« הקודםהמשך »
urally inclined to a mode of conversation which gralified the imagination so much ; for an imagination which is warm, is always prone to throw both a great deal of action, and a variety of tones, into discourse. Upon this principle, Dr. Warburton accounts for so much speaking by action, as we find among the Old Testament prophets; as when Jeremiah breaks the potter's vessel in sight of the people; throws a book into the Euphrates; puts on bonds and yokes; and carries out his household stuff'; ail which, he imagines might be significant modes of expression, very natural in those ages, when men were accustomed to explain themselves so much by actions and gestures. In like manner, among the northern American tribes, certain motions and actions were found to be much used as explanatory of their meaning, on all their great occasions of intercourse with each other; and by the belts and strings of wampum, which they gave and received, they were accustomed to declare their meaning, as much as by their discourses.
With regard to inflections of voice, these are so natural that to some nations, it has appeared easier to express different ideas, by varying the tone with which they pronounced the same word, than to contrive words for all their ideas. This is the practice of the Chinese in particular.
The number of words in their language is said not to be great; but in speaking, they vary each of their words on no less than five different tones, by which they make the same word signify five different things. This must give a great appearance of music or singing to their speech. For those inflections of voice which, in the infancy of, language, were no more than harsh or dissonant cries, must, as language gradually polishes, pass into more smooth and musical sounds; and hence is formed, what we call the prosody of a language.
It is remarkable, and deserves attention, that, both in the Greek and Roman languages, this musical and gesticulating pronunciation was retained in a very high degree. Without having attended to this, we shall be at a loss in understanding several passages of the classics, which relate to the public speaking, and the theatrical entertainments of the ancients. It appears from many circumstances, that the prosody both of the Greeks and Romans, was carried much farther than ours; or that they spoke with more and stronger inflections of voice than we use.
The quantity of their syllables was much more fixed than in any of the modern languages, and rendered much more sensible to the ear in pronouncing them. Besides quantities, or the difference of short and long, accents were placed upon syllables, the acute, grave, and circumflex; the use of which accents we have now entirely lost, but which, we know, determined the speaker's voice to raise or fall. Our modern pronunciation must have appeared to them a lifeless monotony. The declamation of their orators, and the pronunciation of their actors upon the stage, approached to the nature of a recitative in music; was capable of being marked in notes, and supported with instruments; as several learned men have fully proved. And if this was the case, as they have shewn, among the Romans, the Greeks, it is well known, were still a more musical people than the Romans, and carried their attention to tone and pronunciation, niuch farther in every public exhibition. Aristotle, in his poetics, considers the music of tragedy as one of its chief and most essential parts.
The case was parallel with regard to gesture; for strong tones, and animated gestures, we may observe, always go together. Action is treated of' by all the ancient critics, as the chief quality in every public speak
er The action, both of the orators and the players in Greece and Rome, was far more vehement than what we are accustomed to. Roscius would have seemed a madman to us. Gesture was of such conse quence upon the ancient stage, that there is reason for believing, that, on some occasions, the speaking and the acting part were divided, which, according to our ideas, would form a strange exhibition; one player spoke the words in the proper tones, while another performed the corresponding motions and gestures. We learn from Cicero, that it was a contest betyeen him and Roscius, whether he could express a sentiment in a greater variety of phrases, or Roscius in a greater variety of intelligible significant gestures. At last, gesture came to engross the stage wholly; for, under the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, the favourite entertainment of the public was the pantomime, which was carried on entirely by mu e gesticulations. The people were moved, and wept at it, as much as at tragedies ; and the passion for it became so strong, that laws were obliged to be made, for restraining the senators from studying the pantomime art. Now, though in declamations and theatrical exhibitions, both tone and gesture were, donbtless, carried much farther than in common discourse ; yet public speaking, of any kind must, in every country, bear some proportion to the manner that is used in conversation, and such public entertainments as I have now mentioned, could never have been relished by a nation, whose tones and gestures, in discourse, were as languid as ours.
When the barbarians spread themselves over the Roman empire, these more phlegmatic nations did not retain the accents, the tones, and gestures, which necessity at first introduced, and custom and fancy afterwards so long supported, in the Greek and Roman languages. As the Latin tongue was lost in their idioms, so the character of speech and pronun, ciation began to be changed throughout Europe. Nothing of the same attention was paid to the music of language, or to the ponip of declamation and theatrical action. Both conversation and public speaking became more simple and plain, such as we now find it; without that enthusiastic mixture of tones and gestures, which distinguished the ancient vations. At the restoration of letters, the genius of language was so much altered, and the manners of the people had become so different, that it was no easy matter to understand what the ancients bad said, concerning their declamations and public spectacles. Our plain manner of speaking in these northern countries, expresses the passions with sufficient energy, to move those who are not accustomed to any more vehement manner. But, undoubtedly, more varied tones, and more animated motions, carry a natural expression of warmer feelings. Accordingly in different modern languages, the prosody of speech partakes more of music, in proportion to the liveliness and sensibility of the people. “A Frenchman both varies his accents, and gesticulates, while he speaks, much more than an Englishman. An Italian, a great deal inore than either. Musical pronunciation and expressive gesture are to this day, the distinction of Italy.
From the pronunciation of language, let us proceed, in the third place, to consider the style of language in its most early state, and its progress in this respect also. As the manner in which men first uttered their words, and maintained conversation, was strong and expressive, enforcing their imperfectly expressed ideas by cries and gestures; so the language which they used, could be no other than full of figures and metaphors, r correct indeed, but forcible and picturesque.
We are apt, upon a superficial view, to imagine, that those modes of expression which are called figures of speech, are among the chief refinements of speech, not invented till after language had advanced to its latter periods, and mankind were brought into a polished state ; and that, then, they were devised by orators and rhetoricians. The quite contraTy of this is the truth. Mankind never employed so many figures of speech, as when they had hardly any words for expressing their meaning.
For, first the want of proper names for every object, obliged them to use one name for many; and, of course, to express themselves by comparisons, metaphors, allusions, and all those substituted forms of speech which render language figurative. Next, as the objects with which they were most conversant, were the sensible, material objects around them, names would be given to those objects long before words were invented for signifying the dispositions of the mind,
or any sort of moral and intellectual ideas. Hence, the early language of men being entirely made up of words descriptive of sensible objects, it became of necessity extremely metaphorical.-For, to signify any desire or passion, or any act or feeling of the mind, they had no precise expression which was appropriated to that purpose, but were under a necessity of painting the emotion or passion which they felt, by allusion to those sensible objects which had most relation to it, and which could render it, in some sort, visible to others.
But it was not necessity alone, that gave rise to this figured style. Other circumstances also, at the commencement of language, contributed to it.
In the infancy of all societies, men are much under the dominion of imagination and passion. They live scattered and dispersed; they are unacquainted with the course of things; they are, every day, meeting with new and strange objects. Fear and surprise, wonder and astonishment, are their most frequent passions. Their language will necessarily partake of this character of their minds. They will be prone to exaggeration and hyperbole. They will be given to describe every thing with the strongest colours, aod most vehement expressions ; infinitely more than men living in the advanced and cultivated periods of society, when their imaginations are more chastened, their passions are more tamed, and a wider experience has rendered the objects of life more familiar to them. Even the manner in which I before shewed that the first tribes of men uttered their words, would have considerable influence on their style. Wherever strong exclamations, tones, and gestures, enter much into conversation, the imagination is always more exercised ; a greater effort of fancy and passion is excited. - Consequently, the fancy kept awake, and rendered more sprightly by this mode of utterance, operates upon style, and enlivens it more.
These reasonings are confirmed by undoubted facts. The style of all the most early languages, among nations who are in the first and rude periods of society, is found, without exception, to be full of figures; hyperbolical and picturesque in a high degree. We have a striking instance of this in the American languages, which are known, by the most authentic accounts, to be figurative to excess. The Iroquois and Illinois carry on their treaties and public transactions with bolder metaphors, and greater pomp and style, than we use in our poetical productions.*
* Thus, to give an instance of the singular style of these nations, the Five Nations, of Canada, when entering on a treaty of peace with us, expressed themselves by their
Another remarkable instance is, the style of the Old Testament, which is carried on by constant allusions to sensible objects. Iniquity, or guilt, is expressed by “ a spotted garment ;" misery, by “ drinking the cup of astonishment ;” vain pursuits, by “ feeding on ashes ;' a sinful life, by " a crooked path ;” prosperity, by “the candle of the Lord shining on " our head;" and the like, in innumerable instances. Hence we have been accustomed to call this sort of style the oriental style; as fancying it to be peculiar to the nations of the east ; whereas, from the American style, and from many other instances, it plainly appears not to have been peculiar to any one region or climate ; but to have been common to all nations in certain periods of society and language.
Hence we may receive some light concerning that seeming paradox, that poetry is more ancient than prose. I shall have occasion to discuss this point fully hereafter, when I come to treat of the nature and origin of poetry
At present, it is sufficient to observe, that, from what has been said, it plainly appears that the style of all language must have been originally poetical; strongly tinctured with that enthusiasm, and that des criptive metaphorical expression, which distinguishes poetry.
