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by the sense, we feel a very remarkable pleasure. But this subject belongs to the third section.
The foregoing observations afford a standard to every nation, for estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that enter into their own language : but they are not equally useful in comparing the words of different languages; which will thus appear. Different nations judge differently of the harshness or fmoothness of articulate founds; a found, for example, harsh and disagreeable to an Italian, may be abundantly smooth to a northern ear : here every nation must judge for itself ; nor can there be any folid ground for a preference, when there is no common standard to which we can appeal. The case is precisely the same as in behaviour and manners : plain-dealing and sincerity, liberty in words and actions, form the character of one people ; politeness, reserve, and a total disguise of every sentiment that can give offence, form the character of another people : to each the manners of the other are disagreeable. An effeminate mind cannot bear the least of that roughness and severity which is generally esteemed manly, when exerted upon proper occasions : neither can an effeminate ear bear the harshness of certain words, that are deemed nerv- , ous and founding by those accustomed to a rougher tone of speech. Must we then relinquish all thoughts of comparing languages in point of roughness and smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether ; for we may proceed a certain length, though with, out hope of an ultimate decision. A language pronounced with difficulty even by natives, must yield to a smoother language : and suppposing two languages pronounced with equal facility by natives, the fougher language, in my judgment, ought to be
preferred, provided it be also stored with a competent share of more mellow founds; which will be evident from attending to the different effects that are ticulate found hath on the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by calming the mind, and lulling it to rest : a rough bold found, on the contrary, animates the mind : the effort perceived in pronouncing, is communicated to the hearers, who feel in their own minds a similar effort, rousing their attention, and disposing them to action. I add another consideration : the agreeableness of contrast in the rougher language, for which the great variety of founds gives ample opportunity, must, even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the foother language.* This appears all that can be safely determined upon the present point. With respect to the other circumstances that constitute the beauty of words, the standard above mentioned is infallible when applied to foreign languages as well as to our own : for every man, whatever be his mother-tongue, is equally capable to judge of the length or shortness of words, of the alternate opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the relation that the found bears to the sense : in these particulars, the judgment is fusceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible prejudice.
That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened by dropping in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is undoubtedly true : that it is not capable of being further mellow. ed without fussering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any one who possesses an ear; and yet such in Britain is the propensity for dispatch,
* That the Italian tongue is too smooth, seems probable, from cona fidering, that in verlification, vowels are frequently supprehed, in order 10 produce a rougher and bolder tone.
that, overlooking the majesty of words composed of many syllables aptly connected, the prevailing taste is to shorten words, even at the expense of making them disagreeable to the ear, and harsh in the proņunciation. But I have no occasion to infift upon this article, being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever did, the true genius of the English tongue. * I cannot however forbear urging one observation, borrowed from that author: feveral tenses of our verbs are formed by adding the final fyllable ed, which, being a weak sound, has remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most conspicuous place in the word : upon which account, the vowel in common speech is generally suppressed, and the consonant added to the foregoing syllable ; whence the following rugged sounds, drudg'd, disturb’d, rebuk'd, fledg'd. It is still less excusable to follow this practice in writing ; for the hurry of speaking may excuse what would be altogether improper in composition : the syllable ed, it is true, sounds poorly at the end of a word ; but rather that defect, than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all, bear an over-proportion in our tongue. The author above mentioned, by showing a good example, did all in his power to restore that syllable : and he well deserves to be imitated. Some exceptions however I would make. A word that signifies labour or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth; therefore fore’d, with an apostrophe, is better than forced, without it. Another exception is where the penult syllable ends with a vowel ; in that cafe the final fyllable ed may be apostrophized without mak.
* See Swift's propofal for corrc&ing the English tongue, in a letter fo the Earl of Oxford.
ing the word harsh : examples, betray'd, carry'd, destroy'd, employ'd.
The article next in order, is the music of words as anited in a period. And as the arrangement of words in succession so as to afford the greatest pleafure to the ear, depends on principles remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise fome general observations upon the appearance that objects make, when placed in an increasing or decreafing series. Where the objects vary by small differences, so as to have a mutual resemblance, we in ascending conceive the second object of no greater fize than the first, the third of no greater size than the second, and so of the rest; which diminisheth in appearance the fize of every object except the first : but when, beginning at the greatest object, we proceed gradually to the least, resemblance makes us imagine the second as great as the first, and the third as great as the second; which in appearance magnifies every object except the first. On the other hand, in a series varying by large differences, where contrast prevails, the effects are directly opposite ; a great object succeeding a small one of the same kind, appears greater than usual ; and a little object succeeding one that is great, appears less than usual.*
Hence a remarka. ble pleafure in viewing a series ascending by large differences ; directly oppofite to what we feel when the differences are small. The least object of a series ascending by large differences has the same effect upon the mind, as if it stood single without making a part of the series : but the second object, by means of contrast, appears greater than when viewed fingly and apart; and the same effect is perceived in ascend. ing progressively, till we arrive at the last object. The
* See the reason, chap. 8.
opposite effect is produced in descending ; for in this direction, every object, except the first, appears less than when viewed separately and independent of the series. We may then assume as a maxim, which will hold in the composition of language as well as of other subjects, That a strong impulse succeeding a weak, makes a double impression on the mind : and that a weak impulse succeeding a strong, makes scarce any impression
After establishing this maxim, we can be at no lofs about its application to the subject in hand. The following rule is laid down by Diomedes.* “ In verbis obfetvanduni est, ne a majoribus ad minora de fcendat oratio ; melius enim dicitur, Vir est optimus, quam, Vir optimus eft.”
This rule is also applicable to entire members of a period, which, according to our author's expression, ought not, more than single words, to proceed from the greater to the less, but from the less to the greater.f in arranging the members of a period, no writer equals Cicero : the beauty of the following examples out of many, will not suffer me to flur them over by a reference.
Quicum quæstor fueram,
Habet honorem quem petimus,
* De fructura perfeétæ orationis, l.
+ See Demetrius Phalereus of Elocution, feet, 18.