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But if these laboured conceits are ridiculous in
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 vengeance 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 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 prætorià navi Cæsar; cùm fæda ilico exorta in portu tempestas; classem impetu disjecit, prætoriam hausit ; quasi non vecturam amplius Cæsarem Cæsarisque fortunam. "Cæsar had scarcely set his feet on shore, when a terrible tempest arising, shattered the fleet even in the harbour, and sent to the bottom the prætorian ship, as if he resolved it should no longer carry Cæsar and his fortunes."
The insolence of office, and the spurns
If we consider the metaphors of the soliloquy, we shall find them jumbled together in a strange confusion.
Yet this is modest in comparison of the follow
If the metaphors were reduced to painting, we should find it a very difficult task, if not altogether 'impracticable, to represent with any propriety outrageous fortune using her slings and arrows, between which indeed there is no sort of analogy in ing flowers: Alii, pulsis è 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 reflection. What follows is a strange rhapsody venge of the other half that was slain." of broken images of sleeping, dreaming, and shifting off a coil, which last conveys no idea that can be represented on canvass. A man may be ex-man's hand cut off in battle, says,
Homer, Horace, and even the chaste Virgil, is not free from conceits. The latter, speaking of a
hibited shuffling off his garments or his chains: but how he should shuffle off a coil, which is another 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 figures "sweating under most admired authors. fardels of burdens," "puzzled with doubts," "shaking with fears," and "flying from evils." Finally,
Virgil, in his sixth Eclogue, says,
Te decisa suum, Laride, dextera quærit;
que, Phœbo quondam meditante, beatus
Omnia "resolution sicklied o'er with pale thought," a conception like that of representing health by sickness; and a "current of pith turned awry so the name of action," which is both an error in fancy, and a solecism in sense. In a word, this soliloquy may be compared to the Egri somnia, and the Tabula, cujus vana fingentur species.
But while we censure the chaos of broken, incongruous metaphors, we ought also to caution the young poet against the opposite extreme of pursuing a metaphor, until the spirit is quite exhausted in a succession of cold conceits; such as we see in the following letter, said to be sent by Tamerlane to the Turkish emperor Bajazet. "Where is the monarch that dares oppose our arms? Where is the potentate who doth not glory in being numbered among our vassals? As for thee, descended from a Turcoman mariner, since the vessel of thy unbounded ambition hath been wrecked in the gulf of thy self-love, it would be proper that thou shouldest furl the sails of thy temerity, and cast
Whate'er, when Phoebus bless'd the Arcadian plain
And Pope has copied the conceit in his Pastorals,
Thames heard the numbers as he flow'd along,
Vida thus begins his first Eclogue,
Dicite, vos musæ, et juvenum memorate querelas
Say, heavenly muse, their youthful frays rehearse,
Racine adopts the same bold figure in his Phædra.
Le flot qui l'apporta recule epouvanté :
Even Milton has indulged himself in the same there is no impropriety in saying such a man license of expression
true as steel, firm as a rock, inflexible as an oak, unsteady as the ocean; or in describing a disposi tion cold as ice, or fickle as the wind;-and these expressions are justified by constant practice ;-we shall hazard an assertion, that the comparison of a chaste woman to an icicle is proper and picturesque, as it obtains only in the circumstances of cold and purity: but that the addition of its being curdled from the purest snow, and hanging on the temple of Diana, the patroness of virginity, heightens the whole into a most beautiful simile, that gives a very respectable and amiable idea of the character in question.
And indeed more correct writers, both ancient
The simile is no more than an extended meta
phor, introduced to illustrate and beautify the subject; it ought to be apt, striking, properly pursued,
and modern, abound with the same kind of figure, which is reconciled to propriety, and even invested with beauty, by the efficacy of the prosopopoeia, 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 pleased attention. By the same magic we see, in of passion will not admit simile, which is always or agonizing in the pangs of death. The language 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 is said to chant its approaching fate in the most
poet's strain. 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 on every angry billow; every mountain has its Nymph; every stream its Naad; every tree its Hamadryad; and every art its Genius. We can not therefore assent to those who censure Thomson as licentious for using the following figure:
As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league,
Th' ambitious ocean swell, and rage, and foam,
O vale of bliss! O softly swelling hills!
