Page images
PDF
EPUB

be distinct, yet if they be heaped on one another, they

produce confusion. The following passage from Hor· ace will exemplify this observation.

Motum ex Metello consule civicum,
Bellique causas, et vitia et modos,

Ludumque fortunæ, gravesque

Principium amicitias, et arma,
Nondum expiatis uncta cruoribus,
Periculosæ plenum opus alex,

Tractas, et incedis per ignes.

Suppositos cineri doloso. This passage, though very poetical, is rendered harsh and obscure by three distinct metaphors crowded together. First, "arma uncta cruoribus nondum expiatis ;" next, “ opus plenum periculosæ aleæ ;" and then, incedis per ignes suppositos cineri doloso."..

The last rule concerning metaphors is, they should not be too far pursued. For when the resemblance, which is the foundation of the figure, is long dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, an allegory is produced instead of a metaphor ; the reader is wearied, and the discourse becomes obscure. This is terıned straining a metaphor. Dr. Young, whose imagination was more distinguished by strength, than delicacy, is often guilty of running down his metaphors. Speaking of old age, he says, it should

Walk thoughtful on the silent solemn shore
Of that vast ocean, it must sail so soon;
And put good works on board ; and wait the wind

That shortly blows us into worlds unknown. The two first lines are uncommonly beautiful ; but when he continues the metaphor by putting good works on board, and waiting the wind,” it is strained, and sinks in dignity.

Having treated of metaphor, we shall conclude this chapter with a few words concerning allegory.

An allegory is a continued metaphor; as it is the representation of one thing by another that resembles it. Thus Prior makes Emma describe her constancy to Henry in the following allegorical manner :

Did I but propose to embark with thee
On the smooth surface of a summer's sea,
While gentle zephyrs play with prosperous gales,
And fortune's favour fills the swelling sails;
But would forsake the ship, and make the shore,
When the winds whistle, and the tempests roar ?

The same rules that were given for metaphors, may be applied to allegories, on account of the affinity between them. The only material difference beside the one being short and the other prolonged is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their proper and literal meaning; as, 'when we say, “ Achilles was a lion ;" 66 an able minis. ter is the pillar of the state.” Lion and pillar are here sufficiently interpreted by the mention of Achilles and the minister, which are joined to them ; but an allego. ry may be allowed to stand less connected with the litcral meaning; the interpretation not being so plainly pointed out, but left to our own reflection..

HYPERBOLE,

HYPERBOLE consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds. This figure occurs very frequently in all languages, even in common conyersation. As swift as the wind; as white as snow ; and our usual forms of compliment, are in general extravagant hyperboles. From habit, however, these exaggerated expressions are seldom considered as hyperbolical.

Hyperboles are of two kinds ; such as are employed in descriptions, or such as are suggested by passion. Those are far best which are the effect of passion ; since it not only gives rise to the most daring figures, but often renders thém just and natural. Hence the following passage in Milton, though extremely hyperbolical, contains nothing but what is natural and proper. It exhibits the mind of Satan agitated by rage and despair.

Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinito despair ?
Which way I fly is hell ; myself am hell :
. And in the lowest depth, a lower deep
Still threatning to devour me, opens wide,

To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven. In simple description, hyperboles must be employed with more caution. When an earthquake or storm is described, or when our imagination is carried into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong hyperboles without pleasure. But when only a woman in grief is presented to our view, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such exaggeration as the following, in one of our dramatic poets :

I found her on the floor
In all the storm of grief, yet beautiful,
Pouring forth teats at such a lavish rate,
That were the world on fire, they might have drown'd
The wrath of heaven, and quench'd the mighty ruin.

This is mere bombast. The person herself, who laboured under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to express herself in strong hyperbole ; but the spectator who describes her cannot be allowed equal liberty. The just boundary of this fig. ure cannot be ascertained by any precise rule. Good sense and an accurate taste must ascertain the limit, beyond which, if it pass, it becomes extravagant.

PERSONIFICATION AND APOSTROPHE.

We proceed now to those figures which lie altogether in the thought, the words being taken in their common and literal sense. We shall begin with personification, by which life and action are attributed to inanimate objects. All poetry, even in its most humble form, abounds in this figure. From prose it is far from being excluded ; nay, even in common conversaiion, frequent approaches are made to it. When we

30

say, the earth thirsts for rain, or the fields smile with plenty ; when ambition is said to be restless, or a disease to be deceitful; such expressions show the facility with which the mind can accommodate the properties of living creatures to things inanimate, or abstract conceptions.

There are three different degrees of this figure ; which it is requisite to distinguish, in order to determine the propriety of its use. The first is, when some of the properties of living creatures are ascribed to in. animate objects; the second, when those inanimate objects are described as acting like such as have life ; and the third, when they are exhibited either as speaking to us, or as listening to what we say to them.

The first and lowest degree of this figure, which consists in ascribing to inanimate objects some of the qualities of living creatures, raises ihe style so little, that the humblest discourse admits it without any force. Thus," a raging storm, a deceitful disease, a cruel disaster," are familiar expressions. This is indeed so obscure a degree of personification, that it might per: haps be properly classed with simple metaphor's which almost escape our observation.

The second degree of this figure is, when we represent inanimate objects acting like those that have life. Here we rise a step higher, and the personification becomes sensible. . According to the nature of the action which we ascribe to those inanimate objects, and to the particularity with which we describe it, is the strength of the figure. When pursued to a considerable length, it belongs only to studied harangues ; when slightly touched, it may be admitted into less elevated compositions. Cicero, for example, speaking of the cases where killing a man is lawful in self-defence, uses the following expressions : “ Aliquando nobis gla. dius ad occidendum hominem ab ipsis porrigitur legibus." Here the laws are beautifully personified as reaching forth their hand to give us a sword for putting a man to death.

In poetry personifications of this kind are extremely frequent, and are indeed the life and soul of it.' do the

descriptions of a poet, who has a lively fancy, every thing is animated. Homer, the father of poetry, is remarkable for the use of this figure. War, peace, darts, rivers, every thing in short is alive in his writ. ings. The same is true of Milton, and Shakespeare, No personification is more striking, or introduced on a more proper occasion, than the following of Milton upon Eve's eating the forbidden fruit :

So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she ate !
Earth felt the wound; and nature from her seat
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe,
That all was lost.

The third and highest degree of this figure is yet to be mentioned ; when inanimate objects are represented, not only as feeling and acting, but as speaking to us, or listening, while we address them. This is the boldest of all rhetorical figures ; it is the style of strong passion only; and therefore should never be at:empted except when the mind is considerably heated and agitated. Milton affords a very beautiful example of this figure, in that moving and tender address which Eve makes to Paradise, immediately before she is compel. led to leave it.

() unexpected stroke, worse than of death!
Must I thus leave thee, Paradise ? Thus leave
Thee, native soil ; these happy walks and shades,
Fit haunt of gods; where I had hope to spend
Quiet, though sad, the respite of that day,
Which must be mortal to us both ? O flowers !

That never will in other climate grow,
My early visitation, and my last
At even, which I bred up with tender hand ,
From your first opening buds, and gave you names :
Who now shall rear you to the sun, or rank

Your tribes, and water form the ambrosial fount ? . This is the real language of nature and of female passion.

In the management of this sort of personification two rules are to be observed. First, never attempt it unless prompted by strong passion, and never continue

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »