« AnteriorContinuar »
verage chastised by the sober deity,”—a metaphor ESSAY XVI.
that signifies nothing more than “mixed or low
ered with water." Demetrius Phalereus justly Of all the implements of poetry, the metaphor
observes, that though a judicious use of metapbors is the most generally and successfully used, and
wonderfully raises, sublimes, and adorns oratory indeed may be termed the Muse's caduceus, by the power of which she enchants all nature. The or elocution, yet they should seem to flow natural
ly from the subject; and too great a redundancy of metaphor is a shorter simile, or rather a kind of
them inflates the discourse to a mere rhapsody. magical coat, by which the same idea assumes a
The same observation will hold in poetry; and the thousand different appearances. Thus the word
more liberal or sparing use of them will depend in plough, which originally belongs to agriculture, being metaphorically used, represents the motion a great measure on the nature of the suhject.
Passion itself is very figurative, and often bursts of a ship at sea, and the effects of old age 'upon the
out into metaphors; but in touching the pathos, human countenance
the poet must be perfectly well acquainted with -Plough'd the bosom of the deep
the emotions of the human soul, and carefully dis
tinguish between those metaphors which rise glowAnd time had plough'd his venerable front.
ing from the heart, and those cold conceits which Almost every verb, noun substantive, or term of are engendered in the fancy. Should one of these art in any language, may be in this manner ap- last unfortunately intervene, it will be apt to deplied to a variety of subjects with admirable effect;stroy the whole effect of the most pathetical incibut the danger is in sowing metaphors too thick dent or situation. Indeed it requires the most so as to distract the imagination of the reader, and delicate taste, and a consummate knowledge of proincur the imputation of deserting nature, in order priety, to employ metaphors in such a manner as to hunt after conceits. Every day produces poems to avoid what the 'ancients call the to tuxeer
, the of all kinds, so inflated with metaphor, that they frigid, or false sublime. Instances of this kind may be compared to the gaudy bubbles blown up were frequent even among the correct ancients. from a solution of soap. Longinus is of opinion, Sappho herself is blamed for using the hyperbole that a multitude of metaphors is never excusable, 2eUxotipos Xocros, whiter than snou. Demetrius is except in those cases when the passions are rous- so nice as to be disgusted at the simile of swift as ed, and like a winter torrent rush down impelu- the wind; though, in speaking of a race-horse, we ous, sweeping them with collective force along. know from experience that this is not even an hy. He brings an instance of the following quotation perbole. He would have had more reason to censure from Demosthenes.; "Men,” says he, "profli- that kind of metaphor which Aristotle styles 215' gates, miscreants, and flatterers, who having seve. everguay, exhibiting things inanimate as endued with rally preyed upon the bowels of their country, at sense and reason ; such as that of the sharp pointed length betrayed her liberty, first to Philip, and now arrow, eager to take wing among the crowd. again to Alexander; who, placing the chief felici- O Eubeams xx9 OLACY ETITTEJOn Marsupi. Not but ty of life in the indulgence of infamous lusts and that in descriptive poetry this figure is often allowappetites, overturned in the dust that freedom and ed and admired. The cruel sword, the ruthless independence which was the chief aim and end of dagger, the ruffian blast, are epithets which freall our worthy ancestors."'*
quently occur. The faithful bosom of the earth, Aristotle and Theophrastus seem to think it is the joyous boughs, the trees that admire their imrather too bold and hazardous to use metaphors so ages reflected in the stream, and many other examfreely, without interposing some mitigating phrase, ples of this kind, are found disseminated through such as “ if I may be allowed the expression," or the works of our best modern poets; yet still they some equivalent excuse. At the same time Lon- must be sheltered under the privilege of the poetica ginus finds fault with Plato for hazarding some licentia ; and, expect in poetry, they would give metaphors, which indeed appear to be equally af- offence. fected and extravagant, when he says, "The go- More chaste metaphors are freely used in all vernment of a state should not resemble a bowl of kinds of writing; more sparingly in history, and hot fermenting wine, but a cool and moderate be more abundantly in rhetoric: we have seen that
Plato indulges in them even to excess.
