Page images
PDF
EPUB

consonants; as, 'struggling,' "disrespect,' scratched,' strengthened,' &c. These are among the most disagreeably sounding words of our language.

The genius of the English language frequently throws back the accent to the first syllable of many long words; as "péremptorily,' législature,' mémorable,' 'am'bulatory,' &c. The necessity to pronounce so many short syllables after the accent, makes such words extremely unmusical, and very ineligible as regards beauty of sound.

It cannot be expected, however, that style should be always equally harmonious. When it is necessary to express harsh ideas, our language should be correspondingly rugged ; and, though we need not be too elaborate in this matter, a cultivated taste and judgment will always direct us in some measure to suit the sound to the sense. There are several striking examples of this power of adapting sound to sense in Milton ; as

66

So stretched ont, huge in length, the arch-fiend lay.”

[ocr errors]

What a graphic picture of enormous size do these monosyllables convey! The place of the accent on "fiend,' and the open vowels falling on the unaccented parts of the line, powerfully contribute to heighten the effect, and show the consummate art of the poet. Again :

“ Far off from these, a slow and silent stream,

a
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth,” &c.

How smoothly and softly the lines run! See the effect of the alliteration in the first line-slow, silent,

[ocr errors]

stream and observe the singular accumulation of liquid letters throughout the passage.

The following extract from one of Southey's poems is quite a curiosity in our literature, and powerfully proves the force and fertility of the English language. The whole poem contains more than one hundred and fifty adjectives, all applied to the falling of water down a cascade :

“How does the water come down at Lodore ?

Here it comes sparkling,
And there it lies darkling ;

Rising and leaping,
Sinking and creeping ;

Swelling and flinging,
Showering and springing,
Eddying and whisking,
Spouting and frisking,
Twining and twisting,

Around and around

With endless rebound.
And falling and crawling and sprawling,

And driving and riving and striving,
And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling,
And sounding and bounding and rounding,
And bubbling and troubling and doubling,

Dividing and gliding and sliding,
And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling,

And clattering and battering and shattering ;
And gleaming and steaming, and streaming and beaming,

And rushing and flushing, and brushing and gushing,
And flapping and rapping, and clapping and slapping,
And curling and whirling, and purling and twirling,
Retreating and beating, and meeting and sheeting,
Delaying and straying, and playing and spraying,
Advancing and prancing, and glancing and dancing,

[ocr errors]

Cze canse of the meranire tarzigess of the E: s5 lagage pay be iss 3:00 tie character, Espain that part of it derived from AngloSaxon. Tiis qoca cocasi sa prodce strength, bat it is certas y usiaroorstle to harmony. The constant recurrence of words of one "able has not only a regged, but a wearisome and monotonous effect; and for tiis reason we should arcid using too many ILongsyllabies together. Take the passage in the Church Catechism : “My duty towards God is to believe in Him, to ftar Him, and to lore Him, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship Him, to give Him thanks, to put my whole trust in Him, to call upon Him, to honour His holy Name and His Word, and to serve Him truly all the days of my life.”

Here, out of seventy words, sixty-three are monosyllables. Take a passage from Shakspere's “ Macbeth :"

“ That is a step
On which I must fall down, or else o’erleap,
For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires,
Let not light see my black and deep desires,
The eye wink at the hand. Yet let that be
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.”

In this passage, out of fifty-two words, we have but two dissyllables; 'o'erleap,' a compound Saxon word, and desires,' derived through French from Latin. It may be also observed, by the way, that every word in this passage, with the exception of desires,' is of Anglo-Saxon origin. A combination of monosyllables, when they are judiciously selected and arranged by the masterly hand of a Shakspere, may not produce so harsh an effect ; but, as a general rule, it is better to intersperse words of a different number of syllables in a sentence. This, at any rate, will give our style some variety, and will make it, if not actually musical, less open to objection on the score of harshness.

Two consecutive sentences, or clauses in the same sentence, should not begin, nor end, with the same word; as :

“Every nature, you perceive, is either too excellent to want it, or too base to be capable of it."

“The general idea of good or bad fortune, therefore, creates some concern for the person who has met with it; but the general idea of provocation excites no sympathy with the anger of the man who has received it. Nature, it seems, teaches us to be more averse to enter into this passion, and, till informed of its cause, to be disposed rather to take part against it."

In this passage we have the pronoun it concluding members of sentences three times successively. It is surprising that this could be done by any writer of taste.

"T were to be wished, that those amongst us who either write or read with a view to employ their liberal leisure (for as to such as do either from views more sordid, we leave them, like slaves, to their destined drudgery); 't were to be wished, I say, that the liberal (if they have a relish for letters) would inspect

[graphic]

200

PART VI.

ON SENTENCES.

SENTENCES.

[ocr errors]

A SENTENCE is the expression of some one thought; though it is not, of necessity, co one proposition.

Sentences are simple or complex. A sin tence contains one member; as, “ So say approached the gate." Complex sentence two members; as, “Straws swim on the sur pearls lie at the bottom.”

The members themselves are sometimes and may be divided into clauses; as, “The arrived, and has brought his son with him magistrate is engaged, and their evidence o now received."

The members are not always separate; one times inserted in another; as, “When Henr who was then nineteen years old, ascended glish throne, the nation received him with acclamation.” Here, who was then ninetec old' is inserted in the proposition, When VIII. ascended,' &c.

« PreviousContinue »