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Lyndiraca. A crown is come, and will not fate allow,
Ventidius. But you, ere love misled your wand'ring eyes, Were, sure, the chief and best of human race, Fram'd in the very pride and boast of nature, So perfect, that the gods who form’d you wonder'd At their own skill, and cry'd, A lucky hit Has mended our design.
Dryden, An for Love, Act I.
Not to talk of the impiety of this sentiment, it is ludicrous instead of being lofty.
The famous epitaph on Raphael is no less absurd than any of the foregoing passages :
Raphael, timuit, quo sospite, vinci
Rerum magna parens, et moriente mori. Imitated by Pope in his Epitaph on Sir Godfrey Kneller:
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Such is the force of imitation ; for Pope of him. self would never have been guilty of a thought so extravagant.
So much upon sentiments; the language proper for expressing them, comes next in order.
Language of Passion.
AMONG the particulars that compose the social part of our nature, a propensity to communicate our opinions, our emotions, and every thing that affects us, is remarkable. Bad fortune and injustice affect us greatly; and of these we are so prone to complain, that if we bave no friend nor acquaintance to take part in our sufferings, we sometimes utter our complaints aloud, even where there are none to listen.
But this propensity operates not in every state of mind. A man immoderately grieved, seeks to afflict himself, rejecting all consolation : immoderate grief accordingly is mute : complaining is struggling for consolation.
It is the wretch's comfort still to have
mourn, And glutton-like alone devour.
Mourning Bride, Act I. Sc. I.
When grief subsides, it then and no sooner finds a tongue : we complain, because complaining is an effort to disburden the mind of its distress.*
* This observation is finely illustrated by a story which Herodotus records, b. jii. Cambyses, when he conquered Egypt, made Psammenitus the king prisoner; and for trying his constancy, ordered his daughter to be dressed in the habit of a slave, and to be employed in bringing water from the river ; his son also was led to execution with a halter about his neck. The Egyptians vented their sorrow in tears and lamentations ; Psammenitus only, with a downcast eye, remained silent. Afterward meeting one of his companions, a man advanced in years, who, being plundered of all, was begging alms, he wept bitterly, calling him by his name. Cambyses, struck with wonder, demanded an answer to the following question : “ Psammenitus, “ thy master, Cambyses, is desirous to know, why, after thou hadst “.seen thy daughter so ignominiously treated, and thy son led to exe“ cution, without exclaiming or weeping, thou shouldst be so highly “ concerned for a poor man, no way related to thee?” Psammenitus returned the following answer: “Son of Cyrus, the calamities of my “ family are too great to leave me the power of weeping; but the “ misfortunes of a companion, reduced in his old age to want of “ bread, is a fit subject for lamentation." * See Chapter II. Part iii.
Surprise and terror are silent passions for a dif. ferent reason: they agitate the mind so violently as for a time to suspend the exercise of its faculties, and among others the faculty of speech.
Love and revenge, when immoderate, are not more loquacious than immoderate grief. But when these passions become moderate, they set the tongue free, and, like moderate grief, become loquacious: moderate love, when unsuccessful, is vented in complaints; when successful, is full of joy expressed by words and gestures.
As no passion hath any long uninterrupted existence,* nor beats away with an equal pulse, the language suggested by passion is not only unequal, but frequently interrupted : and even during an uninterrupted fit of passion, we only express in words the more capital sentiments. In familiar conversation, one who vents every single thought is justly branded with the character of loquacity ; because sensible people express no thoughts but what make some figure : in the same manner, we are only disposed to express the strongest pulses of passion, especially when it returns with impetuo. sity after interruption.
I formerly had occasion to observert that the sentiments ought to be tuned to the passion, and the language to both. Elevated sentiments require ele. vated language : tender sentiments ought to be clothed in words that are soft and flowing: when the mind is depressed with any passion, the senti. ments must be expressed in words that are bomble, not low. Words being intimately connected with the ideas they represent, the greatest harmony is required between them : to express, for example, an humble sentiment in high sounding words, is disagreeable by a discordant mixture of feelings ; and the discord is not less when elevated senti. ments are dressed in low words:
# Chapter XVI,
Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult.
Horace, Ars poet. l. 89.
This however excludes not figurative expression, which, within moderate hounds, communicates to the sentiment an agreeable elevation. We are sensible of an effect directly opposite, where figurative, expression is indulged beyond a just measure: the opposition between the expression and the sentiment, makes the discord appear greater than it is in reality.*
At the same time, figures are not equally the language of every passion : pleasant emotions, which elevate or swell the mind, vent themselves in strong epithets and figurative expression; but humbling and dispiriting passions affect to speak plain :
Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri
Horace, Ars poet. l. 95.
* See this explained more particularly in Chapter VIII.
Figurative expression, being the work of an enlivened imagination, cannot be the language of anguish or distress. Otway, sensible of this, has painted a scene of distress in colours finely adapt. ed to the subject : there is scarce a figure in it, ex. cept a short and natural simile with which the speech is introduced. Belvidera talking to her father of her husband :
Think you saw what past at our last parting;
Venice Preserved, Act V.
To preserve the foresaid resemblance between words and their meaning, the sentiments of active and hurrying passions ought to be dressed in words where syllables prevail that are pronounced short or fast; for these nake an impression of hurry and precipitation. Emotions, on the other hand, that rest upon their objects, are best expressed by words where syllables prevail that are pronounced long or slow. A person affected with melancholy has a languid and slow train of perceptions : the expression best suited to that state of mind, is where words, not only of long but of many syllables, VOL.I.