Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ Dis

But when it is more perspicuous or convenient, for vowels or consonants to end one word and begin the next, it is proper that the vowels be a long and short one ; and that the consonants be either a liquid and a mute, or liquids of different sorts : thus, a lovely offspring ; a purer design; a calm retréat; are more fluent than, a happy union, a brief petition, a cheap triumph, a putrid distemper, a calm matron, a clean nurse. From these examples, the student will perceive the importance of accurately understanding the nature of vowels and consonants, liquids and mutes; with the connexion and influence which subsist amongst them. 2d, In general, a considerable number of long or short words dear one another should be avoided. appointment in our expectations is wretchedness :" bet. ter thus; “ Disappointed hope is misery.” “No course of joy can please us long:" better, “ No course of enjoyment can delight us long." A succession of words having the same quantity in the accented syllables, whether it be long or short, should also be avoided

o James was needy, feeble, and fearful :" improved thus," James was timid, feeble, and destitute.” They could not be happy; for he was silly, pettish, and sullen :" better thus; ** They could not be happy; for he was simple, peevish, and gloomy." 3d, Words which begin alike, or end alike, must not come together; and the last syllable of the preceding word, should not be the same as the first syllable of the subsequent one. It is not so pleasing and harmonious to say,

6. This is a convenient contrivance ;'! “ He is an indulgent parent;”. “She behaves with uni. form formality; as, “ This is a useful contrivance," " He is a kind parent;" 6. She behaves with unvaried formality."

We proceed to consider the members of a sentence, with regard to harmony. They should not be too long, nor disproportionate to each other. When they have a regular and proportional division, they are much easier to the voice, are more clearly understood, and better remembered, than when this rule is not. attended to: for whatever tires the voice, and offends the ear, is apt to mar the strength of the expression, and to degrade the sense of the author. And this is a sufficient ground for paying attention to the order and proportion of senten

ces, and the different parts of which they consist. The following passage exhibits sentences in which the different members are proportionally arranged.

Temple, speaking sarcastically of man, says ; " But hig pride is greater than his ignorance, and what he wants in knowledge he supplies by sufficiency. When he hag looked about him as far as he can, he concludes there is no more to be seen; when he is at the end of his line, be is at the bottom of the ocean; when he has shot his best, he is sure none ever did, or ever can, shoot better, or beyond it. His own reason he holds to be the certain measure of truth; and his own knowledge, of what is possible in nature.” Here every thing is at once easy to the breath, grateful to the ear, and intelligible to the understanding. See another example of the same kind, in the 17th and 18th verses of the 3d chapter of the prophet Habakkuk. We may remark here, that our present version of the Holy Scriptures, especially of the Psalms, abounds with instances of an harmonious arrangement of the words and members of sentences.

In the following quotation from Tillotson, we shall become sensible of an effect very different from that of the preceding sentences. “ This discourse, concerning the easiness of the Divine commands, does all along suppose and acknowledge the difficulties of the first entrance upon a religious course; except only in those persons who have had the happiness to be trained up to religion, by the easy and insensible degrees of a pious and virtuous edu cation." Here there is some degree of harshness and unpleasantness, owing principally to this, that there is properly no more than one pause or rest in the sentence, falling betwixt the two members into which it is divided: each of which is so long as to occasion a considerable stretch of the breath in pronouncing it.

With respect to the cadence or close of a sentence, care should be taken, that it be not abrupt, or unpleasant. The following instances may be sufficient to show the propriety of some attention to this part of the rule. “ Virtue, diligence, and industry, joined with good temper and prudence, are prosperous in general.” It would be better thus : " Virtue, diligence, and industry, joined with good temper and prudence, have ever been found

the surest road to prosperity." An author speaking of the Trinity, expresses himself thus : " It is a mystery which we firmly believe the truth of, and humbly adore the depth of." How much better would it have been with this transposition : “ It is a mystery, the truth of which we firmly believe, and the depth of which we huinbly adore."

In order to give a sentence this proper close, the longest member of it, and the fullest words, should be re. served to the conclusion. But in the distribution of the members, and in the cadence of the period, as well as in the sentences themselves, variety must be observed; for the mind soon tires with a frequent repetition of the same tone.

Though attention to the words and members, and the close of sentences, must not be neglected, yet it must also be kept within proper bounds. Sense has its own harmony; and in no instance should perspicuity, precision, or strength of sentiment, be sacrificed to sound. All unmeaning words, introduced merely to round the period, or fill up the melody, are great blemishes in writing. They are childish and trivial ornaments, by which a sentence always loses more in point of weight, than it can gain by such additions to its sound. See the Octavo Grammar, on his chapter.

See also the APFEndix to the Exercises.

CHAPTER IV.

OF FIGURES OF SPEECH.

The Fourth requisite of a perfect sentence, is a judicious use of the Figures of Speech.

As figurative language is to be met with in almost every sentence ; and, when properly employed, confers beauty and strength on composition; some knowledge of it appears to be indispensable to the scholars, who are learning to form their sentences with perspicuity, accuracy, and force. We ill, therefore, enumerate the principal figures, and give them some explanation.

In general, Figures of Speech imply some departure from simplicity of expression; the idea which we mean to

sonvey is expressed in a particular manner, and with some circumstance added, which is designed to render the impression more strong and vivid. When I say, for instance, *. That a good man enjoys comfort in the midst of adversity;" I just express my thoughts in the simplest manner possible : but when I say, “ To the upright there ariseth light in darkness :" the same sentiment is expressed in a figurative style; a new circumstance is introduced ;“ light," is put in the place of . comfort," and " darkness" is used to suggest the idea of adversity. In the same manner; to say, “ It is impossible, by any search we can make, to explore the Divine Nature fully," is to make a simple propo. sition : but when we say, “ Canst thou, by searching, find out the Lord ? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know ?”' this introduces a figure into etyle ; the proposition being not only expressed, but with it admiration and astonishment.

But, though figures imply a deviation from wnat may be reckoned the most simple form of speech, we are not thence to conclude, that they imply any thing uncoinmon, or unnatural. On many occasions, they are both the most natural, and the most common method of uttering our sentiments. It would be very difficult to compose any discourse without using them often; nay, there are few sentences of considerable length, in which there does not occur some expression that may be termed a figure. This being the case, we may see the necessity of some attentior, in order to understand their nature and use.

At the first rise of anguage, men would begin with giving names to the different objects which they discerned, or thought of. The stock of words would, then, be very small. As men's ideas multiplied, and their acquaintance with objects increased, their store of names and words would also increase. But to the vast variety of objects and ideas, no language is adequate. No language is so copious, as to have a separate word for every separate idea. Men naturally sought to abridge this labour of multiplying words without end; and, in order to lay less burden on their memories, made one word, which they had already appropriated to a certain idea or object, stand also for some other idea or object, between which

and the primary one, they found, or fancied, some relation. The names of sensible objects, were the words most early introduced; and were, by degrees, extended to those mental objects, of which men had more obscure conceptions, and to which they found it more difficult to assign distinct names. They borrowed, therefore, the name of some sensible idea, where their imagination found some affinity. Thus, we speak of a piercing judgment, and a clear head; a soft or a hard heart, a rough or a smooth behaviour. We say, inflamed by anger, wat med by love, swelled with pride, melted into grief; and these are almost the only significant words which we have for such ideas.

The principal advantages of figures of speech, are the two following

First, They enrich language, and render it more copi. ous. By their means, words and phrases are multiplied, for expressing all sorts of ideas; for describing even the minutest differences; the nicest shades and colours of thought ; which no language could possibly do by proper words alone, without assistance from Tropes.

Secondly, They frequently give us a much clearer and more striking view of the principal object, than we could have, if it were expressed in simple terms, and divested of its accessory idea. By a well chosen figure, even con. viction is assisted, and the impression of a truth upon the mind, made more lively and forcible than it would other. wise be. We perceive this in the following illustration of Young : “When we dip too deep in pleasure, we al. ways stir a sediment that renders it impure and noxious :" and in this instance : “ A heart boiling with violent passions, will always send up infatuating fumes to the head." An image that presents so much congruity between a moral and a sensible idea, serves, like an argument from analogy, to enforce what the author asserts, and to induce belief.

Having considered the general nature of figures, we proceed next to particularize such of them as are of the most importanc; viz. Metaphor, Allegory, Comparison, Metonymy, Synecdoche, Personification, Apostrophe, Antithesis, Interrogation, Exclamation, Amplification or Climax, &c. A Metaphor is a figure founded entirely on the resem.

-Bb

« PreviousContinue »