As language in its progress, began to grow more copious, it gradually lost that figurative style, which was its early character. When men were furnished with proper and familiar names for every object, both sensible and moral, they were not obliged to use so many circumlocutions. Style became more precise, and, of course more simple. Imagination, too, in proportion as society advanced, had less influence over mankind. The vehement manner of speaking by tones and gestures, became not so universal. The understanding was more exercised ; the fancy less. Intercourse among mankind becoming more extensive and frequent, clearness of style, in signifying their meaning to each other, was the chief object of attention. In place of poets, philosophers became the instructers of men; and in their reasonings on all different subjects, introduced tbat plainer and simpler style of composition which we now call prose. Among the Greeks, Pherecydes of Scyros, the master of Pythagoras, is recorded to have been the first, who, in this sense, composed any writing in prose. The ancient metaphorical and poetical dress of language was now laid aside from the intercourse of men and reserved for those occasions only, on which ornament was professedly studied.
Thus I have pursued the history of language through some of the variations it has undergone ; I have considered it, in the first structure cbieke, in the following language: “We are happy in baving buried under ground the "red axe that bas so often been dyed with the blood of our brethren. Now, in this #fort, we inter the axe, and plant the tree of peace. We plant a tree, whose top will " reach the sun, and its branches spread abroad, so that it shall be seen afar off. 'May "its growth never be stifled and choaked; but may it shade both your country and "ours with its leaves ! Let us make fast its roots and extend them to the utmost of your "colonies. If the French should come to shake this tree, we would know it by the " motion of its roots reaching into our country. May the Great Spirit allow us to rest "in tranquillity upon our mats, and never again dig up the axe to cut down the tree of "peace! Let the earth be trod hard over it, where it lies buried. Let a strong stream run under the pit, to wash the evil away out of our sight and remembrance. The fire " that had long burned in Albany is extinguished. The bloody bed is washed clean, and " the tears are wiped from our eyes. We now renew the covenant chain of friendship. “Let it be kept bright and clean as silver, and not suffered to contract any rust. Let "not any one pull away his arm from it." These passages are extracted from Cadwalla. der Colden's Ilistory of the five Indian Nations where it appears, from the authentic documents he produces, that such is their genuine style.
and composition of words ; in the manner of uttering or pronouncing words; and in the style and character of speech. I have yet to consider it in another view, respecting the order and arrangement of words ; when we shall find a progress to have taken place, similar to what I have been now illustrating.
RISE AND PROGRESS OF LANGUAGE, AND OF WRITING, WHEN we attend to the order in which words are arranged in a sentence, or significant proposition, we find a very remarkable difference between the ancient and the modern tongues. The consideration of this will serve to unfold farther the genius of language, and to show the causes of those alterations, which it has undergone in the progress of society.
In order to conceive distinctly the nature of that alteration of which I now speak, let us go back, as we did formerly, to the most early period of language. Let us figure to ourselves a savage, who, beholds some object, such as fruit, which raises his desire, and who requests another to give it to him. Supposing our savage to be unacquainted with words, he would in that case, labour to make himself be understood, by pointing earnestly at the object which he desired, and uttering at the same time a passionate cry. Supposing him to have acquired words, the first word which he uttered would of course, be the name of that object. He would not express himself, according to our English order of construction, "give me fruit;" but according to the Latin order, “ fruit give " me;"> « fructum da mihi :" for this plain reason, that his attention was wholly directed towards fruit, the desired object. This was the exciting idea ; the object which moved him to speak; and of course, would be the first named. Such an arrangement is precisely putting into words the gesture which nature taught the savage to make, before he was acquainted with words : and therefore it may be depended upon as certain, that he would fall most readily into this arrangement.
Accustomed now to a different method of ordering our words, we call this an inversion, and consider it as a forced and unnatural order of speech. But though not the most logical, it is, however, in one view, the most natural order; because it is the order suggested by imagination and desire, which always iinpel us to mention their object in the first place. We might therefore conclude, à priori, that this would be the order in which words were most commonly arranged at the beginnings of language ; and accordingly we find, in fact, that, in this order, words are arranged in most of the ancient tongues; as in the Greek and the Latin ; and it is said also, in the Russian, the Sclavonic, the Gaelic, and several of the American tongues.
In the Latin language, the arrangement which most commonly obtains, is, to place first in the sentence, that word which expresses the princi. pal object of the discourse, together with its circumstances; and alterwards, the person or the thing that acts upon it. Thus Sallust,