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in point of weight, than it can gain by such additions to its sound. See the Oclavo Grammar, on this chapter.
See also the APPENDIX to the Exercises, p. 219, &c.
OF FIGURES OF SPEECH.
The FOURTH requisite of a perfect sentence, is a judicious use of the Figures of Speech.
As figurative language is to be met with in almost every sentence; and, when properly employed, confers beauty and strength on composition; some knowledge of it appears to be indispensable to the scholars, who are learning to form their sentences with perspicuity, accuracy, and force. We shall, therefore, enumerate the principal figures, and give them some explanation.
In general, Figures of Speech imply some departure from simplicity of expression; the idea which we mean to convey is expressed in a particular manner, and with some circumstance added, which is designed to render the impression more strong and vivid. When I say, for instance, " That a good man enjoys comfort in the midst of adversity;" I just express my thoughts in the simplest manner possible : but when I say, “ To the upright there ariseth light in darkness ;" the same sentiment is expressed in a figurative style; a new circumstance is introduced; “ light," is put in the place of “comfort,” and “ darkness" is used to suggest the idea of adversity." In the same manner, to say, “ It is impossible, by any search we can make, to explore the Divine Nature fully,” is to make a simple proposition : but when we say, “ Canst thou, by searching, find out the Lord ? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do ? deeper than hell, what canst thou know ?" this introduces a figure into style; the proposition being not only expressed, but with it admiration and astonishiment.
But, though figures imply a deviation from what may be reckoned the most simple form of speech, we are not thence
to conclude, that they imply any thing uncommon, or unnatural. On many occasions, they are both the most natural, and the most common method of uttering our sentiments. It would be very difficult to compose any discourse without using them often; nay, there are few sentences of considerable length, in which there does not occur some expression that may be termed a figure. This being the case, we may see the necessity of some attention, in order to understand their nature and use.
At the first rise of language, men would begin with giving names to the different objects which they discerned, or thought of. The stock of words would, then, be very small. As men's ideas multiplied, and their acquaintance with objects increased, their store of names and words would also increase. But to the vast variety of objects and idcas, no language is adequate. No language is so copious, as to hate a separate word for every separate idea. Men naturally sought to abridge this labour of multiplying words without end; and, in order to lay less burden on their memories, made one word, which they had already appropriated to a certain idea or object, stand also for some other idea or object, between which and the primary one, they found, or fancied, some relation. The names of sensible objects, were the words most early introduced ; and were, by degrees, extended to those mental objects, of which men had more obscure conceptions, and to which they found it more difficult to assign distinct names. They borrowed, therefore, the name of some sensible idea, where their imagination found some affinity. Thus, we speak of a piercing judgment, and a clear head; a soft or a hard heart; a rough or a smooth behaviour. We say, inflamed by anger, warmed by love, swelled with pride, melted into grief; and these are almost the only significant words which we have for such ideas.
The principal advantages of figures of speech, are the two following
First, They enrich language, and render it more copious.
By their means, words and phrases are multiplied, for expressing all sorts of ideas; for describing even the minutest differences; the nicest shades and colours of thought ; which no language could possibly do by proper words alone, without assistance from Tropes.
Secondly, They frequently give us a much clearer and more striking view of the principal object, than we could have, if it were expressed in simple terms, and divested of its accessory idea. By a well chosen figure, even conviction is assisted, and the impression of a truth upon the mind, made more lively and forcible than it would otherwise be. We perceive this in the following illustration of Young : " When we dip too deep in pleasure, we always stir a sediment that renders it impure and noxious :" and in this instance: “A heart boiling with violent passions, will always send up infatuating fumes to the head." An image that presents so much congruity between a moral and a sensible idea, serves, like an argument from analogy, to enforce what the author asserts, and to induce belief.
Having considered the general nature of figures, we proceed next to particularize such of them as are of the most importance; viz. Metaphor, Allegory, Comparison, Metonymy, Synecdoche, Personification, Apostrophe, Antithesis, Interrogation, Exclamation, Amplification or Climax, &c.
A Metaphor is a figure founded entirely on the resemblance which one object bears to another. Hence, it is much allied to simile or comparison, and is indeed no other than a comparison, expressed in an abridged form. When I say of some great minister, “ that he upholds the state, like a pillar which supports the weight of a whole edifice," I fairly make a comparison : but when I say of such a minister, “ That he is the pillar of the state,” it now becomes a metaphor. In the latter case, the comparison between the minister and a pillar is made in the mind; but it is expressed without any of the words that denote comparison.
The following are examples of metaphor taken from Scripture : “ I will be unto her a wall of fire round about,
6 Thou art my
and will be the glory in the inidst of her.”
Rules to be observed in the use of metaphors.
1. litlaphors, as well as other figures, should, on no occasion, be stuck on profusely; and should always be such as accord wilh the strain of our sentiment. The latter part of the following passage, from a late historian, is, in this respect, very exceptionable. He is giving an account of the famous act of parliament against irregular marriages in England. “ The bill," says he, “ underwent a great number of altera tions and amendments, which were not effected without violent contest. At length, however, it was floated through both houses on the tide of a great majority, and steered into the safe harbour of royal approbation."
2. Care should be taken that the resemblance, which is the foundation of the metaphor, be clear and perspicuous, not farfelchod, nor aflicull lo-discover. The transgression of this rule makes wiiat are called harsh or forced metaphors ; which are displeasing, because they puzzle the reader, and instead of illustrating the thought, render it perplexed and intricate.
3. In the third place, we should be careful, in the conduct of metaphors, never to jumble melaphorical and plain language together. An author, addressing himself to the king, says:
To thee the world its present homage pays ;
The harvest early, but mature the praise. It is plain, that, had not the rhyme misled him to the choice of an improper phrase, he would have said,
The harvest early, but mature the crop; and so would have continued the figure which he had begun. Whereas, by dropping it unfinished, and by employing the literal word“ praise," when we were expecting something that related to the harvest, the figure is broken, and the two members of the sentence have no suitable correspondence to each other.
4. We should avoid making two inconsistent metaphors meet on one object. This is what is called mixed metaphor, and is indeed one of the greatest misapplications of this figure. One may be “ shellered under the patronage of a great man:" but it would be wrong to say, “sheltered under the mask of dissimulation :" as a mask conceals, but 'does not shelter. Addison in his letter from Italy, says:
I bridle in my struggling muse with pain,
That longs to launch into a bolder strain.. The muse, figured as a horse, may be bridled; but when
; we speak of launching, we make it a ship; and by no force of imagination, can it be supposed both a horse and a ship at one moment; bridled, to hinder it from launching.
The same author, elsewhere, says, “ There is not a single view of human nature, which is not sufficient to extinguish the seeds of pride.” Observe the incoherence of the things here joined together; making a view extinguish, and extinguish seeds.
As metaphors ought never to be mixed, so they should not be crowded together on the same object; for the mind has difficulty in passing readily through many different views of the same object, presented in quick succession.
The last rule concerning metaphors, is, that they be not too far pursued. If the resemblance, on which the figure is Sounded, be long dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, we tire the reader, who soon grows weary of this stretch of fancy; and we render our discourse obscure. This is called straining a metaphor. Authors of a lively and strong imagination are apt to run into this exuberance of metaphor. When they hit upon a figure that pleases them, they are loth to part with it, and frequently continue it so long, as to become tedious and intricate. We may observe, for instance, how the following metaplior is
Thy thoughts are vagabonds ; all outward bound,