>scurity 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 shall here give a few examples where the obscurity arises from a wrong choice of words; and as this defect is too common in the ordinary herd of writers to make examples from them necessary, I confine myself to the most celebrated authors.
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.
Ac spem fronte serenat.
Aeneid. iv. 477.11
I am in greater pain about the foregoing passages than about any I have ventured to criticise, being aware that a vague or obscure expression, is apt to gain favour with those who neglect to examine it with a critical eye. To some it carries the sense that they relish the most; and by suggesting various meanings at once, it is admired by others as concise and comprehensive: which by the way fairly accounts for the opinion generally entertained with respect to most languages in their infant state, of expressing much in few words. This observation may be illustrated by a passage from Quintilian, quoted in the first volume for a different purpose.<22>
At quae Polycleto defuerunt, Phidiae atque Alcameni dantur. Phidias tamen diis quam hominibus efficiendis melior artifex traditur: in ebore vero, longe citra aemulum, vel si nihil nisi Minervam Athenis, aut Olympium in Elide Jovem fecisset, cujus pulchritudo adjecisse aliquid etiam receptae religioni videtur; adeo majestas operis Deum aequavit.12
The sentence in the Italic characters appeared to me abundantly perspicuous, before I gave it peculiar attention. And yet to examine it independent of the context, its proper meaning is not what is intended: the words naturally import, that the beauty of the statues mentioned, appears to add some new tenet or rite to the established religion, or appears to add new dignity to it; and we must consult the context before we can gather the true meaning; which is, that the Greeks were confirmed in the belief of their established religion by these majestic statues, so like real divinities.
There may be a defect in perspicuity proceeding even from the slightest ambiguity in construction; as where the period commences with a member conceived to be in the nominative case, which afterward is found to be in the accusative. Example: “Some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, I propose to handle in separate chapters.”* Better thus: “Some<23> emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, are proposed to be handled in separate chapters.”
I add another error against perspicuity; which I mention the rather because with some writers it passes for a beauty. It is the giving different names to the same object, mentioned oftener than once in the same period. Example: Speaking of the English adventurers who first attempted the conquest of Ireland, “and instead of reclaiming the natives from their uncultivated manners, they were gradually assimilated to the ancient inhabitants, and degenerated from the customs of their own nation.” From this mode of expression, one would think the author meant to distinguish the ancient inhabitants from the natives; and we cannot discover otherwise than from the sense, that these are only different names given to the same object for the sake of variety. But perspicuity ought never to be sacrificed to any other beauty, which leads me to think that the passage may be improved as follows: “and degenerating from the customs of their own nation, they were gradually assimilated to the natives, instead of reclaiming them from their uncultivated manners.”
The next rule in order, because next in importance, is, That the language ought to correspond to the subject: heroic actions or sentiments re-<24>quire elevated language; tender sentiments ought to be expressed in words soft and flowing; and plain language void of ornament, is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language may be considered as the dress of thought; and where the one is not suited to the other, we are sensible of incongruity, in the same manner as where a judge is dressed like a fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. Where the impression made by the words resembles the impression made by the thought, the similar emotions mix sweetly in the mind, and double the pleasure;* but where the impressions made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, the unnatural union they are forced into is disagreeable.†
This concordance between the thought and the words has been observed by every critic, and is so well understood as not to require any illustration. But there is a concordance of a peculiar kind that has scarcely been touched in works of criticism, though it contributes to neatness of composition. It is what follows. In a thought of any extent, we commonly find some parts intimately united, some slightly, some disjoined, and some directly opposed to each other. To find these conjunctions and disjunctions imitated in the expression, is a beauty; because such imitation makes the words concordant with the sense.<25> This doctrine may be illustrated by a familiar example. When we have occasion to mention the intimate connection that the soul hath with the body, the expression ought to be, the soul and body; because the particle the, relative to both, makes a connection in the expression, resembling in some degree the connection in the thought: but when the soul is distinguished from the body, it is better to say the soul and the body; because the disjunction in the words resembles the disjunction in the thought. I proceed to other examples, beginning with conjunctions.
Constituit agmen; et expedire tela animosque, equitibus jussis, &c.
Livy, l. 38. § 25.13
Here the words that express the connected ideas are artificially connected by subjecting them both to the regimen of one verb. And the two following are of the same kind.
Quum ex paucis quotidie aliqui eorum caderent aut vulnerarentur, et qui superarent, fessi et corporibus et animis essent, &c.
Livy, l. 38. § 29.14
But to justify this artificial connection among the<26> words, the ideas they express ought to be intimately connected; for otherwise that concordance which is required between the sense and the expression will be impaired. In that view, a passage from Tacitus is exceptionable; where words that signify ideas very little connected, are however forc’d into an artificial union. Here is the passage:
Germania omnis a Galliis, Rhaetiisque, et Pannoniis, Rheno et Danubio fluminibus; a Sarmatis Dacisque, mutuo metu aut montibus separatur.
De moribus Germanorum.16
Upon the same account, I esteem the following passage equally exceptionable.
There is no natural connection between a person’s flying or retiring, and the succession of day-light to darkness; and therefore to connect artificially the terms that signify these things cannot have a sweet effect.
Two members of a thought connected by their relation to the same action, will naturally be expressed by two members of the period governed by the same verb; in which case these members,<27> in order to improve their connection, ought to be constructed in the same manner. This beauty is so common among good writers, as to have been little attended to; but the neglect of it is remarkably disagreeable: For example, “He did not mention Leonora, nor that her father was dead.” Better thus: “He did not mention Leonora, nor her father’s death.”
Where two ideas are so connected as to require but a copulative, it is pleasant to find a connection in the words that express these ideas, were it even so slight as where both begin with the same letter:
The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colour that appears in the garments of a British lady, when she is either dressed for a ball or a birth-day.
Spectator, No. 265.
Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea-coal.
Ibid. No. 530.
There is sensibly a defect in neatness when uniformity in this case is totally neglected;* witness the following example, where the construction of<28> two members connected by a copulative is unnecessarily varied.
For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgement, who upon a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities, without the least tincture of learning, have made a discovery that there was no God, and generously communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparallelled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for blasphemy.† [Better thus]:—having made a discovery that there was no God, and having generously communicated their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, &c.
He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had he not found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled into the deserts of Numidia.
Guardian, No. 139.17
If all the ends of the revolution are already obtained, it is not only impertinent to argue for obtaining any of them, but factious designs might be imputed, and the name of incendiary be applied with some colour, perhaps, to any one who should persist in pressing this point.
Dissertation upon parties, Dedication.18 <29>
Next as to examples of disjunction and opposition in the parts of the thought, imitated in the expression; an imitation that is distinguished by the name of antithesis.
Speaking of Coriolanus soliciting the people to be made consul:
An artificial connection among the words, is undoubtedly a beauty when it represents any peculiar connection among the constituent parts of the thought; but where there is no such connection, it is a positive deformity, as above observed, because it makes a discordance between the thought and expression. For the same reason, we ought also to avoid every artificial opposition of words where there is none in the thought. This last, termed verbal antithesis, is studied by low writers, because of a certain degree of liveliness in it. They do not consider how incongruous it is, in a grave composition, to cheat the reader, and to<30> make him expect a contrast in the thought, which upon examination is not found there.
A light wife doth make a heavy husband.
Merchant of Venice.
Here is a studied opposition in the words, not only without any opposition in the sense, but even where there is a very intimate connection, that of cause and effect; for it is the levity of the wife that torments the husband.
What, shall these papers lie like tell-tales here?
If thou respect them, best to take them up.
Nay, I was taken up for laying them down.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1. sc. 3.20
A fault directly opposite to that last mentioned, is to conjoin artificially words that express ideas opposed to each other. This is a fault too gross to be in common practice; and yet writers are guilty of it in some degree, when they conjoin by a copulative things transacted at different periods of time. Hence a want of neatness in the following expression.
The nobility too, whom the King had no means of retaining by suitable offices and preferments, had been<31> seized with the general discontent, and unwarily threw themselves into the scale which began already too much to preponderate.
History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 250.21
In periods of this kind, it appears more neat to express the past time by the participle passive, thus:
The nobility having been seized with the general discontent, unwarily threw themselves, &c. (or), The nobility, who had been seized, &c. unwarily threw themselves, &c.
It is unpleasant to find even a negative and affirmative proposition connected by a copulative:
In mirth and drollery it may have a good effect to connect verbally things that are opposite to each other in the thought. Example: Henry the Fourth of France introducing the Mareschal Biron to some of his friends, “Here, Gentlemen,” says he, “is the Mareschal Biron, whom I freely present both to my friends and enemies.”<32>
This rule of studying uniformity between the thought and expression, may be extended to the construction of sentences or periods. A sentence or period ought to express one entire thought or mental proposition; and different thoughts ought to be separated in the expression by placing them in different sentences or periods. It is therefore offending against neatness, to crowd into one period entire thoughts requiring more than one; which is joining in language things that are separated in reality. Of errors against this rule take the following examples.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea pleasant; also our bed is green.24
Caesar, describing the Suevi:
Atque in eam se consuetudinem adduxerunt, ut locis frigidissimis, neque vestitus, praeter pelles, habeant quidquam, quarum propter exiguitatem, magna est corporis pars aperta, et laventur in fluminibus.
Commentaria, l. 4. prin.25
Burnet, in the history of his own times, giving Lord Sunderland’s character, says,
His own notions were always good; but he was a man of great expence.26
I have seen a woman’s face break out in heats, as she has been talking against a great lord, whom she had ne-<33>ver seen in her life; and indeed never knew a party-woman that kept her beauty for a twelvemonth.
Spectator, No. 57.
Lord Bolingbroke, speaking of Strada:
I single him out among the moderns, because he had the foolish presumption to censure Tacitus, and to write history himself; and your Lordship will forgive this short excursion in honour of a favourite writer.
Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 5.27
It seems to me, that in order to maintain the moral system of the world at a certain point, far below that of ideal perfection, (for we are made capable of conceiving what we are incapable of attaining), but however sufficient upon the whole to constitute a state easy and happy, or at the worst tolerable: I say, it seems to me, that the Author of nature has thought fit to mingle from time to time, among the societies of men, a few, and but a few, of those on whom he is graciously pleased to bestow a larger proportion of the etherial spirit than is given in the ordinary course of his providence to the sons of men.
Bolingbroke, on the spirit of patriotism, let. 1.
To crowd into a single member of a period different subjects, is still worse than to crowd them into one period:
From conjunctions and disjunctions in general, we proceed to comparisons, which make one species of them, beginning with similies. And here also, the intimate connection that words have with their meaning requires, that in describing two resembling objects a resemblance in the two members of the period ought to be studied. To illustrate the rule in this case, I shall give various examples of deviations from it; beginning with resemblances expressed in words that have no resemblance.
I have observed of late, the style of some great ministers very much to exceed that of any other productions.
Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift.
This, instead of studying the resemblance of words in a period that expresses a comparison, is going out of one’s road to avoid it. Instead of productions, which resemble not ministers great nor small, the proper word is writers or authors.
If men of eminence are exposed to censure on the one hand, they are as much liable to flattery on the other. If they receive reproaches which are not due to them, they likewise receive praises which they do not deserve.
Here the subject plainly demands uniformity in expression instead of variety; and therefore it is submitted, whether the period would not do better in the following manner:<35>
If men of eminence be exposed to censure on the one hand, they are as much exposed to flattery on the other. If they receive reproaches that are not due, they likewise receive praises that are not due.
I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently with other judgements, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship.* [Better thus]: I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently with others, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship.
A glutton or mere sensualist is as ridiculous as the other two characters.
Shaftesbury, vol. 1. p. 129.
They wisely prefer the generous efforts of goodwill and affection, to the reluctant compliances of such as obey by force.
Remarks on the history of England, letter 5. Bolingbroke.
Titus Livius, mentioning a demand made by the people of Enna of the keys from the Roman governor, makes him say,
Quas simul tradiderimus, Carthaginiensium extemplo Enna erit, foediusque hic trucidabimur, quam Murgantiae praesidium interfectum est.
l. 24. § 38.30 <36>
Quintus Curtius, speaking of Porus mounted on an elephant, and leading his army to battle:
Magnitudini Pori adjicere videbatur bellua qua vehebatur, tantum inter caeteras eminens, quanto aliis ipse praestabat.
l. 8. cap. 14.31
It is still a greater deviation from congruity, to affect not only variety in the words, but also in the construction. Describing Thermopylae, Titus Livius says,
Id jugum, sicut Apennini dorso Italia dividitur, ita mediam Graeciam diremit.
l. 36. § 15.32
Speaking of Shakespear:
There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his genius, in the same manner as bodies appear more gigantic on account of their being disproportioned and mishapen.
History of G. Britain, vol. 1. p. 138.33
This is studying variety in a period where the beauty lies in uniformity. Better thus:
There may remain a suspicion that we over-rate the greatness of his genius, in the same manner as we overrate the greatness of bodies that are disproportioned and mishapen.<37>
Next as to the length of the members that signify the resembling objects. To produce a resemblance between such members, they ought not only to be constructed in the same manner, but as nearly as possible be equal in length. By neglecting this circumstance, the following example is defective in neatness.
As the performance of all other religious duties will not avail in the sight of God, without charity; so neither will the discharge of all other ministerial duties avail in the sight of men, without a faithful discharge of this principal duty.
Dissertation upon parties, Dedication.
In the following passage are accumulated all the errors that a period expressing a resemblance can well admit.
Ministers are answerable for every thing done to the prejudice of the constitution, in the same proportion as the preservation of the constitution in its purity and vigour, or the perverting and weakening it, are of greater consequence to the nation, than any other instances of good or bad government.
Dissertation upon parties, Dedication.
Next of a comparison where things are opposed to each other. And here it must be obvious, that if resemblance ought to be studied in the words which express two resembling objects, there is equal reason for studying opposition in the words which express contrasted objects. This rule will<38> be best illustrated by examples of deviations from it:
A friend exaggerates a man’s virtues, an enemy inflames his crimes.
Spectator, No. 399.
Here the opposition in the thought is neglected in the words, which at first view seem to import, that the friend and the enemy are employ’d in different matters, without any relation to each other, whether of resemblance or of opposition. And therefore the contrast or opposition will be better marked by expressing the thought as follows.
A friend exaggerates a man’s virtues, an enemy his crimes.
The following are examples of the same kind.
The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool when he recommends himself to the applause of those about him.
Ibid. No. 73.
The wise man is happy when he gains his own approbation; the fool when he gains that of others.
Sicut in frugibus pecudibusque, non tantum semina ad servandum indolem valent, quantum terrae proprietas coelique, subquoaluntur, mutat.
Livy, lib. 38. § 17.34 <39>
We proceed to a rule of a different kind. During the course of a period, the scene ought to be continued without variation: the changing from person to person, from subject to subject, or from person to subject, within the bounds of a single period, distracts the mind, and affords no time for a solid impression. I illustrate this rule by giving examples of deviations from it.
Honos alit artes, omnesque incenduntur ad studia gloriâ; jacentque ea semper quae apud quosque improbantur.
Cicero, Tuscul. quaest. l. 1.35
Speaking of the distemper contracted by Alexander bathing in the river Cydnus, and of the cure offered by Philip the physician:
Inter hac à Parmenione fidissimo purpuratorum, literas accipit, quibus ei denunciabat, ne salutem suam Philippo committeret.
Quintus Curtius, l. 3. cap. 6.36
Hook, in his Roman history,37 speaking of Eumenes, who had been beat to the ground with a stone, says,
After a short time he came to himself; and the next day, they put him on board his ship, which conveyed him first to Corinth, and thence to the island of Aegina.
I give another example of a period which is unpleasant, even by a very slight deviation from the rule:<40>
That sort of instruction which is acquired by inculcating an important moral truth, &c.
This expression includes two persons, one acquiring, and one inculcating; and the scene is changed without necessity. To avoid this blemish, the thought may be expressed thus:
That sort of instruction which is afforded by inculcating, &c.
The bad effect of such change of person is remarkable in the following passage.
The Britons, daily harassed by cruel inroads from the Picts, were forced to call in the Saxons for their defence, who consequently reduced the greatest part of the island to their own power, drove the Britons into the most remote and mountainous parts, and the rest of the country, in customs, religion, and language, became wholly Saxons.
