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ing, may appear minute, yet their effect, upon writing and style, is much greater than might, at first, be imagined. A sentiment which is expressed in a period, clearly, neatly, and happily arranged, makes always a stronger impression on the mind, than one that is seeble or embarrassed. Every one feels this upon a comparison : and if the effect be sensible in one sentence, how much more in a whole discourse, or composition, that is made up of such sentences ?
The fundamental rule of the construction of sentences, and into which all others might be resolved, undoubtedly is, to communicate, in the clearest and most natural order, the ideas which we mean to transfuse into the minds of others. Every arrangement that does most justice to the sense, and expresses it to most advantage, strikes us as beautiful. To this point have tended all the rules l' have given. And, indeed, did men always think clearly, and were they, at the same time, fully masters of the language in which they write, there would be occasion for few rules. Their sentences would then, of course, acquire all those properties of precision, unity, and strength, which I have recommended. For we may rest assured, that whenever we express ourselves ill, there is besides the mismanagement of language, for the most part, some mistake in our manner of conceiving the subject. Embarrassed, obscure, and feeble sentences, are generally, if not always, the result of embarrassed, obscure, and feeble thought. Thought and language act and react upon each other mutually. Logic and rhetoric have here, as in many other cases, a strict connexion; and he that is learning, to arrange his sentences with accuracy and order, is learning, at the same time, to think with accuracy and order; an observation which alone will justify all the care and attention we have bestowed on this subject.
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES...HARMONY. HITHERTO we have considered sentences, with respect to their meaning, under the heads of perspicuity, unity, and strength. We are now to consider them, with respect to their sound, their harmony, or agree. ableness to the ear; which was the last quality belonging to them that I proposed to treat of.
Sound is a quality much inferior to sense ; yet such as must not be disl'egarded. For as long as sounds are the vehicle of conveyance for our ideas, there will be always a very considerable connexion between the idea which is conveyed, and the nature of the sound which conveys it. Pleasing ideas can hardly be transmitted to the mind, by means of harsh and disagreeable sounds. The imagination revolts as soon as it hears them uttered. Nihil,' says Quintilian, potest intrare in affectum, in aure, velut quodam vestibulo, statim offendit." Music has naturally a great power over all men to prompt and facilitate certain emotions; insomuch that there are hardly any dispositions, which we wish to raise in others, but certain sounds may be found concordant to those
Nothing can enter into the affections which stumbles at the threshold, by offend ing the ear.
dispositions, and tending to promote them. Now, language may, in some degree, be rendered capable of this power of music; a circumstance which inust needs heighten our idea of language as a wonderful invention. Not content with simply interpreting our ideas to others, it can give them those ideas enforced by corresponding sounds; and, to the pleasure of communicating thought, can add the new and separate pleasure of melody
In the barmony of periods, two things may be considered. First, agreeable souod, or modulation in general, without any particular expression : Next, the sound so ordered, as to become expressive of the sense. The first is the more common; the second the higher beauty.
First, let us consider agreeable sound, in general, as the property of a well-constructed sentence: and, as it was of prose sentences we have hitherto treated, we shall confine ourselves to them under this head. This beauty of musical construction in prose, it is plain, will depend upon two things; the choice of words, and the arrangement of them.
I begin with the choice of words ; on which head, there is not much to be said, unless I were to descend into a tedious and frivolous detail concerning the powers of the several letters, or simple sounds, of which speech is composed. It is evident, that words are most agreeable to the ear which are composed of smooth and liquid sounds, where there is a proper intermixture of vowels and consonants ; without too many harsh consonants rubbing against each other; or too many open vowels in succession, to cause a hiatus, or disagreeable aperture of the mouth. It may always be assumed as a principle, that whatever sounds are difficult in pronunciation, are, in the same proportion, harsh and painful to the ear. Vowels give softness; consonants, strengthen the sound of words. The music of language requires a just proportion of both; and will be hurt, will be rendered either grating or effeminate by an excess of either. Long words are commonly more agreeable to the ear than monosyllables. They please it by the composition, or succession of sounds which they present to it: and accordingly, the most musical languages abound most in them. Among words of any length, those are the most musical, which do not run wholly either upon long or short syllables, but are composed of an intermixture of them ; such as repent, produce, velocity, celerity, independent, impetuosity.
