תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

— As when to them who fail

Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past

Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow

Sabean odour from the spicy shore

Of Araby the Blest; with such delay

Well pleas'd, they flack their course, and many a Ieaguo

Chear'dwith the grateful smell old Ocean smiles.

Paradise Lost, t, 4,

I have been profuse of examples, to show what power many passions have to animate their objects. In all the foregoing examples, the personification, if I mistake not, is so complete as to afford an actual conviction, momentary indeed, of life and intelligence. But it is evident from numberless instances, that personification is not always so complete : it is a common figure in descriptive poetry, understood to be the language of the writer, and not of the persons he describes: in this cafe, it seldom or never comes up to a conviction, even momentary, of life and intelligence. 1 give the following examples.

First in his east thje glorious lamp was seen,
Regent of day, and all th' horizon round
Invested with bright rays; jocund to run
His longitude through heav'n's high road: the gray
1 Dawn, and the Pleiades before him dane'd,
Shedding sweet influence. Less bright the moon
But opposite, in levell'd west was set
His mirror, with full face borrowing her light

From

[ocr errors]

From him; for other lights needed none.

Paradise Loft, b, 7. /, 370. *

Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops,

Romeo and Juliet, a& 3. sc, 7.

But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill.

Hamlet, aft 1. sc. 1.

It may, I presume, be taken for granted, that, in the foregoing instances, the personification, either with the poet or his reader, amounts not to a conviction of intelligence; nor that the fun, the moon, the day, the morn, are here understood to be sensible beings. What then is the nature of this personification? Upon consider^ ing the matter attentively, I discover that this species of personification must be referred to the imagination: the inanimate object is imagined to be a sensible being, but without any conviction, even for a moment, that it really is so. Ideas or fictions of imagination have power to raise emotions in the mind *; .and when any thing inanimate is, in imagination, supposed to be a sensible being, it makes by that means a greater figure than when an idea is formed of it according to truth. The elevation, however, in this cafe, is far from being so great, as when the personification amounts to an actual conviction. Thus personification is of two kinds. The first, or nobler, may be termed passionate personification: the other, or more humble, descriptive personification; because seldom or never is perv sonification in a description carried the length of conviction.

* The chastity of the English language, which in common u. sage distinguishes by genders no words but what signify beings male and female, gives thus a fine opportunity for the prosopopœia; a beauty unknown in other languages, where every word IS masculine or feminine.

* See appendix, containing definitions and explanation of terms, $ ?8,

The imagination is so lively and active, that its images are raised with very little effort; and this justifies the frequent use of descriptive personification. This figure abounds in Milton's Allegro and Penserosb.

Abstract and general terms, as well as particular objects, are often necessary in poetry, Such terms however are not well adapted to poetry, because they suggest not any image to the mind: I can readily form an image of Alexander or Achilles in wrath j but I cannot form an itnage of wrath in the abstract, or of wrath independent of a person. Upon that account, in works addressed to the imagination, abstract terms are frequently personified: but this personification rests upon the imagination merely, not upon conviction:

Sed

Sed mihi vel Tellus optem prius ima dehiscat;
Vel pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras,
Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam,
Ante pudor quam te violo, aut tua jura resolvo.

Æneid. iv. /. 24,

Thus, to explain the effects of slander, it is imagined to be a voluntary agent:

No, 'us Slander;

Whose edge is sliarper than the sword; whose tongu»
Out-venoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All corners of the world, kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons: nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous Slander enters.

Shakespear, Cymbeline, atl 7,.sc. 4,

As also human passions: take the following example;

• For Pleasure and Revenge

Have ears more deaf than adders, to the voice
Of any true decision.

Troths and CreJJlda, aElt.fc. 4.

Virgil explains fame and its effects by a still greater variety of action *. And Shakespear personi-r fies death and its operations in a manner extremely fanciful: .

* Æneid. iv. 173.

— Withi»

• Within the hollow crown

That rounds the mortal temples of a king,

Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,

Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;

Allowing him a breath, a little scene

To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;

Infusing him with self and vain conceit,

As if his flesh, which walls about our life,

Were brass impregnable; and humour'd thus,

Comes at the last, and with a little pin

Bores through his castle-walls, and farewell king.

Richard II. atl 3 .sc, 4,

Not less successfully is life and action given even to sleep:

King Henry. How many thousands of my poorest sub. jects Arc at this hour asieep! O gentle Sleep, Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down, And steep my fenses in forgetfulness? Why rather, Sleep, ly'st thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, And hulh'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, Than in the perfum'd chambers of the great, Under the canopies of costly state, And lull'd with sounds of sweetest melody? O thou dull god, why ly'st thou with the vile In loathsome beds, and leav'st the. kingly couch, A watch-case to a common larum-bell? Wilt thou, upon the high and giddy mast, Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains In cradle of the rude imperious surge,

. And

« הקודםהמשך »