תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

tire the reader, who soon becomes weary of this play of fancy; and we render our discourse obscure. This is called straining a metaphor. Cowley deals in this to excess; and to this error is owing, in a great measure, that intricacy and harshness, in his figurative language, which I before remarked. Lord Shaftesbury is sometimes guilty of pursuing his metaphors too far. Fond, to a high degree, of every decoration of style, when once he had hit upon a figure that pleased him, he was extremely loth to part with it. Thus, in his advice to an author, having taken up soliloquy or meditation, under the metaphor of a proper method of evacuation for an author, he pursues this metaphor through several pages, under all the forms of discharging crudities, throwing off froth and scum, bodily operation, taking physic, curing indigestion, giving vent to choler, bile, flatulencies, and tumours;' till at last, the idea becomes nauseous. Dr. Young, also, often trespasses in the same way. The merit, however, of this writer, in figurative language, is great, and deserves to be remarked. No writer, ancient or modern, had a stronger imagination than Dr. Young, or one more fertile in figures of every kind. His metaphors are often new, and often natural and beautiful. But, as his imagination was strong and tich, rather than delicate and correct, he sometimes gives it too loose reins. Hence, in his Night Thoughts, there prevails an obscurity, and hardness in his style. The metaphors are frequently too bold, and frequently too far pursued; the reader is dazzled, rather than enlightened, and kept constantly on the stretch to comprehend, and keep pace with the author. We may observe, for instance, how the following metaphor is spun out:

Thy thoughts are vagabond; all outward bound,
Midst sands and rocks, and storms, to cruise for pleasure;
It gain'd dear bought: and better miss'd than gain'd,
Fancy and sense, from an infected shore,
Thy cargo brings; and pestilence the prize;
Then such the thirst, insatiable thirst,
By fond indulgence but inflam'd the more,

Fancy still cruises, when poor sense is tir'd
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; walk thoughtful on the silent, &c.' but when he continues the metaphor, to putting good works on board, and waiting the wind,' it plainly becomes strained, and sinks in dignity. Of all the English authors, I know none so happy in his metaphors as Mr. Addison. His imagination was neither so rich mor so strong as Dr. Young's; but far more chaste and delicate. Perspicuity, natural grace and ease, always disting uish his figures. They are neither harsh nor strained ; they never appear to have been studied or sought after; but seem to rise of their own accord from the subject, and constantly embellish it.

I have now treated fully of the metaphor, and the rules that should govern it, a part of style so important, that it required particular illustrawon. I bave only to add a few words concerning allegory.

An allegory may be regarded as a continued metaphor; as it is the representation of some one thing by another that resembles it, and that is

made to stand for it. Thus, in Prior’s Henry and Emma, Emma, in the following allegorical manner, describes her constancy to Henry :

Did I but purpose 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; We may take also from the scriptures a very fine example of an allegory, in the 80th Psalm; where the people of Israel are represented under the image of a vine, and the figure is supported throughout with great correctness and beauty; - Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt, thou hast cast out the beathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it; and tbe boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs into the sea, and her branches into the river. Why hast thou broken down ber hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her ? The boar out of the wood doth waste it; and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine ! Here there is no circumstance, (except perhaps one phrase at the beginning, thou hast cast out the heathen') that does not strictly agree to a vine, whilst, at the same time, the whole quadrates happily with the Jewish state represented by this figure. This is the first and principal requisite in the conduct of an allegory, that the figurative and the literal meaning be not mixed inconsistently together. For instance, intead of describing the vine, as wasted by the boar from the wood, and devoured by the wild beast of the field, had the Psalmist said, it was afflicted by heathens, or overcome by enemies, (which is the real meaning) this would have ruined the allegory, and produced the same confusion, of which I gave examples in metaphors, when the figurative and literal sense are mixed and jumbled together. Indeed, the same rules that are given for metaphors, may also be applied to allegories, on account of the affinity they bear to each other. The only material difference between them, besides the one being short and the other being proJonged, is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their proper and natural meaning; as when I say Achilles was a lion ;' ao. able minister is the pillar of the state.' My lion and my pillar are sufficiently interpreted by the mention of Achilles and the minister, which I join to them; but an allegory, is, or may be, allowed to stand more disconnected with the literal meaning; the interpretation not so directly pointed out, but left to our own reflection.

