« ZurückWeiter »
where one branch of the antithesis is not expressed but understood :
Get wealth and place, if possible with grace,
Here it appears evidently, that the words any means, which are the most emphatical, are directly opposed to the means understood by the word grace, and the last line is perfectly equivalent to this : If not by these means, by any other means, get wealth and place.
In these instances, the opposition suggested by the emphatical word is evident at first sight; in other cases, perhaps, the antithesis is not quite so obvious; but if an emphasis can be laid on any word, we may be assured that word is an antithesis with some meaning agreeable to the general sense of the passage.
To illustrate this, let us pronounce a line of Marcus, in Cato, where, expressing his indignation at the behaviour of Cæsar, he says,
I'm tortur'd even to madness, when I think
And we shall find the greatest stress fall naturally on that word, which seems opposed to some com. mon or general meaning ; for the young hero does not say, in the common and unemphatick sense of the word think, that he is tortured even to madness when he thinks on Cæsar ; but in the strong and emphatick sense of this word, which implies not only when I hear or discourse of him, but even when I think of him, I am tortured even to madness. As the word think, therefore, arises above the common level of signification, it is pronounced above the common level of sound; and as this signification is opposed to
a signification less forcible, the word may be properly said to be emphatical.
This more than ordinary meaning, or a meaning opposed to some other meaning, seems to be the principal source of emphasis ; for if, as in the last instance, we find the words will bear this opposition to their common signification, we may be sure they are emphatical ; this will be still more evident from another example :
By the faculty of a lively and picturesque imagination, a man in a dungeon is capable of entertaining himself with scenes and landscapes, more beautiful than any that can be found in the whole compass of nature.
Spectator, No. 411.
If we read this passage without that emphasis which the word dungeon requires, we enervate the meaning, and scarcely give the sense of the author; for the import plainly is, that a lively imagination, not merely absent from beautiful scenes, but even in a dungeon, can form scenes more beautiful than any in nature.
This plenitude of meaning in a particular word, is not always so prominent as to be discernible by a common reader; but wherever it really exists, the general meaning of the author is greatly enforced by emphatically pointing it out. Let us take an exam
Steele begins one of his letters in the Spectator with the following sentence :
I have very often lamented, and hinted my sorrow in several speculations, that the art of painting is so little made use of, to the improvement of our manners.
Spectator, No. 2266
· As in this sentence, which is the first in the essay it is taken from, we find a new and important object introduced ; so, if we do not pronounce it with emphasis, it will not be sufficiently noticed. The word
painting, as it stands in this sentence, may very well be supposed to be in contrast with other arts, which, though often used for the improvement of manners, are, perhaps, not so conducive to that end, as this particular art : this antithesis is perfectly understood if the word painting is made emphatical, but entirely lost if it is pronounced feebly : nay, sliding it over without emphasis, will suppose the hearer pre-acquainted with the subject to be treated, contrary to what is really the case : this will be still more apparent by pronouncing it both ways; first, without the proper stress on the word painting, and afterwards with it.
I have very often lamented, and hinted my sorrow in several speeulations, that the art of painting is so little made use of to the improvement of our manners.
I have very often lamented, and hinted my sorrow in several speculations, that the art of painting is so little made use of to the improvement of our manners,
In these instances we find every emphatical word placed in opposition, as it were, to some meaning which it seems to exclude.
Wherever the contrariety or opposition is expressed, we are at no loss for the emphatical words ; the greatest difficulty in reading, lies in a discovery of those words which are in opposition to something not expressed, but understood; and the best method to find the emphasis in these sentences, is to take the word we suppose to be emphatical, and try whether it will admit of those words being supplied which an emphasis on it would suggest: if, when these words are supplied, we find them not only agreeable to the meaning of the writer, but an improvement of his meaning, we may pronounce the word emphatical ; but if these words we supply are not agreeable to the meaning of the words expressed, or else give them an affected and fanciful meaning, we ought by
no means to lay the emphasis upon them : Let us take an example of both these kinds of emphasis.
Mr. Addison, in one of his Spectators, showing the advantages of good taste, says
A man of a polite imagination is let into a great many pleasures that the vulgar are not capable of receiving ; he can converse with a picture, and find an agreeable companion in a statue.
Spectator, No. 411.
We shall find but few readers lay any considera. ble stress upon the word picture, in this sentence ; but if we examine it by the former rule, we shall find a stress upon this word a considerable embellishment to the thought; for it hints to the mind that a polite imagination does not only find pleasure in conversing with those objects which give pleasure to all, but with those which give pleasure to such only as can converse with them ; here then the emphasis on the word picture, is not only an advantage to the thought, but in some measure necessary to it. This will appear still more evidently by reading the passage both ways, as in the last example.
But if emphasis does not improve, it always vitiates the sense ; and, therefore, should be always avoided where the use of it is not evident : this will appear by placing an emphasis on a word in a sentence which does not require it :
I have several letters by me from people of good sense, who lament the depravity or poverty of taste the town has fallen into with relation to plays and publick spectacles.
Spectator, No. 208. Now, if we lay a considerable degree of emphasis upon the words good sense, it will strongly suggest that the people here mentioned are not common or ordinary people, which, though not opposite to the meaning of the writer, does not seem necessary either to the completion or embellishment of it ; for as
particularly marking these people out as persons of good sense, seems to obviate an objection that they might possibly be fools, and as it would not be very wise to suppose this objection, it would show as little wisdom to endeavour to preclude it by a more than ordinary stress; the plain words of the author, therefore, without any emphasis on them, sufficiently show his meaning.
From these observations, the following definition of emphasis seems naturally to arise: Emphasis, when applied to particular words, is that stress wè lay on words which are in contradistinction to other words either expressed or understood. And hence will follow this general rule: Wherever there is contradistinction in the sense of the words, there ought to be emphasis in the pronunciation of them ; the converse of this being equally true, Wherever we place emphasis, we suggest the idea of contradistinction.
Emphasis thus investigated and defined, we may observe, that all words are pronounced either with em. phatick force, accented force, or unaccented force ; this last kind of force we may call by the name of feebleness; or, in other words, where the words are in contradistinction to other words, or to some sense implied, we may call them emphatick; where they do not denote contradistinction, and yet are more important than the particles, we may call them accented, and the particles and lesser words we may call unaccented or feeble ; for if we observe the pronunciation of these latter words, we shall find they have exactly the same feebleness as the unaccented syllables of a word whose accented syllable is pronounced with some degree of force: we shall see likewise, that an accented word, which has a degree of force, when compared with unaccented words; when it is joined with an emphatick one, and pronounced immediately before or after it, sinks into a feebleness equal to the unaccented words ; and that the unaccented syllables, even of