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“ The waves behind impel the waves before,
"On a sudden open fly,
Through Eden took their solitary way.” “Now the rich stream of music winds along,
Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong." “ From peak to peak the rattling crags among
Leaps the live thunder !" Q. Who have been most distinguished for attention to harmo. aious composition?
A. The Greeks and Romans among the ancients, and the Italians and French among the moderns.
Q. What tended to promote the study of harmonious composition among the ancients ?
A. Partly their own fine musical taste, and partly the highly melodious and flexible character of their language. Q. Has this study never been carried to excess?
A. Frequently; and it is always so, when sense is, in the least degree, sacrificed to sound.
Q. Do not strength and harmony generally go together?
A. For the most part they do ; and it frequently happens, that a sentence is weak or obscure in exact proportion to its want of harmony. Q. Can you give an example of this?
A. “This is a mystery which we firmly believe the truth of, and we humbly adore the depth of,” is neither so strong nor so harmonious as, “This is a mystery, the truth of which we firmly believe, and the depth of which we humbly adore "
CHOICE OF WORDS WITH A VIEW TO ENERGY OR
WHATELEY has treated well the whole subject of style. He says, in substance,
First. We must ever prefer those words which are the least abstract and general. Individuals alone having a real existence, the terms denoting them will, of course, make the most vivid impression on the mind, and exercise most the power of conception; and the more specific any term is, the more energy it will possess; in comparison of such as are more general, it will present a more bright and definite picture of the object.
It depends on our choice whether we will employ terms more general than the subject requires ; which may almost always be done consistently with truth and propriety, though not with energy. If it be true that a man has committed murder, it may be correctly asserted that he has committed a crime. The former term would impress the fact more vividly upon our minds, because more specific and individualizing. Some prefer general terms because they consider them more refined, but, except for the purpose of making our statements more comprehensive, they enfeeble style.
The only proper occasion for the use of general terms is, when we wish to avoid giving a vivid im pression—when our object is to soften what is offen sive, disgusting, or shocking; as when we speak of an “ execution" instead of a “hanging." On the oth er hand, in Antony's speech over Cæsar's body, his object being to excite horror, Shakspeare puts into his mouth the most particular expressions;
" those honorable men (not who killed Cæsar, but) whose dag. gers have stabbed him."
SECONDLY, not only does a regard for energy re quire that we should not use terms more general than are exactly adequate to the objects spoken of, but we
are also allowed, in many cases, to employ less general terms than are exactly“ appropriate,” by a figure called synecdoche. To illustrate this point, Dr. Campbell has cited the passage from one of our Lord's discourses (which are generally of this character), recorded in Luke, xii., 27, 28. ss Consider the lilies how they grow : they toil not, they spin not; and yet, I say unto you, that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. If, then, God so 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?"
Let us here adopt a little of the tasteless manner of modern paraphrasts, by the substitution of more general terms, and let us observe the bad effect of this change. “ Consider the flowers, how they gradually increase in size ; they do no manner of work, and yet, I declare to you, that no king whatever, in his most splendid habit, is dressed up like them. If, then, God in his providence doth so adorn the vegetable productions which continue but little time upon the land, and are afterward devoted to the meanest uses, how much more will he provide clothing for you ?" How spiritless is the same sentiment rendered by these small variations ! The very particularizing of to-day and tomorrow is infinitely more expressive of transitoriness, than any description wherein the terms are general, that can be substituted in its room.
CHAPTER XXII. CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF SENTENCES. The author has prepared from Blair's Lectures, and inserted in Part VIII., Chapter ii., of this work, condensed critical remarks on passages from the Spectator of Addison. He would, however, suggest, that Blair's Lectures (the full work) should be in the hands of every teacher, and the critical lectures should be read to students who are aiming to acquire correct literary taste.
He would also suggest that the compositions written by members of the class, the writer's name being concealed, should be freely criticised by the class, when assembled, in respect to the various qualities of style treated on in previous chapters.
OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE.
Q. What do you consider the next great requisite of a perspic dous and elegant style!
A. A ¡udicious use of what is called Figurative Language.
Q. In how many different ways may language be employed ? · A. Chiefly two: the one literal, the other figurative. Q. What do you understand by literal language ?
A. Language taken in its common and ordinary signification; as, I am fond of sunshine ; this is a sweet evening:
Q. And what by figurative language?
A. Language used in such a way as to excite ideas or feelings different from those which it would produce, if employed in its common and ordinary acceptation; as, “ Reason is the sunshine of the soul ;"
Our friend is now in the evening of life.”
Q: What is the meaning of sunshine and evening in these examples ?
A. The one implies that reason has the same effect upon the soul that sunshine has upon the earth; the other, that period when life is drawing to a close. Q. Why is language of this kind called figurative language ?
A. Because it exhibits thoughts in a form or manner different from that in which they are usually represented. Q. On what is figurative language founded ?
A. Generally on some resemblance or opposition which one thing is supposed to bear to another.
Q. What constitutes the chief difference between literal and figurative language?
A. Literal language is the language chiefly of science and reason; figurative language, the language principally of passion and imagination. Q. By whom is figurative language
used in greatest profusion ? A. By rude and savage nations, whose stock of words is remarkably scanty; and by all persons, whether savage or civilized, who possess a quick and lively fancy.
Q. What is the most fertile source of figurative language ?
A. The application of words that denote sensible objects, for the purpose of expressing the various qualities and operations of the mind.
Q. What, therefore, is the general character of language used to denote inental objects ?
A. It is in general highly figurative; though to this circumstance we are so accustomed, that we often pass it without observing it to be so.
Q. Can you give examples of this?
Ă. A clear head, a hard heart, a piercing judgment; inflamed by passion, puffed up with pride, melted into grief, are all examples of this, and yet so common that we hardly regard them as figures of speech.
Q. What advantage does language derive from its figurative application?
A. It is rendered more varied and copious, more sprightly and energetic.
Q. How are these effects produced ?
A. By a single word acquiring the power of expressing more than one thought or idea.
Q. Can you give an example of this?
Ă. “When we dip too deep in pleasure, we stir up a sediment that renders it impure and noxious,” is a sentiment which could not be expressed either so briefly or so forcibly by any literal language that we could ise.
2. When is figurative language improper ?
À. When it is either unnatural or far-fetched, used in too great profusion, or not calculated to deepen the impression intended to be made.-See Beattie's Moral Science, p. 471-478.
Q. Is figurative language all of one character?
A. Far from it; but, though exceedingly diversified, it may all be classed under certain heads, called the figures of speech.
Q. What, then, are the principal figures of speech?
A. Simile, metaphor, allegory, personification, apostrophe, metonymy, synecdoche, climax, antithesis, hyperbole, irony, interrogation, exclamation, vision, and alliteration.