Homer has been blamed for the bad choice of his similes on some particular occasions. He comsteak broiling on the coals in the Odyssey. His pares Ajax to an ass in the Iliad, and Ulysses to a admirers have endeavoured to excuse him, by reminding us of the simplicity of the age in which he
We can not conceive a more beautiful image than that of the genius of agriculture distinguished by the implements of his art, imbrowned with labour, glowing with health, crowned with a garland of foliage, flowers, and fruit, lying stretched at his wrote; but they have not been able to prove that ease on the brow of a gentle swelling hill, and con-any ideas of dignity or importance were, even in those days, affixed to the character of an ass, or the templating with pleasure the happy effects of his quality of a beef-collop; therefore, they were very own industry. improper illustrations for any situation, in which a hero ought to be represented.
Neither can we join issue against Shakspeare for this comparison, which hath likewise incurred the censure of the critics.
The orientals, whose language was extremely figurative, have been very careless in the choice of their similes; provided the resemblance obtained in one circumstance, they minded not whether they disagreed with the subject in every other respect. Many instances of this defect in congruity may be culled from the most sublime parts of Scripture.
-The noble sister of Poplicola,
The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle
Virgil has degraded the wife of king Latinus, by comparing her, when she was actuated by the Fury, to a top which the boys lash for diversion. This doubtless is a low image, though in other respects the comparison is not destitute of propriety; but he is much more justly censured for the following simile, which has no sort of reference to the Speaking of Turnus he says,
This is no more than illustrating a quality of the
The analogy, it must be confessed, is not very striking; but nevertheless it is not altogether void of propriety. The poet reasons thus: as the south wind, though generally attended with rain, is often known to dispel the clouds, and render the weather serene; so do you, though generally on the rack of thought, remember to relax sometimes, and drown your cares in wine. As the south wind is not always moist, so you ought not always to be dry.
A few instances of inaccuracy, or mediocrity, can never derogate from the superlative merit of Homer and Virgil, whose poems are the great magazines, replete with every species of beauty and magnifisence, particularly abounding with similes, which astonish, delight, and transport the reader.
Every simile ought not only to be well adapted to the subject, but also to include every excellence of description, and to be coloured with the warmest tints of poetry. Nothing can be more happily hit off than the following in the Georgies, to which the poet compares Orpheus lamenting his lost Eurydice.
Qualis populea marens Philomela sub umbrâ
Here we not only find the most scrupulous propriety, and the happiest choice, in comparing the Thracian bard to Philomel the poet of the grove; but also the most beautiful description, containing a fine touch of the pathos, in which last particular indeed Virgil, in our opinion, excels all other poets, whether ancient or modern.
So Philomela, from th' umbrageous wood,
One would imagine that nature had exhausted itself, in order to embellish the poems of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, with similes and metaphors. The first of these very often uses the comparison of the wind, the whirlwind, the hail, the torrent, to express the rapidity of his combatants; but when he comes to describe the velocity of the immortal horses that drew the chariot of Juno, he raises his ideas to the subject, and, as Longinus observes, measures every leap by the whole breadth of the horizon.
Οσσον δ' περοειδες ανηρ δεν οφθαλμοισιν Ήμενος εν σκοπίμ, λεύσσων επι οίνοπα πόντον, Τόσσον επιθρώσκουσι θεων υψηχέες ίππα.
For as a watchman from some rock on high
The celerity of this goddess seems to be a favourite idea with the poet; for in another place he compares it to the thought of a traveller revolving in his mind the different places he had seen, and passing through them in imagination more swift than the lightning flies from east to west.
Homer's best similes have been copied by Virgil, and almost every succeeding poet, howsoever they may have varied in the manner of expression, In the third book of the Iliad, Menelaus seeing Paris, is compared to a hungry lion espying a hind or a goat:
Ώστε λέων εχάρη μεγάλος επι σωματι κύρσας Εύρων η ελαφον κεραόν, η αγριον αργα, etc.
So joys the lion, if a branching deer
The Mantuan bard, in the tenth book of the Eneid, applies the same simile to Mezentius, when he beholds Acron in the battle.
Impactus stabula alta leo ceu sæpe peragrans
Then as a hungry lion, who beholde
A gamesome goat who frisks about the folds,
Συν δ' Ευρος τις Νότος τ' επεσέ, Ζεφυρος τε δυσεις,
Or beamy stag that grazes on the plain; He runs, he roars, he shakes his rising mane: He grins, and opens wide his greedy jaws, The prey lies panting underneath his paws; He fills his famish'd maw, his mouth runs o'er With unchew'd morsels, while he churns the gore. Dryden. The reader will perceive that Virgil has improved the simile in one particular, and in another fallen short of his original. The description of the lion shaking his mane, opening his hideous jaws distained with the blood of his prey, is great and picturesque; but on the other hand, he has omitHere the winds not only blow together, but they ted the circumstance of devouring it without being intimidated, or restrained by the dogs and youths turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turvy. that surround him; a circumstance that adds greatly to our idea of his strength, intrepidity, and importance.
