Imágenes de páginas

For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

Genesis, XIII. 15, 16.
Illa vel intactæ segetis per summa volaret
Gramina: nec teneras cursu læsisset aristas. Æneid, VII. 808.
* Outstripped the winds in speed upon the plain,
Flew o'er the field, nor hurt the bearded grain.

Atque imo barathri ter gurgite vastos
Sorbet in abruptum fluctus, rursusque sub auras
Erigit alternos, et sidera verberat undâ. Æneid, III. 421.
And in her greedy whirlpool sucks the tides,
Then spouts them from below; with fury driven,
The waves mount up, and wash the face of heaven.

Horificis juxta tonat Ætna ruinis,
Interdumque atram prorumpit ad æthera nubem,
Turbine fumantem piceo et candente favilla :
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit. Æneid, III. 571.
The port capacious and secure from wind
Is to the foot of thundering Ætna joined,
By turns a patchy cloud she rolls on high,
By turns hot ernbers from her entrails fly,

And flakes of mountain flames that lick the sky.
Speaking of Polyphemus :

Ipse arduus, altaque pulsat

Æneid, III. 619.
Erects his head, and stares within the skies.

When he speaks,
The air, a charter'd libertine, is still. Henry V. Act I, Sc. I.
Now shield with shield, with helmet helmet clos'd,
To armor armor, lance to lance oppos’d.
Host against host with shadowy squadrons drew,
The sounding darts in iron tempests flew.
Victors and vanquish'd join promiscuous cries,
And shrilling shouts and dying groans arise;
With streaming blood the slipp'ry fields are dy'd,

And slaughter'd heroes swell the dreadful tide. Iliad, IV. 508. The following may also pass, though far stretched:

E conjungendo à temerario ardire
Estrema forza, e infaticabil lena
Vien che si'impetuoso il ferro gire,
Che ne trema la terra, e'l ciel balena. Gierusalem, Cant. VI. st. 46.
Uniting force extreme, with endlesse wrath,

Supporting both with youth and strength untired,
His thundering blows so fast about he la'th,

That skies and earth the flying sparkles fired. Fairfar. Quintillian † is sensible that this figure is natural: "For," says he, “ not contented with truth, we naturally incline to augment or diminish beyond it; and for that reason the hyperbole is familiar even among the vulgar and illiterate:” and he adds very justly, "That the hyperbole is then proper, when the subject of itself exceeds the common measure. From these premises, one would not expect the following inference, the only reason he can find for justifying this figure of speech, * Conceditur enim amplius dicere,

* Camilla, the Volscian heroine. + L. VIII. cap. 6. in fin.

quia dici quantum est non potest : meliusque ultra quam citra stat oratio." (We are indulged to say more than enough, because we cannot say enough; and it is better to be above than under.) In the name of wonder, why this childish reasoning, after observing that the hyperbole is founded on human nature ? I could not resist this personal stroke of criticism; intended not against our author, for no human creature is exempt from error, but against the blind veneration that is paid to the ancient classic writers, without distinguishing their blemishes from their beauties.

Having examined the nature of this figure, and the principle on which it is erected, I proceed, as in the first section, to the rules by which it ought to be governed. And, in the first place, it is a capital fault, to introduce an hyperbole in the description of any thing ordinary or familiar; for in such a case, it is altogether unnatural, being destitute of surprise, its only foundation. Take the following instance, where the subject is extremely familiar, viz. swimming to gain the shore after a shipwreck.

I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs; he trode the water,
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swoln that met him: his bold head
'Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oar'd
Himself with his good arms, in lusty strokes
To th' shore, that o'er his wave-borne basis bow'd,
As stooping to relieve him.

Tempest, Act II. Sc. I. In the next place, it may be gathered from what is said, that an hyperbole can never suit the tone of any dispiriting passion : sorrow, in particular, will never prompt such a figure; for which reason the following hyperboles must be condemned as unnatural:

K. Rich. Aumerle, thou weep’st, my tender-hearted cousin !
We'll make foul weather with despised tears :
Our sighs, and they, shall lodge the summer-corn,
And make a dearth in this revolting land.

