Page images

Who canst defend as well as get,

And who never hadst one quarter beat up yet;
Now thou art in, thou ne'er wilt part

With one inch of my vanquish'd heart:
For since thou took'st it by assault from me,
'Tis garrison'd so strong with thoughts of thee,
It fears no beauteous enemy.

For the same reason, however agreeable long allegories may at first be by their novelty, they never afford any lasting pleasure : witness the Fairy Queen, which with great power of expression, variety of images, and melody of versification, is scarce ever read a second time.

In the fourth place, the comparison carried on in a simile, being in a metaphor, sunk by imagining the principal subject to be that very thing which it only resembles; an opportunity is furnished to describe it in terms taken strictly or literally with respect to its imagined nature. This suggests another rule; That in constructing a metaphor, the writer ought to make use of such words only as are applicable literally to the imagined nature of his subject. Figurative words ought carefully to be avoided; for such complicated figures, instead of setting the principal subject in a strong light, involve it in a cloud; and it is well if the reader, without rejecting by the lump, endeavour patiently to gather the plain meaning, regardless of its figures:

A stubborn and unconquerable flame
Creeps in his veins, and drinks the streams of life.
Lady Jane Grey, act 1. sc. 1.

Copied from Ovid:

Sorbent avidae praecordia flammae.-Metamorph. lib. 9. 172.

Let us analyze this expression. That a fever may be imagined a flame, I admit; though more than one step is necessary to come at the resemblance. A fever, by heating the body, resembles fire; and it is no stretch to imagine a fever to be a fire. Again, by a figure of speech, flame may be put for fire, because they are commonly con. joined; and therefore a fever may be termed a flame. But now, admitting a fever to be a flame, its effects ought to be explained in words that agree literally to a flame. This rule is not observed here; for a flame drinks figuratively only, not properly. King Henry to his son Prince Henry :

Thou hids't a thousand daggers in thy thoughts,
Which thou hast whetted on thy stony heart,
To stab at half an hour of my frail life.

Second Part, Henry IV. act 4. sc. 11.

Such faulty metaphors are pleasantly ridiculed in the Rehearsal.

Physician. Sir, to conclude, the place you fill has more than amply exacted the talents of a wary pilot; and all these threatening storms, which, like impregnate clouds, hover o'er our heads, will, when they once are grasped but by the eye of reason, melt into fruitful showers of blessings on the people. Bayes. Pray mark that allegory. Is not that good?

Johnson. Yes, that grasping of a storm with the eye is admirable.-Act 2. sc 1.

Fifthly, The jumbling different metaphors in the same sentence.

beginning with one metaphor and ending with another, commonly called a mixed metaphor, ought never to be indulged. Quintilian bears testimony against it in the bitterest terms: "Nam id quoque in primis est custodiendum, ut quo ex genere cœperis translationis, hoc desinas. Multi enim, cum initium a tempestate sumpserunt, incendio aut ruina finiunt: quæ est inconsequentia rerum fœdissima. L. 8. cap. 6. § 2.

[ocr errors]

K. Henry- -Will you again unknit
This churlish knot of all-abhorred war,
And move in that obedient orb again,
Where you did give a fair and natural light?

First Part, Henry VI. act 5. sc. 1.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer

The stings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And, by opposing, end them.-Hamlet, act 3. sc. 2.

In the sixth place, It is unpleasant to join different metaphors in the same period, even where they are preserved distinct; for when the subject is imagined to be first one thing and then another in the same period without interval, the mind is distracted by the rapid transition; and when the imagination is put on such hard duty, its images are too faint to produce any good effect:

At regina gravi jamdudum saucia cura,

Vulnus alit venis, et caeco carpitur igni.-Æneid, iv. 1.

-Est mollis flamma medullas

Interea, et tacitum vivit sub pectore vulnus.-Eneid, iv. 66.

Motum ex Metello consule civicum,

Bellique causas, et vitia, et modos,

Ludumque fortunae, gravesque

Principum amicitias, et arma

Nondum expiatis uncta cruoribus,
Periculosae plenum opus aleae,

Tractas, et incedis per ignes

Subpositos cineri doloso.-Horat. Carm. 1. 2. ode 1.

