網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

of a man who has thoroughly imbibed the system of one or other of our Christian rabbis. So various and so opposite are the characters which, in those performances, our Lord is made to exhibit, and the dialects which he is made to speak. How different is his own character and dialect from them all! If we are susceptible of the impartiality requisite to constitute us proper judges in these matters, we shall find in him nothing that can be thought to favour the subtle disquisitions of a sect. His language is not, like that of all dogmatists, the language of a bastard philosophy, which, under the pretence of methodizing religion, hath corrupted it, and, in less or more, tinged all the parties into which Christendom is divided. His language is not so much the language of the head as of the heart. His object is not science, but wisdom; accordingly, his discourses abound more in sentiments than in opinions.*

But I have digressed from my subject, and shall therefore return to it by observing, that another species of verbosity, and the only one which remains to be taken notice of, is, a prolixity in narration arising from the mention of unnecessary circumstances. Circumstances may be denominated unnecessary, either because not of such importance as that the scope of the relation is affected by their being known, or because implied in the other circumstances related. An error of the former kind belongs properly to the thought, of the latter to the lauguage. For the first, when it is habitual, a man is commonly styled loquacious; for the second, verbose. Such a sentence as the following would be an instance of the second ; for with the first I ain not here concerned. “On receiving this information, he arose, went out, saddled his horse, mounted him, and rode to town." All is implied in saying, “On receiving this information, he rode to town." This manner, however, in a certain degree, is so strongly characteristic of the uncultivated, but unaffected, style of remote ages, that in books

** I would not be understood to signify by this censure, that paraphrase can never be a useful mode of explication, though I own, that, in my opinion, the cases wherein it may be reckoned not improper, nor altogether unuseful, are not nuinerous. As the only valuable aim of this species of commentary is to give greater perspicuity to an original work, obscurity is the only reasonable plea for employing it. When the style is very concise or figurative, or when there is an allusion to customs or incidents now or here not generally known, to add as much as is necessary for supplying an ellipsis, explaining an unusual figure, or suggesting an unknown fact, or mode alluded to, may serve to render a performance more intelligible, without taking much from its energy. But if the use and occasions of paraphrase are only such as have been now represented, it is evident that there are but a few books of scripture, and but certain portions of those few that require to be treated in this manner. The notions which the generality of paraphrasts (I say not all) entertain on this subject are certainly very different. If we may judge from their productions, we should naturally conclude that they have considered such a size of subject matter (if I may be indulged this once in the expression,) as affording a proper foundation for a composition of such a magnitude; and have, therefore, laid it down as a maxim, from which, in their practice, they do not often depart, that the most commodious way of giving to their work the extent proposed, is that equal portions of the text (perspicuous or obscure, it matters not,) should be spun out to equal length. Thus regarding only quantity, they view their text, and parcel it, treating it in much the same manner as goldbeaters and wiredrawers treat the metals on which their art is employed.

of the highest antiquity, particularly the second code, it is not at all ungraceful. Of this kind are the following scriptural phrases : He lifted up his voice and wept. She conceived and bore a son. He opened his inouth and said. For my own part, I should not approve the delicacy of a translator, who, to modernize the style of the Bible, should repudiate every such redundant circumstance. It is true, that in strictness they are not necessary to the narration, but they are of some importance to the composition, as bearing the venerable signature of ancient simplicity. And in a faithful translation, there ought to be not only a just transmission of the writers sense, but, as far as is consistent with perspicuity and the idiom of the tongue into which the version is made, the character of the style ought to be preserved.

So much for the vivacity produced by conciseness, and those blemishes in style which stand in opposition to it, tautology, pleonasm, and verbosity.

CHAPTERIJI.

OF VIVACITY, AS DEPENDING ON THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE

WORDS.

SECTION I.

OF THE NATURE OF ARRANGEMENT, AND THE PRINCIPAL DIVISION

OF SENTENCES.

Having already shown how far vivacity depends either on the words themselves, or on their number, I come now, lastly, to consider how it is affected by their arrangement.

This, it must be owned, hath a very considerable influence in all languages, and yet there is not any thing which it is more difficult to regulate by general laws. The placing of the words in a sentence resembles, in some degree, the disposition of the figures in a historypiece. As the principal figure ought to have that situation in the picture which will, at the first glance, fix the eye of the spectator, so the emphatical word ought to have that place in the sentence which will give it the greatest advantage for fixing the attention of the hearer. But in painting there can rarely arise a doubt concerning either the principal figure, or the principal place; whereas here it is otherwise. In many sentences it may be a question, both what is the word on which the emphasis ought to rest, and what is the situation which (to use the language of painters) will give it the highest relief. In most cases, both of simple narration and of reasoning, it is not of great consequence to determine either point; in many cases it is impossible. Besides, in English, and other modern languages, the speaker doth not enjoy that boundless latitude, which an orator of Athens or of Rome enjoyed, when haranguing in the language of his country. With us, who admit very few inflections, the construction, and consequently the sense, depends almost entirely on the order. With the Greeks and the Romans, who abound in inflections, the sense often remains unalterable, in whatever order you arrange the words.

