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What is here said respecting the succession of the adjective and substantive is obviously applicable, by change of terms, to the adverb and verb. And, without further explanation, it will be at once perceived, that, in the use of prepositions and other particles, most languages spontaneously conform, with more or less completeness, to this law.
ARRANGEMENT OF CLAUSES.
12. On applying a like analysis to the larger divisions of a sentence, we find not only that the same principle holds good, but that the advantage respecting it becomes marked. In the arrangement of predicate and subject, for example, we are at once shown, that, as the predicate determines the aspect under which the subject is to be conceived, it should be placed first; and the striking effect produced by so placing it becomes comprehensible. Take the often-quoted contrast between “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” and “Diana of the Ephesians is great.” When the first arrangement is used, the utterance of the word “ great” arouses those vague associations of an impressive nature with which it has been habitually connected; the imagination is
prepared to clothe with high attributes whatever follows: and when the words, “ Diana of the Ephesians,” are heard, all the appropriate imagery which can on the instant be summoned is used in the formation of the picture; the mind being thus led directly, and without error, to the intended impression. When, on the contrary, the reverse order is followed, the idea, “Diana of the Ephesians," is conceived in any ordinary way, with no special reference to greatness; and, when the words “is great” are added, the conception has to be entirely remodeled: whence arises a manifest loss of mental energy, and a corresponding diminution of effect. The following verse from Coleridge's “ Ancient Mariner," though somewhat irregular in structure, well illustrates the same truth:
“ Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sen!
My soul in agony." 13. Of course, the principle equally applies when the predicate is a verb or a participle. And as effect is gained by placing first all words indicating the quality, conduct, or condition of the subject, it follows that the copula also should have precedence. It is true, that the general habit of our language resists this arrangement of predicate, copula, and subject; but we may readily find instances of the additional force gained by conforming to it. Thus in the line from “ Julius Cæsar,"
“ Then burst this mighty heart,"
priority is given to a word embodying both predicate and copula. In a passage contained in “The Battle of Flodden Field,” the like order is systematically employed with great effect:
“ The Border slogan rent the sky!
Loud were the clanging blows:
The pennon sunk and rose.
It wavered 'mid the foes."
14. Pursuing the principle yet further, it is obvious, that, for producing the greatest effect, not only should the main divisions of a sentence observe this sequence, but the subdivisions of these should be similarly arranged. In nearly all cases, the predicate is accompanied by some limit or qualification, called its complement: commonly, also, the circumstances of the subject which form its complement have to be specified; and, as these qualifications and circumstances must determine the mode in which the ideas they belong to shall be conceived, precedence should be given to them. Lord Kaimes notices the fact, that this order is preferable, though without giving the reason. He says, “When a circumstance is placed at the beginning of the period, or near the beginning, the transition from it to the principal subject is agreeable, - is like ascending or going upwards.' A sentence arranged in illustration of this may be desirable. Perhaps the following will serve:
“Whatever it may be in theory, it is clear, that, in practice, the French idea of liberty is, the right of every man to be master of the rest."
In this case, were the first two clauses, up to the word " practice” inclusive, which qualify the subject, to be placed at the end instead of the beginning, much of the force would be lost; as thus :
“ The French idea of liberty is, the right of every man to be master of the rest, in practice at least, if not in theory."
The effect of giving priority to the complement of the predicate, as well as the predicate itself, is finely displayed in the opening of “ Hyperion :"
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,
Here it will be observed, not only that the predicate “sat” precedes the subject “Saturn,” and that the three lines in Italics, constituting the complement of the predicate, come before it, but that, in the structure of that complement also, the same order is followed; each line being so arranged that the qualifying words are placed before the words suggesting concrete images.
SUCCESSION OF PROPOSITIONS.
15. The right succession of the principal and subordinate propositions in a sentence will manifestly be regulated by the same law. Regard for economy of the recipient's attention, which, as we find, determines the best order for the subject, copula, predicate, and their complements, dictates that the subordinate proposition shall precede the principal one when the sentence includes two. Containing, as the subordinate proposition does, some qualifying or explanatory idea, its priority must clearly prevent misconception of the principal one, and must therefore save the mental effort needed to correct such misconception. This will be clearly seen in the annexed example:
“ Those who weekly go to church, and there have doled out to them a quantum of belief which they have not energy to work out for themselves, are simply spiritual paupers."
The subordinate proposition, or rather the two subordinate propositions, contained between the first and second commas in this sentence, almost wholly determine the meaning of the principal proposition with which it ends; and the effect would be destroyed were they placed last instead of first.
