Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

pointing to that single tint of purple which is to be found in the rose.

I acknowledge, at the same time, that this metaphorical epithet hath an excellence totally distinct from its vivacity. This I denominate its elegance. The object whence the metaphor is taken is a grateful object. It at once gratifies two of the senses, the nose by its fragrance, and the eye by its beauty. But of this quality I shall have occasion to treat afterward.

I proceed at present in producing examples to confirm the theory advanced; and to show how much even an adverb that is very particular in its signification may contribute to vivacity, I shall again have recourse to the Paradise Lost.

“Some say he bid his angels turn askance
The poles of earth, twice ten degrees and more,

From the sun's axle.” If the poet, instead of saying askance, had said aside, which properly enough might have been said, the expression would have lost much of its energy. This adverb is of too general a signification, and might have been used with equal propriety, if the plane of the ecliptic had been made perpendicular to that of the equator; whereas the word askance, in that case, could not have been employed, it denoting just such an obliquity in the inclination of these two planes as actually obtains. We have an example of the same kind in the description which Thomson gives us of the sun newly risen.

“Lo! now apparent all, Aslant the dew-bright earth and colour'd air,

He looks in boundless majesty abroad."* Farther, it will sometimes have a considerable effect in enlivening the imagery, not only to particularize, but even to individuate the object presented to the mind. This conduct Dr. Blair, in his very ingenious Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, observes to have been generally followed by his favourite bard. His similitudes bring to our view the mist on the Hill of Cromla, the storm on the Sea of Malmor, and the reeds of the Lake of Lego. The same vivacious manner is often to be found in Holy Writ, swift as a roe or as a fawn upon Mount Bether,t white as the snow in Salmon, I fragrant as the smell of Lebanon. And in the passage lately quoted from the Gospel, the introduction of the name of Solomon hath an admirable effect in invigorating the sentiment, not only as it points out an individual, but one of great fame in that country among the people whom our Saviour addressed; one, besides, who was universally esteemed the wisest, the richest, and the most magnificent prince that ever reigned over Israel. Now this is a consideration which was particularly apposite to the design of the speaker.

* Summer. + Cant., ii., 17. # Psal. lxviii., 14. 0 Hosea, xiv., 6.

It may, indeed, be imagined, that this manner can enliven the thought only to those who are acquainted with the individuals mentioned ; but, on mature reflection, we may easily discover this to be a mistake. Not only do we, as it were, participate by sympathy in the known vivid perceptions of the speaker or the writer, but the very notion we form of an individual thing, known or unknown, from its being conceived as an individual, or as one thing, is of a more fixed nature than that we form of a species, which is conceived to be equally applicable to several things, resembling, indeed, in some respects, though unlike in others; and for the same reason, the notion we have of a species is of a more steady nature than that we form of a genus, because this last is applicable to a still greater number of objects, among which the difference is greater and the resemblance less.

I mean not, however, to assert, that the method of individuating the object ought always to be preferred by the poet or the orator. If it have its advantages, it has its disadvantages also, and must be used sparingly by those who choose that their writings should be more extensively known than in their own neighbourhood. Proper names are not, in the same respect, essential to the language as appellatives ; and even among the former, there is a difference between the names known to fame and the names of persons or things comparatively obscure. The last kind of names will ever appear as strangers to the greater part of readers, even to those who are masters of the language. Sounds to which the ear is not accustomed have a certain uncouthness in them, that renders them, when occurring frequently, fatiguing and disagreeable ; but that, nevertheless, when pertinently introduced, when neither the ear is tired by their frequency, nor the inemory burdened by their number, they have a considerable effect in point of vivacity, is undeniable.

This holds especially when, from the nature of the subject, the introduction of them may be expected. Every one is sensible, for instance, that the most humorous or engaging story loseth egregiously when the relater cannot or will not name the persons concerned in it. No doubt the naming of them has the greatest effect on those who are acquainted with them either personally or by character; but it hath some effect even on those who never heard of them before. It must be an extraordinary tale indeed which we can bear for any time to hear, if the narrator proceeds in this languid train : “A certain person, who shall be nameless, on a certain occasion, said so and so, to which a certain other person in the company, who likewise shall be nameless, made answer.” Nay, so dull doth a narrative commonly appear wherein anonymous individuals only are concerned, that we choose to give feigned names to the persons rather than none

66

at all. Nor is this device solely necessary for precluding the ambiguity of the pronouns, and saving the tediousness of circumlocution ; for where neither ambiguity nor circumlocution would be the conseqnence, as where one man and one woman are all the interlocutors, this expedient is nevertheless of great utility. Do but call them anything, the man suppose Theodosius, and the woman Constantia,* and by the illusion which the very appearance of names, though we know them to be fictitious, operates on the fancy, we shall conceive ourselves to be better acquainted with the actors, and enter with more spirit into the detail of their adventures, than it will be possible for us to do if you always speak of them in the indefinite, the general, and, therefore, the unaffecting style of the gentleman and the lady, or he and she. This manner, besides, hath an air of concealment, and is ever reminding us that they are people we know nothing about.

It ariseth from the same principle that whatever tends to subject the things spoken of to the notice of our senses, especially of our eyes, greatly enlivens the expression. In this way the demonstrative pronouns are often of considerable use. “ I have coveted,” says Paul to the elders of Ephesus, no man's silver, or gold, or apparel ; yea, ye yourselves know that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me."! Had he said “ my hands,” the sentence would have lost nothing either in meaning or in perspicuity, but very much in vivacity. The difference to hearers is obvious, as the former expression must have been accompanied with the emphatic action of holding up his hands to their view. To readers it is equally real, who in such a case instantaneously enter into the sentiments of hearers. In like manner, the English words yon and yonder are more emphatical, because more demonstrative, than the pronoun thai and the adverb there. The last two do not necessarily imply that the object is in sight, which is implied in the first two. Accordingly, in these words of Milton,

“ For proof look up,

And read thy fate in yon celestial sign,"I the expression is more vivid than if it had been “that celestial sign.

“Sit ye here,” saith our Lord," while I go and * The choice, however, is not quite arbitrary even in fictitious names. It is always injudicious to employ a name which, from its customary appli. cation, may introduce an idea unsuitable to the character it is affixed to. This error I think Lord Bolingbroké chargeable with, in assigning the name Damon to his philosophical antagonist (Let. to M. de Pouilly). Though we read of a Pythagorean philosopher so called, yet in this country we are so much accustomed to meet with this name in pastorals and amorous songs, that it is impossible not to associate with it the notion of some plaintive shepherd or lovesick swain. † Acts, XX., 33, 34.

| Paradise Lost. D D

pray yonder."*

The adverb there would not have been near so expressive. Though we cannot say properly that pronouns or adverbs, either of place or of time, are susceptible of genera and species, yet we can say (which amounts to the same as to the effect) that some are more and some less limited in signification.

To the above remarks and examples on the subject of speciality, I shall only add, that in composition, particularly of the descriptive kind, it invariably succeeds best for brightening the image to advance from general expressions to more special, and thence, again, to more particular. This, in the language of philosophy, is descending. We descend to particulars; but in the language of oratory it is ascending. A very beautiful climax will sometimes be constituted in this manner, the reverse will often have all the effect of an anticlima For an example of this order in description, take the following passage from the Song of Solomon : “My beloved spake and said to me, Arise, my love, my fair, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land, the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape perfume the air. Arise, my love, my fair, and come away."I The poet here, with admirable address, begins with mere negatives, observing the absence of every evil which might discourage his bride from hearkening to his importunate request; then he proceeds by a fine gradation to paint the most inviting circumstances that could serve to ensure the compliance of the fair. The first expression is the most general : “ The winter is past.". The next is more special, pointing to one considerable and very disagreeable attendant upon winter, the rain. “ The rain is over and gone.” Thence he advanceth to the positive indications of the spring, as appearing in the effects produced upon the plants which clothe the fields, and on the winged inhabitants of the grove. “ The flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the singing of birds is come.” But as though this were still too general, from mentioning birds and plants, he proceeds to specify the turtle, perhaps considered as the eniblem of love and constancy; the fig-tree and the vine, as the earnest of friendship and festive joy, selecting that particular with regard to each which most strongly marks the presence of the all-reviving spring. “ The voice of the turtle

* Matt., xxvi., 36.

+ Le Clerc thus renders the original into French : “ Asseyez-vous ici, pendant que je m'en irai prier ." At the same tiine, sensible how weakly the meaning is expressed by the adverb , he subjoins in a note, “Dans un lieu qu'il leur montroit du doigt.” The English version needs no such supplement.

# Chap., ii., 10, 11, 12, 13.

is heard in our land, the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape perfume the air.” The passage is not more remarkable for the liveliness than for the elegance of the picture it exhibits. The examples are all taken from whatever can contribute to regale the senses and awaken love; yet, reverse the order, and the beauty is almost totally effaced.

So much for that quality in proper terms which consers vivacity on the expression. *9

SECTION II.

RHETORICAL TROPES.

mit

alt

Part I. Preliminary Observations concerning Tropes. I COME now to inquire how far the judicious use of tropes is also conducive to the same end. It hath been common with rhetoricians to rank under the article of diction not only all the tropes, but even the greater part of the figures of eloquence, which they have uniformly considered as qualities or ornaments merely of elocution, and therefore as what ought to be explained among the properties of style. It is, however, certain, that some of them have a closer connexion with the thought than with the expression, and, by consequence, fall not so naturally to be considered here. Thus all the kinds of comparison, as they imply a likeness in the things and not in the symbols, belong properly to the thought. Nay, some comparisons, as was remarked above,* are not mere illustrations of a particular sentiment, but are also arguments from analogy in support of it; and if thus comparison holds more directly of thought than of language, the same may doubtless be said of all those other figures which, I have already observed, are but different modes of exhibiting a comparison.

It must be owned, however, that metaphor, though no other in effect than comparison in epitome, hath at least as intimate a connexion with the style as with the sentiment, and may therefore be considered under either head. That we may perceive the reason of this peculiarity, let it be observed that there is a particular boldness in metaphor, which is not to be found in the same degree in any of the figures of rhetoric. Without anything like an explicit comparison, and commonly without any warning or apology, the name of one thing is obtruded upon us for the name of another quite different, though resembling in some quality. The consequence of this is, that as there is always in this trope an apparent, at least, if it cannot be called a real, impropriety, and some de

* Book i., chap. vii., sect. ii. On Engaging Attention.

« ZurückWeiter »