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On Polish
by [?]

If it applies, then Polish of Style will imply the approximately complete revelation of the thought. It will be the removal of everything that can interfere between the thought of the speaker and the mind of the hearer. True polish in marble or in speech reveals inlying realities, and, in the latter at least, mere smoothness, either of sound or of meaning, is not worthy of the name. The most polished style will be that which most immediately and most truly flashes the meaning embodied in the utterance upon the mind of the listener or reader.

“Will you then,” I imagine a reader objecting, “admit of no ornament in style?”

“Assuredly,” I answer, “I would admit of no ornament whatever.”

But let me explain what I mean by ornament. I mean anything stuck in or on, like a spangle, because it is pretty in itself, although it reveals nothing. Not one such ornament can belong to a polished style. It is paint, not polish. And if this is not what my questioner means by ornament, my answer must then be read according to the differences in his definition of the word. What I have said has not the least application to the natural forms of beauty which thought assumes in speech. Between such beauty and such ornament there lies the same difference as between the overflow of life in the hair, and the dressing of that loveliest of utterances in grease and gold.

For, when I say that polish is the removal of everything that comes between thought and thinking, it must not be supposed that in my idea thought is only of the intellect, and therefore that all forms but bare intellectual forms are of the nature of ornament. As well might one say that the only essential portion of the human form is the bones. And every human thought is in a sense a human being, has as necessarily its muscles of motion, its skin of beauty, its blood of feeling, as its skeleton of logic. For complete utterance, music itself in its right proportions, sometimes clear and strong, as in rhymed harmonies, sometimes veiled and dim, as in the prose compositions of the masters of speech, is as necessary as correctness of logic, and common sense in construction. I should have said conveyance rather than utterance; for there may be utterance such as to relieve the mind of the speaker with more or less of fancied communication, while the conveyance of thought may be little or none; as in the speaking with tongues of the infant Church, to which the lovely babblement of our children has probably more than a figurative resemblance, relieving their own minds, but, the interpreter not yet at his post, neither instructing nor misleading any one. But as the object of grown-up speech must in the main be the conveyance of thought, and not the mere utterance, everything in the style of that speech which interposes between the mental eyes and the thought embodied in the speech, must be polished away, that the indwelling life may manifest itself.

What, then (for now we must come to the practical), is the kind of thing to be polished away in order that the hidden may be revealed?

All words that can be dismissed without loss; for all such more or less obscure the meaning upon which they gather. The first step towards the polishing of most styles is to strike out–polish off–the useless words and phrases. It is wonderful with how many fewer words most things could be said that are said; while the degree of certainty and rapidity with which an idea is conveyed would generally be found to be in an inverse ratio to the number of words employed.

All ornaments so called–the nose and lip jewels of style–the tattooing of the speech; all similes that, although true, give no additional insight into the meaning; everything that is only pretty and not beautiful; all mere sparkle as of jewels that lose their own beauty by being set in the grandeur of statues or the dignity of monumental stone, must be ruthlessly polished away.