« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Metaphors borrowed from any of the sciences, esper cially from particular professions, are almost always faulty by their obscurity.
In the fourth place, we must never jumble metapborical and plain language together ; never construct a period so, that part of it must be understood metaphorically, part literally ; which always produces confusion. The works of Ossian afford an instance of the fault we are now censuring. " Trothal went forth with the stream of his people, but they met a rock ; for Fingal stood unmoved : broken they rolled back from his side. Nor did they roll in safety ; the spear of the king pursued their Aight.” The metaphor at the be. ginning is beautiful; the "stream," the “unmoved rock," the “ waves rolling back broken,” are expres. sions in the proper and consistent language of figure ; but in the end, when we are told," they did not roll in safety, because the spear of the king pursued their flight," the literal moaning is injudiciously mixed with the metaphor; they are at the same moment presented to us as waves that roll, and as men that may be pursu. ed and wounded by a spear.
In the fifth place, take care not to make two different metaphors meet on the same subject. This, which is called mixed metaphor, is one of the grossest abuses of this figure. Shakespeare's expression, for example, " to take arms against a sea of troubles,” makes a most unnatural medley, and entirely confounds the imagina. tion. More correct writers than Shakespeare are sometimes guilty of this error.
Mr. Addison says, • There is not a single view of human nature, which is not sufficient to extinguish the seeds of pride." Here a view is made to extinguish, and to extinguish seeds.
In examining the propriety of metaphors, it is a good rule to form a picture of them, and 10 consider how the parts agree, and what kind of figure the whole presents, when deliniated with a pencil.
Metaphors, in the sixth place, should not be crowd. ed together on the same object. Though each of them
be distinct, yet if they be heaped on one another, they produce confusion. The following passage from Horace will exemplify this observation.
Motum ex Metello consule civicum,
Ludumque fortunæ, gravesque
Principium amicitias, et arma,
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 termed 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
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
The same rules that were given for metaphors, may de 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 ;" 6 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 allegory 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.
HIYPERBOLE consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds. This figure occurs very frequently in all languages, even in common conversation. As swift as the wind ; as white as snow ; and our usual forms of compliment, are in general extravagant hy. perboles. 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 them 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
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
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 hyper. bole ; but the spectator who describes her cannot be allowed equal liberty. The just boundary of this figure 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 alto. gether in the thought, the words being taken in their common and literal sense, We, shall begin with per. sonification, 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 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 perhaps be properly classed with simple metaphors 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 consider. able 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 gladius 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. Io the