Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

But these beauties, if we wish to think accurately, must be distinguished from each other: they are in reality fo diftinct, that we fometimes are confcious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the fubject expreffed is disagreeable; a thing that is loathfome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair ftand on end, may be described in a manner fo lively, as that the disagreeableness of the fubject shall not even obfcure the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty of language confidered as fignificant, which is a branch of the prefent fubject, will be explained in their order. I fhall only at present obferve, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, viz. the communication of thought and hence it evidently appears, that of feveral expreffions all conveying the fame thought, the most beautiful, in the fense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.

The several beauties of language above mentioned, being of different Kinds, ought to be handled feparately. I fhall begin with those beauties of language that arife 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,

dignity dreffed in mean language. Theopompus is celebrated for the force of his diction; but erroneoufly his fubject indeed has great force, but his style very little.

[blocks in formation]

pefore we confider its fignification. In a third fection come thofe fingular beauties of language that are derived from a resemblance between found and fignification. The beauties of verse are handled in the laft fection: for though the foregoing beauties are found in verfe as well as in profe, yet verfe has many peculiar beauties, which for the fake of connection must be brought under one view; and verfification, at any rate, is a fubject of fo great importance, as to deferve a place by itself.

SECT. I.

Beauty of language with respect to found.

'N handling this fubject, the following order

IN

appears the most natural. The founds of the different letters come firft: next, these founds as united in fyllables: third, fyllables united in words: fourth, words united in a period and in the last place, periods united in a difcourfe.

With respect to the firft article, every vowel is founded with a fingle expiration of air from the wind-pipe, through the cavity of the mouth; and by varying this cavity, the different vowels are founded: the air in paffing through cavities differing in fize, produceth various founds; fome high or sharp, fome low or flat: a small

cavity occafions a high found; a large cavity a low found. The five vowels accordingly, pronounced with the fame extenfion of the windpipe, but with different openings of the mouth, form a regular series of founds, defcending from high to low, in the following order, i, e, a, o, u*. Each of these founds is agreeable to the ear and if it be inquired which of them is the most agreeable, it is perhaps the fafeft fide to hold, that there is no univerfal preference of any one before the rest: probably those vowels which are the farthest removed from the extremes, will be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the first article: for confonants being letters which of themselves have no found, ferve only in conjunction with vowels to form articulate founds; and as every articulate found of this kind makes a fyllable, confonants come naturally under the second article; to which therefore we proceed.

All confonants are pronounced with a lefs cavity than any of the vowels; and confequently they contribute to form a found still more sharp than the sharpeft vowel pronounced fingle. Hence it follows, that every articulate found into which a confonant enters, muft neceffarily be

* In this scale of founds, the letter i must be pronounced as in the word intereft, and as in other words beginning with the fyl lal le in; the latter e as in perfuafion; the letter a as in hat: and the letter u as in number.

[blocks in formation]

double, though pronounced with one expiration of air, or with one breath, as commonly exprefled: the reafon is, that though two founds readily unite, yet where they differ in tone, both of them must be heard if neither of them be fuppreffed. For the fame reafon, every fyllable muft be compofed of as many founds as there are letters, fuppofing every letter to be distinctly pronoun

ced.

We next inquire, how far articulate founds into which confonants enter, are agreeable to the ear. With refpect to this point, there is a noted observation, that all founds of difficult pronunciation are to the ear harsh in proportion. Few tongues are fo polished, as entirely to have rejected founds that are pronounced with difficulty; and fuch founds muft in fome meafure be · difagreeable. But with respect to agreeable founds, it appears, that a double found is always more agreeable than a fingle found: every one who has an ear must be fenfible, that the diphthongs oi or ai are more agreeable than any of these vowels pronounced fingly: the fame holds where a confonant enters into the double found; the fyllable le has a more agreeable found than the vowel e, or than any vowel. And in fupport of experience, a fatisfactory argument may be drawn from the wisdom of Providence: fpeech is beftowed upon nian, to qualify him for fociety; and the provifion he hath of articulate founds, is proportioned to the ufe he hath for

them :

them

but if founds that are agreeable fingly, were not alfo agreeable in conjunction, the neceffity of a painful felection, would render language intricate, and difficult to be attained in any perfection; and this felection, at the fame time, would tend to abridge the number of ufeful founds, fo as perhaps not to leave fufficient for answering the different ends of language.

In this view, the harmony of pronunciation differs widely from that of mufic properly fo called in the latter are discovered many founds fingly agreeable, that in conjunction are extremely difagreeable; none but what are called concordant founds having a good effect in conjunction in the former, all founds fingly agreeable, are in conjunction concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfill the purposes of language.

Having difcuffed fyllables, we proceed to words; which make a third article. Monofyllables belong to the former head: polyfyllables open a different fcene. In a curfory view, one will readily imagine, that the agreeableness or difagreeablenefs of a word with respect to its found, fhould depend upon the agreeableness or difagreeablenefs of its component fyllables: which is true in part, but not entirely; for we muft alfo take under confideration, the effect that a number of fyllables compofing a word have in fucceffion. In the first place, fyllables in immediate fucceffion, pronounced, each of them, with the fame or nearly the fame aperture of the

mouth,

« AnteriorContinua »