« הקודםהמשך »
. 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.
Ilia vel intactæ segetis per summa volaret
Æneid. vii. 808.
• Atque imo barathri ter gurgite vastos
Sorbet in abruptum fluctus, rursusque sub auras
Æneid. iii. 421.
Interdumque atram prorumpit ad æthera nubem,
Æneid. iii. 571,
• Chap. 31. of his treatise on the sublime.
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,
Iliad iv. 508.
The following may also pass, though stretched
E conjungendo a temerario ardire
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 familiar, viz. swimming to gain the
I saw him beat the surges under 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
Richard II. ail ^.sc. 6.
Draw them to Tyber's bank, and weep your tears
Julius Cæsar, ail I. fc.l.
Thirdly, A writer, if he wish to succeed, ought