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CHA P. XVIII. BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE.
F all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature imitative. An ornamented field is not a copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in fome measure be imitated by mufic; but for the most part, mufic, like architecture, deals in originals. Language copies not from nature, more than mufic or architecture; unless where, like music, it is imitative of found or motion: in the defcription, for example, of particular founds, language fometimes furnifheth words, which, beside their cuftomary power of exciting ideas, refemble by their foftness or harshness the found defcribed; and there are words, which, by the celerity or flowness of pronunciation, have fome refemblance to the motion they fignify This smitative power of words goes one step farther the loftiness of fome words, makes them proper fymbols of lofty ideas; a rough subject is inntated by harth-founding words; and words of many fyllables pronounced flow or smooth, are naturally expreffive of grief and melancholy. Words have a feparate effect on the mind, fracting from their fignification and from their imitative power: they are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the fulness, fweetnefs, faintnefs, or roughness of their tones.
These are but faint. beauties, being known to thofe only who have more than ordinary acutenefs of perception. Language poffeffeth a beauty fuperior greatly in
degree, of which, we are eminently fenfible when a thought is communicated with perfpicuity and fprightlinefs. This beauty of language, arifing from its power of expreffing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of the thought itfelf; which beauty of thought is transferred to the expreflion, and makes it appear more beautiful*. But these beauties, if we wish to think accurately, must be distinguished from each other: they are in reality so diftinct, that we fometimes are confcious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the fubject expreffed is difagreeable; a thing that is loathfome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair stand on end, may be described in a manner fo lively, as that the disagreeableness of the fubject fhall not even obfcure the agreeablenefs of the defcription. The causes of the original beauty of language confidered as fignificant, which is a branch of the prefent fubject, will be ex'plained in their order. I fhall only at prefent observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, that of communicating thought: and hence it evidently appears, that of feveral expreffions all conveying the fame thought, the most beautiful, in the fenfe now mentioned, is that which in the moft perfect manner anfwers its end.
The feveral beauties of language above mentioned, being of different kinds, ought to be handled feparately. I fhall begin with thofe beauties of language that arise from found; after which will follow the beauties of language confidered as fignificant: this order appears natural for the found of a word is attended to, before we confider its fignification. In a third fection come thofe fingulaf Beauties of language that are derived from a refem
* Chap, part 1: fect. Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, fect. 75) makes the fame observation. are apt, fays that author, to confound the language with the fubject; and if the latter be nervous, we judge the former to be fo alfo. But they are clearly diftinguishable; and it is not uncommon to find fubjects of great dignity dreffed in mean language. Theopompus is celebrated for the force of his diction; but erroneously : his fubject indeed has great force, but his ftyle very little.