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thus exists between accent and emphasis, different exertions are employed in producing them; emphasis being performed by the lungs, accent by the contraction or dilatation of the glottis.

The operation of emphasis, by quantity, has place principally in monosyllables ending with vowels; and even there it is, in English speech, always combined with operation by accent. Monosyllables obviously can neither require nor admit distinction of accent within themselves. They receive, therefore, according to their greater or less occasional importance among other words, precisely such accent only as emphasis assigns them. When monosyllables ending with a vowel require emphasis, extension of quantity is commonly added to height of tone and force of utterance, for increase of effect. Thus the pronouns, and some other familiar words, as he, she, me, we, do, so, are acute and long, or grave and short, as emphasis may for the occasion demand.

Extension of quantity has sometimes place in polysyllables, for the purpose of emphasis. In few instances however only, and under particular circumstances, which evade rule, but may be illustrated by familiar examples. If one, simply commanding another, says, go directly, he speaks the first syllable, di, with a grave accent and a short quantity; expressing the i by the sound of that letter as in the first syllable of the words, direct and divide, as by e in the first syllable of detect and deride. But if, impatient of delay, he would urge haste, he will add emphasis to the word directly, by substituting in the first syllable, for the short, the long sound of i as in final, the predominating accent being still preserved, on its proper syllable, the second; though a change of tone ensues both in the first and second, as go directly.

All variations of the voice, indicating affirmation, interrogation, admiration, surprise, indignation, complaint, or any other intention or affection of the mind, are modes of emphasis, or pointing out ; operating either by accent, or quantity, or both; and, therefore very important to harmony.

From this general idea of emphasis, it will readily appear of how much consequence it is to readers and speakers not to be mistaken in it; the necessity of distinguishing the emphatical words from the rest, has made writers on this subject extremely solicitous to give such rules for placing the emphasis, as may, in some measure, facilitate this difficult part of elocution, but few have gone further than to tell us, that we must place the emphasis on that word, in reading, which we would make emphatical in speaking; and though the importance of emphasis is insisted on with the utmost force and elegance of language, no assistance is given us to determine, which is the emphatic word, where several appear equally emphatical, which is frequently the case,


nor have we any rule to distinguish between those words which have a greater and those which have a less degree of stress; the sense of the author is the whole direction we are referred to, and consequently all is left to the taste and understanding of the reader.

In the midst of this uncertainty, Mr. Walker appears to have suggested a good criterion.

"The principal circumstance," says he, "that distinguishes emphatical words from others, seems to be a meaning which points out, or distinguishes something as distinct or opposite to some other thing. When this opposition is expressed in words, it forms an antithesis, the opposite parts of which are always emphatical. Thus in the following couplet from Pope:

'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill.

The words writing and judging are opposed to each other, and are, therefore, the emphatical words: where we may likewise observe, that the disjunctive conjunction, or, by which the antithesis is connected, means one of the things exclusively of the other. The same may be observed in another couplet from the same author, where one branch of the antithesis is not expressed but understood:

Get wealth and place, if possible, with grace:
If not, by any means, get wealth and place.

Here it appears evidently, that the words any means, which are the most emphatical, are directly opposed to the means understood by the word grace, and the last line is perfectly equivalent to this: If not by these means, by any other means, get wealth and place. Hence, to convey their right meaning, the words, any means, are evidently to be pronounced louder and fuller than the others.

In these instances the opposition suggested by the emphatical word is evident, at first sight: in other cases, perhaps, the antithesis is not quite so obvious: but, if an emphasis can be laid on any word, we may be assured that word is in antithesis with some meaning agreeable to the general sense of the passage.

To illustrate this, if we pronounce a line of Marcus in Cato, where, expressing his indignation at the behaviour of Caesar, he says,

I'm tortur'd e'en to madness, when I think
Of the proud victor

we shall find the greatest stress fall naturally on that word, which

seems opposed to some common or general meaning: for the young hero does not say, in the common and unemphatic sense of the word think, that he is tortured even to madness when he thinks of Caesar; but in the strong and emphatic sense of this word, which implies, not only when I hear or discourse of him, but even when I think of him, I am tortured even to madness. As the word think, therefore, rises above the common level of signification, it is pronounced above the common level of sound: and as this signification is opposed to a signification less forcible, the word may properly be said to be emphatical.

