Page images
PDF
EPUB

We cannot free the lady that sits there,

Bound in strong fetters, fixed and motionless.' To reverse this rod, to spell the charm backwards, to break the ties that bound a stupified people to the seat of enchantment, was the noble aim of Milton.”

In this example, a striking passage, selected from the works which the reviewer is examining, is used as an illustration, and the effect is good. The pleasure which it affords us, is similar to that derived from a sprightly turn in conversation. We all know, that it adds much to the point of a witty remark, when its author has founded it on an expression just dropped by another. There is a suddenness about it, which is an evidence that it is not premeditated, and which is pleasiny to us. Something of the same kind of pleasure, is without doubt felt, in meeting with allusions of the class to which the preceding example belongs.

Example 10. I shall give but one example more of the Allusion, and this is worthy of notice from the manner of its introduction. It sometimes happens, that a writer meets with a suitable object of allusion in the productions of some author, whose writings are either in a language unknown to most of his readers, or not of sufficient reputation to be regarded as classical. In such instances, the only way is to state the fact or story, and then, on this statement, found the allusion. One caution, in such cases, should always be remembered. Be sure that the allusion is of sufficient importance to justify so formal an introduction. And if ever this is the case, it surely is so in the following example:

'" Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law of her nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a foul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her, during this period of her disguise, were for ever excluded from par- , ticipation in the blessing she bestowed. But to those, who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natu

ral to her, accompanied their footsteps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made them happy in love, and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses, she stings. But woe 'to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her. And happy are those, who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her, in the time of her beauty and glory.”

In the arrangement of the preceding examples of Allusion, reference is had to the division of our associations into universal and arbitrary, which has been made by intellectual philosophers. Classical allusions, whether to standard authors in our own or foreign languages, Historical allusions, and Scriptural allusions, come

nder the head of those of universal association Other instances are those of arbitrary associations. From noticing this distinction it may be seen, why, in the writings of our best authors,—those who write with the hope of being read, when other writers of the age are forgotten,-allusions of the former class are much more frequent, than of the latter. The passing events of the day, and the ephemeral productions of the age, will soon be forgotten; and though an allusion to them may at first cast some light on the passages where they are found, yet at a later time, and in a different place, such allusions will only tend to darken what before they illuminated. Not so with allusions founded on associations that are universal. While the works from which they are derived go down to posterity, gathering new admiration in their progress, these allusions are under, stood, and constitute a bond of connexion between the literary men of different ages, being drawn from the same common storehouse of imagery and facts.

The Comparison, Metaphor, and Allusion, are founded on the fondness of the mind for tracing unexpected resemblances. There are other relations which give rise to other attempts to please. One thing is the cause of another; here is the relation of cause and effect. One thing is the symbol of another; here is the relation of the sign to the thing signified. We look on the goblet, and we think of the generous wine with which it is wont to be filled ; here is the relation of the container to the thing contained. Again, one thing is part of another; here is the relation of a part to the whole. One thing is a species in relation to another which is its genus; here is the relation of the species to the genus.

The relations which have now been stated, are not often formally referred to with the design of illustration or ornament; but instances frequently occur, in which they are implied and suggested to the mind by the peculiar use of a word. The manner in which this is done, has been already shown in the case of the Metaphor.

To give examples of the different tropes, or figures, founded on these several relations, would be of little practical advantage. Besides, in these instances, the writer does not found his attempts to please solely on the fondness of the mind for discovering unexpected relations. It is most frequently his wish to increase the distinctness of the reader's view, or in some other way to excite an emotion of taste. Instead of making these different figures, as the Metonymy, Synecdoche, Metalepsis, and others, distinct objects of attention, I shall more fully explain the nature of the figurative use of language, and in another chapter, when treating of vivacity as a quality of style, give examples of the most important of these figures.

A word is said to be used literally, when it is used in a manner, which is authorized by the general consent of those who speak and write with correctness the language in which it is found. A word is used figuratively, when, though it retains its usual signification, it is applied in a manner different from its common application. When I speak of the pillar which supports the edifice, I use the word pillar literally, or as it is usually applied by those who speak the English language. If I say of a man, that he is the pillar of the state, I still use the word pillar in its common signification, as denoting that which firmly fixed gives a solid support, but I apply the word to an object different from those to which it is usually applied. Instead of a solid mass of wood, or stone, the object to which it is applied is an intelligent being; and, instead of supporting a material edifice, it is the support of the state. This then is an example of the figurative use of language.

It might be expected, that from their being often used in a manner different from their common literal use, the significations of this class of words would in time be subject to change; in examining the history of a language, this is often found to be the case. In our own language, there are many words, which were at first literally applied to material objects only, and figuratively used to denote those which are intellectual. Many of these have now altogether lost their original meaning, and retain only that derived from their figurative use. Who would now speak of the apprehension of a chair, or of the ardour of his fire? But such, in their original signification, was the common use of these words. In other instances, where the signification of the word in its literal use has not become obsolete, the meaning derived from its figurative use is more readily suggested.

It may be said, if this change is progressive, and the meaning of a word, as used figuratively, supersedes the original literal signification, how are we to determine in respect to a word thus changing, whether it be used figuratively or literally? The answer is, that whenever a word of this class ceases to have any influence on the imagination, in leading it to trace out an unexpected relation, it is no longer used figuratively, but its figurative meaning has become its literal. Thus, if a man tells

me that he apprehends my meaning, I understand him to say, that he knows what I would tell him ; but the thought of his “ taking hold” of what I design to tell him, does not enter my mind.

The changes in a language, introduced by the figurative use of words, are injurious, so far as they cause uncertainty in the signification of terms; but this inconvenience is amply compensated by the advantages resulting from the same source. Some of these I shall here mention:

1. The figurative use of words increases the copiousness of a language. It has already been stated, that when a word is used figuratively, its original meaning is retained, but this meaning is modified by the new application which is made. These new applications then are to be regarded as modifications of the original mean. ing of the word, and the effect is similar to the multiplying of derivatives from the radical terms of a language. The following uses of the word “ tide” illustrate this remark :

“ What a tide of woes come rushing on this woeful land !" “ The tide of blood in me hath proudly flowed in vanity.” « There is a tide in the affairs of men." Now these different applications of the word tide do in fact so modify its meaning, that the effect is the same, as if so many new words had been introduced into the language. Thus it is that a language is made more copious.

2. As a necessary consequence from the preceding, the richness of language is increased. We have a greater variety of terms and expressions for conveying the same thought, or describing the same object, and are enabled to mark with distinctness minute shades of difference in our thoughts and in the appearance of objects. To illustrate this remark, I introduce several different ways in which the shining of the Sun is represented :

« EelmineJätka »