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Studious of flight. The beach is covered o'er
With Trojan bands that blacken all the shore
On every side are seen, descending down,
Thick swarms of soldiers, loaden from the town.
Thus, in battalia, march embodied ants,
Fearless of winter, and of future wants-
T'invade the corn, and to their cells convey
The plundered forage of their yellow prey.
The sable troops, along the narrow tracks,
Scarce bear the weighty burden on their backs.
Some set their shoulders to the pond'rous grain;
Some guard the spoil, some lash the lagging train:
All ply their several tasks, and equal toil sustain.

The following simile has not any one beauty to recommend it. The subject is Amata, the wife of King Latinus.

Tum vero infelix, ingentibus excita monstris,
Immensam sine more furit lymphata per urbem:
Ceu quondam torto volitans sub verbere turbo,
Quem pueri magno in gyro vacua atria circum
Intenti ludo exercent. Ille actus habena
Curvatis fertur spatiis: stupet inscia turba,
Impubesque manus, mirata volubile buxum;
Dant animos plaga. Non cursu segnior illo
Per medias urbes agitur, populosque feroces.

Eneid, VII. 376.

She flew to rage; for now the snake possess'd
Her vital parts, and poisoned all her breast.
She raves-she runs with a distracted pace,
And fills, with horrid howls, the public place.
And, as young striplings whip the top for sport,
On the smooth pavement of an empty court;
The wooden engine flies and whirls about,
Admired, with clamors, of the beardless rout:
They lash aloud-each other they provoke,
And lend their little souls at every stroke:
Thus fares the queen; and thus her fury blows
Amidst the crowd, and kindles as she goes.

This simile seems to border upon the burlesque.

An error, opposite to the former, is the introducing of a resembling image, so elevated or great as to bear no proportion to the principal subject. Their remarkable disparity, seizing the mind, never fails to depress the principal subject by contrast, instead of raising it by resemblance: and if the disparity be very great, the simile degenerates into burlesque; nothing being more ridiculous than to force an object out of its proper rank in nature, by equalling it with one greatly superior or greatly inferior. This will be evident, from the following comparisons.

Fervet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.
Ac veluti lentis Cyclopes fulmina massis
Cum properant: alii taurinis follibus auras
Accipiunt, redduntque: alii stridentia tingunt
Era lacu; gemit impositis incudibus Etna:
Illi inter sese magna vi brachia tollunt

In numerum; versantque tenaci forcipe ferrum.
Non aliter (si parva licet componere magnis)
Cecropias innatus apes amor urget habendi,
Munere quamque suo. Grandævis oppida curæ,
Et munire favos, et Dædala fingere tecta.

At fessæ multâ referunt se nocte minores,
Crura thymo plenæ: pascuntur et arbuta passim,
Et glaucas salices, casiamque crocumque rubentem,
Et pinguem tiliam, et ferrugineos hyacinthos.
Omnibus una quies operum, labor omnibus unus.

Georgic. IV. 169.

With diligence the fragrant work proceeds,
As when the Cyclopes, at th' almighty nod,
New thunder hasten for their angry god,
Subdued in fire the stubborn metal lies;
One brawny smith the puffing bellows plies,
And draws and blows reciprocating air;
Others to quench the hissing mass prepare;
With lifted arms they order every blow,
And chime their sounding hammers in a row,
With labored anvils Etna groans below.

Strongly they strike, huge flakes of flames expire,
With tongs they turn the steel, and vex it in the fire.
If little things with great we may compare,
Such are the bees, and such their busy care,
Studious of honey, each in his degree

The youthful swain, the grave experienced bee-
That, in the field, this, in affairs of state,
Employed at home, abides within the gate,
To fortify the combs, to build the wall,
To prop the ruins lest the fabric fall:
But, late at night, with weary pinions come
The laboring youth, and heavy-laden home.
Plains, meads, and orchards, all the day he plies,
The gleans of yellow thyme distend his thighs:
He spoils the saffron flowers, he sips the blues
Of violets, wilding blooms, and willow dews.
Their toil is common, common is their sleep.