Richard II. Act III. Sc. 3.
Draw them to Tyber's bank, and weep your tears
Into the channel, till the lowest stream

Do kiss the most exalted shores of all. Julius Casar, Act I. Sc. I. Thirdly, a writer, if he wish to succeed, ought always to have the reader in his eye: he ought in particular never to venture a bold thought or expression, till the reader be warmed and prepared. For that reason, an hyperbole in the beginning of a work can never be in its place. Example:

Jam pauca aratro jugera regiæ
Moles relinquent. Horat. Carm. 1. 2. ode 15.
So great our palaces are now,

They'll leave few acres for the plough. The nicest point of all, is to ascertain the natural limits of an hyperbole, beyond which being overstrained it has a bad effect. Longinus, in the above-cited chapter, with great propriety of thought, enters a caveat against an hyperbole of this kind : he compares it to a bow-string, which relaxes by overstraining, and produces an effect

directly opposite to what is intended. To ascertain any precise boun-
dary, would be difficult, if not impracticable. Mine shall be an
humbler task, which is, to give a specimen of what I reckon over-
strained hyperbole; and I shall be brief upon them, because exam-
ples are to be found every where; no fault is more common among
writers of inferior rank; and instances are found even among classi-
cal writers; witness the following hyperbole, too bold even for an
Hotspur talking of Mortimer:

In single opposition hand to hand,
He did contound the best part of an hour
In changing hardiment with great Glendower.
Three times they breath'd, and three times did they drink,
Upon agreement, of swift Severn's flood,
Who then affrighted with their bloody looks,
Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds,
And hid his crisp'd head in the hollow bank,
Blood-stained with these valiant combatants.

First Part Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 3.
Speaking of Henry V.,

England ne'er had a king until his time:
Virtue he had, deserving to command:
His brandish'd sword did blind men with its beams :
His arms spread wider than a dragon's wings:
His sparkling eyes, replete with awful fire,
More dazzled, and drove back his enemies,
Than mid-day sun fierce bent against their faces.
What should I say? his deeds exceed all speech:
He never lifted up his hand, but conquer'd.

First Part Henry VI. Act I. Sc. I. Lastly, an hyperbole, after it is introduced with all advantages, ought to be comprehended within the fewest words possible: as it cannot be relished but in the hurry and swelling of the mind, a leisurely view dissolves the charm, and discovers the description to be extravagant at least, and perhaps also ridiculous. This fault is palpable in a sonnet which passes for one of the most complete in the French language. Phillis, in a long and florid description, is made as far to outshine the sun as he outshines the stars.

Le silence regnoit sur la terre et sur l'onde,
L'air devenoit serain et l'Olimpe vermeil,
Et l'amoureux Zephir affranchi du sommeil,
Ressuscitoit les fleurs d'une haleine séconde.
L'Aurore déployoit l'or de sa tresse blonde,
Et semoit de rubis le chemin du soleil ;
Enfin ce Dieu venoit au plus grand appareil
Qu'il soit jamais venu pour éclairer le monde.
Quand la jeune Phillis au visage riant,
Sortant de son palais plus clair que l'orient,
Fit voir une lumiere et plus vive et plus belle.
Sacre flambeau du jour, n'en soyez point jaloux.
Vous parûtes alors aussi peu devant elle,

Que les feux de la nuit avoient fait devant vous. Malleville. There is in Chaucer a thought expressed in a single line, which gives more lustre to a young beauty, than the whole of this much

Up rose the sun, and up rose Emelie.

labored poem :


The means or instrument, conceived to be the agent-Examples. When we survey a number of connected objects, that which makes the greatest figure employs chiefly our attention; and the emotion it raises, if lively, prompts us even to exceed nature in the conception we form of it. Take the following examples:

For Neleus' son Alcides' rage had slain.

