« AnteriorContinuar »
most every substantive, adjective, and verb, had as much force in the pronunciation as these emphatical words, they knew not how to draw the line between them, and so marked them all indiscriminately as emphatical. The latter, finding that very few words were pronounced more forcibly than the words we have just been describing, concluded that very few words were emphatical, because so few were to be pronounced more forcibly than the rest. Thus, for want of a distinction between the two kinds of emphatic words, neither party seems to have understood where the fault lay.
It must be confessed, however, that the practice of marking so many words in Italics, as emphatical, without distinguishing between emphasis expressed, and emphasis understood; and without telling us precisely the degree of force to be given to the words unmarked, was a much greater source of errour, than denying emphasis to such words as had no more force than common substantives, adjective, and verbs. The latter opinion would at least leave the understanding to judge for itself, while the former would often mislead it. Marking every significant word as emphatical tends greatly to give a turgid and bombastic pronunciation to common words, at the same time that it lessens our attention to such as really deserve extraordinary force. This cannot be better explained, than by quoting a passage from one of the best books of this kind, and making a few observations on it. The passage I intend to consider is the latter part of Pope's Prologue to Cato, as I find it in the Art of Speaking,
Brilons, allend! be worth like this approv'd,
As Cato's self had not disdain'd to hear.
passage is in general pretty accurately marked: but if we conceive the words in Roman letters to have exactly the same force as the unaccented syllables of the others, we shall soon see that many significant words are thrown too much into the shade. I know it will be said that these significant words, though they have not the force of the marked words, are still to have a sufficient degree of force to express their meaning. But this is the very errour I am combating: this is the vague, indefinite rule that echoes through all our books of this kind : this is the old asylum of ignorance and idleness, the constant resource of those, who, for want of ideas, pay us with words. The truth is, we must necessarily give these words the same force as the other words, or only the force of unaccented syllables ; between these two forces there is no medium. The line is drawn by nature between accent and no accent; and unless we studiously strive to do it, we cannot help striking the two forces in exact proportion to each other. If we pronounce the accented syllable stronger, the unaccented will be stronger likewise, and inversely. Those, therefore, who propounce the accented syllable too feebly, will be too feeble in those that are unaccented; but we need only make them eyforce the former, and the latter will be infallibly rectified.
An examination of the propriety of marking the words
in the foregoing passage. The word this, in the first line, is certainly entitled to as much force as worth and approved ; and show, in the next line, to as much as virtue and moved. Honest scorn, in the third line, is impassioned, and will admit of emphasis above the accented words, as it may, very agreeably to the sense, be supposed to have this antithesis: not merely with dislike, but with scorn. The word first, in the same line, may be said to be emphatical in the same manner, as it points out Cato the Censor, in opposition to Cato of Utica, the hero of the prologue. In the fifth, the words precariously subsists must necessarily have more force than so many unaccented syllables, and ought therefore to have been in Italics, as well as the words too long. The sixth line needs no comment; every significant word is in opposition to another word, and is therefore emphatical. But in the next line, the word yourselves, which is opposed to others, not expressed (see pp. 143, 144, 145, &c.) and therefore highly emphatical; this word, I say, is not distinguished from the word sense, or any other words that have common force, and is therefore confounded with them ; whereas this word ought to have as much more force than the accented words, as they have more than the unaccented. The next line affords us an errour of the same kind : the word native is emphatical, as it is opposed to foreign, not expressed, and therefore ought to have extraordinary force. The word rage, which is the elliptical word (see pp. 144, 145, 146, &c.) common both to foreign and native, ought no more to have the force of native, than if the antithesis had been expressed at length, in this manner: “Be justly warmed, not with foreign rage, but with your own native rage :" nor can we possibly pronounce rage with the same force as native without depriving native of its emphasis. Let it not be objected that rage is too significant a word to be sunk into an unaccented syllable of native ; for if native be pronounced with its proper force, rage, though unaccented, will be more forcible than an unaccented syllable of a merely accented word. The last line affords an opportunity of strengthening the former observations, by some which are very similar, and founded on the same reasons. The word self, in this line, is highly emphatical, as such an emphasis suggests this meaning : “ Such plays alone should please a British ear, not only as a person of good sense and nice morals would approve, but such as even Cato himself would approve ;" for this meaning is not only agreeable to the sense of the author, but greatly enforces and illustrates it.
A new method of marking the different forces of words.
From the analysis given in the last lesson of a passage from Pope, we plainly perceive how delicate a thing it is to mark the emphatic words properly, and how easily we may be misled by the generality of books in use. Advocate, therefore, as I am for the occasional use of marks, I am far from recommending them on all occasions. Many things may be useful at certain times and on certain occasions, which, if used indiscriminately, would be incommodious and embarrassing. Dividing words of difficult pronunciation into syllables may sometimes be useful, even to those who read well; but dividing every word into syllables, would be so far from assisting such a reader, that it would be the surest way to embarrass and perplex him. Italics, therefore, may be very usefully employed in printing to mark emphasis, where it is not obvious, or where the sense of a passage might be mistaken for want of knowing it: but where the language is plain, and the meaning obvious, Italics are not only useless, but distressing to the reader. From the want of a clear idea of the nature of emphasis, and of the difference between accented and unaccented force, those who mark books for pronunciation think they have never done enough, till they have put every single significant word into Italics. For as no distinction of force is settled between these words, and as every one is supposed to have a certain indefinite degree of force, the writer imagines he has done wonders in showing how much force a few words are susceptible of; and the reader, who is struck with the sight of so much force in so small a compass, has not the least doubt of the emphasis of every one of these words, if he did but know how to pronounce them : thus, by endeavouring to give every word an emphatic force, he deprives those words that are really emphatical of the force which belongs to them, and distorts and adulterates the meaning by a quaint and unnatural pronunciation.
But had we once a clear and distinct idea of emphasis, did we consider how few words are so emphatical as to require a greater force than accented words, that every accented word has an equal degree of force, and that those that are not accented have exactly the force of unaccented syllables; with these principles