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WORDS; THEIR USE AND ABUSE.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WORDS.
“Speech is morning to the mind;
It spreads the beauteous images abroad,
M o the thoughtful man, who has reflected on the com
I mon operations of life, which, but for their commonness, would be deemed full of marvel, few things are more wonderful than the origin, structure, history and significance of words. The tongue is the glory of man; for though animals have memory, will and intellect, yet language, which gives us a duplicate and multipliable existence,- enabling mind to communicate with mind, — is the Rubicon which they never have dared to cross. The dog barks as it barked at the creation, and the crow of the cock is the same to-day as when it startled the ear of repentant Peter. The song of the lark and the howl of the leopard have continued as unchangeable as the concentric circles of the spider and the waxen hexagon of the bee; and even the stoutest champion of the ourang-outang theory of man's origin will admit that no process of natural selection has yet distilled significant words out of the cries of beasts or the notes of birds. Speech is a divine gift. It is the last seal of dignity stamped by God upon His intelligent offspring, and proves, more conclusively than his upright form, or his looks “commercing with the skies,” that he was made in the image of God. Without this crowning gift to man, even reason would have been comparatively valueless; for he would have felt himself to be imprisoned even when at large, solitary in the midst of a crowd; and the society of the wisest of his race would have been as uninstructive as that of barbarians and savages. The rude tongue of a Patagonian or Australian is full of wonders to the philosopher; but as we ascend in the scale of being from the uncouth sounds which express the desires of a savage to the lofty periods of a Cicero or a Chatham, the power of words expands until it attains to regions far above the utmost range of our capacity. It designates, as Novalis has said, God with three letters, and the infinite with as many syllables, though the ideas conveyed by these words are immeasurably beyond the utmost grasp of man. In every relation of life, at every moment of our active being, in every thing we think or do, it is on the meaning and inflection of a word that the direction of our thoughts, and the expression of our will, turn. The soundness of our reasonings, the clearness of our belief and of our judgment, the influence we exert upon others, and the manner in which we are impressed by our fellow-men,- all depend upon a knowledge of the value of words. It is in language that the treasures of human knowledge, the discoveries of Science, and the achievements of Art are chiefly preserved; it is language that furnishes the poet with the airy vehicle for his most delicate fancies, the orator with the elements of his electrifying eloquence, the savant with the record of his classification, the metaphysician with the means of his sharp distinction, the statesman with the drapery of his vast design, and the philosopher with the earthly instrument of his heavenreaching induction.
“Words,” said the fierce Mirabeau, in reply to an opponent in the National Assembly, “ are things;" and truly they were such when he thundered them forth from the Tribune, full of life, meaning and power. Words are always things, when coming from the lips of a master-spirit, and instinct with his own individuality. Especially is this true of so impassioned orators as Mirabeau, who have thoughts impatient for words, not words starving for thoughts, and who but give utterance to the spirit breathed by the whole Third Estate of a nation. Their words are not merely things, but living things, endowed with power not only to communicate ideas, but to convey, as by spiritual conductors, the shock and thrill which attended their birth. Look at the “ winged words" of old Homer, into which he breathed the breath of his own spiritual life,— how long have they kept on the wing! For twenty-five or thirty centuries they have maintained their flight across gulfs of time in which empires have suffered shipwreck and the languages of common life have sunk into oblivion; and they are still full of the lifeblood of immortal youth.
“How forcible," says Job, “ are right words!” “A word fitly spoken,” says Solomon, “ is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Few persons have duly estimated the power of words. In anatomical museums one will sometimes see the analysis of a man,— that is, the mere chem