Immagini della pagina






u .......

matist fairly inferred) to the conceal

b ........

..Beating, bearing, bringing. .........

..(Soft) as & ; (hard) as k. ment of thought as to its expression.

à .(Final) solidity, completeness. The difficulty, then, in the way of d .(Initial) violence. theorizing the forces which I imagine

...Concentration, convergence.

f the letters to exert to-day, in English, h Ethereality.

t in our latitude, in our stage of culture,

Hardness. &c., &c., is that the best expression is


.Thinness, slimness, fineness. ever due to the fullest knowledge, or

.Fineness of lights and sounds.

1.. intuition, or inspiration, of all the

..Metallic, chill, polish,

. Monotony. various phenomena of the world at the

.Denial, contempt. moment it is delivered to the true 0 ........ Solemnity, nobility, devotion, volume, estimate of the comparative age and


.. Voluptuousness.

......... Roughness, vibration. value of things,-in short, to the uni

gr........ Grit. versality of experience. I am ready to

.. Moisture. believe no bard ever wrote a line that

sh.... ....Confusion.

...Crudity, absurdity, humor. was not poetry to him ; but the experi

V........ Vehemence. ence of many has not been in harmony


...Haze, dreamy confusion. with that of a sufficient number of It would require a volume of quotapeople to make their impressions con- tion to fairly illustrate the happiness of siderable. And essentially the basis of the letters in suggesting the qualities wit fluctuates and extends. Every new

here indicated for them; but I hope genius destroys the old balances and by a few examples to so force their standards. Yet the essence we would genius upon the reader's memory that determine rises like perfume from the he will habitually observe it. And I whole process of the growth and decay will say, for his encouragement, that I of things, and is affected by considera- made

his schedule fifteen years ago, tions the faintest and remotest, -as and that I have met nothing since to dainty and difficult of apprehension as jostle its arrangement. He will directly would be the scent of a grain of mummy- see, too, that these convictions are by dust from Petra rising out of a cart-load no means singular. Burns, Swedenborg, of sweepings from the pavement of Pall and Pope, have occasionally manifested Mall, London, England. The only key the same; and, philologically rather to all poetry is the Book of Life. But than poetically speaking, Dr. Alexander if I have succeeded in conveying my Murray, of Edinburgh, reduced the meaning, the reader will look leniently whole Caucasian group of languages on the ambition of the present essay as to nine roots, to his own satisfaction at an appeal to his consciousness that shall least. As for what has been said of the prove us jointly in harmony with the obscurity and meanness of the origin genius which, in every age, according of language in general, I would cordially to its own circumstances, is efficient in refer the reader to “ Language, and the throwing out original language, and Study of Language," by Professor Whitespecially in enlightened times is apt in ney, of Yale College.-We will try the the selection of language poetical and vowels firstly. impressive to the general sense.

A. “Far, far away, over the calm and I assert, then, that the sounds repre- mantling wave"-thus begins the boy's sented by the letters of the alphabet romance. He is possessed by the poetry have a special aptness in suggesting of the ocean—of vastness and space. the qualities opposed to them in the fol- The word ocean is seldom used except lowing schedule; and that the poetry, in expression of rolling and dashing ; the proverbs, the slang, and the common but the wave, the main, the vast waters, talk of our people approve this asser- the watery waste, or plain, are more

popular. Lake, straight, cale, chase, race, .Vastness, space, planc.

trail, trace, away, give distance and line. ......Flatness.

Seen nearer, long a gives effect to slate,


flake, scale, plate, cake, &c. A, flat, gives I fancy this, like many another apparent expression to mat, pack, slap, strap, plat- inaccuracy of the master, came through ter, clap, flap, pat, flats, shallows, mash, a law that is above the books. Squeajam, slam, &c. “Flat as a pancake” is mish, queer, leer, zeal, squeal, screech, very flat. Waver and shake give hori- sneeze, to be, to see, to feel, to reek, get zontal vibration; dash, splash, thrash, force from ē. have a flatter downward force. When

“ Deep self-possession--an intense repose." a stone is crushed it is much broken, yet it retains something of its bulk; when

1, short, as in pin, has a stiff, slim, it is mashed, it is flattened. Burns, in prim, thin, spindling effect—a rising and his poem called “ The Vowels," speaks sinking, perpendicular effect, as in the of a as“ a grave, broad, solemn wight;" bristling pines ;” but, more especially,

it gives a thinness and lightness; thus, the breadth and space belong to ā, the gravity and solemnity to å, or ah, or o.

we say, a “ light skiff.” Pope showed E. Swedenborg, in endeavoring to

his judgment upon this letter, as upon r: describe the language of the angels,

“ When the loud surges lash the sounding shore,

The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent says the angels that “ love most” use

roar; much the Ō sound; but those that Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain“know most,” the speculative, self-con

Flics o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along

the main." templative, intellectual, use the sound of ē. Burns' idea of ē was expressed in So Tennyson, for the fairy bugle, uses weeping, “greeting,” tears—the inten- i and e: sity of grief alone. But it gives inten- "O hark ! O hear, how thin and clear.” sity to every thing; it gives convergence, I, long, gives inclining effects : concentration, deep-seeing, and always

“In winter, when the dismal rain brings thought to a focus. All the

Comes down in slanting lines " endearing diminutives end in è—the

" The clouds consign their treasures to the fie ds." “wee” things. Mark how the child sbuns the book-orthoepy when he con

In sounds i has a lightening effect, as centrates his mind : “ a lé-é-tle, té-é-ny in tinkle, clink, link; clank is as the bit of a thing !” he peers between his sound of a sheet of zinc dropt flat on fingers, or through some narrow crevice, the pavement. I and a in combination and cries "pé-é-k!” he feels the edge

make a beautiful curve, thus : of his new knife, and writhing the cor- “Many an hour I've wiled away." ner of his mouth toward his half-closed

“Swilled by the wild and wasteful ocean.'' and conceptive eye, says “it is as ké-é-n!"

« Once in the flight of ages past." So when his contempt is intense he dwells on the e in “mé-an," "sné-aking,”

"Oh! when shall it dawn on the night of the &c. But when the baby gives you his rattle he opens his mouth and his heart

“Oh! wild enchanting horn!" with the instinct of the dative case, and

“Some happier island in the watery waste." says“ tah!”-outward and away. (A "Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the taste mother whose instinct prompts her to

Where stood Jerusalem." say “babe," instead of “baby,” must 0. This is the noblest Roman of them have been polished very thinly.) But all. If we would find the most solemn me and we bring observation to our- sentence in all literature, let us turn to selves. We would be a better objective Ecclesiastes: "For man goeth to his case than us,—so much so that a gram- long home, and the mourners go alout matical informality of Shakespeare has the streets." Not all the trappings and passed uncared for, or unnoticed, in the suits of woe can so pall the sunlight “Hamlet,” where the prince speaks of in the homes and walks of men as does the ghost as

this sombre verse. Burns calls o “ The "Making night hideous, and we fools of nature

wailing minstrel of despairing woe." So horribly to shake our disposition," &c. Swedenborg's idea was rather that of

grave ?"

6 Roll on,

"To the stack or the barn-door

holiness and adoration. Solemnity and he has some humor, more crudity, but nobility are its general effects. All no delicacy,-a creature whose voice is things noble, holy, devotional,—or sober, seldom heard in walks of refinement sombre, slow, dolorous, mournful,—or and devotion. Of all nations I should old, lone, glorious,-or even bold, portly, take him for a Dutchman. pompous, find their best expression in Yet u, long, seems to give force to the 0-sound. Jove, Jehovah, Lord of the true, the pure, the beautiful, the glory, lift up the adoring soul. 0! lo! good; and rude and crude are used with ho! behold! are interjections which much emphasis in the opposite direcnations use with little variance.

tion, partly owing to the force of r. "O sad Nomore! O sweet Nomore!"

Mother would seem to use u flat, but the “Oh! Rome, my country, city of the soul,

or ah is more evident,--and the The orphans of the heart must turn to thec." dreamy monotony of m and the soft th thou deep and dark blue ocean, ro!l !"

fit the word to its use; but " Ma” is

better. The devotional o flat in father, "Their shots along the deep slowly boom."

is becoming too strong for young Amer“ The lowing herds wind slowly o'er the lea,

ica, and he nicks and reduces it by The ploughman homeward plods his weary way."

