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of ideas; since, when the relationship between words is not clear, the meaning of the sentence becomes uncertain.
Thus, one of the rules of syntax is, that a relative shall be placed as near as possible to its antecedent. In the sentence,
We could not see the beautiful picture at the exhibition, which was lent by the Queen,' we are uncertain whether it was the picture or the exhibition which was lent by the Queen, and this ambiguity is caused by the relative 'which' being placed next to the word
exhibition,' instead of next to its own antecedent, the word 'picture.'
The chief fault of beginners in composition is the aiming at beauty first instead of correctness. This is as great and radical a fault as if a carpenter carved the most elaborate ornaments on a door, which he had not taken the trouble to make straight; or as if a sculptor spent weeks in making the expression of his statue's face beautiful, while the figure showed an utter disregard of the laws of anatomy.
''Tis first the true and then the beautiful,
Not first the beautiful and then the true.' And this being the law of nature, should be followed out in composition as in all other work.
The chief rules of syntax to be kept in mind by young com: posers are—(1) To place conjunctions and relatives near the words they refer to or connect.
(2) To place qualifying words, as adjectives and adverbs, near or next to the words they qualify. To arrange all adjuncts so that it is at once seen what they qualify.
Clearness is secured—(1) By keeping the main thought distinct and prominent, using but few subordinate clauses, and keeping these few in subordination to the main thought.
(2) By avoiding participial phrases to extend sentences. (3) By avoiding parenthetical clauses.
(4) By finishing each clause in a sentence so that it forms one distinct group of words.
The use of many subordinate clauses makes the sentence long; and, unless considerable skill is used, the connection between the clauses and between the phrases is likely to be lost.
Short sentences, on the other hand, break the sense, and render the composition abrupt and unpleasant to the ear. The young student must, however, in order to acquire the power of forming longer periods, begin with short sentences, and arrange correctly the words and phrases of which they are composed.
Participial phrases cloud the sense of the composition, by leading the mind astray from the main thought or incident.
Parenthetical clauses express thoughts altogether beside that upon which the mind is engaged; they consequently introduce a new thought before the first is finished.
One mode of construction should be observed throughout a sentence ; thus, if the object be inverted in one clause, it must be inverted in the clauses co-ordinate with it. Thus, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are these?
We may advance from clearness to vividness in composition. A vivid writer's meaning flashes into the minds of his hearers or readers. If the composition is descriptive, it forms word-pictures in the mind of others; if it imparts abstract truth, either mental or spiritual, the truth is made vivid by analogies or comparisons with objects familiar to the mind. Thus David expresses the longing of his soul for God as being like the longing of the hart, thirsting and panting for the water-brooks; and the influence of Christ in the heart of man is described as springing up as a seed sown.
Vividness is secured by the words used being so well and fitly chosen that they express exactly the thought intended.
This excellent choice of words is especially noticeable in all the writings of the poet Wordsworth, of whom it was said epigrammatically, 'None knew so well the worth of words.
Vividness is gained by avoiding general terms. Thus in the passage, ‘Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer,' the word -to-day' is more vivid than ‘now,' 'in the present,' or 'at once.' The line from Gray's elegy, Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,' is made vivid by the names and characteristics of the trees being given. The use of one person or thing for a class is often employed for the sake of vividness; thus, ‘A Daniel come to judgment.'
Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.' For the same reason, a part is used for the whole ; thus we speak of the hands in a factory where the work is merely mechanical. The concrete, for the same reason, is used for the abstract, as 'a cardinal's hat' for a cardinalship, and 'the crown' for the kingly office.
CLEARNESS and vividness are both secured by avoiding verbosity. The fewer words used (always provided those chosen are to the purpose) the better. It has been said that speech darkens thought. This is not the purpose for which the power of language was given to man; but many speakers and writers, anxious to give their thoughts to others, constantly envelope them in a cloud of superfluous words, and so obscure them. Composition is frequently weakened by the use of unnecessary adjectives. Thus, a great large house'is less forcible than a great house,' or a 'large house.' 'An amiable and lovely woman' is less forcible than 'an amiable woman. The second adjective indicates nothing that is not already expressed by the first, and we have in both these cases examples of tautology. The English language lends itself with peculiar ease to this fault. Being derived from many sources, it retains words of the same meaning from various languages. In course of time these words cease to be exactly synonymous, but are reserved by common consent for special offices. Thus we have the synonyms 'dead' and `inanimate,' and though we speak of a dead animal, or an inanimate animal, we never speak of an inanimate plant.
A young student readily falls into tautology in composition, and this often from want of thought. Thus, 'He died universally regretted by all.' 'He received a mortal wound of which he died.'
When it is necessary to expand or explain a thought, it should be summed up after the explanation, in order that a clear impression may be left on the mind.
An extensive vocabulary is a necessity in composition. This is only to be gained by the careful study of the meaning and force of words; and a good dictionary will afford the chief aid in such study. Accuracy is secured by a clear knowledge of the force of words; and the large number that were originally exact synonyms, but are now only partially synonymous, makes the constant study of the meaning of words essential to correct composition. By means of synonyms, shades of meaning can be expressed in English as in no other language; they are therefore an advantage to thorough students, but a snare to the superficial.
The most important statements should, as a rule, be placed at the beginning of a composition; it is there that they make the strongest impression. Thus, ' Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are these?' Sometimes, however, it is necessary to put the chief idea last, in order to sustain the attention. Thus, .What has surprised every one is his great courage.' Each sentence should be carefully closed up; unimportant words, as prepositions and adverbs, should not come at the end. The relationship of the words is in such cases likely to be overlooked. Thus it is more clear to say 'the house in which I was born,' than the house I was born in ;' and 'the precipice over which he fell,' than the precipice he fell over.' 'He fought the battle in which he was at last vanquished nobly,' is less clear than if the adverb had been placed near the verb it qualifies, and the sentence had been, 'He nobly fought the battle.' Antithesis is one of the commonest and best means of making a composition vivid. As black looks most intense against white, and a tall man appears magnified by proximity to one unusually short; so it is with ideas. This is why we speak of palace and cottage, the prince and the peasant, and why Solomon's knowledge of plants is described as extending from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall..
In all composition there should be a natural sequence, the narration of one event following another as arising out of it. This is an important aid to the memory of those who hear or read. Graceful composition is that which flows along easily and naturally, giving the ear pleasure by its smoothness, and pleasing the mind by the fitness of its words.
The present style of composition is essentially Saxon, and may be best studied in the smooth flow of the poet-laureate's lines. The extensive use of words derived from the Latin, except in scientific treatises, is ungraceful and pedantic. The student should read the compositions of Dr. Samuel Johnson to get a full idea of the effect of Latinized English, and to avoid it.
The use of foreign words detracts from purity of style. The English language is rich enough to express all the thoughts a young composer is likely to have, and there is no sense in mixing two languages in a composition. The use of a foreign word in English composition is called a barbarism, but the term is also applied to terms purely scientific or technical. As such words may not be universally understood, their use savours of display, and may be impolite to hearers or readers. The same remark applies to obsolete and to newly-coined words. The former may be used by the poet, but are inadmissible in ordinary letterwriting or speaking ; the latter should be avoided until it is seen whether they are adopted by the best authorities.
Paraphrase. THE term paraphrase is derived from the Greek prefix para, beside, and the Greek noun 'phrasis,' speech. The derivation of the term explains its meaning, for paraphrase is the finding a different mode of expression, exactly parallel in meaning, for a thought already clothed in words. It is therefore the placing of different sets of words, expressing the same thought, side by side.
Paraphrase differs from free composition in having the thoughts already expressed, while in free composition the writer's own thoughts are put into words. As the subjects given for paraphrase are generally selections from the best writers, who have already used the choicest language for expressing the thoughts, a paraphrase is, as a rule, not equal to the original composition. Great excellence may, however, be attained in this exercise; for the English language, possessing as it does in so many cases words derived from various sources, yet expressing the same idea, has peculiar facilities for the expression of thoughts in many forms.
The aim of paraphrase is—(1) to ensure thorough study of an author; (2) to cultivate the power of close attention and the habit of grasping the whole meaning of what is read ; (3) to make the student sensible of the force and beauty of words, and of grace and happiness of expression ; (4) to cultivate command of language, by forcing the student to find a second mode of expression for a thought already expressed.
Paraphrase may be to some extent a means of moral training. It cultivates the habit of repeating a story exactly, without exaggeration or change of the original thought ; and thus it conduces to truthfulness. The best maxim that can guide a paraphrasist is the form of oath given to witnesses in a court of justice, namely, 'to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' This, applied to paraphrase, would mean to produce in other words the thought given; to leave no idea unexpressed ; and to add nothing to the original. Attention to these three points will ensure fulness and accuracy.
One of the best examples of paraphrase is perhaps seen in the various versions of the twenty-third psalm. The original is :'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures : He leadeth me beside the still waters.'