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dominion of imagination and passion. They live scattered and dispersed: they are unacquainted with the course of things; they are, every day, meeting with new and strange objects. Fear and surprise, wonder and astonishment, are their most frequent passions. Their Language will necessarily partake of this character of their minds. They will be prone to exaggeration and hyperbole. They will be given to describe every thing with the strongest colours, and most vehement expressions; infinitely more than men living in the advanced and cultivated periods of Society, when their imagination is more chastened, their passions are more tamed, and a wider experi. ence has rendered the objects of life more familiar to them. Even the manner in which I before shewed that the first tribes of men uttered their words, would have considerable influence on their style. Wherever strong exclamations, tones, and gestures, enter much into conversation, the imagination is always more exercised; a greater effort of fancy and passion is excited. Consequently, the fancy, kept awake and rendered more sprightly by this mode of utterance, operates upon 'style, and enlivens it more.

These reasonings are confirmed by undoubted facts. The style of all the most early Languages, among nations who are in the first and rude periods of Society, is found, without exception, to be full of figures ; hyperbolical and picturesque in a high degree. We have a striking instance of this in the American Languages, which are known, by the most authentic accounts, to be figurative to excess. The Iroquois and Illinois carry on their treaties and public transactions with bolder metaphors, and greater

pomp of style, than we use in our poetical productions.*

Another remarkable instance is, the style of the Old Testament, which is carried on by constant allusions to sensible objects. Iniquity, or guilt, is expressed by “a spotted garment;" misery, by “ drinking the cup of astonishment;" vain pursuits, by “ feeding on ashes ;" a sinful life, by “ a crooked

path;” prosperity, by “ the candle of the Lord “ shining on our head;" and the like, in innumerable instances. Hence we have been accustomed to call this sort of style the Oriental Style; as fancying it to be peculiar to the nations of the East; whereas, from the American style, and from many other instances, it plainly appears not to have been peculiar to any one region or climate; but to have been common to all nations in certain periods of Society and Language.

* Thus, to give an instance of the singular style of these nations, the Five Nations of Canada, when entering on a treaty of peace with us, expressed themselves by their chiefs in the following Language: “We are happy in having buried under ground the * red axe, that has so often been dyed with the blood of our " brethren. Now, in this sort, we inter the axe, and plant the “ tree of Peace. We plant a tree, whose top will reach the Sun; " and its branches spread abroad, so that it shall be seen afar off. « May its growth never be stifled and choked; but may it shade “ both your country and ours with its leaves ! Let us make fast 6 its roots, and extend them to the utmost of


colonies. If 6 the French should come to shake this tree, we would know it by « the motion of its roots reaching into our country. May the “ Great Spirit allow us to rest in tranquillity upon our mats, and “ never again dig up the axe to cut down the tree of Peace: Let “ the earth be trod hard over it, where it lies buried. Let a

strong stream run under the pit, to wash the evil away out of

our sight and remembrance. The firc that had long burned in Albany is extinguished. The bloody bed is washed clean, and " the tears are wiped from our eyes. We now renew the covenant “ chain of friendship. Let it be kept bright and clean as silver, or and not suffered to contract any rust. Let not any one pull

away his arm from it." These passages are extracted from Cadwallader Colden's History of the Five Indian Nations: where it appears, from the authentic documents he produces, that such is their genuine style.

Hence we may receive some light concerning that seeming paradox, that Poetry is more ancient than Prose. I shall have occasion to discuss this point fully hereafter, when I come to treat of the Nature and Origin of Poetry. At present, it is sufficient to observe, that from what has been said it plainly appears, that the style of all Language must have been originally poetical; strongly tinctured with that enthusiasm, and that descriptive metaphorical expression, which distinguishes Poetry.

As Language, in its progress, began to grow more copious, it gradually lost that figurative style which was its early character. When men were furnished with

proper and familiar names for every object, both sensible and moral, they were not obliged to use so many circumlocutions. Style became more precise, and, of course, more simple. Imagination too, in proportion as Society advanced, had less influence over mankind. The vehement manner of speaking by tones and gestures began to be disused. The understanding was more exercised; the fancy, less. Intercourse among mankind becoming more extensive and frequent, clearness of style, in signifying their meaning to each other, was the chief object of attention. In place of Poets, Philosophers became the instructors of men; and, in their reasonings on all different subjects, introduced that plainer and

in prose.

simpler style of composition, which we now call Prose. Among the Greeks, Pherecydes of Scyros, the master of Pythagoras, is recorded to have been the first, who, in this sense, composed any writing

The ancient metaphorical and poetical dress of Language was now laid aside from the intercourse of men, and reserved for those occasions only on which ornament was professedly studied.

Thus I have pursued the History of Language through some of the variations it has undergone: I have considered it, in the first structure and composition of words ; in the manner of uttering or pronouncing words; and in the style and character of Speech. I have yet to consider it in another view, respecting the order and arrangement of words ; when we shall find a progress to have taken place, similar to what I have been now illustrating.




When we attend to the order in which words are arranged in a sentence, or significant proposition, we find a very remarkable difference between the ancient and the modern Tongues. The consideration of this will serve to unfold farther the genius of Lan

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guage, and to shew the causes of those alterations which it has undergone in the progress of Society.

In order to conceive distinctly the nature of that alteration of which I now speak, let us go back, as we did formerly, to the most early period of Language. Let us figure to ourselves a Savage, who beholds some object, such as fruit, which raises his desire, and who requests another to give it to him. Supposing our Savage to be unacquainted with words, he would, in that case, labour to make himself be understood, by pointing earnestly at the object which he desired, and uttering, at the same time, a passionate cry. Supposing him to have acquired words, the first word which he uttered would, of course, be the name of that object. He would not express himself, according to our English order of construction, “Give me fruit ;' but, accord. ing to the Latin order, “ Fruit give me;" “ Fructum “ da mihi :" For this plain reason, that his attention was wholly directed towards fruit, the desired object. This was the exciting idea ; the object which moved him to speak; and of course would be the first named. Such an arrangement is precisely putting into words the gesture which nature taught the Savage to make, before he was acquainted with words; and therefore it may be depended upon as certain, that he would fall most readily into this arrangement.

Accustomed now to a different method of ordering Our words, we call this an inversion, and consider it as a forced and unnatural order of Speech. But though not the most logical, it is, however, in one view, the most natural order ; because it is the order suggested by imagination and desire, which always



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