Page images
PDF
EPUB

Another well-arranged sentence for cumulative force is the following from the same speech:

After Washington, and the inflexible Adams, Henry, and the fearless Hamilton, Jefferson, and the majestic Clay, Webster, and the acute Calhoun, Jackson, the modest Taylor, and Scott, who rises in greatness under the burden of years, and Franklin, and Fulton, and Whitney, and Morse, have all performed their parts, let the curtain fall. In long sentences, such as this, care should be exercised properly to group the members composing it, otherwise the force will be lost on account of a confusion of ideas. In this sentence there are three groups: Washington, Adams, Henry, Hamilton, and Jefferson constituting the first; Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Jackson, Taylor, and Scott the second; Franklin, Fulton, Whitney, and Morse the third. These, with the phrase “ have all performed their parts,” constitute a commencing series, the sense being completed by "let the curtain fall.”

In his address, “The American Scholar," delivered at Cambridge, Mass., August 31, 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson employed these words:

The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand and it can go. It now endures, it now fies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of

[ocr errors]

mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing This powerful passage is effective mainly because of the masterful arrangement of the words. Emerson opens with the positive statement that “The theory of books is noble.” He follows this with the concluding series, “The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind and uttered it again.” Then comes the double contrast, “ It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth.” This is followed by a triple contrast, It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts." Then comes another double contrast, “It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry.” Then another triple contrast is used, “It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought.” Then comes the positive statement that “ It can stand and it can go." A concluding series then follows, “It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires," and the paragraph ends with the conditional phrase and the concluding phrases, “Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing,” the concluding clause containing the double contrast, "so high does it soar, so long does it sing." Few paragraphs of a like length contain so much thought as does this one of Emerson's, and the immensity of thought could be placed in such small space only because of the skilful disposition of the words, the meaning being made clear by the clever placing of one word against another word,

one idea against another idea. The sentences are short, and while they may not be particularly beautiful, they are exceedingly strong.

In Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address is this telling sentence:

To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest (slavery] was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. The words “strengthen, perpetuate, and extend” are a commencing series because they act on the word “interest.” Slavery was the object for which the insurgents would separate the Union, even by going to the extreme of making war; while the Federal Government claimed merely the right to prevent its spreading into the territories. What makes this sentence so clear and so forceful is the manner in which the contrast is brought out regarding the acts of the insurgents and the claims of the Government.

One of the most expressive and best constructed sentences in English literature is the following from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. This is a triple opposition, “The world will little note nor long remember" being contrasted with “but it can never forget,” “we” with “they,” and “say ” with

did.

Another beautiful specimen of construction is the last paragraph of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address :

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with rirmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right — let us strive on to finish the work we are in: to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations. Had Lincoln merely said "with malice toward none it would have meant not half so much as it does with the words “ with charity for all ” added. This example emphasizes the force of contrast, for by stating the positive " with charity for all ” as well as the negative "with malice toward none,” he makes his expressed thought clear, strong, and comprehensive, clinching the subject and leaving no possible loophole for a misunderstanding to creep in.

With firmness in the right” is fittingly qualified by “ as God gives us to see the right," and the thought is splendidly closed with “let us strive on to finish the work we are in.” Then by means of a concluding series he states what this work is that we should strive to finish, and he concludes with the general summing up, “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Daniel Webster, in his address on the occasion of the laying of the corner-stone of Bunker Hill Monument, used this sentence:

Human beings are composed, not of reason only, but of imagination also, and sentiment; and that is neither wasted nor misapplied which is appropriated to the purpose of giving right direction to sentiment, and opening proper springs of feeling in the heart. The orator states that reason is a portion of the composition out of which human beings are made, but that it is not the only ingredient; that imagination is a part also, as is sentiment, and that nothing is either wasted or misapplied which is used in rightly directing feeling, and freeing the heart of all obstructions in order that its emotions may come forth. In doing this, Webster uses the qualified negative “not of reason only,” meaning, of course, that human beings are composed of reason, but stating they they are not composed “only” of reason, but of reason, imagination, and sentiment, and then, by means of two negatives, “neither" and "nor," he states that whatever is used for the object of rightly directing sentiment is not wasted and not misapplied.

In the same address, he says:

If, indeed, there be anything in local association fit to affect the mind of man, we need not strive to repress the emotions which agitate us here. We are among the sepulchres of our fathers. We are on ground distinguished by their valor, their constancy, and the shedding of their blood. The first phrase is conditional, the balance of the sentence is negative. The orator ably opens with a condition because he is sure of all his listeners subscribing to it, and then he says that if there is anything of a local nature that is proper to act sufficiently on man's mind as

« PreviousContinue »