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tendency, there is developed in language a graduated series of elevations from the sensible and material to the ethereal and subtle. Such is the best explanation I can offer of this great distinction. Whatever be the value of the explanation, we must observe that it affects in no way either the fact of the distinction or the fact of its importance. These are to be established not by theory, but by evidence and exemplification: and to these we now proceed. Analogous movements may be traced in examples beyond the pale of language. When barbers' poles were first erected, they were pictorial and presentive, for they indicated by white bands of paint the linen bandages which were used in bloodletting, an operation practised by the old surgeon-barbers. In our time we only know (speaking of the popular mind) that the pole indicates a barber's shop; the why or how is unknown. And this is symbolism. 229. A highly appropriate illustration may be gathered from the letters of the Alphabet. Egyptian research seems to have quite established it for a fact, that the Phoenician Alphabet, which is the source of ours, was itself derived from the hieroglyphic picture-writing of Egypt; and many prototypes of our letters have been recognised in writing of four thousand years ago. Our A was at first a picture of an eagle, the B of some other bird, the D was a man's hand, the F was the horned viper whose horns still figure in the two upper strokes, while the cross-line in the H is a surviving trace of the pictured sieve whereof this letter is the symbol. Thus the Alphabet began in presentation and has reached a state of symbolism. 230. Writing is in fact the symbolism of the picture-story. Here we perceive that there has been a complete change of nature. The pictorial character with which the first artist invested the figure has gradually and undesignedly evaporated from that figure, and has left a mere vague phantom of a character in its place, a thing which is the representative of nothing. And if we set the gain against the loss of such a transition, we find that the symbol has gained enormously in range, to make up for what it has lost in local or pictorial force. While it was presentive it was tied to a single object: since it became a symbol, it is ubiquitous in its function. But it is to be observed further—and the observation is of wider application—that the symbol which remains after the evaporation of the pictorial element of the hieroglyphic or picture-writing is the true correspondent to the intention with which the first effort was made at representing speech by the graphic art. Whatever there was in the picture which was germane to the intention has lived, while the alien parts have gradually died away, leaving behind the purely symbolic or alphabetical writing. These observations will apply also in some degree to our two systems of numeration, the Roman and the Arabic. The numerals I and II and III and IIII are Presentive of the ideas of one and two and three and four, as truly as the holding up of so many fingers would represent those numbers. The numeral V is practically a mere symbol, though it began in presentation, if it be true that it is derived from the hand, the thumb forming the one side, and the four fingers the other. The figures 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 are, and so far as our knowledge reaches always were, pure symbols. It is worthy of observation, that the whole system of Decimal Arithmetic hinges upon these symbolic figures, or has acquired immense addition to its range of capabilities by the use of these figures. So in like manner will it be found by and bye, that the modern de
velopment of languages has hinged mainly upon symbolic words, and that their instrumentality has been the chief means of what progress has been made in the capabilities of expression. 231. The same general tendency which makes symbols take the place of pictures, makes or has made symbolic words take the place of presentives in a great number of instances. This tendency has led to the formation out of the large mass of presentive verbs of a select number of symbolic verbs, which are the light and active intermediaries, and the general servants of the presentive verbs. Thus the verbs partake of both characters, the presentive and the symbolic. But as regards the rest of the parts of speech, they fall into two natural halves in the light of this distinction. The substantives, adjectives, and adverbs are presentive words; the pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions are symbolic words. But as the grammatical classification has become rigid in some of its parts, it must not be allowed to govern the Natural divisions which we are here seeking to establish. There is much of what is arbitrary in the denomination assigned by grammarians to many a word. 234. Some will think perhaps that my symbolic words are found to invade the domain of noun, adjective, and adverb; while they fail to cover and fully occupy what I have assigned to them—namely, the pronoun, conjunction, and preposition. Therefore the grammatical scheme should not be trusted to as a frame for the new division. The student must seize the distinction itself; and the illustration of it by reference to the grammatical scale is only offered as a temporary assistance. As in the chapter Of the Parts of Speech we saw that the same word assumes a diversity of characters, so here
also the same word will be at one time presentive and at another time symbolic. And there is perhaps no more effective display, of the distinction now before us than that which shews itself within the limits of the history of single words. Let us therefore take a few examples of the transition of a word from a presentive to a symbolic use.
232. Thing. This is a very good example, on account of its unmixed simpleness. For it is almost purely symbolic, and devoid of presentive power. It is still more. It is of universal application in its symbolic power. There is not a subject of speech which may not be indicated by the word thing.
For thou, O Lorde God, art the thynge that I longe for.—Psalm lxxi. 4, (1539).
By these ways, as by the testimony of the creature, we come to find an eternal and independent Being, upon which all things else depend, and by which all things else are governed.—John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed, Art. I. It is plain that we cannot name a creature, whether visible or invisible, whether an object of sense or of thought, which may not be indicated by the word thing. It is therefore of universal application in its symbolical power." But if we ask, on the other hand, What idea does this word present? We answer, None ! There is no creature, no subject of speech or of thought, which can claim the word thing as its presenter. There was a time when the word was presentive like any ordinary noun, but that time is now far behind us. The most recent example I am able to quote is of the fourteenth century. In Chaucer's Prologue it occurs twice presentively:—
* The few instances in which thing (with a faint rhetorical emphasis) is opposed to person, are to be regarded as stranded relics on the path of the transition which the bulk of the word has passed through.
He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Ther to he koude endite and make a thyng. (l. 327.)
233. The fullness of tone which the rhythm requires for the word thyng in both these places, is by itself almost enough to indicate that they are not to be taken as when we say ‘I would not do it for anything,' or ‘Here's a thing will do.” In these trivial instances the word is vague and symbolical, but it would hardly have beseemed such a poet as Chaucer to bring the stroke of his measure down upon such gossamer. The Merchant desired that the sea should be protected for the sake of commerce at any price, condition, or cost—on any terms; for such is the old sense of the word thing. The old verb to thing, Saxon pingian, meant to make terms, to compromise, pacisci. So also in German the word 3Ding had a like use, as may be seen through its compounds. The verb Bebingen is to stipulate, bargain; and $8ebingung is condition, terms of agreement, contract.
In Denmark and Norway the word still retains its presentiveness, and signifies a judicial or deliberative assembly. In Denmark the places where the judges hold session are called Ting. In Norway the Parliament is called Stor Ting, that is, Great Thing. In Iceland the old parliament field was called Thing-vollr, and the hill in the Isle of Man from which the laws are proclaimed is called Tynwald. The same word in the same sense is contained in the Danish word husting, as Longfellow indicates by his manner of printing it:—
Olaf the King, one summer morn,
Blew a blast on his bugle-horn,
And to the Hus-Ting held at Mere
The Saga of King Glaf.