« PreviousContinue »
blance 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. Whers. I say of some great minister, " that he upholds the state, like a pillar which supports the weight of a whole édifice," 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, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” “ Thou art my
rock and my fortress.” Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path."
Rules to be observed in the use of metaphors.
1. Metaphors, as well as other figures, should, on no occasion, be stuck on profusely; and should always be such as accord with 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 alterations and amendments, which were not effected without violent contest. At length, however, it was floated through both houses on the tide of a grea majority, and steered into the safe harbour of royal approbation."
2. Care should be taken that the resemblance, which 23 the foundation of the metaphor, be clear and perspicuous, not farfetched, nor difficult to discover. The transgression of this rule makes what 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 metaphorical and plain
uage together. An author, addressing himself to the
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 employ. ing 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 metaphorg 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 “ sheltered 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 oe not too far pursued. If the resemblance, on which the figure is founded, be long dwelt upon, and carried into all its minute circumstances, we tire the reader, who soon grows wearv of this stretch of fancy; and we render our discourse obscure. This is called straining a metuphor. 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 metaphor is spun out.
Thy thoughts are vagabonds; all outward bound, Midst sands, and rocks, and storms, to cruise for plea.
If gain'd, dear bought ; and better miss'd than gain'd.r
An Allegory may be regarded as a metaphor continued ; since it is the representation of some one thing by another that resembles it, and which is made to stand for it. We may take from the Scriptures a very fine example of an allegos y, in the 90th Psalm ; where the people of Israel are represented under the image of a vine : and the figure is carried throughout with great exactness and beauty. “ Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen and nlanted it. Thou ngenanndat room before it; and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the sha. dow of it: and the boughs thereof were like the gcodly cedars. She sent out her boughs into the sea, and her branches into the river. Why hast thou broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine!" See also Ezekiel, xvii. 22-24.
The first and principal requisite in the conduct of an allegory, is, that the figurative and the literal meaning be not mixed inconsistently together. Indeed, all the rules that were given for metaphors, may also be applied to allegories, on account of the affinity they bear to each other. The only material difference between them, be. sides the one being short and the other being prolonged, is, that a metaphor always explains itself by the words that are connected with it in their proper and natural
meaning: as, when I say, " Achilles was a lion;" able minister is the pillar of the state ;" the “lion” and the “pillar” are sufficiently interpreted by the mention of “ Achilles" and the “minister," which I join to them; but an allegory is, or may be, allowed to stand less connected with the literal meaning, the interpretation not being so directly pointed out, but left to our own reflection.
! Allegory was a favourite method of delivering instruction in ancient times ; for what we call fables or parables, are no other than allegories. By words and actions attributed to beasts or inanimate objects, the dispositions of men were figured ; and what we call the moral, is the unfigured sense or meaning of the allegory.
A Comparison or simile, is, when the resemblance between two objects is expressed in form, and generally pursued more fully than the nature of a metaphor admits : as when it is said, “ The actions of princes are like those great rivers, the course of which every one beholds, but their springs have been seen by few.” the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people.” “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment, &c. and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion.”
The advantage of this figure arises from the illustra tion which the simile employed gives to the principal object; from the clearer view. which it presents ; or the more strong impression which it stamps upon dhe mind. Observe the effect of it in the following instance. The author is explaining the distinetion between the powers of sense and imagination in the human mind. says he, “ would not be adequate to the purpose of sig. nature, if it had not the power to retain as well as to receive the impression, the same holds of the soul with respect to sense and imagination. Sense is its receptive power; imagination, its retentive. Had it sense without imagination, it would not be as. wax, but as water, where though all impressions are instantly made, yet as soon as they are made, they are instantly lost.”
In comparisons of this nature, the understanding is concerned much more than the fancy: and therefore the
ro As wax,
rules to be observed, with respect to them, are, that they be clear, and that they be useful ; that they tend to render our conception of the principal object more distinct; and that they do not lead our view aside, and bewilder it with any false light. We should always remember that similes are not arguments. However apt they may be, they do no more than explain the writer's sentiments, they do not prove them to be founded on truth.
Comparisons ought not to be founded on likenesses which are too faint and remote. For these, in place of assisting, strain the mind to comprehend them, and throw no light upon the subject. It is also to be observed, that a comparison which, in the principal circumstances, car. ries a sufficiently near resemblance, may become unnatural and obscure, if pushed too far. Nothing is more opposite to the design of this figure, than to hunt after a great number of coincidences in minute points, merely to show how far the writer's ingenuity can stretch the resem. blance.
A Metonymy is founded on the several relations, of cause and effect, container and contained, sign and thing signilied. When we say ; They read Milton," the cause is put instead of the effect; meaning “ Milton's works." On the other hand, when it is said, “ Gray hairs should be respected," we put the effect for the cause, meaning by “ gray hairs," old age. “ The kettle boils," is a phrase where the name of the container is substituted for that of the thing contained. “ To assume the sceptre,” is a common expression for entering on royal authority; the sign being put for the thing signified.
When the whole is put for a part, or a part for the whole ; a genus for a species, or a species for a genus; in general, when any thing less, or any thing more, is put for the precise object meant; the figure is then call.
ed a Synecdoche or Comprehension. It is very common, ; for instance, to describe a whole object by some remark.
able part of it: as when we say, “A feet of twenty sail,” in the place of “ ships ;" when we use the "head" for the “person,” the “ zaves” for the “ sea." In like manner, an 'attribute may be put for a subject : as, * Youth” for the " young,
, the deep,” for the “ sea;" and sometimes a subject for its attribute.