This more than ordinary meaning, or a meaning opposed to some other meaning, seems to be the principal source of emphasis; for if, as in the last instance, we find the words will bear this opposition to their common signification, we may be sure they are emphatical; this may be still more evident from another example:

"By the faculty of a lively and picturesque imagination, a man in a dungeon is capable of entertaining himself with scenes and landscapes, more beautiful than any that can be found in the whole compass of nature."

Spectator, No. 411.

If we read this passage without that emphasis which the word dungeon requires, we enervate the meaning, and scarcely give the sense of the author: for the import plainly is, that a lively imagination, not merely absent from beautiful scenes, but even in a dungeon, can form scenes more beautiful than any in nature.

This plenitude of meaning in a particular word, is not always so prominent as to be discernible by a common reader; but wherever it really exists, the general meaning of the author is greatly enforced by emphatically pointing it out. Wherever the contrariety or opposition is expressed, we are at no loss for the emphatical words, as,

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him:
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.1


The greatest difficulty in reading lies in a discovery of those words which are in opposition to something not expressed but understood: and if emphasis does not improve it always vitiates the sense; and, therefore, should be always avoided where the use of it is not evident: this will always appear by placing an emphasis on a word in a sen tence which does not require it.

It frequently happens that two or more emphatic words are opposed to others in the same sentence: as,

He raised a mortal to the skies,
SHE drew an angel down.`

The influence of false emphasis in perverting the sense of a passage might be illustaated by a variety of examples, among which the following are at present suggested:

A clergyman having occasion to read in the church our Saviour's reproach. to his disciples (Luke 24 c. 25 v.) "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken, concerning me," placed the emphasis upon the word believe, as if Christ had called them fools for believing. Upon the rector's finding fault; when he read it next, he placed the emphasis upon all. as if it had been foolish in the disciples to believe all. The rector again blaming this manner of placing the emphasis, the good curate accented the word prophets, as if the prophets had been persons in no respect worthy of belief. A correct reader would place the emphasis upon slow of heart.

In the following words of our Saviour, the meaning may be placed in a variety of lights according to the manner in which the emphasis is placed, "Judas, betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss?" If the emphasis be placed upon betrayest thou, it makes the reproach turn upon the infamy of treachery. If upon thou, (betrayest thou,) it makes it rest upon Judas's connexion with his master. If upon the son of man (betrayest thou the son of man) it rests upon our Saviour's personal character and eminence. If upon words with a kiss, it turns upon his prostituting the signal of peace and friendship to the purpose of a mark of treachery and destruction.


Emphasis is of two kinds, simple and complex: simple, when it merely serves to point out the plain meaning of any proposition, as, “Nathan said unto David, thou art the man." Here the emphasis on thou serves only to point out the meaning of the speaker.

Complex emphasis, besides the meaning, conveys also some emotion of the mind: as, in the following apostrophe of Adam in Milton's Paradise Lost:

"O Goodness infinite! Goodness immense!
That all this good of evil shall produce,

And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought
Light out of darkness!

There is a striking exemplification of multiplied emphasis in the dialogue between Sampson and Dalila in Milton's Sampson Agonistes:

Dal. In argument with men, a woman ever

Goes by the worst, whatever be her cause.
Samp. For want of words, no doubt, or lack of breath,
Witness when I was worried with thy peals.

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Samp. Ago.

Multiplied emphasis and emotion, are exemplified in this passage from Dr. Young's Night Thoughts:

Each night we die,

Each morn are born anew: each day a life!
And shall we kill each day? If trifling kills,
Sure vice must butcher. O what heaps of slain
Cry out for vengeance on us! Time destroy'd
Is suicide, where more than blood is spilt.

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Time flies; death urges; knells call; heaven invites:
Hell threatens all exert; in effort all;


More than creation labours! Labours more?

And is there in creation what, amidst
This tumult universal, wing'd Despatch,

And ardent Energy, supinely yawns?

Man sleeps; and man alone; and man, whose fate,

Fate irreversible, entire, extreme,

Endless, hair hung, breeze-shaken, o'er the gulf
A moment trembles; drops ! and man, for whom
All else is in alarm: man, the sole cause

Of this surrounding storm! and yet he sleeps,
As the storm rock'd to rest. Throw years away?
Throw empires, and be blameless. Moments seize,
Heaven's on their wing: a moment we may wish,
When worlds want wealth to buy.

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