Sunday, 17 October 2004

From "Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres"

By Hugh Blair.

Sound is a quality much inferior to sense; yet such as must not be disregarded. For, as long as sounds are the vehicle of conveyance for our ideas, there will always be a very considerable connection between the idea which is conveyed, and the nature of the sound which conveys it. Pleasing ideas can hardly be transmitted to the mind, by means of harsh and disagreeable sounds. The imagination revolts as soon as it hears them uttered. "Nihil", says Quinctilian, "potest intrare in affectum quod in aure, velut quodam vestibulo statim offendit" [Nothing can enter into the affections which stumbles at the threshold by offending the ear]. Music has naturally a great power over all men to prompt and facilitate certain emotions: insomuch, that there are hardly any dispositions which we wish to raise in others, but certain sounds may be found concordant to those dispositions, and tending to promote them. Now, language may, in some degree, be rendered capable of this power of music; a circumstance which must needs heighten our idea of Language as a wonderful invention. Not content with simply interpreting our ideas to others, it can give them those ideas enforced by corresponding sounds; and to the pleasure of communicated thought, can add the new and separate pleasure of melody.

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