The lofty elevated lexicon and poetic style in the works of Samuel Johnson

Stylistics and styles of english language. Belles-lettres style, poetry and stylistic devices. Translation pragmatics. Stylistic devices which call forth the lofty elevated lexicon and poetic style. Esthetic function of a fiction and its value in poetry.

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(Technical University)


Department of Applied Linguistics and Translating Techniques




The Lofty/Elevated Lexicon and Poetic Style in the Works of Samuel Johnson

Performed by:

Student: Ryabov .Yu.

Supervisor: Rodionova L.Yu.

Moscow 2011



Chapter 1. Theoretical part

1.1 Stylistics and Styles of Language

1.2 Belles-lettres style, poetry and stylistic devices

1.3 Translation pragmatics

Chapter 2. Practical part




To this day the work of English poets of 18 century left to be very popular. Such poets` as Ben Johnson, Arnold Matthew, Thomas Gud poetry is known in many countries over the world. The given project is devoted to Samuel Johnson, not fairly forgotten and almost not translated into Russian English poet of Age of the Enlightenment, lexicographer and critic. The fact that Samuel Johnson had what is known as the syndrome of Turette is well-known now, but in 18 century this kind of insanity had not been medically described. And because of his rough statements towards Scotland he deserved their hatred. Interesting that all contradictions of his epoch were embodied in Johnson. Johnson was a person of "golden mean" -- and after all it was necessary for English bourgeoisie to struggle ideologically against oligarchy. To get acquainted more closely with his poetry it is necessary:

1 To classify stylistic devices.

2 To onsider stylistic used by Samuel Johnson.

3 To give their definitions.

4 To analyse Samuel Johnson poems.

5 To give my own point of view about devices.

First of all, what is stylistics? The definition of this term and its classification will help us to consider the character of stylistic devices used by Johnson in his poetry. Stylistics is a philological discipline studying unequal principles of choice and ways of the language unit`s organization in the uniform semantic and composite whole (the text). Here is a definition of stylistics given by the Russian linguist ValeriyGurevich: In different situations of communication people use different manners of expressing their thoughts. Stylistics is a branch of linguistics that studies the various functional styles of speech and also the various expressive means and devices of language. Appart from that, some linguists apply the term stylistics to the study of various stylistic peculiarities of the language of works of function for example it`s the publicist and belle - letters styles, which have the function of producing an emotional impact on the listeners[6]. And the other linguist whose opinion we will consider is IlyaGolperin. In his book he writes: The subject and stylistics maintenance as a part of science about language, are not exactly defined till now. That is why the term stylistics may be understand differently. And nevertheless the majority of linguists concur that the linguistic stylistics deal with such terms as: Esthetic functions of language, expressive means of language, synonymic ways of thought expression, emotional colouring speeches[2]. Actually many scholars hold that the term stylistics has not entirely been defined, nevertheless it is known that the stylistics is the part of science about the language, studying variations of language expressions caused by their belonging to this or that language style. And of course language as a social phenomenon performs various functions connected with this or that sphere of human activity. To perform these functions, separate varieties of language have been developed and formed. Variants of a literary language which are caused by various spheres of dialogue, are called functional styles of language. Thus we can suggest a classification of speech styles. Here is the stylistics classification of the English language as presented by YurySkrebnev:

1 Belles-Lettres style (genre of creative writing)


-Emotive Prose

-The drama

2 Publicisticstyle

-Oratory and Speeches

-The Essay


3 Newspaper style (mass media)

-Brief News Items


-Advertisements and Announcements

-The Editorial

4 Scientific style (proce, brochures, articles, other scientific publications)

5 Official style (documents and papers)[7]

Such items as lofty/elevated lexicon and poetry style form a part of Belles Lettres style. We will consider their definitions and properties in the theoretical part of the project, and in the practical part we will carry out an analysis of their usage in Samuel Johnson's poetry.

Chapter 1 - Theoretical

1.1 Stylistics and Styles of Language

As it was already said, the stylistics is the study and interpretation of texts from a linguistic perspective. But it`s too short definition. To understand this term more profoundly we should examine it more thoroughly. First of all we can subdivide the stylistics and carry out the classification. It will be the Functional styles of speech. Here is the definition given by John Rupert Firth: Functional Style is a system of interrelated language means serving a definite aim in communication. It is the coordination of the language means and stylistic devices which shapes the distinctive features of each style and not the language means or stylistic devices themselves. Each style, however, can be recognized by one or more leading features which are especially conspicuous. The English literary system has evolved a number of styles easily distinguishable one from another. They are not homogeneous and fall into several variants of having some central point of resemblance. They are: Official (documents and papers), Scientific (brochures, articles, other scientific publications), Publicistic (essay, public speech), Newspaper style(mass media) and Belles-lettres style (genre of creative writing). The poetry deal with poetic language by its nature concerning itself with belles-lettres style.[4]

1.2 Belles-lettres style, poetry and stylistic devices

Belles-lettres style performs the esthetic function of influence, producing an impression on the reader. It is the functional style of speech which is used in poetry. A text written in this style influences imagination and feelings of the reader, transfers thoughts and feelings of the author, using all the wealth of the lexicon, characterized by figurativeness and by imagery. So, what is poetry?