[ocr errors]

In the last place, It is still worse to jumble together metaphorical and natural expression, so as that the period must be understood in part metaphorically, in part literally; for the imagination cannot follow with sufficient ease changes so sudden and unprepared. A metaphor begun and not carried on, hath no beauty; and, instead of light, there is nothing but obscurity and confusion. Instances of such incorrect composition are without number. I shall, for a specimen, select a few from different authors.

Speaking of Britain:

This precious stone set in the sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house

Against the envy of less happier lands.—Richard II. act 1. sc. 1.

In the first line, Britain is figured to be a precious stone. In the following lines, Britain, divested of her metaphorical dress, is presented to the reader in her natural appearance.

These growing feathers, pluck'd from Caesar's wing,
Will make him fly an ordinary pitch:

Who else would soar above the view of men,

And keep us all in servile fearfulness.-Julius Casar, act 1. sc. 1.

Rebus angustis animosus atque

Fortis adpare: sapienter idem

Contrahes vento nimium secundo

Turgida vela.-Hor. Carm. 1. 2. ode. 10.

The following is a miserable jumble of expressions, arising from an unsteady view of the subject, between its figurative and natural ap


But now from gath'ring clouds destruction pours,
Which ruins with mad rage our halcyon hours:
Mists from black jealousies the tempest form,

Whilst late divisions reinforce the storm.-Dispensary, canto 3.

To thee the world its present homage pays,
The harvest early, but mature the praise.

Pope's Imitation of Horace, b. 2.

Oui, sa pudeur n'est que franche grimace,
Qu'une ombre de vertu qui garde mal la place,
Et qui s'evanouit, comme l'on peut savoir,
Aux rayons du soleil qu'une bourse fait voir.

Moliere, l'Etourdi, act 3. sc. 2.

Et son feu, depourû de sens et de lecture,
S'éteint à chaque pas, faute de nourriture.

Boileau, l'Art Poetique, chant. 3. l. 319.

Dryden, in his dedication of the translation of Juvenal, says,

When thus, as I may say, before the use of the load-stone, or knowledge of the compass, I was sailing in a vast ocean, without other help than the pole-star of the ancients, and the rules of the French stage among the moderns, &c.

There is a time when factions, by the vehemence of their own fermentation, stun and disable one another.-Bolingbroke.

This fault of jumbling the figure and plain expression into one confused mass, is not less common in allegory than in metaphor. Take the following examples :

-Heu! quoties fidem,

Mutatosque Deos flebit, et aspera
Nigris aequora ventis

Emirabitur insolens,

Qui nunc te fruitur credulus aureâ ;

Qui semper vacuam, semper amabilem

Sperat, nescius aurae

Fallacis.-Horat. Carm. l. 1. ode 1.

Pour moi sur cette mer, qu'ici bas nous courons,
Je songe à me pourvoir d'esquif et d'avirons,

A regler mes desirs, à prévenir l'orage,

Et sauver, s'il se peut, ma Raison du naufrage.-Boileau, Epitre 5. Lord Halifax, speaking of the ancient fabulists: "They (says he) wrote in signs, and spoke in parables. All their fables carry a double meaning the story is one and entire; the characters the same throughout not broken or changed, and always conformable to the nature of the creature they introduce. They never tell you, that the dog which snapped at a shadow, lost his troop of horse; that would be unintelligible. This is his (Dryden's) new way of telling a story, and confounding the moral and the fable together." After instancing

from the hind and panther, he goes on thus: What relation has the hind to our Saviour! or, What notion have we of a panther's bible? If you say he means the church, How does the church feed on lawns, or range in the forest? Let it be always a church, or always a cloven-footed beast; for we cannot bear his shifting the scene every line."