But, notwithstanding the disadvantage which, in this respect, we Britons labour under, our language even here allows as much liberty as will, if we know how to use it, be of great service for invigorating the expression. It is true, indeed, that when neither the imagination nor the passions of the hearer are addressed, it is hazardous in the speaker to depart from the practice which generally obtains in the arrangement of the words; and that even though the sense should not be in the least affected by the transposition. The temperament of our language is phlegmatic, like that of our climate. When, therefore, neither the liveliness of representation, nor the warmth of passion, serve, as it were, to cover the trespass, it is not safe to leave

the beaten track. Whatever is supposed to be written or spoken in a cool and temperate mood, must rigidly adhere to the established order, which with us, as I observed, allows but little freedom. What is said will otherwise inevitably be exposed to the censure of quaintness and affectation, than which, perhaps, no censure can do greater prejudice to an orator. But as it is indubitable, that in many cases both composition and arrangement may, without incurring this reproach, be rendered greatly subservient to vivacity, I shall make a few observations on these, which I purpose to illustrate with proper examples.

Composition and arrangement in sentences, though nearly connected, and, therefore, properly in this place considered together, are not entirely the same. Composition includes arrangement and something more. When two sentences differ only in arrangement, the sense, the words, and the construction, are the same; when they differ also in other articles of composition, there must be some difference in the words themselves, or, at least, in the manner of construing them. But I shall have occasion to illustrate this distinction in the examples to be afterwards produced.

Sentences are either simple or complex; simple, consisting of one member only ; as this, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth ;'* complex, consisting of two or more members linked together by conjunction; as this, “ Doubtless thou art our father, 1 though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not.":f In the composition of the former, we have only to consider the distribution of the words ; in that of the latter, regard must also be had to the arrangement of the members. The members too are sometimes complex, and admit a subdivision into clauses, as in the following example, " The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib ; but Israel doth not know, I my people doth not consider."I This decompound sentence hath two members, each of which is subdivided into two clauses. When a member of a complex sentence is simple, having but one verb, it is also called a clause. Of such a sentence as this, “I have called, | but ye refused ;'$ we should say indifferently, that it consists of two members, or of two clauses. The members or the clauses are not always perfectly separate, the one succeeding the other ; one of them is sometimes very aptly enclosed by the other, as in the subsequent instance: “When Christ (who is our life,) shall appear ; - then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” This sentence consists of two members, the former of which is divided into two clauses; one of these clanses, “ who is our life," being as it were embosomed in the other, “when Christ shall appear.”

So much for the primary distinction of sentences into simple and complex.

Gen. i. 1.

| Isaiah, Ixiii. 16. | Isaiah, i. 3.

§ Prov. i. 24. || The words member and clause in English are used as corresponding to the Greek kwlov and Kupua, and to the Latin membrum and incisum.

Col. iii. 4.

SECTION II.

SIMPLE SENTENCES.

With regard to simple sentences, it ought to be observed first, that there are degrees in simplicity. “God made man," is a very simple sentence. “On the sixth day God made man of the dust of the earth after his own image,” is still a simple sentence in the sense of rhetoricians and critics, as it hath but one verb, but less simple than the forrner, on account of the circumstances spécified. Now it is evident, that the simpler any sentence is, there is the less scope for va. riety in the arrangement, and the less indulgence to a violation of the established rule. Yet even in the simplest, whatever strongly impresses the fancy, or awakens passion, is sufficient to a certain degree to authorize the violation.

No law of the English tongue relating to the disposition of words in a sentence holds more generally than this, that the nominative has the first place, the verb the second, and the accusative, if it be an active verb that is employed, has the third ;* ifit be a substantive verb, the participle, or predicate of whatever denomination it be, occupies the third place. Yet this order, to the great advantage of the expression, is often inverted. Thus in the general uproar at Ephesus, on occasion of Paul's preaching among them against idolatry, we are informed, that the people exclaimed for some time without intermission, " Great is Diana of the Ephesians.”+ Alter the arrangement, restore the grammatic order, and say, “ Diana of the Ephesians is great ;" and you destroy at once the signature of impetuosity and ardour resulting, if you please to call it so, from the disarrangement of the words.

We are apt to consider the customary arrangement as the most consonant to nature, in consequence of which notion we brand every departure from it as a transgression from the natural order. This way of thinking ariseth from some very specious causes, but is far from being just. “Custom,” it hath been said, “ becomes a second na. ture.” Nay, we often find it strong enough to suppress the first. Accordingly, what is in this respect accounted natural in one language, is unnatural in another. In Latin, for example, the negative particle is commonly put before the verb, in English it is put after it ; in French one negative is put before, and another after. If in any of these languages you follow the practice of any other, the order of the words will appear unnatural. We in Britain think it most suitable to nature to place the adjective before the substantive; the French and most other Europeans think the contrary. We range

* Let it be observed, that in speaking of English Syntax, I use the terms nominative and accusative, merely to avoid tedious circumlocutions, sensible that in strict propriety our substantives have no such cases. By the nominative I mean always the efficient agent, or instrument operating, with which the verb agrees, in number and person ; by the accusative, the effect produced, the object aimed at, or the subject operated on.

+ Acts, xix. 28 and 34.

« 上一頁繼續 »