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Omitted, all the voyage of their life
And we must take the current while it serves,
JULIUS CESAR.-ACT IV. Sc. 5.
Figuring glory and honor to be a garland of flow
Would to Heav'n
Thy name in arms were now as great as mine!
FIRST PART HENRY IV.--ACT V. Sc. 9.
Figuring a man who hath acquired great reputation and honor to be a tree full of fruit:
O, boys, this story
The world may read in me: my body's mark'd
Whose boughs did bend with fruit: but in one night,
Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,
ACT III. Sc. 3.
Blest be thy soul, thou king of shells, said Swaran of the darkbrown shield. In peace thou art the gale of spring; in war, the mountain-storm. Take now my hand in friendship, thou noble king of Morven. FINGAL.
Thou dwellest in the soul of Malvina, son of mighty Ossian. My sighs arise with the beam of the east: my tears descend with the drops of night. I was a lovely tree in thy presence, Oscar, with all my branches round me; but thy death came like a blast from the desert, and laid my green head low: the spring returned with its showers, but no leaf of mine arose. IBID.
I am aware that the term metaphor has been used in a more extensive sense than I give it: but I thought it of consequence, in a disquisition of some intricacy, to confine the term to its proper sense, and to separate from it things that are distinguished by different names. An allegory differs from a metaphor; and what I would choose to call a figure of speech differs from both. I proceed to explain these differences. A metaphor is defined above to be an act of the imagination, figuring
one thing to be another. An allegory requires no such operation, nor is one thing figured to be another: it consists in choosing a subject having properties or circumstances resembling those of the principal subject; and the former is described in such a manner as to represent the latter: the subject thus represented is kept out of view; we are left to discover it by reflection; and we are pleased with the discovery, because it is our own work.
A finer or more correct allegory is not to be found than the following, in which a vineyard is made to represent God's own people, the Jews.
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the Heathen, and planted it. Thou didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all which pass do pluck her? The boar out of the woods doth waste it, and the wild beast doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine, and the vineyard thy right hand hath planted, and the branch thou madest strong for thyself. PSALM 80.
In a word, an allegory is in every respect similar to a hieroglyphical painting, excepting only that words are used instead of colors. Their effects are precisely the same. A hieroglyphic raises two images in the mind; one seen, which represents one not seen: an allegory does the same; the representative subject is described; and resemblance leads us to apply the description to the subject represented. In a fine figure of speech, there is no fiction of the imagination employed, as in a metaphor, nor a representative subject introduced, as in an allegory. This figure, as its name implies, regards the expression only, not the thought; and it may be defined, the using a word in a sense different from what is proper to it. Thus youth, or the beginning of life, is expressed figuratively by morning of life morning is the beginning of the day; and in that view it is employed to signify the beginning of any other series, life especially; the progress of which is reckoned by days.
Figures of speech are reserved for a separate section; but metaphor and allegory are so much connected, that they must be handled together; the rules particularly for distinguishing the good from the bad, are common to both. We shall therefore proceed to these rules, after adding some examples to illustrate the nature of an allegory.
Queen. Great lords, wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss,
OROONOKO.-ACT III. Sc. 2.
My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. He fenced it, gathered out the stones thereof, planted it with the choicest vines, built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein: he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned, nor digged, but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.
ISAIAH, V. 1.
The rules that govern metaphors and allegories are of two kinds: the construction of these figures comes under the first kind; the propriety or impropriety of introduction comes under the other. I begin with rules of the first kind; some of which coincide with those
already given for similies; some are peculiar to metaphors and allegories.
And, in the first place, it has been observed, that a simile cannot be agreeable where the resemblance is either too strong or too faint. This holds equally in metaphor and allegory; and the reason is the same in all. In the following instances, the resemblance is too faint to be agreeable:
He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause
MACBETH.-ACT V. Sc. 2. There is no resemblance between a distempered cause and any body that can be confined within a belt. Again :
Steep me in poverty to the very lips. OTHELLO.-Act IV. Sc. 9. Poverty must here be conceived a fluid, which it resembles not in any manner.
Speaking to Bolingbroke, banished for six years:
The sullen passage of thy weary steps
Here is a letter, lady,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
CHANT OF VENICE.-ACT III. Sc. 3.
The following metaphor is strained beyond all endurance. Timurbec, known to us by the name of Tamerlane the Great, writes to Bajazet, Emperor of the Ottomans, in the following terms:
Where is the monarch who dares resist us? where is the poten tate who doth not glory in being numbered among our attendants? As for thee, descended from a Turcoman sailor, since the vessel of thy unbounded ambition hath been wrecked in the gulf of thy self-love, it would be proper that thou shouldst take in the sails of thy temerity, and cast the anchor of repentance in the port of sincerity and justice, which is the port of safety; lest the tempest of our vengeance make thee perish in the sea of the punishment thou deservest.
Such strained figures, as observed above, are not unfrequent in the first dawn of refinement. The mind,
in a new enjoyment, knows no bounds, and is generally carried to excess, till taste and experience discover the proper limits.
Secondly, Whatever resemblance subjects may have, it is wrong to put one for another, where they bear no mutual proportion. Upon comparing a very high to a very low subject, the simile takes on an air of burlesque; and the same will be the effect, where the one is imagined to be the other, as in a metaphor; or made to represent the other, as in an allegory.
Thirdly, These figures, a metaphor especially, ought not to be crowded with many minute circumstances; for in that case it is scarcely possible to avoid obscurity. A metaphor, above all, ought to be short. It is difficult, for any time, to support a lively image of a thing being what we know it is not; and, for that reason, a metaphor drawn out to any length, instead of illustrating or enlivening the principal subject, becomes disagreeable by overstraining the mind. Here Cowley is extremely licentious: take the following in
Great and wise conqu'ror, who, where'er
And who never hadst one quarter beat up yet;
With one inch of my vanquish'd heart:
'Tis garrison'd so strong with thoughts of thee,
It no enemy.
For the same reason, however agreeable long allegories may at first be by their novelty, they never afford any lasting pleasure: witness the Fairy Queen, which, with great power of expression, variety of images, and melody of versification, is scarce ever read a second time.
In the fourth place, the comparison carried on in a simile, being in a metaphor, sunk by imagining the principal subject to be that very thing which it only resembles; an opportunity is furnished to describe it in terms taken strictly or literally with respect to its