The ora* Ανθρωποι, φησι, μιαροι, και αλαστρες, και κολακες, tions of Demosthenes are animated and even inακρωτηριασμενοι τας εαυτων έκαστοι πατριδας την Hamed with metaphore, some of them so bold as ελευθεριαν προπεπακοτες, προτερον Φιλιππα, νυν δ' Αλεξ- even to entail upon him the censure of the critics. ανδρω, τη γαστρι μετρούντες και τους αισχιστους την Τοτε το Πυθωνι το ρητορι ρεoντι καθ' υμα.-«Then ευδαιμονίαν, την δ' ελευθεριαν, και To pandero Xerv I did not yield to Python the orator, when he overδεσποτων αυτών, και τους προτεροις, Ελλησιν οροι των αγα. | howed you with a tide of eloquence.” Cicero is θαν ησαν και κανονες, etc.
still more liberal in the use of them : he ransacks
all nature, and pours forth a redundancy of figures, an author so universally held in veneration, whose even with a lavish hand. Even the chaste Xeno- very errors have helped to sanctify his character phon, who generally illustrates his subject by way among the multitude, we will descend to particuof simile, sometimes ventures to produce an ex- lars, and analyze this famous soliloquy. pressive metaphor, such as, part of the phalanx Hamlet, having assumed the disguise of madness, fluctuated in the march; and indeed nothing can as a cloak under which he might the more effecbe more significant than this word [exupenne, to tually revenge his father's death upon the murderer represent a body of men staggered, and on the and usurper, appears alone upon the stage in a point of giving way. Armstrong has used the pensive and melancholy attitude, and communes word fluctuate with admirable efficacy, in his phi- with himself in these words : losophical poem, entitled, The Art of Preserving Health.
To be, or not to be, that is the question :
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them ?—To die, ---to sleep, --
No more ;-and, by a sleep, to say we end
The heart-ach, and the thousand natural shocks The word fluctuate on this occasion not only That flesh is heir to,—'tis a consummation exhibits an idea of struggling, but also echoes to Devoutly to be wish'd. To die ;-to sleep;the sense like the copier do para of Homer; which,
To sleep! perchance to dream ;-ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, by the by, it is impossible to render into English,
When we are shuted off this mortal coil, for the verb oploow signifies not only to stand erect Must give us pause :- There's the respect, like prickles, as a grove of lanees, but also to make That makes calamity of so long life: a noise like the crashing of armour, the hissing of For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, javelins, and the splinters of spears.
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, Over and above an excess of figures, a young
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns author is apt to run into a confusion of mixed me- That patient merit of th' unworthy cakes, taphors, which leave the sense disjointed, and dis- When he himself might his quietus make tract the imagination : Shakspeare himself is often With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a wcary life; guilty of these irregularities. The soliloquy in
But that the dread of something after death, Hamlet, which we have so often heard extolled in
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn terms of admiration, is, in our opinion, a heap of No traveller returns --puzzles the will: absurdities, whether we consider the situation, the And makes us rather bear those ills we have, sentiment, the argumentation, or the poetry. Ham
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; let is informed by the Ghost, that his father was
And thus the native hue of resolution murdered, and therefore he is tempted to murder
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought ; himself, even after he had promised to take ven- And enterprises of great pith and moment, geance on the usurper, and expressed the utmost With this regard, their currents turn awry, eagerness to achieve this enterprise. It does not And lose the name of action. appear that he had the least reason to wish for death ; but every motive which may be supposed We have already observed, that there is not any to influence the mind of a young prince, concurred apparent circumstance in the fate or situation of to render life desirable-revenge towards the usur- Hamlet, that should prompt him to harbour one per; love for the fair Ophelia ; and the ambition thought of self-murder: and therefore these exof reigning. Besides, when he had an opportu- pressions of despair imply an impropriety in point nity of dying without being accessary to his own of character. But supposing his condition was death; when he had nothing to do but, in obe- truly desperate, and he saw no possibility of repose dience to his uncle's command, to allow himself to but in the uncertain harbour of death, let us see in be conveyed quietly to England, where he was what manner he argues on that subject. The sure of suffering death ; instead of amusing him- question is, “To be, or not to be;" to die by my self with meditations on mortality, he very wisely own hand, or live and suffer the miseries of life. consulted the means of self-preservation, turned He proceeds to explain the alternative in these the tables upon his attendants, and returned to terms, "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, Denmark. But granting him to have been re- or endure the frowns of fortune, or to take arms, duced to the lowest state of despondence, surround- and by opposing, end them.” Here he deviates ed with nothing but horror and despair, sick of from his first proposition, and death is no longer this life, and eager to tempt futurity, we shall see the question. The only doubt is, whether he will how far he argues like a philosopher.
