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Translatisque aliunde notis, longequi petitis,
Or grass the tresses of great Rhæa's head. Thirdly, in a figure of speech, every circumstance ought to be avoided that agrees with the proper sense only, not the figurative sense; for it is the latter that expresses the thought, and the former serves for no other purpose than to måke harmony:
Zacynthus green with ever-shady groves,
They press the Hymenean rite abhorr’d. Odyssey, XIX. 152. Zacynthus here standing figuratively for the inhabitants, the description of the island is quite out of place: it puzzles the reader, by making him doubt whether the word ought to be taken in its proper or figurative sense.
Write, my Queen,
Cymbeline, Act I. Sc. 2. The disgust one has to drink ink in reality, is not to the purpose where the subject is drinking ink figuratively.
In the fourth place, to draw consequences from a figure of speech, as if the word were to be understood literally, is a gross absurdity, for it is confounding truth with fiction.
Be Moubray's sins so heavy in his bosom,
Richard II. Act I. Sc. 2. Sin may be imagined heavy in a figurative sense: but weight in a proper sense belongs to the accessory only; and therefore to describe the effects of weight, is to desert the principal subject, and to convert the accessory into a principal:
Cromwell. How does your Grace?
Wolsey. Why, well;
Henry VIII. Act III. Sc. 2. Ulysses speaking of Hector:
I wonder now how yonder city stands,
Troilus and Cressida, Act IV. Sc. 5. Othello. No; my heart is turn'd to stone: I strike it, and it hurts my hand.
Othello, Act IV. Sc. 1.
Don Sebastian, King of Portugal, Act I.
To look into a glass I fear,
Gray hairs and wrinkles there. Cowley, Vol. I. p. 86.
With freshest boughs and fairest head;
And in three days behold 'tis dead;
Cowley, Vol. I. p. 136.
But what, alas ! ah what does it avail,
Cowley, Vol. I. p. 132. Such a play of words is pleasant in a ludicrous poem.
Almeria. O Alphonso, Alphonso !
Mourning Bride, Act I. Sc. 1. This would be very right, if there were any inconsistence, in being interred in one place really, and in another place figuratively.
Je crains que cette saison
In me tota ruens Venus
Cyprum deseruit. Horat. Carm. I. I. Ode 19.
Venus on me careers with all her might. From considering that a word used in a figurative sense suggests at the same time its proper meaning, ive discover a fifth rule, that we ought not to employ a word in a figurative sense, the proper sense of which is inconsistent or incongruous with the subject : for every inconsistency, and even incongruity, though in the expression only and not real, is unpleasant :
Interea genitor Tyberini ad fluminis undam
Æneid, X. 833
Tres adeo incertos cæca caligine soles
Æneid, III. 203.
Without distinction, and three sunless days. The foregoing rule may be extended to form a sixth, that no epithet ought to be given to the figurative sense of a word that agrees not also with its proper sense:
Horat. Carm. lib. I. Ode 27.
Parcus deorum cultor, et infrequens,
Horat. Carm. lib. I. Ode 34.
While mad philosophy my mind pursued. Seventhly, the crowding into one period or thought of different figures of speech, is not less faulty than crowding metaphors in that manner: the mind is distracted in the quick transition from one image to another, and is puzzled instead of being pleased :
I am of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music-vows. Hamlet.
Digne puer meliore flanmâ.
Horat. Carm. lib. I. Ode 27.
What sorceress, what magic art,
E'en Pegasus to clear thee will be loth
From one composed of whimsy, wantonness and wrath. Eighthly, if crowding figures be bad, it is still worse to graft one figure upon another : for instance,
While his keen falchion drinks the warriors' lives. Iliad, XI. 211. A falchion drinking the warriors' blood is a figure built upon resemblance, which is passable. But then in the expression, lives is again put for blood ; and by thus grafting one figure upon another, the expression is rendered obscure and unpleasant.
Ninthly, intricate and involved figures that can scarcely be analyzed, or reduced to plain language, are least of all tolerable : Votis incendimus aras.
Æneid, III. 279.
Æneid, VIII. 180.
Arma acri facienda viro : nunc viribus usus,
Æneid, VIII. 441.
Huic gladio, perque ærea suta
Æneid, X. 313.
Semotique puris tarda necessitas
Lethi, corripuit gradum. Horat. Carm. lib. I. Ode 3.
The last extremity advanced
Scribêris Vario fortis, et hostium
Horat. Carm. lib. I. Ode 6.
Shall thine achievements blaze.
Iliad, VIII. 85. and XI. 117. Speaking of Proteus,
Instant he wears, elusive of the rape,
Ibid. IV. 952.
Autumn, 337. A various sweetness swells the gentle race.
Ibid. 640. A sober calm fleeces unbounded ether.
Ibid. 967. The distant waterfall swells in the breeze. Winter, 738.
In the tenth place, when a subject is introduced by its proper name, it is absurd to attribute to it the properties of a different subject to which the word is sometimes applied in a figurative sense :
Hear me, oh Neptune! thou whose arms are hurld
Odyssey, IX. 617. Neptune is here introduced personally, and not figuratively for the ocean: the description therefore, which is only applicable to the latter, is altogether improper.
It is not sufficient, that a figure of speech be regularly constructed, and be free from blemish: it requires taste to discern when it is proper, and when improper; and taste, I suspect is our only guide. One, however, may gather from reflection and experience, that ornaments and graces suit not any of the dispiriting passions, nor are proper for expressing any thing grave and important. In familiar conversation, they are in some measure ridiculous: Prospero, in the Tempest, speaking to his daughter Miranda, says,
The fringed curtains of thine eyes advance,
And say what thou seest yond. No exception can be taken to the justness of the figure; and circumstances may be imagined to make it proper; but it is certainly not proper in familiar conversation.
In the last place, though figures of speech have a charming effect when accurately constructed and properly introduced, they ought, however, to be scattered with a sparing hand: nothing is more luscious, and nothing consequently more satiating, than redundant ornaments of any kind.
NARRATION AND DESCRIPTION.
Writers should choose subjects adapted to their genius—In history, the reflections
to be chaste and solid- The commencement of an epic poem to be modest Subjects intended for entertainment solely, to be described as they appear, and not as they really are—Objects in both narration and description, to be painted with great accuracy-A useless circumstance to be suppressed— The power of a simple circumstance happily selected— The drawing of characters, the master stroke in description-In this Tacitus, Shakspeare, and Ossian excel-Verbal dress—The emotion raised by the sound and the sense to be concordant-A stronger impression made by an incident upon an eye-witness than when heard at second hand—The effect of abstract or general terms in composition for amusement, not good—In the fine arts, the capital object to be placed in the strongest point of view-A concise comprehensive style, a great ornament in narration–Tautology to be avoided-An object ugly to the sight, not so when represented by colors or by words—Illustrated, from painting, and from language.
many critics after him, exhort writers to choose a subject adapted to their genius. Such observations would multiply rules of criticism without end; and at any rate belong not to the