Chiasmus or Reversed Parallel Construction belongs to the group of stylistic devices based on the repetition of a syntactical pattern; but it has a cross order of words and phrases. The structure of two successive sentences or of a sentence' may be described as reversed parallel construction, the word order of one of the sentences being inverted as compared to that of the other as in:
"As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low." (Wordsworth)
‘Down dropped, the breeze, The sails dropped down." (Coleridge)
Chiasmus is sometimes achieved by a sudden change from active voice to passive or vice versa, for example:
'The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the taker and the chief mourner, Scrooge signed it. (Dickens)
This device is effective in that it helps to lay stress on the second part of the utterance, which is opposite in structure, as our dejection; Scrooge signed it. This is due to the sudden change in the structure, which by its very unexpectedness linguistically requires a slight pause before it. As is seen from the examples above, chiasmus can appear only when there are two successive sentences or coordinate parts of a sentence. So distribution, here close succession, is the factor, which predetermines the birth of the device. There are different variants of the structural design of chiasmus. The first example given, shows chiasmus appearing in a complex sentence, where the second part has an opposite arrangement. The second example demonstrates chiasmus in a sentence expressing semantically the relation of cause and effect. Structurally, however, the two parts are presented as independent sentences, and it is the chiasmatic structure, which supports the idea of subordination. The third example is composed of two independent sentences and the chiasmus serves to increase the effect of climax. Here is another example of chiasmus where two parallel constructions are followed by a reversed parallel construction linked to the former by the conjunction and:
"The night winds sigh, the breakers roar, And shrieks the wild sea-mew." (Byron)
It must be remembered that chiasmus is a syntactical, not a lexical device, i.e. it is only the arrangement of the parts of the utterance which constitutes this stylistic device. In the famous epigram by Byron "In the days of old men made the manners; Manners now make men," there is no inversion, but a lexical device. Both parts of the parallel construction have the same, the normal word order. However the witty arrangement of the words has given the utterance an epigrammatic character. This device may be classed as lexical chiasmus or chiasmatic repetition. Byron particularly favoured it. Here are some other examples:
"His jokes were sermons, and his sermons jokes."
"This is strange, - but true; for truth is always strange." "But Tom's no more - and so no more of Tom."
"True, 'this a pity-pity 'this, 'this true."
'' Men are the sport of circumstances, when the circumstances seem the sport of men."
"This is a pity though, in this sublime world that Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure."
It should be mentioned that the difference in meaning of the repeated words on which the epigrammatic effect rests: 'strange-strange;' 'no more no more', 'jokes-jokes.'
Syntactical chiasmus is sometimes used to break the monotony of parallel constructions. But whatever the purpose of chiasmus, it will always bring in some new shade of meaning or additional emphasis on some portion of the second part. The stylistic effect of this construction has been so far little investigated. But even casual observation will show that as should be perceived as a complete unit. One cannot help noticing that the first part in chiasmus is somewhat complete, it calls for continuation, and the anticipation is rewarded by the second part of the construction, which is, as it the completion of the idea. Like parallel construction, chiasmus contributes to the rhythmical quality of the utterance, and the pause caused by the change in the syntactical pattern may be likened to a caesura in prosody. As can be seen from this short analysis of chiasmus, it has developed, like all stylistic devices, within the framework of the literary form of the language. However its prototype may be found in the norms of expressions of the spoken language, as in the emphatic: 'He was brave man, was John.''