Imágenes de páginas

For the purpose of rendering description forcible and vivid, a change of tense is often made use of by this figure, as the past for the present; and for the same purpose conjunctions are omitted. Thus, Cæsar's description of a rout: (Nostri emissis pilis, gladiis rem gerunt; repente post tergum equitatus cernitur; cohortes aliæ appropinquant. Hostes terga vertunt; fugientibus equites occurrunt; fit magna cædis.) “Our men “ having discharged their javelins attack sword in hand; on

a sudden the cavalry appears in the rear; other cohorts 66 advance. The enemy take to fight; our cavalry come up “ with the fugitives; a great slaughter ensues.”

The saine author's celebrated expression (veni, vidi, vici) “ I came, I

I conquered,” admirably expresses the rapidity and quick succession of his plans, attack and conquest; and Cicero's (abiit, excessit, evasit, erupit,)“ He is gone, he is de

parted, he is escaped, he has burst away,” is equally expressive of Cataline’s impetuosity to join his fellow conspirators.



The apostrophe is the bestowing of an ideal presence on the absent or the dead; or it is an address to inanimate nature, as if it were endowed with sense and reason. Thus Demosthenes, to justify the unsuccessful action of Chenoræa, calls up those heroes who fell in the battles of Marathon and Platæa, and swears by them, that their fellow-citizens had done well in their endeavours to support the same cause. And thus Cicero, in his Oration for Milo, addressed himself to the great patriots who had shed their blood for the public, and called on them for the defence of his client : (“ Vos, vos, appello, fortissimi 6 viri, qui mult pro patria sanguinem effudistis.") And


thus he invoked the hills and groves to bear witness to the pollution of Cataline. (“ Vos enim, Albani tumuli atque luci,

vos inquam, imploro atque obtestor.”) In the Life of Agricola, Tacitus, while expatiating on the cruelty of the tyrant whom that celebrated general had served, at length apostrophises his spirit in a noble style of eloquence, beginning “ Tu vero, “ felix Agricola,” and ending “ placide quiescas ! ”

Quinctilian affords a fine exemplification of apostrophic composition, when, in the beginning of the sixth book of his " Institutions,” deploring the untimely death of his favorite son, which had happened during the course of the work, he addresses the departed spirit in the following tender and affecting manner :

" Tuosne ergo, O meæ spes inanes! labentes oculos, tuum fugientem spiritum vidi? Tuum corpus frigidum, exangue complexus, animum recipere, auramque communem haurire amplius potui? Tene, consulari nuper adoptione ad omnium spes honorum patris admotum, te, avunculo prætori generum destinatum ; te, omnium spe Atticæ eloquentiæ candidatum, parens superstes tantum ad pænas amisi ?”

Oh! my blasted hopes ! do I live to say, that I saw thy eyes swimming in death, and heard the last groan issue from thy lips ? that I embraced thy cold, thy inanimate corpse, and felt thy dying grasp ? Hast thou left me, my son, a childless father, reserved to drag on a wretched life? Thou, who wert so lately, by consnlar adoption, entitled to succeed to all thy father's honours ? Thou, whom a prætor, thy uncle, had marked out for his son-in-law ? Thou, who wouldst also have restored eloquence to all her native glories ? Thou art gone, while I am reserved to suffer grief and affliction.”

Sir Walter Raleigh, on bringing his History of the World to a close, finishes the work in the following specimen of this figure, which is full of pathos and eloquence, on the evanescent nature of human pride and grandeur,

“ O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath Aattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised : thou hast drawn together all the far-fetched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered all over with these two narrow words, Hic jacet.

The Scriptures, and the writings of Shakspeare, Ossian, and Milton, exhibit many splendid specimens of this figure. In the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, from the fourth to the nineteenth verse, where the prophet describes the fall of the king of Babylon, one of the boldest and sublimest apostrophes occurs that is to be found in any composition; in it all nature, animate and inanimate, is apostrophized. Shakspeare's apostrophe to sleep in Henry IV. is very natural. Ossian's address to the moon is one of the most splendid specimens of this species of composition in any language. Adam's Morning Hymn in Paradise Lost is a chain of the most beautiful apostrophes; and his soliloquy on the unhappy condition to which his disobedience had reduced him, presents a specimen of the highest rhetorical beauty :

“ O woods, O fountains,

With other echoes late I taught your shades
To answer and resound far other song."


The climax or gradation is the gradual ascent of a subject from a less to a higher interest, by an exaggeration of its circumstances. The perfection of this figure consists in the natural rising of the steps, and their close connection. Such

is Shakspeare's Seven Ages of Life. Such also is Adam's expression of extatic delight on his first sight of Eve :

thy perfect gift, so good, So fit, so acceptable, so divine.” Such the same immortal bard's description of the mystic union produced by the sacred ceremony of marriage: “ One “ flesh, one heart, one soul.” And such his reprobation of promiscuous concubinage : “ Loveless, joyless, unendeared."

The delineation by the poet of the Pleasures of the Imagination, (book i. ver. 151 to 212,) of the progress of the mind through the various departments of the creation, ascending from the contemplation of terrestrial images, and gradually exalting itself to the higher regions of the universe, until rising from the created to the Creator, it loses itself in infinite perfection, is a perfect, if not a matchless specimen of this form of figurative language. Addison, in the 215th number of the Spectator, has a beautiful climax of circumstances rising one above another, when he is describing the treatment of Negroes in the West Indies.

In Mackenzie, the Scottish advocate's address to a jury about to decide on the fate of a young woman accused of infanticide, a splendid instance of this figure occurs :

Gentlemen, if one man had any how slain another, if an adversary had killed his opposer, or a woman had occasioned the death of her enemy, the criminal would have been capitally punished by the Cornelian law: but if this guiltless infant, who could make no enemy, had been murdered by his own nurse, what punishments would the mother have demanded! with what cries and exclamations would she have stunned your ears! What shall we say then, when a woman guilty of homicide, a mother of the murder of her innocent child, hath comprised all these misdeeds in one single crime? a crime in its

[ocr errors]

own nature detestable; in a woman prodigious; in a mother incre. dible; and perpetrated against one whose age called for compassion, whose near relation claimed affection, and whose innocence deserved the highest favour.”

The anti-climax, which is a figure generally employed in burlesque writing or speaking, is when the most forcible of the exaggerated epithets are ranged first. Thus, among many instances of this figure in that admirable satire, “The Art of Sinking in Poetry," a production which also contains much useful instruction to those studying the principles of composition, the following is very appropriate

“ The great Dalhousie, the great god of war,

Lieutenant-colonel to the Earl of Mar." The incrementum or anabasis, and the decrementum or catabasis, are referable to this figure. The following are good specimens of these rhetorical figures :

“ But if credit, if interest, if happiness are of no estimation in your eyes, think on the consequences, think on the precepts of religion, think on the hopes of immortality!"

“ What a piece of workmanship is man? how noble in reason! how transcendent in faculties, in form !”.

The other rhetorical figures of speech and sentiment of most frequent occurrence are the Amplification, the Expostulation, the Exclamation, the Interrogation, the Rejection, the Pretermission, the Correction, the Concession, the Anticipation, the Repetition, the Aposiopesis, and the Sermocination.


The amplification is a figure employed for the expansion of

« AnteriorContinuar »