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bility cannot read without being strongly affected. The difficulty lies in choosing such hyperboles as the subject will admit of; for, according to the definition of Theophrastus, the frigid in style is that which exceeds the expression suitable to the subject. The judgment does not revolt against Homer for representing the horses of Ericthonius running over the standing corn without breaking off the heads, because the whole is considered as a fable, and the north wind is represented as their sire; but the imagination is a little startled, when Virgil, in imitation of this hyperbole, exhibits Camilla as flying over it without even touching the tops :
Illa vel intactæ segetis per summa volaret
This elegant author, we are afraid, has upon some other occasions degenerated into the frigid, in straining to improve upon
great master. Homer in the Odyssey, a work which Longinus does not scruple to charge with bearing the marks of old age, describes a storm in which all the four winds were concerned together.
Συν δ' Eυρός τε, Νοτός σ’ έπεσε, Ζεφυρός τε δυσαής,
We know that such a contention of contrary blasts could not possibly exist in nature; for even in hurricanes the winds blow alternately from different points of the compass. Nevertheless Virgil adopts the description, and adds to its extravagance.
Incubuere mari, totumque à sedibus imis
Here the winds not only blow together, but they turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turvy.
East, west, and south, engage with furious sweep,
The north wind, however, is still more mischievous :
Stridens aquilone procella
The sail then Boreas rends with hideous cry,
The motion of the sea between Scylla and Charybdis is still more magnified; and Ætna is exhibited as throwing out volumes of flame, which brush the stars. Such expressions as these are not intended as a real representation of the thing specified; they are designed to strike the reader's imagination, but they generally serve as marks of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his own conception, is hurried into excess and extravagance.
Quintilian allows the use of hyperbole, when words are wanting to express any thing in its just strength or due energy: then, he says, it is better to exceed in expression than fall short of the conception; but he likewise observes, that there is no figure or form of speech so apt to run into fustian. Nec alia magis via in raxoye heav itur.
'Speaking of the first, he
says, Tollimur in coelum curvato gurgite, et iidem Subductà ad manes imos descendimus undâ.
Of the other,
Attollit oue globos flammarum, et sidera lambit.
If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon poetical probability, what can we expect from Lucan but hyperboles even more ridiculously extravagant? He represents the winds in contest, the sea in suspense, doubting to which
He affirms, that its motion would have been so violent as to produce a second deluge, had not Jupiter kept it under by the clouds; and as to the ship during this dreadful uproar, the sails touch the clouds, while the keel strikes the ground:
it shall give way.
Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carina.
This image of dashing water at the stars, Sir Richard Blackmore has produced in colours truly ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison :
Like some prodigious water-engine made
The great fault in all these instances is a deviation froin propriety, owing to the erroneous judgment of the writer, who, endeavouring to captivate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks the understanding with extrava gance. Of this nature is the whole description of the Cyclops, both in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the Æneid of Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great original to dazzle us with false fire, and practise upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will not bear the critic's examination. There is not in any of Homer's works now subsisting such an example of the false sublime, as Virgil's description of the thunderbolts forging under the hammers
of the Cyclops.
Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosa
Three rays of writhen rain, of fire three more,
This is altogether a fantastic piece of affectation, of which we can form no sensible image, and serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the admiration of a judging reader.
Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in great plenty through the works of our admired Shakspeare. In the following description, which hath been much cele-. brated, one sees he has had an eye to Virgil's thunderbolts.
O, then I see queen Mab hath been with
Even in describing fantastic beings there is a propriety to be observed; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, than this numbering of the moon-beams among the other implements of queen Mab's harness, which, though extremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless objects of the touch, and may be conceived capable of use.
The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyperboles :
such exaggerations suit the impetuous warmth of the one; and in the other have a good effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against vice. They may be likewise successfully used in comedy, for moving and managing the powers of ridicule.
Verse is an harmonious arrangement of long and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured cadence, or music, which was used when the first songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided into different parts, required a regular return of the same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrophe, stanza, contained the same number of feet. To know what constituted the different kinds of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect to the number and quantity of their syllables, we have nothing to do but to consult those who have written on grammar and prosody: it is the business of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishment of a man of taste.
Various essays have been made in different countries to compare the characters of ancient and modern versification, and to point out the difference beyond any possibility of mistake. But they have made distinctions, where in fact there was no difference, and left the criterion unobserved. They have transferred the name of rhyme to a regular repetition of the same sound at the end of the line, and set up this vile monotony as the characteristic of modern verse, in contradistinction to the feet of the an