The next head, respecting the harmony which results from a proper arrangement of the words and members of a period, is more complex, and of greater nicety. For, let the words themselves be ever so well chosen, and well sounding, yet, if they be ill disposed, the music of the sentence is utterly lost. In the harmonious structure and disposition of periods, no writer whatever, ancient or modern, equals Cicero. He had studied this with care ; and was fond, perhaps to excess, of what he calls the * Plena ac numerosa oratio.' We need only open his writings to find instances that will repder the effect of musical language sensible to every ear. What, for example, can be more full, round and swelling, than the following sentence of the 4th Oration against Catiline ? Cogitate quantis laboribus fundatum imperium, quanta virtute stabilitam libertatem, quanta Deorum benignitate auctas exaggeratasque fortunas, una nox pene delerit.' In English, we may take, for an instance of a musical sentence, the following from Milton, in his treatise on Education : "We shall conduct you to a hill-side, laborious indeed, at the first ascent; but else, so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospects, and melodious sounds oa every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming. Every thing in this sentence conspires to promote the harmony. The words are happily chosen; full of liquid and soft sounds; laborious, smooth, green, goodly, melodious charming : and these words so artfully arranged, that were we to alter the collocation of any one of them, we should, presently, be sensible of the melody suffering. For, let us observe, how finely the members of the period swell one above another. "So smooth, so green, - so full of goodly prospects, and melodious sounds on every side;-till the ear, prepared by this gradual rise, is conducted to that full close on which it rests with pleasure ; that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.
The structure of periods, then, being susceptible of a melody very sensible to the ear, our next inquiry should be, how this melodious structure is formed, what are the principles of it, by what laws is it regulated ? And, upon this subject, were I to follow the ancient rhetoricians, it would be easy to give a great variety of rules. For here they have entered into a minute and particular detail; more particular, indeed, than on any other head that regards language. They hold, that to prose as well as to verse, there belong certain numbers, less strict, indeed, yet such as can be ascertained by rule. They go so far as to specify the feet as they are called, that is, the succession of long and short syllables, which should enter into the different members of a sentence, and to shew what the effect of each of these will be. Wherever they treat of the structure of sentences, it is always the music of them that makes the principal object. Cicero and Quintilian are full of this. The other qualities of precision, 'unity and strength, which we consider as of chief importance, they handle slightly, but when they come to the junctura et numerus,' the modulation and harmony, there they are copious. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, one of the most judicious critics of antiquity, has written a treatise on the Composition of Words in a Sentence, which is altogether confined to their musical effect. He makes the excellency of a sentence to consist in four things; first, in the sweetness of single sounds ; secondly, in the composition of sounds, that is, the numbers or feet; thirdly, in change or variety of sound; and fourthly, in sound suited to the
On all these points he writes with great accuracy and refinement: and is very worthy of being consulted; though were one now to write a book on the structure of sentences, we should expect to find the sabject treated of in a more extensive manner.
In modern times, this whole subject of the musical structure of discourse, it is plain, has been much less studied; and indeed, for several reasons, can be much less subjected to rule. The reasons, it will be necessary to give, both to justify my not following the tract of the ancient rhetoricians on this subject, and io shew how it has come to pass, that a part of composition, which once made so conspicuous a figure, draws much less attention.
In the first place, the ancient languages, I mean the Greek and the Roman, were much more susceptible than ours, of the graces and the powers of melody. The quantities of their syllables were more fixed and determined ; their words were longer and more sonorous ; their method of varying the terminations of nouns and verbs, both introduced a greater variety of liquid sounds and freed them from that multiplicity of little auxiliary words which we are obliged to employ; and, what is of the greatest consequence, the inversions which their languages allow
ed, gave them the power of placing their words in whatever order was most suited to a musical arrangement. All these were great advantages which they enjoyed above us, for harmony of period.
In the next place, the Greeks and Romans, the former especially, vere, in truth, much more musical nations than we; their genius was more turned to delight in the melody of speech. Music is known to have been a more extensive art among them than it is with us; more universally studied, and applied to a greater variety of objects. Several learned men, particularly the Abbé du Bos, in his Reflections on Poetry and Painting, have clearly proved, that the theatrical compositions of the ancients, both their tragedies and comedies, were set to a kind of music. Whence the modos fecit, and the tibiis dextris ei sinistris, prefixed to the editions of Terence's plays. All sort of declamation and public speaking, was carried on by them in a much more musical tone than it is among us. It approached to a kind of chanting or recitative. Among the Athenians, there was what was called the Nomic melody ; or a particular measure prescribed to the public officers, in which they were to promulgate the laws to the people; lest, by reading them with improper tones, the laws might be exposed to contempt. Among the Romans, there is a noted story of C. Gracchus, when he was declaiming in public, having a musician standing at his back, in order to give him the proper tones with a pipe or flute. Even when pronouncing those terrible tribunitial harangues, by wbich he inflamed the one half of the citizens of Rome against the other; this attention to the music of speech was, in those times, it seems, thought necessary to success. Quintilian, though he condemns the excess of this sort of pronunciation, yet allows a 'cantus obscurior' to be a beauty in a public speaker. Hence, that variety of accents, acute, grave, and circumflex, which we find marked upon the Greek syllables, to express not the quantity of them, but the tone in which they were to be spoken; the application of which is now wholly unknown to us. And though the Romans did not mark those accents in their writing, yet it appears from Quintilian, that they used them in pronunciation : Quantam quale,' says he, comparantes gravi, interrogantes acuto tenore concludunt.' As music then, was an object much more attended to in speech, among the Greeks and Romans than it is with us; as, in all kinds of public speaking, they employed a much greater variety of notes, of tones or inflections of voice, than we use; this is one clear reason of their paying a greater attention to that construction of sentences, which might best suit this musical pronunciation.
It is farther known, that, in consequence of the genius of their lan. guages, and of their manner of pronouncing them, the musical arrangement of sentences, did, in fact, produce a greater effect in public speaking among them, than it could possibly do in any modern oration; another reason why it deserved to be more studied. Cicero, in his treatise, entitled, Orator, tells us, · Consciones sæpe exclamare vidi, cum verba apte cecidissent. Id enim expectant aures.* And he gives a remarkable instance of the effect of an barmonious period upon a whole assembly, from a sentence of one of Carbo's orations, spoken in his hearing. The sentence was, ' Patris dictum sapiens temeritatis filii comprobravit. By means of the sound of which, alone, he tells us, “Tantus clamor concionis excitatus est, ut prorsus admirabile esset.? He makes us remark the feet of which these words consist, to which he ascribes the power of the melody; and shews how, by altering the collocation, the whole effect would be lost ; as thus : ' Patris dictum sapiens comprobravit temeritas filii.' Now though it be true that Carbo's sentence is extremely musical, and would be agreeable, at this day, to an audience, yet I cannot believe that an English sentence, equally harmonious, would, by its harmony alone, produce any such effect on a British audience, or excite any such wonderful applause and admiration, as Cicero inforins us this of Carbo produced. Our northern ears are 100 coarse and abtuse. The melody of speech has less power over us; and by our simpler and plainer method of uttering words, speech is, in truth, accompanied with less melody than it was among the Greeks and Romans.*
** I have often been witness to bursts of exclamation in the public assemblies, when sentences closed musically; for that is a pleasure which the car expects.'
For these reasons, I am of opinion, that it is vain to think of bestowing the same attention upon the harmonious structure of our sentences, that was bestowed by these ancient nations. The doctrine of the Greek and Roman critics, on this head, has misled some to imagine, that it might be equally applied to our tongue; and that our prose writing might be regulated by spondees and trochees, and iambus's and pæons, and other metrical feet. But first, our words cannot be measured, or, at least, can be measured, very imperfectly by any feet of this kind. For, the quantity, the length and shortness of our syllables, is not, by any means, so fixed and subjected to rule, as in the Greek and Roman tongues; but very often lest arbitrary, and determined by the emphasis, and the sense. Next, though our prose could admit of such metrical regulation, yet, from our plainer method of pronouncing all sorts of discourse the effect would not be at all so sensible to the ear, nor be relished with so much pleasure, as among the Greeks and Romans: and, lastly, this whole doctrine about the measures and numbers of prose, even as it is delivered by the ancient rhetoricians themselves, is, in truth, in a great measure, loose and uncertain. It appears, indeed, that the melody of discourse was a matter of infinitely more attention to them, than ever it has been to the moderns. But, though they write a great deal about it, they have never been able to reduce it to any rules which could be of real use in practice. If we consult Cicero's Orator, where this point is discussed with the most minuteness, we shall see how much these ancient critics differed from one another, about the feet proper for the conclusion, and other parts of a sentence; and how much, after all, was left to the judge ment of the ear. Nor, indeed, is it possible to give precise rules concerning this matter, in any language; as all prose composition must be allowed to run loose in its numbers; and according as the tenor of a discourse varies, the modulation of sentences must vary infinitely.
But, although I apprehend, that this musical arrangement cannot be reduced into a system, I am far from thinking that it is a quality to be neglected in composition. On the contrary, I hold its effect to be very considerable ; and that every one who studies to write with grace, much more, who seeks to pronounce in public, with success, will be obliged to attend to it not a little. But it is his ear, cultivated by attention and prac
*' In versu quidein, theatra tota exclamant si fuit una syllaba aut brevior aut longior. Nec vero multitudo pedes novit, nec ullos numeros tenet; nec illud quod offendit, aut cur, aut in quo offendat intelligit; et tamen omnium longitudinum et brevitatum in sonis sicut a cutarum, graviumque vocum, judicium ipsa natura in auribus nostris collocavit.'
CICERO Orator, c. 51.