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How are we to account for this figure, which we see lies in the thought, and to what principle shall we refer it? Have poets a privilege to alter the nature of things, and at pleasure to bestow attributes upon a subject to which they do not belong? We have had often occasion to inculcate, that the mind passes easily and sweetly along a train of connected objects; and, where the objects are intimately connected, that it is disposed to carry along the good or bad properties of one to another; especially when it is in any degree inflamed with these properties. From this principle is derived the figure under consideration. Language, invented for the communication of thought, would be imperfect, if it were not expressive even of the slighter propensities and more delicate feelings: but language cannot remain so imperfect among a people who have received any polish; because language is regulated by internal feeling, and is gradually improved to express whatever passes in the mind. Thus, for example, when a sword in the hand of a coward, is termed a coward sword, the expression is significative of an internal operation; for the mind, in passing from the agent to its instrument, is disposed to extend to the latter the properties of the former. Governed by the same principle, we say listening fear, by extending the attribute listening of the man who listens, to the passion with which he is moved. In the expression, bold deed, or audax facinus, we extend to the effect what properly belongs to the cause. But not to waste time by making a commentary upon every expression of this kind, the best way to give a complete view of the subject, is to exhibit a table of the different relations that may give occasion to this figure. And in viewing the table, it will be observed, that the figure can never have any grace but where the relations are of the most inti mate kind.
1. An attribute of the cause expressed as an attribute of the effect.
Of yonder fleet a bold discovery make.
An impious mortal gave the daring wound.
To my advent'rous song,
2. An attribute of the effect expressed as an attribute of the cause. Quos periisse ambos misera censebam in mari. No wonder, fallen such a pernicious height.
3. An effect expressed as an attribute of the cause.
Jovial wine, Giddy brink, Drowsy night, Musing midnight, Panting height, Astonish'd thought, Mournful gloom.
Casting a dim religious light.
And the merry bells ring round,
4. An attribute of a subject bestowed upon one of its parts or members.
*See Chap. 2. Part 1. Sect. 5.
+ Both of whom perished in the miserable ocean.
† A bold deed.
It was the nightingale and not the lark,
Oh, lay by
Those most ungentle looks and angry weapons;
Fair Penitent, Act III.
And ready now
To stoop with wearied wing and willing feet,
Paradise Lost, B. III.
5. A quality of the agent given to the instrument with which it operates.
Why peep your coward swords half out their shells!
6. An attribute of the agent given to the subject upon which it operates.
7. A quality of one'subject given to another.
When sapless age, and weak unable limbs,
Horat. Carm. 1. 1. ode 29.
By art, the pilot through the boiling deep
'Tis ours the chance of fighting fields to try.
Iliad, XXIII. 385.
Then, nothing loath, th' enamour'd fair he led, And sunk transported on the conscious bed. A stupid moment motionless she stood. 8. A circumstance connected with a subject, expressed as a quality of the subject.
Odyssey, VIII. 337.
And mighty ruins fall.
Impious sons their mangled fathers wound.
Iliad, I. 301. Odyssey, V. 395.
From this table it appears, that the adorning of a cause with an attribute of the effect, is not so agreeable as the opposite expression. The progress from cause to effect is natural and easy: the opposite progress resembles retrograde motion;t and therefore panting height, astonish'd thought, are strained and uncouth expressions, which a writer of taste will avoid.
It is not less strained to apply to a subject in its present state, an epithet that may belong to it in some future state:
Submersasque obrue puppes.
Eneid. I. 73. Iliad, V. 411.
*Iccus, you now envy the happy treasures of the Arabians.
Another rule regards this figure, that the property of one subject ought not to be bestowed upon another with which that property is incongruous:
How dare thy joints forget
Richard II. Act III. Sc. 3.
The connection between an awful superior and his submissive dependent is so intimate, that an attribute may readily be transferred from the one to the other; but awfulness cannot be so transferred, because it is inconsistent with submission.
METAPHOR AND ALLEGORY.
The difference between a metaphor and a simile-The meaning of metaphorThe meaning of allegory-The two rules that govern metaphor and allegoryOf construction-Not agreeable where the resemblance is too faint or too strong-not agreeable if not proportionable-Not to be crowded with minute circumstances-Words literally applicable to the imagined nature of the subject to be used-Different metaphors not to be jumbled-Plain language and metaphor not to be jumbled-Metaphors excluded from common conversation-Improper in severe passions that wholly occupy the mind-Proper when a man struggles to bear up against misfortunes.
A METAPHOR differs from a simile, in form only, not in substance: in a simile, the two subjects are kept distinct in the expression, as well as in the thought; in a metaphor, the two subjects are kept distinct in the thought only, not in the expression. A hero resembles a lion, and, upon that resemblance, many similes have been raised by Homer and other poets. But instead of resembling a lion, let us take the aid of the imagination, and feign or figure the hero to be a lion: by that variation the simile is converted into a metaphor; which is carried on by describing all the qualities of a lion that resemble those of the hero. The fundamental pleasure here, that of resemblance, belongs to the thought. An additional pleasure arises from the expression: the poet, by figuring his hero to be a lion, goes on to describe the lion in appearance, but in reality the hero; and his description is peculiarly beautiful, by expressing the virtues and qualities of the hero in new terms, which, properly speaking, belong not to him, but to the lion. This will better be understood by examples. A family connected with a common parent, resembles a tree, the trunk and branches of which are connected with a common root: but let us suppose, that a family is figured, not barely to be like a tree, but to be a tree; and then the simile will be converted into a metaphor, in the following manner:
Edward's seven sons, whereof thyself art one,
Richard II. Act I. Sc. 2
Figuring human life to be a voyage at sea:
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Figuring glory and honor to be a garland of flowers.
Julius Casar, Act IV. Sc. 3.
First Part Henry IV. Act V. Sc. 4. Figuring a man who hath acquired great reputation and honour to be a tree full of fruit:
-Oh, boys, this story
The world may read in me: my body's mark'd
Whose boughs did bend with fruit. But in one night,
Shook down my mellow hangings, nay my leaves;
Cymbeline, Act III. Sc. 3.
Blest be thy soul, thou king of shells, said Swaran of the dark-brown shield. In peace thou art the gale of spring; in war, the mountain-storm. Take now my hand in friendship, thou noble king of Morven. Fingal. Thou dwellest in the soul of Malvina, son of mighty Ossian. My sighs arise with the beam of the east: my tears descend with the drops of night. I was a lovely tree in thy presence, Oscar, with all my branches round me: but thy death came like a blast from the desert, and laid my green head low: the spring returned with its showers, but no leaf of mine arose. Fingal.
I am aware that the term metaphor has been used in a more extensive sense than I give it; but I thought it of consequence, in a disquisition of some intricacy, to confine the term to its proper sense, and to separate from it things that are distinguished by different names. An allegory differs from a metaphor; and what I would choose to call a figure of speech, differs from both. I proceed to explain these differences. A metaphor is defined above to be an act of the imagination, figuring one thing to be another. An allegory requires no such operation, nor is one thing figured to be another: it consists in choosing a subject having properties or circumstances resembling those of the principal subject; and the former is described in such a manner as to represent the latter; the subject thus represented is kept out of view; we are left to discover it by reflection; and we are pleased with the discovery, because it is our own work. Quintilian gives the following instance of an allegory:
O navis, referent in mare te novi
Fluctus. O quid agis? fortiter occupa portum.
New floods of strife that swell the main
⚫ L. 8. cap. 6. sect. 2.
Horat. lib. I. ode 14.
and explains it elegant.y in the following words: "Totusque ille Horatii locus, quo navim pro republica, fluctuum tempestates pro bellis civilibus, portum pro pace, atque concordia, dicit."
A finer or more correct allegory is not to be found than the following, in which a vineyard is made to represent God's own people the Jews.
Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shadow, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all which pass do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold and visit this vine, and the vineyard thy right hand hath planted, and the branch thou madest strong for thyself. Psalm LXXX.
In a word, an allegory is in every respect similar to an hieroglyphical painting, excepting only that words are used instead of colors. Their effects are precisely the same: a hieroglyphic raises two images in the mind; one seen, which represents one not seen: an allegory does the same; the representative subject is described; and resemblance leads us to apply the description to the subject represented. In a figure of speech, there is no fiction of the imagination employed, as in a metaphor, nor a representative subject introduced, as in an allegory. This figure, as its name implies, regards the expression only, not the thought; and it may be defined, the using of a word in a sense different from what is proper to it. Thus youth, or the beginning of life, is expressed figuratively by morning of life: morning is the beginning of the day; and in that view it is employed to signify the beginning of any other series, life especially, the progress of which is reckoned by days.
Figures of speech are reserved for a separate section; but metaphor and allegory are so much connected, that they must be handled together: the rules particularly for distinguishing the good from the bad, are common to both. We shall therefore proceed to these rules, after adding some examples to illustrate the nature of an allegory. Horace, speaking of his love to Pyrrha, which was now extinguished, expresses himself thus: