Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

leading proposition or enunciation of thought, whether it be a sentiment, proposition, or fact; and all its parts or members should have a common connection with it, and reference only to its illustration. To preserve the unity of the meaning and construction of a sentence, the scene of action, and the actors introduced or engaged in it, should be continued unchanged. The introduction of a variety of circumstances and actors into a single sentence is destructive of its unity and ready comprehension by the reader or hearer, and is at variance with the primary rule of correct composition, namely, that in the structure of a correct sentence, only one distinct impression should be made on the mind, and that one subject or nominative should be the governing word from its beginning to its end. Heterogeneous objects or ideas grouped together, or placed in juxtaposition in a sentence, not only destroy its unity, but occasion intricacy and indistinctness of comprehension, as they present a confused and disproportionate image to the mind. The interjection of parentheses in the structure of sentences is often injurious to their unity and beauty; and all extraneous observations at their close have a like effect. Few English productions are so disfigured with gross and frequent violations of precision and unity of meaning and expression as the historical works of Burnet and Clarendon; and in no work, ancient or modern, is Quinctilian's copiosa loquacitas, and turba inanium verborum, or diffusiveness and multiplication of words, so conspicuous as in the “ Characteristics” of Shaftesbury, who, though professedly a philosophical writer, uses a redundancy of words and a circumlocution of expression which often render his meaning obscure or ambiguous.

The strength of a sentence consists of such a disposition of its several words and members as will produce on the mind a

1

full, clear, and strong impression of the meaning of the writer or speaker; and for that purpose it should be divested of all redundancy of words or members; for verbosity and too numerous clauses produce a languid and an enfeebling effect. The principal word or words should be so placed as to make the strongest impression; and this is generally accomplished by placing them at the beginning of the sentence; sometimes, however, the location of them at the end of the sentence, as also the Latin method of inversion, (i) or the misplacing of the grammatical or logical construction of the clauses or members of a sentence (namely, the placing of the subject first, the copula second, and the predicate last), tend, when we wish to excite the attention or affect the feelings, greatly to increase the force and vivacity of sentences. Thus, the expressions, “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians ;” “ Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord ;” “Whom ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you;” “ Your fathers, where are they ? and the prophets, do they live for ever ? “ Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right;" “ Silver and gold have I none,” &c.; and a multitude of similar forms of construction that occur in the Scriptures and the English classics, are increased in force and vivacity, and are more striking and emphatic, by making the predicate, instead of the subject, the initial word, or by the collocation of an important word, or of that clause or member of the sentence which is the most prominent in the view of the mind, at the beginning of the sentence. On the other hand, when the leading object is not only to give weight to the sentiment, but also to sustain the attention, or suspend the curiosity, important words may advantageously be placed at the close. Thus, “ On “ whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally

“ strikes us is bis wonderful invention; with a variety of similar forms of construction that occur in good authors.

To render style energetic and vivid, care also should be taken not to clog or encumber a sentence with expletives or unnecessary clauses, or the recurrence of the same pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions, relatives, and other particles (k) employed in expressing transactions or connection of thought or action. In the tasteful application or omission of the connective conjunction and, and the disjunctives neither, nor, either, or, the vivacity and strength of sentences are also greatly promoted ; by their repetition in the enumeration of particulars, additional weight and distinctness are given to a statement; by their omission, a quick transition or succession of objects is implied, and a graphic effect given to speech. The office of the rhetorical figures, polysyndeton and asyndeton, is to show the judicious and tasteful use and application of those particles, by the insertion or omission of which the vivacity or the weight of the expression is greatly increased. What additional weight and distinctness are given in the following enumeration of St. Paul to each particular, by the repetition or reduplication of the conjunction. “I am persuaded that neither life, nor “ death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things “ present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any “ other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of « God.” Cæsar's celebrated expression, “ Veni, vidi, vici," admirably describes the rapidity and quick succession of conquest; and Cicero's “abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit,” he is gone, he is vanished, he has escaped, he has sallied forth,) in his second oration against Cataline, is wonderfully expressive of the hurried retreat of the rebel. In his Third Philippic, he gives a splendid example in which he has happily united the

[ocr errors]

E

asyndeton and polysyndeton. The passage in Xenophon praised by Longinus affords also a beautiful specimen of this figure: Συμβαλόνται τας ασπίδας, εωθούντο, σμάχοντο, ÅTÉXTEIVOV, átilnoxov; closing their shields together, they were pushed, they fought, they slew, they were slain. So the ardour of the people in ordering, decreeing, willing the passing of the bill proposed by Manlius Limetanus for inquiring into the conduct of the favourers of Jugurtha, through the assembly of the people, is well illustrated by Sallust's expression, “ jusserit, decreverit, voluerit;" the absence of the copulative imparting additional vigour and rapidity to the expression. Nor is the same author's description of the rout of Jugurtha by Marius less vivid and graphic by the employment of this figure : “ Segni, fugere; occidi, “ capi ; equi, viri, afflicti ; ac multi, vulneribus acceptis,

neque fugere posse, neque quietem pati; niti modo, ac

statim concidere ; postremo omnia, qua visus erat, con" strata telis, armis, cadaveribus ; et inter ea humus infecta

sanguine."

A third property of the construction of sentences with strength and vivacity is, that when, in the description of things or objects, a resemblance or a contrast is intended to be expressed, a resemblance in the language and construction should be preserved. The clauses should also be nearly of an equal length; an equal number of nouns should be employed in the contrasted clauses of the sentence; and correlative nouns should be qualified by appropriate adjectives. In the use of antithetical construction of sentences, care should be taken that the clauses should be so constructed that they contrast well together, not so much in the words as in the thoughts, and that they should be well compressed; otherwise, instead of conducing to the

conciseness and energetic structure of a sentence, they will enfeeble it and impair its effect. Bacon in his Rhetoric furnishes some admirable specimens of compressed and striking antithetical composition.

A fourth method for producing an energetic brevity and vivacity of style is the employment of specific instead of general terms. By particularity of expression a brighter picture is presented to the conception, and of course a stronger and a more vivid impression is made on the mind than can possibly be produced by any generality of speech. How spiritless and infrigidating is the sentiment clothed and paraphrased in these words : “ Consider the flowers how they gradually in

crease in their size; they do no manner of work, and yet I “ declare unto you, that no king whatever, in his most splendid “ habit, is dressed like them. If then God, in his providence, “ doth so adorn the vegetable productions, which continue but “ a little time on the land, and are afterwards devoted to the

meanest uses, how much more will he provide clothing for you

?” to the beautifully vivid expression of the Saviour of the world : “ Consider the lilies how they grow : they toil not, " they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all

Ι “ his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so 6 clothe the grass which to-day is in the field, and to-morrow « is cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you?" Thus, had Moses in his Song, occasioned by the supposed miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, said the Egyptians “ fell as metal in the mighty waters instead of sank as lead," the use of the general instead of the particular term would have greatly diminished the effect of the expression. When Shakspeare puts the expression into the mouth of An

« AnteriorContinuar »