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romance, who sees beautiful castles, woods, and meadows; and at the same time hears the warbling of birds, and the purling of streams; but, upon the finishing of some secret spell, the fantastic scene breaks up, and the disconsolate knight finds himself on a barren heath, or in a solitary desert. It is not improbable, that something like this may be the state of the soul after its first separation, in respect of the images it will receive from matter.' No. 413, Spectator.
Having thus explained, at sufficient length, the origin, the nature, and the effects of tropes, I should proceed next to the several kinds and divisions of them. But, in treating of these, were I to follow the common track of the scholastic writers on rhetoric, I should soon become tedious, and, I apprehend, useless, at the same time. Their great business has been, with a most patient and frivolous industry, to branch them out under a vast number of divisions, according to all the several modes in which a word may be carried from its literal meaning, into one that is figurative, without doing any more ; as if the mere knowledge of the names and classes of all the tropes that can be formed, could be of any advantage towards the proper, or graceful use of language. All that I purpose is, to give, in a few words, before finishing this lecture, a general view of the several sources whence the trophical meaning of words is derived: after which I shall, in subsequent lectures, descend to a more particular consideration of some of the most considerable figures, of speech, and such as are in most frequent use; by treating of which, I shall give all the instruction I can, concerning the proper employment of figurative language, and point out the errors and abuses which are apt to be committed in this part of style.
All tropes, as I before observed, are founded on the relation which one object bears to another; in virtue of which, the name of the one can be substituted instead of the name of the other, and by such a substitution, the vivacity of the idea is commonly meant to be increased. These relations, some more, some less intimate, may, all give rise to tropes. One of the first and most obvious relations is, that between a cause and its effect.
Hence in figurative language, the cause is sometimes put for the effect. Thus, Mr. Addison writing of Italy:
Blossoms, and fruits, and flowers, together rise,
And the whole year in gay confusion lies. Where the whole year' is plainly intended, to signify the effects or productions of all the seasons of the year. At other times, again, the effect is put for the cause; as, grey hairs' frequently for old age which causes grey hairs; and shade,' for trees that produce the shade. The relation between the container and the thing contained, is also so intimate and obvious, as naturally to give rise to tropes :
Me impiger hausit Spumantem pateram et pleno se proluit auro. Where every one sees, that the cup and the gold are put for the liquor, that was contained in the golden cup. In the same manner, the name of any country, is often used to denote the inhabitants of that country; and Heaven, very commonly employed to signify God, because he is conceived as dwelling in heaven. To implore the assistance of Heaven, is the same as to implore the assistance of God. The relation betwixt any established sign and the thing signified, is a further source of tropes. Hence,
Cedant arma togæ; concedat laurea linguæ. The toga,' being the badge of the civil professions, and the laurel of military honours, the badge of each is put for the civil and military characters themselves. To assume the sceptre,' is a common phrase for entering on royal authority. To tropes, founded on these several relations, of cause and effect, container and contained, sign and thing signified, is given the name of Metonomy.
When the trope is founded on the relation between an antecedent and a consequent, or what goes before, and immediately follows, it is then called a Metalepsis; as in the Roman phrase of Fuit,' or Vixit,'to express that one was dead. Fuit illium et ingens gloria Dardanidum, signifies, that the glory of Troy is now no more.
When the whole is put for a part, or a part for the whole ; a genus for a species, or a species, for a genus; the singular for the plural, or the plural for the singular number; in general, when any thing less, or any thing more, is put for the precise object meant ; the figure is then called a Synecdoche. It is very common, for instance, to describe a whole object by some remarkable part of it; as when we say, ' a fleet of so many sail, in the place of ships;' when we use the head' for the person, the pole' for the earth, the waves' for the sea. In like manner, an attribute may be put for a subject; as, ' youth and beauty,' for the young and beautiful :' and sometimes a subject for its attribute. But it is needless to insist longer on this enumeration, which serves little purpose. I have said enough, to give on opening into that great variety of relations between objects, by means of which, the mind is assisted to pass easily from one to another; and, by the name of the one, understands the other to be meant. It is always some accessory idea, which recals the principal to the imagination ; and commonly recals it with more force, than if the principal idea had been expressed.
The relation which, of all others, is by far the most fruitful of tropes, I have not yet meutioned ; that is, the relation of similitude and resemblance. On this is founded what is called the metaphor ; when, in place of using the proper name of any object, we employ, in its place, the name of some other which is like it; which is a sort of picture of it, and which thereby awakens the conception of it with more force or grace. This figure is more frequent than all the rest put together; and the language, both of prose and verse, owes to it much of its elegance and grace. This, therefore, deserves very full and particular consideration ; and shall be the subject of the next lecture.
METAPHOR. AFTER the preliminary observations I have made, relating to figurative language in general, I come now to treat separately of such figures of speech, as occur most frequently, and require particular attention; and I begin with metaphor. This is a figure founded entirely on the resemblance which one object bears to another. Hence, it is much allied to simile, or comparison, and is indeed no other than a comparison expressed id an abridged forin.' When I say of some great minister, 'that he up,
holds the state, like a pillar which supports the weight of a whole edifice,
Though all metaphor imports comparison, and, therefore, is, in that respect, a figure of thought; yet, as the words in a metaphor are not taken literally, but changed from their proper to a figurative sense, the metaphor is commonly ranked among tropes or figures of words. But, provided the nature of it be well understood, it signifies very little whether we call it a figure or a trope. I have confined it to the expression of resemblance between two objects. I must remark, however, that the word metaphor is sometimes used in a looser and more extended sense; for the application of a term in any figurative signification, whether the figure be founded on resemblance, or on some other relation, which two objects bear to
one another. For instance; when grey hairs are put for old age ; as, to bring one's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave;' some writers would call this a metaphor, though it is not properly one, but what rhetoricians call a metonymy; that is, the effect put for the cause; 'grey hairs' being the effect of old age, but not bearing any sort of resemblance to it. Aristotle, in his Poetics, uses metaphor in this extended sense, for any figurative meaning imposed upon a word ; as a whole put for the part, or a part for a whole ; the species for the genus, or a genus for the species. But it would be unjust to tax this most acute writer with any inaccuracy on this account ; the minute subdivisions, and various names of tropes, being unknown in his days, and the invention of later rhetoricians. Now, however, when these divisions are established, it is inaccurate to call every figurative use of terms, promiscuously, a metaphor.
Of all the figures of speech, none comes so near to painting as metaphor. Its peculiar effect is to give light and strength to description; to make intellectual ideas, in some sort, visible to the eye, by giving them colour, and substance, and sensible qualities. In order to produce this effect, however, a delicate hand is required : for, by a very little inaccuracy, we are in hazard of introducing confusion, in place of promoting
perspicuity. Several rules, therefore, are necessary to be given for the proper management of metaphors. But, before entering on these, I shal! give one instance of a very beautiful metaphor, that I may shew the figure to full advantage. I shall take my instance from Lord Bolingbroke's remarks on the History of England. Just at the conclusion of his work, he is speaking of the behaviour of Charles I. to his last parliament; 'In a word,' says he, . about a month after their meeting, he dissolved them; and, as soon as he had dissolved them, he repented : but he repented too late of his rashness. Well might he repent: for the vessel was now full, and this last drop made the waters of bitterness overflow. Here,' he adds, 'we draw the curtain, and put an end to our remarks.' Nothing could be more happily thrown off. The metaphor, we see, is continued through several expressions. The vessel is put for the state, or temper of the nation already full, that is, provoked to the highest by former oppressions and wrongs; this last drop, stands for the provocation recently received by the abrupt dissolution of the parliament; and the overflowing of the waters of bitterness, beautifully expresses all the effects of resentment, let loose by an exasperated people.
On this passage, we may make two remarks in passing. The one, that nothing forms a more spirited and dignified conclusion of a subject, than a figure of this kind happily placed at the close. We see the effect of it, in this instance. The author goes off with a good grace; and leaves a strong and full impression of his subject on the reader's mind. My other remark is, the advantage which a metaphor frequently bas above a formal comparison. How much would the sentiment here have been enfeebled, if it had been expressed in the style of a regular simile, thus : • Well might he repent; for the state of the nation, loaded with grievances and provocations, resembled a vessel that was now full, and this superadded provocation, like the last drop infused, made their rage and resentment, as waters of bitterness, overflow.' It has infinitely more spirit and force as it now stands, in the form of a metaphor. Well might he repent : for the vessel was now full; and this last drop made the waters of bitterness overflow.
