« AnteriorContinuar »
than to say,
We should always avoid concluding a sentence or member with any of those particles, which distinguish the cases of nouns; as of, to, from, with, by. Thus it is much better to say, “avarice is a crime, of which wise men are often guilty,"
56 avarice is a crime, which wise men are often guilty of.” This is a phraseology which all correct writers shun.
A complex verb, compounded of a simple verb and a subsequent preposition, is also an ungraceful conclusion of a period; as, bring about, clear up, give over, and many others of the same kind; instead of which, if a simple verb be employed, it will terminate the sentence with more strength. Even the pronoun it, especially when joined with some of the prepositions, as, with it, in it, to it, cannot without violation of grace be the conclusion of a sentence. Any phrase, which expresses a circumstance only, cannot conclude a sentence without great inelegance. Circumstances, indeed, are like unshapely stones in a building, which try the skill of an artist, where to place them with the least offence. We should not crowd too many of them together; but rather in tersperse them in different parts of the sentence, joined with the principal words on which they depeod. Thus, for instance, when Dean Swift says, "s what I had the honour of mentioning to your lordship some time ago in conversation, was not a new thought;"' these iwo circumstan*ces, some time ago and in conversation, which are
joined, would have been better separated thus ; 66 what I had the honour some time ago of mentioning to your lordship in conversation.”
The sixth and last rule concerning the strength
of a sentence is this, in the members of it, where two things are compared or contrasted; where either resemblance or opposition is to be expressed; some resemblance in the language and construction ought to be observed. The following passage from Pope's preface to his Homer, beautifully exemplifies this rule. 6 Hemer was the greater genius; Virgil the better artist; in the one we admire the man; in the other the work. Homer burries us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us with an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion ; 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. When we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in bis terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering 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." Periods, thus constructed, when introduced with propriety, and not too frequently repeated, have a sensible beauty. But, if such a construction be aimed at in every sentence, it betrays into a disagreeable uniformity, and produces a regular jingle in the period, which tires the ear, and plainly discovers affectatioa.
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES. HARMONY. Having considered sentences with regard to their meaning under the heads of Perspicuity,
Unity, and Strength; we shall now consider them with respect to their sound.
In the harmony of periods two things are to be considered. First, agreeable sound or modulation in general, without any particular expression. Next, the sound so ordered, as to become expressive of the sense. The first is the more common; the second the superior beauty.
The beauty of musical construction depends upon the choice and arrangement of words. Those words are most pleasing to the ear, which are composed of smooth and liquid sounds, in which there is a proper intermixture of vowels and consonants without too many harsh consonants, or too many open vowels, in succession. . Loog words are generally more pleasing to the ear than monosyllables; and those are the most musical, which are not wholly composed of long or short syllables, but of an intermixture of them; such as, delight, amuse, velocity, celerity, beautiful, impetuosity. If the words, however, which compose a sentence, be ever so well chosen and harmonious; yet, if they be unskilfully arranged, its music is entirely lost. As an instance of a musical sentence, we may take the following from Milton ; “ We shall conduct you to a hill side, laborious indeed at the first ascent; but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospects and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.” Ev-, ery thing in this sentence conspires to render it, harmonious. The words are well chosen ; la.. borious, smooth, green, goodly, melodious, churining; and so happily arranged, that no alteration can be made without injuring the melody,
There are two things on which the music of a sentence principally depends; these are, the proper distribution of the several members of it, and the close or cadence of the whole.
First, the distribution of the several members should be carefully regarded. Whatever is easy to the orgaus of speech, is always grateful to the
While a period advances, the termination of each meinber forms a pause in the pronunciation; and these pauses should be so distributed, as to bear a certain musical proportion to each other. This will be best illustrated by examples. 66 This discourse concerning the easiness of God's 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 education.”
This sentence is far from being harmonious; owing chiefly to this, that there is but one pause in it, by which it is divided into two members ; each of which is so Jong, as to require a considerable stretch of breath in pronouncing it. On the contrary, let us observe the grace of the following passage from Sir William Temple, in which he speaks sarcastically of man. “But, God be thanked, his pride is greater than bis ignorance; and, what be wants in knowledge, he
supplies by sufficiency. When he bas 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, he 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." ery thing is at once easy to the breath, and grateful to the ear. We must however observe, that if composition abound with sentences which have too many rests, and these placed at intervals apparently measured and regular, it is apt to savour of affectation.
The next thing which demands attention, is the close or cadence of the period. The only important rule, which can here be given, is this, when we aim at dignity or elevation, the sound should increase to the last; the longest members of the period, and the fullest and most sonorous words, should be reserved for the conclusion. As an instance of this, the following sentence of Addison may be given. “It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas; converses with its objects at the greatest distance; and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments." Here every reader must be sensible of beauty in the just distribution of the pauses, and in the manner of rounding the period, and of bringing it to a full and harmonious close.
It may be remarked, that little words in the conclusion of a sentence are as injurious to melody, as they are inconsistent with strength of expression. A musical close in our language seems in general to require either the last syllable, or the last but one, to be a long syllable. Words which consist chiefly of short syllables, as contrary, particular, retrospect, seldom terminate a sentence harmoniously, unless a previous run of long syllables hare rendered them pleasing to the care,