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EXAMPLE :-" I have felt the bitter satire of his pen."
The epithet bitter is literally applied to that which is an object of the sense of taste. By its application to an object of a different kind, the mind is led to trace out an illustrative comparison. In this way, the distinctness of the reader's conception of the object, to which the epithet is applied, is consequently increased.
4. By affording a more complete description of an object.
EXAMPLE:—“The rays of the setting sun were just gilding the grey spire of the church.”
The epithet grey in this example, might have been omitted, or a different word, as dark-blue, might have been substituted for it, and the proposition would have been correct. Still the effect of its use is favourable, since the mind is more definite in its view of the object, on which it fixes its attention. Every spire must have some colour, and mention of this colour, whatever it may be, aids the mind in the distinct conception of the object to which it belongs. It is in this way that an epithet, by affording a more complete description, aids the distinctness of the view,
To these illustrations of the nature and power of epithets, I would also remark, that compound epithets are sometimes introduced with favourable effect. The following are instances of this kind :-silver-tongued hope,”—“ much-abused man.” Care however must be taken that they be not introduced too frequently.
Under the head of a happy choice of words as contributing to vivacity, I may mention:
1. The use of language in a figurative manner. While giving examples in illustration of this position, I shall direct the attention to what are called tropes, or figures of language.
“ An ambition to have a place in the registers of fame, is the Eurystheus, which imposes heroic labours on mankind.”
In this example, Eurystheus, the name of an individual, is put for a class of men. The same idea would have been expressed, had the word taskmaster been used. But by introducing the word Eurystheus, besides the pleasure derived from the classical allusion, a more distinct idea of what is imposed by ambition on its slaves, is given to the mind. This is an instance, where an individual is put for the species, and is a form of the synecdoche.
“ When we go out into the fields in the evening of the year, a different voice approaches us.”
The word evening, which is properly applied only to the close of the day, is here used in a more extended signification. Instead of being a specific, it becomes a general term. In the same manner, we speak of the evening of life. In this example, besides the increased distinctness of view, there are pleasing images and associations connected with the close of the day, which are brought before the mind. This example may be classed under either the metaphor or synecdoche.
In the two examples now given, we have instances, where greater distinctness is given to the view, by using a word in a more general sense than that usually applied to it.
“O! 'tis a thought sublime, that man can force
A path upon the waste.” In this passage, the word waste is used for ocean, a quality for a subject to which it belongs. This is called synecdoche. The design and effect of the change are seen at once by the connexion. What is it that makes it difficult for man to force a path upon the ocean? Is it not because it is a vast desert-a wide spread waste, where all is trackless? How much then does it add to ! the vividness of our conception of what the author here says, that he fixes our attention on that quality, which
he designs should be immediately in view, and on which his assertion is founded.
“ We wish that labour may look up here and be proud in the midst of its toil.”
In this example, the abstract is used for the concrete -labour for the labourer. This is called synecdoche, and its tendency is to increase the distinctness of our view. In reading the word labourer, there are many circumstances which rise to the view of the mind.
We think of the man, his station in life, and the relations he sustains; but in the use of the abstract term, our attention is directed to the humble and wearisome occupation.
“ All hands engaged, the royal work grows warm." The word hands in this example is used to signify
It may be considered either as a synecdoche, when a párt is put for the whole, or metonymy, when the instrument is put for the agent. In either case, it directs the attention to what the writer designed to be prominent.
Many other examples might be given, in which the attention is, in different ways, directed to the most proininent circumstance. One caution is necessary in all attempts of this kind—that the whole form of the expression be suited to the design of the writer. If it had been said, that the waste dashes and foams, that we wish labour may regain its health, and that all hands walked out, these expressions would at once strike us as faulty.
“The last fond look of the glazing eye, turning to us even from the threshold of existence."
In this example, the word threshold, which is usually applied to the extreme part of the passage to a building, is applied to the close of life. As the foundation of this change, in its application, is resemblance, the figure will at once be recognized as the metaphor. It is an
instance, where that which is an object of thought is represented to the mind by that which is an object of sense. This, as was remarked when treating of the metaphor, aids the distinctness of the view, and there is no necessity to repeat what was there said.
“ It is curious to get at the history of a monarch's heart, and to find the simple affections of human nature throbbing under the ermine."
The word ermine is here used for majesty, or royal estate. The ermine is the dress of royalty-it is the symbol which indicates its presence. Here then the sign is put for the thing signified. This is an instance of the metonymy. We notice also, that it is of the same nature as the preceding example—that which is an object of thought, is represented by that which is an object of
The same favourable effect on the distinctness of our conception, is also produced.
2. Vivacity is often attained by a departure from the common arrangement of the words in a sentence.
Every language has some manner of arranging the words of a sentence, which, from the frequency of its occurrence, may be called its common mode of arrangement. This more especially relates to the English language, in which the grammatical construction is often made to depend on the juxtaposition of words. That vivacity of expression may be caused by departing from this common arrangement, is learned from the following examples :
If the apostle Peter had observed the grammatical order, he would have said to the lame man who asked alms, “I have no silver, nor gold to give thee." But how much more vivacity is there in the expression, “ Silver and gold have I none." In the same manner, our Saviour, following the common order of arrangement, would have said, “ The pure in heart are blessed.' But by departing from this order, he has conveyed the same thought with increased force and vivacity“ Blessed are the pure in heart."
In these, and other expressions of the same kind, it is not difficult to account for the effect on the vivacity of the expression, by the change in the order of the words. What is most prominent in the mind, is made to occupy the first place in what calls forth the attention. The imploring look of the beggar had asked for silver and gold, and Peter in his answer shows, that he fully knew the meaning of that look, and suffers the attention to rest on that, which is first in the mind's view. In the same manner, it is to the blessedness of the pure
in heart, that the Saviour would direct the attention, and this is effected by the arrangement of the words in his declaration
The alteration of the arrangement of the words for the attainment of vivacity of expression, is not confined to words of primary importance in a sentence. It is extended to adverbs and conjunctions, and the whole class of secondary words. It is on the same principle also, that in the arrangement of the clauses and members of complex sentences, the clause or member, which is most prominent in the view of the mind, is made to hold a conspicuous place.
3. Vivacity is promoted by the omission of unnecessary words and phrases.
This is what is called Precision, and is opposed to Tautology, or the repetition of the same sense in different words, and to Pleonasm, or the use of superfluous words. The nature of precision may be learned from the following examples :
“ It is clear and obvious, that religious worship and adoration, should be regarded with pleasure and satisfaction by all men.”
“ It is obvious that religious worship should be regarded with pleasure by all men.”
“He sat on the verdant green, in the umbrageous shade of the woody forest."
“ He sat on the green in the shade of the forest."