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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; unlefs where, like mufic, it is imitative of found or motion: in the defcription, for example, of particular founds, language fometimes furnifheth words, which, befide their customary 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 loftinels of fome words, makes them proper, fymbols of lofty ideas; a rough subject is innitated by barfh-founding words; and words of many fyllables pronounced now or fmooth, are naturally expreffive of grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the mind, abftracting from their fignification and from their imitative power: they are more or lefs agreeable to the ear, by the fulness, sweetnefs, faintnefs, or roughness of their tones.
These are but faint. beauties, being known to those only who have more than ordinary acuteness 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 itself; which beauty of thought is transferred to the expreffion, and makes it appear more beautiful*. But these beauties, if we with to think accurately, must be distinguished from each other: they are in reality so diftinct, that we fometimes are con fcious 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 subject shall not even obfcure the agreeableness of the defcription. The caufes 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 obferve, 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 most 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 sound; 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 fingular beauties of language that are derived from a refem
* Chap, part 1: fect: Demetrius Phalereus (of Elocution, fec. 752 makes the fame obfervation. We 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 subjects of great dignity dreffed in mean language. Theopompus is celebrated for the force of his diction; but erroneously: his subject indeed has great force, but his style very little.
a resemblance between found and fignification. The beauties of verfe 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 versification, at any rate, is a fubject of fo great importance, as to deferve a place by itself.
Beauty of language with refpect to found.
N handling this fubject, the following order appears the most natural. The founds of the different letters come firft: next, thefe 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 refpect to the first article, every vowel is founded with a fingle expiration of air from the wind pipe, through the cavity of the mouth. By varying this cavity, the different vowels are founded: for the air in paffing through cavities differing in fize, producerh various founds, fome high or fharp, fome flow or flat, a fmall cavity occafions a high found, a large cavity a low found. The five vowels accordingly, pronounced with the fame extenfion of the wind-pipe, but with different openings of the mouth, form a regular feries of founds, defcending from high to low, in the following order, i, e, a, o, u*. Each of the fe founds is agreeable to the ear and if it be inquired which of them is the moft agreeable, it is perhaps the fafelt fice, ip hold, that there is no univerfal preference of any one before the reft: probably thofe vowels which are the fartheit removed from the extremes, will be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the fir article: for confonants being letters that of themfelves have no found, ferve only in conjunction with vowels to form articulate
* In this scale of founds, the letter i must be pronounced as in the word intereft, and as in other words beginning with the fyllable in; the letter e as in perfuafion; the letter a as in hat; and the letter u as in number.
red many founds fingly agreeable, that re extremely difagreeable; none but concordant founds having a good effect in the former, all founds fingly agreeFunction concordant; and ought to be,
the purposes of language.
fed fyllables, we proceed to words; hird article. Monofyllables belong to
polyfyllables open a different scene. v, one will readily imagine, that the adifagreeableness of a word with respect ould depend upon the agreeableness or of its component fyllables: which is it not entirely; for we must also take tion, the effect of fyllables in fucceffion. e, fyllables in immediate fucceffion, proof them, with the fame or nearly the of the mouth, produce a fucceflion of e founds; witnefs the French words dit
on the other hand, a fyllable of the re fucceeding one of the fmalleft, or the sa fucceffion, which, becaufe of its re-ceablenefs, is diftinguished by a proper atus. The most agreeable fucceffion, is, ity is increafed and diminished alternately te limits. Examples, alternative, longemous. Secondly, words confifting wholly onounced flow, or of fyllables pronounommonly called long and short fyllables, ody in them; witnefs the words petitiondizziness: on the other hand, the interng and short syllables is remarkably agreeimple, degree, repent, wonderful, altitude, pendent, impetuofity *. The caufe will afterward, in treating of verfification.
words, like thofe of Latin and Greek, have y aloft univerfally: English and Frenchenerally deficient; in the former, the long g removed from the end as far as the found ; and in the latter, the last syllable being ge For example, Senator in English, Senator nd Senateur in French.