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Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if his flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable: and, humor'd thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king.
RICHARD II. Act 3. Sc. 4.

Not less successfully is life and action given even to sleep:

King Henry. How many thousands of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! Sleep, gentle Sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness:

Why rather, Sleep, ly'st thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,

And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum'd chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull'd with sounds of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why ly'st thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leav'st the kingly couch,
A watch-case to a common larum-bell?
Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast,
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge;
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them
With deaf'ning clamors in the slippery shrouds,
That, with a hurly, Death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial Sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And, in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low! lie down ;
Uneasy lies a head that wears a crown.


I shall add one example more, to show that descriptive personification may be used with propriety, even where the purpose of the discourse is instruction merely :

Oh! let the steps of youth be cautious,

How they advance into a dangerous world:

Our duty only can conduct us safe.
Our passions are seducers; but of all,
The strongest Love. He first approaches us
In childish play, wantoning in our walks:
If heedlessly we wander after him,
As he will pick out all the dancing-way,
We're lost, and hardly to return again.
We should take warning: he is painted blind,
To show us, if we fondly follow him,
The precipices we may fall into.
Therefore, let Virtue take him by the hand:
Directed so, he leads to certain joy.

SOUTHERN. Hitherto success has attended our steps; but whether we shall complete our progress with equal success, seems doubtful; for when we look back to the expressions mentioned in the beginning, thirsty ground, furious dart, and such like, it seems no less difficult than at first, to say whether there be in them any sort of personification. Such expressions evidently raise not the slightest conviction of sensibility; nor do I think they amount to descriptive personification: because, in them, we do not even figure the ground or the dart to be animated. If so, they cannot at all come under the present subject. To show which, I shall endeavor to trace the effect that such expressions have in the mind. Doth not the expression angry ocean, for example, tacitly compare the ocean in a storm to a man in wrath? By this tacit comparison, the ocean is elevated above its rank in nature; and yet personification is excluded, because, by the very nature of comparison, the things compared are kept distinct, and the native appearance of each is preserved. It will be shown afterward, that expressions of this kind belong to another figure, which I term a figure of speech, and which employs the seventh section of the present chapter.

Though thus in general we can distinguish descriptive personification from what is merely a figure of speech, it is, however, often difficult to say, with respect to some expressions, whether they are of the one kind or of the other. Take the following instances:

The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,
And they did make no noise; in such a night,
Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan walls,
And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night.

MERCHANT OF VENICE.-ACT V. Sc. 1. I have seen

Th' ambitious ocean swell, and rage, and foam,
To be exalted with the threat'ning clouds.


With respect to these and numberless other examples of the same kind, it must depend upon the reader, whether they be examples of personification, or of a figure of speech merely. A sprightly imagination will advance them to the former class, with a plain reader they will remain in the latter.

Having thus at large explained the present figure, its different kinds, and the principles upon which it is founded; what comes next in order is, to show in what cases it may be introduced with propriety, when it is suitable, when unsuitable. I begin with observing, that passionate personification is not promoted by every passion indifferently. All dispiriting passions are averse to it; and remorse, in particular, is too serious and severe to be gratified with a phantom of the mind. I cannot, therefore, approve the following speech of Enobarbus, who had deserted his master Antony:

Be witness to me, O thou blessed moon!
When men revolted shall upon record
Bear hateful memory, poor Enobarbus did
Before thy face repent-

Oh sovereign mistress of true melancholy!
The poisonous damp of night dispunge upon me;
That life, a very rebel to my will,
May hang no longer on me.


If this can be justified, it must be upon the heathen system of theology, which converted into deities the sun, moon, and stars.

Secondly, After a passionate personification is properly introduced, it ought to be confined to its proper province, that of gratifying the passion, without giving place to any sentiment or action but what answers that purpose; for personification is at any rate a bold figure, and ought to be employed with great reserve. The passion of love, for example, in a plaintive tone, may give a momentary life to woods and rocks, in order to make them sensible of the lover's distress; but no passion will support a conviction so far stretched, as that these woods and rocks should be living witnesses to report the distress to others.

It is plainly the operation of the writer, indulging his inventive faculty without regard to nature. The same observation is applicable to the following passage:

In winter's tedious nights, sit by the fire

With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales,
Of woful ages, long ago betid:

And ere thou bid good-night, to quit their grief,
Tell thou the lamentable fall of me,

And send the hearers weeping to their beds.
For why? the senseless brands will sympathize
The heavy accent thy moving tongue,
And in compassion weep the fire out.

RICHARD II.-Act V. Sc. 2.

One must read this passage very seriously, to avoid laughing. The following passage is quite extravagant. The different parts of the human body are too intimately connected with self, to be personified by the power of any passion; and after converting such a part into a sensible being, it is still worse to make it be conceived as rising in rebellion against self:

Cleopatra. Haste, bare my arm, and rouse the serpent's fury. Coward flesh!

Wouldst thou conspire with Cæsar to betray me,
As thou wert none of mine? I'll force thee to 't.


Next comes descriptive personification; upon which I must observe, in general, that it ought to be cautiously used. A personage in a tragedy, agitated by a

strong passion, deals in warm sentiments; and the reader, catching fire by sympathy, relishes the boldest personifications. But a writer, even in the most lively description, taking a lower flight, ought to content himself with such easy personifications as agree with the tone of mind inspired by the description. Nor is even such easy personification always admitted; for, in plain narrative, the mind, serious and sedate, rejects personification altogether.

I do not approve, in Shakspeare, the speech of King John, gravely exhorting the citizens of Angiers to a surrender; though a tragic writer has much greater latitude than an historian. Take the following speci


The cannons have their bowels full of wrath;
And ready-mounted are they to spit forth
Their iron indignation 'gainst your walls.

ACT II. Sc. 3.

Secondly, If extraordinary marks of respect to a person of low rank be ridiculous, no less so is the personification of a low subject. This rule chiefly regards descriptive personification; for a subject can hardly be low that is the cause of a violent passion; in that circumstance, at least, it must be of importance. But to assign any rule other than taste merely, for avoiding things below even descriptive personification, will, I am afraid, be a hard task. A poet of.superior genius, possessing the power of inflaming the mind, may take liberties that would be too bold in others. Homer appears not extravagant in animating his darts and arrows; nor Thomson in animating the seasons, the winds, the rains, the dews; he even ventures to animate the diamond, and doth it with propriety:

That polish'd bright
And all its native lustre let abroad,

Dares, as it sparkles on the fair one's breast,

With vain ambition emulate her eyes.

But there are things familiar and base, to which personification cannot descend. In a composed state

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