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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

ly go together, being to regulate the fancy and to restrain the passions ;—that the sole business of art in this subject, is to range the several tropes and figures into classes, to distinguish them by names, and to trace the principles in the mind which gave them birth.

The first, indeed, or rather the only people upon the earth, who have thought of classing under proper appellations, the numerous tropes and figures of elocution, common to all languages, were the Greeks. The Latins, and all modern nations, have, in this particular, only borrowed from them, adopting the very names they used. But, as to the tracing of those figures to the springs in human nature from which they flow, extremely little hath as yet been attempted. Nay, the names that have been given are but few, and by consequence very generical. Each class,

, the metaphor and the metonymy in particular, is capable of being divided into several tribes, to which no names have yet been assigned.

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It was affirmed that the tropes and figures of eloquence are found to be the same upon the main in all ages and nations. The words upon the main were added, because though the most and the principal of them are entirely the same, there are a few which presuppose a certain refinement of thought, not natural to a rude and illiterate people. Such in particular is that species of the metonymy, the concrete for the abstract, and possibly some others. We shall

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afterwards perhaps have occasion to remark, that the modern improvements in ridicule have given rise to some which cannot properly be ranged under any of the classes above mentioned ; to which, therefore, no name hath as yet been appropriated, and of which I am not sure whether antiquity can furnish us with an example.

SECT. III....Words considered as sounds.

When I entered on the consideration of vivacity as depending on the choice of words, I observed that the words may be either proper terms, or rhetorical tropes; and, whether the one or the other, they may be regarded not only as signs but as sounds, and consequently as capable in certain cases of bearing, in some degree, a natural resemblance or affinity to the things signified. The two first articles, proper terms and rhetorical tropes, I have discussed already, regarding only the sense and application of the words, whether used literally or figuratively. It remains now to consider them in regard to the sound, and the affinity to the subject of which the sound is susceptible. When, as Pope expresseth it, “ the sound is made an echo to “the sense *,there is added, in a certain degree, to the association arising from custom, the influence of resemblance between the signs and the things sig

* Essay on Criticism.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.


nified; and this doubtless tends to strengthen the impression made by the discourse. This subject, I acknowledge, hath been very much canvassed by cri

I shall therefore be the briefer in my remarks, confining myself chiefly to the two following points. First, I shall inquire what kind of things language is capable of imitating by its sound, and in what degree it is capable ; secondly, what rank ought to be assigned to this species of excellence, and in what cases it ought to be attempted.

PART I...What are articulate sounds capable of imitating,

and in what degree?

First, I shall inquire what kinds of things language is capable of imitating by its sound, and in what degree it is capable.

AND here it is natural to think, that the imitative power of language must be greatest, when the subject itself is things audible. One sound may surely have a greater resemblance to another sound, than it can have to any thing of a different nature. In the description therefore of the terrible thunder, whirlwind and tempest, or of the cooling zephyr and the gentle gale, or of any other thing that is sonorous, the imitation that may be made by the sound of the description will certainly be more perfect, than can well be expected in what concerns things purely intelligible,

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or visible, or tangible. Yet even here the resemblance, if we consider it abstractly, is very faint. .

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The human voice is doubtless capable of imitating, to a considerable degree of exactness, almost any sound whatever. But our present inquiry is solely about what may be imitated by articulate sounds, for articulation greatly confines the natural powers of the voice; neither do we inquire what an extraordinary pronunciation may effectuate, but what power in this respect the letters of the alphabet have, when combined into syllables, and these into words, and these again into sentences, uttered audibly indeed and distinctly, but without any uncommon effort. Nay, the orator, in this species of imitation, is still more limited. He is not at liberty to select whatever articulate sounds he can find to be fittest for imitating those concerning which he is discoursing. That he may be understood, he is under a necessity of confining himself to such sounds as are rendered by use the signs of the things he would suggest by them. If there be a variety of these signs, which commonly cannot be great, he hath some scope for selection, but not otherwise. Yet so remote is the resemblance here at best, that in no language, ancient or modern, are the meanings of any words, except perhaps those expressing the cries of some animals, discoverable, on the bare hearing, to one who doth not understand the language.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

INDEED, when the subject is articulate sound, the speaker or the writer may do more than produce a resemblance, he may even render the expression an example of that which he affirms. Of this kind precisely are the three last lines of the following quotation from Pope :

These equal syllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear th- open vowels tire,
While expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft croep in one dull line *.

But this manner, which, it must be owned, hath a very good effect in enlivening the expression, is : ot imitation, though it hath sometimes been mistaken for it, or rather confounded with it.

As to sounds inarticulate, a proper imitation of them hath been attempted in the same piece, in the subse; quent lines, and with tolerable success, at least in the concluding couplet :

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar t.

An attempt of the same kind of conformity of the sound to the sense, is perhaps but too discernible in the following quotation from the same author :

* Essay on Criticism.

+ Ibid.

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