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Harmony.--A sentence may be grammatical, and observe the rules for clearness, unity, and energy, without pleasing the ear by its smoothness of sound or displaying any adaptation of sound to the sense. Most sentences are constructed without any thought as to how they will sound. In poetry and oratory we find abundant examples of that harmonious combination of sounds and that connection between sound and sense which constitute the most perfect melody known to language. While prose has neither the rhyme nor meter of poetry, it is susceptible of a melody which every writer should strive to attain.
Harmony, however, must not be held of more importance than the ideas to be presented; nor must it be purchased at the cost of clearness and force. It should be the last element of style to engage our attention.
To promote the harmony of a sentence, be guided by the following considerations:
Rule I.— Avoid using words that are hard to pronounce.
For example, we should avoid such words as contain a greater number of consonants, or a succession of short, unaccented syllables, or such as occasion a clash of vowels. Opposed to all such are (1) words ending in soft consonants or open vowels; as, ever, alive, dream; (2) words containing liquids; as, roaming, mellow, noontide, loving; (3) polysyllables with the accent near the end; as, sono' rous, locomo'tion, regalement; (4) words in which vowels and consonants are blended; as, humility, remedy, demeanor. These four classes of words contribute much to the melody of composition.
RULE II. - Avoid combinations of letters of one kind.
Among such combinations are strengthenedst, periphrasis, farriering. Long compound words are generally disagree
able; as, unwholesomeness, vegetarianism. Long words having the accent near the beginning, and words with a succession of unaccented syllables, are difficult to pronounce, and, accordingly, unpleasant to the ear; as, hos' pitably, derog'atorily, per' emptorily, ar' bitrarily.
Rule III. —Avoid all disagreeable combinations of words.
Words which by themselves are sufficiently euphonious, sometimes displease the ear on account of their position with regard to other words in the sentence; as, “I can candidly say”; “The women wofully and willfully”; “I confess with humility my inability”; “Stately ships sail on the stormy sea”; “Brown berries.'
RULE IV. - The harinony of a sentence is promoted by arranging the words in such a manner that the accents come at convenient and somewhat measured intervals.
It is this arrangement of words with reference to accent which makes some prose writings so much easier to read than others. We find it, more or less, in all well written prose. The following are examples:
The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, the meteors of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety; for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of moral or religious truth ; and he who knows most will have most power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote allusions and unexpected instructions.—Johnson.
What silence, too, came with the snow, and what seclusion! Every sound was muffled, every noise changed to something soft and musical. No more tramping hoofs, no more rattling wheels! Only the chiming sleigh-bells, beating as swift and merrily as the hearts of the children.—Longfellow.*
* NOTE.—The pupil is cautioned against continuing this style through several periods in succession. It would be monotonous and wearisome.
RULE V.- Attend to the cadence of sentences.
By cadence is meant the falling of the voice before coming to a full stop. The cadence at the close of a sentence adds much to the harmony. The words and clauses should, therefore, be so placed that something pleasing and sonorous may be found at the end.
As regards single words, the most musical cadences are made on words of four syllables, accented on the first and third; as, contemplation, providen' tial. An agreeable cadence is made by words of three syllables, accented on the second; as, dejection, abstraction. Monosyllables or a series of unaccented syllables make a disagreeable cadence; hence a sentence, unless wholly unavoidable, should not close with any small word, but with the longest words and most sonorous members. It is unadvisable, however, to close every sentence with a particular kind of word, or to sacrifice an appropriate word for one less expressive, simply to obtain a more musical cadence.
RULE VI.—The harmony of a sentence is promoted by adapting the sound to the sense.
Numerous words in our language, such as hum, hiss, whiz, clash, crash, rush, roar, patter, rattle, crackling, whistling, readily suggest their meaning by their sound. By the use of such words, a writer may indicate many varieties of motion, and may even imitate particular noises, as when we speak of the buzz of the fly, the whistling of the wind, the creaking of the door. Our feelings, whether grave or stern, serious or impetuous, gentle or bold, loving or hateful, are more accurately conveyed if the words chosen be “an echo to the sense.” The felling of timber is thus described:
Deep-echoing groan the thickets brown,
The hidden harmony that lies in our short Saxon words is revealed in the following lines:
Our harsh northern whistling, grunting, guttural,
Which we are obliged to hiss, and spit, and sputter all.—Byron. Exquisite tenderness is breathed by the soft and flowing words in the following lines:
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.—Poe.
DIRECTION. — Show where harmony is violated in the following, and recast the sentences so as to make them harmonious :
1. Her actions were such as to make her a genuine heroine.
4. Arrangements have been made for forwarding forty cars of lumber.
5. Shamefacedness is by some considered a virtue.
7. Shylock can be persuaded to accept of nothing except the forfeit.
8. The cottage stood by a beautiful placid brook.
9. He was first thoroughly subjugated, and then thoroughly made to feel that his position was wholly insubordinate.
10. The party was so large that only a part could be accommodated. 11. 'Twas thou that soothedst the rough, rugged bed of pain.
12. He exemplified the principal applications of the principle by numerous examples.
13. The river, again gaining strength, flows more swiftly.
14. Every nature, you perceive, is either too excellent to want it, or too base to be capable of it.
15. Up the lofty hill he raises a large, round stone.
FIGURES OF SPEECH.
In the expression of thought we have seen that it is the business of the writer or speaker, first, to obtain the words needed, and then to arrange them into completed sentences. The selection, however, of accurate words, and the correct placing of these words in sentences, give us nothing more than the expression of the thought in the simplest manner possible. To write elegantly and effectively, something further must be considered. We should not content ourselves with the mere expression of our meaning, but we should express it in such forms as will make it more agreeable and attractive; we must appeal to the taste and imagination, as well as to the understanding. Among the means of rendering the style of any composition forcible and graceful, none are more conspicuous than those known as Figures.
A Figure of Speech, or of Rhetoric, is an intentional deviation from the ordinary application of words, with a view. to making the meaning more effective. Rhetorical figures, in general, may be described as forms of language prompted either by the imagination or by the passions. Thus: “Calamity is man's true touch-stone,” is a figurative, forcible, and graceful way of saying, “It is only amid great misfortunes that man shows his real character."
If we say, “She becomes prudent and sagacious," we use the plain, ordinary way of stating a fact; but if we say, “How prudent and sagacious she becomes!” the statement