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of the following:-“In their prosperity, my friends shall never hear of me; in their adversity, always." Here the antithesis is well managed, and the two adverbs, being emphatic, are so placed as to make a deeper impression.
But in other instances we find such words unskilfully placed ; as: “ The other species of motion are incidentally blended also.” “This agreement of mankind is not confined to the taste solely,” &c.
Some writers on style are of opinion that we should avoid finishing a sentence with a preposition governing a previous noun or pronoun. This rule will apply to the higher subjects of composition; but the form is idiomatic and admissible in lighter writings, such as dialogues, letters, &c. Such verbs as 'to carry on,''to look into,” “to escape from,' &c., are those to which the above remark will apply. There is no objection to the expressions, “ The trade which the inhabitants carried on ;” “This is not what I object to,” &c., at the close of a sentence in a familiar style. But it is better to avoid such endings when writing on more elevated or more serious subjects, and in this view the following sentences are open to criticism :
“I therefore thought it necessary to fix and determine the notion of these two words, as I intend to make use of them in the thread of my following speculations, that the reader may conceive rightly what is the subject which I proceed upon.” “There need (?) no more than to make such a registry only voluntary to avoid all the difficulties that can be raised, and which are not too captious, or too trivial, to take notice of.” “It is absurd to think of judging either Ariosto or Spenser by precepts which they did not attend to."
A period, when well constructed, has more strength than a loose sentence, because the energy is diffused throughout the latter ; whereas, in the former, it is concentrated into one point. Generally, a period should consist of but four members ; but it is not necessary to adhere strictly to this rule. Good sense and cultivated taste are the best guides to direct us to avoid both prolixity and intricacy.
The kind of period that has most vivacity is where there is antithesis in the members, i. e., where the words stand in contrast to each other, the opposite members being similarly constructed. This form is not only the most effective, but also, in general, the most perspicuous; for the relation of the parts to each other is here so strongly marked, that it is next to impossible to mistake the meaning ; for example :“If
you seek to make any one rich, study not to increase his stores, but to diminish his desires.”
The following is a specimen of double antithesis :
“If Cato may be censured, severely indeed, but justly, for abandoning the cause of liberty, which he would not, however, survive, what shall we say of those who embrace it faintly, pursue it irresolutely, grow tired of it when they have much to hope, and give it up when they have nothing to fear?”
Here follows another specimen of this figure, in which the author, in his anxiety to construct the clauses alike, has fallen into a strange error :
“ Eloquence, that leads mankind by the ears, gives a nobler superiority than power, that every dunce may
use, or fraud, that every knave may employ, to lead them by the nose.”
On this antithetical period, a critic remarks, “Here the two intermediate clauses are contrasted, so are also the first and last. But there is this difference. In the intermediate members there is a justness in the thought as well as in the expression — an essential requisite in this figure. In the other two members, the antithesis is merely verbal, and is, therefore, at best, but a trifling play upon the words. We see the connexion which eloquence has with the ears, but it would puzzle Edipus himself to discover the connexion which either power or fraud has with the nose. The author, to make out the contrast, is in this instance, obliged to betake himself to low and senseless cant.”
Sometimes the antithesis is not found in the different clauses of the same sentence, but in consecutive sentences ; as, “He can bribe, but he cannot seduce.” “ He can buy, but he cannot gain.” “He can lie, but he cannot deceive.”
This figure may be found in loose sentences, as well as in periods ; as :
They are designed to assert and vindicate the honour of the Revolution, of the principles established, of the means employed, and of the ends obtained by it. They are designed to explode our former distinctions, and to unite men of all denominations in the support of these principles, in the defence of these means, and in the pursuit of these ends.” Here a varied opposition in the words principles, means, and ends may be observed.
In the next extract, we find an antithesis on the
words true and just running through three successive sentences : “ The anecdotes here related were true, and the reflections made upon them were just, many years ago. The former would not have been related, if he who related them had not known them to be true ; nor the latter have been made, if he who made them had not thought them just; and if they were true and just then, they must be true and just now, and always."
In some cases, the words contrasted in the second clause are the same as those used in the first ; only, the construction and arrangement are inverted; as, “ The old may inform the young, and the young may animate the old.” Whatever
be said of the artificial construction of which the antithesis bears internal evidence, it is undoubtedly favourable both to strength and perspicuity; and though this figure is not equally well adapted to every style, it is successfully used in many forms of composition.
Antithesis is applied with great effect in delineating character. But an immoderate use of this figure is a serious fault in style. It imparts to it a studied and laboured effect, and gives us the idea that the writer pays more attention to his manner of expression than to the subject. This observation will apply to the following passages :
“Homer was the greater genius, Virgil the better artist; in the one we most admire the man, in the other, the work. Homer hurries us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us with an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion ;
a Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a sudden overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a constant stream. And when we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering the lightnings, and firing the heavens ; Virgil, like the same power in his benevolence, counselling with the gods, laying plans for empires, and ordering his whole creation.”
Though, according to some critics, this picture would have been more finished had some particular river been opposed to the Nile, no one can fail to perceive the consummate art displayed throughout the whole passage. But Pope has not here exemplified the principle that “ The highest art is to conceal art.” The chief objection to the passage is, that we have in it too much of the same figure; the continual repetition of the same construction becomes at length wearisome, and its very artificiality makes it fail to produce the intended effect.
Lastly, a resemblance in language and construction should be maintained between the constructive members of an antithetical sentence. Errors in this particular are found, firstly, in words; as :
“I have observed, of late, the style of some great ministers
productions” (authors). “I cannot but fancy, however, that this imitation, which passes so currently with other judgments, must, at some time or other, have stuck a little with your lordship.” (Say, passes so currently with others.)
Secondly, it is a still greater fault to change the construction in such cases; as :
“There may remain a suspicion that we overrate