Letter to the Lord High Treasurer. Swift.38
The following passage has a change from subject to person.
This prostitution of praise is not only a deceit upon the gross of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the learned; but also the better sort must by this means lose some part at least of that desire of fame which is the incentive to generous actions, when they find it promiscuously bestowed on the meritorious and undeserving.
Guardian, No. 4.39 <41>
Even so slight a change as to vary the construction in the same period, is unpleasant:
Annibal luce prima, Balearibus levique alia armatura praemissa, transgressus flumen, ut quosque traduxerat, ita in acie locabat; Gallos Hispanosque equites prope ripam laevo in cornu adversus Romanum equitatum; dextrum cornu Numidis equitibus datum.
Tit. Liv. l. 22. § 46.40
Speaking of Hannibal’s elephants drove back by the enemy upon his own army:
Eo magis ruere in suos belluae, tantoque majorem stragem edere quam inter hostes ediderant, quanto acrius pavor consternatam agit, quam insidentis magistri imperio regitur.
Liv. l. 27. § 14.41
This passage is also faulty in a different respect, that there is no resemblance between the members of the sentence, though they express a simile.
The present head, which relates to the choice of materials, shall be closed with a rule concerning the use of copulatives. Longinus observes, that it animates a period to drop the copulatives; and he gives the following example from Xenophon.
Closing their shields together, they were push’d, they fought, they slew, they were slain.
Treatise of the Sublime, cap. 16.42
The reason I take to be what follows. A conti-<42>nued sound, if not loud, tends to lay us asleep: an interrupted sound rouses and animates by its repeated impulses. Thus feet composed of syllables, being pronounced with a sensible interval between each, make more lively impressions than can be made by a continued sound. A period of which the members are connected by copulatives, produceth an effect upon the mind approaching to that of a continued sound; and therefore the suppressing copulatives must animate a description. It produces a different effect akin to that mentioned: the members of a period connected by proper copulatives, glide smoothly and gently along; and are a proof of sedateness and leisure in the speaker: on the other hand, one in the hurry of passion, neglecting copulatives and other particles, expresses the principal image only; and for that reason, hurry or quick action is best expressed without copulatives:
Veni, vidi, vici.43
In this view Longinus* justly compares copula-<43>tives in a period to strait tying, which in a race obstructs the freedom of motion.
It follows, that a plurality of copulatives in the same period ought to be avoided: for if the laying aside copulatives give force and liveliness, a redundancy of them must render the period languid. I appeal to the following instance, though there are but two copulatives.
Upon looking over the letters of my female correspondents, I find several from women complaining of jealous husbands; and at the same time protesting their own innocence, and desiring my advice upon this occasion.
Spectator, No. 170.
I except the case where the words are intended to express the coldness of the speaker; for there the redundancy of copulatives is a beauty:
Dining one day at an alderman’s in the city, Peter observed him expatiating after the manner of his brethren, in the praises of his sirloin of beef. “Beef,” said the sage magistrate, “is the king of meat: Beef comprehends in it the quintessence of partridge, and quail, and venison, and pheasant, and plum-pudding, and custard.”
Tale of a Tub, § 4.
And the author shows great delicacy of taste by varying the expression in the mouth of Peter, who is represented more animated:
“Bread,” says he, “dear brothers, is the staff of life; in which bread is contained, inclusivè, the quint-<44>essence of beef, mutton, veal, venison, partridges, plum-pudding, and custard.”
Another case must also be excepted: copulatives have a good effect where the intention is to give an impression of a great multitude consisting of many divisions; for example: “The army was composed of Grecians, and Carians, and Lycians, and Pamphylians, and Phrygians.” The reason is, that a leisurely survey, which is expressed by the copulatives, makes the parts appear more numerous than they would do by a hasty survey: in the latter case the army appears in one group; in the former, we take as it were an accurate survey of each nation, and of each division.*
We proceed to the second kind of beauty; which consists in a due arrangement of the words or materials. This branch of the subject is no less nice than extensive; and I despair of setting it in a clear light, except to those who are well acquainted with the general principles that govern the structure or composition of language.
In a thought, generally speaking, there is at least one capital object considered as acting or as suffering. This object is expressed by a substantive noun: its action is expressed by an active verb; and the thing affected by the action is expressed by another substantive noun: its suffering<45> or passive state is expressed by a passive verb; and the thing that acts upon it, by a substantive noun. Beside these, which are the capital parts of a sentence or period, there are generally under-parts; each of the substantives as well as the verb, may be qualified: time, place, purpose, motive, means, instrument, and a thousand other circumstances, may be necessary to complete the thought. And in what manner these several parts are connected in the expression, will appear from what follows.
In a complete thought or mental proposition, all the members and parts are mutually related, some slightly, some intimately. To put such a thought in words, it is not sufficient that the component ideas be clearly expressed; it is also necessary, that all the relations contained in the thought be expressed according to their different degrees of intimacy. To annex a certain meaning to a certain sound or word, requires no art: the great nicety in all languages is, to express the various relations that connect the parts of the thought. Could we suppose this branch of language to be still a secret, it would puzzle, I am apt to think, the acutest grammarian, to invent an expeditious method: and yet, by the guidance merely of nature, the rude and illiterate have been led to a method so perfect, as to appear not susceptible of any improvement; and the next step in our progress shall be to explain that method.<46>
Words that import a relation, must be distinguished from such as do not. Substantives commonly imply no relation; such as animal, man, tree, river. Adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, imply a relation: the adjective good must relate to some being possessed of that quality: the verb write is applied to some person who writes; and the adverbs moderately, diligently, have plainly a reference to some action which they modify. When a relative word is introduced, it must be signified by the expression to what word it relates, without which the sense is not complete. For answering that purpose, I observe in Greek and Latin two different methods. Adjectives are declined as well as substantives; and declension serves to ascertain their connection: If the word that expresses the subject be, for example, in the nominative case, so also must the word be that expresses its quality; example, vir bonus: again, verbs are related, on the one hand, to the agent, and, on the other, to the subject upon which the action is exerted: and a contrivance similar to that now mentioned, serves to express the double relation; the nominative case is appropriated to the agent, the accusative to the passive subject; and the verb is put in the first, second, or third person, to intimate its connection with the word that signifies the agent: examples, Ego amo Tulliam; tu amas Semproniam; Brutus amat Portiam.46 The other method is by juxtaposition, which is ne-<47>cessary with respect to such words only as are not declined, adverbs, for example, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. In the English language there are few declensions; and therefore juxtaposition is our chief resource: adjectives accompany their substantives;* an adverb accompanies the word it qualifies; and the verb occupies the middle place between the active and passive subjects to which it relates.
It must be obvious, that those terms which have nothing relative in their signification, cannot be connected in so easy a manner. When two substantives happen to be connected, as cause and effect, as principal and accessory, or in any other manner, such connection cannot be expressed by contiguity solely; for words must often in a period be placed together which are not thus related: the relation between substantives, therefore, cannot otherwise be expressed but by particles denoting the relation. Latin indeed and Greek, by their declensions, go a certain length to express<48> such relations, without the aid of particles. The relation of property, for example, between Caesar and his horse, is expressed by putting the latter in the nominative case, the former in the genitive; equus Caesaris: the same is also expressed in English without the aid of a particle, Caesar’s horse. But in other instances, declensions not being used in the English language, relations of this kind are commonly expressed by prepositions. Examples: That wine came from Cyprus. He is going to Paris. The sun is below the horizon.
This form of connecting by prepositions, is not confined to substantives. Qualities, attributes, manner of existing or acting, and all other circumstances, may in the same manner be connected with the substances to which they relate. This is done artificially by converting the circumstance into a substantive; in which condition it is qualified to be connected with the principal subject by a preposition, in the manner above describ’d. For example, the adjective wise being converted into the substantive wisdom, gives opportunity for the expression “a man of wisdom,” instead of the more simple expression a wise man: this variety in the expression, enriches language. I observe, beside, that the using a preposition in this case, is not always a matter of choice: it is indispensable with respect to every circumstance that cannot be expressed by a single adjective or adverb.
To pave the way for the rules of arrangement,<49> one other preliminary is necessary; which is, to explain the difference between a natural style, and that where transposition or inversion prevails. There are, it is true, no precise boundaries between them, for they run into each other like the shades of different colours. No person, however, is at a loss to distinguish them in their extremes: and it is necessary to make the distinction; because tho’ some of the rules I shall have occasion to mention are common to both, yet each hath rules peculiar to itself. In a natural style, relative words are by juxtaposition connected with those to which they relate, going before or after, according to the peculiar genius of the language. Again, a circumstance connected by a preposition, follows naturally the word with which it is connected. But this arrangement may be varied, when a different order is more beautiful: a circumstance may be placed before the word with which it is connected by a preposition; and may be interjected even between a relative word and that to which it relates. When such liberties are frequently taken, the style becomes inverted or transposed.
But as the liberty of inversion is a capital point in the present subject, it will be necessary to examine it more narrowly, and in particular to trace the several degrees in which an inverted style recedes more and more from that which is natural. And first, as to the placing a circumstance before<50> the word with which it is connected, I observe, that it is the easiest of all inversion, even so easy as to be consistent with a style that is properly termed natural: witness the following examples.
In the sincerity of my heart, I profess, &c.
By our own ill management, we are brought to so low an ebb of wealth and credit, that, &c.
On Thursday morning there was little or nothing transacted in Changealley.
At St. Bride’s church in Fleetstreet, Mr. Woolston, (who writ against the miracles of our Saviour), in the utmost terrors of conscience, made a public recantation.
The interjecting a circumstance between a relative word and that to which it relates, is more properly termed inversion; because, by a disjunction of words intimately connected, it recedes farther from a natural style. But this licence has degrees; for the disjunction is more violent in some instances than in others. And to give a just notion of the difference, there is a necessity to enter a little more into an abstract subject, than would otherwise be my inclination.
In nature, tho’ a subject cannot exist without its qualities, nor a quality without a subject; yet in our conception of these, a material difference may be remarked. I cannot conceive a quality<51> but as belonging to some subject: it makes indeed a part of the idea which is formed of the subject. But the opposite holds not; for tho’ I cannot form a conception of a subject void of all qualities, a partial conception may be formed of it, abstracting from any particular quality: I can, for example, form the idea of a fine Arabian horse without regard to his colour, or of a white horse without regard to his size. Such partial conception of a subject, is still more easy with respect to action or motion; which is an occasional attribute only, and has not the same permanency with colour or figure: I cannot form an idea of motion independent of a body; but there is nothing more easy than to form an idea of a body at rest. Hence it appears, that the degree of inversion depends greatly on the order in which the related words are placed: when a substantive occupies the first place, the idea it suggests must subsist in the mind at least for a moment, independent of the relative words afterward introduced; and that moment may without difficulty be prolonged by interjecting a circumstance between the substantive and its connections. This liberty, therefore, however frequent, will scarce alone be sufficient to denominate a style inverted. The case is very different, where the word that occupies the first place denotes a quality or an action; for as these cannot be conceived without a subject, they cannot without greater violence be separated from the subject that follows;<52> and for that reason, every such separation by means of an interjected circumstance belongs to an inverted style.
To illustrate this doctrine, examples are necessary; and I shall begin with those where the word first introduced does not imply a relation:
In the following examples, where the word first introduced imports a relation, the disjunction will be found more violent.
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, tho’ 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; tho’ 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:<54>
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 the 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.
Characteristicks, 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.<55>
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.
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 later times.
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.<56>
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.48
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 tire woman, with great care and diligence, I employ’d no less in examining the box which contained them.
Guardian, No. 4.<57>
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, served me for an anchor.
Gulliver’s Travels, part 1. chap. 8.49
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 arrangement 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 multiplied by degrees.<58>
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 doubtful, whether the object introduced by way of simile, relate to what goes before or<59> 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?
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.
The knight, seeing his habitation reduced to so small a compass, and himself in a 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:<60>
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 a quality 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-cloaths. When she has made her own choice, for form’s sake she sends a conge d’elire to her friends.
Ibid. No. 475.<61>
——— she sends, for form’s sake, a conge d’elire to her friends.
And since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted or connived at, or hath no law to 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 permitted 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 signify things distinguished in the thought, the best method is,<62> 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 ambiguity, but will never produce that peculiar beauty which is perceived 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 connections, we have as 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<63> 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 examples.
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 prevented by placing the circumstance before the verb, after the following 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 moral author, in the ordinary fate and vicissitude of things, knows to what use his works may, some time or other, be apply’d, &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 apply’d, &c.<64>
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 affairs wherein they may be actors, or judges of those that act, or controllers of those that judge.
Letters on history, vol. 1. let. 5. Bolingbroke.
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.
Ibid. let. 3.
If any one have a curiosity for more specimens of this kind, they will be found without number in the works of the same author.
A pronoun, which saves the naming a person or thing a second time, ought to be placed as near as possible to the name of that person or thing. This is a branch of the foregoing rule; and with the<65> reason there given, another concurs, viz. That if other ideas intervene, it is difficult to recal the person or thing by reference:
If I had leave to print the Latin letters transmitted to me from foreign parts, they would fill a volume, and be a full defence against all that Mr. Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition, will be ever able to object; who, by the way, are the only enemies my predictions have ever met with at home or abroad.
——— and be a full defence against all that can be objected by Mr. Partridge, or his accomplices of the Portugal inquisition; who, by the way, are, &c.
There being a round million of creatures in human figure, throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence, &c.
A modest proposal, &c. Swift.50
There being, throughout this kingdom, a round million of creatures in human figure, whose whole subsistence, &c.
Tom is a lively impudent clown, and has wit enough to have made him a pleasant companion, had it been polished and rectified by good manners.
Guardian, No. 162.
It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see any<66> printed or written paper upon the ground, to take it up, and lay it aside carefully, as not knowing but it may contain some piece of their Alcoran.
Spectator, No. 85.
The arrangement here leads to a wrong sense, as if the ground were taken up, not the paper.—Better thus:
It is the custom of the Mahometans, if they see upon the ground any printed or written paper, to take it up, &c.
The following rule depends on the communication of emotions to related objects; a principle in human nature that hath an extensive operation: and we find this operation, even where the objects are not otherwise related than by juxtaposition of the words that express them. Hence, to elevate or depress an object, one method is, to join it in the expression with another that is naturally high or low: witness the following speech of Eumenes to the Roman senate.
Causam veniendi sibi Roman fuisse, praeter cupiditatem visendi deos hominesque, quorum beneficio in ea fortuna esset, supra quam ne optare quidem auderet, etiam ut coram moneret senatum ut Persei conatus obviam iret.
Livy, l. 42. cap. 11.51
To join the Romans with the gods in the same enunciation, is an artful stroke of flattery, because it tacitly puts them on a level. On the other<67> hand, the degrading or vilifying an object, is done successfully by ranking it with one that is really low:
I hope to have this entertainment in a readiness for the next winter; and doubt not but it will please more than the opera or puppet-show.
Spectator, No. 28.
Manifold have been the judgements which Heaven from time to time, for the chastisement of a sinful people, has inflicted upon whole nations. For when the degeneracy becomes common, ’tis but just the punishment should be general. Of this kind, in our own unfortunate country, was that destructive pestilence, whose mortality was so fatal as to sweep away, if Sir William Petty may be believed, five millions of Christian souls, besides women and Jews.
God’s revenge against punning. Arbuthnot.52
Such also was that dreadful conflagration ensuing in this famous metropolis of London, which consumed, according to the computation of Sir Samuel Moreland, 100,000 houses, not to mention churches and stables.
But on condition it might pass into a law, I would gladly exempt both lawyers of all ages, subaltern and field officers, young heirs, dancing-masters, pick-pockets, and players.
An infalliable scheme to pay the public debts. Swift.53
Circumstances in a period resemble small stones in a building, employ’d to fill up vacuities among those of a larger size. In the arrangement of a period, such under-parts crowded together make a poor figure; and never are graceful but when interspersed among the capital parts. I illustrate this rule by the following example.
It is likewise urged, that there are, by computation, in this kingdom, above 10,000 parsons, whose revenues, added to those of my Lords the bishops, would suffice to maintain, &c.
Argument against abolishing Christianity. Swift.
