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Where a riddle is not intended, it is always a fault in Allegory to be too dark. The meaning should be easily seen through the figure employed to shadow it. However, the proper mixture of light and shade in such compositions, the exact adjustment of all the figurative circumstances with the literal sense, so as neither to lay the meaning too bare and open, nor to

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it up too much, has ever been found an affair of great nicety; and there are few species of composition in which it is more difficult to write so as to please and command attention, than in Allegories. In some of the visions of the Spectator, we have examples of Allegories very happily executed.

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LECTURE XVI.

HYPERBOLE - PERSONIFICATION - APOSTROPHE.

THE

He next Figure concerning which I am to treat is called Hyperbole, or Exaggeration. It consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds. It may be considered sometimes as a Trope, and sometimes as a Figure of thought: and here indeed the distinction between these two classes begins not to be clear, nor is it of any importance that we should have recourse to metaphysical subtilties, in order to keep them distinct. Whether we call it Trope or Figure,

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it is plain that it is a mode of speech which hath some foundation in nature. For in all languages, even in common conversation, hyperbolical expressions very frequently occur; as swift as the wind; as white as the snow; and the like: and our common forms of compliment are almost all of them extravagant Hyperboles. If any thing be remarkably good or great in its kind, we are instantly ready to add to it some exaggerating epithet; and to make it the greatest or best ve ever saw. The imagination has always a tendency to gratify itself, by magnifying its present object, and carrying it to excess. More or less of this hyperbolical turn will prevail in language, according to the liveliness of imagination among the people who speak it. Hence young people deal always much in Hyperboles. Hence the language of the Orientals was far more hyperbolical than that of the Europeans, who are of more phlegmatic, or, if you please, of more correct imagination. Hence, among all writers in early times, and in the rude periods of society, we may expect this Figure to abound. Greater experience, and more cultivated society, abate the warmth of imagination, and chasten the manner of expression.

The exaggerated expressions to which our ears are accustomed in conversation, scarcely strike us as Hyperboles. In an instant we make the proper abatement, and understand them according to their just value. But when there is something striking and unusual in the form of a hyperbolical expression, it then rises into a Figure of Speech which draws our attention: and here it is necessary to observe, that unless the reader's imagination be in such a state as disposes it to rise and swell along with the hyperbolical expression, he is always hurt and offended by it. For a sort of disagreeable force is pat upon him ; he is required to strain and exert his fancy, when he feels no inclination to make any such effort. Hence the Hyperbole is a Figure of difficult management; and ought neither to be frequently used, nor long dwelt upon. On some occasions, it is undoubtedly proper, being, as was before observed, the natural style of a sprightly and heated imagination; but when Hyperboles are unseasonable, or too frequent, they render a composition frigid and unaffecting. They are the resource of an author of feeble imagination; of one, describing objects which either want native dignity in themselves; or whose dignity he cannot shew by describing them simply, and in their just proportions, and is therefore obliged to rest upon tumid and exaggerated expressions.

Hyperboles are of two kinds; either such as are employed in description, or such as are suggested by the warmth of passion. The best by far are those which are the effect of passion : for if the imagination has a tendency to magnify its objects beyond their natural proportion, passion possesses this tendency in a vastly stronger degree; and therefore not only excuses the most daring Figures, but very often renders them natural and just. All passions, without exception, love, terror, amazement, indignation, anger, and even grief, throw the mind into confusion, aggravate their objects, and of course prompt a hyperbolical style.

Hence the following sentiments of Satan in Milton, as strongly as they are described, contain nothing but what is natural and proper ; exhibiting the picture of a mind agitated with rage and despair:

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Me, miserable! which way shall I flie Infinite wrath, and infinite despair ? Which way I flie is Hell, myself am Hell, And in the lowest depth, a lower deep, Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide, To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven. B.iv. 1. 73. In simple description, though Hyperboles are not excluded, yet they must be used with more caution, and require more preparation, in order to make the mind relish them. Either the object described must be of that kind, which of itself seizes the fancy strongly, and disposes it to run beyond bounds; something vast, surprising, and new, or the writer's art must be exerted in heating the fancy gradually, and preparing it to think highly of the object which he intends to exaggerate. When a poet is describing an earthquake or a storm, or when he has brought us into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong Hyperboles without displeasure. But when he is describing only a woman in grief, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such wild exaggeration as the following, in one of our dramatic poets :

I found her on the floor In all the storm of grief, yet beautiful; Pouring forth tears at such a lavish rate, That were the world on fire, they might have drown'd The wrath of Heaven, and quench'd the mighty ruin. LEE. This is mere bombast. The person herself who was under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to hyperbolize strongly ; but the spectator describing her, cannot be allowed an equal liberty : for this plain reason, that the one is supposed to utter the sentiments of passion, the other speaks only the language of description, which is always according to the dictates of nature, on a lower tone: a distinction which, however obvious, has not been attended to by many writers.

How far a Hyperbole, supposing it properly introduced, may be safely carried without over-stretching it; what is the proper measure and boundary of this Figure, cannot, as far as I know, be ascertained by any precise rule. Good sense and just taste must determine the point, beyond which, if we pass, we become extravagant. Lucan may be pointed out as an author apt to be excessive in his Hyperboles. Among the compliments paid by the Roman Poets to their Emperors, it had become fashionable to ask them, what part of the heavens they would chuse for their habitation, after they should have become Gods ? Virgil had already carried this sufficiently far in his address to Augustus :

Tibi brachia contrahit ingens Scorpius, & Cæli justa plus parte relinquit.* GEOR. I. But this did not suffice Lucan. Resolved to outdo all his predecessors, in a like address to Nero, he very gravely beseeches him not to chuse his place near either of the poles, but to be sure to occupy just the middle of the heavens, lest, by going either to one side or other, his weight should overset the universe :

Sed neque in Arctoo sedem tibi legeris orbe
Nec polus adversi calidus qua mergitur austri:
Ætheris immensi partem si presseris unam
Sentiet axis onus. Librati pondera Cæli
Orbe tene medio.t.

PHARS. I. 53.

* “ The Scorpion ready to receive thy laws,

“ Yields half his region, and contracts his paws.”
But, oh! whatever be thy Godhead great,
Fix not in regions too remote thy seat;

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