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the harder sense. By a beautiful and true touch of nature, and all the more noticeable because it is not a commonplace of poetry, a poet of our own day has coupled the early speech of children with the singing of birds :—
I love the song of birds,
And the children's early words.
Charles Mackay, A Plain Man's Philosophy.
John Keble has justified the teaching of divine truths to children, on the ground that, if the sense is beyond them, there is a certain musical path of communication:—
Oh! say not, dream not, heavenly notes
To childish ears are vain,
And cannot reach the strain:
Dim or unheard the words may fall,
And yet the heaven-taught mind
The harmony unwind.
So Mr. Edward Denison, speaking of his East-end lectures to the dockyard labourers :—
I indulge them largely with quotations from Wordsworth, Tennyson, and even Pope, much of which it is of course impossible they can understand, but which they delight to hear. I suppose the rhythm and cadence tickles their ear, and somehow helps to lift their fancy to a higher level.— Letters, &c. (Bentley and Son). 1872.
660 a. The general effect of such observations is towards this:—That the sentient and emotional parts of human nature have a greater share in the origins of language than the intellectual faculty. The first awakener of language is Love.
And the first developer is Sound. This seems to be testified by the whole body of nursery-rhyme literature. Nor do we entirely lose in manhood the power of enjoying a fine sonorous composition apart from its sense. The nurseryrhyme passion has its mature forms. 628.
But what do you think of Coleridge? To me, when I cannot follow him, there is always a fine ring, like bell-chimes, in his melody; not unlitf our best nursery rhymes, for it is curious the fine cadences we get in ice nursery. I like Coleridge's Kubla Khan for its exquisite cadence. Tnit whole passage beginning—
'In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
has a most fascinating melody. I don't know what it means, but it's verv fine.—John Duncan, Colloquia Peripatelica, p. 53.
I knew a little orator, who, at the age of five years, would make speeches of irresistible force, though he was more than usually backward in grammatical sequence. It being one morning said in his presence that he had been found half out of bed, and the cause surmised that his brother had elbowed him out, he exclaimed, 'Yes, he elbowed me harder and harder—could be /' In modulation this was a perfect utterance: the voice had risen very gradually and plaintively so far as 'harder and harder'—then a pause, as he was feeling after a climax—and then broke out in an octave higher the decisive words ' could be!'
It was the same boy who once said it was not his bed time 'this 'reckly,' a compromise between ' this minute ' and 'directly,' but which, in the way it was delivered, very far surpassed either of these forms of expression.
660 b. The fact is that children have a greater appreciation of sound than of sense, and that accordingly their early words are in good melody and bad grammar. Their judgment of the fitness of words for the office they fill, will often be very distinctly pronounced. And this judgment rests, as indeed it can rest, on nothing else than the chime of the sound with their notion of the thing indicated. The judgment of children is often found so firm and distinct on this matter. that we must conclude a great part of the early exercise of their wakening minds has been concerned with the discrimination of Sound. A little watching might supply many illustrations on this head; what is here produced is not the result of any careful selection, but just what offered itself about the time this chapter was in preparation.
A father who took an interest in some pigeons that were kept for the amusement of his children, had the whim to call them all by some fanciful name; and as they multiplied it became harder to invent acceptable names. So it happened that, after many familiar names, there came in some from classical sources. Of these it was observed (months after) that one had fixed itself in.the memory of the children. They were chasing the kitten, and their inward glee was venting itself in the name of Andromache, which they used as a term of endearment. Some days later, when they were again at play, and shouting 'Andromache,' their father asked them, 'Which is Andromache?' The younger answered with an exuberance of satisfaction: 'Johnnie's calling me Andromache!' Their father replied, 'If Johnnie calls you Andromache, I'd call him Polyhymnia!' At this Johnnie (a boy of six years old) towered up like a pillar of moral conviction, and in a tone of mingled disdain and deprecation, said: 'Augh! Nobody Couldn't be called That, I'm sure!'
660 c. In the minds of children and savages the word and the thing are absolutely identified. If they are able to grasp the name, they seem to have a satisfaction analogous to.that which the mature mind tastes in description or analysis.
I was staying at the house of a friend, where the youngest child was a brave, bold, golden-locked boy, under three years old. As I was dressing in the morning he came into my room, and we had a long and varied conversation. One of the topics was broached and disposed of somewhat in the following manner:—' Are Mabel and Trixey coming to-day?' he asked. 'I'm sure I don't know. Who are Mabel and Trixey?' Thereat he took up a strong and confident attitude, and with a tone which at once justified himself and refuted me, he said: 'They Are Mabel and Trixey; that's their Names !'—the last clause a perfect bar of remonstrative music; as much as to say,' There's nothing to be said after that!'
A boy of five years old was asked, 'Do you know where your cousin Johnnie is at school?' 'No! I don't know; where is he?' 'At Honiton.' 'At Hon-t-iton? Isn't that a funny place? / call it!' Here it will be observed the place is judged of by the sound of its name; there is no distinction between the name and the thing.
The following most significant record of native talk in the Aru Islands is from The Malay Archipelago, by Alfred Russell Wallace (1869):—
Two or three of them got round me, and begged me for the twentieth time to tell them the name of my country. Then, as they could not pronounce it satisfactorily, they insisted that I was deceiving them, and that it was a name of my own invention. One funny old man, who bore a ludicrous resemblance to a friend of mine at home, was almost indignant. *Unglung!' said he, ' who ever heard of such a name ?—anglang, angerlang—that can't be the name of your country; you are playing with us.' Then he tried to give a convincing illustration. 'My country is Wanumbai—anybody can say Wanumbai. I'm an orang-Wanumbai; but N-glung! who ever heard of such a name? Do tell us the real name of your country, and when you are gone we shall know how to talk about you.' To this luminous argument and remonstrance I could oppose nothing but assertion, and the whole party remained firmly convinced that I was for some reason or other deceiving them.—ch. xxxi.
All these are instances of the inability of man, in the earlier stages of his career, to assume the mastery over language. His mind is enthralled by it, and is led away after all its suggestions. We are told by Professor Jowett that the Greek philosopher, 'the contemporary of Plato and Socrates, was incapable of resisting the power of any analogy which occurred to him .... and he was helpless against the influence of any word which had an equivocal or double sense'.'
It may be imagined that we, in our advanced condition of modern civilisation, are now completely masters over our language, but an investigation of the subject might produce an unexpected verdict. Philology is one of the most instrumental of studies for investing man with the full prerogative over his speech, for its highest office is to enable him to comprehend the relation of his words to the action of his mind, and thus to render the mind superior to verbal illusions.
660 d. Those who think that the sounds of nature first suggested language to man, hold a theory of language which may be compared to that theory of music by which music is derived from the cataract in the mountains, the wind in the trees, or the sound of the ocean on the shore. It appears to me that there is nothing in inward or outward experience to justify such a theory. As there are sounds in nature that may give an occasional suggestion to the musician, but none that can be acknowledged either as his model to work by or as the original source of his art, so it is with speech. Music and language alike must have come from within, from the greatest depths of our nature.
Man's conscious work upon language in fitting it to express his mind, is the least part of the matter. The greater part is worked out unconsciously. And long eras pass after the perfecting of its processes, before intellectual man awakes to perceive what he himself has done. This only proves from what a depth within his own nature this
1 The Dialogues of Plato, vol. ii. p. 505.