« AnteriorContinuar »
Bossuet's · History of the Variations,' is justly quoted as a master-piece of this sort, wherein this great man unites all the branches of his subject, by the sole band of his logic; and thus connects, without confusion, the most abstract and dissimilar propositions.
Transitions, which are only built on the mechanism of the style, and merely consist in a fictitious connection between the last word of the paragraph which finishes, and the first word of the sentence which begins, cannot, with propriety, be admitted as natural, but are rather forced combinations. True rhetorical Transitions are such as follow the course of the reasoning, or sentiment, with ease, almost without art, and unperceived by the hearers ; such, as unite the materials of the discourse, instead of merely suspending some phrases upon each other; such, as bind the whole together, without obliging the Preacher to compose a new exordium to each subdivision, which his plan exhibits to him ; such, as form an orderly and methodical arrangement, by the simple unfolding of the ideas, in some measure, imperceptible to the Orator himself: such, as call for, and correspond with, each other by an inevitable analogy, and not by an unexpected association ; such, in fine, as meditation produces by suggesting valuable thoughts, not such as the
fu shes in its search after combined resembiances.
Clear and distinct ideas reciprocally accord with easy and felicitous transitions.
Stones well hewn,' says Cicero, unite of themselves, and without the aid of cement.'
OF A COPIOUS STYLE.
word, if poor ideas can never strictly unite, let us discard them, without hesitation, from a rhetorical discourse. A broken and sententious style will never make powerful impressions upon the multitude. Eloquence requires a kind of diction, expanded, lofty, sublime, in order to develop the emotions of the soul, and to impart to thought all its energy. He who renews his thoughts line by line, is always frigid, slow, monotonous, and superficial. Sublimity is simply the effort of genius transcending ordinary ideas. Let your thoughts dive deep. Stop not to pick up the sparkling grains of sand upon that ground which covers a mine of gold. Shoot beyond vulgar conceptions ; and you will find the true sublime, between that which is common, and that which is exaggerated. Unconstrained in your steps, confine not yourself within the narrow limits of those curtailed phrases, which drop
every moment with the expiring idea; but display in their vast extent, those copious and commanding modes of expression, which impart to Eloquence its energy, its elevation, its vehemence,and its grandeur. "The thundering strokes of Demosthenes,' said Cicero, would have
been much less impressive, had they not been "hurled with all the power and impetuosity of copiousness.'*
The same Cicero fixed the extent of the Orator's period to four verses of six feet, which can be pronounced with one single breathing: t
But, have we proper periods in our language, who can scarcely ever make use of transposition ; who are constrained to give a signification, if not periect, at least very distinct, to each word of the sentence, which the reader peruses; who are subjected to uniform and feeble constructions, in which the nominative is contiguous to the verb preceding the case governed ; and who are perpetually embarrassed by the repetition or ambigu
pronouns? The theory of our participles, too, is so obscure, our conjunctions are so insufficient, our cases, admitting we have any, so
* Demosthenis non tàm vibrarent fulmina illa nisi nimeris contorta ferentur.-Orator. 234.
+ Equatuor igitur quasi hexametrorum instar versuum, quod sit, constat ferè plena comprehensió. Orator. 222.
insignificant, that it becomes requisite, in writes ing, perpetually to recall the nominative, or the pronoun which represents it, and to sacrifice sublimity to perspicuity.*
The ancients compared the period to a sling, which throws out the stone, after many circuits. Our period is none other than an inanimate diction, like the servile translation of a precise interpreter, who expresses literally and unskilfully, , ideas conceived in a foreign idiom.[
* See remarks on the same subject in FENELON's Letter to the French Academy, 5 5. p. 193.
t With respect to the form or composition of sentences, Cicero distinguishes them into two sorts, called tracta, strait or direct: and contorta, bend or winding:S By the former are meant such, whose members follow each other in a direct order, without any inflection ; and by the latter, those which, strictly speaking, are called periods. TIegíodos in Greek signifies a circuit or circle. And so the Latins called circuitus and ambitus. By which they both mean a sentence consisting of corresponding parts, so framed, that the voice in pronouncing them may have a proper elevation and cadency, and distinguish them by its inflexion. And as the latter part returns back, and unites with the former, the period, like a circle, surrounds and encloses the whole sense.' -WARD's System of Oratory, vol. ii. p. 345.
| The remarks of the learned Abbé, respecting the feeble and limited construction of the French tongue, are, in a great measure, applicable to the English, especially when compared with the greater liberty of transposition, which the Latin language allowed, and, in which Cicero, particularly, manifests that so much of its beauty and elegance consists.
s Orat. c. 20.
OF HARMONY OF STYLE.
EVERTHELESS, without this measure
ment of periods, Style is flat and unharmonious. A Christian Orator should endeavour
Dr. WARD's observations upon the point are as follows :
There are two kinds of Order, in the construction of a 'sentence, one of which may be called natural, and the other
artifical. We call that order natural, when all the words * in a sentence are so placed, as they are connected with, or
follow each other, in a grammatical construction. And it may properly enough admit of this name, as it is founded
in the nature of a proposition, and the relation of the several 6 words, of which it consists, to each other. And this seems
agreeable to the natural way of conveying our thoughts 6 which leads us first to express the subject, or thing, of « which some other thing is said, before the predicate, or
that which is said concerning it; and with respect to both, e as every idea succeeds another in the order of our concep*tions, to range it in the same order, when we communicate them to others.
Our language in general keeps pretty much to this me. thod. But in one thing, particularly, it recedes from it ; « and that is, in placing adjectives, which denote the pro* perties of things, before their substantives or subjects, • whose properties they are. As when it is said, Evil communication corrupts good manners. And this we always do,
except something follows which depends upon the adjec<tive. So we say, He was a man eminent for his virtue, not
an eminent man.