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course without using them often; nay, there are few sen. tences of considerable length, in which there does not occur some expression that may be termed a figure. This being the case, we may see the necessity of some attention, in order to understand their nature and use.
At the first rise of language, men would begin with giving names to the different objects which they discerned, or thought of. The stock of words would, then, be very small. As men's ideas multiplied, and their acquaintance with objects increased, their store of names and words would also increase. But to the vast variety of objects and ideas, no language is adequate. No language is so copious, as to have a separate word for every separate idea. Men naturally sought to abridge this labour of multiplying words without end; and, in order to lay less burden on their memories, made one word, which they had already appropriated to a certain idea or object, stand also for some other idea or object, between which and the primary one, they found, or fancied, some relation. The names of sensible objects, were the words most early introduced; and were, by degrees, extended to those mental objects, of which men had more obscure conceptions, and to which they found it more difficult to assign distinct names. They borrowed, therefore, the name of some sensible idea, where their ima. gination found some affinity. Thus, we speak of a piercing judgment, and a clear head; a soft or a hard heart; a rough or a smooth behaviour. Wesay, inflamed by anger, warmed by love, swelled with pride, melted into grief; and these are almost the only significant words which we have for such ideas.
The principal advantages of figures of speech, are the two following
First, They enrich language, and render it more copious. By their means, words and phrases are multiplied, for expressing all sorts of ideas ; for describing even the minutest differences; the nicest shades and colours of thought; which no language could possibly do by proper words alone, without assistance from Tropes.
Secondly, They frequently give us a much clearer and
more striking view of the principal object, than we could have, if it were expressed in simple terms, and divested of its accessory idea. By a well chosen figure, even conviction is assisted, and the impression of a truth upon the mind, made more lively and forcible than it would otherwise be. We perceive this in the following illustration of Young: “When we dip too deep in pleasure, we always stir a sediment that renders it impure and noxious:" and in this instance: “A heart boiling with violent passions, will always send up infatuating fumes to the head.” An image that presents so much congruity between a moral and a sensible idea, serves, like an argument from analogy, to enforce what the author asserts, and to induce belief.
Having considered the general nature of figures, we prop ceed next to particularize such of them as are of the most importance; viz. Metaphor, Allegory, Comparison, Metonymy, Synecdoche, Personification, Apostrophe, Antithesis, Interrogation, Exclamation, Amplification or Climax, &c.
A Metaphor is a figure founded entirely on the resemblance which one object bears to another. Hence, it is much allied to simile or comparison, and is indeed no other than a comparison, expressed in an abridged form. When I say of some great minister, “ that he upholds the state, like a pillar which supports the weight of a whole edifice," I fairly make a comparison: but when I say of such a minister, “That he is the pillar of the state," it now becomes a me taphor. In the latter case, the comparison between the minister and a pillar is made in the mind; but it is expressed without any of the words that denote comparison.
The following are examples of metaphor taken from Scripture : “ I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” “ Thou art my rock and my fortress.”, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
Rules to be observed in the use of metaphors.
1. Metaphors, as well as other figures, should, on no occasion, be stuck on profusely; and should always be such as ac cord with the strain of our sentiment. The latter part of the following passage, from a late historian, is, in this respect, very exceptionable. He is giving an account of the famous act of parliament against irregular marriages in Engo land. “ The bill,” says he, “underwent a great number of alterations and amendments, which were not effected without violent contest. At length, however, it was floated through both houses on the tide of a great majority, and steered into the safe harbour of royal approbation.”
2. Care should be taken that the resemblance, which is the foundation of the metaphor, be clear and perspicuous, not farfetched, nor difficult to discover. The transgression of this rule makes what are called harsh or forced metaphors; which are displeasing, because they puzzle the reader, and instead of illustrating the thought, render it perplexed and intricate.
3. In the third place, we should be careful, in the conduct of metaphors, never to jumble metaphorical and plain language together. An author, addressing himself to the king, says:
To thee the world its present homage pays;
The harvest early, but mature the praise. It is plain, that, had not the rhyme misled him to the choice of an improper phrase, he would have said,
The harvest early, but mature the crop; and so would have continued the figure which he had begun. Whereas, by dropping it unfinished, and by employing the literal word “ praise,” when we were expecting something that related to the harvest, the figure is broken, and the two members of the sentence have no suitable correspondence to each other.
4. We should avoid making two inconsistent metaphors meet on one object. This is what is called mixed metaphor, and is indeed one of the greatest misapplications of this figure. One may be “ sheltered under the patronage of a great man:” but it would be wrong to say, “sheltered under the mask of dissimulation :" as a mask conceals, but does not shelter. Addison, in his letter from Italy, says:
I bridle in my struggling muse with pain,
That longs to launch into a bolder strain. The muse, figured as a horse, may be bridled; but when we speak of launching, we make it a ship; and by no force of imagination, can it be supposed both a horse and a ship at one moment; bridled, to hinder it from launching.
The same author, elsewhere, says, “ There is not a single view of human nature, which' is not sufficient to extinguish the seeds of pride.” Observe the incoherence of the things here joined together; making a view extinguish, and extinguish seeds.
As metaphors ought never to be mixed, so they should not be crowded together on the same object; for the mind has difficulty in passing readily ihrough many different views of the same object, presented in quick succession.
The last rule concerning metaphors, is, that they be not too far pursued. If the resemblance, on which the figure is founded, be iong dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, we tire the reader, who soon grows weary of this stretch of fancy; and we render our discourse obscure. This is called straining a metaphor Authors of a lively and strong imagination are apt to run into this exuberance of metaphor. When they hit upon a figure that pleases them, they are loth to part with it, and frequently continue it so long, as to become tedious and intricate. We may observe, for instance, how the following metaphor is spun out.
Thy thoughts are vagabonds; all outward bound,
An Allegory may be regarded as a metaphor continued :. since it is the representation of some one thing by another that resembles it, and which is made to stand for it. We
may take from the Scriptures a very fine example of an allegory, in the 80th psalm ; where the people of Israel are represented under the image of a vine: and the figure is carried throughout with great exactness and beauty: “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it; and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it: and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs into the sea, and her branches into the river, Why hast thou broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine!" See also Ezekiel, xvii. 22–24.
The first and principal requisite in the conduct of an alle gory, is, that the figurative and the literal meaning be not mixed inconsistently together. Indeed, all the rules that were given for metaphors, may also be applied to allegories, on account of the affinity they bear to each other. The only material difference between them, besides the one being short and the other being prolonged, is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their proper and natural meaning : as,
“Achilles was a lion ;" "An able minister is the pillar of the state;" the “ lion” and the “pillar” are sufficiently interpreted by the mention of " Achilles" and the “ minister,” which I join to them ; but an allegory is, or may be, allowed to stand less connected with the literal meaning, the interpretation not being so directly pointed out, but lest to our own reflection,
Allegory was a favourite method of delivering instruction in ancient times; for what we call fables or parables, are no other than allegories. By words and actions attributed to beasts of inanimate objects, the dispositions of men were figured; and what we call the moral, is the unfigured sense of meaning of the allegory.
when I say,