stoop to misfortune, or exert his faculties in order In order to support this general charge against to surmount it. This surely is the obvious mean
ing, and indeed the only meaning that can be im- question. Hamlet was deterred from suicide by a plied to these words,
full conviction, that, in flying from one sea of
troubles which he did know, he should fall into Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer The slings and arrows of putrageous fortune;
another which he did not know, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
His whole chain of reasoning, therefore, seems And by opposing, end them?
inconsistent and incongruous. “I am doubtful
whether I should live, or do violence upon my own He now drops this idea, and reverts to his reason- life: for I knew not whether it is more bonourable ing on death, in the course of which he owns him to bear misfortune patiently, than to exert myself self deterred from suicide by the thoughts of what in opposing misfortune, and by opposing, end it" may follow death;
Let us throw it into the form of a syllogism, it will -The dread of something after death,
stand thus: "I am oppressed with ills; I know The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
not whether it is more honourable to bear those ills No traveller returns.
patiently, or to end them by taking arms against This might be a good argument in a Heathen them : ergo, I am doubtful whether I should slay or Pagan, and such indeed Hamlet really was; but myself or live. To die
, is no more than to sleep; Shakspeare has already represented him as a good
and to say that by a sleep we end the heart-ache," Catholic
, who must have been acquainted with etc. "'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd" the truths of revealed religion, and says expressly
Now to say it was of no consequence unless it had in this very play,
been true. "I am afraid of the dreams that may
happen in that sleep of death; and I choose rather -Had not the everlasting fix'd
to bear those ills I have in this life, than to fly to His canon 'gainst self-murder.
other ills in that undiscovered country, froin whose Moreover, he had just been conversing with his bourn no traveller ever returns. I have ills that father's spirit piping hot from purgatory, which are almost insupportable in this life. I know not we presume is not within the bourn of this world. what is in the next; because it is an undiscovered The dread of what may happen after death, country: ergo, I'd rather bear those ills I have,
than fly to others which I know not of.” Here says he,
the conclusion is by no means warranted by the Makes us rather bear those ills we have,
premises. "I am sore afflicted in this life ; but I Than fly to others that we know not of.
will rather bear the afflictions of this life, than This declaration at least implies some knowledge plunge myself in the aflictions of another life: of the other world, and expressly asserts, that there ergo, conscience makes cowards of us all.” But must be ills in that world, though what kind of ills this conclusion would justify the logician in saythey are, we do not know. The argument, there ing, negatur consequens ; for it is entirely defore, may be reduced to this lemmå : this world tached both from the major and minor propa
sition, abounds with ills which I feel; the other world abounds with ills, the nature of which I do not
This soliloquy is not less exceptionable in the know; therefore, I will rather bear those ills i propriety of expression, than in the chain of arguhave, “than fly to others which I know not of: " mentation. · "To die-o sleep-no more," cona deduction amounting to a certainty, with respect
tains an ambiguity, which all the art of punctuato the only circumstance that could create a doubt, tion can not remove : for it may signify that “ to namely, whether in death he should rest from his die," is to sleep no more; or the expression “ no misery; and if he was certain there were evils in more," may be considered as an abrupt apostrophe the next world, as well as in this, he had no room
in thinking, as if he meant to say "no more of that to reason at all about the matter. What alone
reflection." could justify his thinking on this subject, would
“Ay, there's the rub,” is a vulgarism beneath have been the hope of Aying from the ills of this the dignity of Hamlet's character, and the words world, without encountering any others in the that follow leave the sense imperfect: next.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, Nor is Hamlet more accurate in the following
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, reflection :
Must give us pause, A bad conscience will make us cowards; but a what dreams might come, occasioned the pause or
Not the dreams that might come, but the fear of good conscience will make us brave. It does not hesitation. Respect in the same line may be al appear
any thing lay heavy on his conscience; lowed to pass for consideration : but and from the premises we can not help inferring, that conscience in this case was entirely out of the The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.