Here two circumstances, viz. by computation and in this kingdom, are crowded together unnecessarily: they make a better appearance separated in the following manner:
It is likewise urged, that in this kingdom there are, by computation, above 10,000 parsons, &c.
If there be room for a choice, the sooner a circumstance is introduced, the better; because circumstances are proper for that coolness of mind, with which we begin a period as well as a volume: in the progress, the mind warms, and has a greater relish for matters of importance. When a circumstance is placed at the beginning of the period, or near the beginning, the transition from it to the principal subject is agreeable: it is like a-<69>scending, or going upward. On the other hand, to place it late in the period has a bad effect; for after being engaged in the principal subject, one is with reluctance brought down to give attention to a circumstance. Hence evidently the preference of the following arrangement,
Whether in any country a choice altogether unexceptionable has been made, seems doubtful.
Before this other,
Whether a choice altogether unexceptionable has in any country been made, &c.
For this reason the following period is exceptionable in point of arrangement.
I have considered formerly, with a good deal of attention, the subject upon which you command me to communicate my thoughts to you.
Bolingbroke of the study of history, letter 1.
which, with a slight alteration, may be improved thus:
I have formerly, with a good deal of attention, considered the subject, &c.
Swift speaking of a virtuous and learned education:
And although they may be, and too often are drawn, by the temptations of youth, and the opportunities of<70> a large fortune, into some irregularities, when they come forward into the great world; it is ever with reluctance and compunction of mind, because their bias to virtue still continues.
The Intelligencer, No. 9.54
And although, when they come forward into the great world, they may be, and too often, &c.
The bad effect of placing a circumstance last or late in a period, will appear from the following examples.
Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him who holds the reins of the whole creation in his hand.
Spectator, No. 12.
Let us endeavour to establish to ourselves an interest in him, who, in his hand, holds the reins of the whole creation.
Virgil, who has cast the whole system of Platonic philosophy, so far as it relates to the soul of man, into beautiful allegories, in the sixth book of his Aeneid, gives us the punishment, &c.
Spectator, No. 90.
Virgil, who in the sixth book of his Aeneid, has cast, &c.<71>
And Philip the Fourth was obliged at last to conclude a peace, on terms repugnant to his inclination, to that of his people, to the interest of Spain, and to that of all Europe, in the Pyrenean treaty.
Letters on history, vol. 1. letter 6. Bolingbroke.
And at last, in the Pyrenean treaty, Philip the Fourth was obliged to conclude a peace, &c.
In arranging a period, it is of importance to determine in what part of it a word makes the greatest figure; whether at the beginning, during the course, or at the close. The breaking silence rouses the attention, and prepares for a deep impression at the beginning: the beginning, however, must yield to the close; which being succeeded by a pause, affords time for a word to make its deepest impression.* Hence the following rule, That to give the utmost force to a period, it ought if possible to be closed with that word which makes the greatest figure. The opportunity of a pause should not be thrown away upon accessories,<72> but reserved for the principal object, in order that it may make a full impression: which is an additional reason against closing a period with a circumstance. There are however periods that admit not such a structure; and in that case, the capital word ought, if possible, to be placed in the front, which next to the close is the most advantageous for making an impression. Hence, in directing our discourse to a man of figure, we ought to begin with his name; and one will be sensible of a degradation, when this rule is neglected, as it frequently is for the sake of verse. I give the following examples.
Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n’ai point d’autre crainte.
In these examples, the name of the person addressed to, makes a mean figure, being like a circumstance slipt into a corner. That this criticism is well founded, we need no other proof than Addison’s translation of the last example:
O Abner! I fear my God, and I fear none but him.
Guardian, No. 117.56 <73>
Every one must be sensible of a dignity in the invocation at the beginning, which is not attained by that in the middle. I mean not however to censure this passage: on the contrary, it appears beautiful, by distinguishing the respect that is due to a father from that which is due to a son.
The substance of what is said in this and the foregoing section, upon the method of arranging words in a period, so as to make the deepest impression with respect to sound as well as signification, is comprehended in the following observation: That order of words in a period will always be the most agreeable, where, without obscuring the sense, the most important images, the most sonorous words, and the longest members, bring up the rear.
Hitherto of arranging single words, single members, and single circumstances. But the enumeration of many particulars in the same period is often necessary; and the question is, In what order they should be placed? It does not seem easy, at first view, to bring a subject apparently so loose under any general rule: but luckily, reflecting<74> upon what is said in the first chapter about order, we find rules laid down to our hand, which leave us no task but that of applying them to the present question. And, first, with respect to the enumerating particulars of equal rank, it is laid down in the place quoted, that as there is no cause for preferring any one before the rest, it is indifferent to the mind in what order they be viewed. And it is only necessary to be added here, that for the same reason, it is indifferent in what order they be named. 2dly, If a number of objects of the same kind, differing only in size, are to be ranged along a straight line, the most agreeable order to the eye is that of an increasing series. In surveying a number of such objects, beginning at the least, and proceeding to greater and greater, the mind swells gradually with the successive objects, and in its progress has a very sensible pleasure. Precisely for the same reason, words expressive of such objects ought to be placed in the same order. The beauty of this figure, which may be termed a climax in sense, has escaped lord Bolingbroke in the first member of the following period:
Let but one great, brave, disinterested, active man arise, and he will be received, followed, and almost adored.
The following arrangement has sensibly a better effect:<75>
Let but one brave, great, active, disinterested man arise, &c.
Whether the same rule ought to be followed in enumerating men of different ranks, seems doubtful: on the one hand, a number of persons presented to the eye in form of an increasing series, is undoubtedly the most agreeable order: on the other hand, in every list of names, we set the person of the greatest dignity at the top, and descend gradually through his inferiors. Where the purpose is to honour the persons named according to their rank, the latter order ought to be followed; but every one who regards himself only, or his reader, will choose the former order. 3dly, As the sense of order directs the eye to descend from the principal to its greatest accessory, and from the whole to its greatest part, and in the same order through all the parts and accessories till we arrive at the minutest; the same order ought to be followed in the enumeration of such particulars. I shall give one familiar example. Talking of the parts of a column, the base, the shaft, the capital, these are capable of six different arrangements, and the question is, Which is the best? When we have in view the erecting a column, we are naturally led to express the parts in the order above mentioned; which at the same time is agreeable by ascending. But considering the column as it stands, without reference to its erec-<76>tion, the sense of order, as observed above, requires the chief part to be named first: for that reason we begin with the shaft; and the base comes next in order, that we may ascend from it to the capital. Lastly, In tracing the particulars of any natural operation, order requires that we follow the course of nature: historical facts are related in the order of time: we begin at the founder of a family, and proceed from him to his descendants: but in describing a lofty oak, we begin with the trunk, and ascend to the branches.
When force and liveliness of expression are demanded, the rule is, to suspend the thought as long as possible, and to bring it out full and entire at the close: which cannot be done but by inverting the natural arrangement. By introducing a word or member before its time, curiosity is raised about what is to follow; and it is agreeable to have our curiosity gratified at the close of the period: the pleasure we feel resembles that of seeing a stroke exerted upon a body by the whole collected force of the agent. On the other hand, where a period is so constructed as to admit more than one complete close in the sense, the curiosity of the reader is exhausted at the first close, and what follows appears languid or superfluous: his disappointment contributes also to that appearance, when he finds, contrary to expectation, that the period is not yet finished. Cicero, and after him Quintilian, recommend the verb to the last place.<77> This method evidently tends to suspend the sense till the close of the period; for without the verb the sense cannot be complete: and when the verb happens to be the capital word, which it frequently is, it ought at any rate to be the last, according to another rule, above 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 a 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 Platonic 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.<78>
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 he 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 and ruin.
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<79> 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 1.57
The foregoing rules concern 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 variety of impressions. In particular, long periods ought to be avoided till the<80> reader’s attention be thoroughly engaged; 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.
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<81> 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<82> 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,<83> 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.
Beauty of Language from a resemblance between Sound and Signification.
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 signification, 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 bow-string is imitated by the words that express it:<84>
The sound of felling trees in a wood:
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<85> 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, tho 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 safe-<86>ly 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, nor 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.60 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. Ap-<87>plying 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<88> 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 apply’d 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 magnâ vi brachia tollunt.
Georg. iv. 174.61
On the other hand, swift motion is imitated by a succession of short syllables:
Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.62
Radit iter liquidum, celeres neque commovet alas.63
Thirdly, A line composed of monosyllables,<89> makes an impression, by the frequency of its pauses, similar to what is made by laborious interrupted motion:
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.
Another example of the latter:
Fifthly, Prolonged motion is expressed in an Alexandrine line. The first example shall be of slow motion prolonged.<90>
The next example is of forcible motion prolonged:
The last shall be of rapid motion prolonged:
Again, speaking of a rock torn from the brow of a mountain:
Sixthly, A period consisting mostly of long syllables, that is, of syllables pronounced slow, produceth an emotion resembling faintly that which is produced by gravity and solemnity. Hence the beauty of the following verse:
Olli sedato respondit corde Latinus.64
It resembles equally an object that is insipid and uninteresting.<91>
Seventhly, A slow succession of ideas is a circumstance that belongs equally to settled melancholy, and to a period composed of polysyllables pronounced slow; and hence, by similarity of emotions, the latter is imitative of the former:
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 labour:
Ninthly, Harsh or rough words pronounced with difficulty, excite a feeling similar to that which proceeds from the labour of thought to a dull writer:
I shall close with one example more, which of<92> all makes the finest figure. In the first section mention is made of a climax in sound; and in the second, of a climax in sense. It belongs to the present subject to observe, that when these coincide in the same passage, the concordance of sound and sense is delightful: the reader is conscious not only of pleasure from the two climaxes separately, but of an additional pleasure from their concordance, and from finding the sense so justly imitated by the sound. In this respect, no periods are more perfect than those borrowed from Cicero in the first section.
The concord between sense and sound is no less agreeable in what may be termed an anticlimax, where the progress is from great to little; for this has the effect to make diminutive objects appear still more diminutive. Horace affords a striking example:
Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.66
The arrangement here is singularly artful: the first place is occupied by the verb, which is the capital word by its sense as well as sound: the close is reserved for the word that is the meanest in sense as well as in sound. And it must not be overlooked, that the resembling sounds of the two last syllables give a ludicrous air to the whole.
Reviewing the foregoing examples, it appears to me, contrary to expectation, that in passing from the strongest resemblances to those that are <93> fainter, every step affords additional pleasure. Renewing the experiment again and again, I feel no wavering, but the greatest pleasure constantly from the faintest resemblances. And yet how can this be? for if the pleasure lie in imitation, must not the strongest resemblance afford the greatest pleasure? From this vexing dilemma I am happily relieved, by reflecting on a doctrine established in the chapter of resemblance and contrast, that the pleasure of resemblance is the greatest, where it is least expected, and where the objects compared are in their capital circumstances widely different. Nor will this appear surprising, when we descend to familiar examples. It raiseth no degree of wonder to find the most perfect resemblance between two eggs of the same bird: it is more rare to find such resemblance between two human faces; and upon that account such an appearance raises some degree of wonder: but this emotion rises to a still greater height, when we find in a pebble, an agate, or other natural production, any resemblance to a tree or to any organised body. We cannot hesitate a moment, in applying these observations to the present subject: what occasion of wonder can it be to find one sound resembling another, where both are of the same kind? it is not so common to find a resemblance between an articulate sound and one not articulate; which accordingly affords some slight pleasure. But the pleasure swells greatly, when we employ sound to imitate<94> things it resembles not otherwise than by the effects produced in the mind.
I have had occasion to observe, that to complete the resemblance between sound and sense, artful pronunciation contributes not a little. Pronunciation therefore may be considered as a branch of the present subject; and with some observations upon it the section shall be concluded.
In order to give a just idea of pronunciation, it must be distinguished from singing. The latter is carried on by notes, requiring each of them a different aperture of the windpipe: the notes properly belonging to the former, are expressed by different apertures of the mouth, without varying the aperture of the windpipe. This however doth not hinder pronunciation to borrow from singing, as one sometimes is naturally led to do, in expressing a vehement passion.
In reading, as in singing, there is a key-note: above this note the voice is frequently elevated, to make the sound correspond to the elevation of the subject: but the mind in an elevated state, is disposed to action; therefore, in order to a rest, it must be brought down to the key-note. Hence the term cadence.
The only general rule that can be given for directing the pronunciation, is, To sound the words in such a manner as to imitate the things they signify. In pronouncing words signifying what is elevated, the voice ought to be raised above its ordi-<95>nary tone; and words signifying dejection of mind, ought to be pronounced in a low note. To imitate a stern and impetuous passion, the words ought to be pronounced rough and loud; a sweet and kindly passion, on the contrary, ought to be imitated by a soft and melodious tone of voice: in Dryden’s ode of Alexander’s feast, the line, Faln, faln, faln, faln, represents a gradual sinking of the mind; and therefore is pronounced with a falling voice by every one of taste, without instruction. In general, words that make the greatest figure ought to be marked with a peculiar emphasis. Another circumstance contributes to the resemblance between sense and sound, which is slow or quick pronunciation: for though the length or shortness of the syllables with relation to each other, be in prose ascertained in some measure, and in verse accurately; yet taking a whole line or period together, it may be pronounced slow or fast. A period accordingly ought to be pronounced slow, when it expresses what is solemn or deliberate; and ought to be pronounced quick, when it expresses what is brisk, lively, or impetuous.
The art of pronouncing with propriety and grace, being intended to make the sound an echo to the sense, scarce admits of any other general rule than that above mentioned. It may indeed be branched out into many particular rules and observations: but without much success; because no language furnisheth words to signify the diffe-<96>rent degrees of high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow. Before these differences can be made the subject of regular instruction, notes must be invented, resembling those employ’d in music. We have reason to believe, that in Greece every tragedy was accompanied with such notes, in order to ascertain the pronunciation; but the moderns hitherto have not thought of this refinement. Cicero indeed,* without the help of notes, pretends to give rules for ascertaining the various tones of voice that are proper in expressing the different passions; and it must be acknowledged, that in this attempt he hath exhausted the whole power of language. At the same time, every person of discernment will perceive, that these rules avail little in point of instruction: the very words he employs, are not intelligible, except to those who beforehand are acquainted with the subject.
To vary the scene a little, I propose to close with a slight comparison between singing and pronouncing. In this comparison, the five following circumstances relative to articulate sound, must be kept in view. 1st, A sound or syllable is harsh or smooth. 2d, It is long or short. 3d, It is pronounced high or low. 4th, It is pronounced loud or soft. And, lastly, A number of words in succession, constituting a period or member of a period, are pronounced slow or quick. Of these<97> five the first depending on the component letters, and the second being ascertained by custom, admit not any variety in pronouncing. The three last are arbitrary, depending on the will of the person who pronounces; and it is chiefly in the artful management of these that just pronunciation consists. With respect to the first circumstance, music has evidently the advantage; for all its notes are agreeable to the ear; which is not always the case of articulate sounds. With respect to the second, long and short syllables variously combined, produce a great variety of feet; yet far inferior to the variety that is found in the multiplied combinations of musical notes. With respect to high and low notes, pronunciation is still more inferior to singing; for it is observed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus,* that in pronouncing, i.e. without altering the aperture of the windpipe, the voice is confined within three notes and a half: singing has a much greater compass. With respect to the two last circumstances, pronunciation equals singing.
In this chapter, I have mentioned none of the beauties of language but what arise from words taken in their proper sense. Beauties that depend on the metaphorical and figurative power of words, are reserved to be treated chap. 20.<98>
The music of verse, though handled by every grammarian, merits more attention than it has been honoured with. It is a subject intimately connected with human nature; and to explain it thoroughly, several nice and delicate feelings must be employ’d. But before entering upon it, we must see what verse is, or, in other words, by what mark it is distinguished from prose; a point not so easy as may at first be apprehended. It is true, that the construction of verse is governed by precise rules; whereas prose is more loose, and scarce subjected to any rules. But are the many who have no rules, left without means to make the distinction? and even with respect to the learned, must they apply the rule before they can with certainty pronounce whether the composition be prose or verse? This will hardly be maintained; and therefore, instead of rules, the ear must be appealed to as the proper judge. But by what mark does the ear distinguish verse from prose? The proper and satisfactory answer is, That these<99> make different impressions upon every one who hath an ear. This advances us one step in our inquiry.
