Page images
PDF
EPUB

That the whole energy of this expression depends upon this single monosyllable will be seen by omitting it, and reading the passage without it; thus,

« Excellent wretch ! Perdition catch my soul, But I love thee; and when I love thee not, Chaos is come again."

This is tame and weak, and does not at all convey the state, the pressure, of the speaker's mind.

These peculiarities in the verb, make the English language superior to most others in force and precision. It enables us to point out the different words, and to place the emphasis on those we please, which gives the expression a distinctness, and an energy, it could not have without this assistance.

The sense is often enigmatical in the Latin, and perplexity often arises from the defect of the declension, where the same termination is employed for different cases of the same noun. This difficulty in English is removed, and the clearest light shines upon every sentence by the use of prepositions which are for a great part, monosyllables also.

These in the hands of a master do not confine the arrangement, but admit of the greatest latitude, as may be seen from the style of Milton;

Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal tasto
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat;
Sing heavenly muse."

The transposition of this sentence is great enough to accommodate any expression, and it is as plain and distinct, as it could be, if the relations of it sparts were determned by inflections.

It must be conceded therefore to the English language that it possesses a greater variety of sounds, that it has more force and greater precision and copiousness, than the Latin, and we believe most other languages. It is exceedingly simple in all of its forms, and beautifully natural in its construction.

It has nerve and spirit too. If genius, in the Latin language, is compared to a giant, with a firm and stately tread, in the English it may be said :

" It walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife."

If, in the Greek, he is compared to the eagle soaring toward the sun-in the English, in his flight,

“ He rode, sublime,
On the seraph wings of ecstacy,
The secrets of the abyss to spy ;
He passed the flaming bounds of space and time-
The living throne--the sapphire blaze-
Where angels tremble, as they gaze."

The study of our language, without regard to the beauty and value of its literature, is pleasing as well as profitable. It contains all the associations that are most dear to us; the entrancing dreams of youth, and the visions of riper years are connected with it. In its origin and development we behold as in a mirror, the origin and history of our Anglo-Saxon race; there our intellectual emanations, like sun-beams, have been converged and reflected. And in its present state, and future prospects, we read our condition and our destiny.

Etymology, besides the precision and purity which its study induces, furnishes a key to the mysteries of the obscure origin of nations; their laws, their customs, and their language; and such a study is not altogether unimportant in the minutest particulars. There is much to excite curiosity in the derivation and the relationship of words: to trace each root through all its connections and branches, expanding like the tree, rising from a single cion, till it is full of foliage and fruit. To learn the history of a single word is as important, if not as instructing, as to trace a splendid hero through a novel. Its origin, relationship, and the circumstances that have conspired to fix its character, fill its history with the elements of romance. Its birth was accompanied by some revolution, some accession to the domain of knowledge, or some improvement in the arts and sciences. Each one of these individuals of the republic of letters is a person of importance ; each has its history, and a thrilling story to tell, and, like the beautiful sea-shell

6. Apply Its polished lips to your attentive ear, And it remeinbers its august abodes And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there."

A PERFECT LANGUAGE. .

Scholar. I wish to be most deeply learn'd,

And would, all.willingly, pursue
All things in earth or heaven discern'd

In science and in nature too.

Mephistopheles. You're in the right direction here ;

But keep your thoughts unbent and clear.

Sch. I'll give the task all heart and mind ;

But yet sometimes would gladly play,
For relaxation, when I find

A sunny summer's holiday.

Meph. But use all time within your reach,

So rapidly it passes by.
Order, indeed, will always teach

The way to gain on hours that fly.
For this, then, I should wish to make
You first a course of logic take;
For 'tis an art by which the mind
Is nicely fetter'd and confin'd !
Laced up in Spanish boots, it creeps

Discreetly o'er the paths of thought,
And here and there no longer sweeps

Like marsh-lights by the breezes caught.
Then many an hour will be spent

In teaching what you once could get,
By the first glance you lent,

As truly as you drank or eat ;
But one-two-three-you now must learn,
Are needed ere you can discern.

Sch. But still some meaning with the word must be.

Meph. 'Tis true! but one must never care to spend

Too much anxiety or toil on this ;
For, just where meaning fails, the word will send

Its aid in time that cannot come amiss.
With words we safely may dispute-

On words we can a system lay ;
With our belief, words nicely suit,
And from a word can nought be took away.

Goethe.

The art of reasoning is, in truth, only a well-constructed lauguage, because the order of our ideas is itself only the subordination which exists among the names given to genera and species; and since we obtain new ideas only because we form new classes, it is evident that we shall only determine ideas, inasınuch as we shall determine what belongs to each class. Then we shall reason well, because analogy will lead us in furming judgments as well as in understanding words.

CONDILLAC.

Men believe that their reason governs their words ; but it often happens that words have power to react on reason.

BACON.

The accuracy of human thought, and the extent of human intellect, procred in equal steps with the accuracy and extent of language.

LOCKE.

It has become a common practice to complain of the system of education, and as the efforts which have been made to remove the cause of the complaint, have generally resulted only in increasing the number of books, thereby aggravating, rather than removing, the defect, it is to be expected that a renewal of this complaint will be viewed with distrust or indifference. It is, however, impossible to reject the results which are drawn from experience, and it may be pardonable not to withhold our convictions.

The defect complained of is a radical one, and deeply seated; its effects, therefore, are co-extensive with the influence of education.

« PreviousContinue »