Imágenes de páginas

principal part of the human body, and is supposed to direct all the animal operations ; resting on this resemblance, we say,

66 Cataline was the head of his party."

We shall now examine, why tropes and figures contribute to the beauty and grace of style. By ther language is enriched, and made more copious. Hence words and phrases are multiplied for expressing all sorts of ideas; for describing even the smallest differences; the nicest shades and colours of thought; which by proper words alone cannot possibly be expressed. They also give dignity to style, which is degraded by the familiarity of common words. Figures have the same effect on language, that a rich and splendid apparel has on a person of rank and dignity. In prose compositions, assistance of this kind is often requisite; to poetry it is essential. To say, “ the sun rises," is common and trite; but it becomes a magnificent image, as expressed by Thomson;

But yonder comes the powerful king of day
Rejoicing in the east.

Figures furnish the pleasure of enjoying two objects, presented at the same time to our view, without confusion; the principal idea together with its accessory, which gives it the figurative appearance. When, for example, instead of " youth," we say, the morning of life;" the fancy is iastantly entertained with all the corresponding circumstances between these two objects. At the same instant we behold a certain period of human life, and a certain time of the day so connected, that the imagination plays be

tween them with delight, and views at once two similar objects without embarrassment.

Figures are also attended with the additional advantage of giving us a more clear and striking view of the principal object, than if it were expressed in simple terms, and freed from its accessory idea. They exhibit the object, on which they are employed, in a picturesque form ; they render an abstract conception in some degree an object of sense; they surround it with circumstances, which enable the mind to lay hold of it steadily, and to contemplate it fully. By a well adapted figure, even conviction is assisted, and a truth is impressed upon the mind with additional liveliness and force. Thus in the following passage of Dr. Young ; " When we dip too deep in pleasure, we always stir a sediment, that renders it impure and noxious.” When an image preseots such a resemblance between a moral and a sensible idea, it serves, like an argument from analogy, to enforce what the author advances, and to induce belief.

All tropes being founded on the relation which one object bears to another, the name of the one may be substituted for that of the other; and by this the vivacity of the idea is generally increased. The relation between a cause and its effect, is one of the first and most obvious. Hence the cause is sometimes figuratively put for the effect. Thus Mr. Addison, writing of Italy, says,

Blossoms, and fruits, and flowers together rise, And the whole year in gay confusion lies. Here the “whole year” is plainly meant to signify the productions of the year. The effect

grey hairs"

is also often put for the cause ; as for “ old age,” which produces grey hairs; and “ shade,” for the “ trees,” which cause the shade. The relation between the container and the thing contained is so intimate and apparent, as naturally to give rise to tropes.

-Ille impiger hausit
Spumantem pateram, et pleno se proluit auro.

Where it is obvious, that the cup and gold are pot for the liquor, contained in the golden cup. The name of a country is often used to signify its inhabitants. To pray for the assistance of heaven is the same with praying for the assistance of God, who is in heaven. The relation between a sign and the thing signified is another source of tropes. Thus,

Cedant arma togæ; concedat laurea linguæ. Here the “ toga,” which is the badge of the civil professions, and the “ laurel,” that of military honours, are each of them put for the civil and military characters themselves. Tropes, founded on these several relations of cause and effect, container and contained, sign and thing signified, are called by the name of metonomy.

When a trope is founded on the relation between an antecedent and its consequent, it is called a metalepsis ; as in the Roman phrase, “ fuit," ors vixit,” to signify that one was dead. Ilium et ingens gloria Teucrum” expresses that the glory of Troy is no more.

When the whole is put for a part, or a part for the whole; a genus for a species, or a spe

66 Fuit

cies for a genus; the singular number for the plural, or the plural for the singular; in general, when any thing less, or any thing more, is put for the precise object meant; the figure is then termed a synecdoche. We say, for instance, 66 A fleet of so many sail," instead of so many

ships ;" we frequently use the “head” for the “person,” the “ pole” for the 56 earth,” the 66 waves" for the 56 sea." An attribute is often used for its subject; as, “ youth and beauty," for the " young and beautiful ;?? and sometimes a subject for its attribute. But the relation by far the most fruitful of tropes, is similitude, which is the sole foundation of metaphor.

[ocr errors]

METAPHOR. METAPHOR is founded entirely on the resemblance, which one object bears to another. It is, therefore, nearly allied to simile or comparison ; and is indeed a comparison in an abridged form. When we say of a great minister," he upholds the state, like a pillar, which supports the weight ot' an edifice," we evidently make a comparison; but, when we say of him, he is “the pillar of the state," it becomes a metaphor.

Of all the figures of speech none approaches so near to painting, as metaphor. It gives light and strength to description; makes intellectual ideas in some degree visible, by giving them colour, substance, and sensible qualities. To produce this effect, however, a delicate hand is requisile; for by a little inaccuracy we may introduce confusion instead of promoting perspicuky.

Several rules therefore must be given for the proper management of metaphors.

The first rule respecting metaphors is, they must be suited to the nature of the subject; neither too numerous, nor too gay, nor too elevated for it; we must neither attempt to force the subject by the use of them into a degree of elevation, not congruous to it; nor on the contrary suffer it to fall below its proper dignity. Some metaphors are beautiful in poetry, which would be unnatural in prose; some are graceful in orations, which would be highly improper in historical or philosophical composition. Figures are the dress of sentiment. They should consequently be adapted to the ideas which they are intended to adorn.

The second rule respects the choice of objects, whence metaphors are to be drawn. The field for figurative language is very wide. All nature opens her stores and allows us to collect them without restraint. But we must beware of using such allusions as raise in the mind disagreeable, mean, low, or dirty ideas. To render a metaphor perfect, it must not only be apt, but pleasing ; it must entertain as well as enlighten. Dryden, therefore, can hardly escape the imputation of a very unpardonable breach of delicacy, when he observes to the Earl of Dorset, that bad poems carry

their owners'marks about them; some brand or other on this buttock, or that ear ; that it is notorious, who are the owners of the cattle.” The most pleasing metaphors are derived from the frequent occurrences of art and nature, or from the civil transactions and customs of mankind. Thus, how expressive, yet at the


« AnteriorContinuar »