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producing a strong feeling, is put for any strong feeling. Nihil mihi antiquius nostra amicitia: shortness with relation to space, for shortness with relation to time, Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio: suffering a punishment resembles paying a debt; hence pendere pænas. In the same manner light may be put for glory, sunshine for prosperity, and weight for importance.
Many words, originally figurative, having by long and constant use, lost their figurative power, are degraded to the inferior rank of proper terms.
Thus the words that express the operations of the mind, have in all languages been originally figurative: the reason holds in all, that when these operations came first under consideration, there was no other way of describing them than by what they resembled: it was not practicable to give them proper names, as may be done to objects that can be ascertained by sight and touch. A soft nature, jarring tempers, weight of wo, pompous phrase, beget compassion, assuage grief, break a vow, bend the eye downward, shower down curses, drown'd in tears, wrapt in joy, warm'd with eloquence, loaded with spoils, and a thousand other expressions of the like nature, have lost their figurative sense. Some terms there are, that cannot be said to be either altogether figurative or altogether proper: originally figurative, they are tending to simplicity, without having lost altogether their figurative power. Virgil's Regina saw cia cura, is perhaps one of these expressions : with ordinary readers, saucia will be considered as expressing simply the effect of grief; but one of a lively imagination will exalt the phrase into a figure.
For epitomising this subject, and at the same time for giving a clear view of it, I cannot think of a better method, than to present to the reader a list of the several relations upon which figures of speech are commonly founded. This list divide into two tables : one of subjects expressed figuratively, and one of attributes.
Subjects expressed figuratively. 1. A word proper to one subject employed figuratively to express a resembling subject.
There is no figure of speech so frequent, as what is derived from the relation of resemblance. Youth, for example, is signified figuratively by the morning of life. The life of a man resembles a natural day in several particulars: the morning is the beginning of day, youth the beginning of life; the morning is cheerful, so is youth, &c. By another resemblance, a bold warrior is termed the thunderbolt of war; a multitude of troubles, a sea of troubles.
This figure, above all others, affords pleasure to the mind by variety of beauties. Besides the beauties above mentioned, common to all sorts, it possesses in particular the beauty of a metaphor or of a simile: a figure of speech built upon resemblance, suggests always a comparison between the principal subject and the accessory; whereby every good effect of a metaphor or simile, may in a short and lively manner, be produced by this figure of speech.
2. A word proper to the effect employed figuratively to express the cause.
Lux for the sun. Shadow for cloud. A helmet is signified by the expression glittering terror. A tree by shadow or umbrage. Hence the expression: Nec habet Pelion umbras.*
Ovid. Where the dun umbrage hangs.
Spring, 1. 1023. A wound is made to signify an arrow: Vulnere non pedibus te consequar.t
Ovid. There is a peculiar force and beauty in this figure: the word which signifies figuratively the principal subject, denotes it to be a cause by suggesting the effect.
3. A word proper to the cause, employed figuratively to express the effect. Boumque labores, for corn. Sorrow or grief, for tears.
Again, Ulysses veild his pensive head;
Streaming Grief his faded cheek bedew'd.
Æneid, III. 200. There is a peculiar energy in this figure, similar to that in the former : the figurative name denotes the subject to be an effect, by suggesting its cause.
4. Two things being intimately connected, the proper name of the one employed figuratively to signify the other.
Day for light. Night for darkness, and hence, A sudden night. Winter for a storm at sea :
Interea magno misceri murmure pontum,
Of raging winter breaking on the ground. This last figure would be too bold for a British writer, as a storm at sea is not inseparably connected with winter in this climate.
5. A word proper to an attribute, employed figuratively to denote the subject Youth and beauty for those who are young and beautiful:
Youth and beauty shall be laid in dust.
What art thou, that usurp’st this time of night,
Hamlet, Act I. Sc. 1.
Verdure for a green field. Summer, l. 301.
The pigmy nations wounds and death they bring,
Niad, III. 10.
Iliad, III. 149. The peculiar beauty of this figure arises from suggesting an attribute that embellishes the subject, or puts it in a stronger light.
6. A complex term employed figuratively to denote one of ihe component parts.
Funus* for a dead body. Burial for a grave. 7. The name of one of the component parts instead of the complex term.
Tædat for a marriage. The East for a country situated east from us. Jovis vestigia servat,I for imitating Jupiter in general.
8. A word signifying time or place, employed figuratively to denote what is connected with it.
Clime for a nation, or for a constitution of government: hence the expression Merciful clime, Fleecy winter for snow, Seculum feliz. Q
9. A part for the whole.
Plautrus. Tergum for the man: Fugiens tergum. TT
Ovid. Vultus for the man:
Jam fulgor armorum fugaces
-Forthwith from the pool he rears
Parnel. The peculiar beauty of this figure consists in marking that part which makes the greatest figure.
10. The name of the container, employed figuratively to signify what is contained. Grove for the birds in it, Vocal grove. Ships for the seamen, * A funeral. + A marriage torch. # He follows the steps of Jove. 9 A happy age.
11 I gave thirty pounds for thy head. Fleeing from his back. ** Whilst my knees have strength.
Agonizing ships. Mountains for the sheep pasturing upon them, Bleating mountains. Zacynthus, Ithaca, &c. for the inhabitants. Ex mæstis domibus, Livy.
11. The name of the sustainer, employed figuratively to signify what is sustained.
Altar for the sacrifice. Field for the battle fought upon it, Wellfought field.
12. The name of the materials, employed figuratively to signify the things made of them.
Ferrum for gladius.
13. The names of the Heathen deities, employed figuratively to signify what they patronise.
Jove for the air, Mars for war, Venus for beauty, Cupid for love, Ceres for corn, Neptune for the sea, Vulcan for fire.
This figure bestows great elevation upon the subject; and therefore ought to be confined to the higher strains of poetry.
ttributes expressed figuratively. When two attributes are connected, the name of the one may be employed figuratively to express the other.
1. Purity and virginity are attributes of the same person: hence the expression, Virgin snow, for
pure snow. 2. A word signifying properly.an attribute of one subject, employed figuratively to express å resembling attribute of another subject
Tottering state. Imperious ocean. Angry flood. Raging tempest. Shallow fears.
My sure divinity shall bear the shield,
And edge thy sword to reap the glorious field. Odyssey, XX. 61. Black omen, for an omen that portends bad fortune. Ater odor.
Virgil. The peculiar beauty of this figure arises from suggesting a comparison
3. A word proper to the subject, employed to express one of its attributes. Mens for intellectus. Mens for a resolution:
Istam, oro, exue mentem. 4. When two subjects have a resemblance by a common quality, the name of the one subject may be employed figuratively to denote that quality in the other.
Summer life for agreeable life.
5. The name of the instrument made to signify the power of employing it.
Melpomene, cui liquidam pater
Vocem cum cithera, dedit. The ample field of figurative expression displayed in these tables,
affords great scope for reasoning. Several of the observations relating to metaphor, are applicable to figures of speech : these I shall slightly retouch, with some additions peculiarly adapted to the present subject.
In the first place, as the figure under consideration is built upon relation, we find from experience, and it must be obvious from reason, that the beauty of the figure depends on the intimacy of the relation between the figurative and proper sense of the word. A slight resemblance, in particular, will never make this figure agreeable: the expression, for example, Drink down a secret, for listening to a secret with attention, is harsh, and uncouth, because there is scarcely any resemblance between listening and drinking. The expression weighty crack, used by Ben Jonson for loud crack, is worse if possible: a loud sound has not the slightest resemblance to a piece of matter that is weighty. The following expression of Lucretius is not less faulty, “ Et lepido quæ sunt fucata sonore.” i. 645.
Horat. Carm. I. 2. Ode 13.
To hear of patriot fights, and kings in exile sent.
Æneid, VI. 559.
Write, my Queen,
Cymbeline, Act I. Sc. 2.
Georg. I. 514.
Shall hear the rein, and answer to thy hand. Iliad, V. 288. The following figures of speech seem altogether wild and extravagant, the figurative and proper meaning having no connection whatever. Moving softness, Freshness breathes
, Breathing prospect, Flowing spring, Dewy light, Lucid coolness, and many others of this false coin, may be found in Thomson's Seasons.
Secondly, the proper sense of the word ought to bear some proportion to the figurative sense, and not soar much above it, nor sink much below it. This rule, as well as the foregoing, is finely illustrated by Vida:
Hæc adeo cum sint, cum fas audere poetis