There is No Enduring Emotion without Syntax

The concepts of the mind are pictures of things and the tongue is interpreter of those pictures; the order of God’s creatures in themselves is not only admirable and glorious but eloquent, then he that could apprehend the consequence of things in their truth and utter his apprehensions as truly, were a right orator, therefore Cicero said as much when he said Dicere recte nemo Potest nisi qui prudenter intelligit. The shame of speaking unskillfully were small if the tongue were only disgraced by it, but as the image of the king  in a seal of wax ill represented is not so much a blemish to the wax or the signet that sealeth it as to the king whom it resembleth, so disordered speech is not so much injury to the lips which give it forth, or the thoughts which put it forth, as to the proportion and coherence of things in themselves so wrongfully expressed. Yet cannot his mind be thought in tune, whose words do jar, nor his reason in frame whose sentences are preposterous, nor his fancy clear and perfect, whose utterance breaks itself into uncertainties; were it an honour to a prince to have the majesty of his embassage spoiled by a careless embassador? And is it not as great an indignity that an excellent concept and capacity, by the indilligence of an idle tongue, should be defaced?

John Hoskyns, The Life, Letters and Writings, ed L. B. Osborn.

Everything is interconnected. My readings of classical authors, who never speak of sunsets, have made many sunsets intelligible to me, in all their colours. There is a relationship between syntactical competence, by which we distinguish the values of beings, sounds and shapes, and the capacity to perceive when the blue of the sky is actually green, and how much yellow is in the blue-green of the sky. It comes down to the same thing – the capacity to discriminate. There is no enduring emotion without syntax. Immortality depends on the grammarians.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith.


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