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This is mere bombast. The person herself, who laboured under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to express herself in strong hyperbole; but the spectator, who describes her, cannot be allowed equal liberty. The just boundary of this figure cannot be ascertained by any precise rule. Good sense and an accurate taste must ascertain the limit, beyond which, if it pass, it becomes extravagant.
PERSONIFICATION AND APOSTROPHE. We proceed now to those figures, which lie altogether in the thought, the words being taken in their common and literal sense. We shall begin with personification, by which lifa and action are attributed to inanimate objects. All poetry, even in its most humble form, abounds in this figure. From prose it is far from being excluded; nay, even in common conversation, frequent approaches are made to it. When we say, the earth thirsts for rain, or the fields smile with plenty; when ambition is said to be restless, or a disease to be deceitful ; such expressions show the facility with which the mind can accommodate the properties of living creatures to things inanimate, or abstract conceptions.
There are three different degrees of this figure; which it is requisite to distinguish, in order to determine the propriety of its use. The first is, when some of the properties of living creatures are ascribed to inanimate objects; the second, when those inanimate objects are described as acting like such as have life; and the third, when they are exhibited either as speaking to us, or as listening to what we say to them.
The first and lowest degree of this figure, which consists in ascribing to inanimate objects some of the qualities of living creatures, raises the style so little, that the humblest discourse admits it without
force. Thus a raging storm, a deceitful disease, a cruel disaster,” are familiar expressions. This indeed is so obscure a degree of personification, that it might perhaps be properly classed with simple metaphors, which almost escape our observation.
The second degree of this figure is, when we represent inanimate objects acting like those that have life. Here we rise a step higher, and the personification becomes sensible. According to the nature of the action which we ascribe to those inanimate objects, and to the particularity, with which we describe it, is the strength of the figure. When pursued to a considerable length, it belongs only to studied harangues; when slightly touched, it may be admitted into less elevated compositions. Cicero, for example, speaking of the cases, where killing a man is lawful in self defence, uses the following expressions : “ Aliquando nobis gladius ad occidendum hominein ab ipsis porrigitur legibus." Here the laws are beautifully personified, as reaching forth their hand, to give us a sword for putting a man to death.
In poetry, personifications of this kind are extremely frequent, and are indeed the life and soul of it. In the descriptions of a poet, who has a lively fancy, every thing is animated. Homer, the father of poetry, is remarkable for the use of this figure. War, peace, darts, rivers, every
thing in short, is alive in bis writings. The same is true of Milton and Shakespeare. No personification is more striking, or introduced on a more proper occasion, than the following of Milton upon Eve's eating the forbidden fruit:
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
The third and highest degree of this figure is yet to be mentioned; when inanimate objects are represented, not only as feeling and acting, *but as speaking to us, or listening, while we address them. This is the boldest of all rhetorical figures; it is the style of strong passion only; and therefore should never be attempted, except when the mind is considerably heated and agitated. Milton affords a very beautiful example of this figure in that moving and tender address which Eve makes to Paradise immediately before she is compelled to leave it.
0, unexpected stroke, worse than of death!
This is the real language of nature and of fe.: male passion.
In the management of this sort of personification two rules are to be observed.. First, never attempt it unless prompted by strong passion, and never continue it when the passion begins to subside. The second rule is, 'never personify an object which has not some dignity in itself, and which is incapable of making a proper figure in the elevation to which we raise it. To address the body of a deceased friend is natural; but to address the clothes which he wore, introduces low and degrading ideas. So likewise, addressing the several parts of the body, as if they were animated, is not agreeable to the dignity of passion. For this reason the following passage in Pope's Eloisa to Abelard is liable to censure.
Dear fatal name, rest ever unreveal'd,
Already written blot it out, my tears. Here the name of Abelard is first personified; which, as the name of a person often stands for the person himself, is exposed to no objectión. Next, Eloisa personifies her own heart; and, as the heart is a dignified part of the human frame, and is often put for the mind, this also may pass without censure. But when she addresses her hand, and tells it not to write his name, this is forced and unnatural. Yet the figure becomes still worse, when she exhorts her tears to blot out, what her hand had written. The two last lines are indeed altegether unsuitable to the tenderness, which breathes through the rest of that inimitable poem.
Apostrophe is an address to a real person; but one who is either absent or dead, as if he were present, and listening to us. This figure is in boldness a degree lower than personification; since it requires less effort of imagination to suppose persons present, wbo are dead or absent, than to animate insensible beings, and direct our discourse to them. The poems of Ossian abound in beautiful instances of this figure. “Weep on the rocks of roaring winds, O Maid of Inistore. Bend thy fair head over the waves, thou fairer than the ghost of the hills, when it moves in a sun beam at noon over the silence of Morven. He is fallen. Thy youth is low; pale beneath the sword of Cuchullin."
COMPARISON, ANTITIESIS, INTERROGATION, EXCLAMATION, AND OTHER FIGURES OF SPEECH.
A COMPARISON, or simile is, when the resemblance between two objects, is expressed in form, and usually pursued more fully iban the nature of a metaphor admits. As when we say, actions of princes are like those great rivers, the course of which every one beholds, but their springs have been seen by few." This short instance will show that a happy comparison is a sort of sparkling ornament, which adds lustre and beauty to discourse.
All comparisons may be reduced under two heads; explaining and embellishing comparisons. For, when a writer compares an object with any other thing, it always is, or ought to be, with a