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“ I had as lief not be, as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.” Now in all these cases, it is very evident that the verb“ be” can never follow the auxiliary “had.” We cannot say, “I had be;" - but we may say,
56 I would be.” It is probable then, that the authors originally wrote the abbreviated form “I'd," for "I would," and that either carelessness or ignorance in transcribers, substituted in all these phrases, “ I had, for “ I would." I deem these little things of sufficient importance to be noticed on this occasion, because there are probably present, some who, like myself
, have found difficulty in reconciling poeticisms with grammatical rule.
Without exhausting the subject I feel that I have made a heavy draft on the patience of my hearers, and the hour admonishes me that I must prepare to draw my remarks to a close. I cannot refrain, however, from exhorting the practical teacher to seize every opportunity that may be afforded, of communicating a lesson in Grammar by the correction of every error in the common colloquial expressions of his pupils. Not a day nor a half day passes in the school-room, without affording abundant opportunity for such lessons or corrections, and the teacher may rest assured that these " unwritten " lessons are most forcible, and most permanently retained.
The reading books which are used in the school-room, afford many opportunities for the display of critical skill in the application of grammatical rule. The best selections consisting of extracts from the most distinguished writers in the language, afford many opportunities, of which the skilful teacher may, with great advantage, avail himself in applying and fixing the principles of correct phraseology. And I have been taught by the experience of many years, that what is acquired in this way, is more interesting to the pupil, more conducive to his improvement, and becomes more permanent in his memory than any thing which is learnt in any other way.
Before drawing to a close, I must be permitted to allude to a principle which is more frequently violated than any other with which I am acquainted; and if no more light had been thrown upon it than Mr. Murray's Abridgment has shed, it would probably continue to afford the most copious fountain of error that exists in connection with the spoken or written language. I allude to the 13th Rule of Murray's Syntax, which is in the following words : "In the use of words and phrases which
in point of time relate to each other, a due regard to that relation should be observed.” The explanation which Mr. Murray has given of this rule, and its application, in his original work is clear and satisfactory ; but the rule itself, as it stands in the abridgments in common use, is vague and unsatisfactory ; and I have known some teachers, enjoying considerable reputation in their profession, who altogether omit to notice the rule, or allow their pupils to pay attention to it. As the errors arising both from written and spoken language from neglect of this rule are exceedingly numerous, I deem it not impertinent nor indelicate, on this occasion to quote froin the Second Part of the Progressive Exercises in English Grammar, the substitute for Mr. Murray's 13th Rule, just quoted, together with the explanation which is given to illustrate the errors arising from a neglect of attention to this rule. It is contained in the paragraph marked No. 108, page 48th, and is in these words :
“In the use of verbs and words which express time, care must be taken that the proper tense be used to express the time which is meant. Thus, if I say, I intended to write yesterday, it means that the action of writing was to be performed at that time, namely, yesterday. But if I say, I intended to have written yesterday, it means that the action of writing was to be performed at some time previous to yesterday. Again, in the sentence,“ The Lord hath given, and the Lord has taken away;" as the verbs are both in the same tense, the words imply that the Lord gave and took away at the same time, which is impossible. It is manifest that the action of giving was first performed, and then the action of taking away; and the sentence should be, “ The Lord gave, (that is, at some former time,) and the Lord hath taken away (that is, now.)” Again, in the sentence, “The Bishop declared that virtue was always advantageous; ” it is to be remarked that each of the verbs in the past tense, carries the time. back one degree earlier ; and by supplying such words as will specify the exact time, it will be seen that the sentence is incorrect: Thus; “The Bishop declared (last week) that virtue was always (before that time) advantageous ;" (but that at that time, nanely, last week, it had ceased to be so.)” This explanation will show why the sentence is incorrect, and that it should be, “ The Bishop declared that virtue is always advantageous.
I have already stated that the neglect of this regard to the
time, expressed by the various and respective words employed in a sentence is a very
fruitful source of error. Even the translators of the Bible, which is considered the most correct volume of its size in regard to grammatical accuracy, in the whole circle of English literature; yet, even these eminent scholars, in translating the narrative of the miracle performed on the son of the widow of Nain, have at times been betrayed into error.
Witness the following sentence: “And he that was dead sat up and began to speak.” And in another place : “ The multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the inaimed to be whole, the lame walk, and the blind to
The want of a pluperfect participle in our language leads to a circumlocution in the correct expression of the idea which will avoid this inconsistency in time. It should be,“ He that had been dead," &c.
How often we see in the advertisements of the day, such expressions as the following: “Mr. Smith would respectfully inform his friends and the public that he has just opened a choice collection of goods,” &c. The question naturally arises, On what conditions would he, - or if he would, why does he not? The advertisement should be," Mr. S. respectfully informs," &c.; for that is the express object of his advertisement.
The last principle of synthesis to which I shall refer, is the key-stone of the whole arch. “ All the parts of a sentence should be so constructed that there shall appear to be no want of agreement among them.” And here the greatest attention is required of the teacher, to point out to the inexperienced pupil
, the inconsistencies in the arrangement, the diversity of structure, and all the imperfections in the sentence. No definite rule or rules can be given which will enable the learner to make the parts of a sentence agree in themselves and with one another. They should be diligently compared, and a similarity of construction be carefully maintained — verbs in different modes, nouns and pronouns in different cases, &c. must not be connected by the same conjunction - ellipses must not occur, when it would cause any want of harmony in the construction ; and above all things, the pupil must be taught that no sentence can be considered grammatically correct, which cannot be analyzed or parsed by the authorized rules of syntax.
I have now finished the remarks which I proposed to offer on the Analysis and Synthesis of the English language; and the mode which I recommend in teaching them. The subject of
Prosody, although it forms a distinct branch of the subject of Grammar, the time to which I am restricted will not allow me to approach. I regret this the more, because I have some peculiar views on this subject which I wish to have corrected or approved by the voice of experienced teachers.
I have only to add, that the subject of Grammar is too extensive to be treated of in any single lecture, how patient soever the hearers may be. It is intimately connected with many of the higher departments of science, and especially with those of Logic, Rhetoric, and Elocution. It takes the infant from the cradle, and conducts him through long and winding paths, until he reaches the pinnacle of the Hill of Science. The rnother who is bending with eagerness over the cradle of her child, or listening with fond anxiety to the first efforts of feeble and imperfect accent, scarcely dreams that while she is teaching her young charge to lisp the fond names of father and mother, she is toiling in the arduous task of grammatical instruction. In the department of Orthography, it is the study of the simple abecederian, who is just learning the names of those arbitrary signs which represent the elementary sounds of the language, or the art of combining those signs in a proper manner to express the words which are the constituent parts of discourse. . In the departments of Etymology and Syntax, it affords an opportunity for the display and cultivation of the powers of the mind; analyzes the mode of communicating ideas ; and assists in expressing those ideas with propriety. In the department of Prosody, it teaches the correct pronunciation of words, the tones and modulations of the voice, by which the nicest shades of meaning are discriminated ; and gives to the poet and the orator the means of pleasing, instructing and persuading.
Of Grammar then, to borrow the style and almost the language of the venerable and judicious Hooker in his eulogy on Law : Or Grammar, then, no less can be said than that she is the mother of the sciences, the great parent of human written and unwritten lore. Without her, laws lose their precision, and knowledge its certainty, - the discoveries of one age would be buried in the ignorance and fanaticism of another; and human efforts would be weak and unavailing, against the powerful attacks of blind, and deaf, and “dumb forgetfulness." “ All things must do her reverence, the least as feeling her influence, - the greatest, as not exempt from her power.” Her
thraldom is the universal chain which preserves the harmony in the great circle of the sciences; and if her authority be overthrown; if the standard of rebellion be raised against her, the exact sciences would lose their character, the arts of eloquence and persuasion their force, and rhetoric and poetry would be shorn of their grace and beauty ; - the wisdom of antiquity would have been prostrated with its architecture, – the light which from time to time, and from generation to generation has enlightened the dark corners of the earth, could never be concentrated into a central blaze; and science, that now melts the most obdurate masses with the breath of her mouth; that “ finds a way where all is trackless ;" that penetrates the secrets and recesses of nature; that raises her glassy eyes to the skies, and explores the fields of infinite space until she almost sees the invisible throne of Deity, would have lived but to mourn her children as they were devoured by the insatiable cravings of time, or like the fabled Niobe, be converted into marble as she beholds the loved ones pierced by the unrelenting arrows of the destroyer.