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IRREGULARITIES. Transpositions of adjectival phrases

Transposition of adjectival phrases.

It has been shown above (419), that when an adjective is not a mere epithet, but expresses something essential, and implies a relative, it is often placed after the noun. When, however, connected with the adjective, e.g. "whiter," there is some adverbial phrase, e.g. "than snow," it was felt that to place the adjective after the noun might sometimes destroy the connection between the noun and adjective, since the adjective was, as it were, drawn forward to the modifying adverb. Hence the Elizabethans sometimes preferred to place the adjectival part of the adjective before, and the adverbial part after, the noun. The noun generally being unemphatic caused but slight separation between the two parts of the adjectival phrase. Thus "whiter than snow," being an adjectival phrase, "whiter" is inserted before, and "than snow" after, the noun.

“Nor scar that [whiter] skin-of-hers [than snow].

“So much I hate a [breaking] cause to be
[Of heavenly oaths].

So “A [promising] face [of manly princely virtues].” B. and F. (Walker).

“As common
As any [the most vulgar] thing [to sense].

i.e. "anything the most commonly perceived."

“I shall unfold [equal] discourtesy
[To your best kindness].

“The [farthest] earth [removed from thee].

“Bid these [unknown] friends [to us], welcome.

“Thou [bloodier] villain [than terms can give thee out].

“A [happy] gentleman [in blood and lineaments].

“As a [long-parted] mother [with her child].” Ib. iii. 2. 8. (See 194.) “Thou [little better] thing [than earth].” Ib. iii. 4. 77.

“You have won a [happy] victory [to Rome].

Hence, even where the adjective cannot immediately precede the noun, yet the adjective comes first, and the adverb afterwards.

“That were to enlard his fat-already-pride.

“May soon return to this our [suffering] country
[Under a hand accurst].

“The [appertaining] rage
[To such a greeting].

“With [declining] head [into his bosom].

So probably

“Bear our [hack'd] targets [like the men that owe them].

This is very common in other Elizabethan authors: “The [stricken] hind [with Shaft].” LORD SURREY (Walker). “And [worthie] work [of infinite reward].” SPENSER, F. Q. iii. 2. 21. “Of that [too wicked] woman [yet to die].” B. and F. (Walker). “Some sad [malignant] angel [to mine honour].” Ib. which perhaps explains

“Bring forth that [fatal] screech-owl [to our house].

So “Thou [barren] thing [of honesty] and honour!” B. and F. perhaps explains

“Thou perjur'd and thou [simular] man [of virtue].

“Bring me a [constant] woman [to her husband].

“O, for my sake do you with fortune chide,
The [guilty] goddess [of my harmful deeds].

“To this [unworthy] husband [of his wife].

“A [dedicated] beggar [to the air].

This transposition extends to an adverb in

“And thou shalt live [as freely] as thy lord
[To call his fortunes thine].

i.e. "as free to use my fortune as I am."

Unless "to" is used loosely like "for," the following is a case of transposition:

“This is a [dear] manakin [to you], Sir Toby.

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