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The principle here stated is fully illustrated by the nature of the comparisons, which are most frequently introduced in different departments of writing. In pastorals, resemblances are traced to objects and scenes in rural life; in epic and tragic poetry, to such as are of a more exalted and ennobling kind; in comic, to those of a familiar nature. Now, in all these instances, the resemblances are said to be naturally suggested,—there is in them a fitness to the occasion and to the thoughts and feelings of the personages introduced.
EXAMPLE 3.-" The style of Canning is like the convex mirror, which scatters every ray of light which falls upon it, and shines and sparkles in whatever position it is viewed ; that of Brougham is like the concave speculum, scattering no indiscriminate radiance, but having its light concentrated into one intense and tremendous focus."
This comparison strikes us favourably, and should the inquiry be made, why it excites an emotion of taste, we at once refer the pleasure it gives us by its fitness to the design of the writer. He would have us perceive the different characteristic traits of the styles of Canning and Brougham, and every one must see with admiration, how much is effected by the illustration which is introduced.
To illustrate, is most frequently the design of the Comparison; and when in this way the writer seeks to increase the distinctness of the reader's views, the object of resemblance should always be more familiarly known, or such, as to be more distinctly conceived by us, than the object to be illustrated. In the example given, an object of thought is compared to an object of sense, and since objects of sense are generally more distinct to the mind than objects of thought, the effect of the comparison is favourable. Hence, in good illustrative comparisons it will generally be the case, that when objects of thought and sense are brought to vien, the former is illustrated
by the latter. In those exceptions to this principle which
“ The mountain shadows on her breast
Like future joys to fancy's eye.” In this instance, it may be said, that our consciousness of the uncertainty of those future joys which fancy presents, is so strong, that our conceptions of the wavering of mountain shadows on the lake, is aided by the comparison.
Objects of sense are sometimes illustrated by other objects of the same class. In such instances, the illustration is made by means of the more generally known and observed. The following comparison, found in Scott's description of Richard's sickness, is an example :
“ His bright blue eye, which at all times shone with uncommon keenness and splendour, had its vivacity augmented by fever and mental impatience, and glanced from among his curled and unshorn locks of yellow hair, as fitfully and as vividly as the last gleams of the sun shoot through the clouds of an approaching thunder-storm, which still, however, are gilded by its beams."
In determining whether an object is familiarly known, regard must be had to those who are addressed. In a production on a literary subject addressed to literary men, it would be proper to bring to view objects of resemblance, which should not be referred to in writings addressed to children, or to the unlearned. Neither, in what is addressed to a learned audience, would it be proper to introduce, as an object of comparison, a principle in science, or a process in some art, which is comparatively of little importance, and known only to those who are learned in a particular branch of knowledge, or to adepts in a particular art.
The object of resemblance in the example we are now considering, is sufficiently familiar to all who are capable of understanding the production in which it is found, and this is all that is required.
EXAMPLE 4.-" Thus it is with illustrious merit; its very effulgence draws forth the rancorous passions of low and grovelling minds, which too often have a temporary influence in obscuring it to the world ; as the sun, emerging with full splendour into the heavens, calls up, by the very powers of his rays, the rank and noxious vapours which for a time becloud his glory.”
This is called an analogical comparison, and if analysed, it will be found to contain an argument from analogy. We all know that it is the heat of the sun, which calls
up rank and noxious vapours from the earth; and reasoning analogically, we are led to the conclusion, that it is the effulgence of illustrious merit, which draws forth the rancorous passions of low and grovelling minds.
Comparisons of this kind strike us favourably. They aid the writer in imparting to others the opinions he may entertain, and the reasonings on which these opinions are founded. Some men are accustomed to reason in this way, and such are usually eminently successful as instructors, since they are thus enabled to make themselves easily and readily understood. This indeed is the appropriate object of analogical comparisons; and it is a fitness to this design, which causes us to regard those which are well expressed, with emotions of taste.
EXAMPLE 5.-" He lived a wanderer and a fugitive in his native land, and went down, like a lonely bark foundering amid darkness and tempest,—without a pitying eye to weep his fall, or a friendly hand to record his struggle."
This comparison is found at the conclusion of the account, given by Washington Irving, of King Philip. He has made mention of his heroic qualities and noble achievements, and he would excite in the minds of his
readers a feeling of compassionate regret at his miserable and untimely fall. The comparison pleases us. The resemblance on which it is founded, is not too obvious; and it is naturally suggested. But the principal cause of the emotion of beauty which it excites, is its adaptness to the design of the writer. When we think of the lonely bark, “ foundering amid darkness and tempest," it is with strong emotions of compassion and regret ; and by causing the mind to bring this object before its view in connexion with King Philip in his adversity, the writer derives much aid in leading us to regard the latter object with the same emotion.
In this manner, any object or occurrence, which, either from the original constitution of our minds, or from association, is wont to excite an emotion of a particular kind, may be introduced by the writer, and thus a higher interest is thrown over the thoughts he communicates, and increased influence exerted over the minds of his readers. And while the man of literary taste is led to notice the skill and power which is thus displayed, he feels in reflecting on such comparisons, emotions of beauty.
EXAMPLE 6.-" Two or three bushes concealed the mouth of a hole, resembling an oven, into which the Baron (Bradwardine) insinuated, first, his head and shoulders, and then, by slow gradation, the rest of his long body, his legs and feet finally disappearing, coiled up like a huge snake entering his retreat, or a long pedigree introduced with care and difficulty into the narrow pigeon-hole of an old cabinet.”
In this comparison, it is the writer's design to increase the emotion of a ludicrous kind, with which the object he is describing is in itself regarded. The comparison is therefore approved by the man of literary taste, on the principle of fitness, as in the last example. All similar attempts at wit and humour must evidently come under the cognizance of literary taste. But there is a peculiarity in many comparisons, introduced with the
design of exciting emotions of the ludicrous, which requires particular notice. There is frequently nothing in the object compared, or in that to which a resemblance is traced, which is fitted to excite emotions of the ludicrous; but when they are viewed together, an emotion of this kind is produced; and in such instances, the effect of the comparison is to be ascribed to the strangeness of the resemblance which is traced out. An example will more clearly show what is here stated. Of Hudibras it is said :
“ We grant, although he had much wit,
He was very shy of using it;
As men their best apparel do.” Now there is nothing ludicrous in the assertion, that a man possesses wit but does not often show it. Neither is there any thing ludicrous in saying, that a man wears his best apparel only on holidays. But when the objects are brought together and compared, the comparison excites an emotion of a ludicrous nature. Still, in such instances, as in those of which an example was before given, it is the fitness of the comparison to the design of the writer, which causes it to be approved by the man of literary taste.
EXAMPLE 7.-" The poetry of Milton, exhibiting the most sublime conceptions and elevated language, intermingled with passages of uncommon delicacy of thought and beauty of expression, reminds us of the miracles of Alpine scenery. Nooks and dells, beautiful as fairy land, are embosomed in its most rugged and gigantic elevations. The roses and myrtles bloom unchilled on the verge of the avalanche."
This striking and beautiful passage contains a comparison addressed to the imagination of the reader, and brings before him a scene, adapted from the original constitution of the mind, to excite an emotion of taste.