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SECT- m.

HYPERBOLE.

. n'. • ■:: '■

IN this figure, by which an object is magnified or diminished beyond the truth, we have another effect of the foregoing principle. An object uncommon with respect to size, either very great of its kind or very little, strikes us with surprise; and this emotion forces upon the mind a momentary conviction that the object is greater or less than it is in reality *: the fame effect, precisely, attends figurative grandeur or littleness; and hence the hyperbole which expresses this momentary conviction. A writer, taking advantage of this natural delusion, enriches his description greatly by the hyperbole: and the reader; even in his coolest moments, relilhes this figure, being sensible that it is the operation of nature upon a warm fancy.

It cannot have escaped observation, that a

■ -writer is generally more successful in magnifying

by a hyperbole than in diminilhing. The reason

S is, that a minute object contracts the mind, and

fetters its power of imagination; but that the

mind, dilated and inflamed with a grand object,

• See chapter 8.

Vol. II. R moulds moulds objects for its gratification with great facility. Longinus, with respect to a diminishing hyperbole, cites the following ludicrous thought from a comic poet: "He was owner of a bit of "ground not larger than a Lacedemonian letter *." But, for the reason now given, the hyperbole has by far the greater force in magnifying objects; of which take the following examples:

For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy feed for ever. And I will make thy feed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy feed also be numbered.

Genesis xiii. 15. 16.

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Ilia vel intactæ segetis per summa volaret
Gramina: nee teneras cursu læsisset aristas.

Æneid. vii. 808.

• Atque imo barathri ter gurgite vastos

Sorbet in abruptum fluctus, rursusque sub auras
Erigit alternos, et sidera verberat undi.

Æneid. iii. 421.

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Interdumque atram prorumpit ad æthera nubem,
Turbine fumantem piceo et candente favilla:
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit.

Æneid. iii. 571,

• Chap. 31. of his treatise on the sublime.

Speaking

Speaking of Polyphemus,

■ Ipse arduus, altaque pulsat

Sidera. Æneid. ill. 619.

■ When he speaks,

The air, a charter'd libertine, is still.

Henry V. ail i.sc. 1.

Now fliield with shield, with helmet helmet clos'd,
To armour armour, lance to lance oppos'd,
Host against host with shadowy squadrons drew,
The sounding darts in iron tempests flew,
Victors and vanquifh'd join promiscuous cries,
And shrilling shouts and dying groans arise;
With streaming blood the flipp'ry fields are dy'd,
And slaughters heroes swell the dreadful tide.

Iliad iv. 508.

The following may also pass, though stretched
pretty far.

E conjungendo a temerario ardire
Estrema forza, e infaticabil lena
Vien che si' impetuoso il ferro gire,
Che ne trema la terra, e'l ciel balena.
1 Gitrusalem, cant. 6.JI, 46.

Quintilian * is sensible that this figure is natural: "For," fays he, "not contented with "truth, we naturally incline to augment or di

* L. 8. cap. 6. in fin.

R 2 "minifh

f "miniih beyond it; and for that reason the hy"perbole is familiar even among the vulgar and "illiterate:" and he adds, very justly, "■ That "the hyperbole is then proper, when the subject "of itself exceeds the common measure." From these premisses, one would not expect the following inference, the only reason he can find for justifying this figure of speech, "Conceditur e"nim amplius dicere, quia dici quantum est, "non potei*: meliusque ultra quam citra flat "oratio." (We are indulged to say more than enough, because we cannot say enough; and it is better to be above than under.) In the name of wonder, why this slight and childish reasoning, when immediately before he had observed, that the hyperbole is founded on human nature? I could not resist this personal stroke of criticism; intended not against our author, for no human creature is exempt from error, but against the blind veneration that is paid to the ancient classic writers, without distinguishing their blemishes from their beauties.

Having examined the nature of this figure, and the principle on which it is erected; I proceed, as in the first section, to the rules by which it ought to be governed. And, in the first place, it is a capital fault, to introduce an hyperbole in the description of an ordinary object or event; for in such a case, it is altogether unnatural, being destitute of surprise, its only foundation. Take the following instance, where the subject is

extremely

extremely familiar, viz. swimming to gain the
shore after a shipwreck,

I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs; he trode the water;
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swoln that njet him: his bold head
'Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oar'd
Himself with his good arms, in lusty strokes
To th'shore, that o'er his wave-borne basis bow'd,
As stooping to relieve him.

Tempest, aEl2.sc. I.

In the next place, it may be gathered from what is said, that an hyperbole can never suit the tone of any dispiriting passion: sorrow in particular will never prompt such a figure; and for that reason the following hyperboles must be condemned as unnatural:

K. Rich. Aumerle, thou weep'st, my termer-hearted
cousin!
We'll make foul weather with despised tears;
Our sighs, and they, shall lodge the summer-corn,
And make a dearth in this revolting land.

Richard II. ail ^.sc. 6.

Draw them to Tyber's bank, and weep your tears
Into the channel, till the lowest stream
Do kiss the most exalted sliores of all.

Julius Cæsar, ail I. fc.l.

Thirdly, A writer, if he wish to succeed, ought
R 3 always

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