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In an allegory as well as in a metaphor, terms ought to be chosen that properly and literally are applicable to the representative subject: nor ought any circumstance to be added that is not proper to the representative subject, however justly it may be applicable properly or figuratively to the principal. The following allegory is therefore faulty:
Ferus et Cupido,
Horat. I. II. ode 8.
His darts in crimson dyed. For though blood may suggest the cruelty of love, it is an improper or immaterial circumstance in the representative subject: water, not blood, is proper for a whetstone.
We proceed to the next head, which is, to examine in what circumstance these figures are proper, in what improper. This inquiry is not altogether superseded by what is said upon the same subject in the chapter of Comparisons; because upon trial it will be found, that a short metaphor or allegory may be proper, where a simile, drawn out to a greater length, and in its nature more solemn, would scarcely be relished.
And, first, a metaphor, like a simile, is excluded from common conversation, and from the description of ordinary incidents.
Second, in expressing any severe passion that wholly occupies the mind, metaphor is improper. For which reason, the following speech of Macbeth is faulty.
Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more !
Act II. Sc. 2. The following example, of deep despair, beside the highly figurative style, has more the air of raving than of sense:
Calista. Is it the voice of thunder, or my father?
Peace shall return, and all be calm again. Fair Penitent, Act IV. The metaphor I next introduce, is sweet and lively, but it suits not a fiery temper inflamed with passion : parables are not the language of wrath venting itself without restraint:
Chamont. You took her up a little tender flower,
Orphan, Act IV.
The following speech, full of imagery, is not natural in grief and dejection of mind :
Gonsalez. O my son! from the blind dotage
Mourning Bride, Act V. Sc. 6.
questions the messenger over and over: not that he doubted the fact, but that his heart revolted against so cruel a misfortune. After strug. gling some time with his grief, he turns from his wife and children to their
savage butcher; and then gives vent to his resentment, but still with manliness and dignity:
O, I could play the woman with mine eyes,
Then Heav'n forgive him too. The whole scene is a delicious picture of human nature. One expression only seems doubtful: in examining the messenger, Macduff expresses himself thus:
He hath no children-all my pretty ones!
At one fell swoop! Metaphorical expression, I am sensible, may sometimes be used with grace, where a regular simile would be intolerable: but there are situations so severe and dispiriting, as not to admit even the slightest metaphor. It requires great delicacy of taste to determine with firmness, whether the present case be of that kind : I incline to think it is; and yet I would not willingly alter a single word of this admirable scene.
But metaphorical language is proper when a man struggles to bear with dignity or decency a misfortune however great: the struggle agitates and animates the mind :
Wolsey. Farewell, a long farewell, to all my greatness !
Henry VIII. Act IIS. Sc. 2.
FIGURE OF SPEECH.
The using of a word in a sense which is not proper to it-Two objects presented,
the principal and the accessory-Aggrandizes its object—Prevents the familiarity of proper names-Enriches and renders language more copious.
In the section immediately foregoing, a figure of speech is defined, The using of a word in a sense different from what is proper to it;" and the new or uncommon sense of the word is termed the figurative sense. The figurative sense must have a relation to that which is proper; and the more intimate the relation is, the figure is the more happy. How ornamental this figure is to language, will not be readily imagined by any one who has not given peculiar attention; and therefore I shall endeavor to unfold its capital beauties and advantages. In the first place, a word used figuratively or in a new sense, suggests at the same time the sense it commonly bears: and thus it has the effect to present two objects; one signified by the figurative sense, which may be termed the principal object; and one signified by the proper sense which may be termed accessory: the principal makes a part of the thought; the accessory is merely ornamental. In this respect, a figure of speech is precisely similar to concordant sounds in music, which without contributing to the melody, makes it harmonious. I explain myself by examples. Youth, by a figure of speech, is termed the morning of life. This expression signifies youth, the principal object, which enters into the thought: it suggests, at the same time, the proper sense of morning; and this accessory object, being in itself beautiful, and connected by resemblance to the principal object
, is not a little ornamental. Imperious ocean is an example of a different kind, where an attribute is expressed figuratively: together with stormy, the figurative meaning of the epithet imperious, there is suggested its proper meaning, viz. the stern authority of a despotic prince; and these two are strongly connected by resemblance. Upon this figurative power of words, Vida descants with elegance:
Nonne vides, verbis ut veris sæpe relictis
Tum specie capti gaudent spectare legentes:
Poet. lib. III. 1. 44.
Rise from a single object to the mind. In the next place, this figure possesses a signal power of aggrandizing an object, by the following means. Words which have no original beauty but what arises from their sound, acquire an adventitious beauty from their meaning: a word signifying any thing that is agreeable, becomes by that means agreeable; for the agreeableness of the object is communicated to its name. This acquired beauty by the force of custom, adheres to the word even when used figuratively; and the beauty received from the thing it properly signifies, is communicated to the thing which it is made to signify figuratively. Consider the foregoing expression Imperious ocean, how much more elevated it is than Stormy ocean.
Thirdly, this figure has a happy effect by preventing the familiarity of proper names. The familiarity of a proper name, is communicated to the thing it signifies by means of their intimate connection; and the thing is thereby brought down in our feeling.t This bad effect is prevented by using a figurative word instead of one that is proper; as, for example, when we express the sky by terming it the blue vault of heaven ; for though no work of art can compare with the sky in grandeur, the expression however is relished, because it prevents the object from being brought down by the familiarity of its proper name. With respect to the degrading familiarity of proper names, Vida has the following passage:
* See Chap. 2. Part 1. Sect. 5.
+ I have often regretted, that a factious spirit of opposition to the reigning family makes it necessary in public worship to distinguish the king by his proper
One will scarce imagine who has not made the trial, how much better it sounds to pray for our sovereign lord the king, without any addition.
Hinc si dura mihi passus dicendus Ulysses,
Poet. lib. II. 1. 46.
Since Troy was levelled to the dust by Greece.Lasiy, by this figure language is enriched, and rendered more copious; in which respect, were there no other, a figure of speech is a happy invention. This property is finely touched by Vida:
Quinetiam agricolas ea fandi nota voluptas
Poet. lib. III. 1. 90.
Thence by degrees the noble license grew.
Not only subjects, but qualities, actions, effects, may be expressed figuratively. Thus, as to subjects, the gates of breath for the lips, the watery kingdom for the ocean. As to qualities, fierce for stormy, in the expression Fierce winter: Altus for profundus; Altus puteus, Altum mare; Breathing for perspiring: Breathing plants. Again, as to actions, the sea rages, Time will melt her frozen thoughts, Time kills grief. An effect is put for the cause, as lux for the sun; and a cause for the effect, as boum labores corn. The relation of resemblance is one plentiful source of figures of speech; and nothing is more common than to apply to one object the name of another that resembles it in any respect: height, size, and worldly greatness, resemble not each other, but the emotions they produce resemble each other, and prompted by this resemblance, we naturally express worldly greatness by height or size: one feels a certain uneasiness in seeing a great depth; and hence depth is made to express any thing disagreeable by excess, as depth of grief, depth of despair : again, height of place, and time long past, produce similar feelings; and hence the expression, Ut altius repetam : distance in past time,