familiar pa, pap, and dad. That o gives volume, may be seen in

Ou, diphthong, is an upward curve: the fact that most people think a boul

thus in round, bough, mountain, bow der is a large stone; but, philologically, down, mound. Milton hits the rolling à boulder reed not be bigger than a

swagger of the gaudy cock who pea. U, gutteral, or flat, is a humorous

Stoutly struts his dames before." savage that cannot be described except

"Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies.” in his own words,-a huge, lubberly, blubbering, blundering dunderhead, -a I, o, u, in combination, make a fine numskull and a dunce, ugly, sullen, curve, the true “line of beauty ;” a, o, dull, glum, rugged, clumsy, gullible,

u make the same : dumpish, lugubrious,-a mumbler, a “ And false the light on glory's plume.” stumbler, a bungler, a grumbler, a fum

“Of Love's and night's and ocean's solitude.” bler, a grunter, a thumper, a stumper, a

“The wide old wood from his majestic rest." tumbler, a stunner,- ,-a nudge, a trudge, a drudge, he lugs, tugs, sucks, juggles,

"In all that proud old world beyond the deep." -he is up to all manner of bulls,--- Oi, diphthong, strikes me forcibly in fusty, musty, crusty, disgusting brute, the word coil. his head is a mug, his nose a snub, or a D is a solid, compact, heavy letter; pug, -his ears are lugs, his breasts dugs, thus in wad, sod, clod, load, plod, dogged, his bowels guts, his victuals grub, his rugged, leaden, dead. The report of a garments duds,--his hat is a plug, his short and heavily-loaded pistol is well child is a cub,—his smallest diminutive caught in explode. is chubby, or bub; at his best he is

“ Earth's cities had no sound nor tread, bluff, gruff, blunt; "his doublet is of And ships were drifting with the dead sturdy buff, and though not sword, is

To shores where all was dunb.” cudgel proof;" budge he will not, but

“Morena's dusky height he will drub you with a club, or a slug,

Sustains aloft the battery's iron load." or a nub, or a stub, or a butt, or pelt The metals seem to me well named ; with mud; he is ready for a muss, or a gold, silver, iron, lead-especially lead. fuss; and should you call him a grudg- Tin is good, in thin shape as it is used. ing curmudgeon he gulps up “ugh! D, initial, has strong philological confudge! stuff! rubbish ! humbug !” in nections in all the European languages, high dudgeon; he is a “rough," a but its poetic force seems less to me. “ blood-tub,” and a “ bummer,” a “rum Some very efficient swearing can be 'un,” and tough customer generally; done with d and g hard, which well


approves the character of violence given “ The crispéd brooks" of Eden. them by Dr. Murray.

“The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls." F, h, and t, are ethereal and softening

“The salt fringe that daily licks the shore letters, and show their nature in such

Is gross with sand.” words as breathe, soothe, feathery, warmth, The brackish wash-the grit of the far, faint, fading, forgetful, lethean, sand in the brine, is well suggested here thoughtful, sabbath, muffled, smother, by gro88. By the same instinct Tennysuffocate, stuff, muff: Notice the differ

son speaks of the plashing brine as ence between fog and mist: fog gives a " the shrill salt.” But how dry and softer, dryer, more definite volume than deep-carved is the following: mist. So froth is kept dry and light by “Dropt in my path like a great cup of gold, these sounds.

All rich and rough with stories of the godo." “ The effusive South

L, by itself, makes all cold, clear, Warms the wide air, and o'er the vault of heaven

lucid, lustrous, placid, liquid, sliding, Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers dis

glary; it is the polish of glow, gleam, tent. At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,

glide, glitter, glance, glassy ; solid glass Scarce staining ether," &c.

is a strong expression; even so, “hard “ Lethe the river of oblivion rolls Her watery labyrinth."

as iron;" so the mellow sound of a fine

bell is well given. “ The clangor of the “ Like a dish of ripe strawberries smothered in

bells, iron bells,"_"golden bells.” For

the little bells we have “the tintinnabuSis a wet letter; thus in moist, misty, lation that so musically swells,” &c. So nasty, steam, slip, slop, slush, dash, swash, Tennyson reduces the effects of the fairy drizzle, &c.; luscious

, delicious, nutritious, music; observe here the effects of t, f, la suggest juicy substances--probably as

and i : onomatopes of water in its various

"O hark, O hear-how thin and clear! modes, as moisture, washing, sucking,

The horns of elf-land faintly blowing." and sibilation.