Taking it then for granted, that verse and prose make upon the ear different impressions; nothing remains but to explain this difference, and to assign its cause. To this end, I call to my aid an observation made above upon the sound of words, that they are more agreeable to the ear when composed of long and short syllables, than when all the syllables are of the same sort: a continued sound in the same tone, makes not a musical impression: the same note successively renewed by intervals, is more agreeable; but still makes not a musical impression. To produce that impression, variety is necessary as well as number: the successive sounds or syllables, must be some of them long, some of them short; and if also high and low, the music is the more perfect. The musical impression made by a period consisting of long and short syllables arranged in a certain order, is what the Greeks call rhythmus, the Latins numerus, and we melody or measure. Cicero justly observes, that in one continued sound there is no melody: “Numerus in continuatione nullus est.” But in what follows he is wide of the truth, if by numerus he mean melody or musical measure: “Distinctio, et aequalium et saepe variorum intervallorum percussio, numerum conficit; quem in cadentibus guttis, quod intervallis distin-<100>guuntur, notare possumus.”67 Falling drops, whether with equal or unequal intervals, are certainly not music: we are not sensible of a musical impression but in a succession of long and short notes. And this also was probably the opinion of the author cited, tho’ his expression be a little unguarded.*
It will probably occur, that melody, if it depend on long and short syllables combined in a sentence, may be found in prose as well as in verse; considering especially, that in both, particular words are accented or pronounced in a higher tone than the rest; and therefore that verse cannot be distinguished from prose by melody merely. The observation is just; and it follows, that the distinction between them, since it depends not singly on melody, must arise from the difference of the melody: which is precisely the case; tho’ that difference cannot with any accuracy be explained in words; all that can be said is, that verse is more musical than prose, and its melody more perfect. The difference between verse and<101> prose, resembles the difference, in music properly so called, between the song and the recitative: and the resemblance is not the less complete, that these differences, like the shades of colours, approximate sometimes so nearly as scarce to be discernible: the melody of a recitative approaches sometimes to that of a song; which, on the other hand, degenerates sometimes to that of a recitative. Nothing is more distinguishable from prose, than the bulk of Virgil’s Hexameters: many of those composed by Horace, are very little removed from prose: Sapphic verse has a very sensible melody: that, on the other hand, of an Iambic, is extremely faint.*
This more perfect melody of articulate sounds, is what distinguisheth verse from prose. Verse is subjected to certain inflexible laws; the number and variety of the component syllables being ascertained, and in some measure the order of succession. Such restraint makes it a matter of difficulty to compose in verse; a difficulty that is not to be surmounted but by a peculiar genius. Useful lessons convey’d to us in verse, are agreeable by the union of music with instruction: but are<102> we for that reason to reject knowledge offered in a plainer dress? That would be ridiculous: for knowledge is of intrinsic merit, independent of the means of acquisition; and there are many, not less capable than willing to instruct us, who have no genius for verse. Hence the use of prose; which, for the reason now given, is not confined to precise rules. There belongs to it, a certain melody of an inferior kind, which ought to be the aim of every writer; but for succeeding in it, practice is necessary more than genius. Nor do we rigidly insist for melodious prose: provided the work convey instruction, its chief end, we are the less solicitous about its dress.
Having ascertained the nature and limits of our subject, I proceed to the laws by which it is regulated. These would be endless, were verse of all different kinds to be taken under consideration. I propose therefore to confine the inquiry, to Latin or Greek Hexameter, and to French and English Heroic verse; which perhaps may carry me farther than the reader will choose to follow. The observations I shall have occasion to make, will at any rate be sufficient for a specimen; and these, with proper variations, may easily be transferred to the composition of other sorts of verse.
Before I enter upon particulars, it must be premised in general, that to verse of every kind, five things are of importance. 1st, The number of syllables that compose a verse line. 2d, The dif-<103>ferent lengths of syllables, i.e. the difference of time taken in pronouncing. 3d, The arrangement of these syllables combined in words. 4th, The pauses or stops in pronouncing. 5th, The pronouncing syllables in a high or a low tone. The three first mentioned are obviously essential to verse: if any of them be wanting, there cannot be that higher degree of melody which distinguisheth verse from prose. To give a just notion of the fourth, it must be observed, that pauses are necessary for three different purposes: one, to separate periods, and members of the same period, according to the sense; another, to improve the melody of verse; and the last, to afford opportunity for drawing breath in reading. A pause of the first kind is variable, being long or short, frequent or less frequent, as the sense requires. A pause of the second kind, being determined by the melody, is in no degree arbitrary. The last sort is in a measure arbitrary, depending on the reader’s command of breath. But as one cannot read with grace, unless, for drawing breath, opportunity be taken of a pause in the sense or in the melody, this pause ought never to be distinguished from the others; and for that reason shall be laid aside. With respect then to the pauses of sense and of melody, it may be affirmed without hesitation, that their coincidence in verse is a capital beauty: but as it cannot be expected, in a long work especially, that every line should be so per-<104>fect; we shall afterward have occasion to see, that the pause necessary for the sense must often, in some degree, be sacrificed to the verse-pause, and the latter sometimes to the former.
The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone, contributes also to melody. In reading whether verse or prose, a certain tone is assumed, which may be called the key-note; and in that tone the bulk of the words are sounded. Sometimes to humour the sense, and sometimes the melody, a particular syllable is sounded in a higher tone; and this is termed accenting a syllable, or gracing it with an accent. Opposed to the accent, is the cadence, which I have not mentioned as one of there quisites of verse, because it is entirely regulated by the sense, and hath no peculiar relation to verse. The cadence is a falling of the voice below the key-note at the close of every period; and so little is it essential to verse, that in correct reading the final syllable of every line is accented, that syllable only excepted which closes the period, where the sense requires a cadence. The reader may be satisfied of this by experiments; and for that purpose I recommend to him the Rape of the Lock, which, in point of versification, is the most complete performance in the English language. Let him consult in a particular period canto 2. beginning at line 47. and closed line 52. with the word gay, which only of the whole final syllables is pronounced with a cadence. He may also exa-<105>mine another period in the 5th canto which runs from line 45. to line 52.
Tho’ the five requisites above mentioned, enter the composition of every species of verse, they are however governed by different rules, peculiar to each species. Upon quantity only, one general observation may be premised, because it is applicable to every species of verse, That syllables, with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are long or short; two short syllables, with respect to time, being precisely equal to a long one. These two lengths are essential to verse of all kinds; and to no verse, as far as I know, is a greater variety of time necessary in pronouncing syllables. The voice indeed is frequently made to rest longer than usual, upon a word that bears an important signification; but this is done to humour the sense, and is not necessary for melody. A thing not more necessary for melody occurs with respect to accenting, similar to that now mentioned: A word signifying any thing humble, low, or dejected, is naturally, in prose as well as in verse, pronounced in a tone below the key-note.
We are now sufficiently prepared for particulars; beginning with Latin or Greek Hexameter, which are the same. What I have to observe upon this species of verse, will come under the four following heads; number, arrangement, pause, and accent: for as to quantity, what is observed above may suffice.<106>
Hexameter lines, as to time, are all of the same length; being equivalent to the time taken in pronouncing twelve long syllables or twenty-four short. An Hexameter line may consist of seventeen syllables; and when regular and not Spondaic, it never has fewer than thirteen: whence it follows, that where the syllables are many, the plurality must be short; where few, the plurality must be long.
This line is susceptible of much variety as to the succession of long and short syllables. It is however subjected to laws that confine its variety within certain limits: and for ascertaining these limits, grammarians have invented a rule by Dactyles and Spondees, which they denominate feet. One at first view is led to think, that these feet are also intended to regulate the pronunciation: which is far from being the case; for were one to pronounce according to these feet, the melody of a Hexameter line would be destroyed, or at best be much inferior to what it is when properly pronounced.* These feet must be confined to regu-<107>late the arrangement, for they serve no other purpose. They are withal so artificial and complex, that I am tempted to substitute in their stead, other rules more simple and of more easy application; for example, the following. 1st, The line must always commence with a long syllable, and<108> close with two long preceded by two short. 2d, More than two short can never be found together, nor fewer than two. And, 3d, Two long syllables which have been preceded by two short, cannot also be followed by two short. These few rules fulfil all the conditions of a Hexameter line, with relation to order or arrangement. To these again a single rule may be substituted, for which I have a still greater relish, as it regulates more affirmatively the construction of every part. That I may put this rule into words with perspicuity, I take a hint from the twelve long syllables that compose<109> an Hexameter line, to divide it into twelve equal parts or portions, being each of them one long syllable or two short. A portion being thus defined, I proceed to the rule. The 1st, 3d, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 12th portions, must each of them be one long syllable; the 10th must always be two short syllables; the 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th, may either be one long or two short. Or to express the thing still more curtly, The 2d, 4th, 6th, and 8th portions may be one long syllable or two short; the 10th must be two short syllables; all the rest must consist each of one long syllable. This fulfils all the conditions of an Hexameter line, and comprehends all the combinations of Dactyles and Spondees that this line admits.
Next in order comes the pause. At the end of every Hexameter line, every one must be sensible of a complete close or full pause; the cause of which follows. The two long syllables preceded by two short, which always close an Hexameter line, are a fine preparation for a pause: for long syllables, or syllables pronounced slow, resembling a slow and languid motion, tending to rest, naturally incline the mind to rest, or to pause; and to this inclination the two preceding short syllables contribute, which, by contrast, make the slow pronunciation of the final syllables the more conspicuous. Beside this complete close or full pause at the end, others are also re-<110>quisite for the sake of melody; of which I discover two clearly, and perhaps there may be more. The longest and most remarkable, succeeds the 5th portion: the other, which, being shorter and more faint, may be called the semipause, succeeds the 8th portion. So striking is the pause first mentioned, as to be distinguished even by the rudest ear: the monkish rhymes are evidently built upon it; in which, by an invariable rule, the final word always chimes with that which immediately precedes the said pause:
De planctu cudo ‖ metrum cum carmine nudo68
Mingere cum bumbis ‖ res est saluberrima lumbis.69
The difference of time in the pause and semipause, occasions another difference no less remarkable; that it is lawful to divide a word by a semi-pause, but never by a pause, the bad effect of which is sensibly felt in the following examples:
Effusus labor, at ‖ que inmitis rupta Tyranni
Observans nido im ‖ plumes detraxit; at illa70
Loricam quam De ‖ moleo detraxerat ipse71 <111>
The dividing a word by a semipause has not the same bad effect:
Jamque pedem referens ‖ casus e | vaserat omnes.
Qualis populea ‖ moerens Philo | mela sub umbra72
Ludere que vellem ‖ calamo per | misit agresti.
Lines, however, where words are left entire, without being divided even by a semipause, run by that means much the more sweetly.
Nec gemere aërea ‖ cessabit | turtur ab ulmo.73
Quadrupedante putrem ‖ sonitu quatit | ungula campum.74
Eurydicen toto ‖ referebant | flumine ripae.75
The reason of these observations will be evident upon the slightest reflection. Between things so intimately connected in reading aloud, as are sense and sound, every degree of discord is unpleasant: and for that reason, it is a matter of importance, to make the musical pauses coincide as<112>much as possible with those of sense; which is requisite, more especially, with respect to the pause, a deviation from the rule being less remarkable in a semipause. Considering the matter as to melody solely, it is indifferent whether the pauses be at the end of words or in the middle; but when we carry the sense along, it is disagreeable to find a word split into two by a pause, as if there were really two words: and though the disagreeableness here be connected with the sense only, it is by an easy transition of perceptions transferred to the sound; by which means, we conceive a line to be harsh and grating to the ear, when in reality it is only so to the understanding.*
To the rule that fixes the pause after the fifth portion, there is one exception, and no more: If the syllable succeeding the 5th portion be short, the pause is sometimes postponed to it.
Pupillis quos dura ‖ premit custodia matrum76
In terras oppressa ‖ gravi sub religione77
Et quorum pars magna ‖ fui; quis talia fando78
This contributes to diversify the melody; and<113> where the words are smooth and liquid, is not ungraceful; as in the following examples:
Formosam resonare ‖ doces Amaryllida sylvas79
Agricolas, quibus ipsa ‖ procul discordibus armis80
If this pause, placed as aforesaid after the short syllable, happen also to divide a word, the melody by these circumstances is totally annihilated. Witness the following line of Ennius, which is plain prose:
Romae moenia terru ‖ it impiger | Hannibal armis.
Hitherto the arrangement of the long and short syllables of an Hexameter line and its different pauses, have been considered with respect to melody: but to have a just notion of Hexameter verse, these particulars must also be considered with respect to sense. There is not perhaps in any other sort of verse, such latitude in the long and short syllables; a circumstance that contributes greatly to that richness of melody which is remarkable in Hexameter verse, and which made Aristotle pronounce, that an epic poem in any other verse would not succeed.* One defect, however, must not be dissembled, that the same means<114> which contribute to the richness of the melody, render it less fit than several other sorts for a narrative poem. There cannot be a more artful contrivance, as above observed, than to close an Hexameter line with two long syllables preceded by two short: but unhappily this construction proves a great embarrassment to the sense; which will thus be evident. As in general, there ought to be a strict concordance between a thought and the words in which it is dressed; so in particular, every close in the sense ought to be accompanied with a close in the sound. In prose, this law may be strictly observed; but in verse, the same strictness would occasion insuperable difficulties. Willing to sacrifice to the melody of verse, some share of the concordance between thought and expression, we freely excuse the separation of the musical pause from that of the sense, during the course of a line; but the close of an Hexameter line is too conspicuous to admit this liberty: for which reason there ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every Hexameter line, were it but such a pause as is marked with a comma; and for the same reason, there ought never to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a line, because there the melody is closed. An Hexameter line, to preserve its melody, cannot well admit any greater relaxation; and yet in a narrative poem, it is extremely difficult to adhere strictly to the rule even with these indulgences. Virgil, the<115> chief of poets for versification, is forc’d often to end a line without any close in the sense, and as often to close the sense during the running of a line; tho’ a close in the melody during the movement of the thought, or a close in the thought during the movement of the melody, cannot be agreeable.
The accent, to which we proceed, is no less essential than the other circumstances above handled. By a good ear it will be discerned, that in every line there is one syllable distinguishable from the rest by a capital accent: that syllable, being the 7th portion, is invariably long.
Nec bene promeritis ‖ capitûr nec | tangitur ira.81
Non sibi sed toto ‖ genitûm se | credere mundo.82
Qualis spelunca ‖ subitô comdmota columba.83
In these examples, the accent is laid upon the last syllable of a word; which is favourable to the melody in the following respect, that the pause, which for the sake of reading distinctly must follow every word, gives opportunity to prolong the accent. And for that reason, a line thus accented,<116> has a more spirited air, than when the accent is placed on any other syllable. Compare the foregoing lines with the following:
Alba neque Assyrio ‖ fucâtur | lana veneno.84
Panditur interea ‖ domus ômnipo | tentis Olympi.
Olli sedato ‖ respôndit | corde Latinus.
In lines where the pause comes after the short syllable succeeding the 5th portion, the accent is displaced, and rendered less sensible: it seems to be split into two, and to be laid partly on the 5th portion, and partly on the 7th, its usual place; as in
Nuda genu, nodôque ‖ sinûs col | lecta fluentes85
Formosam resonâre ‖ docês Amar | yllida sylvas86
Beside this capital accent, slighter accents are laid upon other portions; particularly upon the 4th, unless where it consists of two short syllables; upon the 9th, which is always a long syllable;<117> and upon the 11th, where the line concludes with a monosyllable. Such conclusion, by the by, impairs the melody, and for that reason is not to be indulged unless where it is expressive of the sense. The following lines are marked with all the accents.
Ludere quae vêllem calamô permîsit agresti.
Et durae quêrcus sudâbunt rôscida mella.87
Parturiunt môntes, nascêtur rîdiculûs mus.88
Reflecting upon the melody of Hexameter verse, we find, that order or arrangement doth not constitute the whole of it; for when we compare different lines, equally regular as to the succession of long and short syllables, the melody is found in very different degrees of perfection; which is not occasioned by any particular combination of Dactyles and Spondees, or of long and short syllables, because we find lines where Dactyles prevail, and lines where Spondees prevail, equally melodious. Of the former take the following instance:
Aeneadum genitrix hominum divumque voluptas.89 <118>
Of the latter:
Molli paulatim flavescet campus arista.90
What can be more different as to melody than the two following lines, which, however, as to the succession of long and short syllables, are constructed precisely in the same manner?
In the former, the pause falls in the middle of a word, which is a great blemish, and the accent is disturbed by a harsh elision of the vowel a upon the particle et. In the latter, the pauses and the accent are all of them distinct and full: there is no elision; and the words are more liquid and sounding. In these particulars consists the beauty of an Hexameter line with respect to melody: and by neglecting these, many lines in the Satires and Epistles of Horace are less agreeable than plain prose; for they are neither the one nor the other in perfection. To draw melody from these lines, they must be pronounced without relation to the sense: it must not be regarded, that words are divided by pauses, nor that harsh elisions are multiplied. To add to the account, prosaic low-sounding words are introduced; and which is still worse,<119> accents are laid on them. Of such faulty lines take the following instances.92
Next in order comes English Heroic verse, which shall be examined under the whole five heads, of number, quantity, arrangement, pause, and accent. This verse is of two kinds; one named rhyme or metre, and one blank verse. In the former, the lines are connected two and two by similarity of sound in the final syllables; and two lines so connected are termed a couplet: similarity of sound being avoided in the latter, couplets are banished. These two sorts must be handled separately, because there are many peculiarities in each. Beginning with rhyme or metre, the first article shall be discussed in a few words. Every line consists of ten syllables, five short and five long; from which there are but two exceptions, both of them rare. The first is, where each line of a couplet is made eleven syllables, by an additional syllable at the end:
This licence is sufferable in a single couplet; but if frequent, would give disgust.
The other exception concerns the second line of a couplet, which is sometimes stretched out to twelve syllables, termed an Alexandrine line:
It doth extremely well when employ’d to close a period with a certain pomp and solemnity, where the subject makes that tone proper.
With regard to quantity, it is unnecessary to mention a second time, that the quantities employ’d in verse are but two, the one double of the other; that every syllable is reducible to one or other of these standards; and that a syllable of the larger quantity is termed long, and of the lesser quantity short. It belongs more to the present article, to examine what peculiarities there may be in the English language as to long and short syllables. Every language has syllables that may be pronounced long or short at pleasure; but the English above all abounds in syllables of that kind: in words of three or more syllables, the quantity for the most part is invariable: the exceptions are more frequent in dissyllables: but as to monosyl-<121>lables, they may, without many exceptions, be pronounced either long or short; nor is the ear hurt by a liberty that is rendered familiar by custom. This shows, that the melody of English verse must depend less upon quantity, than upon other circumstances: in which it differs widely from Latin verse, where every syllable, having but one sound, strikes the ear uniformly with its acustomed impression; and a reader must be delighted to find a number of such syllables, disposed so artfully as to be highly melodious. Syllables variable in quantity cannot possess this power: for tho’ custom may render familiar, both a long and a short pronunciation of the same word; yet the mind wavering between the two sounds, cannot be so much affected as where every syllable has one fixed sound. What I have further to say upon quantity, will come more properly under the following head, of arrangement.
And with respect to arrangement, which may be brought with in an arrow compass, the English Heroic line is commonly Iambic, the first syllable short, the second long, and so on alternately through the whole line. One exception there is, pretty frequent, of lines commencing with a Trochaeus, i.e. a long and a short syllable: but this affects not the order of the following syllables, which go on alternately as usual, one short and one long. The following couplet affords an example of each kind.<122>
It is a great imperfection in English verse, that it excludes the bulk of polysyllables, which are the most sounding words in our language; for very few of them have such alternation of long and short syllables as to correspond to either of the arrangements mentioned. English verse accordingly is almost totally reduced to dissyllables and monosyllables: magnanimity is a sounding word totally excluded: impetuosity is still a finer word, by the resemblance of the sound and sense; and yet a negative is put upon it, as well as upon numberless words of the same kind. Polysyllables composed of syllables long and short alternately, make a good figure in verse; for example, observance, opponent, ostensive, pindaric, productive, prolific, and such others of three syllables. Imitation, imperfection, misdemeanor, mitigation, moderation, observator, ornamental, regulator, and others similar of four syllables, beginning with two short syllables, the third long, and the fourth short, may find a place in a line commencing with a Trochaeus. I know not if there be any of five syllables. One I know of six, viz. misinterpretation: but words so composed are not frequent in our language.
One would not imagine without trial, how uncouth false quantity appears in verse; not less than<123> a provincial tone or idiom. The article the is one of the few monosyllables that is invariably short: observe how harsh it makes a line where it must be pronounced long;
Thĭs nȳmph, tō thē dĕstrūctiŏn ōf mănkīnd.
Th’ ădvēnt’rŏus bārŏn thē brĭght lōcks ădmīr’d.95
Let it be pronounced short, and it reduces the melody almost to nothing: better so however than false quantity. In the following examples we perceive the same defect:
The great variety of melody conspicuous in English verse, arises chiefly from the pauses and accents; which are of greater importance than is commonly thought. There is a degree of intricacy in this branch of our subject, and it will be dif-<124>ficult to give a distinct view of it; but it is too late to think of difficulties after we are engaged. The pause, which paves the way to the accent, offers itself first to our examination; and from a very short trial, the following facts will be verified. 1st, A line admits but one capital pause. 2d, In different lines, we find this pause after the fourth syllable, after the fifth, after the sixth, and after the seventh. These four places of the pause lay a solid foundation for dividing English Heroic lines into four kinds; and I warn the reader beforehand, that unless he attend to this distinction, he cannot have any just notion of the richness and variety of English versification. Each kind or order hath a melody peculiar to itself, readily distinguishable by a good ear: and I am not without hopes to make the cause of this peculiarity sufficiently evident. It must be observed, at the same time, that the pause cannot be made indifferently at any of the places mentioned: it is the sense that regulates the pause, as will be seen afterward; and consequently, it is the sense that determines of what order every line must be: there can be but one capital musical pause in a line; and that pause ought to coincide, if possible, with a pause in the sense, in order that the sound may accord with the sense.
What is said shall be illustrated by examples of each sort or order. And first of the pause after the fourth syllable:<125>
Back through the paths ‖ of pleasing sense I ran.98
Profuse of bliss ‖ and pregnant with delight.99
After the 5th:
After the 6th:
Speed the soft intercourse ‖ from soul to soul.101
Then from his closing eyes ‖ thy form shall part.102
After the 7th:
And taught the doubtful battle ‖ where to rage.103
And in the smooth description ‖ murmur still.104
Beside the capital pause now mentioned, inferior pauses will be discovered by a nice ear. Of these there are commonly two in each line: one before the capital pause, and one after it. The former comes invariably after the first long syllable, whether the line begin with a long syllable or a short.<126> The other in its variety imitates the capital pause: in some lines it comes after the 6th syllable, in some after the 7th, and in some after the 8th. Of these semipauses take the following examples.
1st and 8th:
Led | through a sad ‖ variety | of wo.
1st and 7th:
Still | on that breast ‖ enamour’d | let me lie.105
2d and 8th:
From storms | a shelter ‖ and from heat | a shade.106
2d and 6th:
Let wealth | let honour ‖ wait | the wedded dame.107
2d and 7th:
Above | all pain ‖ all passion | and all pride.108
Even from these few examples it appears, that the place of the last semi-pause, like that of the full pause, is directed in a good measure by the sense. Its proper place with respect to the melody is after the eighth syllable, so as to finish the line with an Iambus distinctly pronounced, which, by a long syllable after a short, is a preparation for rest: but<127> sometimes it comes after the 6th, and sometimes after the 7th syllable, in order to avoid a pause in the middle of a word, or between two words intimately connected; and so far melody is justly sacrificed to sense.
In discoursing of Hexameter verse, it was laid down as a rule, That a full pause ought never to divide a word: such licence deviates too far from the coincidence that ought to be between the pauses of sense and of melody. The same rule must obtain in an English line; and we shall support reason by experiments:
Are these lines distinguishable from prose? Scarcely, I think.
The same rule is not applicable to a semipause, which being short and faint, is not sensibly disagreeable when it divides a word:
It must however be acknowledged, that the melody here suffers in some degree: a word ought to be pronounced without any rest between its com-<128>ponent syllables: a semipause that bends to this rule, is scarce perceived.
The capital pause is so essential to the melody, that one cannot be too nice in the choice of its place, in order to have it clear and distinct. It cannot be in better company than with a pause in the sense; and if the sense require but a comma after the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllable, it is sufficient for the musical pause. But to make such coincidence essential, would cramp versification too much; and we have experience for our authority, that there may be a pause in the melody where the sense requires none. We must not however imagine, that a musical pause may come after any word indifferently: some words, like syllables of the same word, are so intimately connected, as not to bear a separation even by a pause. The separating, for example, a substantive from its article would be harsh and unpleasant: witness the following line, which cannot be pronounced with a pause as marked,
If Delia smile, the ‖ flow’rs begin to spring.111
But ought to be pronounced in the following manner,
If Delia smile, ‖ the flow’rs begin to spring.
If then it be not a matter of indifference where to make the pause, there ought to be rules for deter-<129>mining what words may be separated by a pause, and what are incapable of such separation. I shall endeavour to ascertain these rules; not chiefly for their utility, but in order to unfold some latent principles, that tend to regulate our taste even where we are scarce sensible of them: and to that end, the method that appears the most promising, is to run over the verbal relations, beginning with the most intimate. The first that presents itself, is that of adjective and substantive, being the relation of subject and quality, the most intimate of all: and with respect to such intimate companions, the question is, Whether they can bear to be separated by a pause. What occurs is, that a quality cannot exist independent of a subject; nor are they separable even in imagination, because they make parts of the same idea: and for that reason, with respect to melody as well as sense, it must be disagreeable, to bestow upon the adjective a sort of independent existence, by interjecting a pause between it and its substantive. I cannot therefore approve the following lines, nor any of the sort; for to my taste they are harsh and unpleasant.
I have upon this article multiplied examples, that in a case where I have the misfortune to dislike what passes current in practice, every man upon the spot may judge by his own taste. And to taste I appeal; for tho’ the foregoing reasoning appears to me just, it is however too subtile to afford conviction in opposition to taste.
Considering this matter superficially, one might be apt to imagine, that it must be the same, whether the adjective go first, which is the natural order, or the substantive, which is indulged by the laws of inversion. But we soon discover this to be a mistake: colour, for example, cannot be con-<131>ceived independent of the surface coloured; but a tree may be conceived, as growing in a certain spot, as of a certain kind, and as spreading its extended branches all around, without ever thinking of its colour. In a word, a subject may be considered with some of its qualities independent of others; though we cannot form an image of any single quality independent of the subject. Thus then, though an adjective named first be inseparable from the substantive, the proposition does not reciprocate: an image can be formed of the substantive independent of the adjective; and for that reason, they may be separated by a pause, when the substantive takes the lead.
The verb and adverb are precisely in the same condition with the substantive and adjective. An adverb, which modifies the action expressed by the verb, is not separable from the verb even in imagination; and therefore I must also give up the following lines:
But an action may be conceived with some of its modifications, leaving out others; precisely as a<132> subject may be conceived with some of its qualities, leaving out others: and therefore, when by inversion the verb is first introduced, it has no bad effect to interject a pause between it and the adverb that follows. This may be done at the close of a line, where the pause is at least as full as that is which divides the line:
The agent and its action come next, expressed in grammar by the active substantive and its verb. Between these, placed in their natural order, there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause: an active being is not always in motion, and therefore it is easily separable in idea from its action: when in a sentence the substantive takes the lead, we know not that action is to follow; and as rest must precede the commencement of motion, this interval is a proper opportunity for a pause.
But when by inversion the verb is placed first, is it lawful to separate it by a pause from the active substantive? I answer, No; because an action is not in idea separable from the agent, more than a quality from the subject to which it belongs. Two lines of the first rate for beauty, have always appeared to me exceptionable, upon account of the pause thus interjected between the verb and the consequent substantive; and I have now discovered a reason to support my taste:<133>
The point of the greatest delicacy regards the active verb and the passive substantive placed in their natural order. On the one hand, it will be observed, that these words signify things which are not separable in idea. Killing cannot be conceived without a being that is put to death, nor painting without a surface upon which the colours are spread. On the other hand, an action and the thing on which it is exerted, are not, like subject and quality, united in one individual object: the active substantive is perfectly distinct from that which is passive; and they are connected by one circumstance only, that the action of the former is exerted upon the latter. This makes it possible to take the action to pieces, and to consider it first with relation to the agent, and next with relation to the patient. But after all, so intimately connected are the parts of the thought, that it requires an effort to make a separation even for a moment: the subtilising to such a degree is not agreeable, especially in works of imagination. The best poets, however, taking advantage of this subtilty, scruple not to separate by a pauseanactive verb from the thing upon which it is exerted. Such pauses in a long work may be indulged; but taken singly, they certainly are not agreeable; and I appeal to the following examples:<134>
On the other hand, when the passive substantive is by inversion first named, there is no difficulty of interjecting a pause between it and the verb, more than when the active substantive is first named. The same reason holds in both, that though a verb cannot be separated in idea from the substantive which governs it, and scarcely from the substantive it governs; yet a substantive may always be conceived independent of the verb: when the passive substantive is introduced before the verb, we know not that an action is to be exerted upon it; therefore we may rest till the action commences. For the sake of illustration take the following examples:<135>
What is said about the pause, leads to a general observation, That the natural order of placing the active substantive and its verb, is more friendly to a pause than the inverted order; but that in all the other connections, inversion affords a far better opportunity for a pause. And hence one great advantage of blank verse over rhyme; its privilege of inversion giving it a much greater choice of pauses than can be had in the natural order of arrangement.
We now proceed to the slighter connections, which shall be discussed in one general article. Words connected by conjunctions and prepositions admit freely a pause between them, which will be clear from the following instances:
Connecting particles were invented to unite in a period two substances signifying things occasionally united in the thought, but which have no natural union: and between two things not only separable in idea, but really distinct, the mind, for<136> the sake of melody, cheerfully admits by a pause a momentary disjunction of their occasional union.
One capital branch of the subject is still upon hand, to which I am directed by what is just now said. It concerns those parts of speech which singly represent no idea, and which become not significant till they be joined to other words. I mean conjunctions, prepositions, articles, and such like accessories, passing under the name of particles. Upon these the question occurs, Whether they can be separated by a pause from the words that make them significant? Whether, for example, in the following lines, the separation of the accessory preposition from the principal substantive be according to rule?
Or the separation of the conjunction from the word that is connected by it with the antecedent word:
Talthybius and ‖ Eurybates the good131 <137>
It will be obvious at the first glance, that the foregoing reasoning upon objects naturally connected, is not applicable to words which of themselves are mere ciphers: we must therefore have recourse to some other principle for solving the present question. These particles out of their place are totally insignificant: to give them a meaning, they must be joined to certain words; and the necessity of this junction, together with custom, forms an artificial connection that has a strong influence upon the mind: it cannot bear even a momentary separation, which destroys the sense, and is at the same time contradictory to practice. Another circumstance tends still more to make this separation disagreeable in lines of the first and third order, that it bars the accent, which will be explained afterward in treating of the accent.
