LITERATURE: On The Sublime – Composition

Some interesting points made here, in the lyric quality of the writing:

Demosthenes:  "This decree caused the danger which then beset the city to pass by just-as a cloud."

For the thought is expressed throughout in dactylic rhythms, and these are most noble and productive of sublimity; and therefore it is that they constitute the heroic, the finest metre that we know.  (Chapter XXXIX, Part 4)

Longinus here notes by example the rearrangement of the words, or the addition (just as if a cloud) or loss (   as a cloud) of a single word or syllable changes the beat so that the phrase as a whole suffers in the floundering of the rhythm. 

By the same token, he warns that speech should not be so organized in rhythm that it detracts from the words by its "overrhythmical style":

Sometimes, indeed, the listeners knowing beforehand the due terminations stamp their feet in time with the speaker, and as in a dance give the right step in anticipation.  (3) In like manner those words are destitute of sublimity which lie too close together, and are cut up into short and tiny syllables, and are held together as if with wooden bolts by sheer inequality and ruggedness.  (Chapter XLI, Part 2 and 3)

I’ve been enjoying re-learning these concepts of speech and writing, and recognize them by the examples given and the way Longinus has very clearly pointed them out.  I’ve noticed some of both the good and the bad in my readings of literature as well as in my own writing.  In particular, the need to arrange the words in such a way and not in any other.

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