Imágenes de páginas

same time how familiar, is the image which Otway has put into the mouth of Metellus in his play of Caius Marius, where he calls Sulpicus

That mad wild bull, whom Marius lets loose On each occasion, when he'd make Rome feel him, To toss our laws and liberties in the air. In the third place a metaphor should be founded on a resemblance, which is clear and striking, not far fetched, nor difficult to be discovered. Harsh or forced metaphors are always displeasing, because they perplex the reader, and instead of illustrating the thought, render it intricate and confused. Thus, for instance, Cowley, speaking of his mistress, expresses himself in the following forced and obscure verses :

Wo to her stubborn heart; if once mine come

Into the self-same room,
"Twill tear and blow up all within,
Like a grenado, shot into a magazine.
Then shall love keep the ashes and torn parts

Of both our broken hearts ;
Shall out of both one new one make;
From her's the alloy, from mine the metal take ;
For of her heart he from the flames will find

But little left behind;
Mine only will remain entire ;

No dross was there to perish in the fire. Metaphors, borrowed from any of the sciences, especially from particular professions, are almost always faulty by their obscurity.

In the fourth place, we must never jumble metaphorical and plain language together; never construct a period so, that part of it must be understood metaphorically, part literally ; which always produces confusion. The works of Ossian

afford an instance of the fault we are now censuring 6 Trothal went fort with the stream of his people, but they met a rock; for Fingal stood unmoved; broken, they rolled back from his side. Nor did they roll in safety; the spear of the king pursued their flight.” The metaphor at the beginning is beautiful; the 5 stream,” the “unmoved rock,” the "waves rolling back broken," are expressions in the proper and consistent language of figure; but in the end, when we are told, “ they did not roll in safety, because the spear of the king pursued their flight,” the literal meaning is injudiciously mixed with the metaphor; they are at the same moment presented to us as waves that roll, and as men that may be pursued and wounded by a spear.

In the fifth place, take care not to make two different metaphors meet on the same object. This, which is called mixed metaphor, is one of the grossest abuses of this figure. Shakespeare's expression, for example, "to take arms against a sea of troubles," makes a mostupnatural medley, and entirely confounds the imagination. More correct writers than Shakespeare, are sometimes guilty of this error. Mr. Addison says, 66 there is not a single view of human nature, which is not sufficient to extinguish the seeds of pride. Here a view is made to extinguish, and to extinguish seeds.

In examining the propriety of metaphors it is a good rule to form a picture of them, and to consider how the parts agree, and what kind of figure the whole presents, when delineated with a pencil.

Metaphors, in the sixth place, should not be crowded together on the same object. Though


each of them be distinct, yet, if they be heaped
on one another, they produce confusion. The
following passage from Horace will exemplify
this observation :

Motum ex Metello consule civicum
Bellique causas, et vitia, et modos,

Ludumque fortunæ, gravesque

Principum amicitias, et arma
Nondum expiatis uncta cruoribus,
Periculosæ plenum opus aleæ,

Tractas, et incedis per ignes

Suppositos cineri doloso. This passage, though very poetical, is rendered barsh and obscure by three distinct metaphors' crowded together. First, arma uncta cruoribus nondum expiatis ;" next, “ opus plenum periculosa alec ;” and then, “ incedis per ignes suppositos cineri doloso.

The last rule concerning metaphors is, they should not be too far pursued. For, when the resemblance, which is the foundation of the tigure, is long dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, an allegory is produced instead of a metaphor; the reader is wearied, and the discourse becomes obscure. This is termed straining a metaphor. Dr. Young, whose imagination was more distinguished by strength, than delicacy, is often guilty of running down his metaphors. 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; but, when he contiaues the metaphor by “pul

ting good works on board, and waiting the wind," it is strained, and sinks in dignity.

Having treated of metaphor, we shall conclude this chapter with a few words concerning allegory.

An allegory is a continued metaphor; as it is the representation of one thing by another that resembles it. Thus Prior makes #mma describe her constancy to Henry in the following allegorical manner.

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? The same rules that were give for metaphors, may be applied to allegories on account of the affinity between them. The only material difference beside the one being short and the other prolonged is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their

proper and literal meaning; as when we say, Achilles was a lion;" “ an able minister is the pillar of the state.” Lion and pillar are here sufficiently interpreted by the mention of Achilles and the minister, which are joined to them; but an allegory may be allowed to stand less connected with the literal meaning; the interpretation not being so plainly pointed out, but lest to our own reflection.

[ocr errors]

HYPERBOLE. HYPERBOLE consists in magoifying an object beyond its natural bounds. This figure occurs very frequently in all languages, even in common conversation. As swift as the wind; as white as snow; and our usual forms of complimentare in general extravagant hyperboles. From habit, however, these exaggerated expressions are seldom considered, as hyperbolical.

Hyperboles are of two kinds ; such as are employed in description, or such as are suggested by passion. Those are far best which are the effect of passion; since it not only gives rise to the most daring figures, but often renders them just and natural. Hence, the following passage in Milton, though extremely hyperbolical, contains nothing but what is natural and proper. It exhibits the mind of Satan agitated by 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 devour me, opens wide,

To which the hell, I suffer, seems a heaven. Io simple description, hyperboles must be employed with more caution. When an earthquake or storm is described, or when our imagination is carried into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong hyperboles without displeasure. But, when only a woman in grief is presented to our view, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such 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.

« AnteriorContinuar »