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ELEMENTS of CRITICISM.
CHA P. XVIII. Beauty of Language.
F all the fine arts, painting only and sculpture are in their nature imitative. A field
laid out with taste, is not, properly speaking, a copy or imitation of nature, but nature itself embellished. Architecture deals in originals, and copies not from nature. Sound and motion may in some measure be imitated by music; but for the most part music, like archite&ure, deals in originals. Language has no archetype in nature, inore than music or architecture; unless where, like mufic, it is imitative of found or motion. In the description of particular sounds, language sometimes happily furnisheth words, which, beside their customary power of exciting ideas, resemble by their softness or harshness the found described: and there are words, which, by the celerity or flowness of pronunciation, have some resemblance to the motion they signify. This imitative power of words goes one step farther. The loftiness of some words, makes them proper symbols of lofty ideas: a rough subject is imitated by harsh-sounding words; and words of many fyllables pronounced low and fmooth, are naturally expressive of grief and melancholy. Words have a separate effect on the
mind, abstracling from their signification and from their imitative power. They are more or less agreeable to the ear, by the roundness, sweetness, faintness, or roughness, of their tones.
These are beauties, but not of the first rank : They are relished by those only, who have more delicacy of sensation than belongs to the bulk of mankind. Language poslefseth a beauty superior greatly in degree, of which we are eminently conIcious when a thought is communicated in a strong and lively manner. This beauty of language, arising from its power of expressing thought, is apt to be confounded with the beauty of the thought expressed; which beauty, by a natural transition of fecling among things intimately connected, is convey'd to the expression, and makes it appear more beautiful *. But these beauties, if we wish to think accurately, must be carefully distinguished from each other. They are indeed so diftin&t, that we fometimes are conscious of the highest pleasure language can afford, when the subject expressed is disagreeable. A thing that is loathsome, or a scene of horror to make one's hair stand on end, may be described in the liveliest manner. In this case, the disagreeableness of the subject, doth not even obfcure the agreeableness of the description. The causes of the original beauty of language considered as significant, which is a branch of the present subject, will be explained in their order. I shall only at present observe, that this beauty is the beauty of means fitted to an end, viz, the communication of thought. And hence it evidently appears, that of several expreffions all conveying the same thought, the most beautiful, in the sense now mentioned, is that which in the most perfect manner answers its end.
* See chap.
2. part 1. sect. 4.
The several beau:ies of language above mentioned, being of different kinds and distinguishable from each other, ought to be handled separatclj. I shall begin with those beauties of 1:9972;C which arise from found; af:er which will follow the veauties of language considered as figniacauThis order appears natural; for the found of a word is a:tended to, before we contider its fignification. In a third section come those fingular beauties of lar.guage that are derived from a reiemblance betwixe found and signification. The beacties of rerse ! propose to handle in the lait fedtien. For though the foregoing beautics are scurd in verse as well as in profe; yet vers: has many peculiar beauties, which for the fake of perfpicuity inuit be brought under one vicw. Ard versification, ať any rate, is a subject of lu gre.it importance, as to deserves place by itself.
SECT. I. Beauty of lang?lege with respect
order, which appears the most natural. The sounds of the different letters coine firft. Next, these founds as united in fillables. Third, fyllables united in words. Fourth, words united in a period. And in the last place, periods united in 2 discourse.
With respect to the first article, every vowel is founded by a single expiration of air from the wind pipe through the cavity of the mouth; and by varying this cavity, the different varels are four.dedi. 'The air in paling through civilies difiering in size, produceth varioits founds, fome high or fnarp, some low or flat. A small cavity occasions a high sound, a large cavity :: low found.
The tive veiels accordingly, pronu:'nced with the func extenA 3