« IndietroContinua »
There is yet another feature in the symbolism surrounding the verb, in which the English use is in accordance with the Gothic languages, and at variance with the Romanesque. This is in regard to those adverbs which in the Romanesque languages have the habit of prefixing themselves inseparably to their verbs. The equivalents of these are not always, but for the most part, separate or at least separable in English and German and the Gothic languages generally. This will be readily understood by the help of a few examples of this contrast between French and English. They are taken from Randle Cotgrave, 1611:
Abboyer, to barke or bay, at.
If we turn now from the symbolism that surrounds the verb, to that which is attendant on the noun, we shall see that the latter is most prominently drawn from the articles and the prepositions. These are the symbolic satellites of the noun. And there is perceivable a certain co-operation with one another in their action. When two substantives are united by a genitival relation, as servus servorum,' * Junonis ob iram,’ ‘hæleþa hleo,' 'heofena rice,' 'my body's length' (3 Henry VI, v. 2. 26), ‘man-kind,' and you substitute an of for the genitival flexion, or genitival relation of the one noun, you find yourself often obliged to give the other noun an article ; thus, 'a servant of servants,' 'for
Juno's wrath' avoiding both preposition and article, using them both, 'for the wrath of Juno,' “heroes' shelter, “heroum columen,' or, the shelter of heroes,' 'the kingdom of heaven,' the length of my body,' 'the family of man.'
If we compare the Versions of 1535 and of 1611 in Daniel i. 2, the elder has and there brought them in to his gods treasury;' but the younger has it ‘into the treasurehouse of his god. The change of structure from flexional to symbolic has thus brought in two symbols to attend on the noun-namely, the preposition and the article.
And this is not the only class of instances in which the introduction of one symbolic word provokes a tendency to call in another. In the earlier stages of Saxon literature we find a preposition with a bare noun; but this is less the case in the riper language of the tenth century, and in modern English it is (with certain special exceptions) altogether inadmissible.
Adrifen of biscopdome.'
Driven from the see; or, from bis see. • Of wealle geseah.'
From the wall be saw. The substitution of the preposition instead of the case of . the noun, has been extended also to the pronoun. Hence the variety of phrases, such as of my own, from thence.
of itself. • Warsaw is not of itself a strong fortress, but it closes the railway and defends the passage of the Vistula.'
And as the pronouns are the great source of conjunctions, the latter soon catch this phrasal habit.
out of which. But those wise and good men whose object it had been all along to save what they could of the wreck, out of which to construct another ark,' &c. -Blunt, History of the Reformation, ch. ix.
This has been felt to be a Frenchism or a classicism, and the English humour has never thoroughly liked it. At best it is but book-English.' It is one of the most salient of the features of Addison's style that he asserted the native idiom in this particular, as : “This is the thing which I spoke to you of.' This English reluctance to welcome the of which,''to which,' from which,' as a conjunction, is to be noted as the point where our instincts lead us to resist the further progress of the symbolic element. At this point there is, however, much vacillation and uncertainty: the English ear not being satisfied with either construction. The following is from one of Addison's papers in the Spectator, No. 499:-
• This Morning I received from him the following Letter, which, after having rectified some little orthographical Mistakes, I shall make a Present of to the Publick.'
The contact of two such words as of to is not pleasing.
One of the prepositions has acquired for itself a very remarkable function, and that not in attendance on a noun, but on a verb. And yet it is a noun also; it is at the point of union between noun and verb, that is to say, the infinitive. Here the preposition to has made for itself a permanent place, just as at has in Danish, and a (Latin ad) in Wallachian.
DANISH. at bære at skrive
Thus we perceive that the prepositional form of the infinitive is not peculiar to English, nor yet to the Gothic, as opposed to the Romance family of languages; but that it springs up indifferently under various conditions, and therefore must be
referred to some general tendency. What that tendency is I have already surmised in the chapter on the adverbs.
Modern languages have a continuity of development and a flexibility of action, and growing out of these a power of following the movements of the mind, "such as was never attained by the classical languages. If we take Demosthenes and Cicero as the maturest products of the Greek and Latin languages, we feel that they do not attain to the range of the best modern writers, or even to that of the fine passages in the prose writings of Milton. Great elasticity, great plasticity, has been added to language by the development of symbolism; great acquisitions have been made both in the compass and in the go of language. This of course displays itself chiefly in the grander oratorical efforts. The capacity of a language is seen best in the masterly periods of great orators. In our day we have heard much praise of short sentences; and that praise for the most part has been well bestowed. The vast majority of writers are engaged in the diffusion of knowledge, in popularising history or science; or else they write with the avowed purpose of entertaining. Wherever the object is to make knowledge easy, or to make reading easy, the short sentence is to be commended. But when the mind of an original thinker burns with the conception of new thoughts, or the mind of the orator is aflame with the enthusiasm of new combinations and newly perceived conclusions, it is natural for them to overflow in long and elaborately subordinated sentences, which tax the powers of the hearer or reader to keep up with them. These are among the greatest efforts of mind, and their best expression naturally constitutes the grandest exhibition of the power of human speech; and this power has received great accessions by the modern development of symbolism.
Short sentences are prevalent in our language, as long ones are in the German. In all things we incline to curtness and stuntness. Not that this gives the full account of the matter. German literature has been far more engaged in the acquisition, while English literature has been employed more in the diffusion, of knowledge. This is probably the chief cause of our short and easy sentences. But we can use the cumulate construction when needed, and there are places in which force would be lost by dividing it into two or three successive and seriatim sentences. The following affords a fair example of a cumulative subject. It is all “subject' down to the words printed in capitals,
• The houses of the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of this generation, at least the country houses, with front-door and back-door always standing open, winter and summer, and a thorough draught always blowing through; with all the scrubbing and cleaning and polishing and scouring which used to go on; the grandmothers and still more the great-grandmothers always out of doors and never with a bonnet on except to go to church; these things, when contrasted with our present civilized' habits, ENTIRELY ACCOUNT for the fact so often seen of a great-grandmother who was a tower of physical vigour, descending into a grandmother perhaps a little less vigorous but still sound as a bell and healthy to the core, into a mother languid and confined to her carriage and house, and lastly into a daughter sickly and confined to her bed.'-Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing.
He who hopes that his writings may be an agreeable accompaniment to tea and bread - and - butter, may well adopt as his literary type the conversational sentences of Addison, the father of popular English literature, and the founder of easy writing for recreative study:
• It is with much satisfaction that I hear this great city inquiring day by day after these my papers, and receiving my morning lectures with a becoming seriousness and attention. My publisher tells me that there are already 3000 of them distributed every day; so that if I allow twenty readers to every paper, which I look upon as a modest computation, I may reckon about three score thousand disciples in London and Westminster, who I hope will take care to distinguish themselves from the thoughtless herd of their ignorant and inattentive brethren. Since I have raised to myself so great an audience I shall spare no pains to make their instruction agreeable and their diversion useful. For which reasons I shall endeavour to enliven morality wit