« PreviousContinue »
SP of Oft currc cours
The only important rule which can here be given is, that when we aim at dignity or elevation, the sound should increase to the last; the longest members of the period, and the fullest and most sonorous words, should be employed in the conclusion. As an instance of this, the following sentence of Mr. Addison may be given. “ It
“ fills the mind,” speaking of sight, “ with the ... e largest variety of ideas; converses with its
« objects at the greatest distance; and continues “ the longest in action without being tired or “ satiated with its proper enjoyments.” . Here every reader must be sensible of a beauty, both in the just division of the members and pauses, and the manner in which the sentence is rounded and brought to a full and harmonious termination.
It may be remarked, that little words, in the conclusion of a sentence, are as injurious to-melody as they are inconsistent with strength of expression. - A musical close in our language seems, in general, to require either the last syllable, or the last but one, to be a long syllable. Words which consist chiefly of short syllables, as contrary, particular, retrospect, seldom terminate a sentence harmoniously, unless a run of long syllables, before, has rendered them pleasing to the ear.
Sentences, however, which are so constructed as to make the sound always swell and grow towards the end, and to rest either on a long or a penult long syllable, give a discourse the tone of declamation. If melody be not varied, the ear . soon becomes acquainted and cloyed with it.
Sentences constructed in the same manner, with the pauses at equal intervals, should never suc
Sou corres, partly I any one on our s Sentenc ness and tant, ma ever, no familiar a easier, an to write a in a style words of warlike ma
Besides the current thought, a attempted, sounds. In he looked fo prose compo inferior degre
The sound describe chie
ceed each other. Short sentences must be blended with long and swelling ones, to render discourse sprightly as well as magnificent.
We now proceed to treat of a higher species of harmony—the sound adapted to the sense. Of this we may remark two degrees: First, the current of sound suited to the tenor of a discourse: Next, a peculiar resemblance effected between some object and the sounds that are employed in describing it.
Sounds have, in many respects, an intimate correspondence with our ideas; partly natural, partly produced by artificial associations. Hence, any one modulation of sound continued, stamps on our style a certain character and expression. Sentences constructed with the Ciceronian fulness and swell excite an idea of what is important, magnificent, and sedate. They suit, however, no violent passion, no eager reasoning, no familiar address. These require measures brisker, easier, and more concise. It were as ridiculous to write a familiar epistle and a funeral oration in a style of the same cadence, as to set the words of a tender love-song to the tune of a warlike march.
Besides that general correspondence which the current of sound has with the current of thought, a more particular expression may be attempted, of certain objects, by resembling sounds. In poetry this resemblance is chiefly to he looked for. It obtains sometimes, indeed, in prose composition; but there in a inore faint and inferior degree.
The sounds of words may be employed to describe chiefly three classes of objects; first, structuosample taken in the so
other sounds; secondly, motion; and thirdly, the emotions and passions of the mind.
In most languages it will be found, that the names of many particular sounds are so formed as to bear some resemblance to the sound which they signify; as with us, the whistling of winds, the buzz and hum of insects, the hiss of serpents, and the crash of falling timber; and many other instances, where the word has been plainly constructed from the sound it represents*. A remarkable example of this beauty we shall produce from Milton, taken from two passages in his Paradise Lost, describing the sound made in the one, by the opening of the gates of hell; in the other, by the opening of those of heaven. The contrast beteen the two exhibits to great advantage the art of the poet. The first is the opening hell's gates:
On a sudden, open fly,
Th’infernal doors; and on their hinges grate
Heaven opened wide
The second class of objects, which the sound of words is frequently employed to imitate, is motion: as it is swift or slow, violent or gentle, uniform or interrupted, easy or accompanied with effort. Between sound and motion there is no natural affinity; yet in the imagination there is a strong one, as is evident from the connex
* For a fuller explanation of this figure in composition, See page 230.
ion between music and dancing. The poet.can, consequently, give us a lively idea of the kind of motion he would describe, by the help of sound, which corresponds, in our imagination, with that motion. Long syllables naturally excite the idea of slow motion; as in this line of Pope :
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone A succession of short syllables gives the impression of quick motion: as, in Milton,
While on the tawny sands and shelves
Trip the pert fairies and the dapper elves. The works of Homer and Virgil abound with instances of this beauty, which are so often quoted, and so well known, that it is unnecessary to produce them.
The third set of objects, which we mentioned the sound of words as capable of representing, consists of the emotions and passions of the mind. Between sense and sound there appears, at first view, to be no natural reseniblance. But if the arrangement of syllables, by the sound alone, calls forth one set of ideas more readily than another, and disposes the mind for entering into that affection which the poet intends to raise, such arrangement may, with propriety, be said to resemble the sense, or be similar and correspondent to it. Thus when pleasure, joy, and agreeable objects, are described by one who sensibly feels his subject, the language naturally runs into smooth, liquid, and flowing numbers :
O joy, thou welcome stranger! twice three years
Brisk and lively sensations excite quicker and more animated numbers :
· The offer likes not, and the nimble gunner
And down goes all before liim. . Shakespear. Melancholy and gloomy subjects are naturally connected with slow measures and long words:
In those deep solitudes and awful cells, Where heavenly pensive contemplation dwells. Pope. Abundant instances of this kind will be suggested by a moderate acquaintance with the good poets, either ancient or modern.
General Characters of Style.
Diffuse, Concise, Feeble, Nervous, Dry, Plain,
Neat, Elegant, Flowery. That different subjects ought to be treated in different kinds of style, is a position so selfevident, that it requires not illustration. · Every one is convinced, that treaties of philosophy should not be composed in the same style with orations. It is equally apparent, that different parts of the same composition require a variation in the style and manner. Yet amidst this variety,we still expect to find, in the composition of any one man, some degree of uniformity or consistency with himself, in manner; we expect to find some prevailing character of style impressed on all his writings, which shall be suited to, and shall distinguish, his particular genius and turn of mind. The orations in Livy difier conside