« EelmineJätka »
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 selfdefence, uses the following expressions : “ Aliquando nobis gladius ad occidendum hominem ad 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 his 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 fig. ures; it is the style of strong passion only; and therefore should never be attempted, except when the mind is considerably beated 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.
Oh, unexpected stroke, worse than of death!
This is the real language of nature and of female 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, introdu ces 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 unreveald,
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 objection. 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 altogether unsuitable to the tenderness which breathes through the rest of that inimita
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 who 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 Instore. 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 Cuthullin."
COMPARISON....ANTITHESIS....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 than the nature of a metaphor admits. As when we say, “ The actions of princes are like those of 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 view to make us understand that object more clearly, or to render it more pleasing. Even abstract reasoning admits explaining comparisons. For instance, the distinction between the powers of sense and imagination is in Mr. Harris's Ilermes illustrated by a simile : “ As way,” says he, “ would not be adequate to the purpose of signature, if it had not the power to retain as well as to receive the impression; the same holds of the soul with respect to sense and imagination. Sense is its receptive power, and imagination its retentive. Had it sense without imagination, it would not be as wax but as water; where, though all impressions be instantly made, yet as soon as they are made, they are lost.” In comparisons of this kind, perspicuity and usefulness are chiefly to be studicd.
But embellishing comparisons are those which most frequently occur. Resemblance, it has been observed is the foundation of this figure. Yet resemblance must not be taken in too strict a sense for actual similitude. Two objects may raise a train of concordant ideas in the mind, though they l'esemble each other, strictly speaking, in nothing. For example, to describe the nature of soft and melancholy music, Ossian says, “ The music of Carryl was, like the memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul.” This is happy and delicate ; yet no kind of music bear s any resemblance to the memory of past joys.
We shall now consider when comparisons may be introduced with propriety. Since they are the language of imagination, rather than passion, an author can hardly commit a greater fault, than in the midst of passion to introduce a simile. Our writers of tragedies often err in this respect. Thus Addison in his Cato makes Portius, just after Lucia bad bid him farewell forever, express himself in a studied comparison.
Thus o'er the dying lamp the unsteady flame
As comparison is not in the style of strong passion, so when designed for embellishment, it is not the language of a mind totally unmoved. Being a figure of dignity, it always requires some elevation in the subject to make it proper. It supposes the imagination to be enlivened, though the heart is not agitated by passion.-The lan