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Hung o'er his sleep, and duly, as heaven's light;
The following example is taken from Everett's degcription of the Pilgrim Fathers on their voyage to America.
" I see them driven in fury before the raging tempest, on the high and giddy waves. The awful voice of the storm howls through the rigging. The labouring masts seem straining from their base ;-the dismal sound of the pumps is heard ; the ship leaps as it were madly from billow to billow ;--the ocean breaks and settles with engulphing floods over the floating deck, and beats with deadening, shivering weight, against the staggered vessel.”
The design of the writer in this passage, is to excite emotion in the minds of his readers. He would have them shudder in view of the dangers, by which the frail bark he describes is encompassed, and regard with deep commiseration the noble adventurers it bears. If now we notice the circumstances which make up the description, as they tend to this design of the writer, we may learn at once, why the passage, as a description, excites our admiration. The “howling voice of the storm,"
," the straining of the masts,” “the dismal sound of the pumps," “the leaping of the ship,” “the overflowing of the deck," and "the deadening shock of the ocean," all tend to impress the mind most deeply with horror at the scene, and commiseration for those who are exposed to its dangers.
I give one example more, in which it is the design of the writer to excite emotions of a ludicrous nature. It is Irving's description of Ichabod Crane.
“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. ' His head was small, and flat at top, with large ears, lange green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck, ta tell which way
the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow elaped from a cornfield.”
Now there is no one, who, in reading this passage, does not admire it as a description. And any onc in assigning the reason of his admiration, would at once pronounce it a fine description, because all the circumstances mentioned tend so admirably to the design of the writer.
The examples which have been stated and examined, are amply, sufficient to illustrate and establish the position, that in descriptive writing, emotions of beauty may be excited in view of adaptation to a particular design.
I now wish to exhibit this same principle differently applied. I would shew, that an emotion of beauty may be excited in view of the fitness or adaptation of the different parts of a description to the whole. With this object I introduce the following passage ;
“The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down into the west. The wide bosom of the Tapaan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant
mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth to the dark blue and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast ; and as the reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the air,"".
Now in answer to the enquiry, why this description is regarded with emotions of beauty, it may at once be said, that the scene itself is one fitted to excite emotions. of this kind, and also, that it is most clearly exhibited to our view. But in looking at the different circumstances which make up the description, it may be still further noticed, that they all correspond with each other,they are of like importance, and produce a similar effect on the mind. The "glassy bosom of the lake,”-the amber clouds,”-the“ varying tints of the horizon,”— the “lights and shades on surrounding objects," and the becalmed vessel, apparently“ suspended in the air," are prominent objects in the scene, each worthy of notice, and each producing a similar effect on the mind. That the emotion of beauty felt in reading this description, is to be ascribed in part to the correspondence and fitness of the several parts, may be made evident, if we attempt to introduce an object of a different nature. Suppose that after mentioning the elouds floating in the sky, the writer had said, -the Dutch farmers were driving home their cows from pasture. Who would not say at once, that the beauty of the description is gone? An emotion of beauty may then be excited in view of the fitness of the parts of a description to the whole, on the same principle, as in view of the fitness of the whole to some particular design.
The application of the principle of fitness or adaptation in accounting for emotions of taste, may be carried still further. From the different circumstances of a description, we may proceed to notice the words, and we shall find that part of the effect of passages of descriptive writing, as fitted to excite emotions of taste, is to be ascribed to what is usually called the happy choice of words, or the choice of those words which are best suited to the design of the writer. In the examples already given, we have full illustration of the correctness of this statement. I would direct the attention particularly to that where the writer says, the ocean beats with "deadening, shivering weight, against the staggered vessel.” How much of the beauty of this part of the description is to be ascribed to the choice of the epithets here used! To be persuaded of this, we have only to make some alteration in this respect, to substitute one word for another, and the charm is broken. Had the writer just quoted said, The ocean beats with a stupifying, shoek. ing weight, against the shattered vessel, who, in reading the description, would have felt an emotion of beauty?
If in what has now been stated in connexion with passages of descriptive writing, the student has been led fully to understand what is meant by fitness or adaptation, and to see, that it may be regarded as one of those principles on which are founded attempts to excite emotions of taste, the design of their introduction has been answered. It will be shewn in the examination of the ornaments of style, that, whether we regard them as parts of the literary production in which they are found, or as tending to produce some designed effect, we may
in part account for the emotion of taste which they excite, on this same principle of adaptation. In examining the classified ornaments of style, I begin with the SIMILE OR FORMAL COMPARISON.
EXAMPLE 1.-" Wit and humour are like those volatile essences, which, being too delicate to bear the open air, evaporate almost as soon as they are exposed to it.”
In this example, as in all instances of the Formal Comparison, different objects are brought together, and the resemblance which they bear to each other is formally stated. My design, in its introduction, is to shew the student the kind of resemblance on which the Comparison is founded. It will at once occur to him, that wit and humour are in their nature different from volatile essences. The latter are perceived by one of the senses; the former exist only in the mind. Still there is a resemblance between them as they are here viewed, and it is a resemblance which is discerned with pleasure. Had the wit and humour of one man been compared with the wit and humour of another, we might have derived information from the comparison ; but the effect upon us as a pleasing comparison, would have been unfelt. It is the unexpectedness of the resemblanoe which pleases us.
Hence then we infer the caution, that the resemblance on which the Simile or Formal Comparia son is founded, should not be too obvious.
EXAMPLE, 2.--" The minds of the aged are like the tombs to which they are approaching ; where, though the brass and the marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the imagery has mouldered away."
This beautiful passage is introduced to shew, that it is a trait of a good comparison, that the object, to which a resemblance is traced, be naturally suggested. We