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Chiama gli habitator de l'ombre eterne
Cant. iv. Starz. 4. The second class of objects, which the sound of words is often enployed to imitate. is, inotion; as it is swift or slow, violent or gentle, equable or interrupted, easy or accompanied with effort. Though there be no natural affinity between sound, of any kind, and motion, yet, in the imagination, there is a strong one; as appears from the connexion between music and dancing And, therefore, here it is in the poet's power to give us a lively idea of the kind of motion he would describe, by means of sounds which correspond, in our imagination with that motion. Long syllables naturally give the impression of slow motion; as in this line of Virgil :
Ollı inter sese magna vi brachia tollunt.
Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.
With easy course
Of some old temple wide.
poetry is capable of some such expression, cannot be doubted. Drydon's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, affords a very beautiful' exemplification of it, in the English language. Without much study or reflection, a poet describing pleasure, joy, and agreeable objects, from the feeling of his subject, naturally runs into smooth, liquid, and flowing numbers.
-Namque ipsa decoram
Æn. VI. Brisk and lively sensations, exact quicker and more animated numbers.
Juvenum manus emicat ardens.
Æn. VII. Melancholy and gloomy subjects, naturally express themselves in slow measures, and long words :
In those deep solitudes and awful cells,
Et caligantem nigra formidine lucum. I have now given sufficient openings into this subject: a moderate acquaintance with the good poets, either ancient or modern, will suggest many instances of the same kind. And with this, I finish the discussion of the structure of sentences : Having fully considered them under all the heads I mentioned; of perspicuity, unity, strength apd musical arrangement.
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. HAVING now finished what related to the construction of sentences, I proceed to other rules concerning style. My general division of the qualities of style, was into perspicuity and ornament. Perspicuity, both in single words and in sentences, I have considered. Ornament, as far as it arises from a gracesul, strong, or melodious construction of words, has also been treated of. Another, and a great branch of the ornament of style, is, figurative language; which is now to be the subject of our consideration, and will require a full discussion. Our first inquiry must be, what is meant by figures of speech ?* In general, they always imply some departure from simplicity of ex
On the subject of figures of speech, all the writers who treat of rhetoric or composition, have insisted largely. To make references, therefore, on this subject were endless. On the foundations of figurative language, in general one of the most sensible, and instructive writers appears to me, to be M. Marsais, in his Traile des Tropes pour servir de Introduction à la Rhetorique et à la Logique. For observations on 'particuJar figures, the Elements of Crilicism may be consulted, where the subject' is fully handled, and illustrated by a great variety of examples.
pression; the idea which we intend to convey, not only enunciated to others, 'ut enunciated, in a particular manner, and with some circumstance added, which is designed to render the impression more strong and Vivid. When I say, for instance; That a good man enjoys comfort in the midst of adversity;' I just express my thought in the simplest manner possible. But when I say, "To the upright there ariseth light in darkness;' the same sentiment is expressed in a figurative style ; a new circumstance is introduced ; light is put in the place of comfort, and darkness is used to suggest the idea of adversity.
In the same manner, to say, ' It is impossible, by any search we can make, to explore the divine nature fully,' is to make a simple proposition. But when we say, 'Canst thou, by searching, find out God; Canst thou find out the Almighty 10 perfection; It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know I' This introduces a figure into style; the proposition being not only expressed, but admiration and astonishment being expressed together with it.
But, though figures imply a deviation from what may be reckoned the most simple form of speech, we are not thence to conclude, that they imply any thing uncommon, or unnatural. This is so far from being the case, that, on very many occasions, they are both the most natural, and the most common method of uttering our sentiments. It is impossible to compose any discourse without using them often; nay, there are few sentences of any length, in which some expression or other, that may be termed a figure, does not occur.
From what causes this happens, shall be afterwards explained. The fact, in the mean time, shews, that they are to be accounted part of that language which nature dietales to men. They are not the inventions of the schools, nor the mere product of study: on the contrary, the most illiterate speak in figures, as often as the most learned. Whenever the imaginations of the vulgar are much awakened, or their passions inflamed against one another, they will pour forth a torrent of figurative language as forcible as could be employed by the most artificial declaimer.
What then is it, which has drawn the attention of critics and rhetoricians so much to these forms of speech ? It is this • They remarked, that in them consists much of the beauty and the force of language, and found them always to bear some characters, or distinguishing marks, by the help of which they could reduce them under separate classes and heads. To this, perhaps, they owe their name of figures. As the figure, or shape of one body, distinguishes it from another, so these forms of speech have, each of them, a cast or tørn. peculiar to itself, which both distinguishes it from the rest, and distinguishes it from simple expression. Simple expression just makes our idea known to others; but figurative language, over and above, bestows a particular dress, upon that idea; a dress, which both makes it to be remarked, and adorns it. Hence, this sort of language became early, a capital object of attention to those who studied the powers of speech.
