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Addison may palliate such negligence, yet it is gener. ally true, that language divested of its prolixity, is more strong and beautiful.
The second rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, pay particular attention to the use of copulatives, relatives, and particles, employed for transition and connexion. Some observations on this subject, which appear useful, shall be mentioned.
What is termed spliting of particles, or separating a preposition from the noun which it governs, is ever to be avoided. For example, " Though virtue borrows no assistance from, yet it may often be accompanied by, the advantages of fortune.” In such instances we suffer pain from the violent separation of two things, which by nature are closely united.
The strength of a sentence is much injured by an unnecessary multiplication of relative and demonstrative particles. If a writer say, “ There is nothing which disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language," he expresses himself less forcibly than if he had said, “ Nothing disgusts me sooner than the empty pomp of language. The former mode of expression in the introduction of a subject, or in laying down a proposition to which particular attention is demanded, is very proper ; but in ordinary discourse the latter is far
With regard to the relative we shall only observe, that in conversation and epistolary writing it may be omitted, but in compositions of a serious or dignified kind it should constantly be inserted.
On the copulative particle and, which occurs so often, several observations are to be made. It is evident, that an unnecessary repetition of it enfeebles style. By omitting it we often make a closer connexion, a quicker succession of objects, than when it is inserted between them. “ Veni, vidi, vici,” expresses with more spirit the rapidity of conquest, than if connecting particles had been used. When, however, we wish to prevent a quick transition from one object to another, and when enumerating objects which we wish to appear as distinct from each other as possible ; copulatives may be multiplied with peculiar advantage. Thus Lord Bolingbroke says with propriety, “Such a man might fall a victim to power ; but truth, and reason, and liberty would fall with him.”
The third rule for promoting the strength of a sentence is, dispose of the principal word or words in that part of the sentence, where they will make the most striking impression. Perspicuity ought first to be studied; and the nature of our language allows no great liberty of collocation. In general the important words are placed at the beginning of a sentence. Thus Mr. Addison : “ The pleasures of imagination, taken in their full extent, are not so gross as those of sense ; nor so refined as those of the understanding." This order seems to be the most plain and natural. Sometimes, however, when we propose giving weight to a sentence, it is useful to suspend the meaning a little and then to bring it out fully at the close. « Thus," says Pope, "on whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us, is his wonderful invention."
The fourth rule for promoting the strength of sen. tences is, make the members of them go on rising in their importance one above another. This kind of arrangement is called a climax, and is ever regarded as a beauty in composition. Why it pleases is sufficiently evident. In all things we love to advance to what is more and more beautiful rather than to follow a retrograde order. Having viewed some considerable object, we cannot without pain descend to an inferior circumstance. « Cavendum est,” says Quințillian, “ne decreas scat oratio, et fortior subjungatur aliquid infirmius." A weaker assertion should never follow a stronger one ; and when a sentence consists of two members, the longest should in general be the concluding one. Periods, thus divided, are pronounced more easily ; and the shortest member being placed first, we carry it more readily in our memory, as we proceed to the second, and see the connexion of the two more clearly. Thus
“ When our passions have forsaken us, we flatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken
them," is both more graceful and more perspicuous, than to begin with the longest part of the proposition ; do we Hatter ourselves with the belief that we have forsaken our passions, when they have forsaken us.”
The fifth rule for constructing sentences with strength is, avoid concluding them with an adverb, a preposition, or an insignificant word. By such conclusions style is always weakened and degraded. Sometimes indeed, where the stress and significancy rest chiefly upon words of this kind they ought to have the principal place allotted them. No fault, for example, can be found with this sentence of Bolingbroke ; " In their prosperity my friends shall never hear of me ; in their adversity always;" where never and altyays, being emphaticàl words, are so placed as to make a strong impression. But when these inferior parts of speech are introduced, as circumstances or as qualifications of more important words, they should always be disposed of in the least conspicuous parts of the period.
We should always avoid concluding a sentence or member with any of those particles which distinguish the cases of nouns; as , 10, from, with, by. Thus it is much better to say, “ Avarice is a crime, of which wise men are often guilty,” than to say, “ Avarice is a crime, which wise men are often guilty of." This is a phrascology which all correct writers shun.
A complex verb, compounded of a simple verb and a subsequent preposition, is also an ungraceful conclusion of a period ; as bring about, clear up, give over, and many others of the same kind ; instead of which, if a simple verb be employed, it will terminate the sentence with more strength. Even the pronoun it, especially when joined with some of the prepositions, as with it, in it, to it, cannot without violation of grace be the conclusion of a sentence. Any phrase which expresses a circumstance only, cannot conclude a sentence without great inelegance. Circumstances indeed are like unshapely stones in a building, which try the skill of an artist where to place them with the least offence. We should not crowd too many of them together ; but rather intersperse them in different parts of the sen
tence, joined with the principal words on which they depend. Thus, for instance, when Dean Swift says, “ What I had the honour of mentioning to your lordship some time ago in conversation, was not a new thought;" these two circumstances, some time ago and in conversation, which are joined, would have been better separated thus S; What I had the honour some time ago of mentioning to your lordship in conversa. tion."
The sixth and last rule concerning the strength of a sentence is this, in the members of it, where two things are compared or constructed ; where either resemb. lance or opposition is to be expressed ; some resembe lance in the language and construction ought to be observed. The following passage from Pope's preface to his Homer beautifully exemplifies this rule. "Homer was the greater genius ; Virgil the better artist ; in one we admire the man ; in the other the work. Homer hurries us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us with an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion ; Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a sudden overflow ; Virgil, Jike a river in its banks, with a constant stream. When we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering lightnings, and firing the heavens. Virgil like the same power in his benevolence, counselling with the gods, laying plans for empires, and ordering his whole creation." Periods, thus constructed, when introduced with propriety, and not too frequently repeated, have a sensible beauty. But if such a construcrion be aimed at in every sentence, it betrays into a disagreeable uniformity, and produces a regular jingle in the period, which tires the ear, and plainly discovers affectation,
STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES....AARMONY,
HAVING considered sentences with regard to their meaning, under the heads of perspicuity, unity and strength, we shall now consider them with respect to their sound.
In the harmony of periods, two things are to be considered. First, agreeable sound or modulation in general without any particular expression. Next, the sound so ordered as to become expressive of the sense. The first is the more common; the second the superior beauty.
The beauty of musical construction depends upon the choice and arrangements of words. Those words are most pleasing to the ear, which are composed of smooth and liquid sounds, in which there is a proper intermixture of vowels and consonants without too many harsh consonants, or too many open vowels in succession. Long words are generally more pleasing to the ear than monosyllables ; and those are the most musical, which are not wholly composed of long and short syllables, but an intermixture of them ; such as delight, amuse, velocity, celerity, beautiful, impetuosity. If the words, however, which compose a sentence, be ever so well chosen and harmonious; yet, if they be unskilfully arranged, its music is entirely lost. instance of a musical sentence, we may take the following from Milton : “ We shall conduct you to a hill, side, laborious at the first ascent; but else, so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospects and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.". Every thing in this sentence conspires to render it harmonious. The words are well chosen ; laborious, smooth, green, goodly, melodious, charming ; and so happily arranged, that no alteration can be made without injuring the melody.
There are two things on which the music of a sentence principally depends; these are, the proper distribution of the several men.bers of it, and the close ør cadence of the whole.