Having mentioned, with applause, this instance from Lord Bolingbroke, I think it incumbent 'on me here to take notice, that though I may have recourse to this author, sometimes, for examples of style, it is his style only, and not bis sentiments, that deserve praise. It is indeed my opinion, that there are few writings in the English language, which, for the matter contained in them, can be read with less profit or fruit, than Lord Bo. lingbroke's works. His political writings have the merit of a very lively and eloquent style; but they have no other; being, as to the substance, the mere temporary productions of faction and party; no better, indeed, than pamphlets written for the day. His posthumous, or as they are called, his philosophical works, wherein he attacks religion, have still less merit ; for they are as 'loose in the style as they are flimsy in the reasoning. An unhappy instance, this author is, of parts and genius so miserably perverted by faction and passion, that, as his memory will descend to posterity with little honour, so his productions will soon pass, and are, indeed already passing into neglect and oblivion.
Returning from this digression to the subject before us, I proceed to iay down the rules to be observed in the conduct of metaphors; and which are much the same for tropes of every kind.
The first that I shall mention, is, that they be suited to the naturen
the subject of which we treat; neither too many, nor too gay, nor too. elevated for it; that we neither attempt to force the subject, by means of them, into a degree of elevation which is not congruous to it; nor, on the other hand, allow it to sink below its proper dignity. This is a direction which belongs to all figurative language, and should be ever kept in view. Some metaphors are allowable, nay, beautiful, in poetry, which it would be absurd and unnatural to employ in prose; some may be graceful in orations, which would be very improper in historical, or philosophical composition. We must remember, that figures are the dress of our sentiments. As there is a natural congruity between dress, and the character or rank of the person who wears it, a violation of which congruity never fails to hurt; the same holds precisely as to the application of figures to sentiment. The excessive, or unseasonable employment of them, is mere foppery in writing. It gives a boyish air to composition: and instead of raising a subject, in fact, diminishes its dignity. For as in life, true dignity must be founded on character, not on dress and appear. ance, so the dignity of composition must arise from sentiment and thought, not from ornament. The affectation and parade of ornament, detract as much from an author, as they do from a man. Figures and metaphors, therefore, should, on no occasion be stuck on too profusely; and never should be such as refuse to accord with the strain of our sentiment. Nothing can be more unnatural, than for a writer to carry on a train of reasoning, in the same sort of figurative language, which he would use in description. When he reasons, we look only for perspicuity; when he describes, we expect embellishment; when he divides, or relates, we desire plainness and simplicity. One of the greatest secrets in composition is, to know when to be simple. This always gives a heightening to ornament, in its proper place. The right disposition of the shade, makes the light and colouring strike the more: • Is enim est eloquens,' says Cicero, qui et humilia subtiliter, et magna graviter, et mediocria temperate potest dicere. Nam qui nihil potest tranquille, nihil leniter, nihil definite, distincte, potest dicere, is, cum non præparatis aurib us inflammare rem cæpit, furere apud sanos, et quasi inter sobrios bacchari temulentus videtur.** This admonition should be particularly attended to by young practitioners in the art of writing, who are apt to be carried away by an undistinguishing admiration of what is showy and florid, whether in its place or not.t
The second rule, which I give, respects the choice of objects, from whence metaphors, and other figures, are to be drawn. The field for figurative language is very wide. All nature, to speak in the style of
** He is truly eloquent, who can discourse of humble subjects in a plain style, who can treat important ones with dignity, and speak of things which are of a middle nature, in a temperate strain. For one who, upon no occasion, can express himself in a calm, orderly, distinct manner, when he begins to be on fire before his readers are prepared to kindle along with him, has the appearance of raving like a madman among per sons who are in their senses, or of reeling like a drunkard in the midst of sober company.'
1 What person of the least taste, can bear the following passage in a late historian, He is giving an account of the famous act of parliament against irregular marriages in England: "The bill,' says he, underwent a great number of alterations and amendments, which were not effected withont violent contest' This is plain language, suited to the subject ; and we naturally expect, that he should go in the same strain ; to tell us, that, after these contests, it was carried by a great majority of voices, and obtained the royal assent. But how does he express himself in finishing the period ? At length, however, it was floated through both houses, on the tide of a great majority, and s'eered into the safe barbour of royal approbation. Nothing can be more puerile than sich langmge. Smollet's History of Englaud, as quoted in Critical Revicur for Oct: 1751. p. 251.