Page images

Popular inftructions are commonly the work, not of the wife and steady, but the violent and rafh; and meetings held for directing reprefentatives are feldom attended, but by the idle and the diffolute; and he is not without fufpicion, that of his constituents, as of other numbers of men, the fmaller part may often be the wifer.

He confiders himfelf as deputed to promote the public good, and to preserve his conftituents, with the reft of his countrymen, not only from being hurt by others, but from hurting themselves.'

We have here alfo an excellent remark on the Pfeudo-Patriot's boafted love of his countrymen: A real Patriot, he oblerves, is neceffarily and invariably a lover of the people. But even this mark may fometimes deceive us.

The people is a very heterogeneous and confufed mafs of the wealthy and the poor, the wife and the foolish, the good and the bad. Before we confer on a man, who careffes the people, the title of Patriot, we muft examine to what part of the people he directs his notice. It is proverbially faid, that he who diffembles his own character, may be known by that of his companions. If the candidate of Patriotifm endeavours to infufe right opinions into the higher ranks, and by their influence to regulate the lower; if he conforts chiefly with the wife, the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous; his love of the people may be urged in his favour. But if his firft or principal application be to the indigent, who are always inflammable; to the weak, who are naturally fufpicious; to the ignorant, who are easily misled, and to the profligate, who have no hope, but from mitchief and confufion; his love of the people proves little in his favour.'

To thefe obfervations on genuine and on counterfeit Patriotism, are added a juft cenfure of thofe who with hold from government its due praife, and conceal from the people the benefits which they receive. And here the Author takes occafion to do juftice to the public fpirit of the late parliament: An affembly of men, fays he, whom, notwithstanding fome fluctuation of counfel, and fome weakness of agency, the nation must always remember with gratitude, fince it is indebted to them for a very ample conceffion in the refignation of protections, and a wife and honeft attempt to improve the conflitution, in the new judicature inftituted for the trial of elections.'

He gives fome very judicious obfervations on the good confequences of the new mode of trying elections; and concludes the whole with the following animated reflection:

That the next Houfe of Commons may act upon the principles of the laft, with more conftancy and higher spirit, muft be the with of all, who with well to the Public; and it is furely X 4


not too much to expect, that the nation will recover from its delufion, and unite in a general abhorrence of thofe, who by deceiving the credulous with fictitious mifchiefs, overbearing the weak by audacity of falsehood, by appealing to the judgment of ignorance, and flattering the vanity of meannefs, by flandering honefty and infulting dignity, have gathered round them whatever the kingdom can fupply of base, and grofs, and proAigate; and raised by merit to this bad eminence, arrogate to themfelves the name of PATRIOTS.'

ART. XV. An Efay upon the Harmony of Language, intended principally to illuftrate that of the English Language. 8vo. 3 s. 6 d. fewed. Robfon. 1774.


ERE we to give our fuffrage to no publications but fuch as carry an obvious utility along with them, we fhould be uncourtly to the labours of many ingenious men. In the walks of science, as thofe in life, there are various avenues into which we turn only for amufement; where we find no other fruits than the complacency of a mind gratified by its own fpeculations, and poffibly by the idea of inviting others to the fame.

In this class stands the effay now before us: for, though the Author feems to have perfuaded himfelf that his difquifitions may be useful; that the efficient caufes of the harmony of our language and poetry may be analyfed by rule, and a regular and fyftematic profody be inftituted, yet he has left us in ftill firmer poffeffion of the opinion, with which we took up his book, that the Arbitrium Auris, muft as i confeffedly did with the ancients, for ever determine the harmony of modern writing.

But, let the Author fpeak of his own defign:


Speech, fays he, is moreover fo noble, and fo diftinguishing a gift of our Creator, that any inquiry concerning it, merely as an object of curiofity, is interefting. It is even difgraceful to remain ignorant of caufes which feemingly cannot be very deeply hidden, and whofe effects are fo obvious, fo powerful, and of fuch daily experience. We are I know in these northern climates accufed, and even apt to accufe ourselves of a dulnefs of fenfe, little capable of being affected by the powers of harmony. Nay fo inclined are we to this felf-abufe, that the writings of fome may induce pofterity, admiring the mild and pleafant climate of the fouth of England, to wonder how it happened, that in the eighteenth century the fun never fhone there. The obfervation of Dionyfius of Halicarnaffus however certainly holds with us: "Either verfe or profe, he fays, which is deficient in harmony, lofes in a great measure the advantage of all other merit. For, as the most excellent conceptions of a writer are ufelefs to the world, unless he can exprefs them in fuitable terms, fo the strongest, most accurate, and most elegant terms will lose their


effect, if awkwardly connected in inharmonious fentences." This not only holds with us, but has lately been experienced in a very eminent degree. It is univerfally acknowledged, that for the avidity with which the tracts, not long ago published in the news-papers, under the fignature of Junius, were received, the author was chiefly indebted to the ftrength of his expreffions, embellished by the harmony of his periods.

To proceed then. Whoever has adverted to the subject proposed to be treated in the following pages, and obferved the strange contradictions of most of the modern writers who have touched upon it, and the total inconclufiveness of all of them, may perhaps incline to think it incapable of being treated with fyftematical precifion. What difputes will he find to have fubfifted throughout Europe concerning the harmony of the Greek and Latin languages? Difputes relating immediately indeed to thofe languages in particular, and principally the Greek, but, in the end, regarding human fpeech in general: and though the fabject feems exhaufted, the learned are not agreed. If he turns to our own language, what contrariety of opinions, and how inconclufive and unfatisfactory all of them? What a variety of contradictory answers may he receive to this fimple question, Whence arifes the harmony of our verfe? And where will he find complete information according to any one system whatever? Some will tell him that quantity, others that accent, is the principal efficient of our poetical harmony. Some affirm that there is no fuch thing as quantity in our language; and moft hold that what quantity we have is always determined by accent: others again tell us that it fometimes is fo, and fometimes not; but all are much at a lofs to explain this point intelligibly. Some have indeed gone fo far as to divide our verse into feet, and have called thofe feet by Greek names; but this they have done quite arbitrarily, without reference to any rule, and indeed in a manner incapable of being reduced to rule. It appears ftrange that in a matter concerning which one should, on first view, imagine every one's ear would enable him to determine, opinions fhould be fo uncertain and fo divided.

If from this aftonishing jargon of the moderns he turns to the ancients, and examines attentively what remains to us from them on the fubject of poetical and rhetorical harmony, he will find a confiftency, a clearnefs, and a precifion, which will probably very much, as well as very agreeably furprife him. It will immediately ftrike him, that they used terms, the meaning of which was accurately fixt, and well known; thofe very terms which have been adopted by the moderns, but used in fuch a manner as to convey very confufed ideas of what feldom appears to have been clearly conceived by the writer himfelf. And he will in the end find great reafon to think that the ancients not only fully understood the harmony of their respective languages, but that this knowledge was founded on a clear infight into the nature of the harmony of human fpeech in general; of which, if any moderns have had any accurate ideas, the information at least, which their writings give, is very unfatisfactory and obfcure.

'I must beg my readers not haftily to impute arrogance to me for fuppofing myself capable of what fo many men of great parts, and great learning have failed in. There feems reafon fufficient why they


could not fucceed. I never heard of fo much as an attempt to explain fyftematically the harmony of any modern language, and entil fome fuch attempt has been brought to fuccefs, all endeavours to explain the harmony of the ancient languages muft fail, for want of an exemplar, by which every circumftance may be illuftrated. It is my purpofe not to attempt furmounting difficulties which have been infuperable to my betters, but to avoid them by taking another road. The ancients have left us, interfperfed in their writings, large and accurate information concerning the general harmony of human fpeech, I imagine that an attentive view of this information will enable us to acquire a clear infight into the particular harmony of our native tongue; that this again will contribute to afcertain and perfect our ideas of the general harmony of human fpeech, and when clear notions are acquired of both thefe, it will not be difficult to understand whatever has been accurately written concerning the harmony of any other language.'

