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ring languages in the point of roughness and smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether so; for we may proceed a certain length, though without hope of an ultimate decision: a language with difficulty pronounced even by natives, must yield to a smoother language: and supposing two languages pronounced with equal facility by natives, the rougher language, in my judgement, ought to be preferred, provided it be also stored with a competent share of more mellow sounds; which will be evident from attending to the different effects that articulate sound hath upon the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by smoothing the mind, and lulling it to rest: a rough bold sound, on the contrary, animates the mind; the effort per* ceived in pronouncing, is communicated to the hearers, who feel in their own minds a similar effort, rousing their attention, and disposing them to action. I add another consideration; that the agreeableness of contrast in the rougher language, for which the great variety of sounds gives ample opportunity, must, even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the smoother language*. This appears to me all that can be safely determined upon the present point. With respect to the other circumstances
* That the Italian tongue is rather too smooth, seems probable from considering, that in versification vowels are frequently suppressed in order to produce a rougher and bolder tone.
that constitute the beauty of Avords, the standard above mentioned is infallible when apply'd to foreign languages as well as to -our own: for every man, whatever be his mother-tongue, is equally capable to judge of the length or shortness of words,- of the alternate opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the relation that the sound bears to the fense: in these particulars, the judgement is susceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible prejudice.
That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened by dropping in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is undoubtedly true: that it is not capable of being further mellowed without suffering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any one who possesses an ear; and yet such in Britain is the propensity for dispatch, that overlooking the majesty of words composed of many syllables aptly connected, the prevailing taste is to shorten •words, even at the expence of making them disagreeable to the ear, and harsh in the pronunciation. But I have no occasion to insist upon this article, being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever did, the true genius of the English tongue *. I cannot however forbear urging one observation, borrowed from that author: several tenses of our verbs are
• See Swift's proposal for correcting the English tongue, in a letter to the Earl of Oxford.
formed formed by adding the final syllable ed, which, being a weak sound, has remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most conspicuous place in the word; upon which account, the vowel in common speech is generally suppressed, and the consonant added to the foregoing syllable; and hence the following rugged sounds, drudg'd, disturb'd, rebuk'd, fledg'd. It is still less excusable to follow this practice in writing; for the hurry of speaking may excuse what is altogether improper in a composition of any value: the syllable ed, it is true, makes but a poor figure at the end of a word; but we ought to submit to that defect, rather than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all that has been done, bear an over-proportion in our tongue. The author above mentioned, by showing a good example, did all in his power to restore that syllable; and he well deserves to be imitated. Some exceptions however I would make: a word that signifies labour, or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth; therefore forc'd, with an apostrophe, is better than forced, without it; another exception is, where the penult syllable ends with a vowel; in that case the final syllable ed may be apostrophized without making the word harsh: examples, betray'd, carry'd, deJirofd, employ'd.
The article next in order, is to consider the music of words as united in a period. And as the arrangement of words in succession so as to afford ford the greatest pleasure to the ear, depends on principles pretty remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise some general observations upon the appearance that a number of objects make when placed in an increasing or decreasing series; which appearance will be very different, accordingly as resemblance or contrast prevails. Where the objects vary by small differences so as to have a mutual resemblance, we in ascending conceive the second object of no greater size than the first, the third of no greater size than the second, and so of the rest; which diminifheth in appearance the size of the whole: but when, beginning at the largest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as large as the first, and the third as large as the second; which in appearance magnifies every object of the series except the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by great differences, where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite: a large object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears by the opposition larger than usual; and a small object, for the same reason, succeeding one that is large, appears less than usual*. Hence a remarkable pleasure in viewing a scries ascending by large differences; directly opposite to what we feel when the differences are small. Beginning at the smallest object of a series ascending by large
f See the reason, chap. 8.
differdifferences, this object has the fame effect upon the mind as if it stood single without making a part of the series: but this is not the cafe of the second object, which by means of contrast makes a much greater figure than when viewed singly and apart; and the fame effect is perceived in ascending progressively, till we arrive at the last object. The opposite effect is produced in descending; for in this direction, every object, except the first, makes a less figure than when viewed separately and independent of the series. We may then lay down as a maxim r which will hold in the composition of language as well as. of other subjects, That a strong impulse succeeding a weak, makes a double impression on the mind; and that a weak impulse succeeding a strongs makes scarce any impression.
After establishing this maxim, we can be at no. loss about its application to the subject in hand. The following rule is laid down by Diomedes *. "In verbis observandum est, ne a majoribus ad "minora descendat oratio; melius enim dicitur, "Vir eft optimus, quam, Vir optimus eft." This rule is also applicable to entire members of a period, which, according to our author's expression, ought not, more than singie words, to proceed from the greater to the less, but from the less to the greater f. In arranging the members of a period, no writer equals Cicero: the
• Dc structure perfects orationis, 1. 2.
f See Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, sect. 18.