Mr. Samuel W. Brakes



SOUND is a mere sensation; but of what infinite variations it is capable! and when appropriated by experience, and determined and fixed by the intelligent will, it becomes a medium through which the mind communicates with the external world, and mind with mind. In its more delicate and subtle modifications it becomes the living and irrepresentable language of the soul.

Sound, as appropriated by man, admits of two general divisions. First, music; secondly, language. Music is in the soul, because its sensations are there; and because all its laws of melody and harmony are there. It holds the most intimate connection with our purest and most delightful emotions and passions, both from constitutional concordance and established associations. Perhaps there is an emotion, strictly the emotion of music, accompanying all music-a mysterious under-current of feeling in which lies the secret of its power. Our great poet causes to pass before us the beautiful shadow of this emotion when he says, "I am never merry when I hear sweet music."

In treating of language, we treat of succession and modification of sound. Written language comprises merely the symbols which have been invented to represent sound; but language itself is nothing but sound. Hence, when we peruse language by its written symbols, a conception of the sounds is continually passing through the mind, while the sounds themselves form the representatives of the thought. To the deaf and dumb alone are letters the representatives of the thought.

The elementary sounds represented by the alphabet are nearly the same in all languages. They undoubtedly have a common origin, and that origin both reason and history point out as Divine.

It is by the various combinations of which these sounds are susceptible that the different languages are formed. Language having sound for its material, and its office being to represent or express thought, its properties must be distinguished into two kinds -properties of the thought, and properties of the sound. Thus perspicuity must be considered a property of the thought, inasmuch as it consists in a nice selection of words to symbolize with the thought, and such an arrangement of them as accurately to represent the relations and processes of thought. Figures must also be considered as properties of the thought, inasmuch as they are constituted by resemblances, contrasts, analogies and personifications, which lie wholly in the thought, and have no relation to the sound. On the other hand, the harmony of language is a property of the sound depending wholly upon a certain combination of sounds in words, and a certain arrangement and succession of sounds in sentences. But when either in prose or verse the sound is adapted to the sentiment, this adaptation, since it must be based upon some resemblance or analogy, forms a property of the thought.

Elegance of style is chiefly a property of the sound. It consists in such a selection and arrangement of words as form a graceful, easy, and melodious flow of sound. The capital properties of the thought are of course pre-supposed.

Eloquence is also dependent for its constitution upon properties of the sound. We wish it to be understood here, that when we speak of eloquence we mean a species of writing without refering to the delivery, or oratory. Eloquence is born from the union of reason and sublime passion. It is the divine and calm majesty of truth armed with the lightnings, and riding upon the winds. Or it is the same power in the chariot of the sun. Its language has the highest properties of the thought. But, in addition, there is an energy and abruptness, a fullness and majesty in the sounds without which it could not be perfect, and would lose its effect. Who does not feel that there is a charm and a power in the very sounds which speak the thoughts of Demosthenes and Tully; and that if the thoughts may be represented by the fires of heaven, or its pure element of light, the sounds may be represented by the thunder, or by the music of the spheres.

Poetry is so dependent, in this respect, that it cannot be defined

Expression of Passion in Oratory.


without refering to the properties of the sound. Coleridge, in one of his inspired conversations, gave the following distinctive definition of prose and poetry :-" Prose is words in their proper places -poetry is words in their most proper places." It is a beautiful, striking, and original definition. It exalts prose as the language of wise men, and makes poetry the language of heaven. But what law regulates the position of words in poetry? Poetry and eloquence are often common as to their subjects, their trains of thought, their pathos, and their words. The difference, obviously, according to the above definition, consisting wholly in the arrangement of the words. The law is the law of melody, a property of the sound. There may be some who are at first thought ready to exclaim, It is degrading to poetry to lay its distinction in mere sound. But pause a moment and think of music. Music is sound; but there is in it a spirit which opens to the soul the infinite and the divine. Music, without speaking a thought, and when unaided by any association, from its wonderful connection with the soul, excites it to thoughts and aspirations, and fills it with delights which have never yet found a language—which leave language with all its properties of the thought far behind, and dwell silently in their own mystery. Now the sounds which enter into language, enter into music likewise. Music has infinitely more variations than language. It embraces, indeed, a greater quantity of sound, but the philosophical distinction between music and language lies in the succession and combinations. Music is all melody and harmony; language is thought expressed with only such a degree of melody as is possible while preserving the necessary current and connection of thought. Now poetry is language while expressing thought wrought into determinate melody-into melody of a fixed law of succession and combination; and the perfection of the poetry, as poetry, will be just in proportion to the perfection of the melody. If it were possible, while expressing thoughts sublime and beautiful, to subject the sounds of language to the laws of music, so that the succession of sound necessary to express the thought would in itself be music, we should then have the most perfect poetry. The adaptation of the measure to the sentiment is a grace of poetry which belongs to the thought.

Thus far we have considered language with respect to those

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