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Puræ rivus aquæ silvaque jugerum
Horace, Carm. 1.3. ode 16.
Of empire, could ensure.
Horace, Carm. 1. 1. ode 18.
Æneid. IV. 477. And makes hope serene on his forehead. I am in greater pain about the foregoing passages, than about any I have ventured to criticise, being aware that a vague or obscure expression, is apt to gain favor with those who neglect to examine it with a critical eye. To some it carries the sense that they relish the most: and by suggesting various meanings at once, it is admired by others as concise and comprehensive: which by the way fairly accounts for the opinion generally entertained with respect to most languages in their infant state, of expressing much in few words. This observation may be illustrated by a passage from Quintilian, quoted in the first volume for a different purpose.
At quæ Polycleto defuerunt, Phidiæ atque Alcameni dantur. Phidias tamen diis quam hominibus efficiendis melior artifex traditur: in ebore vero, longe citra æmulum, vel si nihil nisi Minervam Athenis, aut Olympium in Elide Jovem fecisset, cujus pulchritudo adjecisse aliquid etiam recepta religioni videtur ;
adeo majestas operis Deum æquarit.* The sentence in the Italic characters appeared to me abundantly perspicuous, before I gave it peculiar attention. And yet to examine it independent of the context, its proper meaning is not what is intended : the words naturally import, that the beauty of the statues mentioned, appears to add some new tenet or rite to the established religion, or appears to add new dignity to it; and we must consult the context before we can gather the true meaning; which is, that the Greeks avere confirmed in the belief of their established religion by these majestic statues, so like real divinities.
There may be a defect in perspicuity proceeding even from the slightest ambiguity in construction ; as where the period commences with a member conceived to be in the nominative case, which afterward is found to be in the accusative. Example: "Some emotions more peculiarly connected with the fine arts, I propose to handle in separate chapters.”+ Better thus : “Some emotions more peculiarly
• But Phidias and Alcamenes possess those qualities which were denied to Polycletus. Phidias, however, is said to be a better artificer of gods than of men-in ivory, indeed, he is far beyond his rival, even if he had made nothing except his Minerva at Athens, or his Olympian Jove in Elis, whose beauty seems to have even added something to the received religion ; so much has the majesty of the work represented a god.
* Elements of Criticism, Vol. I. p. 43. edit. 1.
connected with the fine arts, are proposed to be handled in separate
I add another error against perspicuity, which I mention, the rather, because with some writers it passes for a beauty. It is the giving of different names to the same object, mentioned oftener than once in the same period. Example: Speaking of the English adventurers who first attempted the conquest of Ireland, “and instead of reclaiming the natives from their uncultivated manners, they were gradually assimilated to the ancient inhabitants, and degenerated from the customs of their own nation." From this mode of expression, one would think the author meant to distinguish the ancient inhabitants from the natives; and we cannot discover otherwise than from the sense, that these are only different names given to the same object for the sake of variety. But perspicuity ought never to be sacrificed to any other beauty, which leads me to think that the passage may be improved as follows: "and degenerating from the customs of their own nation, they were gradually assimilated to the natives, instead of reclaiming them from their uncultivated manners.':
The next rule in order, because next in importance is, that the language ought to correspond to the subject." Heroic actions or sentiments require elevated language; tender sentiments ought to be expressed in words soft and flowing; and plain language void of ornament, is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language may be considered as the dress of thought, and where the one is not suited to the other, we are sensible of incongruity, in the same manner as where a judge is dressed like a fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. Where the impression made by the words resembles the impression made by the thought, the similar emotions mix sweetly in the mind, and double the pleasure ;* but where the impressions made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, the unnatural union into which they are forced, is disagreeable.
This concordance between the thought and the words has been observed by every critic, and is so well understood as not to require any illustration. But there is a concordance of a peculiar kind, that has scarcely been touched in works of criticism, though it contributes to neatness of composition. It is what follows. thought of any extent, we commonly find some parts intimately united, some slightly, some disjoined, and some directly opposed to each other. To find these conjunctions and disjunctions imitated in the expression, is a beauty; because such imitation makes the words concordant with the sense. This doctrine may be illustrated by a familiar example. When we have occasion to mention the intimate connection that the soul has with the body, the expression ought to be, the soul and body; because the particle the, relative to both, makes a connection in the expression, resembling, in some degree, the connection in the thought: but when the soul is distinguished from the body, it is better to say the soul and the body; because the disjunction in the words resembles the disjunction in the thought I proceed to other examples, beginning with conjunctions.
• Chap. 2. Part 4
Constituit agmen; et expedire tela animosque, equitibus jussis,* &c
Livy, l. 38. 9 25. Flere the words that express the connected ideas are artificially con niected by subjecting them both to the regimen of one verb. Ana the two following are of the same kind.
Quum ex paucis quotidie aliqui eorum caderent aut vulnerarentur, et qui superarent, fessi et corporibus et animis essent, t &c.
Livy, l 38.9 29.
With lifted eyes, and took his ain above. But to justify this artificial connection among the words, the ideas they express ought to be intimately connected; for otherwise that concordance which is required between the sense and the expression will be impaired. In that view, a passage from Tacitus is exceptionable; where words that signify ideas very little connected, are, however, forced into an artificial union. Here is the passage:
Germania omnis a Galliis, Rhætiisque, et Pannoniis, Rheno et Danubio fluminibus; a Sarmatis Dacisque, mutuo metu aut montibus separatur.
De Moribus Germanorum. Upon the same account, I esteem the following passage equally ex ceptionable.
The fiend look'd up, and knew
Paradise Lost, B. 4. at the end. There is no natural connection between a person's flying or retiring, and the succession of daylight to darkness; and iherefore to connect artificially the terms that signify these things cannot have a sweet effect.
Two members of a thought connected by their relation to the same action, will naturally be expressed by two members of the period governed by the same verb; in which case these members, in order to improve their connection, ought to be constructed in the same manner. This beauty is so common among good writers, as to have been little attended to; but the neglect of it is remarkably disagreeable: For example, “He did not mention Leonora, nor that her father was dead.” Better thus: “He did not mention Leonora, nor her father's death."
Where two ideas are so connected, as to require but a copulative, it is pleasant to find a connection in the words that express these ideas, were it even so slight as where both begin with the same letter:
* He put his army in order and the horsemen wereordered to have their weapons and their minds ready.
+ 'When some of the few daily fell or were wounded, and those who remained were sick in body and mind.
Germany is separated from the Gauls, the Rhetjans, and the Pannonians, by the Rhine and the Danube ; from the Sarmatians and the Datians, by mutual fear and the mountains.
The peacock, in all his pride, does not display half the colour that appears in the garments of a British lady, when she is either dressed for a ball or a birth-day
Spectator, No. 265. Had not my dog of a steward run away as he did, without making up his accounts, I had still been immersed in sin and sea-coal. Ibid. No. 530
My life's companion, and my bosoin-friend,
Dryden, Translation of Æneid. There is sensibly a defect in neatness when uniformity in this case is totally neglected ;* witness the following example, where the construction of two members connected by a copulative is unnecessarily varied.
For it is confidently reported, that two young gentlemen of real hopes, bright wit, and profound judgment, who, upon a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities, without the least tincture of learning, have made a discovery that there was no God, and generously communicating their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, by an unparalleled severity, and upon I know not what obsolete law, broke for blas phemy. (Better thus :}-having made a discovery that there was no God, and having generously communicated their thoughts for the good of the public, were some time ago, &c.
He had been guilty of a fault, for which his master would have put him to death, had he not found an opportunity to escape out of his hands, and fled into the deserts of Numidia.
Guardian, No. 139. If all the ends of the Revolution are already obtained, it not only impertinent to argue for obtaining any of them, but factious designs might be impited, and the name of incendiary be applied with some colour, perhaps, to any one who should persist in pressing this point. Dissertation upon Parties. Dedication.
Next as to examples of disjunction and opposition in the parts of the thought, imitated in the expression; an imitation that is distinguished by the name of antithesis. Speaking of Coriolanus soliciting the people to be made consul:
With a proud heart he wore his humble weeds. Coriolanus. Had you rather Cæsar were living, and die all slaves, than that Cæsar were dead, to live all free men ?
Julius Cæsar. He hath cool'd my friends and heated mine enemies. Shakspeare. An artificial connection among the words, is undoubtedly a beauty when it represents any peculiar connection among the constituent parts of the thought; but where there is no such connection, it is a positive deformity, as above observed, because it makes a discordance between the thought and expression. For the same reason we ought also to avoid every artificial opposition of words where there is none in the thought. This last, termed verbal antithesis, is studied by low writers, because of a certain degree of liveliness in it. They do not consider how incongruous it is, in a grave composition, to heat the reader, and to make him expect a contrast in the thought, which upon examination is not found ihere.
A light wife doth make a heavy husband. Merchant of Venice. Here is a studied opposition in the words, not only without any opposition in the sense, but even where there is a very intimate con
+ See Gilaru's French Grammar, Discourse 12.
ncction, that of cause and effect; for it is the levity of the wife that Lorments the husband.
King Richard II. Act I. Sc. 1.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act I. Sc. 2. A fault directly opposite to that last mentioned, is to conjoin arti ficially words that express ideas opposed to each other. This is a fault too gross to be in common practice; and yet writers are guilty of it in some degree, when they conjoin, by a copulative, things transacted at different periods of time. Hence a want of neatness in the following expression.
The nobility too, whom the king had no means of retaining by suitable offices and preferments, had been seized with the general discontent, and unwarily threw themselves into the scale which began already too much to preponderate.
History of Great Britain, vol. I. p. 250. In periods of this kind, it appears more neat to express
past time by the participle passive, thus:
The nobility having been seized with the general discontent, unwarily threw themselves, &c. (or) The nobility, who had been seized, &c. unwarily threw themselves, &c.
It is unpleasant to find even a negative and affirmative proposition connected by a copulative:
Nec excitatur classico miles truci,
Horace, Epod. 2. I. 5.
Of men whose station makes them vain.
Deadly divorce step between me and you. Shakspeare. In mirth and drollery it may have a good effect to connect verbally things that are opposite to each other in the thought. Example: Henry IV. of France introducing the Mareschal Biron to some of his friends, “ Here, gentlemen,” says he, “is the Mareschal Biron, whom I freely present both to my friends and enemies."
This rule of studying uniformity between the thought and expression, may be extended to the construction of sentences or periods. A sentence or period ought to express one entire thought or mental proposition; and different thoughts ought to be separated in the expression by placing them in different sentences or periods. It is therefore offending against neatness, to crowd into one period entire thoughts requiring more than one; which is joining in language things that are separated in reality. Of errors against this rule take the following examples.