« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
ferior being to one who is infinitely his superior: as, Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses"!!-Like true Babel-builders, their tongues are divided concerning the exact number and proper definition of Moods. Yet, with all their love of complication, an obvious distinction escapes them; for if what is called the Infinitive Mood deserve any designation, it ought to be called the impersonal verb; or the impersonal state of the verb; but the term impersonal was pre-engaged; being applied to what is evidently the third person of some verbs-or verbs that are used only in the third person.
In reference to Greek and Latin, the traditional doctrine of Moods may be tolerated; because it serves at least the purpose of designating the various terminations of verbs, which must be committed to memory; but in reference to the English language, it. possesses not one redeeming quality.
[Corruption of TEMPUS contracted into Time]. The grammatic tongues have been wonderfully divided about TENSE; which is not surprising when we consider how much the subject has baffled the most metaphysical intellects; and that it extorted the following humble confession from the great St.
Augustine: Quid sit Tempus, si nemo quærat a me, scio; si quis interroget, nescio. The worthy father, it appears, knew all about tempus, i. e. time, alias tense, when no one disturbed his contemplative abstraction; but the moment he was put into the witness-box, he was confounded out of his knowledge; and could not even say as much as a dial-plate— Tempus fugit; but was obliged to utter the mortifying word nescio! Perhaps it would have been as well if the grammatists had imitated the humility and modesty of St. Augustine; and had given us Nescio under Tense, instead of those less intelligible words with which they have adorned their Nescientia. Mr. Harris has enumerated no fewer than twelve tenses; but more moderate believers are content with half the number; not without an apology for insisting on so many. "Tense," they tell us,
being the distinction of time, might seem to admit only of the present, past, and future; but to mark it more accurately, it is made to consist of six variations, viz. the PRESENT, the IMPERFECT, the PERFECT, the PLUPERFECT, and the FIRST and SECOND FUTURE TENSES"!!! Others, still more moderate, are content with half this number; and insist only on three tenses; the PAST, the PRESENT, and the FUTURE; others refuse to admit that there is a future or present tense; and some deny the existence of tenses altogether. In all such cases of diverse judgment and doubtful distinction, simplicity is an
argument of considerable weight; so that, if there were no preponderating evidence, we would rather agree with those who hold that there are no tenses, than with those who assert that there are three, six, or twelve: but though the doctrine of tenses has, (like prediction in certain cases,) to some extent, realized itself; and we have, or seem to have, some notion of distinctions as to time, in connexion with verbs; yet we think it can be as clearly proved as the nature of the case admits, that no such distinction really belongs to them; and, that where such a notion, does exist, it is wholly accessory or associated; not primary-not intended to be indicated by any changes which are made upon the words called verbs, in any language. The inquiry, indeed, is attended with no substantial utility, except as it serves to remove false theory; for nothing is preferable to absurd verbosities; silence is better than loquacious impertinence. Before, however, we enter directly on the consideration of tense; let us first examine those words designated auxiliary or helping verbs; for the right understanding of these will, in a great measure, supersede the necessity of a formal disquisition concerning tense.
AUXILIARY OR HELPING VERBS CONSIDERED: viz. DO, HAVE, SHALL, WILL, MAY, CAN, LET, MUST, BE.
HERE two affixes must be noticed as being really all the changes of termination that properly and usefully belong to English verbs; viz. ed and ing. The last was, anciently, ante, ant, and, &c.; (for there is great diversity of spelling in the olden literature,) and was evidently borrowed from the Latin participle: ing seems merely a spelling of the same affix, accommodated to the nasal pronunciation that acquired possession of the English language after the Conquest. The use of ing is precisely the same as the participle-affix ans, ens, in Latin, and ON in Greek; and has precisely the same use, and is, in fact, the same word as the adjective affix an, en, &c.; for all the difference between what is called a participle and what is called an adjective, is, that the one is formed on a verb and the other on a noun; and this difference is, in many cases, so very slight, that the same word is considered either adjective or participle.
The corresponding, or rather, the same affix, in the other languages, is, ande (Swed.), ende (Ger.), ant (Fr.), ante (It.). From this view, it plainly appears, that as the Latins borrowed the affix in question from the Greeks, their literary masters; so the mo
dern nations of Europe (concerning Sclavonic we give no opinion) borrowed it from the Latins, their literary masters.
The affix ed, at (Swed.), et (Ger.), ato (It.), is evidently the same as that which exists in what is misnamed (for it is active as well as passive) the Latin perfect, passive participle. Thus, DUBIT-O, DUBITAT-US, is, with us, Doubt, Doubted, &c. &c. If, then, the English affix be merely that of the Latin; what is this Latin affix? We can hardly expect absolute certainty in such a matter; but we believe it is what is called the third person singular of the perfect, with adjective terminations appended. Thus, AMAT, he loves, AMAVIT, he has loved, Amavitus, a, um, contr. into Amat-us, a, um. The av is a contraction of HAB-EO: So that Amavit is equivalent to, love-have-he, she, or it; Amaverunt is equivalent to, love-have-they; or they-have-love.
Whatever fatuous distinctions may be interposed respecting "the Perfect Tense not only referring to what is past, but also conveying an allusion to the present time"; every one knows that there is no distinction of meaning, or difference of application, between what are called the Preterite Imperfect and the Preterite Perfect in Latin. The reason is plain: Amabat consists of the three same words as Amavit; i. e. Am, love, Hab, have, and At, signifying agent or subject, he, she, or it, as determined by the connexion.