Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

!

signification and from their imitative power: they are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the ful. ness, 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 thesc beauties, if we wish to 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 wander so lively, as that the disagreeableness of the subject shall not even pbscure: the agreeableness of the description: The:causes; of the original beauty of language, considered as significant, which is a branch of: Ibe presečit 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

Chapter II. Part i. Sect. 5. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, sect. 75.) makes the same observation. We are api, says that author, to confound the language with the subject; and if the latter be ner. vous, we judge the same of the former. But they are clearly disa tinguishable ; and it is not uncommon to find subjects of great dig: nity 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.

1

beautiful, in the sense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.

The several beauties of language above men. tioned, being of different kinds, ought to be han. dled 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 sound of a word is attended to, before we consider its signification. In a third section come those sin. gular 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 connexion, 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.

SECTION I.

Beauty of Language içith respect to Sound.

This subject. requires the following order: The sounds of the different, litters come first: next, these sounds as. united in syllables : third, sylla. bles 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 sizė, produceth various sounds, some high or sharp, some low or flat: a small cavity occasions a high sound, a large cavity a low sound. The

[ocr errors]

signification and from their imitative power: they are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the fol. ness, 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 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 : & thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair stand on end, may be described in a manoer 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 presept subject, will be explained in their orgler:: I shall.only at present observe, that this beauty is the leauty of means fitted to an end, that of communicating thought: and hence it evidently appears, that of several expression, all conveying the same thought, the most

Chapter II. Part i. Sect. 5. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, sect. 75.) makes the same observation. We are api, says that author, to confound the language with the subject; and if the latter be nere vous, we judge the same of the former. But they are clearly disa tinguishable, and it is not uncommon to find subjects of great dig. nity 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.

1

beautiful, in the sense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.

The several beauties of language above men. tioned, being of different kinds, ought to be han. dled 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 sound of a word is attended to, before we consider its signification. In a third section come those sin, gular 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 connexion, 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.

SECTION I.

Beauty of Language isth respect to Sound.

This subject. requires the following order: : The sounds of the différent, letters come first : next, these sounds as united in syllables : third, sylla. bles 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 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, 0, a.* 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 whicb 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 expi. ration 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 be heard if neither of the ne be suppressed. For the same reason, evėry syllable:

must be composed of as many sounds as there are:letters, supposing every letter to be distjodły: pronounced.

We next inquire : how far:syllables are agreeable to the ear. Feü longues 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

* 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 bat, and the letter u as in number.

« PredošláPokračovať »