Figures, in general, may be described to be that language, which is prompted either by the imagination, or by the passions. The justness of this description will appear, from the more particular account I am afterwards to give of them. Rhetoricians commonly divide them into two great classes; figures of words, and figures of thought. The former, figures of words, are commonly called tropes, and consist in a word's' being employed to signify something that is different from its
original and primitive meaning ; 'so that if you alter the word, you destroy the figure. Thus, in the instance I gave before ; 'Light ariseth to the upright in darkness. The trope consists in "light and darkness' being not meant literally, but substituted for comfort and adversity, on account of some resemblance or analogy which they are supposed to bear to these conditions of life. The other class, termed figures of thought, supposes the words to be used in their proper and literal meaning, and the figure to consist in the turn of the thought; as is the case in exclamations, interrogations, apostrophes, and comparisons; where, though you vary the words that are used, or translate them from one language into another, you may, nevertheless still preserve the same agure in the thought. This distinction, however, is of no great use; as nothing can be built upon it in practice; neither is it always very clear. It is of litte importance, whether we give to some particular mode of expression the name of a trope, or of a figure; provided we remember, that figurative language always imports some colouring of the imagination, or some emotions of passion, expressed in our style : and, perhaps, figures of imagination, and figures of passion, might be a more useful distribution of the subjeci. But without insisting on any artificial divisions, it will be the more useful, that I inquire into the origin and the nature of figures. Only, before proceeding to this, there are two general observations which it may be proper to premise.
The first is, concerning the use of rules with respect to figurative language. I admit, that persons may both speak and write with propriety, wbo know not the names of any of the figures of speech, nor ever studied any rules relating to them. Nature, as was before observed, dictates the use of figures ; and, like Mons. Jourdain, in Moliere, who had spoken for forty years in prose, without ever knowing it, many a one uses metaphorical expressions for good purpose, without any idea of what a metaphor is. It will not, however, follow thence, that rules are of no service. All science arises from observations on practice. Practice has always gone before method and rule; but method and rule have afterwards improved and perfected practice in every art. day, meet with persons who sing agreeably, without knowing one note of the gamut. Yet, it has been found of importance to reduce these notes to a scale, and to form an art of music; and it would be ridiculous to pretend, that the art is of no advantage, because the practice is founded in nature. Propriety and beauty of speech, are certainly as improveable as the ear or the voice; and to know the principles of this beauty, or the reasons which render one figure, or one manner of speech preferable to another, cannot fail to assist and direct a proper choice.
But I must observe, in the next place, that although this part of style merits attention, and is a very proper object of science and rule ; although much of the beauty of composition depends on figurative language; yet we must beware of imagining that it depends solely, or even chiefly, upon such language. It is not so:
The great place which the doctrine of tropes and figures has occupied in systems of rhetoric; the over-anxious care which has been shewn in giving names to a vast variety of them, and in ranging them under different classes, has often led persons to imagine, that if their composition was well bespangled with a number of these ornaments of speech, it wanted no other beauty : whence has arisen much stiffness and affectation. For it is, in truth, the sentiment or passion, which lies under the figured expression, that gives
it any 'merit. The figure is only thie dress; the sentiment is the body and the substance. No figures will render a cold or an empty.composi. tion interesting: whereas, if a sentiment be sublime for pathetic, it can support itself perfectly well, without any borrowed assistance. Hence several of the most affecting and admired passages of the best authors, are expressed in the simplest language. The following sentiment from Virgil, for instance, makes its way at once to the heart, without the help of any figure whatever. He is describing an Argive, who falls in battle, in Italy, at a great distance from his native country:
Sternitur, infelis, alieno vulnere, cælumque
Æn. x: 78). A single stroke of this kind, drawn as by the very pencil of nature, is worth a thousand figures. In the same manner, the simple style of scripture: "He spoke, and it was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast.' «God said, let there be light; and there was light,' imparts a lofty conception to much greater advantage, than if it had been decorated by the most pompous metaphors. The fact is, that the strong pathetic, and the pure sublime, not only have little dependence on figures of speech, but generally reject them. The proper region of these ornaments is, where a moderate degree of elevation and passion is predominant; and there they contribute to the embellishment of discourse, only when there is a basis of solid thought and natural sentiment; when they are inserted in their proper place; and when they rise, of themselves, from the subject withont being sought after.
Having premised these observations, I proceed to give an account of the origin and nature of figures ; principally of such as have their dependence on language; including that numerous tribe which the rhetoricians call tropes.
At the tirst rise of language, men would begin with giving names to the different objects'which they discerned, or thought of. This nomencla. ture would, at the beginning, be very narrow. According as men's ideas
*** Anthares had from Argos travellid far,
Alcide's friend, and brother of the war;
He casts to Heaven, on Argos thinks and dies.” In this translation, much of the beauty of the original is lost. On Argos thinks and dies,' is by no means equal to dulcis moriens reminiscitur Argos.' "As he dies be remembers his beloved Argos.' It is indeed observable, that in most of those tender and pathetic passages, wlrich do so much honour to Virgil, that great poet expresses himself with the utmost simplicity; as
Te, dulcis conjux, te solo in littore secum.
GEORG. IV. And so in that moving prayer of Evander, upon his parting with his son Pallas ;
At vos 0 Superi! et Divûm tu maxime rector,
Æx. VIL 572