It`s much more than just rhyming and metrical or versified prose. It`s an art form. Poetry expresses the way we feel about a certain subject through imagery and other senses. It helps us deal with our daily life, be it good or bad. The emotion which is put within each meter brings it to life. A poem lacking emotions would be simple prose rather than poetry. Poetry is what makes us feel happy or sad, mad or gleeful, loving or broken hearted. Poetry is life through words and it can influence the way we feel about life things and the human conditions. By means of what is that effect achieved? Of course by means of speech influence and lofty-elevated lexicon conditioned by stylistic devices. The next question we will consider is what is considered as the lofty-elevated lexicon and what is it the chief mission of poetry? It`s mission is to influence people`s feelings and emotions, to wake up their innermost feelings, emotional experiences, joy and bright memoirs with the help of stylistic devices and words which are interpreted, as lofty or painted with special, poetically elevated sense, concern raised lexicon. These words or expressions would be out of place in our everyday conversation, or in scientific and business genres. For example, the word "inspired" belongs to such lofty/elevated lexicon. Its usage in the scientific article will be unjustified and even ridiculous. Also it is difficult to imagine this word come across in documents, receipts or technical instructions. Many out-of-date words which have passed into the passive language stock are connected with lofty/elevated lexicon. Lofty/elevated lexicon is defined also by means of stylistic devices used in the poetry. They are onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, rhyming, simile and metaphor. Further we will consider how this devices manifest themselves. Here is the accurate definition of onomatopoeia given by Tatyana Znamensky.

Onomatopoeia - It is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. Onomatopoeia (as an uncountable noun) refers to the property of such words. Common occurrences of onomatopoeias include animal noises, such as oink - , meow - , roar - , Red rooster says, "Cockadoodle do doo - ". This can be used in in a variety of ways giving the reader a `hands on' feel. Poets use onomatopoeia in their work in two main ways: directly and indirectly. One way is to directly or obviously use an onomatopoeic word to create an atmosphere for the reader. The other way is less obvious, where words or parts of words that are used to create an onomatopoeic effect, which is usually a pun, in a poem.

1. Less obvious onomatopoeia. Words and parts of words can be used by poets to create Onomatopoeic puns. In the Prioress' Tale, one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer has created what is known as the hissing stanza. In this stanza, he uses words with hissing sounds, to build an atmosphere in the serpent's tempting an allusion to the well-known Biblical episode:

Our first foe, the serpent Satanas,

That hath in Jews' heart his wasps nest,

Up swelled, and said: "O Hebraic people, alas!

Is this to you a thing that is honest,

That such a boy shall walken as him lest

In your despite, and sing of such sentence,

Which is against your law's reverence?

2. Obvious onomatopoeia. Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven uses many examples of onomatopoeia. For instance onomatopoeic words such as tapping and rapping are used to build up the tension felt by the protagonist in Poe's poem.

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

'Tis some visiter, I muttered, tapping at my chamber door --

Only this, and nothing more.[5]

Among other stylistic devices are alliteration and assonance. We will consider the definitions as given by ValeriyGurevich.

* Alliteration - is the device based on repetition of the same or similar sounds at close distance, which adds expressiveness to the phonetic form of the text. It`s frequently used in idioms: tit for tat (an eye for an eye) or tit-bit (a tasty morsel) common abbreviations: World Wide Web. Alliteration is used by an author to create emphasis, to add beauty to the writing style, and occasionally to aid in shaping the mood.

Alliteration is a traditional technique in Nordic-particularly English-poetry.

A fly and a flea in the flue were imprisoned

Said the fly let us flee

Said the flea let us fly

So they flew through a flaw in the flue

We wonder whether the weather

Will weather the wether,

Or whether the weather the wether will kill.

A particular variety of alliteration is assonance, i.e. repetition of the same or similar vowels only, as in the phrase wear and tear (My shoes show signs of wear and tear; the wear and tear of city life). This device is sometimes found in poetic speech; see the insistent repetition of the vowel [e] in the line

Tenderly bury the fair young dead.

or the repetition of the diphthong [ei] in the lines.

Tell the soul, with sorrow laden, if within the distant Aiden,

I shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore -

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angles name Lenor?(E. Poe)

The term assonance is also used to denote an imperfect rhyme, when only vowels are rhymed: number - blunder, same - cane[3].

* Not a less important question is the usage of rhyming in versification. The rhyming is a consonance in the ending of two or several words. Unlike alliteration and assonance of which both can occur in any place of the text, the rhyme defined positionally in the end of a verse. Partly it seems to be enjoyed simply as a repeating pattern that is pleasant to hear. It also serves as a powerful mnemonic device, facilitating memorization. The regular use of tail rhyme helps to mark off the ends of lines, thus clarifying the metrical structure for the listener. As with other poetic techniques, poets use it to suit their own purposes; for example William Shakespeare often used a rhyming couplet to mark off the end of a scene in a play.

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; ("a" rhyme)

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. ("a" rhyme)

Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste; ("b" rhyme)

Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste: ("b" rhyme)

And therefore is Love said to be a child, ("c" rhyme)

Because in choice he is so oft beguiled. ("c" rhyme)

* Simile - A simile is a figure of speech that indirectly compares two different things by employing the words "like", "as", or "than". Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes compare two ideas or images indirectly and thus allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors compare two things directly. For instance, a simile that compares a person with a bullet would go as follows: "Chris was a record-setting runner as fast as a speeding bullet." A metaphor might read something like, "When Chris ran, he was a speeding bullet racing along the track."

* Metaphor is a stylistic device which enables the reader to understand one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas, the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical image taking the place of some other word or idea. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphors compare things directly without resorting to words: "like" or "as."

So we use both Simile and Metaphor to draw an analogy, to facilitate understanding or make the mode of expression more graphical and expressive. By means of such technique it will be easier for the reader to realize the properties and qualities of what is being described in a very concise and original, innovative manner, fashion.

1.3 Translation pragmatics

The next question we will consider is what translation means, and how to translate the poetry. What is translation? Here is the definition given by Georges Mounin. It is a transfer of sense from one language (source language) to another (translating language). It`s very important to save the right sense, translating the text. So how should we translate the poetry if we want to keep sense and moreover to transfer the emotions and feelings enclosed by author? How should we translate the lofty-elevated lexicon and stylistic devices? Translation of poetry is the process of literary creativity in a target language. In any poem it is possible to allocate "meaning" and "meant", in other words, form and content. The poetic form can't exist without a rhythm or system of rhyming. There are 5 methods of a poetic translation. They are:

* The literal translation - word-per-word translation which is adjusted to the poetic form.

* The stylized translation - translation at which the external sense diligently remains, but style of translation changes intentionally.

* The literary translation - it`s overall objective is preservation of figurativeness, symmetry and beauty of the original.

* The formalistic method - strict following to rhyming system, rhythmics and stanzaic of the original.

* The functional method - search of language and cultural analogs and equivalents.

Translating poetry it is necessary to create a free translation, and literalnesses should in any case be avoided. Set expressions, proverbs, sayings and aphorisms are always a challenge to translators. It is a reconstruction process of literary work existing in any foreign language in a native language [1]. The practical part of the paper will be devoted to how to translate the poetry and will analyze the stylistic devices identifying the lofty/elevated lexicon and poetic style in the works of Samuel Johnson.

Chapter 2 - Practical

In this part of the term paper we will consider the most famous Samuel Johnson`s poems in order to find stylistic devices which call forth the lofty/elevated lexicon and poetic style. Let us now research the first verse. The Evening Ode.

Evening now from purple wings

Sheds the grateful gifts she brings;


Brilliant drops bedeck the mead,


Shake the reed, and curl the stream

Silver'd o'er with Cynthia's beam;

Near the chequer'd, lonely grove,

Hears, and keeps thy secrets, love!

At first we can see that Samuel Johnson used a rhyming couplet to mark off the end of a scene in a play wings - brings, mead - reed. The next stylistic device we can observe is given here to compare evening with the bird. Through this metaphor the author gives us a possibility to feel the beautifulness, greatness and freshness of the evening. Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas, the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word.

Evening now from purple wings

Sheds the grateful gifts she brings

Here we may also find such stylistic devices as Symbol:

Phoebus drives his burning car

Here is the definition given in Wikipedia: A symbol may be an object, a person, a situation, an action or some other object that has literal meaning in the story, and that represents something other than itself. It can also be a word or an idea. It is used as an expressive way to depict an idea. The symbol generally conveys an emotional response going far beyond what the word, idea, or image itself dictates.[8] Phoebus is a name of Greek god of sun. The sun itself compared with burning car. In this verse this symbol means evening glow, sunset.

Repetition which we may find is a stylistic device. Repetition is the deliberate use of a word or phrase more than once in a sentence or a text to create a sense of pattern or form or to emphasize certain elements in the mind of the reader or listener.

Cooling breezes shake the reed;

Shake the reed, and curl the stream

The author uses repetition to emphasize certain elements in the mind of the reader. We start not only to see the evening, but also to feel it breath. It gives us the sense of romanticism and loving atmosphere. We will research the poem A Short Song of Congratulation to find other stylistic devices. In the first verse we may discover an alliteration.

LONG-EXPECTED one and twenty

Ling'ring year at last has flown,

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Pomp and pleasure, pride and plenty

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Great Sir John, areall you rown.

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Here is the definition given by Wikipedia: Alliteration is used by an author to create emphasis, to add beauty to the writing style, and occasionally to aid in shaping the mood. It refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words and/or phrases[9]. So we can see here the plosive P. It gives us a sensation of pomposity and pride of the hero and stateliness and magnificence of the moment. And the round O at the end gives us the the hero`s satiation with his comfortable life. In the next verse, called Summer, we may find personification. A device which represents an inanimate object acting as if it were human.

Let me when Nature calls to rest,


And blushing skies the morn foretell,

Sink on the down of Stella's breast,


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Samuel Johnson uses personification to embellish natural phenomena and to make them more expressive and graphical. It makes us feel psychologically close to the place described by the author. In his poetry Samuel Johnson often uses a poetic and highly literary words. These words form a quantatively insignificant layer of the special literary vocabulary. They are mostly archaic or very rarely used highly literary words which aim at producing an elevated effect. Poetic words and expressions are called upon to sustain the special elevated atmosphere typical of poetry. For example, the verse Autumn.

Alas! with swift and silent pace,


Impatient time rolls on the year;

The Seasons change, and Nature's face

Now sweetly smiles, now frowns severe.


'Twas Spring, 'twas Summer, all was gay,

Now Autumn bends a cloudy brow;

The flowers of Spring are swept away,


And Summer fruits desert the bough.

Alas is an example of such vocabulary, used to express sorrow, regret, grief, compassion, or apprehension of danger or evil. Twas is a contraction of it was. These words form onomatopoeia. "Onomatopoetic" is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. The hissing sound S creates an atmosphere of falling leaves, or the wind blowing between the naked trees.

All these stylistic devices united in the verses give forth for the lofty-elevated lexicon and create what is known as the poetic style.


As we may see from the previous parts of the term paper the lofty\elevated lexicon and poetic style are aspects of belles-lettres style dealing with poetry, emotive prose and drama. According to results of researches we may see that belles-lettres style performs the esthetic function of influence, producing an impression on the readers. It is the functional style of speech which is used in poetry. A text written in this style influences on imagination and feelings of the reader, transfers thoughts and feelings of the author, using all the wealth of the lexicon. Analyzing Johnson`s poetry we may mark out the measures used by author to achieve this effect. The lofty\elevated lexicon provided at phonetic and lexical levels of speech. Each of this levels has own stylistic devices distinguishing it from another level. Such stylistic devices, providing lofty\elevated lexicon in the poetry, as onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, rhyming and repetition are used in phonetic level. Phonetic level is the form of representation wherein expressions, or sentences, are assigned a phonetic representation, which is then pronounced by the speaker. So using sound or syllables combination, as for example in alliteration or rhyming, author will pass his senses enclosed in verse. Personification, simile and metaphor are used in lexical level. Using this devices, we can understand one thing in terms of another. They construct an analogy between two things or ideas, the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. A stylistic device is the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, idea, or feeling to the literal or written. Not less important role is played by poetic words and archaisms peculiar only for belles-lettres style. Such poetic word, as for example, Alas used only in poetic lexicon. In technical text it will be useful and even unnecessary, because it has no definite definition, but in poetry this word would be appropriate, expressing the strong filling of disappointment. So as we can see the stylistic devices, used in the verse in the right place, may express the author`s thoughts, feelings, emotions, despair or happiness and moreover, to hand them to listeners or readers and to make them feel the same. They allow to convey the sense of a poem most brightly and emotionally allowing the reader to endure all emotions enclosed in poetry.


english stylistic belles-lettres

1. Georges Mounin Theoretical translation problems 39-40 p.

2. IlyaGolperin Essay on stylistics of English language 23p.

3. IlyaGolperin Essay on stylistics of English language 28-29 p.

4. John Rupert Firth The linguistic analysis and translation 26 p.

5. Tatyana Znamensky Stylistics of the English language 210 p.

6. ValeriyGurevich English stylistics 3p.

7. YurySkrebnev Principles of English language stylistics 167 p.

8. Wikipedia -

9. Wikipedia -

10. Online dictionary ABBYY -

11. Samuel Johnson`s poetry -


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