« PreviousContinue »
which hath many breaches, and doth not seem to end, but fall. The congrument and harinonious fitting of parts in a sentence, hath almost the fastening, and force of knitting and connexion: as in stones well-squared, which will rise strong a great way without mortar. Periods are beautiful when they are not too long; for so they have their strength too, as in a pike or javelin. As we must take the care that our words and sense be clear; so if the obscurity happen through the hearer's or reader's want of understanding, I am not to answer for them; no more than for their not listening or marking; I must neither find them ears, nor mind. But a man cannot put a word so in fence, but something about it will illustrate it, if the writer understand himself. For order helps much to perspicuity, as confusionhurts. Rectitudo lucem adfert; obliquitas et circumductio offuscat. We should, therefore, speak what we can, the nearest way, so as we keep our gate, not leap for too short may as well be not let into the memory, as too long not kept in. Whatsoever looseth the grace and clearness, converts into a riddle; the obscurity is marked, but not the value. That perisheth and is past by, like the pearl in the fable Our style should be like a skein of silk, to be carried, and found by the right thread, not ravelled and perplexed; then all is a knot, a heap. There are words,
that do as much raise a style, as others can depress it. Superlation and over-muchness amplifies. It be above faith, but never above a mean. It was may ridiculous in Cestius, when he said of Alexander:
Fremit oceanus, quasi indignetur,quòd terras relinquas; but propitiously from Virgil:
-credas innare revulsas Cycladas.
He doth not say it was so, but seemed to be so. Although it be somewhat incredible, that is excused before it be spoken. But there are hyperboles, which will become one language, that will by no means admit another. As Eos esse P. R. exercitus, qui cœlum possint perrumpere: who would say with us, but a bad man. Therefore, we must consider in every tongue what is used, what received. Quintilian warns us, that in no kind of translation, or metaphor, or allegory, we make a turn from what we be gan: as if we fetch the original of our metaphor from sea and billows, we end not in flames and ashes: it is a most foul inconsequence. Neither must we 'draw out our allegory too long, lest either we make ourselves obscure, or fall into affectation, which is childish. But why do men depart at all from the right and natural ways of speaking? Sometimes
for necessity, when we are driven, or think it fitter to speak that in obscure words, or by circumstance, which uttered plainly, would offend the hearers. Or to avoid obsceneness, or sometimes for pleasure and variety; as travellers turn out of the highway drawn either by the commodity of a foot path, or the delicacy or freshness of the fields. And all this is called εσχηματισμένη, Οr figured language.
Language most shews a man: speak, that I may see thee. It springs out of the most retired and inmost parts of us, and is the image of the parent of it, the mind. No glass renders a man's form or likeness so true, as his speech. Nay, it is likened to a man; and as we consider feature, and composi tion in a man, so words in language; in the greatness, aptness, sound, structure, and harmony of it. Some men are tall and big; so some language is high and great. Then the words are chosen, their sound ample, the composition full, the absolution plenteous, and poured out, all grave, sinewy, and strong. Some are little and dwarfs; so of speech, it is humble and low; the words poor and flat; the members and periods thin and weak, without knitting or number. The middle are of a just stature. There the language is plain and pleasing: even without stopping, round without swelling; all well-turned, com posed, elegant, and accurate. The vicious language
is vast and gaping, swelling and irregular; when it contends to be high, full of rock, mountain, and pointedness as it affects to be low, it is abject, and creeps, full of bogs and holes. And according to their subject, these styles vary and lose their names: for that which is high and lofty, declaring excellent matter, becomes vast and tumorous, speaking of petty and inferior things; so that which was even and apt, in a mean and plain subject, will appear most poor and humble in a high argument. Would you not laugh to meet a great councellor of state in a flat cap, with his trunk hose, and a hobby-horse cloak, his gloves under his girdle; and yond haberdasher in a velvet gown, furred with sables? There is a certain latitude in these things, by which we find the degrees.
The next thing to the stature, is the figure and feature in language: that is, whether it be round and strait, which consists of short and succinct periods, numerous and polished; or square and firm, which is to have equal and strong parts, every thing answerable, and weighed.
The third is the skin and coat, which rests in the well-joining, cementing, and coagmentation of words; when as it is smooth, gentle, and sweet; like a table upon which you may run your finger without rubs and your nail cannot find a joint; nor horrid, rough,
wrinkled, gaping, or chapt. after these, the flesh, blood, and bones come in question. We say it is a fleshy style, when there is much periphrases, and circuit of word; and when, with more than enough, it grows fat and corpulent; Arvina orationis, full of suet and tallow. It hath blood and juice, when the words are proper and apt, their sound sweet, and the phrase neat and picked. Oratio uncta et bene pasta. But where there is redundancy, both the blood and juice are faulty and vicious. Redundat sanguine, quia multò plus dicit quàm necesse est. Juice in language is somewhat less than blood; for if the words be but becoming, and signifying, and the sense gentle, there is juice; but where that wanteth, the language is thin, flagging, poor, starved; scarce covering the bone, and shews like stones in a sack. Some men, to avoid redundancy, run into that; and while they strive to have no ill blood, or juice, they lose their good. There be some styles again, that have not less blood, but less flesh and corpulence. These are bony and sinewy: Ossa, habent et nervos.
Ben. Jonson's works complete were published, 1716, in 6 vols, 8vo. and in 1756, in 7 vols, Svo. Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic