Page images
PDF
EPUB

XIII.

particular expression attempted, of certain ob- LECT. jects, by means of resembling sounds. This can be, sometimes, accomplished in profe composition ;. but there only in a more faint degree; nor is it so much expected there. In poetry, chiefly, it is looked for ; where attention to found is more demanded, and where the inversions and liberties of poetical style give us a greater command of sound; affifted, too, by the versification, and that cantus obfcurior, to which we are naturally led in reading poetry. This requires a little more illustration.

The sounds of words may be employed for representing, chiefly, three classes of objects; first, other sounds; secondly, motion ; and, thirdly, the emotions and passions of the mind,

First, I say, by a proper choice of words, we may produce a resemblance of other sounds which we mean to describe ; such as, the noise of waters, the roaring of winds, or the murmuring of streams. This is the simplest instance of this sort of beauty. For the medium through which we imitate, here, iş a natural one ; sounds represented by other sounds; and between ideas of the fame sense, it is easy to form a connection. No very great art is required in a poet, when he is describing Vol. I. Z

fweer

XIII.

LECT. sweet and soft sounds, to make use of such

words as have moft liquids and vowels, and
glide the foftest; or, when he is describing
harsh founds, to throw together a number of
harsh fyllables which are of difficult pronuncia-
tion. Here the common structure of Lan-
guage affifts him ; for, it will be found, that,
in moft Languages, the names of many par-
ticular founds are fo formed, as to carry some
affinity to the found which they signify; as
with us, the whistling of winds, the buz and
hum of infects, the hifs of ferpents, the crash of
falling timber ; and many other instances,
where the word has been plainly framed upon
the found it represents. I shall produce a re-
markable example of this beauty from Milton,
taken from two passages in Paradise Lost, de-
scribing the found made, in the one, by the
opening of the gates of Hell; in the other, by
the opening of those of Heaven. The con-
trast between the two, displays, to great advan-
tage, the poet's árt. The first is the opening
óf Hell's gates :

On a sudden, open fly,
With impetuous recoil, and jarring sound,
Th'inférnal doors, and on their hinges grate
Harsh thunder.

B. I.
Observe, now, the finoothness of the other :

Heaven opened wide
Her ever-during gates, harmonious sound,
On golden hinges turning.

B. II,
The

XIII.

The following beautiful passage from Taffo's LECT. Gierusalemme, has been often admired, on account of the imitation effected by sound of the thing represented :

Chiama gli habitator de l'ombre eterne
Il rauco suon de la Tartarea tromba :
Treman le fpaciose atre caverne,
Et l'aer cieco a quel rumor rimbomba;
Ni stridendo cosi da le superne
Regioni dele cielo, il folgor piomba ;)
Ne fi scossa giammai la terra,
Quand i vapori in fen gravida serra.

CANT. IV. Stanz. 4.

The second class of objects, which the sound of words is often employed to imitate, is, Motion; as it is swift or Now, violent or gentle, equable or interrupted, easy or accompanied with effort. Though there be no natural affinity between found, of any kind, and motion, yet, in the imagination, there is a strong one; as appears from the connection between music and dancing. And, therefore, here ic is in the poet's power to give us a lively idea of the kind of motion he would describe, by means of sounds which correspond, in our imagination, with that motion. Long syllables naturally give the impression of Now motion; as in this line of Virgil :

Olli inter fefe magna vi brachia tollunt.

Z 2

A suc.

LECT. A succession of short syllables presents quick

motion to the mind; as,

XIII.

Quadrupedante putrem fonitu quatit ungula campum.

Both Homer and Virgil are great masters of this beauty, and their works, abound with instances of it; most of them, indeed, so often quoted and so well known, that it is needless to produce them. I shall give one instance, in English, which seems happy. It is the description of a sudden calm on the seas, in a Poem, entitled, The Fleece.

With easy course
The vessels glide ; unless their speed be stopp'd
By dead calms, that oft lie on these smooth seas
When ev'ry zephyr sleeps; then the shrouds drop;
The downy feather, on the cordage hung,
Moves not; the flat sea shines like yellow gold
Fus'd in the fire, or like the marble floor
Of some old temple wide.

The third set of objects, which I mentioned the found of words as capable of representing, consists of the passions and emotions of the mind. Sound may, at first view, appear foreign to these; but, that here, also, there is föme fort of connection, is sufficiently proved by the power which music has to awaken, or to asist certain paffions, and, according as its strain is varied, to introduce one train of ideas, rather than another. This, indeed, logically

speaking,

XIII.

speaking, cannot be called a resemblance be- LECT. tween the sense and the sound, seeing long or short fyllables have no natural resemblance to any thought or passion. But if the arrangement of syllables, by their sound alone, recal one set of ideas more readily than another, and dispose the mind for entering into that affection which the poet means to raise, such arrangement may, justly enough, be said to resemble the sense, or be similar and correspondent to it. I admit, that, in many instances, which are supposed to display this beauty of accommodation of found to the sense, there is much room for imagination to work; and, according as a reader is struck by a passage, he will often fancy a resemblance between the found and the sense, which others cannot discover. He modulates the numbers to his own disposition of mind; and, in effect, makes the music which he imagines himself to hear. However, that there are real instances of this kind, and that poetry is capable of some such expression, cannot be doubted. Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, affords a very beautiful exemplification of it, in the English Language. Without much study or reflection, a poet describing pleasure, joy, and agreeable objects, from the feeling of his fubject, naturally runs into sinooth, liquid, and Powing numbers.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »