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Structure of Sentences....Harmony.
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 arrangement 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 of 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. As an instance, of a musical sentence, we may take the following from Milton : “We shall conduct you to a hill side, laborious indeed 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 eonspires 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
Structure of Sentences. ..Harmony.
per distribution of the several members of it, and the close or cadence of the whole.
First, the distribution of the several members should be carefully regarded. Whatever is easy to the organs of speech, is always grateful to the car. While a period advances, the termination of each member forms a pause in the pronunciation ; and these pauses should be so distributed, as to bear a certain musical proportion to each other. This will be best illustrated by examples. “ This discourse concerning the easiness of God's commands does all along suppose and acknowledge the difficulties of the first entrance upon a religious course ; except only in those persons who have had the happiness to be trained up to religion by the easy and insensible degrees of a pious and virtuous education." This sentence is far from being harmonious, owing chiefly to this, that there is but one pause in it, by which it is divided into two members ; each of which is so long as to require a considerable stretch of breath in pronouncing it. On the contrary, let us observe the grace of the following passage from Sir William Temple, in which he speaks sarcastically of man. “ But, God be thanked, his pride is greater than his ignorance; and what he wants in knowledge, he supplies by sufficiency. When he has looked about him as far as he can, he concludes there is no more to be seen ; when he is at the end of his line, he is at the bottom of the ocean; when he has shot his best, he is sure none ever did, or even can shoot better, or beyond it. His own reason he holds to be the certain measure of truth; and his own knowledge of wliat is possible in nature.” Here every thing is at once easy to the
Structure of Sentences.... Harmony.
breath, and grateful to the ear. We must however observe, that if composition abound with sentences which have too many rests, and these placed at intervals apparently measured and reg. ular, it is apt to savour of affectation.
The next thing which demands attention, is the close or cadence of the period. The only important rule which can here be given, is this, when we aim at dignity or elevation, the sound should increase to the last : the longest members of the period, and the fullest and most sonorous words should be reserved for the conclusion. As an instance of this, the foliowing sentence of Addison may be given. “ It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas; converses with its objects at the greatest distance: and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments." Here every reader must be sensible of beauty in the just distribution of the pauses, and in the manner of rounding the period, and of bringing it to a full and harmonious close.
be remarked, that little words in the conclusion of a sentence are as injurious to melody, as they are inconsistent with strength of expression. A musical close in our language seems in general to require either the last syłable, or the last but one to be a long syllable.- Words which consist chiefly of short syllables, as contrary, particular, retrospect, seldom terminate a sentence harmoniously, unless a previous run of long syllables have rendered them pleasing to
Sentences, however, which are so constructed as to make the sound always swell toward the
Structure of Sentences....Harmony.
end, and rest either on the last or penult syllable, give a discourse the tone of declamation. If melody be not varied, the ear is soon cloyed with it. Sentences constructed in the same manner, withi the pauses at equal intervals, should never succeed each other. Short sentences must be blend. ed with long and swelling ones, to render discourse sprightly as well as magnificent.
We now proceed to treat of a higher species of harmony; the sound adapted to the sense. Of this we may remark two degrees. First, the current of sound suited to the tenor of a discourse. Next, a peculiar resemblance effected between some object and the sounds that are employed in describing it.
Sounds have in many respects an intimate cor: respondence with our ideas; partly natural, partly produced by artiticial associations. Hence any one modulation of sound continued, stamps on style a certain character and expression.-Sentences, constructed with Ciceronian fulness, ex. cite an idea of what is important, magnificent, and sedate. But they suit no violent passion, no eager reasoning, no familiar address. These require measures brisker, easier, and often moiu abrupt. It were as absurd to write a panegyric and an invective in a style of the same cadence, as to set the words of a tender love song to the tune of a warlike march.
Beside the general correspondence of the current of sound with the current of thought, a: more particular expression of certain objects by resembling sounds may be attempted. In poetry this resemblance is chiefly to be sought. It
Structure of Sentences....Harmony.
obtains sometimes indeed in prose composition ; but there in an inferior degree.
The sounds of words may be employed for representing chiefly three classes of objects ; first, other sounds; secondly, motions; and thirdly, the emotions and passions of the mind.
In most languages the names of many particular sounds are so formed, as to bear some semblance of the sound which they signify; as with us the whistling of winds, the buzz and hum of insects, the hiss of serpents, and the crash of falling timber; and many other instances, where the name is plainly adapted to the sound it represents. A remarkable example of this beauty may be taken from two passages in Milton's Paradise Lost; in one of which he describes the sound, made by the opening of the gates of hell ; in the other, that made by the opening of the gates of heaven. The contrast between the two exhibits to great advantage the art of the poet. The first is the opening of hell's gates;
In the second place, the sound of words is frequently employed to imitate motion; as it is swift or slow, violent or gentle, uniform or interrupted, easy or accompanied with effort. Be