Illa vel intacta segetis per summa volaret
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
Una Eurusque Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis
East, west, and south, engage with furious sweep,
The motion of the sea between Scylla and Charybdis is still more magnified; and Ætna is
Or all the figures in poetry, that called the hyperbole, is managed with the greatest difficulty. The hyperbole is an exaggeration with which the muse is indulged for the better illustration of her subject, when she is warmed into enthusiasm. Quintilian calls it an ornament of the bolder kind. Demetrius Phalereus is still more severe. He says exhibited as throwing out volumes of flame, which the hyperbole is of all forms of speech the most brush the stars. Such expressious as these ar frigid; Μάλιστα δὲ ἡ Ὑπερβολη ψυχρ' τατον πανταν ; not intended as a real representation of the thing but this must be understood with some grains of specified; they are designed to strike the reader's allowance. Poetry is animated by the passions; imagination; but they generally serve as marks and all the passions exaggerate. Passion itself is of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, a magnifying medium. There are beautiful in-apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his stances of the hyperbole in the Scripture, which a own conception, is hurried into excess and extrareader of sensibility can not read without being vagance. 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 If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon without breaking off the heads, because the whole is considered as a fable, and the north wind is re- poetical probability, what can we expect from presented as their sire; but the imagination is a Lucan but hyperboles even more ridiculously exlittle startled, when Virgil, in imitation of this travagant? He represents the winds in contest, hyperbole, exhibits Camilla as flying over it with- the sea in suspense, doubting to which it shall give way. He affirms, that its motion would have been out even touching the tops: 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.
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 xaxotλæv itur.
This elegant author, we are afraid, has upon some other occasions degenerated into the frigid, in straining to improve upon his 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.
Stridens aquilone procella
The sail then Boreas rends with hideous cry,
* Speaking of the first, he says,
Tollimur in cœlum curvato gurgite, et iidem
Of the other,
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit
Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carinâ.
The ode and satire admit of the boldest hy
This image of dashing water at the stars, Sir perboles, such exaggerations suit the impetuous warmth of the one; and in the other have a good Richard Blackmore has produced in colours truly effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his vice. They may be likewise successfully used in Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison: comedy, for moving and managing the powers of
Like some prodigious water-engine made
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
The great fault in all these instances is a deviation from propriety, owing to the erroneous judgment of the writer, who, endeavouring to captivate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks the understanding with extravagance. Of this nature is the whole description of the Cyclops, both in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the Eneid of songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin into different parts, required a regular return of the poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrooriginal to dazzle us with false fire, and practise phe, and stanza, contained the same number of upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will feet. To know what constituted the different kinds not bear the critic's examination. There is not in of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect any of Homer's works now subsisting such an to the number and quantity of their syllables, we example of the false sublime, as Virgil's descrip- have nothing to do but to consult those who have tion of the thunderbolts forging under the ham-written on grammar and prosody; it is the business of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishmers of the Cyclops. ment of a man of taste.
Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosa
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 ancients, which they pretend the poetry of modern languages will not admit.
Rhyme, from the Greek word Pubμos, is nothing else but number, which was essential to the ancient, as well as to the modern versification. As to the jingle of similar sounds, though it was never used by the ancients in any regular return in the middle, or at the end of the line, and was by no means deemed essential to the versification, yet they did not reject it as a blemish, where it occurred without the appearance of constraint. We meet with it often in the epithets of Homer: Apgups010 B1910 Αναξ Ανδρών Αγαμεμνων-almost the whole first ode of Anacreon is what we call rhyme. The following line of Virgil has been admired for the simili. of sound in the first two words.
Ore Arethusa tuo siculus confunditur undis.
Even in describing fantastic beings there is a pro-tude priety to be observed; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, than this numbering af the moon-beams among the other implements of queen Mab's harness, which, though ex-verse, whether in the dead or living languages tremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless and the real difference between the two is this: objects of the touch, and may be conceived capa- the number in ancient verse relates to the feet, and ple of use. in modern poetry to the syllables; for to assert that
Rhythmus, or number, is certainly essential to