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Anticlimax; and is allowable only in ludicrous composition. Martinus Scriblerus, in his Treatise on the Bathos, or Art of Sinking in Poetry, has left us scarcely any thing to add under this head.
Considering,” says he, “how many promising geniuses of this age are wandering (as I may say) in the dark without a guide, I have undertaken this arduous but necssary task, to lead them as it were by the hand, and step by step, the gentle down-hill way to the Bathos;—the bottom, the end, the central point, the ne plus ultra of true modern poesy!" His examples are numerous, and applied to many of the Figures of Speech which we have already described as well as to that now under consideration. It
It may be observed, however, that Scriblerus dwells solely on their abuse.
On the Extent of the British Arms. “ Under the tropic is our language spoke,
And part of Flanders hath received our yoke."
On a Warrior.
Lieutenant-colonel to the Earl of Mar."
PERIPHRASIS, OR CIRCUMLOCUTION.-Eu
PHEMISM.-AMPLIFICATION. The Greek periphrasis and the Latin circumlo
cutio are, each, equivalent to the English roundabout expression:' which explanation is, itself, an example of the verbal figure; because denoting in three words what Periphrasis, or Circumlocution, does in one. The definitions of words as they appear in Dictionaries are Periphrases. Those Circumlocutions are necessary; and the same necessity often occurs in translating from foreign languages, when we can find no word in our own exactly equivalent to that which we have to translate.
Words or phrases that call up disagreeable ideas are, in polite language, softened by means of circumlocutions. In these changes, as well as in most others, custom is the guide. It is reckoned more decorous, for example, to the memory of the departed, to say that he perished on the scaffold' than that he was hanged. Such softening is called EUPHEMISM; a Greek word signifying a kind speech.
AMPLIFICATION is the expansion of a discourse by enumerating circumstances which are intended, by the Orator, to excite more strongly in his audience the feelings of approbation or of blame. It is dwelling upon the subject longer than is actually necessary for its enunciation; and is in so far a species of Circumlocution.
Periphrases of every kind require careful management; because, perhaps more than any other Figure of Speech, they are apt to run into bombast: For examples of this extreme we shall again quote Scriblerus.
"Periphrase is another great aid to prolixity, being a diffused circumlocutory manner of expressing a known idea, which should be so mysteriously couched, as to give the reader the pleasure of guessing what it is that the author can possibly mean, and a strange surprise when he finds it. The poet I last mentioned (Blackmore) is incomparable in this figure :
'A waving sea of heads was round me spread,
Here is a waving sea of heads, which, by a fresh stream of heads, grows to be a gazing deluge of heads. You come at last to find, it means a great crowd.”
“We may define Amplification to be making the most of a thought: it is the spinning wheel of the Bathos, which draws out and spreads it in the finest thread. There are Amplifiers who can extend half a dozen thin thoughts over a whole folio; but for which, the tale of many a vast romance, and the substance of many a fair volume, might be reduced into the size of a primer.
“ A passage in the civth. Psalm, 'He looks on the earth and it trembles. He touches the hills, and they smoke' is thus amplified by the same author.*
* The Hills forget they're fix'd, and in their fright Cast off their weight, and ease themselves for flight: The Woods, with terror wing'd, outfly the wind, And leave the heavy panting hills behind.'
“ You here see the hills not only trembling, but shaking off the woods from their backs, to run the faster: after this you are presented with a foot race of mountains and woods, where the woods distance the mountains, that, like corpulent pursy fellows, come puffing and panting a vast way behind them.”
We might, advantageously, add other quotations from the work before us; but the perusal of the whole of this admirable Satire is indispensable to every one who would study the principles of English composition.
The enunciation of the common people of Greece, like that of all other nations, must have been varied according to the natural feelings of the Speaker; but, in the studied harangues of their Orators, and in the chant and chorus of their Dramas, a system of intonation was adopted, -regulated by means of marks termed accents, the powers of which are now unknown. It was that system, combining thought with sound, which produced those miraculous effects which are attributed to the music of the Greeks. Music and song were then invariably combined; and the words are still synonymous, in the language of the poet. Apollo was the God of Verse; but he was never seen without his lyre. In these latter times, however, Poetry has become an Art, and Music a Science; and it will scarcely be accounted a caricature of this modern division, when we say that the former teaches the pleasing arrangement of thoughts, independent of sounds; and the latter, the pleasing succession of sounds unaccompanied by thoughts. These things could never have been conceived by the ancients. Enunciation with them was the soul of language;