according to the invariable acceptation of the words the anchor of repentance in the port of sincerity wrong and contumely, can signify nothing but and justice, which is the harbour of safety; lest the wrongs sustained by the oppressor, and the the tempest of our vengeanco make thee perish in contumely or abuse thrown upon the proud man; the sea of that punishment thou hast deserved." though it is plain that Shakspeare used them in a But if these laboured conceits are ridiculous in different sense : neither is the word spurn a sub- poetry, they are still more inexcusable in prose: stantive, yet as such he has inserted it in these lines : such as we find them frequently occur in Strada's
Bellum Belgicum. Vir descenderat à prætorid The insolence of office, and the spurna
navi Cæsar ; cùm fæda ilico erorta in portu temThat paticnt merit of th' unworthy takes
pestas; classem impetu disjecit, prætoriam hausit ; If we consider the metaphors of the solilor uy, quasi non vecturam amplius Cæsarem Cæsariswe shall find them jumbled together in a strange que fortunam. “Cæsar had scarcely set his feet confusion.
on shore, when a terrible tempest arising, shatterIf the metaphors were reduced to painting, weed the fleet even in the harbour, and sent to the should find it a very difficult task, if not altogether bottom the prætorian ship, as if he resolved it impracticable, to represent with any propriety out- should no longer carry Cæsar and his fortunes.” rageous fortune using her slings and arrows, be- Yet this is modest in comparison of the followtween which indeed there is no sort of analogy in ing flowers: Alii, pulsis é tormento catenis disnature. Neither can any figure be more ridiculous-cerpti sectique, dimidiato corpore pugnabant sibi ly absurd than that of a man taking arms against superstites, ac peremtæ partis ultores. “Others, a sea, exclusive of the incongruous medley of slings, dissevered and cut in twain by chain-shot, fought arrows, and seas, justled within the compass of with one-half of their bodies that remained, in reone reficction. What follows is a strange rhapsody venge of the other half that was slain.” of broken images of sleeping, dreaming, and shift- Homer, Horace, and even the chaste Virgil, is ing off a coil, which last conveys no idea that can not free from conceits. The latter, speaking of a be represented on canvass. A man may be ex- man's hand cut off in battle, says, hibited shuffling off his garments or his chains : but how he should shuffle off a coil, which is an
Te decisa fuum, Larido, dextera quærit;
Semianimesque micant digiti, ferrumque retractant : other term for noise and tumult, we cannot comprehend. Then we have “long-lived calamity," thus enduing the amputated hand with sense and and "time armed with whips and scorns;" and volition. This, to be sure, is a violent figure, and “patient merit spurned at by unworthiness;” and hath been justly condemned by some accurate cri“misery with a bare bodkin going to make his own tics; but we think they are too severe in extending quietus," which at best is but a mean metaphor. the same censure to some other passages in the These are followed by tigures "sweating under most admired authors. fardels of burdens," " puzzled with doubts," "shak- Virgil
, in his sixth Eclogue, says, ing with fears," and "flying from evils.” Finally, we see "resolution sicklied o'er with pale thought,”
Omnia qua, Phæbo quondam meditanle, bealus
Audiit Eurotas, jussitque ediscere laure, a conception like that of representing health by sickness; and a "current of pith turned awry so as to lose the name of action," which is both an
Whatc'er, when Phæbus bless'u tho Arcalian plain
Eurotas heard and laught his bays the strain error in fancy, and a solecism in sense. In a
The senior sungword, this soliloquy may be compared to the Ægri somnia, and the Tabula, cujus vanæ fin- And Popo has copied the conceit in his Pastorals, gentur species.
Thames heard the numbers as he fow'd along, But while we censure the chaos of broken, in
And bade his willows learn the mourning song. congruous metaphors, we ought also to caution the young poet against the opposite extreme of pursu- Vida thus begins his first Eclogue, ing a metaphor, until the spirit is quite exhausted
Dicite, vos musæ, et juvemum mcmorate querelas in a succession of cold conceits; such as we see in
Dicile: nam motas ipas ad carmina cautes, the following letter, said to be sent by Tamerlane
Et requi se suos perhibent vaga flumina cursus. to the Turkish emperor Bajazet. “Where is the
Say, heavenly muse, their youthful frays rehearse , monarch that dares oppose our arms? Where is
Begin, ye daughters of immortal verse; the potentate who doth not glory in being number- Exulting rocks have own’d the power of song, ed among our vassals? As for thee, descended And rivers listen'd as they flow'd along. from a Turcoran mariner, since the vessel of thy unbounded ambition hath been wrecked in the
Racine adopts the samo bold ligure in his Phædra : gulf of thy self-love, it would be proper that thou Le flot qui l'apporta recule epouvante: shouldest furl the sails of thy temerity, and cast The wave that bore him, backwards shrunk appallid.
