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Why are mixed allegories intolerable in a picture?
Why are the speeches of Calista and Chamont faulty?
Point out the metaphors in the speeches of Gonsalez and Macduff.
Why is the metaphor in Wolsey's speech commended?
What is meant by Figure of Speech?—by figurative sense? . What is the rule concerning the figurative sense?
What are the two objects presented by a figurative expression called?-how are they signified?
Analyze the sentence youth is the morning of life.”—“ Imperi
What power has this figure?
How do words acquire beauty?
Of what use is this acquired beauty in figures?
How may the familiarity of proper names be prevented?
Give an example.
What is the effect of this figure on language?
What besides subjects may be expressed figuratively?
Give examples of subjects-of qualities of actions--of an effect for the cause of a cause for the effect-of the relation of resemblance.
Give examples of words which have lost their figurative power.
Narration and Description.
HORACE, and many critics after him, exhort writers to choose a subject adapted to their genius. Such observations would multiply rules of criticism without end; and at any rate belong not to the present work, the object of which is human nature in general, and what is common to the species. But though the choice of a subject comes not under such a plan, the manner of execution comes under it; because the manner of execution is subjected to general rules, derived from principles common to the species. These rules, as they concern the things expressed, as well as the language or expression, require a division of this chapter into two parts; first of thoughts, and next of words. I pretend not to justify this division as entirely accurate:
for, in discoursing of thoughts, it is difficult to abstract altogether from the words; and still more difficult, in discoursing of words, to abstract altogether from the thought.
The first rule is, That in history the reflections ought to be chaste and solid; for while the mind is intent upon truth, it is little disposed to the operations of the imagination. Strada's Belgic History is full of poetical images, which, discording with the subject, are unpleasant; and they have a still worse effect, by giving an air of fiction to a genuine history. Such flowers ought to be scattered with a sparing hand, even in epic poetry; and at no rate are they proper till the reader be warmed, and by an enlivened imagination be prepared to relish them; in that state of mind they are agreeable: but while we are sedate and attentive to an historical chain of facts, we reject with disdain every fiction. This Belgic History is indeed wofully vicious both in matter and in form: it is stuffed with frigid and unmeaning reflections; and its poetical flashes, even laying aside their impropriety, are mere tinsel.
Second, Vida,* following Horace, recommends a modest commencement of an epic poem; giving for a reason, that the writer ought to husband his fire. This reason has weight; but what is said above suggests a reason still more weighty: bold thoughts and figures are never relished till the mind be heated and thoroughly engaged, which is not the reader's case at the commencement. Homer introduces not a single simile in the first book of the Iliad, nor in the first book of the Odyssey. On the other hand, Shakspeare begins one of his plays with a sentiment too bold for the most heated imagination.
Bedford. Hung be the heav'ns with black, yield day
Comets, importing change of times and states,
*Poet. lib. 2. 1. 30.
That have consented unto Henry's death!
The passage with which Strada begins his history, is too poetical for a subject of that kind; and at any rate, too high for the beginning of a grave performance. A third reason ought to have no less influence than either of the former, That a man, who, upon his first appearance, strains to make a figure, is too ostentatious to be relished. Hence, the first sentences of a work ought to be short, natural, and simple. Cicero, in his oration for the poet Archias, errs against this rule; his reader is out of breath at the very first period; which seems never to end. Burnet begins the History of his Own Times with a period long and intricate.
A third rule or observation is, That where the subject is intended for entertainment solely, not for instruction, a thing ought to be described as it appears, not as it is in reality. In running, for example, the impulse upon the ground is proportioned in some degree to the celerity of motion; though in appearance it is otherwise; for a person in swift motion seems to skim the ground, and scarcely to touch it. -Fourth, In narration as well as in description, objects ought to be painted so accurately as to form in the mind of the reader distinct and lively images. Every useless circumstance ought indeed to be suppressed, because every such circumstance loads the narration; but if a circumstance be necessary, however slight, it cannot be described too minutely. The force of language consists in raising complete images; which have the effect to transport the reader as by magic into the very place of the important action, and to convert him as it were into a spectator, beholding every thing that passes. The narrative in an epic poem ought to rival a picture in the liveliness and accuracy of its representations:/no circumstance must
be omitted that tends to make a complete image; because an imperfect image, as well as any other imperfect conception, is cold and uninteresting. I shall illustrate this rule by several examples.
Shakspeare says, "You may as well go about to turn the sun to ice by fanning in his face with a peacock's feather." The peacock's feather, not to mention the beauty of the object, completes the image: an accurate image cannot be formed of that fanciful operation, without conceiving a particular feather; and one is at a loss when this is neglected in the description. Again, "The rogues slighted me into the river with as little remorse as they would have drown'd a bitch's blind puppies, fifteen i' th' litter."+
Old Lady. You would not be a queen?
Anne. No, not for all the riches under heaven.
Old Lady. 'Tis strange: a threepence bow'd would hire me, old as I am, to queen it. HENRY VIII.-ACT II. Sc. 5.
In the following passage, the action, with all its material circumstances, is represented so much to the life, that it would scarce appear more distinct to a real spectator; and it is the manner of description that contributes greatly to the sublimity of the passage:
He spake; and, to confirm his words, out flew
A passage I am to cite from Shakspeare, falls not much short of that now mentioned, in particularity of description:
O you hard hearts! you cruel men of Rome!
*Henry V. Act IV. Sc. 4.
Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III. Sc. 5.
Your infants in your arms; and there have sat
JULIUS CESAR.-ACT I. Sc. 1.
The following passage is scarce inferior to either of those mentioned:
Far before the rest, the son of Ossian comes; bright in the smiles of youth, fair as the first beams of the sun. His long hair waves on his back: his dark brow is half beneath his helmet. The sword hangs loose on the hero's side: and his spear glitters as he moves. I fled from his terrible eye, king of high Temora.
The Henriade of Voltaire errs greatly against the foregoing rule: every incident is touched in a summary way, without ever descending to circumstances. This manner is good in a general history, the purpose of which is to record important transactions: but in a fable it is cold and uninteresting; because it is impracticable to form distinct images of persons or things represented in a manner so superficial.
It is observed above, that every useless circumstance ought to be suppressed. The crowding such circum} stances is, on the one hand, no less to be avoided, than the conciseness for which Voltaire is blamed, on the other. In the Eneid,* Barce, the nurse of Sichæus, whom we never hear of before nor after, is introduced for a purpose not more important than to call Anna to her sister Dido; and that it might not be thought unjust in Dido, even in this trivial circumstance, to prefer her husband's nurse before her own, the poet takes care to inform his reader, that Dido's nurse was dead.
As an appendix to the foregoing rule, I add the following observation, That, to make a sudden and strong impression, some single circumstance, happily selected, has more power than the most labored description.
* Lib. 4. l. 632.