Hitherto upon that pause only which divides the line. We proceed to the pause that concludes the line; and the question is, Whether the same rules be applicable to both? This must be answered by making a distinction. In the first line of a couplet, the concluding pause differs little, if at all, from the pause that divides the line; and for that reason, the rules are applicable to both equally. The concluding pause of the couplet is in a different condition: it resembles greatly the concluding pause in an Hexameter line. Both of them indeed are so remarkable, that they<138> never can be graceful, unless where they accompany a pause in the sense. Hence it follows, that a couplet ought always to be finished with some close in the sense; if not a point, at least a comma. The truth is, that this rule is seldom transgressed. In Pope’s works, I find very few deviations from the rule. Take the following instances:
I add, with respect to pauses in general, that supposing the connection to be so slender as to admit a pause, it follows not that a pause may in every such case be admitted. There is one rule to which every other ought to bend, That the sense must never be wounded or obscured by the music; and upon that account I condemn the following lines:
Ulysses, first ‖ in public cares, she found134
Who rising, high ‖ th’ imperial sceptre rais’d.<139>
With respect to inversion, it appears, both from reason and experiments, that many words which cannot bear a separation in their natural order, admit a pause when inverted. And it may be added, that when two words, or two members of a sentence, in their natural order, can be separated by a pause, such separation can never be amiss in an inverted order. An inverted period, which deviates from the natural train of ideas, requires to be marked in some measure even by pauses in the sense, that the parts may be distinctly known. Take the following examples:
The same where the separation is made at the close of the first line of the couplet:
The pause is tolerable even at the close of the couplet, for the reason just now suggested, that inverted members require some slight pause in the sense:<140>
Thus a train of reasoning hath insensibly led us to conclusions with regard to the musical pause, very different from those in the first section, concerning the separating by a circumstance words intimately connected. One would conjecture, that where-ever words are separable by interjecting a circumstance, they should be equally separable by interjecting a pause: but, upon a more narrow inspection, the appearance of analogy vanisheth. This will be evident from considering, that a pause in the sense distinguishes the different members of a period from each other; whereas, when two words of the same member are separated by a circumstance, all the three make still but one member; and therefore that words may be separated by an interjected circumstance, tho’ these words are not separated by a pause in the sense. This sets the matter in a clear light; for, as observed above, a musical pause is intimately connected with a pause in the sense, and ought, as far as possible, to be governed by it: particularly a musical pause ought never to be placed where a pause is excluded by the sense; as, for example, between the adjective and following substantive, which make parts of the same idea; and still less between a particle and the word that makes it significant.<141>
Abstracting at present from the peculiarity of melody arising from the different pauses, it cannot fail to be observed in general, that they introduce into our verse no slight degree of variety. A number of uniform lines having all the same pause, are extremely fatiguing; which is remarkable in French versification. This imperfection will be discerned by a fine ear even in the shortest succession, and becomes intolerable in a long poem. Pope excels in the variety of his melody; which, if different kinds can be compared, is indeed no less perfect than that of Virgil.
From what is last said, there ought to be one exception. Uniformity in the members of a thought demands equal uniformity in the verbal members which express that thought. When therefore resembling objects or things are expressed in a plurality of verse-lines, these lines in their structure ought to be as uniform as possible; and the pauses in particular ought all of them to have the same place. Take the following examples:
Speaking of Nature, or the God of Nature:
Pauses will detain us longer than was foreseen; for the subject is not yet exhausted. It is laid down above, that English Heroic verse admits no more but four capital pauses; and that the capital pause of every line is determined by the sense to be after the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, or seventh syllable. That this doctrine holds true as far as melody alone is concerned, will be testified by every good ear. At the same time, I admit, that this rule may be varied where the sense or expression requires a variation, and that so far the melody may justly be sacrificed. Examples accordingly are not unfrequent, in Milton especially, of the capital pause being after the first, the second, or the third syllable. And that this licence may be taken, even gracefully, when it adds vigour to the expression, will be clear from the following example. Pope, in his translation of Homer, describes a rock broke off from a mountain, and hurling to the plain, in the following words:
In the penult line, the proper place of the musical pause is at the end of the fifth syllable; but it enlivens the expression by its coincidence with that of the sense at the end of the second syllable: the stopping short before the usual pause in the melody, aids the impression that is made by the description of the stone’s stopping short; and what is lost to the melody by this artifice, is more than compensated by the force that is added to the description. Milton makes a happy use of this licence: witness the following examples from his Paradise Lost.
If we consider the foregoing passages with respect to melody singly, the pauses are undoubtedly out of their proper place; but being united with those of the sense, they enforce the expression, and enliven it greatly; for, as has been more than once observed, the beauty of expression is communicated to the sound, which, by a natural deception, makes even the melody appear more perfect than if the musical pauses were regular.
To explain the rules of accenting, two general observations must be premised. The first is, That accents have a double effect: they contribute to the melody, by giving it air and spirit: they contribute no less to the sense, by distinguishing important words from others.* These two effects never can be separated, without impairing the<145> concord that ought to subsist between the thought and the melody: an accent, for example, placed on a low word, has the effect to burlesque it, by giving it an unnatural elevation; and the injury thus done to the sense does not rest there, for it seems also to injure the melody. Let us only reflect what a ridiculous figure a particle must make with an accent or emphasis put upon it, a particle that of itself has no meaning, and that serves only, like cement, to unite words significant. The other general observation is, That a word of whatever number of syllables, is not accented upon more than one of them. The reason is, that the object is set in its best light by a single accent, so as to make more than one unnecessary for the sense: and if another be added, it must be for the sound merely; which would be a transgression of the foregoing rule, by separating a musical accent from that which is requisite for the sense.
Keeping in view the foregoing observations, the doctrine of accenting English Heroic verse is extremely simple. In the first place, accenting is confined to the long syllables; for a short syllable is not capable of anaccent. In the next place, as the melody is enriched in proportion to the number of accents, every word that has a long syllable may be accented; unless the sense interpose, which rejects the accenting a word that makes no figure by its signification. According to this rule,<146> a line may admit five accents; a case by no means rare.
But supposing every long syllable to be accented, there is, in every line, one accent that makes a greater figure than the rest, being that which precedes the capital pause. It is distinguished into two kinds; one that is immediately before the pause, and one that is divided from the pause by a short syllable. The former belongs to lines of the first and third order; the latter to those of the second and fourth. Examples of the first kind:
Examples of the other kind:
These accents make different impressions on the mind, which will be the subject of a following speculation. In the mean time, it may be safely pronounced a capital defect in the composition of verse, to put a low word, incapable of an accent,<147> in the place where this accent should be: this bars the accent altogether; than which I know no fault more subversive of the melody, if it be not the barring a pause altogether. I may add affirmatively, that no single circumstance contributes more to the energy of verse, than to put an important word where the accent should be, a word that merits a peculiar emphasis. To show the bad effect of excluding the capital accent, I refer the reader to some instances given above,* where particles are separated by a pause from the capital words that make them significant; and which particles ought, for the sake of melody, to be accented, were they capable of an accent. Add to these the following instances from the Essay on Criticism.
Of leaving what ‖ is natural and fit
Not yet purg’d off, ‖ of spleen and sour disdain
No pardon vile ‖ obscenity should find
When love was all ‖ an easy monarch’s care
For ’tis but half ‖ a judge’s task, to know
’Tis not enough, ‖ taste, judgement, learning, join.
That only makes ‖ superior sense belov’d
Whose right it is, ‖ uncensur’d, to be dull
’Tis best sometimes ‖ your censure to restrain.
When this fault is at the end of a line that closes a couplet, it leaves not the slightest trace of melody:
In a line expressive of what is humble or dejected, it improves the resemblance between the sound and sense to exclude the capital accent. This, to my taste, is a beauty in the following lines.
To conclude this article, the accents are not, like the syllables, confined to a certain number: some lines have no fewer than five, and there are lines that admit not above one. This variety, as<149> we have seen, depends entirely on the different powers of the component words: particles, even where they are long by position, cannot be accented; and polysyllables, whatever space they occupy, admit but one accent. Polysyllables have another defect, that they generally exclude the full pause. It is shown above, that few polysyllables can find place in the construction of English verse; and here are reasons for excluding them, could they find place.
I am now ready to fulfil a promise concerning the four sorts of lines that enter into English Heroic verse. That these have, each of them, a peculiar melody distinguishable by a good ear, I ventured to suggest, and promised to account for: and tho’ the subject is extremely delicate, I am not without hopes of making good my engagement. But first, by way of precaution, I warn the candid reader not to expect this peculiarity of modulation in every instance. The reason why it is not always perceptible has been mentioned more than once, that the thought and expression have a great influence upon the melody; so great, as in many instances to make the poorest melody pass for rich and spirited. This consideration makes me insist upon a concession or two that will not be thought unreasonable: first, That the experiment be tried upon lines equal with respect to the thought and expression; for otherwise one may<150> easily be misled in judging of the melody: and next, That these lines be regularly accented before the pause; for upon a matter abundantly refined in itself, I would not willingly be embarrassed with faulty and irregular lines.
These preliminaries adjusted, I begin with some general observations, that will save repeating the same thing over and over upon every example. And, first, an accent succeeded by a pause, as in lines of the first and third order, makes a much greater figure than where the voice goes on without a stop. The fact is so certain, that no person who has an ear can be at a loss to distinguish that accent from others. Nor have we far to seek for the efficient cause: the elevation of an accenting tone produceth in the mind a similar elevation, which continues during the pause;* but where the pause is separated from the accent by a short syllable, as in lines of the second and fourth order, the impression made by the accent is more<151> slight when there is no stop, and the elevation of the accent is gone in a moment by the falling of the voice in pronouncing the short syllable that follows. The pause also is sensibly affected by the position of the accent. In lines of the first and third order, the close conjunction of the accent and pause, occasions a sudden stop without preparation, which rouses the mind, and bestows on the melody a spirited air. When, on the other hand, the pause is separated from the accent by a short syllable, which always happens in lines of the second and fourth order, the pause is soft and gentle: for this short unaccented syllable, succeeding one that is accented, must of course be pronounced with a falling voice, which naturally prepares for a pause; and the mind falls gently from the accented syllable, and slides into rest as it were insensibly. Further, the lines themselves derive different powers from the position of the pause, which will thus appear. A pause after the fourth syllable divides the line into two unequal portions, of which the larger comes last: this circumstance resolving the line into an ascending series, makes an impression in pronouncing like that of ascending; and to this impression contribute the redoubled effort in pronouncing the larger portion, which is last in order. The mind has a different feeling when the pause succeeds the fifth syllable, which divides the line into two equal parts: these parts, pronounced with equal effort, are agreeable<152> by their uniformity. A line divided by a pause after the sixth syllable, makes an impression opposite to that first mentioned: being divided into two unequal portions, of which the shorter is last in order, it appears like a slow descending series; and the second portion being pronounced with less effort than the first, the diminished effort prepares the mind for rest. And this preparation for rest is still more sensibly felt where the pause is after the seventh syllable, as in lines of the fourth order.
To apply these observations is an easy task. A line of the first order is of all the most spirited and lively: the accent, being followed instantly by a pause, makes an illustrious figure: the elevated tone of the accent elevates the mind: the mind is supported in its elevation by the sudden unprepared pause, which rouses and animates: and the line itself, representing by its unequal division an ascending series, carries the mind still higher, making an impression similar to that of going upward. The second order has a modulation sensibly sweet, soft, and flowing; the accent is not so sprightly as in the former, because a short syllable intervenes between it and the pause: its elevation, by the same means, vanisheth instantaneously: the mind, by a falling voice, is gently prepared for a stop: and the pleasure of uniformity from the division of the line into two equal parts, is calm and sweet. The third order has a modulation not so easily ex-<153>pressed in words: it in part resembles the first order, by the liveliness of an accent succeeded instantly by a full pause: but then the elevation occasioned by this circumstance, is balanced in some degree by the remitted effort in pronouncing the second portion, which remitted effort has a tendency to rest. Another circumstance distinguisheth it remarkably: its capital accent comes late, being placed on the sixth syllable; and this circumstance bestows on it an air of gravity and solemnity. The last order resembles the second in the mildness of its accent, and softness of its pause; it is still more solemn than the third, by the lateness of its capital accent: it also possesses in a higher degree than the third, the tendency to rest; and by that circumstance is of all the best qualified for closing a period in the completest manner.
But these are not all the distinguishing characters of the different orders. Each order, also, is distinguished by its final accent and pause: the unequal division in the first order, makes an impression of ascending; and the mind at the close is in the highest elevation, which naturally prompts it to put a strong emphasis upon the concluding syllable, whether by raising the voice to a sharper tone, or by expressing the word in a fuller tone. This order accordingly is of all the least proper for concluding a period, where a cadence is proper, and not an accent. The second order, being destitute of the impression of ascent, cannot rival the<154> first order in the elevation of its concluding accent, nor consequently in the dignity of its concluding pause; for these have a mutual influence. This order, however, with respect to its close, maintains a superiority over the third and fourth orders: in these the close is more humble, being brought down by the impression of descent, and by the remitted effort in pronouncing; considerably in the third order, and still more considerably in the last. According to this description, the concluding accents and pauses of the four orders being reduced to a scale, will form a descending series probably in an arithmetical progression.
After what is said, will it be thought refining too much to suggest, that the different orders are qualified for different purposes, and that a poet of genius will naturally be led to make a choice accordingly? I cannot think this altogether chimerical. As it appears to me, the first order is proper for a sentiment that is bold, lively, or impetuous; the third order is proper for what is grave, solemn, or lofty; the second for what is tender, delicate, or melancholy, and in general for all the sympathetic emotions; and the last for subjects of the same kind, when tempered with any degree of solemnity. I do not contend, that any one order is fitted for no other task than that assigned it; for at that rate, no sort of melody would be left for accompanying thoughts that have nothing peculiar in them. I only venture to suggest, and I<155> do it with diffidence, that each of the orders is peculiarly adapted to certain subjects, and better qualified than the others for expressing them. The best way to judge is by experiment; and to avoid the imputation of a partial search, I shall confine my instances to a single poem, beginning with the
In accounting for the remarkable liveliness of this passage, it will be acknowledged by every one who has an ear, that the melody must come in for a share. The lines, all of them, are of the first order; a very unusual circumstance in the author of this poem, so eminent for variety in his versification. Who can doubt, that he has been led by delicacy of taste to employ the first order preferably to the others?<156>
A plurality of lines of the fourth order, would not have a good effect in succession; because, by a remarkable tendency to rest, their proper office is to close a period. The reader, therefore, must be satisfied with instances where this order is mixed with others.<157>
And this suggests another experiment, which is, to set the different orders more directly in opposition, by giving examples where they are mixed in the same passage.
First and second orders.
First and third.
Second and third.
Musing on the foregoing subject, I begin to doubt whether all this while I have not been in a reverie, and whether the scene before me, full of objects new and singular, be not mere fairy-land. Is there any truth in the appearance, or is it wholly a work of imagination? We cannot doubt of its reality; and we may with assurance pronounce, that great is the merit of English Heroic verse: for though uniformity prevails in the arrangement, in the equality of the lines, and in the resemblance of the final sounds; variety is still more conspicuous in the pauses and in the accents, which are diversified in a surprising manner. Of the beauty that results from a due mixture of uniformity and variety,* many instances have already occurred, but none more illustrious than English versification; however rude it may be in the simplicity of its arrangement, it is highly melodious by its pauses and accents, so as already to rival the<160> most perfect species known in Greece or Rome; and it is no disagreeable prospect to find it susceptible of still greater refinement.
We proceed to blank verse, which hath so many circumstances in common with rhyme, that its peculiarities may be brought within a narrow compass. With respect to form, it differs from rhyme in rejecting the jingle of similar sounds, which purifies it from a childish pleasure. But this improvement is a trifle compared with what follows. Our verse is extremely cramped by rhyme; and the peculiar advantage of blank verse is, that it is at liberty to attend the imagination in its boldest flights. Rhyme necessarily divides verse into couplets; each couplet makes a complete musical period, the parts of which are divided by pauses, and the whole summed up by a full close at the end: the melody begins anew with the next couplet: and in this manner a composition in rhyme proceeds couplet after couplet. I have often had occasion to mention the correspondence and concord that ought to subsist between sound and sense; from which it is a plain inference, that if a couplet be a complete period with regard to melody, it ought regularly to be the same with regard to sense. As it is extremely difficult to support such strictness of composition, licences are indulged, as explained above; which, however, must be used with discretion, so as to preserve some degree of<161> concord between the sense and the music: there ought never to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a couplet; and there ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every couplet: the same period as to sense may be extended through several couplets; but each couplet ought to contain a distinct member, distinguished by a pause in the sense as well as in the sound; and the whole ought to be closed with a complete cadence.* Rules such as these, must confine rhyme within very narrow bounds: a thought of any extent, cannot be reduced within its compass; the sense must be curtailed and broken into parts, to make it square with the curtness of the melody; and beside, short periods afford no latitude for inversion.
I have examined this point with the stricter accuracy, in order to give a just notion of blank verse; and to show, that a slight difference in form may produce a great difference in substance. Blank verse has the same pauses and accents with rhyme, and a pause at the end of every line, like what concludes the first line of a couplet. In a<162> word, the rules of melody in blank verse, are the same that obtain with respect to the first line of a couplet; but being disengaged from rhyme, or from couplets, there is access to make every line run into another, precisely as to make the first line of a couplet run into the second. There must be a musical pause at the end of every line; but this pause is so slight as not to require a pause in the sense: and accordingly the sense may be carried on with or without pauses, till a period of the utmost extent be completed by a full close both in the sense and the sound: there is no restraint, other than that this full close be at the end of a line; and this restraint is necessary, in order to preserve a coincidence between sense and sound, which ought to be aimed at in general, and is indispensable in the case of a full close, because it has a striking effect. Hence the fitness of blank verse for inversion: and consequently the lustre of its pauses and accents; for which, as observed above, there is greater scope in inversion, than when words run in their natural order.
In the second section of this chapter it is shown, that nothing contributes more than inversion to the force and elevation of language: the couplets of rhyme confine inversion within narrow limits; nor would the elevation of inversion, were there access for it in rhyme, readily accord with the humbler tone of that sort of verse. It is universally agreed, that the loftiness of Milton’s style<163> supports admirably the sublimity of his subject; and it is not less certain, that the loftiness of his style arises chiefly from inversion. Shakespear deals little in inversion; but his blank verse, being a sort of measured prose, is perfectly well adapted to the stage, where laboured inversion is highly improper, because in dialogue it never can be natural.
Hitherto I have considered that superior power of expression which verse acquires by laying aside rhyme. But this is not the only ground for preferring blank verse: it has another preferable quality not less signal; and that is, a more extensive and more complete melody. Its music is not, like that of rhyme, confined to a single couplet; but takes in a great compass, so as in some measure to rival music properly so called. The interval between its cadences may be long or short at pleasure; and, by that means, its melody, with respect both to richness and variety, is superior far to that of rhyme, and superior even to that of the Greek and Latin Hexameter. Of this observation no person can doubt who is acquainted with the Paradise Lost: in which work there are indeed many careless lines; but at every turn the richest melody as well as the sublimest sentiments are conspicuous. Take the following specimen.
Comparing Latin Hexameter with English Heroic rhyme, the former has obviously the advantage in the following particulars. It is greatly preferable as to arrangement, by the latitude it admits in placing the long and short syllables. Secondly, the length of an Hexameter line hath a majestic air: ours, by its shortness, is indeed<165> more brisk and lively, but much less fitted for the sublime. And, thirdly, the long high-sounding words that Hexameter admits, add greatly to its majesty. To compensate these advantages, English rhyme possesses a greater number and greater variety both of pauses and of accents. These two sorts of verse stand indeed pretty much in opposition: in Hexameter, great variety of arrangement, none in the pauses nor accents; in English rhyme, great variety in the pauses and accents, very little in the arrangement.
In blank verse are united, in a good measure, the several properties of Latin Hexameter and English rhyme; and it possesses beside many signal properties of its own. It is not confined, like Hexameter, by a full close at the end of every line; nor, like rhyme, by a full close at the end of every couplet. Its construction, which admits the lines to run into each other, gives it a still greater majesty than arises from the length of a Hexameter line. By the same means, it admits inversion even beyond the Latin or Greek Hexameter; for these suffer some confinement by the regular closes at the end of every line. In its music it is illustrious above all: the melody of Hexameter verse is circumscribed to a line; and of English rhyme, to a couplet: the melody of blank verse is under no confinement, but enjoys the utmost privilege, of which melody of verse is susceptible; which is, to run hand in hand with<166> the sense. In a word, blank verse is superior to Hexameter in many articles; and inferior to it in none, save in the freedom of arrangement, and in the use of long words.
In French Heroic verse, there are found, on the contrary, all the defects of Latin Hexameter and English rhyme, without the beauties of either: subjected to the bondage of rhyme, and to the full close at the end of every couplet, it is also extremely fatiguing by uniformity in its pauses and accents: the line invariably is divided by the pause into two equal parts, and the accent is invariably placed before the pause.
Here every circumstance contributes to a tiresome uniformity: a constant return of the same pause and of the same accent, as well as an equal division of every line; which fatigue the ear without intermission or change. I cannot set this matter in a better light, than by presenting to the reader a French translation of the following passage of Milton:
Were the pauses of the sense and sound in this passage but a little better assorted, nothing in verse could be more melodious. In general, the great defect of Milton’s versification, in other respects admirable, is the want of coincidence between the pauses of the sense and sound.
The translation is in the following words:
Here the sense is fairly translated, the words are of equal power, and yet how inferior the melody!
Many attempts have been made to introduce Hexameter verse into the living languages, but without success. The English language, I am inclined to think, is not susceptible of this melody: and my reasons are these. First, the polysyllables in Latin and Greek are finely diversified by long and short syllables, a circumstance that qualifies them for the melody of Hexameter verse: ours are extremely ill qualified for that service, because they superabound in short syllables. Secondly, the bulk of our monosyllables are arbitrary with regard to length, which is an unlucky circumstance in Hexameter: for although custom, as observed above, may render familiar a long or a short pronunciation of the same word, yet the mind wavering between the two sounds, cannot be so much affected with either, as with a word that hath always the same sound; and for that reason, arbitrary sounds are ill fitted for a melody which is chiefly supported by quantity. In Latin and Greek Hexameter, invariable sounds direct and ascertain the melody. English Hexameter would be destitute of melody, unless by artful pronunciation; because of necessity the bulk of its sounds must be<169>arbitrary. The pronunciation is easy in a simple movement of alternate long and short syllables; but would be perplexing and unpleasant in the diversified movement of Hexameter verse.
Rhyme makes so great a figure in modern poetry, as to deserve a solemn trial. I have for that reason reserved it to be examined with deliberation; in order to discover, if I can, its peculiar beauties, and its degree of merit. The first view of this subject leads naturally to the following reflection: “That rhyme having no relation to sentiment, nor any effect upon the ear other than a mere jingle, ought to be banished all compositions of any dignity, as affording but a trifling and childish pleasure.” It will also be observed, “that a jingle of words hath in some measure a ludicrous effect; witness the double rhymes of Hudibras, which contribute no small share to its drollery: that in a serious work this ludicrous effect would be equally remarkable, were it not obscured by the prevailing gravity of the subject: that having however a constant tendency to give a ludicrous air to the composition, more than ordinary fire is requisite to support the dignity of the sentiments against such an undermining antagonist.”* <170>
These arguments are specious, and have undoubtedly some weight. Yet, on the other hand, it ought to be considered, that in modern tongues rhyme has become universal among men as well as children; and that it cannot have such a currency without some foundation in human nature. In fact, it has been successfully employ’d by poets of genius, in their serious and grave compositions, as well as in those which are more light and airy. Here, in weighing authority against argument, the scales seem to be upon a level; and therefore, to come at any thing decisive, we must pierce a little deeper.
Music has great power over the soul; and may successfully be employed to inflame or soothe passions, if not actually to raise them. A single sound, however sweet, is not music; but a single sound repeated after intervals, may have the effect to rouse attention, and to keep the hearer awake: and a variety of similar sounds, succeeding each other after regular intervals, must have a still stronger effect. This consideration is applicable to rhyme, which connects two verse-lines by making them close with two words similar in sound. And considering attentively the musical effect of a couplet, we find, that it rouses the mind, and produceth an emotion moderatelygay without dignity or elevation: like the murmuring of a brook gliding through pebbles, it calms the mind when perturbed, and gently raises it when sunk. These effects are scarce perceived when the whole poem is<171> in rhyme; but are extremely remarkable by contrast, in the couplets that close the several acts of our later tragedies: the tone of the mind is sensibly varied by them, from anguish, distress, or melancholy, to some degree of ease and alacrity. For the truth of this observation, I appeal to the speech of Jane Shore in the fourth act, when her doom was pronounced by Glo’ster; to the speech of Lady Jane Gray at the end of the first act; and to that of Calista, in the Fair Penitent, when she leaves the stage, about the middle of the third act. The speech of Alicia, at the close of the fourth act of Jane Shore, puts the matter beyond doubt: in a scene of deep distress, the rhymes which finish the act, produce a certain gaiety and cheerfulness, far from according with the tone of the passion:
Having described, the best way I can, the impression that rhyme makes on the mind; I proceed to examine whether there be any subjects to which rhyme is peculiarly adapted, and for what subjects it is improper. Grand and lofty subjects, which have a powerful influence, claim precedence in this inquiry. In the chapter of Grandeur and Sublimity it is established, that a grand or sublime object, inspires a warm enthusiastic emotion disdaining strict regularity and order; which emotion is very different from that inspired by the moderately enlivening music of rhyme. Supposing then an elevated subject to be expressed in rhyme, what must be the effect? The intimate union of the music with the subject, produces an intimate union of their emotions; one inspired by the subject, which tends to elevate and expand the mind; and one inspired by the music, which, confining the mind within the narrow limits of regular cadence and similar sound, tends to prevent all elevation above its own pitch. Emotions so little concordant, cannot in union have a happy effect.
But it is scarce necessary to reason upon a case that never did, and probably never will happen, viz. an important subject clothed in rhyme, and yet supported in its utmost elevation. A happy thought or warm expression, may at times give a sudden bound upward; but it requires a genius greater than has hitherto existed, to support a poem of any length in a tone elevated much above<173> that of the melody. Tasso and Ariosto ought not to be made exceptions, and still less Voltaire. And after all, where the poet has the dead weight of rhyme constantly to struggle with, how can we expect an uniform elevation in a high pitch; when such elevation, with all the support it can receive from language, requires the utmost effort of the human genius?
But now, admitting rhyme to be an unfit dress for grand and lofty images; it has one advantage however, which is, to raise a low subject to its own degree of elevation. Addison* observes, “That rhyme, without any other assistance, throws the language off from prose, and very often makes an indifferent phrase pass unregarded; but where the verse is not built upon rhymes, there, pomp of sound and energy of expression are indispensably necessary, to support the style, and keep it from falling into the flatness of prose.” This effect of rhyme is remarkable in French verse: which, being simple, and little qualified for inversion, readily sinks down to prose where not artificially supported: rhyme is therefore indispensable in French tragedy, and may be proper even in French comedy. Voltaire† assigns that very reason for adhering to<174> rhyme in these compositions. He indeed candidly owns, that, even with the support of rhyme, the tragedies of his country are little better than conversation-pieces; which seems to infer, that the French language is weak, and an improper dress for any grand subject. Voltaire was sensible of the imperfection; and yet Voltaire attempted an epic poem in that language.
The cheering and enlivening power of rhyme, is still more remarkable in poems of short lines, where the rhymes return upon the ear in a quick succession; for which reason, rhyme is perfectly well adapted to gay, light, and airy subjects. Witness the following:
For that reason, such frequent rhymes are very improper for any severe or serious passion: the dissonance between the subject and the melody is very sensibly felt. Witness the following:<175>
Rhyme is not less unfit for anguish or deep distress, than for subjects elevated and lofty; and<176> for that reason has been long disused in the English and Italian tragedy. In a work where the subject is serious though not elevated, rhyme has not a good effect; because the airiness of the melody agrees not with the gravity of the subject: the Essay on Man, which treats a subject great and important, would make a better figure in blank verse. Sportive love, mirth, gaiety, humour, and ridicule, are the province of rhyme. The boundaries assigned it by nature, were extended in barbarous and illiterate ages; and in its usurpations it has long been protected by custom: but taste in the fine arts, as well as in morals, improvesdaily; and makes a progress toward perfection, slow indeed but uniform; and there is no reason to doubt, that rhyme, in Britain, will in time be forc’d to abandon its unjust conquests, and to confine itself within its natural limits.
Having said what occurred upon rhyme, I close the section with a general observation, That the melody of verse so powerfully enchants the mind, as to draw a veil over very gross faults and imperfections. Of this power a stronger example cannot be given than the episode of Aristaeus, which closes the fourth book of the Georgics. To renew a stock of bees when the former is lost, Virgil asserts, that they may be produced in the entrails of a bullock, slain and managed in a certain manner. This leads him to say, how this strange<177> receit was invented; which is as follows. Aristaeus having lost his bees by disease and famine, never dreams of employing the ordinary means for obtaining a new stock; but, like a froward child, complains heavily to his mother Cyrene, a water-nymph. She advises him to consult Proteus, a sea-god, not how he was to obtain a new stock, but only by what fatality he had lost his former stock; adding, that violence was necessary, because Proteus would say nothing voluntarily. Aristaeus, satisfied with this advice, though it gave him no prospect of repairing his loss, proceeds to execution. Proteus is caught sleeping, bound with cords, and compelled to speak. He declares, that Aristaeus was punished with the loss of his bees, for attempting the chastity of Euridice the wife of Orpheus; she having been stung to death by a serpent in flying his embraces. Proteus, whose sullenness ought to have been converted into wrath by the rough treatment he met with, becomes on a sudden courteous and communicative. He gives the whole history of the expedition to hell which Orpheus undertook in order to recover his spouse; a very entertaining story, but without the least relation to what was in view. Aristaeus, returning to his mother, is advised to deprecate by sacrifices the wrath of Orpheus, who was now dead. A bullock is sacrificed, and out of the entrails spring miraculously a swarm of bees. Does it follow, that the same may be obtained without a miracle, as is supposed in the receit?<178>
N.B. Every word may be considered as a prose foot, because every word is distinguished by a pause; and every foot in verse may be considered as a verse word, composed of syllables pronounced at once without a pause.<183>
[1. ]Kames added many new quotations to the text of this central chapter in editions after the first.
[* ]Chap. 2. part 1. sect. 5. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, sect. 75.) makes the same observation. We are apt, says that author, to confound the language with the subject; and if the latter be nervous, we judge the same of the former. But they are clearly distinguishable; and it is not uncommon to find subjects of great dignity dressed in mean language. Theopompus is celebrated for the force of his diction; but erroneously: his subject indeed has great force, but his style very little.
[* ]In this scale of sounds, the letter i must be pronounced as in the word interest, and as in other words beginning with the syllable in; the letter e as in persuasion; the letter a as in hat; and the letter u as in number.
[* ]Italian words, like those of Latin and Greek, have this property almost universally: English and French words are generally deficient. In the former, the long syllable is removed from the end as far as the sound will permit; and in the latter, the last syllable is generally long. For example, Sēnator in English, Senātor in Latin, and Senatēur in French.
[* ]That the Italian tongue is too smooth, seems probable from considering, that in versification vowels are frequently suppressed in order to produce a rougher and bolder tone.
[* ]See Swift’s proposal for correcting the English tongue, in a letter to the Earl of Oxford. [A Proposal for correcting, improving and ascertaining the English tongue, in a letter to the Earl of Oxford, 1712.]
[* ]See the reason, chap. 8.
[† ]De structura perfectae orationis, l. 2.
[* ]See Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, sect. 18.
[2. ]“With whom I had been quaestor, with whom chance and tradition, with whom the decision of the gods and men had joined . . .”
[3. ]Cicero, Against Quintus Caecilius Niger 22.72: “The office to which I seek election; the ambition that I cherish in my heart; the reputation for which I have risen early and toiled in the heat to gain.”
[4. ]De Oratore 1.52: “Deliver us out of our woes, deliver us out of the jaws of those whose ferocity cannot get its fill of blood.”
[* ]Scot’s Christian life. [J. Scott, The Christian Life, from Its Beginnings, 1694–98.]
[5. ]“Many of them, as they tumbled over rather than retreated, were overtaken and put to the sword.”
[6. ]“Whence the Fates by fixed decree have cut off thy return.”
[7. ]“Who on his shallow shell sang full oft his plaintive strains of love in simple measure.”
[8. ]“In childhood’s days, on trackless Vultur, beyond the borders of old nurse Apulia, when I was tired with play and overcome with sleep, the doves of story covered me o’er with freshly fallen leaves.”
[9. ]“My stream of pure water, my woodland of few acres, and sure trust in my crop of corn bring me more blessing than the lot of the dazzling lord of fertile Africa, though he know it not.”
[10. ]“When, furious with desire, they distinguish right and wrong only by the narrow line their passions draw.”
[11. ]“On her brow the calm of hope.”
[12. ][Bk.12.10] “But the qualities lacking in Polyclitus are allowed to have been possessed by Phidias and Alcamanes. In the other hand Phidias is regarded as more gifted in his representation of gods than of men, and indeed for chryselephantine statues he is without peer, as he would in truth be, even if he had produced nothing in this material beyond his Minerva at Athens and his Jupiter at Olympia in Elis, whose beauty is said to have added something even to the awe with which the god was already regarded.”
