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Of these ornaments of style, some have been classified and received appropriate names. Such are Similes, Metaphors, Allusions and Personifications; others are of a more incidental nature. The former will be examined in the present chapter ; of the latter, some mention will be made, when treating of the different qualities of style.
Before entering upon the examination of the classified ornaments of style, I wish to bring distinctly to view the different principles, on which these attempts to excite emotions of taste are founded. In this way, the student will be enabled more fully to understand the reasons of the different directions and cautions which may be given, and to discern more clearly the nature and objects of literary taste.
It was stated in the last chapter, that, from the original constitution of the human mind, we are fitted to feel emotions of beauty and sublimity in view of objects and scenes in nature.
A passage of descriptive writing will enable me to illustrate what is here meant.
The following description of the rising sun is taken from one of Gray's Letters.
“ I set out one morning before five o'clock, the moon shining through a dark and misty autumnal air, and got to the sea-coast, time to be at the sun's levee. I saw the clouds and dark vapours open gradually to the right and left, rolling over one another in great smoky wreaths, and the tide (as it flowed in on the sands) first whitening, and then slightly tinged with gold and blue, and all at once a little line of insufferable brightness, that before I can write these five words is grown to half an orb, and pow to a whole one too glorious to be distinctly seen,”
This is a representation of a scene in nature, and the writer, in looking on the original of the description, felt
an emotion of grandeur. Should it be asked, why this emotion is thus excited, the only cause to be assigned is, that it is natural to us to feel this emotion in view of this and similar scenes. Our Creator has so constituted
Should we now further enquire, why the description of the scene excites an emotion of the same kind in the minds of its readers, we have to assign in answer the same cause. The writer addresses himself to the imagination of his readers, and by the use of words, as symbols, brings the scene distinctly before their minds, and an emotion of grandeur is excited in view of it, on the same principle, as the same emotion was excited in view of the original. Now this is often done, when the ornaments of style are introduced. A word, or an illustration, brings before the mind an object or scene, which, from the original constitution of the mind, excites an emotion of beauty or sublimity. This original constitution of the human mind is then to be considered as one of those principles, to which the writer addresses himself, with the design of exciting emotions of taste.
It was still further stated, that emotions of beauty and sublimity, are often excited on the principle of association. Objects and scenes, which are not fitted from any original tendencies of the mind to excite these emotions, may still excite them from their being associated in our minds with what is thus regarded ; or where they are fitted to excite these emotions in some degree, they may excite them in a higher degree, because of such associations. The traveller, in passing the river Rubicon, might regard it as a common stream, but should it be told him, that he was standing where Cesar stood, when he decided the destinies of Rome, the scene before him from association excites an emotion of sublimity. Here then is another principle, to which the writer
addresses himself in the introduction of the ornaments of style, with the design of exciting emotions of taste. He brings before us what from association is fitted to excite in our minds an emotion of beauty or sublimity.
On the principles which have been stated, the ornaments of style may excite emotions of taste distinct from their connextion, as found in a literary production, and as tending to the accomplishment of the design of the writer. Regarding them in this latter view, another cause of the emotion of taste which they are fitted to excite, is brought to notice. I refer to what is called fitness or adaptation.
When we look at any work of art, a piece of cabinet work for example, we may think of it in relation to some purpose which it is designed to answer, and from perceiving that it is admirably well adapted to answer this purpose, we may on this account regard it with admiration. We may still further examine it as to the proportion of its parts, their fitness to the whole work, and the skill with which they are formed and arranged ; and in this view of the work also we may feel a similar emotion. Thus we are led to pronounce the work beautiful. Now in these instances, we feel an emotion of beauty in view of fitness or adaptation. Should it be asked, why the emotion is felt, it must be answered, as before, that it is a primary law of our nature. only say, that our Creator has so constituted us. As it is highly important that the student should clearly understand this principle, and as it is the foundation of the rules by which we judge of descriptive writing, I shall attempt its more full developement in connexion with illustrations of this kind. I would remark, however, that it is not my design to state the rules and principles which apply to descriptive writing, any further than is
necessary for the illustration of the principle of adaptation, which is now to be explained,
The following passage forms part of a description of a fatal contest between two Highlanders, who encountered each other on a narrow and dangerous pass.
“ They threw their bonnets over, the precipice, and advanced with a slow and cautious step closer to each other ; they were both unarmed, and stretching their limbs like men preparing for a desperate struggle, they planted their seet firmly on the ground, compressed their lips, knit their dark brows, and fixing fierce and watchful eyes on each other, stood there prepared for the onset. They both grappled at the same moment; but being of equal strength, were unable for some time to shift each other's position -standing fixed on a rock with suppressed breath, and cles strained to the “top of their heart,” like statues carved out of the solid stone."
The object of the writer in this passage, is to place before us a distinct view of the combatants as they entered on the contest ; and in answer to the enquiry, why the passage strikes us favorably, and as a description excites an emotion of beauty, I would assign as a cause, the adaptation of the description to this design. We admire it, because the selection of circumstances, the arrangement of circumstances, and the use of words, are such, as to bring the scene directly and clearly before the view. Here then is one instance, where an emotion of beauty is excited in view of fitness or adaptation to a particular design, and that design is the distinct and striking representation of a scene.
The accurate and vivid delineation of objects and scenes here exemplified, is sometimes called truth to nature. The representation of common and familiar scenes in this way excites emotions of beauty ; but the power
of truth to nature is most deeply felt, when the writer lays open to our view the hidden workings of the mind and the strong affections of the heart. That the student may more fully understand what is meant by the phrase “truth to nature,” which is of frequent occurrence, I here introduce two passages, which happily illustrate its meaning, -one, the description of a familiar scene, the other, of the affections.
The following description of a country inn is from Goldsmith's Deserted Village.
Imagination fondly stoops to trace
Mrs. Hemans: thus describes a mother's love;
There is none