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Or if the order of the world below,
Will not the gap of one whole day allow,
CONQUEST OF GRENADA.-ACT III.
DRYDEN, ALL FOR LOVE.-ACT I. Not to talk of the impiety of this sentiment, it is ludicrous instead of being lofty.
The famous epitaph on Raphael is no less absurd than any of the foregoing passages. It is thus imitated by Pope, in his epitaph on Sir Godfrey Kneller:
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Such is the force of imitation; for Pope of himself would never have been guilty of a thought so extravagant.
So much upon sentiments: the language proper for expressing them, comes next in order.
What is a sentiment?
What is necessary to a just representation of any passion?
What character does Lord Kames give of Shakspeare? What is the example given of violent and perturbed passion?-of sentiments arising from remorse and despair?
What is the author's criticism on the tragedy of Cinna?-on Sertorius?
How do passions operate?
What does climax best express?
To what are the first feelings of resentment directed?
How does Corneille violate the rule which results from this?
To what are the first feelings of grief directed?
Where does Quintus Curtius disregard this?
How is it disregarded in Jane Shore?
Give examples of vibrating passions.
What is the intention of Nature with respect to passions?
Are they generally concealed when violent?
What rule results hence?
How does one instigate the commission of a great crime?
Give an example.
What is the finest picture of this kind?
Give examples of overstrained sentiments-of sentiments below the tone of passion.
Give examples of sentiments that agree not with the tone of the passion.
What fault is found with the quotation from Pope?-from Paradise Lost?
Give examples of sentiments too artificial for a serious passion.
What is Corneille's observation?-is it just?
What is the second class of sentiments?
Give some examples of the descriptive manner of painting passions.
What is the criticism on the passage from Venice Preserved?— on Lady Macbeth's speech?
What are the other examples of this fault?
Language of Passion.
AMONG the particulars that compose the social part of our nature, a propensity to communicate our opinions, our emotions, and every thing that affects us, is remarkable. Bad fortune and injustice affect us greatly; and of these we are so prone to complain, that if we have no friend nor acquaintance to take part in our sufferings, we sometimes utter our complaints aloud, even where there are none to listen. This propensity operates not in every state of mind. A man immoderately grieved, afflicts himself, rejecting all consolation: immoderate grief is mute: complaining is struggling for consolation :
It is the wretch's comfort still to have
Some small reserve of near and inward woe,
MOURNING BRIDE.-ACT I. Sc. 1.
When grief subsides, it then finds a tongue: we complain, because complaining disburdens the mind of its distress.
Surprise and terror are silent passions: they agitate the mind so violently as for a time to suspend the exercise of its faculties, and among others the faculty of speech.
Love and revenge, when immoderate, are not more loquacious than immoderate grief. When moderate, they set the tongue free, and moderate grief becomes loquacious: moderate love, when unsuccessful, complains; when successful, it is full of joy, expressed by words and gestures.
No passion has any long uninterrupted existence; thence language suggested by passion is unequal, interrupted: and during an uninterrupted fit of passion, we only express in words the more capital sentiments. In familiar conversation, one who vents every single thought, is justly branded with the character of loquacity; because sensible people express no thoughts but what make some figure: in the same manner, we are only disposed to express the strongest pulses of passion, especially when it returns with impetuosity after interruption.
The sentiments ought to be tuned to the passion, and the language to both. Elevated sentiments require elevated language: tender sentiments, words that are soft and flowing; when the mind is depressed, the sentiments are expressed in words that are humble, not low. Words being connected with the ideas they represent, the greatest harmony is required between them to express an humble sentiment in high-sounding words, is disagreeable by a discordant mixture of
feelings; and the discord is not less when elevated sentiments are dressed in low words.
This however excludes not figurative expression, which communicates to the sentiment an agreeable elevation. We are sensible of an effect directly opposite, where figurative expression is indulged beyond a just measure: the opposition between the expression and the sentiment, makes the discord appear greater than it is in reality. At the same time, figures are not equally the language of every passion: pleasant emotions elevate the mind, and vent themselves in figurative expressions; but humbling and dispiriting passions speak plain.
Figurative expressions, the work of an enlivened imagination, cannot be the language of anguish or distress.
To preserve the aforesaid resemblance between words and their meaning, the sentiments of active passions ought to be dressed in words where syllables prevail that are pronounced short or fast: for these make an impression of hurry and precipitation. Emotions, on the other hand, that rest upon their objects, are best expressed by words where syllables prevail that are pronounced long or slow. A person affected with melancholy, has a languid train of perceptions: the expression best suited to that state of mind, is, where words, not only of long, but of many syllables, abound in the composition; and, for that reason, nothing can be finer than the following passage:
In those deep solitudes, and awful cells,
POPE. ELOISA TO ABELARD.
To preserve the same resemblance, another circumstance is requisite, that the language, like the emotion, be rough or smooth, broken or uniform. Calm and sweet emotions are best expressed by words that glide softly; surprise, fear, and other turbulent passions, require an expression both rough and broken. In the
hurry of passion, one generally expresses that thing first which is most at heart.
Passion has the effect of redoubling words, to make them express the strong conception of the mind. This is finely imitated in the following examples:
Thou sun, said I, fair light!
Both have sinn'd! but thou
PARADISE LOST.-BOOK X. 930.
Shakspeare, superior to all other writers in delineating passion, excels most in moulding every passion to peculiarity of character, and in expressing properly every different sentiment; he disgusts not his reader with declamation and unmeaning words; his sentiments are adjusted to the character and circumstances of the speaker; and the propriety is no less perfect between his sentiments and his diction. If upon any occasion he fall below himself, it is in those scenes where passion enters not: by endeavoring to raise his dialogue above the style of ordinary conversation, he sometimes deviates into intricate thought and obscure expression; sometimes, to throw his language out of the familiar, he employs rhyme. But he had no pattern, in his own or in any living language, of dialogue fitted for the theatre. At the same time, the stream clears in its progress, and in his. latter plays he has attained the purity and perfection of dialogue. One thing must be evident to the meanest capacity, that wherever pas sion is to be displayed, nature shows itself mighty in him, and is conspicuous by the most delicate propriety of sentiment and expression.