[* ]Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 43. edit. 1.
[* ]Chap. 2. part 4.
[13. ]“He halted his column, and, ordering the troopers to prepare arms, and minds, for battle.”
[14. ]“Since every day some of their small number were killed or wounded and those who remained were wearied in both body and mind.”
[15. ]“Next valiant Mnestheus took his stand with bow bent, aiming aloft, and eyes and shaft levelled alike.”
[16. ]Tacitus, De Moribus Germanorum ( 98). Translated as A Treatise on the Situation, Manners, and People of Germany, by Arthur Murphy, 1793: “The whole vast country of Germany is separated from Gaul, from Rhaetia, and Panonia, by the Rhine and the Danube; from Dacia and Sarmatia, by a chain of mountains.”
[* ]See Girard’s French Grammar, discourse 12. [G. Girard, Les vraies principes de la langue françoise, 1747.]
[† ]An argument against abolishing Christianity. Swift. [In Swift, Miscellanies, 1711.]
[17. ]Addison, Guardian, No. 139. The journal was started by Steele, but several eminent writers contributed to it, including Addison, Berkeley, Pope, and Gay.
[18. ]Bolingbroke, Dissertation upon Parties, 1735. Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke (1678–1751), was a Tory statesman and a friend of Pope and Swift.
[19. ]Coriolanus, act 2, sc. 3; Julius Caesar, act 3, sc. 2; Merchant of Venice, act 3, sc. 1.
[20. ]Merchant of Venice, act 5, sc. 1; Richard II, act 1, sc. 3; Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 1, sc. 2.
[21. ]David Hume, History of Great Britain, ch. 55 [1770 ed. 6.402].
[22. ]“Who is not, as a soldier, roused by the wild clarion, nor dreads the angry sea; he avoids the Forum and proud thresholds of more powerful citizens.”
[23. ]All’s Well That Ends Well, act 5, sc. 3.
[24. ]The Song of Solomon, 1.16.
[25. ]Gaius Julius Caesar (100–44 ): born into a patrician Roman family, military leader on numerous successful overseas expeditions. Caesar initially obtained political power by bribery, becoming perpetual dictator in 44. He published his own version of the civil wars, and of the Gallic wars. From Commentaria 4.1: Custom has render’d ’em so hardy that they wash themselves in their Rivers, and wear no Cloaths even in the coldest Weather, except small Skins, which hardly ever cover one half of their Bodies, while the rest is expos’d to the Weather. (Commentaries on His Wars in Gaul, 3rd ed., trans. M. Bladen, 1719)
[26. ]Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715), History of His Own Time, 1724–34, vol. 1, bk. 3, p. 458.
[27. ]Letters on the Study and Use of History, 1752.
[28. ]“Since my father Adamastus was poor—and would to heaven that fortune has so stayed!—[I set out] for Troy.”
[29. ]Joseph Addison, Spectator, no. 101 (1711).
[* ]Letter concerning enthusiasm. Shaftesbury. [In Characteristics, 1711.]
[30. ]“And the moment we surrender to them, Henna will be in the hands of the Carthaginians, and we shall be more cruelly slaughtered here than was the garrison slain at Murgantia.”
[31. ]“[Porus himself was of almost superhuman size.] The elephant which he was riding seemed to increase this size, for it stood above the other animals by as much as Porus towered over the Indians.” (The History of Alexander, trans. John Yardley)
[32. ]“This ridge, just as Italy is cut in two by the backbone of the Apennines, divides Greece.”
[33. ]In his edition of 1770, Hume modified the text: 6.213.
[34. ]“Just as, in the case of plants and animals, the seeds have less power to maintain their natural quality than the character of the soil and the climate in which they live has power to change it.”
[35. ]“Public esteem is the nurse of the arts, and all men are fired to application by fame, whilst those pursuits which meet with general disapproval, always lie neglected.”
[36. ]“Meanwhile he received a letter from the most faithful of his officers, Parmenion, in which he was told not to trust his life to Philip.” (The History of Alexander)
[37. ]N. Hooke, The Roman History, 1738–71.
[40. ]“Hannibal crossed the river at break of day, after sending ahead of him the Baliares and the other light-armed troops, and posted each corps in line of battle, in the order in which he had brought it over. The Gallic and Spanish horse were next to the river, on the left wing, facing the Roman cavalry; the right wing was assigned to the Numidian horse.”
[41. ]“All the more did the brutes dash among their own men and cause a greater slaughter than they had done among the enemy, in proportion as the frightened beast is urged on more fiercely by terror than when under the control of a driver on its back.”
[42. ]Chapter 19.
[43. ]“I came, I saw, I conquered.” Suetonius, Divus Julius (Caesar), xxxvii.2, reports the saying as an inscription displayed during Caesar’s Pontic triumph, but Plutarch bk. 2 ascribes it to a letter written by Caesar announcing the victory of Zela, which concluded the Pontic campaign.
[44. ]“Go, fetch fire in haste, serve weapons, ply the oars!”
[45. ]“What mass, my countrymen, rolls onwards in murky gloom? Quick with the sword! Serve weapons, climb the walls. The enemy is upon us, ho!”
[* ]Treatise of the Sublime, cap. 16.
[* ]See Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, sect. 63.
[46. ]“I myself love Tully; you love Sempronius; Brutus loves Portia.”
[* ]Taking advantage of a declension to separate an adjective from its substantive, as is commonly practised in Latin, though it detract not from perspicuity, is certainly less neat than the English method of juxtaposition. Contiguity is more expressive of an intimate relation, than resemblance merely of the final syllables. Latin indeed has evidently the advantage when the adjective and substantive happen to be connected by contiguity, as well as by resemblance of the final syllables.
[47. ]Paradise Lost: IX.1006; IX.586; V.178; I.1; III.418; II.880; II.770; VI.749.
[* ]See chap. 1.
[51. ]“He said the reason for his coming to Rome, in addition to his desire to see the gods and men by whose kindness he enjoyed a fortune beyond which he did not venture even to wish for anything, had been to give public warning to the senate that they should take measures against the designs of Perseus.”
[54. ]Swift, 1728.
[* ]To give force or elevation to a period, it ought to begin and end with a long syllable. For a long syllable makes naturally the strongest impression; and of all the syllables in a period, we are chiefly moved with the first and last. Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, sect. 39.
[55. ]“He who is upright in his way of life and unstained by guilt, needs not Moorish darts nor bow nor quiver loaded with poisoned arrows, Fuscus.”
[56. ]The quotation Addison translates is from Racine, Athalie, act 1, sc. 1.
[57. ]Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686–1743): disciple of Fénelon and tutor to Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his brother Henry, author of Travels of Cyrus, 1727.
[* ]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.
[58. ]A Letter to a Very Young Lady on Her Marriage, 1727.
[* ]Reflections sur la poesie Françoise. [J. A. Du Cerceau (1670–1730), Réflexions sur la poésie française, 1718.]
[59. ]Odyssey 12.290.
[* ]See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 5.
[† ]Poet. L. 3. l. 365–454.
[60. ]This intentionally contradicts one of David Hume’s central tenets.
[* ]See chap. 2. part 4.
[61. ]“They with mighty force, now one, now another, raise their arms.”
[62. ]Aeneid 8.596: “With galloping tramp the horse-hoof shakes the crumbling plain.”
[63. ]Aeneid 5.217: “She skims her liquid way and stirs not her swift pinions.”
[64. ]Aeneid 12.18: “To him Latinus with unruffled soul replied.”
[65. ]Terence, The Eunuch, act 2, sc. 3: “I’ve had enough of these everyday beauties.”
[66. ]Horace, Ars Poetica 139: “Mountains will labour, to birth will come a single laughable little mouse.”
[* ]De oratore, 1. 3. cap. 58.
[* ]De structura orationis, sect. 2.
[67. ][De Oratore III.48] “In a continuous flow there is no rhythm; rhythm is the product of a dividing up, that is of a beat marking equal and also frequently varying intervals, the rhythm that we can notice in falling drops of water.”
[* ]From this passage, however, we discover the etymology of the Latin term for musical impression. Every one being sensible that there is no music in a continued sound; the first inquiries were probably carried no farther than to discover, that to produce a musical impression a number of sounds is necessary; and musical impression obtained the name of numerus, before it was clearly ascertained, that variety is necessary as well as number.
[* ]Music, properly so called, is analysed into melody and harmony. A succession of sounds so as to be agreeable to the ear, constitutes melody: harmony arises from coexisting sounds. Verse therefore can only reach melody, and not harmony.
[* ]After giving some attention to this subject, and weighing deliberately every circumstance, I was necessarily led to the foregoing conclusion, That the Dactyle and Spondee are no other than artificial measures invented for trying the accuracy of composition. Repeated experiments have convinced me, that though the sense should be neglected, an Hexameter line read by Dactyles and Spondees will not be melodious. And the composition of an Hexameter line demonstrates this to be true, without necessity of an experiment; for, as will appear afterward, there must always, in this line, be a capital pause at the end of the fifth long syllable, reckoning, as above, two short for one long; and when we measure this line by Dactyles and Spondees, the pause now mentioned divides always a Dactyle, or a Spondee, without once falling in after either of these feet. Hence it is evident, that if a line be pronounced as it is scanned, by Dactyles and Spondees, the pause must utterly be neglected; which destroys the melody, because this pause is essential to the melody of an Hexameter verse. If, on the other hand, the melody be preserved by making that pause, the pronouncing by Dactyles or Spondees must be abandoned.
[68. ]Ascribed to Andrew Baston, bard and fourteenth-century Carmelite monk: the opening of “a monkish rhyme, consisting of barbarous jingle,” in William Nimmo, The History of Stirlingshire, 1777, ch. 10.
[69. ]Roman proverb: “Piss and fart. Sound at heart.”
[70. ]Georgics 4.492, 513.
[71. ]Aeneid 5.260.
[72. ]Georgics 4.485, 511.
[73. ]Eclogues 1.10, 58.
[74. ]Aeneid 8.596: “with galloping tramp the horse-hoof shakes the crumbling plain.”
[75. ]Georgics 4.527.
[* ]See chap. 2. part 1. sect. 5.
[76. ]Horace, Epistles 1.22.
[77. ]Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.63.
[78. ]Aeneid 2.6.
[79. ]Eclogues 1.5.
[80. ]Georgics 2.459.
[* ]Poet. cap. 25.
[81. ]Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.49.
[82. ]Lucan, Pharsalia 2.383.
[83. ]Aeneid 5.213.
[84. ]Georgics 2.465.
[85. ]Aeneid 10.1; 12.18; 1.320.
[86. ]Eclogues 1.5.
[87. ]Eclogues 1.10; 4.30.
[88. ]Ars Poetica 139.
[89. ]Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.1.
[90. ]Eclogues 4.28.
[91. ]Satires 1.2.99.
[92. ]Horace, Satires: 1.2.123; 1.2.18; 1.2.98; 1.3.130; 1.1.64.
[93. ]Rape of the Lock, V.116; Essay on Criticism, 356.
[94. ]Rape of the Lock, II.77.
[95. ]Rape of the Lock: II.19; II.29.
[96. ]Rape of the Lock: I.94; I.99; II.23; III.120; IV.144; V.106.
[97. ]Essay on Man, II.111.
[98. ]Eloise to Abelard, 69.
[99. ]Addison, A Letter from Italy to The Right Honourable Charles Lord Halifax in the Year MDCCI, line 120.
[100. ]Addison, “The Campaign” (1705).
[101. ]Eloise to Abelard, 57.
[102. ]Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, 79.
[103. ]Addison, “The Campaign,” st. 24.
[104. ]Addison, A Letter from Italy, line 36.
[105. ]Eloise to Abelard, 36, 121.
[106. ]Messiah, 16.
[107. ]Eloise to Abelard, 77.
[108. ]Epistle to Harley, I.24.
[109. ]Pope, Epistle I.vi.91; Epistle II.ii.247.
[110. ]Eloise to Abelard, 17; 220; 1.
[111. ]Pope, Spring, 71.
[112. ]Rape of the Lock: I.28; I.59; III.58; V.89.
[113. ]Eloise to Abelard, 181.
[114. ]An Epistle from Mr. Pope to Dr. Arbuthnot, 37.
[115. ]Pope, Epistle I.i.33; Epistle I.vi.118; Epistle II.i.161, 168, 312.
[116. ]Iliad 1.73, 172, 239, 422; 2.4, 217.
[117. ]Eloise to Abelard, 249; Unfortunate Lady, 42.
[118. ]Pope, Epistle I.vi.94; Epistle II.ii.292.
[119. ]Odyssey 16.11.
[120. ]Eloise to Abelard, 3.
[121. ]Rape of the Lock: III.147; IV.14; IV.16.
[122. ]Pope, Epistle I.i.74, 111, and 127; Epistle II.i.190, 354, and 206.
[123. ]Pope, Epilogue to Satires, II.146.
[124. ]Eloise to Abelard, 21; 29; 47.
[125. ]Rape of the Lock: I.70; I.42.
[126. ]Rape of the Lock: IV.79; IV.115.
[127. ]Eloise to Abelard, 108.
[128. ]Pope, Epistle I.vi. 4.
[129. ]Iliad 1.314, 335.
[130. ]Unfortunate Lady, 67.
[131. ]Iliad 1.421.
[132. ]Essay on Man, III.21.
[133. ]Rape of the Lock, II.95.
[134. ]Iliad 2.205.
[135. ]Eloise to Abelard, 111, 126, 127.
[136. ]Iliad 2.245, 247, 362.
[137. ]Rape of the Lock, I.69.
[138. ]Iliad 2.370.
[139. ]Unfortunate Lady, 51.
[140. ]Rape of the Lock, II.13.
[141. ]Essay on Man, I.271.
[142. ]Iliad 13.195.
[143. ]Paradise Lost: 3.42; 4.682; 11.491; 3.711; 1.574.
[144. ]Paradise Lost: 9.892; 2.439; 1.55.
[* ]An accent considered with respect to sense is termed emphasis.
[145. ]Rape of the Lock: II.51; II.72; II.39; II.91; III.176.
[* ]Page 136.
[146. ]Essay on Man, I.30.
[147. ]Eloise to Abelard, 1.
[148. ]Addison, A Letter from Italy, 113.
[* ]Hence the liveliness of the French language as to sound, above the English; the last syllable in the former being generally long and accented, the long syllable in the latter being generally as far back in the word as possible, and often without an accent. For this difference I find no cause so probable as temperament and disposition; the French being brisk and lively, the English sedate and reserved: and this, if it hold, is a pregnant instance of a resemblance between the character of a people and that of their language.
[* ]See chap. 9.
[* ]This rule is quite neglected in French versification. Even Boileau makes no difficulty, to close one subject with the first line of a couplet, and to begin a new subject with the second. Such licence, however sanctified by practice, is unpleasant by the discordance between the pauses of the sense and of the melody.
[149. ]“Young and valiant heroes, whose wisdom is not the late fruit of a lingering old age.”
[* ]Vossius, De poematum cantu, p. 26. says, “Nihil aeque gravitati orationis afficit, quam in sono ludere syllabarum.” [“Nothing affects the gravity of a speech more than a play on the sound of words.”]
[* ]Spectator, No. 285.
[† ]Preface to his Oedipus, and in his discourse upon tragedy, prefixed to the tragedy of Brutus.
[150. ]Rosamond, 1707, an opera by Addison, with music by Thomas Clayton (ca. 1670–ca. 1730): it was a failure, but a later setting in 1733 by Thomas Arne (1710–78) was a great success.
[151. ]Pietro Bonaventura Trapassi, known as Metastasio (1698–1782): learned Roman poet and dramatist. Regarded as the preeminent librettist of the eighteenth century, he wrote texts for 27 three-act operas, including Artaserse, set to music by Thomas Arne (1710–78).
[152. ]Although he claimed to be unmusical, Pope collaborated with three composers associated with Handel, in addition to Handel himself: Giovanni Bononcini (1670– 1747), John Gay (1685–1732), and Maurice Greene (1696–1755) who, in 1730, set to music Pope’s “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day” (1708). The music of all of them was popular in Edinburgh in Kames’s day.