« AnteriorContinuar »
of the syllables exquisite, so that at the close the ear is perfectly pleased and gratified. Pope's writings also exhibit many beautiful specimens of this species of composition. The following passage in the Essay on Criticism appropriately exemplifies both in sound and sense the faults and deformities of composition which it condemns; and other passages might be cited from the same poem in which the quick succession of movement is indicated by the rapid motion of the short syllables :
Though oft the ear the open vowels tire,
Which like a wounded snake drags its slow length along." Grecian and Roman literature affords many splendid instances of imitative harmony or consonance of sound and sense.
When, from the imperfection of language, the consonance or affinity between the sound of words and phrases and their sense or signification cannot be observed in expressing the passions or emotions of the mind by the adoption of simple terms, the force and beauty of that property of composition may, by combination of terms, be advantageously obtained. Thus, the expressions, livid envy, furious or unbridled rage, torpid despondency, timorous anxiety, deep-rooted prejudice, rugged manners, a stony heart, the groans of the dying, &c., possess a great degree of consonance between their sound and the sense or meaning they are intended to express.
Another rule for the harmonious construction of a sentence is, that the close or cadence should be as full and melodious as possible. For this purpose the concluding clause should be the longest in the period, and should contain the most sonorous
words; the last of which should generally be long or have its penultimate or last syllable long.
The harmony of a sentence is promoted by avoiding the use of such words as unsuccessfulness, barefacedness, questionless, chroniclers, conventiclers, primarily, cursorily, peremptoriness, holily, sillily, and all words difficult of pronunciation, or which are not pleasing to the ear.
Having defined the properties of a well-constructed sentence, and stated the laws of composition on which its correct and legitimate structure depends, the following specimens of correct and finished composition are not inappropriate illustrations of those laws and properties.
Addison speaking of sight says, “ It fills the mind with the “ largest variety of ideas; converses with its objects at the
greatest distance; and continues the longest in action, with« out being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments :" which is a sentence, as Dr. Blair observes, distinguished for the proper
division of its members and pauses, and the manner in which it is brought to a full and harmonious close.
“ We shall conduct you to a hill-side,” says Milton in his treatise on Education, “ 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 :" in which sentence the words are happily chosen, full of liquids and soft sounds-laborious, smooth, green, goodly, melodious, charming ; and these words are so tastefully arranged, that were the collocation of one of them altered, the melody would be destroyed.
The author of the“ Sketch Book,” describing the condition of the female sex when they lose or are slighted by the object of their affection, says,
“ How many bright eyes grow dim-how
many cheeks grow pale how many lovely forms fade away “ into the tomb, and none can tell the cause that blighted their “ loveliness! As the dove will clasp its wings to its side, and
cover and conceal the arrow that is preying on its vitals, so it " is the nature of woman to hide from the world the pangs of « wounded affection. The love of a delicate female is always “ shy and silent. Even when fortunate, she scarcely breathes “ it to herself; but when otherwise, she buries it in the re
cesses of her bosom, and there lets it cower and brood
among the ruins of her peace.” These sentences breathe a strain of pathetic tenderness, well suited to describe the unhappy subject which the author was contemplating. The description is so highly picturesque, that we think we see the objects exhibited to our imagination; the words are smooth and solemn; and the members of the sentences partake of that measured cadence which rests upon the ear and strikes to the heart. The figure of comparison taken from the dove covering with its wings the arrow that has wounded it, represents, in a lively manner, the concealment of those sorrows which a woman feels, but does not express; and the metaphor breathes illustrates the delicacy of the female sex, who will scarcely allow their own hearts to cherish an affection which they have reason to approve; while the pangs of unrequited love are admirably pourtrayed by the expression “ buried in the recesses of the bosom,"
,” and happily illustrated by an illusion to the wounded dove which would fly to some unfrequented ruin where it cowers down and dies, in the same manner as woman broods over the wounds of her heart, the peace of which has been ruined by her ill-placed affection till she at last sinks into the tomb. Many other passages might be quoted from this really fascinating writer partaking of the highest melody and polish of
composition, the finest touches of pathos and the most affecting eloquence.
The following passage of Jeremy Taylor's sermon on the “ Marriage Ring,” on the happiness resulting from marriage when endeared by confidence and kindness, is no less distinguished for its delicacy of fancy and purity of feeling, than for its sweetness of expression, musical arrangement, and all the perfections of polished and perfect composition. In addition to these attributes of style and composition, it possesses other great and signal merits. It contains more knowledge of the mysteries of love, and of the true philters whereby it is preserved, than can be found in all the prescriptions the love poets ever wrote.
“ There is nothing can please a man without love-nothing can sweeten felicity itself but love : when a man dwells in love, then the breasts of his wife are pleasant as the droppings upon the hill of Hermon; her eyes are fair as the light of heaven; she is a fountain sealed, and he can quench his thirst, and ease his cares, and lay his sorrows down upon her lap, and retire home to his sanctuary and refectory, and his gardens of sweetness and chaste refreshments. No man can tell, but he that loves his children, how many delicious accents make a man's heart dance in the pretty conversation of those dear pledges; their childishness, their stammerings, their little angers, their innocence, their imperfections, their necessities, are so many little emanations of joy and comfort to him that delights in their persons and society.”
The whole passage is replete with beauty, fancy, and truth, and furnishes an admirable specimen of the ideality of style or the poetical and imaginative composition in which the writings of this author, as also those of Milton and Bacon, abound. The peroration of the splendid piece of harmonious composition above cited is too beautiful and consolatory to be omitted.
“ Those married pairs that live as remembering that they must part again, and give an account how they treat themselves and each other, shall, at that day of their death, be admitted to glorious espousals; and when they shall live again, be married to their Lord, and partake of his glories, with Abraham and Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, and all the married saints. All these things that now please us shall pass from us, or we from them; but those things that concern the other life are permanent as the members of eternity. And although at the resurrection there shall be no relation of husband and wife, and no marriage shall be celebrated but the marriage of the Lamb, yet then shall be remembered how men and women passed through this state, which is a type of that; and from this sacramental union all holy pairs shall pass to the spiritual and eternal, where love shall be their portions, and joys shall crown their heads, and they shall lie in the bosom of Jesus, and in the heart of God, to eternal ages."
The writers in the English language most worthy of imitation for the structure of their sentences are Milton, Bacon, Barrow, Jeremy Taylor, Hooker, Addison, Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, Burke, Robertson, Washington Irving, and the translators of the Bible. Milton exhibits, not only in that most splendid specimen of creative genius and noblest devotional poem extant, Paradise Lost, the most forcible illustration of the compass, power, and harmony of the language, but in many passages of his prose works he presents models of original and nerrous eloquence, fine turned periods, and much beauty, sweetness, and melody of composition. In his “Areopagetica, or Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing,” are to be found specimens of composition equal to the most splendid of Burke's productions. It is, however, necessary to observe, that the symmetry and grace of his finest periods are often disfigured by lumbering parentheses; and that the Latin cast of expression and inver