From the fecond to the tenth fection inclufive, he treats of the Efficients of Harmony in Human Speech; of Accent, Quantity, and Emphasis;-of English Accents, of English Vowel Sounds, of English Quantity;-Dr. Fofter's Obfervations on English Profody examined; his Account of the particular Nature of the Acute Accent * ;-of the Effects of Accent and Emphafis upon Quantity in English Pronunciation;-of the Efficients of English poetical Harmony, of Scottish Pronunciation of the Accentuation of Englith Heroic Verfe;-of the Metre of English Heroic Verfe;-of the Paufe and Cefure in English Heroic Verfe, of Monofyllables, Examples of fome general and particular Refults from the different Efficients of EngJih poetical Harmony ;-of the Origin and Progrefs of English Verfification. In the eleventh fection we find fome just oblervations on the comparative merits of Rhyme and Blank Verfe; the twelfth treats of the Harmony of the Greek and Latin Languages; and the laft contains obfervations on the Connexion of Poetry with Mufic.

'Little as we know, fays the Author, concerning Grecian mufic, we are well affured of one effential point in which it differed from ours, and that is its intimate connexion with poetry. With the Greeks mufic and verse were almoft infeparable: with the moderns they feem to have fcarcely any neceffary connexion. Among the former all improvements of mufic feem to have tended, or at least to have been meant to heighten the expreffion of poetry: among the latter every improvement of mufic has fet it more at variance with the fifter art, the laboured harmonies of the last age, and the whimfical melodies and extravagant graces of the prefent equally contribute to that effect." In our churches," fays the excellent Tartini in his treatife on mufic (I use the translation of his commentator the author of Principles and Power of Harmony)" the miferere mei Deus, is performed, and on the ftage heroes and heroines go to death with

* See Review, vol. xxviii. p. 303.


the very finest mufical graces. It is well that cuftom and habit do not give room for reflexion: however very little reflexion is fufficient to turn all the pleasure that can be received from the most perfect performance into the direct contrary.-Mufic alone, and feparated from any other confideration whatever, is become our only aim and intention." And as the learned commentator himself obferves: "As things go on at prefent, any notes will ferve for any words: these are so frittered away that they feem rather the ghofts of mangled words lingering and fticking to the tongue like the ghofts of wicked men, which, as Plato fays, are frequently feen hovering about their tombs."

The laws of ancient poetry, and the nature of modern mufic are, for the purpose at leaft of our prefent inquiry, fufficiently known. It has been the object of the foregoing pages to explain the nature and laws of modern poetry, which had hitherto lain in an unaccountable perplexity. Without entering then into any difquifition of thofe obfcure points concerning ancient mufic, which have remained yet unintelligible to the molt learned and moft fedulous inquirers, let us juft examine how far the knowledge of ancient poetry, of modern poetry, and of modern music, may lead to elucidate any connexion naturally fubfifting between verfe and mufic.

There is one most obvious circumfiance common to the mechanifm of poetry and mufic, which they have also in common with dancing, with the fmith's hammers of Pythagoras, and with the clashing of fwords and fhields of the Idæi dactyli; and that is cadence. Modern mufic has like modern poetry only two different cadences. By these the time is regularly divided, and they are generally known by the names of common and triple time. Now nothing is more certain, as Tartini's learned commentator obferves, than that the giving of accented notes to accented fyllables ought to be an inviolable rule in vocal mufic. But it is remarkable, that the only two cadences which our poetry knows, correfpond exactly with the only two cadences or divifions of time ufed in mufic, the common and the triple. Thefe have, in their fimpleft ftate, the former two, the other three equal notes in a bar, and the accent always on the first note of the bar. All the various fubdivifions of time ufed by modern muficians are fubordinate to thefe primary divifions. Take then thefe two mufical cadences in their fimpleft form, the triple bar containing three equal notes, and the common bar two, and by the help of the unaccented notes which frequently precede the first complete bar of a ftrain, the mufical accentuation may correfpond exactly with the poetical. Now thefe circumftances actually meet in moft of our old popular ballads; and the very learned and judicious author of Principles and Power of Harmony fcruples not to prefer thofe fimple and defpifed compofitions to the generality of the most laboured pieces of the most admired modern masters.

It is farther obfervable in our popular ballads (I hardly need fcruple referring to thefe, after the teftimony borne in their favour by Tartini, and his learned commentator) that as the common meafure most naturally accommodates itfelf to common time, and the triple measure to triple time, fo an exactly equal divifion of both times will, in general, and for a continuance, accord better with the


« PreviousContinue »