Imágenes de páginas

with contempt," to the figurative form of construction,“ Cromwell trampled on the laws." To say of soldiers that “ they were brave and courageous,” is infinitely less vivid and expressive than Ileber's powerful language :

« Their limbs all iron, and their souls all flame."

The scantiness or poverty of language is also another cause for the adoption of figurative language to express the conceptions of the imagination and the ardour of passion; the figurative style is therefore made use of, by employing the words or expressions applicable to sensible objects to those mental objects to which they bear some affinity or analogy, or to which the imagination traces some resemblance, in order to render the impression on the mind more strong and vivid.

Thus, the use of figurative language tends to increase the copiousness, richness, and power of speech, and to render it more forcible and vivid, not only by modifying the original meaning of words by new applications, but by enabling the minute shades of difference in thought and in the appearance of objects to be clearly and emphatically expressed. Nor is the decoration and enlivening of language, the imparting of life and animation to what would be otherwise tame and flat, the whole effect produced by the adoption of figurative language; it also has the effect of multiplying the derivatives from the radical terms of a language, and of producing a variety of terms and expressions for conveying the same thought or for describing the same object.

Such is the origin and necessity of figurative language. For the readier and more facile comprehension of the subject, rhetoric, like every other science, distributes itself into distinct or separate parts. In conformity with this primary law of scientific investigation, figurative language distributes itself into two grand subdivisions, tropes or figures of words, and figures of thought or sentiment. In the first mentioned class is comprehended the Metaphor, which includes the Allegory, the Metonymy, the Synecdoche, the Irony, the Antonomasia, the Euphemism, the Periphrasis, the Hyperbole, the Catechresis, the Metalepsis, the Litotes, and a few others. In the second class are comprehended the Comparison or Similitude, the Apostrophe or Exclamation, the Interrogation, the Antithesis or Contrast, Vision or Hypotyposis, the Personification, the Climax, and some others. These shall be treated distinctly.


A metaphor signifies the transference of a word or phrase from its original signification to another meaning to which it has some similitude or analogy: or, in other terms, it is a similitude or comparison comprised in an abridged form, and which predicates of the figurative object the effects that are produced by the real object which the word or phrase denotes in its literal sense. Thus, when we say, “ Thy word guides and instructs us," we express ourselves in plain language; but if we make use of the figurative language, “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,” we express the enlightening in Auence of the word of the Deity on the human mind in a stronger and more lively man

Those metaphors which impart to inanimate objects life and animation, as the current expressions, “ a happy period,” “ a learned age,” “ the thirsty ground," &c., are the most lively and happy.

[ocr errors]


Shakspeare's representation of the progress of human life to a voyage at sea is exquisitely beautiful and expressive :

<< There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is found in shallows and in miseries.” When Burke, in giving the history of the House of Convocation, as it existed in the early constitution of England, observes, that though in latter times it had fallen into practical disuse, yet it still lived in the records of the country, he concludes his discourse with a beautiful specimen of this figure, with the metaphorical allusion, “ Lazarus is not dead, but sleepeth.”

Locke, who has embellished his dry subject with a variety of pleasing similitudes and allusions, has a very appropriate and well-expressed metaphor (Essay Hum. Underst. ch. 10, s. 5.) relating to the retentiveness of the memory; it begins thus : “ Our minds represent to us those tombs to which we

are approaching ; where, though the brass and marble re“ main, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the “ imagination moulders away.”

The following metaphor of Ossian, who is addressing a hero, is incomparably beautiful and appropriate : “ In peace though art the yale of spring ; in war, the mountain storm."

When that most original writer, Green, in his poem on “ The Spleen," speaking of the advantages of exercise in dissipating the gloomy vapours which are engendered in some minds, by alluding to the story of David and Goliah, says, “Throw but a stone, the giant dies,” he makes us sensible of a twofold beauty, by his adoption not only of a metaphor, but also of an illusion.

Many beautiful specimens of this figure, as also of figures of all kinds, are to be found in the Bible, (particularly the Book of Job, the Psalms, and the Prophetical Writings of Isaiah,) which, while it is to be revered as containing the oracles of Eternal Wisdom and lessons of morality for the instruction and guidance of man in his highest and everlasting interests, ought to be no less admired for the rhetorical beauties and ornaments of style with which it abounds.

Few metaphors, however, are more appositely applied, and more elegantly expressed than Burke's on the character of the first Lord Chatham :

“ Even then, Sir," said the English Cicero, “ before this splendid orb was entirely set, and while the western horizon was in a blaze with his descending glory, on the opposite quarter of the heavens arose another luminary, and for his hour became lord of the ascendant.”

That uttered by the late Lord Colchester, when Speaker of the House of Commons, on a motion to inquire into the state and condition of the Poor, is equally beautiful and appropriate :

“ Let the folding-doors of our hearts," said the eloquent speaker, “ be thrown wide open to the calls of our fellow-men,-let the kindly beams of National Charity still gild the windows of the labourer,— Illic sera rubens candescat lumine,-let its purple radiance shine on his morning pillow, and waken him into a world of fellow

Let it be ever ready at the call, or even silent supplication of the distressed :- let it have a crutch for the lame,-a cloak for the naked, and share its crust with the hungry,-let age cease to be a calamity, and sickness a reproach. Let that Supreme Being, who delights in good, in happiness, and in benevolence, and seeks for the representation of himself, not in the countenance, but in the soul of man, look down upon the human stage, and behold his characters acting according to their respective casts,—a race of


Poor, humble, cheerful, and grateful,-cultivating the garden of the earth, and receiving the blessings of the Father of All with innocence and content,-whilst the rich are performing their more splendid, but not more meritorious duties, by becoming the Stewards of Heaven, and the dispensers of its blessings and bounties.”

This figure, if happily and judiciously introduced, forms a spirited and dignified conclusion of an address or a composition. Wolsey's meditation in Shakspeare's Henry VIII. is finely illustrative of this rule :

“ Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness :

This is the state of man. To-day puts forth
The tender leaves of hope ; to-morrow blossoms,
And bears his blushing honours thick upon him :
The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,
And when he thinks, good easy man, full surely,
His greatness is a-ripening, nips his root,
And then he falls, as I do.”

[ocr errors]


A fine example of this figure occurs in Lord Bolingbroke's “ Remarks on the History of England.” He is speaking of the conduct of the unfortunate Charles to the last Parliament of his reign.

“ In a word, about a month after they were assembled, he dissolved them: and no sooner did he dissolve " them than he repented; but he repented too late of his rash

Well might he repent, for the vessel was now full, “ and this last drop made the waters of bitterness overflow.” Here we have a fine and striking resemblance between the vessel being full to the brim, and the people being exceedingly inflamed by the unconstitutional conduct of the king; and as the smallest drop makes a full vessel run over, so the circumslance alluded to caused a flood of resentment to overspread the whole nation.

« AnteriorContinuar »