“Soft-eyed and open-necked to the wild windSh, either initial or final in a word, In love with mine own motions-the smooth chu? suggests confusion; thus in shatter, Of my own flowing fibre, ere my steps shiver, shake, shrivel, shrink, shred, be

Forgot the barefoot feel of the clay world." shrer ; or in dash, clash, suash, thrash,

The stars come forth, through trash, crush, qush, rush, mush, slush, &c. “ The cold, delicious meadows of the night.” “ As when the sun new risen

K has fine effects in connection with Looks through the horizontal misty air l, in thin lights and sounds; thus in Shorn of his beams."

twinkle, flicker, darkle, sparkle, sprinkle, G, L, and R, are the stronger con- Blink, trickle ; so in tinkle, clink, crackle, sonants; and although each has a dis- clank, link, chink; and alone it always tinctive quality, it usually blends its has a lightening effect--as in skip, nick, force with that of one of the others. click, skiff, skin, skim, &c. Quarrymen G is the hard letter, go is the rough call a thin sliver of stone a splick. letter, and l the chilling and polishing

“ The outstretched ocean glitter like a like, letter; thus gr makes a rough hardness,

"How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, as in grit, grate, grind, grainéd, gravel,

While the stars that oversprinkle grudge, grim; while gl is effective in

All the heavens seem to twinkle

With a krystalline delight." glide, gloro, glance, glary, &c.

This is very plain work; but it is of “Stoop o'er the place of graves, and softly sway The sighing herbage by the gleaming stone."

the same genius as this in Tithonus,

where the steeds arise R, by itself, is effective in such words

" And shake the darkness from their looschel as scour, writhe, wrinkle, crisp, fritter, fry, fragment, bur, blur, mar, scar, rude,

And bcat the twilight into flakcs of fire." broken, rugged, hoarse rough verse, " Swinburne, in a single line, confirms gnarled, burly, horrent, groan, growl, roar, all that I have said of k, i, and l: &c.

"Like scaled oarage of a keen thin fish.”


The reader who has had patience to to lie less in what they philologically follow me so far will feel the indelicacy mean than in what they suggest. Shelof parading these dainty touches for ley's eagle was fighting a mailéd serpent analytical examination; they require in the air; the poet would have this sudden glances and encounters. I might brown eagle an iron bird; to this end speak in a harsher key; I might say eagle is itself a hard word, and the that these lucky words are stolen or “clanging" of his wings gives the bird borrowed year after year by authors a metallic hardihood which makes him who would scout the idea of an original a fit antagonist for his golden-scaléd property in their first use. How many foe. So “midnights blue and cold" times have we read of crispéd streams, gives polish to the stars, silvered by the since Milton first used the word! So metallic clanging of the geese, &c., &c. Burns has a favorite word :

To such remote reflections does poetry “Peggy dear, the evening's clear- owe somewhat of its splendor and its

Swift flies the skimming swallow." wealth, Both Tennyson and Alexander Smith Thus, leaving the remainder of the use the same skimming swallow. Take letters for the reader's private exemplithe word clanging; it is a metallic word, fication, I drop the subject just when yet observe: first it appears in the its real interest would begin, if these Odyssey, applied to gecse; then Shelley assertions were admitted in a basis of uses it twice in the Revolt of Islam : criticism, which I shall not presume “ With clang of wings and scream the eagle past."

them to be. That they are trivial it "With clang of wings and scream the eagle flew." cannot be denied; that they are fanciful

Then Mr. Tennyson uses it three is nothing against them. They would times; in Locksley Hall he “leads the go but little way in the construction of clanging rookery home;" in the Prin- a great poem; they indicate but the cess he says, “ The leader wild swan in A B C of poetry, at the best; and the among the stars would clang it;” and admission of one half of them might again in the same, “But I, an eagle cause the whole of their little science clang an eagle to the sphere." Mr. to be discarded hereafter; (although

rhyming is a much simpler science, and "On midnights blue and cold

lives vigorously though cheaply notLong strings of geese came clanging from the withstanding.) But there is something

in them, be it what it may, that has Later still, we have one

been a pleasant diversion and a curios“ Whose diapason whirls

ity to me: may it awaken the interest The clanging constellations 'round the heavens.”

and become the study of more comThe poetry of these expressions seems

petent critics.

Smith says,


« IndietroContinua »