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“But words are things; and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”
Are, at all times, according to their general nature.
Falling, at any time, whenever it may happen.
Produces, within a reasonable time after falling.
Makes, sooner or later, in a greater or less degree, according to its power of making.
Think, in consequence of the making or causing to think.
303. The ideas of time as existing in the structure of speech being not absolute, but relative; and all conceptions which the mind can form, concerning duration, only marked out by the successive actions and conditions of things, these principles apply to most objects which can come within the contemplation of language itself; and particularly to participles and other adjectives, which describe things by their temporary qualities, positions and relations. This principle any good scholar may soon find himself prepared, able, and willing to prove. The perfect participle prepared, the adjective able, and the present participle willing, are alike adjectives, describing the condition in which the scholar may soon place himself. The active participle, in ing, while it always describes, as an adjective, at the same time, and in every possible case, retains its character as a transitive verb, and governs an object, expressed or inevitably inferred. When it ceases to do both these, it ceases to be a participle, and becomes a noun or other part of speech. Mr. Murray's example to show that the active participle is “sometimes passive,” is founded in total misconception of the principle.
“The Indian prisoner is burning.”
This sentence asserts what is untrue; and to make the statement, if possible, still worse, asserts it in bad English, unless we are to understand that the prisoner has volunteered to burn himself.
304. In the following extract from Dr. Johnson's Life of Dryden, the describing adjectives are printed in italic.
“His prefaces have not the formality of a settled style, in which the first half of the sentence betrays the other. The clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modeled; every word seems to drop by chance, though it falls into its proper place. Nothing is cold or languid, the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous ; what is little, is gay; what is great, is splendid. Though all is easy, nothing is feeble; though all seems careless, there is nothing harsh ; and though, since his earlier works, more than a century has past, they have nothing yet uncouth or obsolete.”
“Dear, fatal name rest ever unrevealed,
If any part of Mr. Murray's system of passive verbs could be considered more specially absurd than the rest, it might be the formal table of the imperative mood, commanding the person who neither wills nor acts, to suffer the effect of an action which he can neither controll nor obviate.
But the whole theory of passive verbs, is so radically and mischievously wrong, that it is difficult to make much distinction between the parts. The word passive, itself, comes from the Latin, pation, to suffer, Suffer is from sub and fero; and means perfero tolero, sustineo, permitto. It is somewhat singular, that the thought should not have occurred, that no language ever known, had furnished words to define a passive verb, according to what we are required to believe respecting it.
“A verb passive expresses a passion, or a suffering, or the receiving of an action.”
The man who receives money is considered as much an actor as he who pays it; and it is for readers to judge whether he does not commonly act as much from volition. The word patience comes from the same etymon as passive, and depends on exactly the same principle for its meaning; yet we are told, by the moral writers, ancient and modern, that patience is one of the cardinal virtues. Where, but in grammar books, have we ever been taught, that one of the chief excellencies of human nature consists in the mere negation of every active quality of body and mind When the British critics praised the moral and religious tendency of Mr. Murray's writings, were they aware that, by his doctrine of passive verbs, there could be no merit imputed to any instance of passion or suffering: because there is in this passion no exercise, or voluntary concurrence, of any corporeal or mental faculty? The inconsistency is uniform through the whole theory. The passive verbs are all conjugated with the “auxiliary,” which signifies to exist. The word exist is from ea and sisto. Sisto is from sto, stare facio : yet we are told that exist and stand are both neuter verbs, expressing “neither action nor passion, but being, or a state of being; as, I am, I sleep, I sit, Cesar stood.” If to stand requires no action, nor exertion of strength or skill, then the child of three months old can, of course, stand alone, as well as “Cesar,” or any other person.
305. If the preceding facts and reasons, respecting verbs, are correct, the following brief inferences may be deduced, as important truths, to guide us, in a farther course. J. Every verb, in every language, is necessarily active and transitive. 2. There are three moods of English verbs; and no other can be distinguished, on principles capable of being explained or understood. 3. These moods are logically and clearly divided from each other by personal relation; and there is no other consistent separating line between them. 4. The indicative proposition may be assertive, negative, suppositive, or interrogative: but whether one or the other, the single and direct personal relation of the action to the actor, under all circumstances, remains unbroken. 5. The directing power always implied by the imperative verb, can only be uttered by the first person. It is always addressed to the agency of a second person : and no man in his right mind expects his command to be obeyed, at any other time, than subsequent to the expression of his will. Consequently the verb or action of the imperative mood can be nothing else but future. 6. The infinitive mood has no personal relation; but denotes action, consequent on some supposed, or pre-existing state of things, and is, therefore, always consecutive, or future. 7. No simple proposition can contain more than one indicative verb, and this verb of the indicative mood can never be subordinate to an other verb.
306. 8. An indicative verb can only be in the present, or the simple past tense. Imperative verbs are always absolutely future, and infinitives either absolutely or relatively so.
9. The words erroneously called helping verbs, in English, come before those called principals.— These “auxiliaries” are therefore first in order.— They express the actions which are the efficient causes of those denoted by the following verbs: consequently they are philosophically first in importance. The words will, may, hear, see, feel, can, be, shall, must, and others of this kind, which govern the infinitive, without the word to, are very expressive by their own absolute meaning. They are distinct, and frequently opposite in their signification, from the verbs which follow them : so that they can not be considered as united, to form one compound action; and it is not the nature of verbal expression to blend two or three actions in one.
“We will stop at Philippi.”
In this sentence, the action denoted by stop, is the resulting effect of that expressed by will. It is consequent on it; subsidiary to it; in the infinitive mood governed by it: and, till that intellectual power which is the glory of man becomes entirely subordinate to the feet, the word will, in the above sentence, must be the principal, and stop must be the secondary verb.
307. One seeming paradox, respecting verbs, still requires explanation.
Several verbs, formerly used through all the moods and tenses, have lost, in a great degree, their original forms, while they retain their meaning. The consistency of language has been greatly misrepresented, and scholars needlessly and unprofitably perplexed, by an attempt to refer these words to other parts of speech. They are commonly misnamed conjunctions; as, if, though, whless, and others.
As a general rule, language is, in its structure, very simple and direct. There is nothing like the