« IndietroContinua »
emphasis which its English position gives it almost in spite of the most intelligent reader. The emphasis is on the word abideth, and if this verb were put where it should be in the place of emphasis, it would then be practicable for a reader to render the now as no’ ‘No’ faith, hope, and charity are permanent.’ Illustrations drawn from private experience have this natural weakness about them, that when a writer speaks of himself he is in danger of turning a personal idiosyncrasy into a fact of general interest. I will therefore mention that I had actually excluded this illustration for the reason now assigned, when a spontaneous communication from a learned friend informed me of the fact that his experience about this passage had been in every particular the very same as my own. Do. This word is presentive in such a sentence as the following:— “My object is to do what I can to undo this great wrong.”—Edward A. Freeman, History of the Norman Conquest, vol. iii. init. It is however in full activity, both as a near and also as a far-off symbolic word. I have often heard an old friend quote the following, which he witnessed at an agricultural entertainment. The speaker had to propose the chairman's health, and after much eulogy, he apostrophized the gentleman thus: — ‘What I mean to say, Sir, is this: that if more people was to do as you do, there wouldn't be so many do as they do do s” In the final ‘do do' it is clear we have the verb in two different powers, the first being highly symbolic, and the second almost presentive. Again, in the familiar salutation, “How d'ye do?’ we have the same verb in two powers. Here moreover the usual mode of writing it conveys the important lesson, that the more symbolic a word is, the more it loses tone and becomes subject to elision. It might seem as if this observation were contradicted by the previous example, in which it is plain to the ear of every reader that of the two words in “do do,” the former, that is to say, the more symbolic, is the more emphatic. But this is caused by the antithesis between that word and the ‘was to do,” preceding. In short, it is a disturbance of the intrinsic relative weight by rhetorical influence. In this gradation of symbolism we see what provision is made for the lighter touches of expression, the vague tints, the vanishing points. Towards a deep and distant background the full-fraught picture of copious language carries our eye, while the foreground is almost palpable in its reality. We must not regard either of the two main divisions of words as having the uniformity of a physical class. Even the presentive are more or less presentive; while the symbolic have an infinitely graduated scale of variation. And yet there is no uncertainty resting over the basis of the distinction here pointed out between presentive and symbolic. As a further illustration of this distinction it may be observed that a little more or less of the symbolic element has a great effect in stamping the character of diction. By a little excess of it we get the sententious or “would-be wise ’ mannerism. By a diminution of it we get an air of promptness and decision, which may produce (according to circumstances) an appearance of the business-like, or the military, or the off-hand. This is one of those observations which may best be justified by an appeal to caricatures of acknowledged merit. In the Pickwick Papers, the conversation of Mr. Samuel Weller the elder, a man of maxims and proverbs and store of experience, is marked by an occasional excess of the symbolic element. While ‘you’re a considering P
of it’ he will proceed to suggest ‘as how,’ &c. On the other hand, the off-hand impudence of the adventurer Mr. Jingle, is represented by the artist mainly through this particular feature, which characterizes his conversation throughout, namely, that it has the smallest possible quantity of
symbolic words. To make it still more distinct what the symbolic character is, I add a paragraph in which the symbolic element is distinguished by italics. “There is a popular saying, in the Brandenburg district where Bismarck's family has been so many centuries at home, which attributes to the Bismarcks, as the characteristic saying of the house, the phrase, “Noch lange nicht genug”—“Not near enough yet,” and which expresses, we suppose, the popular conception of their tenacity of purpose,_that they were not tired out of any plan they had formed by a reiterated failure or a pertinacious opposition which would have disheartened most of their compeers. There is a somewhat extravagant illustration of this characteristic in Bismarck's wild, youthful days, if his biographer may be trusted. When studying law at Berlin be had been more than once disappointed by a bootmaker who did not send home his boots when they were promised. Accordingly when this next happened, a servant of the young jurist appeared at the bootmaker's at six in the morning with the simple question, “Are Herr Bismarck's boots ready?” When be was told they were not, he departed, but at ten minutes past six another servant appeared with the same inquiry, and so at precise intervals often minutes it went on all day, till by the evening the boots were finished and sent bome.’
Doubt may sometimes arise concerning a particular word, when its signification lies on the confines of presentation and symbolism. In the above passage, I have let the word home stand once presentively, and twice I have marked it as symbolic.
In English prose the number of symbolic words is generally about sixty per cent. of the whole number employed, leaving forty per cent. for the presentives. A passage with many proper names and titles in it may, however, bring the presentives up to, or even cause them to surpass, the number of the symbolics. But the average in ordinary prose is what we have stated.
“Mr. Ward says very truly that “the men and women of Pope's satires and epistles, his Atticus and Atossa, and Sappho and Sporus, are real types, whether they be more or less faithful portraits of Addison and the old Duchess, of Lady Mary and Lord Hervey. His Dunces are the Dunces of all times; bis orator Henley the mob orator, and his awful Aristarch the don, of all epochs; though there may have been some merit in Theobald, some use even in Henley, and though in Bentley there was undoubted greatness. But in Pope's hands individuals become types, and his creative power in this respect surpasses that of the Roman satirists, and leaves Dryden himself behind.”
Out of 115 words, we here find the unusually large number of fifty-four presentives, and the small proportion of sixty-one symbolics. But if we compare this with the previous paragraph, we observe that whereas the presentives are a new Set of words, the symbolics are to a large extent identical in the two pieces. The symbolic words, though they hold so large a space in context, yet are but few in the whole vocabulary of the language. It would be a very interesting investigation, to examine whether the chief modern languages have any considerable diversity as to the bulk and composition of their symbolic element. For here it is that we must look for the matured results of aggregate national thought, in the case of the modern languages. The symbolic is the modern element— is, we might go so far as to say, the element which alone will give a basis for a philological distinction between ancient and modern languages. Not that any ancient languages are known which are absolutely destitute of this element. There is but one that I know, and that for the most part a very unwritten language, in which the symbolic has not yet been started. That is the language of infancy. Whoever has observed the shifts made by prattling children to express their meaning without the help of pronouns, will need no further explanation of the statement that infantine speech is unsymbolic. But I cannot refrain from establishing this important position by the widely independent testimony of such a philosopher as the late Professor Ferrier".
“In discussing the question, When does consciousness come into manifestation? we found that man is not born conscious; and that therefore consciousness is not a given or ready-made fact of humanity. In looking for some sign of its manifestation, we found that it has come into operation whenever the human being has pronounced the word “I,” knowing what this expression means. This word is a highly curious one, and quite an anomaly, inasmuch as its true meaning is utterly incommunicable by one being to another, endow the latter with as high a degree of intelligence as you please. Its origin cannot be explained by imitation or association. . Its meaning cannot be taught by any conceivable process; but must be originated absolutely by the being using it. This is not the case with any other form of speech. For instance, if it be asked What is a table? a person may point to one and say, “that is a table.” But if it be asked, What does “I” mean? and if the same person were to point to himself and say “this is I,” this would convey quite a wrong meaning, unless the inquirer, before putting the question, had originated within himself the notion “I,” for it would lead him to call that other person “I.”
It is quite certain that “I” has its own special peculiarity, which may be said to distinguish it from every other form of speech. As a token of the dawn of consciousness in a child, the use of this word may claim some special attention. But in the main it is to be observed that the quality in this word which excited the professor's admiration, is a quality not peculiar to the pronoun ‘I,’ but of many other pronouns, if not of all pronouns as such. As a general rule, it is probably with the pronoun “I’ that the child first seizes the use of the symbolic element in speech. But it is not always so. In an instance which has been lately before me, a wellobserved instance, supported moreover by conclusions from other less accurately noted cases, the pronoun “I” has been maturely acquired and in full use while the pronoun “you” was yet in the tentative stage.
The difference so well demonstrated by Professor Ferrier, as separating the nature of the word “I” from that of the
* Lectures on Greek Philosophy and other Philosophical Remains of James Frederick Ferrier. Edited by Sir Alexander Grant, p. 252.