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a good rule to form a picture of them, and to consider how the parts agree and what kind of figure the whole presents, when delineated with a pen
Metaphors, in the sixth place, should not be crowded together on the same object. Though each of them be distinct, yet if they be heaped on one another, they produce confusion. The following passage from Horace will exemplify this observation.
Motum ex Metello consule civicum,
This passage, though very poetical, is rendered harsh and obscure by three distinct metaphors crowded together. First, "arma uncta cruroribus nondum expiatis;" next, "opus plenum periculosa alea ;" and then, "incedis per ignes suppositos cineri doloso."
The last rule concerning metaphors is, they should not be too far pursued. For when the resemblance, which is the foundation of the figure, is long dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, an allegory is produced instead of a metaphor; the reader is wearied, and the discourse becomes obscure. This is termed straining a metaphor. Dr. Young, whose imagination was more distinguished by strength, than delicacy, is often guilty of running down his metaphors. Speaking of old age, he says, it should
Walk thoughtful on the silent, solemn shore
And put good works on board; and wait the wind
The two first lines are uncommonly beautiful; but when he continues the metaphor by "putting good works on board, and waiting the wind," it is strained and sinks in dignity.
Having treated of metaphor, we shall conclude this chapter with a few words concerning allegory.
An ALLEGORY is a continued metaphor; as it is the representation of one thing by another that resembles it. Thus Prior makes Emma describe her constancy to Henry in the following allegorical manner :
Did I but purpose to embark with thee
On the smooth surface of a summer's sea,
The same rules that were given for metaphors, may be applied to allegories on account of the affinity between them. The only material difference beside the one being short and the other prolonged is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their proper and literal meaning; as, when we say, "Achilles was a lion ;" an able minister is the pillar of the state." Lion and pillar are here sufficiently interpreted by the mention of Achilles and the minister, which are joined to them; but an allegory may be allowed to stand less connect
ed with the literal meaning; the interpretation not being so plainly pointed out, but left to our own reflection.
HYPERBOLE consists in magnifying an object beyond its natural bounds. This figure occurs very frequently in all languages, even in common conversation. As swift as the wind; as white as snow; and our usual forms of compliment are in general extravagant hyperboles. From habit, however, these exaggerated expressions are seldom considered as hyperbolical.
Hyperboles are of two kinds; such as are employed in description, or such as are suggested by passion. Those are far best which are the effect of passion; since it not only gives rise to the most daring figures, but often renders them just and natural. Hence the following passage in Milton, though extremely hyperbolical, contains nothing but what is natural and proper. It exhibits the mind of Satan agitated by rage and despair.
Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
In simple description, hyperboles must be employed with more caution. When an earthquake
or storm is described, or when our imagination is carried into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong hyperboles without displeasure. But, when only a woman in grief is presented to our view, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such exaggeration as the following, in one of our dramatic poets:
-I found her on the floor
In all the storm of grief, yet beautiful,
That, were the world on fire, they might have drown'd
This is mere bombast. The person herself, who laboured under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to express herself in strong hyperbole; but the spectator, who describes her, cannot be allowed equal liberty. The just boundary of this figure cannot be ascertained by any precise rule. Good sense and an accurate taste must ascertain the limit, beyond which, if it pass, it becomes extravagant.
PERSONIFICATION AND APOSTROPHE.
WE proceed now to those figures which lie altogether in the thought, the words being taken in their common and literal sense. We shall begin with PERSONIFICATION, by which life and action are attributed to inanimate objects. All poetry, even in its most humble form, abounds in this figure. From prose it is far from being ex
cluded; nay, even in common conversation, frequent approaches are made to it. When we say, the earth thirsts for rain, or the fields smile with plenty; when ambition is said to be restless, or a disease to be deceitful; such expressions show the facility with which the mind can accommodate the properties of living creatures to things inanimate, or abstract conceptions.
There are three different degrees of this figure; which it is requisite to distinguish, in order to determine the propriety of its use. The first is, when some of the properties of living ereatures are ascribed to inanimate objects; the second when those inanimate objects are described as acting like such as have life; and the third, when they are exhibited either as speaking to us, or as listening to what we say to them.
The first and lowest degree of this figure, which consists in ascribing to inanimate objects some of the qualities of living creatures, raises the style so little, that the humblest discourse admits it without any force. Thus, “a raging storm, a deceitful disease, a cruel disaster," are familiar expressions. This indeed is so obscure a degree of personification, that it might perhaps be properly classed with simple metaphors which almost escape our observation.
The second degree of this figure is, when we represent inanimate objects acting like those that have life. Here we raise a step higher, and the Personification becomes sensible. According to the nature of the action which we ascribe to those inanimate objects, and to the particularity with which we describe it, is the strength of the figure. When pursued to a considerable length,