Imágenes de páginas

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

guished from the style of conversation. All these kinds have been employed with success in the Alexander's Feast, an ode that hath been as much celebrated as perhaps any in our language, and from which I propose to produce from illustrations. The poet, on recognizing Jove as the father of his hero, hath used the most regular and perfect iambics

The líst’ning cróud admíre the lofty sound,
A présent déity' they shout around,
A présent déity' the vaulted roofs rebound.

With ravish'd ears'
The monarch hears,
Assúmes the gód.

Affécts to nód.
And seems to shake the sphéres.

But when he comes to sing the jovial god of wine, he very judiciously changes the measure into the brisk trochaic.

Bacchus ever fáir and young,
Drinking jóys did first ordáin.
Bacchus' blessings are a treasure,
Drinking is the soldier's pléasure,

Rich the tréasure,

Sweet the pleasure,
Sweet is pleasure after páin,

Again, when he describes his hero as wrought up to madness, and setting fire to the city in a fit of revenge, he with great propriety exhibits this phrenzy in rapid anapests, the effect of which is set off the more strong

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ly by their having a few iambic lines interspersed.

Revenge revenge Timótheus cries

See the fúries aiíse!
See the snakes that they rear,

How they híss in their hair,
And the sparkles that fiásh from their eyes ! -
Behold how they toss their tórches on high,

How they point to the Persian abódes
And glittering témples of their hóstile góds.
The princes applaud with a fúrious joy ;
And the king seiz'd a flámbeau with zeal to destroy-

So much for the power of numbers. It may not be amiss now, ere I conclude this topic, to make a few cursory remarks on the imitative powers of the several letters which are the elements of all articulate sounds. And first, soft and delicate sounds are mostly occasioned by an equal mixture of consonants with short and monophthong vowels; the consonants being chiefly those denominated liquids, l, m, n, r, and those among the mutes called slender P, t, k, or c and ch when they sound as k ; to these add v, also %, and s, when they sound as in the two words Zion and Asia. In like manner the duplication of a consonant sounds more delicately than the combination of different consonants Thus ammiro is softer than admiro, fatto than facto, atto than apto, and disse than dixe. Secondly, strong and loud sounds are better exhibited by diphthongs and long vowels, those of the mutes called middle, and which comparatively may be termed hard, b, d, &, in both its sounds, and j; especially

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

when these are combined with liquids which render them more sonorous, without occasioning harshness as in the words, bombard, thunder, clangour, bludgeon, grumble. Thirdly, to roughness the letter h contributes as well as the gutturals. Such is the Greek %, to which there is no correspouding sound in English, though there is in Spanish and in German ; also those of the mutes called aspirates, as f, or ph, and th, in both its sounds *, the double r, and all uncouth combinations. Fourthly, to sharp and cutting sounds the following letters best contribute, s when it sounds as in mass, c when it has the same sound, ch when it sounds as in chide, x, sh, and wh; from the abounding of which letters and combinations amongst us, for reigners are apt to remark I know not what appearance of whistling or hissing in our conversation. Indeed, the word whistle is one whose -sound is as expressive of the signification, as perhaps any other word whatever. Fifthly, obscure and tingling sounds are best expressed by the nazals, ng and nk, as in ringing, swinging, twanging, sinking ; by the sn, as in snuffle, sneeze, snort, and even by the n simply when it follows another liquid or a mute, and when the vowel (if there be a vowel interposed between it and the preceding consonant) is not very audibly pronounced, as in morn, horn, sullen, fallen, bounden, gotten, bebolden, holpen.—This sound formerly much abound,

* Of these one occurs in the noun breath, the other in the very breasbe, . The first is the roughest,

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ed in English. It was not only the termination of many of the participles, but also of most plurals both of nouns and of verbs. As a plural termination, if we except a very few nouns, we may say it is now entirely banished, and very much, perhaps too much, disused in participles. The sound is unmusical, and consequently, when too frequent, offensive, but may nevertheless have a good eifect when used sparingly. Besides, it would be convenient, especially in verse, that we could oftener distinguished the preterit from the participle, than our language permits.

Now, of the five sorts of sound above explained, it may be remarked by the way, that the first is characteristic of the Italian, the second of the Spanish, the third of the Dutch, and perhaps of most of the Teutonic dialects; the fourth of the English, and the fifth of the French, whose final m and n, when not followed by a vowel, and whose terminations, ent and ant, are much more nazal than the ng and nk of the English. I suspect, too, both from their prosody and from their pronunciation, that of all the languages above mentioned, the French is the least capable of that kind of imitation of which I have been speaking. On the other hand, I think, but in this opinion I am not confident, that of all those languages the English is, on the whole, the most capable. There is perhaps no particular excellence of sound in which it is not outdone by one or other of them ;-the Italian hath doubtless more sweetness, the Spanish more majesty,

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

the German perhaps more bluster ; but none of them is in this respect so various as the English, and can equal it in all the qualities.

So much for the properties in things that are susceptible of a kind of imitation by language, and the degree in which they are susceptible.


PART II....In what esteem ought this kind of imitation to be

held, and when ought it to be attempted?

It remains now to consider what rank ought to be assigned to this species of beauty, and in what cases it ought to be attempted.

As to the first of these inquiries, from what hath been already said it appears very plain, that the resemblance or analogy which the sound can be made in any case to bear to the sense, is at best, when we consider the matter abstractly, but very remote." Often a beauty of this kind is more the creature of the reader's fancy, than the effect of the writer's ingenuity.

ANOTHER observation, which will assist us in de termining this question, is, that when the other properties of elocution are attained, the absence of this kind of imagery, if I may express it by so strong a term, occasions no defect at all. We never miss it. We never think of it. Whereas an ambiguous, ob

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