A broken rock the force of Pirus threw. In these instances, the rage of Hercules and the force of Pirus, being the capital circumstances, are so far exalted as to be conceived the agents that produce the effects.

In the following instances, hunger being the chief circumstance in the description, is itself imagined to be the patient. Whose hunger has not tasted food these three days. Jane Shore.

As when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill.

Paradise Losi.
As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day
Wav'd round the coast, upcall'd a pitchy cloud
Of locusts.

Paradise Lost.


A figure which, among related objects, extends the properties of one to another

Without a name— The foundation of this figure-Not warrantable, except among things intimately connected— An attribute of a cause for an attribute of an effect-Ăn effect as of a cause-An effect expressed as an attribute of a cause-An attribute of a subject bestowed on one of its parts—A quality of an agent ascribed to an instrument— The object on which it operates—Quality one subject gives another—Circumstances expressed as a quality of a subject—The property of one object transferred to another.

This figure is not dignified with a proper name, because it has been overlooked by writers. It merits, however, a place in this work; and must be distinguished from those formerly handled, as depending on a different principle. Giddy brink, jovial wine, daring wound, are examples of this figure. Here are adjectives that cannot be made to signify any quality of the substantives to which they are joined: a brink, for example, cannot be termed giddy in a sense, either proper or figurative, that can signify any of its qualities or attributes. When we examine attentively the expression, we discover, that a brink is termed giddy from producing that effect in those who stand on it. In the same manner a wound is said to be daring, not with respect to itself

, but with respect to the boldness of the person

who inflicis it: and wine is said to be jovial, as inspiring mirth and jollity. Thus the attributes of one subject are extended to another with which it is connected; and the expression of such a thought must be considered as a figure, because the attribute is not applicable to the subject in any proper sense.

How are we to account for this figure, which we see lies in the thought, and to what principle shall we refer it? Have poets a privilege to alter the nature of things, and at pleasure to bestow attributes upon a subject to which they do not belong? We have had often occasion to inculcate, that the mind passes easily and sweetly along a train of connected objects; and, where the objects are intimately connected, that it is disposed to carry along the good or bad properties of one to another; especially when it is in any degree inflamed with these properties.* From this principle is derived the figure under consideration. Language, invented for the communication of thought, would be imperfect

, if it were not expressive even of the slighter propensities and more delicate feelings: but language cannot remain so imperfect among a people who have received any polish; because language is regulated by internal feeling, and is gradually improved to express whatever passes in the mind. Thus, for example, when a sword in the hand of a coward, is termed a coward sword, the expression is significative of an internal operation; for the mind, in passing from the agent to its instrument, is disposed to extend to the latter the properties of the former. Governed by the same principle, we say listening fear, by extending the attribute listening of the man who listens, to the passion with which he is moved. In the expression, bold deed, or audax facinus, we extend to the effect what properly belongs to the cause. But not to waste time by making a commentary upon every expression of this kind, the best way to give a complete view of the subject

, is to exhibit a table of the different relations that may give occasion to this figure. And in viewing the table, it will be observed, that the figure can never have any grace but where the relations are of the most intimate kind. 1. An attribute of the cause expressed as an attribute of the effect.

Audax facinus.t
Of yonder fleet a bold discovery make.
An impious mortal gave the daring wound.

-To my advent'rous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar.

Paradise Lost. 2. An attribute of the effect expressed as an attribute of the cause.

Quos periisse ambos misera censebam in mari.I Plautus.

No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height. Paradise Lost.
3. An effect expressed as an attribute of the cause.
Jovial wine, Giddy brink, Drowsy night, Musing midnight, Panting height,
Astonish'd thought, Mournful gloom.
Casting a dim religious light.

Milton, Comus.
And the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound.

Milton, Allegro. 4. An attribute of a subject bestowed upon one of its parts or members. * See Chap. 2. Part 1. Sect. 5.

+ A bold deed. # Both of whom perished in the miserable ocean.

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