Allegories were a favourite method of delivering instructions in ancient times ; for what we call fables or parables are no other than allegories; where by words and actions attributed to beasts or inanimate objects, the dispositions of men are figured ; and what we call the moral, is the unfigured sense or meaning of the allegory. An ænigma or riddle is also a species of allegory; one thing represented or imagined by another; but purposely wrapt up under so many circumstances, as to be rendered obscure. Where a riddle is not intended, it is always. a fault in allegory to be too dark. The meaning should be easily seen through the figure employed to shadow it. However, the proper mixture of light and shade in such compositions, the exact adjustment of all the figurative circumstances with the literal sense, so as neither to

lay the meaning too bare and open, nor to cover and wrap it up too much, has ever been found an affair of great nicety; and there are few species of composition in which it is more difficult to write so as to please and command attention, than in allegories. In some of the visions of the Spectator, we have examples of allegories very happily executed.

[merged small][ocr errors]

HYPERBOLE....PERSONIFICATION....APOSTROPHE. THE next figure concerning which I am to treat, is called hyperbole, or exaggeration. It consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds. It may be considered sometimes as a trope, and sometimes as a figure of thought : and here indeed the distinction between these two classes begins not to be clear, nor is it of any importance that we should have recourse to metaphysical subtilities, in order to keep them distinct. Whether we call it trope or figure, it is plain that it is a mode of speech which hath some foundation in nature. For in all languages, even in common couversation, hyperbolical expressions very frequently occur : as swift as the wind; as white as the snow; and the like : and our common forms of compliment are almost all of them extravagant hyperboles. If any thing be remarkably good or great in its kind, we are instantly ready to add to it some exaggerating epithet; and to make it the greatest or best we ever saw. The imagination has always a tendency to gratify itself, by magnifying its present object, and carrying it to excess. More or less of this hyperbolical turn will prevail in language, according to the liveliness of imagination among the people who speak it. Hence young people always deal much in hyperboles.Hence the language of the orientals was far more hyperbolical than that of the Europeans, who are of more phlegmatic, or if you please, of more correct imagination. Hence, among all writers in early time, and in the rude periods of society, we may expect this figure to abound. Greater experience, and more cultivated society, abate the warmth of imagination, and chasten the manner of expression.

The exaggerated expressions, to which our ears are accustomed in conversation, scarcely strike us as hyperboles. In an instant we make the proper abatement, and understand them according to their just value. But when there is something striking and unusual in the form of a hyperbolical expression, it then rises into a figure of speech which draws our attention : and here it is necessary to observe, that, unless the reader's imagination be in such a state as isposes it to rise and swell along with the hyperbolical expression, he is always hurt and offended by it. For a sort of disagreeable force is put upon him; he is required to strain and exert his fancy, when he feels no inclination to make any such effort. Hence the hyperbole is a figure of difficult management; and ought neither to be frequently used, nor long dwelt upon. On some occasions, it is undoubtedly proper; being, as was before observed, the na

tural style of a sprightly and heated imagination, but when hyperboles are unseasonable, or too frequent, they render a composition frigid and unaffecting. They are the resource of an author of feeble imagination ; of one, describing objects which either want native diguity in themselves; or whose dignity he cannot shew by describing them simply and in their just proportions, and is therefore obliged to rest upon tumid and exaggerated expressions.

Hyperboles are of two kinds; either such as are employed in description, or such as are suggested by the warmth of passion. The best, by far, are those which are the effect of passion : for if the imagination has a tendency to magnify its objects beyond their natural proportion, passion possesses this tendency in a vastly stronger degree ; and therefore not only excuses the most daring figures, but very often renders them natural and just. All passions, without exception, love, terror, amazement, indignation, anger, and even grief, throw the mind into confusion, aggravate their objects, and of course, prompt a hyperbolical style. Hence the following sentiments of Satan in Milton, as strongly as they are described, contain nothing but what is natural and proper ; exhibiting the picture of a mind agitated with rage and despair.

Me, miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell, myself am hell;
And in the lowest depth a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devoar me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a beaven.

B. iv. 1. 73. In simple description, though hyperboles are not excluded, yet they must be used with more caution, and require more preparation, in order to make the mind relish them. Either the object described must be of that kind, which of itself seizes the fancy strongly, and disposes it to run beyond bounds ; something vast, surprising, and new; or the writer's art must be exerted in heating the fancy gradually, and preparing it to think highly of the object which he intends to exaggerate. When a poet is describing an earthquake or a storm, or when he has brought us into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong hyperboles without displeasure: But when he is describing only a woman in grief, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such wild 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 tears 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. LEE. This is mere bombast. The person herself who was under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to hyperbolize strongly; but the spectator describing her, cannot be allowed an equal liberty; for this plain reason, that the one is supposed to utter the sentiments of passion, the other speaks only the language of description, which is always, according to the dictates of nature, on a lower tone: a distinction, which, bowever obvious, has not been attended to by many writers.

How far a hyperbole, supposing it properly introduced, may be safely carried without overstretching it ; what is the proper measure and bound ary of this figure, cannot, as far as I know, be ascertained by any precise rule. Good sense and just taste must determine the point, beyond,

U

which, if we pass, we become extravagant. Lucan may be pointed out as an author apt to be excessive in his hyperboles. Among the compliments paid by the Roman poets to their Emperors, it had become fashionable to ask them, what part of the heavens they would choose for their habitation, after they should have become gods ? Virgil had already carried this sufficiently far in his address to Augustus.

-Tibi brachia contrahit ingens

Scorpius, et Cæli justa plus parte relinquit.** But this did not suffice Lucan. Resolved to outdo all his predecessors, in a like address to Nero, he very gravely beseeches him not to choose his place near either of the poles, but to be sure to occupy just the middle of the heavens, lest, by going either on one side or the other, his weight should overset the universe:

Sed neque in Arctoo sedem tibi legeris orbe,
Nec polus adversi calidus qua mergitur austri;
Ætheris immensi partem si presseris unam
Sentict axis onus. Librati pondera Cæli
Orbe tene medio,

Puras. I. 53. Such thoughts as these, are what the French call outrés, and always proceed from a false fire of genius. The Spanish and African writers, as Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustin, are remarked for being fond of them. As in the epitaph on Charles V. by a Spanish writer :

Pro tumulo ponas orbem, pro tegmine cælum,

Sidera pro facibus, pro lacrymis maria. Sometimes they dazzle and impose by their boldness; but wherever reasou and good sense are so much violated, there can be no true beauty. Epigrammatic writers are frequently guilty in this respect; resting the whole merit of their epigrams on some extravagant hyperbolical turn; such as the following of Dr. Pitcairn's, upon Holland's being gained from the ocean;

Telluruun fecere Dü; sua littora Belgæ ;
Immensæque molis opus utrumque fuit ;
Dii vacuo sparsas glomerarunt æthera terras,

Nil ibi quod aperi possit obesse fuit.
At Belgis maria et cæli naturaque rerum

Obstitit ; obstantes hi domuére Deos. So much for hyperbole. We proceed now to those figures wbich lie al. together in the thought; where the words are taken in their common and literal sense.

Among these, the first place is unquestionably due to personification, or that figure to which we attribute life and action to inanimate objects. The technical term for this is Prosopopæia; but as personification is of

DRYDEN

* The Scorpion, ready to receive thy laws,

Yields hall his region, and contracts bis paws.'
But oh! whatever be thy Godhead great,
Fix not in regions too remote thy seat ;
Nor deign thou near the frozen bear to shine,
Nor where the sultry southern stars decline.
Press not too much on any part the sphere,
Hard were the task thy weight divine to bear;
Soon would the axis feel th' unusual load,
And, groaning, bend beneath th' incumbent God;
O'er the mid orb more equal shalt thou rise,
And with a juster balance fix the skies.

Rowe

« הקודםהמשך »