Page images

“ He succeeded in gaining the universal love of all men." “ He succeeded in gaining the love of all men.”

“They returned back again to the same city from whence they came forth."

“ They returned to the city whence they came.”

In the corrected forms of these examples, those words are omitted, which are redundant, or add nothing to the meaning of the sentence. That the effect of these alterations on the vivacity of the style is favourable, will be readily allowed. As a general rule it may be said, that the fewer the words used, provided perspicuity be not violated, the greater will be the vivacity of the sentence,

There are instances, where the repetition of words, nearly synonymous in their meaning, adds force and strength to the expression. Of this many examples are to be found in tragedies, and wherever exhibitions of strong feelings are made. Such is the following passage:

" Oh Austria ! Thou slave, thou wretch-thou coward, Thou little valiant, great in villany,

Thou ever strong upon the strongest side.” This and similar expressions, are the language of passion. The mind is full — the feelings too strong for utterance, and we may truly say, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. These passionate expressions are of course exceptions to the rules, by which we should be governed in more sober compositions.

In reviewing our writings for the purpose of striking out redundant words and phrases, we should remember that every expletive is not to be struck out. There are some, which, instead of impairing, increase the vivacity of an expression; and others, the meaning of which we can hardly define, that cannot be omitted without giving an air of stiffness and awkwardness to the sentence. Of the former, do, in the following declaration of Othello, is an example:

“ Perdition seize thee, but I do love thee.” Of the same nature are the redundant forms of speech which are found in ancient writers :-“ I have seen with mine eyes.” “I have heard with mine ears."

As examples, where the removal of an expletive endangers the smoothness of the style, the many sentences in which the expletive there is found, may be mentioned.

4. Vivacity is sometimes attained by the omission of conjunctions, and the consequent division of the discourse into short sentences.

A single example will show what is intended by this remark:

“ As the storm increased with the night, the sea was lashed into tremendous confusion, and there was a fearful sullen sound of rushing waves and broken surges, while deep called unto deep."

“ The storm increased with the night. The sea was lashed into tremendous confusion. There was a fearful sullen sound of rushing waves and broken surges. Deep called unto deep."

In the second form of this example, the conjunctions are omitted ; and instead of one long sentence, as in the first form, we have several short sentences. The effect on the vivacity of the passage will be perceived by every one. The reason of the increased vivacity is also obvious. What is thus expressed in short sentences, stands out more prominent and distinct to the view. There is also more conciseness, since all unnecessary words are omitted, especially those which are injurious to vivacity. But it is not here meant, that short sentences are to be preferred to long ones. The most important direction that can be given on this subject is, that there should be variety. Long sentences should be intermingled with short ones, since the continued repetition of either becomes tedious and wearisome. Besides, it sometimes happens, that conjunctions cannot be omitted without danger to perspicuity, which, as a quality of a good style, ranks higher than vivacity. But when conjunctions are better omitted than expressed, as in the example given, and when the division, into short sentences, is not continued too far, such a division of a discourse is to be recommended as conducive to vivacity. It is to this cause that many passages in our version of the Bible, owe their power, and simplicity, and beauty.

5. Vivacity is sometimes attained by the use of certain forms of sentences, which might, in distinction, be called figures of sentences. Of these I may mention the Climax, Antithesis, Exclamation, Repetition, and Interrogation. Some examples, with accompanying remarks, are given.

The following instance of the Climax is from a writer against infidelity :

“Impose upon me whatever hardships you please; give me nothing but the bread of sorrow to eat; take from me the friend in whom I had placed my confidence; lay me in the cold hut of poverty and on the thorny bed of disease ; set before me death in all its terrors ; do all this, only let me trust in my Saviour and I will fear no evilI will rise superior to affliction—I will rejoice in my tribulation."

In this example, and other sentences of a similar construction, one clause is accumulated upon another, each surpassing the preceding in importance and power, till it seems as if nothing could resist their united force. As an illustration, I would refer to a deep and full flowing river, against whose current some obstacle has been placed. The opposed waters are heaped on each other, and each successive wave brings an addition to their power, till the collected mass can no longer be withstood —the obstacle is swept away, and the river resumes its course with the rapidity and momentum of a torrent.

There can be no doubt, that this form of sentence is highly conducive to vivacity. It should however be but rarely introduced, and never, except when it seems required by the occasion and subject. It is evidence of an excited mind, and should seem to result from this excitement. If the subject does not require it-if the form of sentence does not have its foundation in the thought itself, it will have the air of something artificial, and instead of exerting an influence favourable to vivacity, it will have a different effect.

Of the Antithesis, I give the following example. The subject is the steam engine

“ It can engrave a seal, and crush masses of obdurate metal before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, and lift up a ship of war like a bauble in the air. It can embroider muslin and forge anchors-cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of the winds and waves.”

A second example, more finished in its composition, is from Beattie on poetry :

“ In the crowded city and howling wilderness ; in the cultivated province and solitary isle; in the flowery lawn and cragged mountain; in the murmur of the rivulet and in the uproar of the ocean; in the radiance of summer and gloom of winter; in the thunder of heaven and in the whisper of the breeze; he still finds something to rouse or soothe his imagination; to draw forth his affection and employ his understanding.'

This form of sentence is founded on the principle of opposition or contrast. A figure in black is never more distinctly seen, than when placed upon a white groundwork. Campbell has very happily illustrated the effect of Antithesis, by an allusion to a picture, where the different objects of the group are not all on one side, with their faces turned the same way, but so placed that they are made to confront each other, by their opposite position. Не

says, that in such instances, there is not only the original light which is suited to each object, but that also which is reciprocally reflected from the opposed members. In the examples of the Antithesis that have been given, it will be noticed, that there is a balancing of the clauses. Not only is there opposition in the thought, but in the form and length of the clauses in which this opposition is expressed. In connexion with this remark, the caution against the appearance of an artificial construction, which was given in reference to the climax, may be repeated. Let the form of the sentence always arise from the thought itself, and not be the result of an attempt after vivacity. Of the two examples given, though the latter is more perfect and finished, the former is to be preferred as more natural

and easy

The Interrogation and Repetition are the language of an excited mind. Where the former is used, the writer seems so impressed with the truth of what he asserts that he is not content to state it in the cold form of a proposition, but utters it in a manner, that challenges any one to regard it with doubt.

The Repetition also gives evidence of a full conviction of the truth of what is asserted, and of a deep sense of its importance, and is well calculated to convey these impressions to the reader, in a striking manner. Both these forms of sentences are more frequently found in discourses intended for delivery than in those designed to be read only, and when well pronounced, are often powerful in their effects on the hearers.

The Exclamation is to be regarded as the mere burst of feeling, and will rarely be found in the productions of good writers. Writers of inferior order sometimes attempt to give an air of animation and feeling to their style by the use of it; but such artificial means must fail of success, and by the man of good taste will be regarded with disgust.

6. Vivacity is promoted by the use of those forms of construction, which represent past actions and events as transpiring at the present time, and absent individuals as present, speaking and listening. This has been called Rhetorical dialogue, and is found most frequently in narrative writing.

« EelmineJätka »