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CRITICISM.

CHAP. XVIII.
Beauty Of Language.

OF all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature imitative. A field laid out with taste, is not a copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellilhed. Architecture deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in some measure be imitated by music; but for the most part, music, like architecture, deals in originals. Language copies not from nature, more than music or architecture; unless where, like music, it is imitative of found or motion: in the description, for example, of particular sounds, language sometimes furnislieth words, which, beside their customary power of exciting ideas, resemble by their soft

A 2 ness ness or harshness the found described; and there are words, which, by the celerity or slowness of pronunciation, have some resemblance to the motion they signify. This imitative power of words goes one step farther: the loftiness of some words, makes them proper symbols of lofty ideas; a rough subject is imitated by harsli-sounding words; and words of many syllables pronounced slow and smooth, are naturally expressive of grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the mind, abstracting from their signification and from their imitative power: they are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the fulness, sweetness, faintness, or roughness of their tones. These are but faint beauties, being relished by those only who have more delicacy of sensation than belongs to the bulk of mankind. 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; which beauty of thought is transferred to the expression, and makes it appear more beautiful *.

But

J 4

* Chap. 2. part I, sect. 4. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, sect. 75) makes the fame observation. We are apt, says that author, to confound the language with the subject; and if the latter be nervous, we judge the former to be so also. But they are clearly distinguishable; and it is not uncommon to find subjects of great

dignity

"--

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; a thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair stand on end, may be described in a manner 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 present subject, will be explained in their order. 1 shall only at present observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, viz. the communication of thought: and hence it evidently appears, that of several expressions all conveying the fame thought, the most beautiful, in the fense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.'

The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different :Mids, ought to be handled 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,

dignity 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.

A 3 before oefore we consider its signification. In a third section come those singular 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 fake of connection 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.

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SECT. I.

Beauty of language with re/pefi to sound.

IN handling this subject, the following order appears the most natural. The sounds of the different letters come first: next, these sounds as united in syllables: third, syllables 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; and by varying this cavity, the different vowels are sounded: the air in passing through cavities differing in size, produceth various sounds; some high;or sharp, some low or flat: a small

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