The Cyclopes make a better figure in the following simile:
The Thracian leader prest,

With eager courage, far before the rest;

Him Ajax met, inflam'd with equal rage:

Between the wond'ring hosts the chiefs engage;

Their weighty weapons round their heads they throw,

And swift, and heavy, falls each thund'ring blow.

As when in Ætna's caves the giant brood,

The one-eyed servants of the Lemnian god,

In order round the burning anvil stand,

And forge, with weighty strokes, the forked brand
The shaking hills their fervid toils confess,
And echoes rattling through each dark recess:
So rag'd the fight.

Epigoniad, B. &.

Tum Bitian ardentem oculis animisque frementem;
Non jaculo, neque enim jaculo vitam ille dedisset;
Sed magnum stridens contorta falarica venit
Fulminis acta modo, quam nec duo taurea terga,
Nec duplici squama lorica fidelis et auro
Sustinuit: collapsa ruunt immania membra:
Dat tellus gemitum, et clypeum super intonat ingens.
Qualis in Euboico Baiarum littore quondam
Saxea pila cadit, magnis quam molibus ante
Constructam jaciunt ponto: sic illa ruinam
Prona trahit, penitusque vadis illisa recumbit:
Miscent se maria, et nigræ attolluntur arena:

Tum sonitu Prochyta alta tremit, durumque cubile
Inarime Jovis imperiis imposta Typhoëo.

Eneid, IX. 703.

The gigantic size
Of Bitias, threatening with his ardent eyes.
Not by the feeble dart he fell oppressed,
(A dart was lost within that roomy breast,)
But from a knotted lance, large, heavy, strong,
Which roared like thunder as it whirl'd along;
Not two bull-hides the impetuous force withhold,
Nor coat of double mail with scales of gold.

Down sunk the monster-bulk, and press'd the ground,
(His arms and clattering shield on the vast body sound,)
Nor with less ruin than the Baïan mole,

Raised on the seas, the surges to control,

At once come tumbling down the rocky wall-
Prone to the deep the stones disjointed fall

Of the vast pile-the scattered ocean flies,

Black sands, discolored froth, and mingled mud arise;
The frighted billows roll, and seek the shores-
Then trembles Prochyta, then Ischia roars,
Typhoeus, thrown beneath by Jove's command,
Astonished at the flaw that shakes the land,
Soon shifts his weary side, and scarce awake,
With wonder feels the weight press lighter on his back.
Loud as a bull makes hill and valley ring,
So roar'd the lock when it releas'd the spring.

Odyssey, XXI. 51. Such a simile upon the simplest of all actions, that of opening a door, is pure burlesque.

A writer of delicacy will avoid drawing his comparisons from any image that is nauseous, ugly, or remarkably disagreeable: for, however strong the resemblance may be, more will be lost than gained by such comparison. Therefore I cannot help condemning, though with some reluctance, the following simile, or rather metaphor:

O thou fond many! with what loud applause
Didst thou beat heav'n with blessing Bolingbroke
Before he was what thou would'st have him be?
And now being trimm'd up in thine own desires,
Thou, beastly feeder, art so full of him,
That thou provok'st thyself to cast him up.
And so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
Thy glutton bosom of the royal Richard,
And now thou would'st eat thy dead vomit up,
And howl'st to find it.

Second Part Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 3. The strongest objection that can lie against a comparison is, that it consists in words only, not in sense. Such false coin, or bastard wit, does extremely well in burlesque; but is far below the dignity of the epic, or of any serious composition:

The noble sister of Publicola,

The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle

That's curled by the frost from purest snow,
And hangs on Dian's temple.

Coriolanus, Act V, Sc. 3.

There is evidently no resemblance between an icicle and a woman,

chaste or unchaste: but chastity is cold in a metaphorical sense, and an icicle is cold in a proper sense: and this verbal resemblance, in the hurry and glow of composing, has been thought a sufficient foundation for the simile. Such phantom similes are mere witticisms, which ought to have no quarter, except where purposely introduced to provoke laughter. Lucian, in his dissertation upon history, talking of a certain author, makes the following comparison, which is verbal merely:

This author's descriptions are so cold that they surpass the Caspian snow, all the ice of the north."

Virgil has not escaped this puerility:

Galathæa thymo mihi dulcior Hyblæ.

Bucol. VII. 37.

Galatea, sweeter to me than Hyblean thyme.

Ego Sardois videar tibi amarior herbis.

I may appear more bitter to thee than Sardian herbs.

Gallo, cujus amor tantum mihi crescit in horas,
Quantum vere novo viridis se subjicit alnus.

Ibid. 41.

Bucol. X. 37


Gallus, for whom my love increases hourly, as the green alder subjects itself to the new spring.

Nor Boileau, the chastest of all writers; and that even in his art of poetry:

Ainsi tel autrefois, qu'on vit avec Faret

Charbonner de ses vers les murs d'un cabaret,
S'en va mal à propos d'une voix insolente,
Chanter du peuple Hébreu la fuite triomphante
Et poursuivant Moïse au travers des déserts,
Court avec Pharaon se noyer dans les mers.

Chant 1. 1. 21.

Mais allons voir le Vrai, jusqu'en sa source même.
Un dévot aux yeux creux, et d'abstinence blême,
S'il n'a point le cœur juste, est affreux devant Dieu.
L'Evangile au Chrétien ne dit, en aucun lieu,
Sois dévot: elle dit, Sois doux, simple, équitable:
Car d'un devot souvent au Chrétien véritable
La distance est deux fois plus longue, à mon avis,
Que du Pôle Antarctique au Détroit de Davis.

Boileau, Satire XL

But for their spirits and souls
This word rebellion had froze them up
As fish are in a pond.

Second Part Henry IV. Act I. Sc. 1.

Queen. The pretty vaulting sea refus'd to drown me;
Knowing, that thou would'st have me drown'd on shore;
With tears as salt as sea, through thy unkindness.

Second Part Henry VI. Act III. Sc. 2.

Here there is no manner of resemblance but in the word drown; for there is no real resemblance between being drowned at sea, and dying of grief at land. But perhaps this sort of tinsel wit may have a propriety in it, when used to express an affected, not a real passion, which was the Queen's case.

Pope has several similes of the same stamp. I shall transcribe

one or two from the Essay on Man, the gravest and most instructive of all his performances:

And hence one master passion in the breast,
Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.

Epist. II. I. 131.

And again, talking of this same ruling or master passion:

Nature its mother, habit is its nurse;
Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse;
Reason itself but gives it edge and power;

As heav'n's bless'd beam turns vinegar more sour.

Lord Bolingbroke, speaking of historians:

Ib. 1. 145.

Where their sincerity as to fact is doubtful, we strike out truth by the confrontation of different accounts; as we strike out sparks of fire by the collision of flints and steel.

Let us vary the phrase a very little, and there will not remain a shadow of resemblance. Thus,

We discover truth by the confrontation of different accounts; as we strike out sparks of fire by the collision of flints and steel.

Racine makes Pyrrhus say to Andromaque,

Vaincu, chargé de fers, de regrets consumé,
Brulé de plus de feux que je n'en allumai,
Hélas! fus-je jamais si cruel que vous l'êtes!

And Orestes in the same strain :

Que les Scythes sont moins cruels qu' Hermoine.

Similes of this kind put one in mind of a ludicrous French song:


Je croyois Janneton

Aussi douce que belle:

Je croyois Janneton

Plus douce qu'un mouton;

Hélas! Hélas!

Elle est cent fois, mille fois, plus cruelle

Que n'est le tigre aux bois.

Hélas! l'amour m'a pris,
Comme le chat fait la souris.

A vulgar Irish ballad begins thus:

I have as much love in store

As there's apples in Portmore.

Where the subject is burlesque or ludicrous, such similes are far from being improper. Horace says pleasantly,

And Shakspeare,

Quanquam tu levior cortice.*

In breaking oaths he's stronger than Hercules.

L. 3. Ode 9.

And this leads me to observe, that beside the foregoing comparisons, which are all serious, there is a species, the end and purpose of which is to excite gayety or mirth. Take the following examples: Falstaff, speaking to his page:

I do here walk hefore thee, like a sow that hath overwhelmed all her litter but one. Second Part Henry IV. Act I. Bc. 2.

* Although you are of less value than the rind.

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