A few words more upon allegory. Nothing gives greater pleasure than this figure, when the representative subject bears a strong analogy, in all its circumstances, to that which is represented: but the choice is seldom so lucky; the analogy being generally so faint and obscure, as to puzzle and not please. An allegory is still more dif. ficult in painting than in poetry: the former can shew no resemblance but what appears to the eye; the latter hath many other resources for shewing the resemblance; and, therefore, with respect to what the Abbé du Bos* terms mixed allegorical compositions, these may do in poetry; because, in writing, the allegory can easily be distinguished from the historical part; no person, for example, mistakes Virgil's Fame for a real being. But such a mixture in a picture is intolerable; because, in a picture the objects must appear all of the same kind, wholly real, or wholly emblematical. For this reason, the history of Mary de Medicis, in the palace of Luxembourg, painted by Rubens, is unpleasant by a perpetual jumble of real and allegorical personages, which produce a discordance of parts, and an obscurity upon the whole; witness, in particular, the tablature representing the arrival of Mary de Medicis at Marseilles, where, together with the real personages, the Nereids and Tritons appear sounding their shells; such a mixture of fiction and reality in the same group is strangely absurd. The picture of Alexander and Roxana, described by Lucian, is gay and fanciful; but it suffers by the allegorical figures. It is not in the wit of man to invent an allegorical representation deviating farther from any shadow of resemblance than one exhibited by Lewis XIV. anno 1664; in which an enormous chariot, intended to represent that of the sun, is dragged along, surrounded with men and women, representing the four ages of the world, the celestial signs, the seasons, the hours, &c. ; a monstrous composition, suggested, probably, by Guido's tabla. ture of Aurora, and still more absurd.

In an allegory, as well as in a metaphor, terms ought to be chosen that properly and literally are applicable to the representative subject; nor ought any circumstance to be added that is not proper to the representative subject, however justly it may be applicable, properly or figuratively, to the principal. The following allegory is therefore faulty:

[blocks in formation]

For though blood may suggest the cruelty of love, it is an improper or immaterial circumstance in the representative subject: water, not blood, is proper for a whetstone.

* Reflections sur la Poesie, vol. 1. sect. 24.

[ocr errors]

We proceed to the next head, which is, To examine in what circumstances these figure are proper, and what improper. This inquiry is not altogether superseded by what is said upon the same subject in the chapter of Comparisons; because, upon trial, it will be found, that a short metaphor, or allegory, may be proper, where a simile, drawn out to a greater length, and in its nature more solemn, would scarce be relished.

And first, A metaphor, like a simile, is excluded from common conversation, and from the description of ordinary incident.

Second, In expressing any severe passion that wholly occupies the mind, metaphor is improper. For which reason the following speech of Macbeth is faulty:

Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more!
Macbeth doth murder sleep: the innocent sleep;
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of Care,
The birth of each day's life, sore Labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great Nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in Life's feast.-Act 2. sc. 3.

The following example of deep despair, beside the highly figura-
tive style, hath more the air of raving than of sense :

Calista. Is it the voice of thunder, or my father?
Madness, Confusion! let the storm come on,
Let the tumultuous roar drive all upon me,
Dash my devoted bark; ye surges, break it:
"Tis for my ruin that the tempest rises.

When I am lost, sunk to the bottom low,

Peace shall return, and all be calm again.-Fair Penitent, act 4.

The metaphor I next introduce is sweet and lively; but it suits not a
fiery temper inflamed with passion. Parables are not the language
of wrath venting itself without restraint :

Chamont. You took her up a little tender flower,
Just sprouted on a bank, which the next frost

Had nipp'd; and, with a careful loving hand,
Transplanted her into your own fair garden,

Where the sun always shines: there long she flourish'd,
Grew sweet to sense, and lovely to the eye,

Till at the last a cruel spoiler came,

Cropt this fair rose, and rifled all its sweetness,

Then cast it like a loathsome weed away.-Orphan, act 4.

The following speech, full of imagery, is not natural in grief and dejection of mind:

Gonsales. O my son! from the blind dotage

Of a father's fondness these ills arose.

For thee I've been ambitious, base, and bloody;
For thee I've plung'd into this sea of sin;
Stemming the tide with only one weak hand,

While t'other bore the crown (to wreath thy brow),
Whose weight has sunk me ere I reach'd the shore.

Mourning Bride, act 5. sc. 6.

There is an enchanting picture of deep distress in Macbeth,* where Macduff is represented lamenting his wife and children, inhumanly murdered by the tyrant. Stung to the heart with the news, he

* Act 4, sc. 6.

« PreviousContinue »