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O F

CRITICIS M.

CHAP. XVIII.

BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE.

O

Fall the fine arts, painting only and fculpture are in their nature imitative. A field laid out with taste, is not a copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in fome measure be imitated by mufic; but for the most part, music, like architecture, deals in originals. Language copies not from nature, more than mufic or architecture; unless where, like mufic, it is imitative of found or motion in the defcription, for example, of particular founds, language fometimes furnifheth words, which, befide their customary power of exciting ideas, refemble by their foftA 2 nefs

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nefs or harfhnefs the found defcribed; and there are words, which, by the celerity or flowness of pronunciation, have fome resemblance to the motion they fignify. This imitative power of words goes one step farther: the loftinefs of fome words, makes them proper fymbols of lofty ideas; a rough fubject is imitated by harth-founding words; and words of many fyllables pronounced flow and smooth, are naturally expreffive of grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the mind, abftracting from their fignification 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 relished by thofe only who have more delicacy of fenfation than belongs to the bulk of mankind. Language poffeffeth a beauty fuperior greatly in degree, of which we are eminently fenfible, when a thought is communicated with perfpicuity and fprightlinefs. This beauty of language, arifing from its power of expreffing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of the thought itfelf; which beauty of thought is transferred to the expreffion, and makes it appear more beautiful *. But

Chap. 2. part 1. fect. 4. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, fect. 75-) makes the fame obfervation. We are apt, fays that author, to confound the language with the fubject; and if the latter be nervous, we judge the former to be fo alfo. But they are clearly distinguishable; and it is not uncommon to find fubjects of great

dignity

But these beauties, if we wish to think accurately, must be distinguished from each other: they are in reality fo diftinct, that we fometimes are confcious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the fubject expreffed is difagreeable; a thing that is loathfome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair ftand on end, may be defcribed in a manner fo lively, as that the disagreeableness of the fubject shall not even obfcure the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty of language confidered as fignificant, which is a branch of the present fubject, will be explained in their order. I fhall only at prefent observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, viz. the communication of thought and hence it evidently appears, that of feveral expreffions all conveying the fame thought, the most beautiful, in the fenfe now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.

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The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different kinds, ought to be handled separately. I fhall begin with those beauties of language that arife from found; after which will follow the beauties of language confidered as fignificant: this order appears natural; for the found of a word is attended to,

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dignity dreffed in mean language. Theopompus is celebrated for the force of his diction; but erroneoufly his fubject indeed has great force, but his ftyle very little.

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before

Defore we confider its fignification. In a third fection come thofe fingular beauties of language that are derived from a refemblance between found and fignification. The beauties of verse are handled in the last fection: for though the foregoing beauties are found in verfe as well as in profe, yet verfe has many peculiar beauties, which for the fake of connection must be brought under one view; and verfification, at any rate, is a fubject of fo great importance, as to deferve a place by itself.

SECT. I.

Beauty of language with respect to found.

N handling this fubject, the following order appears the moft natural. The founds of the different letters come firft: next, these founds as united in fyllables: third, fyllables united in words: fourth, words united in a period: and in the last place, periods united in a discourse.

With respect to the firft article, every vowel is founded with a fingle expiration of air from the wind-pipe, through the cavity of the mouth; and by varying this cavity, the different vowels are founded: the air in paffing through cavities differing in fize, produceth various founds; fome high or sharp, fome low or flat: a fmall

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