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O Thou! by whose almighty nod the scale
Send forth the saving virtues round the land
On gentle deeds, and shedding tears through smiles;
Courage composed and keen; sound Temperance,
Still labours glorious with some great design.
THE ANTITHESIS OR EMPHATIC FORCE.
There is not in the whole science of Elocution a more pervading principle than that of Emphasis. Its importance is universal, since its application modifies all the rules of Delivery. Although it is upon the system of inflection that the grace and significance of vocal modulation depend, and by it that nature instructs us to express our feelings; yet, as it is by the law of emphasis that the sense of a passage is mainly elicited, and the inflections themselves to a certain degree determined, it must be evident that in the judicious management of this principle the success of delivery greatly
Emphasis is that principle which fixes the word on which
the sense, and, consequently, the modulation, of any particular member are concentrated.
Is all emphasis antithetic?
This question seems to involve a controversy regarding the use and meaning of certain terms rather than the nature of things; and perhaps it may tend to the clearer distinction of the accented and emphatic forces to assume, at once, that all emphasis is antithetical. It has been common with rhetoricians as well as elocutionists to distinguish the elements of speech into unaccented, accented, and emphatic words including in the first class, all the more subordinate words of a sentence, which are chiefly used as connecting particles; in the second, those words of greater import, such as the noun and verb, which are the signs of objects and affirmations; and in the third, all those highly expressive terms upon which the sense of a passage chiefly turns. The elocutionist delivers the words of the first class in that tripping manner which affords him time for pronouncing more leisurely those of the second; and his principal inflections are reserved for words of the third class, which, from their superior importance as embodying the concentrated sense, have received the name emphatic. Now, it seems perfectly obvious that every word occupying this high position will be found to involve antithesis either expressed or understood.
The words of the first class, the unaccented, receive no inflection but when in opposition. Antithesis has the power of rendering even these emphatic by conferring upon them a significance beyond their usual import. Thus-"Let us be wise up to what is written, not above what is written." "We are not jústified in àrguing against the truth, but fòr the truth." In these quotations, the particles up, above, against, for, become emphatic, and receive modulation from the antithesis they involve, whereas they are naturally unaccented words and exclude modulation.
The accented words of a sentence admit of inflection inde
pendent of antithesis, as there are many passages of such an ordinary character, as not to convey any very emphatic meaning. These will be found to involve no opposition, being merely of an affirmative character. Thus-" Màn is the wórkmanship of a great and bountiful Creàtor-thát Creator has made him for hígh and nóble pùrposes-he is intended for two distinct states of being." This, it will be perceived, is merely accented, and claims only a weak and even unimportant modulation, whereas the following is antithetical and determines the modulation on certain terms, the superior importance of which cannot be disputed. "His first life is tránsient, the sécond permanent; the first corpóreal, the sécond spiritual; the fòrmer confined to tíme, the latter embracing eternity."
What, then, it may be asked, are those words that seem to admit modulation from their own individual importance, not relatively but positively, as the words Creator, ends, being, in the former members? Are they not emphatic? They may be called by any name, but are not emphatic in the precise sense of the term. They are the most important words of their own sentence, but are not of equal import with the emphatic words of other sentences. They are merely accented words, and require less skill in their management, and incur less danger of being overlooked, than the emphatic. The superior importance of the emphatic force over the accented arises from this circumstance, that its right application depends upon a mental process of the reader. It is by a critical examination of the sense of the passage, that he arrives at the emphatic force; and it would certainly much facilitate the inquiry were he to abide by the general principle that antithetic words alone are emphatic; that words placed in contrast or comparison are alone entitled to that distinction; and that the sense of such terms cannot be traced farther than the doctrine of antithesis applies. It must be obvious
to the merest tyro, that words having a relative opposition to one another have a force and appositeness altogether superior to that of merely accented words. The reader feels their importance wherever they occur; feels that they claim a consideration, peculiarly their own, from the amount of significance they involve; that they cannot be tripped over cursorily without doing violence to the sense.
One most important consideration connected with the doctrine of emphasis is, that the emphatic force has no inflection of its own, but is modulated on the principle of general rules. It is absurd to contend that the emphatic force exercises any control over the system of modulation, which must ever depend on the sense of the member. The emphatic word, no doubt, restricts that sense; were the emphatic word to change its position in the sentence, the idea and its modulation would necessarily change with it; still the character of the modulation, as being rising or falling, depends not upon that word alone, but is determined by the pervading sense, as being negative, affirmative, concessive, &c. The import of the sentence determines the nature of the inflection—the emphatic word, like the accented, merely appropriates to itself the inflection which that import assigns to it, in accordance with the rule to which it belongs.
Whence arises this controlling power in the emphatic force for which certain elocutionists contend? It has been alleged that the emphatic word dictates the rising or falling modulation, according to the extent of its relative signification. Thus, we find the emphatic force distinguished into two kinds; by some, into the emphasis of force and the emphasis of sense-by others, into the positive or weak emphasis and the relative or strong emphasis; both marking the same distinction, and originating, we apprehend, in the same misapprehension. The accented and emphatic forces seem a much simpler and more correct phraseology. The rule of emphasis, according to the prevailing system, is, that "when
the emphatic force excludes the antithesis, or leaves it doubtful, it requires the rising inflection; when otherwise, the falling;”—or, in other words, "when the emphatic word does not affirm the same thing of its antithesis, or leaves it doubtful, it requires the weak emphasis and rising inflection; but when it does affirm the same thing of its antithesis, it requires the strong emphasis and falling inflection," thus controlling the modulation by the particular import of the emphatic word, and not by the general sense. For example-“ Hé woùld not húrt a flỳ;"—this, say the advocates for the rule of emphasis, takes the strong emphasis and falling inflection, because it is intended to convey the idea that the person alluded to would hurt nothing; would injure no animal; and consequently including the antithesis. Again-" Hè would not hùrt a flý;”—this, say they, takes the weak emphasis and rising inflection, because the sense intended to be conveyed is, not that the individual would injure no sensitive being, but that, at least, he would despise to hurt so helpless and insignificant a creature as a fly,—thus excluding the antithetical word. Now, in opposition to this, it seems perfectly plain that there is no dependence here of the inflection upon the emphatic word, separately considered, but altogether upon the general sense; wherefore there is no occasion for recourse to any abstract rule of emphasis, but to the rules for modulation in general. Thus—“ Hé woùld not húrt a fly"—with the falling inflection certainly; not, however, because of any particular kind or degree of emphasis, or because the emphatic word fly includes the antithesis, but because the entire clause forms an example of Principle First, "Affirmative members take the falling inflection." Again" He would not hùrt a flý"-with the rising inflection, not because it is any example of the weak emphasis, the emphatic word excluding the antithesis, but because it is an equally obvious example of Principle Second, "Negative members take the rising inflection;"—and so with all