Page images

8. A circumstance connected with a subject, expressed as a qua lity of the subject.

Breezy summit.

'Tis ours the chance of fighting fields to try.-Iliad, i. 301.

Oh! had I died before that well-fought wall.-Odyssey, v. 395.

From this table it appears, that the adorning 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 ;* 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 :

Submesasque obrue puppes.—Æneid, i. 73.
And mighty ruins fall.-Iliad, v. 411.

Impious sons their mangled fathers wound.

Another rule regards this figure, That the property of one subject ought not to be bestowed upon another with which that property is incongruous :

King Rich.

How dare thy joints forget

To pay their awful duty to our presence ?-Richard II. act 3. sc. 6. The connexion between an awful superior and his submissive dependant 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.



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 similies have been raised by Homer and other poets. But instead of resembling a lion, let us take the aid of the imagination, and fain 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 speak.

* See chap. 1.

ing, 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 sev'n sons, whereof thyself are one,
Were sev'n fair branches, springing from one root:
Some of these branches by the dest'nies cut:
But Thomas, my dear lord, my life, my Gloster,
One flourishing branch of his most royal root,

Is hack'd down, and his summer-leaves all faded,

By Envy's hand and Murder's bloody axe.-Richard II. act 1. sc. 3.

Figuring human life to be a voyage at sea :

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current while it serves,
Or lose our ventures.-Julius Cæsar, act 4. sc. 5.

Figuring glory and honour to be a garland of flowers:

[blocks in formation]

Thy name in arms were now as great as mine!

Pr. Henry. I'll make it greater, ere I part from thee,
And all the budding honours on thy crest

I'll crop, to make a garland for



First Part, Henry IV. act 5. sc. 9:

Figuring a man who hath acquired great reputation and honour to be a tree full of fruit :

-O, boys, this story

The world may read in me: my body's mark'd
With Roman swords; and my report was once
First with the best of note. Cymbeline lov'd me;
And when a soldier was the theme, my name

Was not far off: then was I as a tree,

Whose boughs did bend with fruit: but in one night,
A storm or robbery, call it what you will,

Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,
And left me bare to weather.-Cymbeline, act 3. sc. 3.

Blest be thy soul, thou king of shells, said Swaran of the dark-brown shield. Iri 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 desart, and laid my green head low: the spring returned with its showers, but no leaf of mine arose.-Ibid.

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 ex

plain 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.

Horat. lib. 1. ode 14.

and explains it elegantly 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 woods 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 80.

In a word, an allegory is in every respect similar to an hierogly phical painting, excepting only that words are used instead of colours. 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 fine figure of speech, there is no fiction of the ima. gination 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 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 al. legory. Horace, speaking of his love to Pyrrha, which was now extinguished, expresseth himself thus:

-Me tabulâ sacer

Votivâ paries indicat uvida

*L. 8. cap. 6. sect. 2.

[blocks in formation]

Phœbus volentem prælia me loqui,

Victas et urbes, increpuit, lyrâ :
Ne parva Tyrrhenum per æquor

Vela darem.-Carm. 1. 4. ode 15.

Queen. Great Lords, wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss,

But cheerly seek how to redress their harms.

What though the mast be now thrown overboard,

The cable broke, the holding anchor lost,

And half our sailors swallow'd in the flood;

Yet lives our pilot still. Is't meet, that he
Should leave the helm, and, like a fearful lad,
With tearful eyes, add water to the sea,

And give more strength to that which hath too much;
While in his moan the ship splits on the rock,
Which industry and courage might have sav'd?
Ah, what a shame! ah, what a fault were this!

Third Part, Henry VI. act 5. sc, 5.

Oroonoko. Ha! thou hast rous'd
The lion in his den: he stalks abroad,
And the wide forest trembles at his roar.

I find the danger now.-Oroonoko, act 3. sc. 2.

My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. He fenced it, gathered out the stones thereof, planted it with the choicest vines, built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned, nor digged, but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.—Isaiah, v. 1.

The rules that govern metaphors and allegories are of two kinds : the construction of these figures comes under the first kind; the propriety or impropriety of introduction comes under the other. I begin with rules of the first kind; some of which coincide with those already given for similies; some are peculiar to metaphors and allegories.

And, in the first place, it has been observed, that a simile cannot be agreeable where the resemblance is either too strong or too faint. This holds equally in metaphor and allegory; and the reason is the same in all. In the following instances, the resemblance is too faint to be agreeable :

Malcolm. --But there's no bottom, none,
In my voluptuousness: your wives, your daughters,
Your matrons, and your maids, could not fill up
The cistern of my lust.-Macbeth, act 5. sc. 4.

The best way to judge of this metaphor is to convert it into a simile; which would be bad, because there is scarce any resemblance between lust and a cistern, or betwixt enormous lust and a large cistern.


Fle cannot buckle his distemper'd cause

Within the belt of rule.-Macbeth, act 5. sc. 2.

There is no resemblance between a distempered cause and any body that can be confined within a belt.


Steep me in poverty to the very lips.-Othello, act 4. sc. 9.

Poverty must here be conceived a fluid, which it resembles not in any manner.

Speaking to Bolingbroke banished for six years:


The sullen passage of thy weary steps

Esteem a soil, wherein thou art to set

The precious jewel of thy home-return.-Richard II. act 1, sc. 6.

Here is a letter, lady,

And every word in it a gaping wound,

Issuing life-blood.—Merchant of Venice, act 3. sc. 3.

Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem.-Æneid, i. 37.

The following metaphor is strained beyond all endurance. Timurbec, known to us by the name of Tamerlane the Great, writes to Bajazet, Emperor of the Ottomans, in the following terms:

Where is the monarch who dares resist us? where is the potentate who doth not glory in being numbered among our attendants? As for thee, descended from a Turcoman sailor, since the vessel of thy unbounded ambition hath been wrecked in the gulf of thy self-love, it would be proper that thou shouldst take in the sails of thy temerity, and cast the anchor of repentance in the port of sincerity and justice, which is the port of safety; lest the tempest of our vengeance make thee perish in the sea of the punishment thou deservest.

Such strained figures, as observed above,* are not unfrequent in the first dawn of refinement. The mind in a new enjoyment knows no bounds, and is generally carried to excess, till taste and experience discover the proper limits.

Secondly, Whatever resemblance subjects may have, it is wrong to put one for another, where they bear no mutual proportion. Upon comparing a very high to a very low subject, the simile takes on an air of burlesque; and the same will be the effect, where the one is imagined to be the other, as in a metaphor, or made to represent the other, as in an allegory.

Thirdly, These figures, a metaphor especially, ought not to be crowded with many minute circumstances; for in that case it is scarcely possible to avoid obscurity. A metaphor above all ought to be short. It is difficult, for any time, to support a lively image of a thing being what we know it is not; and, for that reason, a metaphor drawn out to any length, instead of illustrating or enlivening the principal subject, becomes disagreeable by overstraining the mind. Here Cowley is extremely licentious; take the following instance: Great and wise conqu'ror, who, where'er Thou com'st, doth fortify, and settle there!

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »