Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

creating.

‘It does not seem safe in regard to this to rely on the ordinary rule of demand creating supply.”—Sir J. T. Coleridge, Keble, p. 381.

predicting, conspiring.

“Some people will never distinguish between predicting an eclipse and conspiring to bring it about.”

A very good illustration of our point may be got from sentences of the following type, in which the infinitiveregnant with to stands counterposed with our flexional infinitive :—

‘Where the case is so plain, it is not for the dignity of this house to inquire instead of acting.’—Times, February 11, 1870, Summary.

Sometimes the infinitive with to has been pushed beyond the sphere now alloted to it, and a rendering by the infinitive in -ing would seem more natural. Spenser has

‘For not to have been dipt in Lethe lake
Could save the son of Thetis from to die;

which in modern English would be expressed thus:—‘His having-been-dipped in Lethe could not save Achilles from

dying.'
The following is somewhat similar:—

“It comes either from weakness or guiltiness, to fear shadows.”—Richard Sibbes, Soul's Conflict, ch. x.

The following passages contain some mixed examples:–

‘I am convinced a man might sit down as systematically and as successfully to the study of wit, as he might to the study of the mathematics; and I would answer for it, that, by giving up only six hours a day to being witty, he should come on prodigiously before midsummer, so that his friends should hardly know him again. For what is there to hinder the mind from gradually acquiring a habit of attending to the lighter relations of ideas in which wit consists? Punning grows upon everybody, and punning is the wit of words.-Sydney Smith, Wit and Humour. - * ... “But it is clear that, as society goes on accumulating powers and gifts, the one hope of society is in men's modest and unselfish use of them; in simplicity and nobleness of spirit increasing, as things impossible to our fathers become easy and familiar to us; in men caring for better things than money and ease and honour; in being able to see the riches of the world increase and not set our hearts upon them; in being able to admire and forego.”—R. W. Church, Sermons, ii. 1868.

Defend me, therefore, common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up.’
William Cowper, The Garden.

“True religion prescribes a kind of grace, not only before meals, but before setting out for a pleasant walk, for a moonlight ramble, for a pleasant meeting; a grace before reading any author that delights us.”—Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, ‘Grace before Meat.'

“She had then no alternative but to take the path of the thicket, nor did she pursue it long before coming in sight of a singular spectacle.”—Sir Walter Scott, Castle Dangerous, ch. iv.

A case that deserves a place apart is that of being and having when they enter into the composition of infinitives, active or passive:-

“The present apparent hopelessness of a really CEcumenical Council being assembled.’—John Keble, Life, p. 425.

In the next piece it would be allowable to substitute ‘to have heard’ for ‘having heard’:—

“I recollect having heard the noble lord the member for Tiverton deliver in this House one of the best speeches I ever listened to. On that occasion the noble lord gloried in the proud name of England, and, pointing to the security with which an Englishman might travel abroad, he triumphed in the idea that his countrymen might exclaim, in the spirit of the ancient Roman, Civis Romanus sum.”—John Bright, Speeches, 1853, ed. J. E. T. Rogers.

In our next quotation it appears in a passive form:—

“Great men like Sylla and Napoleon have loved to attribute their success to their fortune, their star; religious great men have loved to say that their sufficiency was of God. But through every great spirit runs a train of feeling of this sort; and the power and depth which there undoubtedly is in Cai vinism, comes from Calvinism's being overwhelmed by it.”—Matthew Arnold, St. Paul and Protestantism, p. 120.

The expression in the following line is certainly condensed, and the grammar by no means explicit, but I should be curious to know by what process of thought the word writing could be accepted in any other character than that of an infinitive:—

“Nature's chief master-piece is writing well.'
Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, 725.

The expression “about doing anything ' is considered bad grammar, yet it is met with in authors of repute:—

‘He was about retracing his steps, when he was suddenly transfixed to the spot by a sudden appearance.’—Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, ch. xxiii.

The aversion which there is to this particular expression might perhaps be modified if the verb in -ing were acknowledged to be an infinitive. I do not mean to say that this consideration ought to be decisive. Language is not altogether governed by logic. Any form of speech is doomed, if it minister occasion to confusion of thought.

The really dubious cases are those where this infinitive is so like a noun-substantive as to be hardly distinguished from it. In fact these two blend so closely as to defy all attempts at a line of demarcation. One could not even convince a determined adversary on the ground of their governing a case, if he were quick enough to remember that in Plautus the Latin substantive in -to governs an accusative case just like a verb' I will therefore only say, that in such instances as the following I think the meaning is better apprehended by regarding them as verb-substantives, that is to say, infinitives.

versing.

‘I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing.’ George Herbert.

flying.
‘Johnny watched the swallows trying
Which was cleverest at flying.’
prelating, labouring, lording.

“Amende therfore, and ye that be prelates loke well to your office, for right prelatynge is busye labourynge and not lordyng.”—Hugh Latimer, The Ploughers, 1549.

While we are on this flexional infinitive, I must call attention to one of the finest of our provincialisms. It is when this infinitive is used as something between active and passive, as if it were a neutral voice, like the so-called middle voice in Greek. In all classes of society in Yorkshire it may be heard; as, “Do you want the tea making,' “I want my coat brushing,’ &c.

In the prospectus of a projected almanack which was circulated in November, 1869, and which was dated from Darwen, Lancashire, it is said that

“The miscellaneous matter on the other pages of the almanack treats of topics which the clergy are likely to want prominently placing before their parishioners.’

Not very unlike this is the expression in the Offertory Rubric—“While these sentences are in reading.” In modern English we should make it passive, and say—‘While these sentences are being read.’

We may well contend for the infinitival character of this -ing, if only to rescue from the wreck of our old flexional system some time-honoured relic. The English language has divested itself of flexion to a most remarkable degree. But we must not suppose that when a language puts off the garb of flexion it becomes with her as if she had never put it on. No; we must allow for something like what the naturalists calls “heredity’, whereby a result once obtained is continued traditionally.

If it was difficult to accomplish the task of the first section of this chapter, and delineate in a complete manner a syntax of collocation, this is due to the influence of flexion. Flexion itself may pass away, but its consequences remain. The maxim of the jurist, “Cessante causa cessat effectus,’ does not govern language.

In a deflexionised language like ours, though almost all the flexions have themselves disappeared, they have not carried away with them those modifications of arrangement and collocation of which they first furnished the occasion.

III. OF SYNTAx BY SYMBOLIC WORDS.

As the natural division of flexion is into the two kinds, the flexion that attaches to the noun and that which attaches to the verb, and as symbolism is an equivalent of flexion, the most convenient plan for this section will be the division into the symbolism of the verb and the symbolism of the In Oun.

And this division will not only be found to rest upon a sound philological basis, but it will also prove convenient from a historical point of view. For that explicitness of syntax which we have acquired by the development of symbolism, is drawn partly from the Gothic and partly from the Roman source. It may be said, speaking in general terms, that the explicit verb has come to us from the Saxon, and the explicit noun from the French.

The most signal example of a symbolic word, which exists entirely to serve the purposes of syntax, is the symbol-verb ‘to be.’ From the moment that this verb had acquired its symbolic value, we may say that the reign of flexion was

« IndietroContinua »