Even Milton has indulged himself in the same there is no impropriety in saying such a man is license of expression
true as steel, firm as a rock, inflexible as an oak,
unsteady as the ocean; or in describing a disposi. As when to them who sail
tion cold as ice, or fickle as the wind;—and these Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past Mozambic, ofl at sea north-east winds blow
expressions are justified by constant practice ;-* Sabaan odour from the spicy shore
shall hazard an assertion, that the comparison of a Of Araby the blest; with such delay
chaste woman to an icicle is proper and picturesque, Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league,
as it obtains only in the circumstances of cold and Cheer'd with the grateful smell, old ocean smiles.
purity: but that the addition of its being curdled Shakspeare says,
from the purest snow, and hanging on the temple
of Diana, the patroness of virginity, heightens the Th'ambitious ocean swell, and rage, and foam,
whole into a most beautiful simile, that gives a very To be exalted with the throat'ning clouds.
respectable and amiable idea of the character in
question. And indeed more correct writers, both ancient
The simile is no more than an extended metaand modern, abound with the same kind of figure, phor, introduced to illustrate and beautify the subwhich is reconciled to propriety, and even invested ject; it ought to be apt, striking, properly pursued, with beauty, by the efficacy of the prosopopæia, and adorned with all the graces of poetical melody, which personifies the object. Thus, when Virgil But a simile of this kind ought never to proceed says Enipeus heard the sons of Apollo, he raises from the mouth of a person under any great agitaup, as by enchantment, the idea of a river god tion of spirit; such as a tragic character overcrowned with sedges, his head raised above the whelmed with grief, distracted by contending cares, stream, and in his countenance the expression of
or agonizing in the pangs of death. The language pleased attention. By the same magic we see, in of passion will not admit simile, which is always the couplet quoted from Pope's Pastorals
, old father the result of study and deliberation. We will not Thames leaning upon his urn, and listening to the allow a hero the privilege of a dying swan, which poet's strain.
is said to chant its approaching fate in the most Thus in the regions of poetry, all nature, even melodious strain; and therefore nothing can be the passions and affections of the mind, may be
more ridiculously unnatural, than the representapersonified into picturesque figures for the enter-tion of a lover dying upon the stage with a laboured tainment of the reader. Ocean smiles or frowns, simile in his mouth. as the sea is calm or tempestuous; a Triton rules
The orientals, whose language was extremely on every angry billow; every mountain has its figurative, have been very careless in the choice of Nymph; every stream its Naiad; every tree its their similes; provided the resemblance obtained Hamadryad; and every art its Genius. We can in one circumstance, they minded not whether they not therefore assent to those who censure Thomson disagreed with the subject in every other respect. as licentious for using the following figure:
Many instances of this defect in congruity may be O vale of bliss! O softly swelling hills!
culled from the most sublime parts of Scripture. On which the power of cultivation lies,
Homer has been blamed for the bad choice of his And joys to see the wonders of his toil.
similes on some particular occasions. He comWe can not conceive a more beautiful image steak broiling on the coals in the Odyssey.
pares Ajax to an ass in the Iliad, and Ulysses to a than that of the genius of agriculture distinguished admirers have endeavoured to excuse him, by re
His by the implements of his art, imbrowned with la
minding us of the simplicity of the age in which he bour, glowing with health, crowned with a garland of foliage, flowers
, and fruit
any ideas of dignity or importance were, even in ease on the brow of a gentle swelling hill, and contemplating with pleasure the happy effects of his those days, affixed to the character of an ass, or the own industry.
quality of a beef-collop; therefore, they were very Neither can we join issue against Shakspeare hero ought to be represented.
improper illustrations for any situation, in which a for this comparison, which hath likewise incurred the censure of the critics :
Virgil has degraded the wife of king Latinus, by
comparing her, when she was actuated by the Fu- The noble sister of Poplicola,
ry, to a top which the boys lash for diversion. The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle
This doubtless is a low image, though in other re-
spects the comparison is not destitute of propriety;
but he is much more justly censured for the followThis is no more than illustrating a quality of the ing simile, which has no sort of reference to the mind, by comparing it with a sensible object. If subject. Speaking of Turnus, he says,