16. The general principle of right arrangement in sentences, which we have traced in its application to the leading divisions of them, equally determines the normal order of their minor divisions. The several clauses of which the complements to the subject and predicate generally consist may conform more or less completely to the law of easy apprehension. Of course, with these, as with the larger members, the succession should be from the abstract to the concrete.
Now, however, we must notice a further condition to be fulfilled in the proper combination of the elements of a sentence, but still a condition dictated by the same general principle with the other; the condition, namely, that the words and expressions most nearly related in thought shall be brought the closest together. Evidently the single words, the minor clauses, and the leading divisions, of every proposition, severally qualify each other. The longer the time that elapses between the mention of any qualifying member and the member qualified, the longer must the mind be exerted in carrying forward the qualifying member ready for use; and, the more numerous the qualifications to be simultaneously remembered and rightly applied, the
greater will be the mental power expended, and the smaller the effect produced. Hence, other things equal, force will be gained by so arranging the members of a sentence that these suspensions shall at any moment be the fewest in number, and shall also be of the shortest duration. The following is an instance of defective combination:
“A modern newspaper-statement, though probably true, would be laughed at if quoted in a book as testimony; but the letter of a court-gossip is thought good historical evidence, if written some centuries ago."
A re-arrangement of this, in accordance with the principle indicated above, will be found to increase the effect. Thus:
“ Though probably true, a modern newspaper-statement quoted in a book as testimony would be laughed at; but the letter of a court-gossip, if written some centuries ago, is thought good historical evidence."
By making this change, some of the suspensions are avoided, and others shortened; whilst there is less liability to produce premature conceptions. The passage quoted below from “Paradise Lost” affords a fine instance of sentences well arranged, alike in the priority of the subordinate members, in the avoidance of long and numerous suspensions, and in the correspondence between the order of the clauses and the sequence of the phenomena described; which, by the way, is a further prerequisite to easy comprehension, and therefore to effect:
“ As when a prowling wolf,
So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb." 17. The habitual use of sentences in which all or most of the descriptive and limiting elements precede those described and limited gives rise to what is called the inverted style,
- a title which is, however, by no means confined to this structure, but is often used where the order of the words is simply unusual. A more appropriate title would be the “ direct style : as contrasted with the other, or “indirect style:” the peculiarity of the one being, that it conveys each thought into the mind step by step, with little liability to error; and of the other, that it gets the right thought conceived by a series of approximations.
18. The superiority of the direct over the indirect form of sen
tence, implied by the several conclusions that have been drawn, must not, however, be affirmed without limitation. Though up to a certain point it is well for all the qualifying clauses of a period to precede those qualified, yet, as carrying forward each qualifying clause costs some mental effort, it follows, that, when the number of them and the time they are carried become great, we reach a limit beyond which more is lost than is gained. Other things equal, the arrangement should be such, that no concrete image shall be suggested until the materials out of which it is to be made have been presented. And yet, as lately pointed out, other things equal, the fewer the materials to be held at once, and the shorter the distance they have to be borne, the better. Hence in some cases it becomes a question, whether most mental effort will be entailed by the many and long suspensions, or by the correction of successive misconceptious.
19. This question may sometimes be decided by considering the capacity of the persons addressed. A greater grasp of mind is
. required for the ready comprehension of thoughts expressed in the direct manner, where the sentences are anywise intricate. To recollect a number of preliminaries stated in elucidation of a coming image, and to apply them all to the formation of it when suggested, demands a considerable power of concentration, and a tolerably vigorous imagination. To one possessing these, the direct method will mostly seem the best; whilst to one deficient in them it will seem the worst. Just as it may cost a strong man less effort to carry a hundred-weight from place to place at once than by a stone at a time; so to an active mind it may be easier to bear along all the qualifications of an idea, and at once rightly form it when named, than to first imperfectly conceive such idea, and then carry back to it, one by one, the details and limitations afterwards mentioned. Whilst, conversely, as for a boy the only possible mode of transferring a hundred-weight is that of taking it in portions; so, for a weak mind, the only possible mode of forming a compound conception may be that of building it up by carrying separately its several parts.
20. That the indirect method — the method of conveying the meaning by a series of approximations — is best fitted for the uncultivated, may indeed be inferred from their habitual use of it. The form of expression adopted by the savage, as in “Water — give me," is the simplest type of the approximative arrangement. In pleonasms, which are comparatively prevalent among the uneducated, the same essential structure is seen; as, for instance, in “The men, they were there.” Again: the old possessive case, “ The king, his crown,” conforms to the like order of thought. Moreover, the fact that the indirect mode is called