« VorigeDoorgaan »
putting on his armour; and lastly, ascending his This indeed is a figure, which has been copied car, and driving along the surface of the sea. Far by Virgil, and almost all the poets of every age from being disgusted by these delays, we are de- oculis micat acribus ignis-ignescunt iræ: auris lighted with the particulars of the description. dolor ossibus ardet. Milton, describing Satan in Nothing can be more sublime than the circum- Hell, says, stance of the mountain's trembling beneath the footsteps of an immortal:
Τμήμα δ' ευμα μακρα και υλη Πισσιν ὑπ αθανατασι Ποσειδάωνες ιόντος.
But his passage to the Grecian fleet is altogether transporting.
Βαδ' ελααν ἐπι να ματ, etc.
He mounts the car, the golden scourge applies,
They knew and own'd the monarch of the main:
With head uplift above the wave, and eye
-He spake: and to confirm his words out flew
There are certain words in every language par ticularly adapted to the poetical expression; some from the image or idea they convey to the imagi nation; and some from the effect they have upon the ear. The first are truly figurative; the others may be called emphatical.-Rollin observes, that Virgil has upon many occasions poetized (if we may be allowed the expression) a whole sentence by means of the same word, which is pendere.
Here the word pendere wonderfully improves
With great veneration for the memory of Mr. Pope, we can not help objecting to some lines of this translation. We have no idea of the sea's exulting and crowning Neptune, after it had subsided into a level plain. There is no such image in the original. Homer says, the whales exulted, the landscape, and renders the whole passage and knew or owned their king; and that the sea beautifully picturesque. The same figurative verb parted with joy: γηθοσύνη δε θαλασσα διίστατο. we meet with in many different parts of the Neither is there a word of the wondering waters: we therefore think the lines might be thus altered to advantage:
Ite meæ, felix quondam pecus, ite capellæ,
At ease reclined beneath the verdant shade,
Hi summo in fluctu pendent, his unda dehiscens
These on the mountain billow hung; to those
In this instance, the words pendent and dehis Addison seems to have had this passage in his eye, ccns, hung and yawning, are equally poetical. when he wrote his Hymn, which is inserted in the Spectator:
Besides the metaphors, similes, and allusions of poetry, there is an infinite variety of tropes, or turns of expression, occasionally disseminated through works of genius, which serve to animate the whole, and distinguish the glowing effusions of real inspiration from the cold efforts of mere science. These tropes consist of a certain happy choice and arrangement of words, by which ideas are artfully same disclosed in a great variety of attitudes, of epithets, and compound epithets; of sounds collected in order to echo the sense conveyed; of apostrophes; and, above all, the enchanting use of the prosopopœia, which is a kind of magic, by which the poet gives life and motion to every inanimate part of cliff, uses the same expression: nature. Homer, describing the wrath of Agamemnon, in the first book of the Iliad, strikes off a głowing image in two words:
εσπε δ ε πυρι λαμπετουντι εχτην, -And from his-cyeballs flash'd the living fire.
-For though in dreadful worlds we hung,
And in another piece of a like nature, in the collection:
Thy providence my life sustain'd
When in the silent womb I lay,
Shakspeare, in his admired description of Dover
-Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire-dreadful trade!
Nothing can be more beautiful than the following picture, in which Milton has introduced the same expressive tint:
-He, on his side,
Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love
certain the vast height of Dover cliff; for the poet adds, "can not be heard so high." The place where Glo'ster stood was so high above the surface of the sea, that the probe, or dashing, could not be heard; and therefore an enthusiastic admir
We shall give one example more from Virgil, to show in what a variety of scenes it may appear with propriety and effect. In describing the pro-er of Shakspeare might with some plausibility
gress of Dido's passion for Æneas, the Poet says,
affirm, the poet had chosen an expression in which that sound is not at all conveyed.
Iliacos iterum demens audire labores
The woes of Troy once more she begg'd to hear;
In the very same page of Homer's Iliad we meet with two other striking instances of the same sort of beauty. Apollo, incensed at the insults his priest had sustained, descends from the top of Olym. pus, with his bow and quiver rattling on his shoulder as he moved along;
The reader will perceive in all these instances, that no other word could be substituted with equal energy; indeed no other word could be used without degrading the sense, and defacing the image. There are many other verbs of poetical import fetched from nature, and from art, which the poet uses to advantage, both in a literal and metaphorical sense; and these have been always translated for the same purpose from one language to another; such as quasso, concutio, cio, suscito, lenio, Bævio, mano, fluo, ardeo, mico, aro, to shake, to wake, to rouse, to soothe, to rage, to flow, to shine Many beauties of the same kind are scattered or blaze, to plough.-Quassantia tectum limina— Eneas, casu, concussus acerbo-Ere ciere viros, through Homer, Pindar, and Theocritus, such as Martemque accendere cantu-Eneas acuit Mar- the Boubeta peritoa, susurruns apicula; the tem et se suscitat ira-Impium lenite clamorem. ad Litupioμa, dulcem susurrum; and the usod Leuibant curas-Ne sævi magna sacerdos-Su-Ta, for the sighing of the pine.
Δείνη δε κλαγγη γίνετ αργυμεις Βιοιο.
In shrill-ton'd murmurs sung the twanging bow.
dor ad imos manabat solos-Suspensæque diu The Latin language teems with sounds adapted to lachrymæ fluxere per ora-Juvenali ardebat every situation, and the English is not destitute of amore-Micat æreus ensis-Nullum maris æquor this significant energy. We have the cooing turtle, arandum. It will be unnecessary to insert exam- the sighing reed, the warbling rivulet, the sliding ples of the same nature from the English poets. stream, the whispering breeze, the glance, the gleam, the flash, the bickering flame, the dashing wave, the gushing spring, the howling blast, the rattling storm, the pattering shower, the crimp earth, the mouldering tower, the twanging bow
The words we term emphatical, are such as by their sound express the sense they are intended to convey and with these the Greek abounds, above all other languages, not only from its natural copiousness, flexibility, and significance, but also from string, the clanging arms, the clanking chains, the variety of its dialects, which enables a writer the twinkling stars, the tinkling chords, the trickto vary his terminations occasionally as the nature ling drops, the twittering swallow, the cawing of the subject requires, without offending the most rook, the screeching owl; and a thousand other delicate ear, or incurring the imputation of adopt-words and epithets, wonderfully suited to the sense ing vulgar provincial expressions. Every smat- they imply. terer in Greek can repeat
Εκλαγξαν δ' αρ εστω επ ωμαν.
Here the sound of the word Exλayğav admirably expresses the clanking of armour; as the third line after this surprisingly imitates the twanging of a
Among the select passages of poetry which we shall insert by way of illustration, the reader will find instances of all the different tropes and figures which the best authors have adopted in the variety of their poetical works, as well as of the apostrophe, abrupt transition, repetition, and prosopopoia.
Βη δ' ακέων παρα θινα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλασσης,
in which the last two words wonderfully echo to the sense, conveying the idea of the sea dashing on the shore. How much more significant in sound than that beautiful image of Shakspeare
The sea that on the unnumber'd pebbles beats.
In the mean time it will be necessary still further to analyze those principles which constitute the essence of poetical merit; to display those aelightful parterres that teem with the fairest flowers And yet, if we consider the strictness of pro- of imagination; and distinguish between the gaudy priety, this last expression would seem to have offspring of a cold insipid fancy, and the glowing been selected on purpose to concur with the other progeny, diffusing sweets, produce anu vigo crcumstances, which are brought together to as-rated by the sun of genius.
Of all the implements of poetry, the metaphor is the most generally and successfully used, and indeed may be termed the Muse's caduceus, by the power of which she enchants all nature. The metaphor is a shorter simile, or rather a kind of magical coat, by which the same idea assumes a thousand different appearances. Thus the word plough, which originally belongs to agriculture, being metaphorically used, represents the motion of a ship at sea, and the effects of old age upon the human countenance
[verage chastised by the sober deity,”—a metaphor that signifies nothing more than "mixed or low. ered with water." Demetrius Phalereus justly observes, that though a judicious use of metaphors wonderfully raises, sublimes, and adorns oratory or elocution, yet they should seem to flow naturally from the subject; and too great a redundancy of them inflates the discourse to a mere rhapsody. The same observation will hold in poetry; and the more liberal or sparing use of them will depend in a great measure on the nature of the subject.
-Plough'd the bosom of the deep
And time had plough'd his venerable front.
Passion itself is very figurative, and often bursts out into metaphors; but in touching the pathos, the poet must be perfectly well acquainted with the emotions of the human soul, and carefully distinguish between those metaphors which rise glowing 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 ro fuxpov, 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, asunoripoi xiovos, whiter than snow. 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 impetu- 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 hyHe 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 z2g gates, miscreants, and flatterers, who having seve- vy way, 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' Eubeans uz8' quinov SITTEσbai perexsvar. Not but ty of life in the indulgence of infamous lusts and that 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, the joyous boughs, the trees that admire their im ages reflected in the stream, and many other examples of this kind, are found disseminated through the works of our best modern poets; yet still they
Aristotle and Theophrastus seem to think it is rather too bold and hazardous to use metaphors so freely, without interposing some mitigating phrase, such as "if I may be allowed the expression," or 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 goMore 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 μικροί, και αλάστορες και κολακες, tions of Demosthenes are animated and even inπαρατημασμένοι της ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι πατρίδας την famned with metaphore, somne of them so bold as ελευθερίαν προπεπωκετές, προτερον Φιλιππῳ, νυν δ Αλεξ- even to entail upon him the censure of the critics ανδρα τη γαστρί μέτρωντες και ταις αισχίστοις την Τοτε τῳ Πυθωνι τῷ 'ρητορι'μιντι καθ' υμan.—“ Then ευδαιμονιαν τη δ' ελευθερίαν, και To undiva exo I did not yield to Python the orator, when he overσπιτὴν αὐτῶν, ὁ ταις πρότερες, Ἕλλησιν εροι των αγα. flowed you with a tide of eloquence.” Cicero is still more liberal in the use of them: he ransacks
Ómi noa xas xaveris, etc.
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 particu of 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 cloak under which he might the more effec be more significant than this word exvunne, 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.
O! when the growling winds contend, and all
To be, or not to be, that is the question:-
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The word fluctuate on this occasion not only exhibits an idea of struggling, but also echoes to the sense like the opižev di pann of Homer; which, by the by, it is impossible to render into English, for the verb pow signifies not only to stand erect like prickles, as a grove of lances, but also to make a noise like the crashing of armour, the hissing of javelins, and the splinters of spears.
Over and above an excess of figures, a young author is apt to run into a confusion of mixed metaphors, which leave the sense disjointed, and distract the imagination: Shakspeare himself is often guilty of these irregularities. The soliloquy in. Hamlet, which we have so often heard extolled in terms of admiration, is, in our opinion, a heap of absurdities, whether we consider the situation, the sentiment, the argumentation, or the poetry. Hamlet is informed by the Ghost, that his father was murdered, and therefore he is tempted to murder himself, even after he had promised to take vengeance on the usurper, and expressed the utmost eagerness to achieve this enterprise. It does not 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 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 misforture, or exert his faculties in order In order to support this general charge against to surmount it. This surely is the obvious mean
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
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 another which he did not know.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
His whole chain of reasoning, therefore, seems 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 honourable 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 stand thus: "I am oppressed with ills; I know not whether it is more honourable to bear those ills patiently, or to end them by taking arms against them: ergo, I am doubtful whether I should slay myself or live. To die, is no more than to sleep; and to say that by a sleep we end the heart-ache," etc. "tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd." Now to say it was of no consequence unless it had been true. "I am afraid of the dreams that may happen in that sleep of death; and I choose rather to bear those ills I have in this life, than to fly to other ills in that undiscovered country, from whose I have ills that bourn no traveller ever returns. are almost insupportable in this life. I know not what is in the next, because it is an undiscovered country: ergo, I'd rather bear those ills I have, than fly to others which I know not of." Here the conclusion is by no means warranted by the premises. "I am sore afflicted in this life; but I will rather bear the afflictions of this life, than plunge myself in the afflictions of another life:
This declaration at least implies some knowledge of the other world, and expressly asserts, that there ergo, conscience makes cowards of us all.” 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 lemma: this world tached both from the major and minor propo
abounds with ills which I feel; the other world
-The dread of something after death,The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn No traveller returns.-
This might be a good argument in a Heathen or Pagan, and such indeed Hamlet really was; but Shakspeare has already represented him as a good Catholic, who must have been acquainted with the truths of revealed religion, and says expressly in this very play,
-Had not the everlasting fix'd His canon 'gainst self-murder.
Moreover, he had just been conversing with his father's spirit piping hot from purgatory, which we presume is not within the bourn of this world. The dread of what may happen after death, says he,
Makes us rather bear those ills we have,
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-to sleep-no more," contains an ambiguity, which all the art of punctua tion can not remove: for it may signify that "to die," is to sleep no more; or the expression "no more," may be considered as an abrupt apostrophe in thinking, as if he meant to say "no more of that reflection."
a deduction amounting to a certainty, with respect to the only circumstance that could create a doubt, namely, whether in death he should rest from his misery; and if he was certain there were evils in the next world, as well as in this, he had no room to reason at all about the matter. What alone could justify his thinking on this subject, would have been the hope of flying 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:
"Ay, there's the rub," is a vulgarism beneath
Nor is Hamlet more accurate in the following reflection:
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.
A bad conscience will make us cowards; but a good conscience will make us brave. It does not appear that any thing lay heavy on his conscience; and from the premises we can not help inferring, that conscience in this case was entirely out of the
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
what dreams might come, occasioned the pause or Not the dreams that might come, but the fear of hesitation. Respect in the same lins may be allowed to pass for consideration: but
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely