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There are three different degrees of this figure, says Dr Blair, which it is requisite to distinguish in order to determine the propriety of its use.
The first is, when some of the properties of living creatures are as cribed to inanimate objects; the second, when these inanimate objects are described as acting like such as have life; and the third, when they are exhibited as speaking to us, or as listening.
The first and lowest degree of this figure, which consists in ascribing to manimate objects some of the qualities of living creatures, raises the style so little, that the humblest discourse admits it without any force. Thus, a raging storm, a deceitful disease, a cruel disaster - are familiar expressions. This, indeed,' is so obscure a degree of personification, that it might, perhaps, be properly classed with simple metaphors, which almost escape our observation.
The second degree of this figure is, when we represent inanimate objects as acting like those that have life. Here we rise a step higher, and the personification becomes sensible. According to the nature of the action which we ascribe to those inanimate objects,
and to the particularity with which we describe it, is the strength of the figure. When pursued to a considerable length, it belongs only to studied harangues; when slightly touched, it may be admitted into less elevated compositions.
the student may duly appreciate the skill of the poet, and the magnificenco of the design, it is first presented in plain language :
“Every thing that grows depends on the light and heat of the sun, as it is passing along the ecliptic. All mankind depend upon it for their daily subsistence. The seasons, the hours, the wind and the rain, the dew and the storm, influenced as they are by the sun, are instrumental in producingherbs, fruits, and flowers, during the whole year."
From such a tame and lifeless recital, the poet has formed the following magnificent picture, which he holds up to the sun, under the same (sea Cromatopoia) of “ Parent of Seasons : *
The vegetable world is also thine
every beauty, every fragrance shower,
, kindling at thy tonch From land to land is flushed the vernal year.
Example. The offended Law draws the sword from its scabbard, in vengeanco se ainst the murderer.”
Here the law is beautifully personified, as reaching forth its hand to give us a sword for putting a nurderer to death.
In poetry, personifications of this kind are extremely frequent, and are, indeed, the life and soul of it. In the descriptions of a poet, who has a lively fancy, every thing is animated. Homer, the father of poetry, is romarkable for the use of this figure. War, peace, darts, rivers, every thing in short, is alive in his writings. The same is true of Milton and Shak speare.*
The third and highest degree of this figure is when inanimate objects are represented, not only as feeling and acting, but as speaking to us, a listening when we address them. This is the boldest of all rhetorical figures : it is the style of strong passion only, and therefore should never be at tempted, except when
the mind is considerably heated and agitated. The following is an example of this kind:
Must I leave thee, Paradise ? thus leave
It is to be remarked, with regard to this degree of personification, firse, that it should never be attempted unless when prompted by strong feeling, and should never be continue when the fecling begins to subside.
Secondly. That an object that has not some dignity in itself, or which is incapable of making a proper figure in the elevation to which we raise il, should never be personified. Thus, to address the body of a friend is not at all unnatural; but to address the several parts of the body, or the clothes which he wore, is not compatible with the dignity of grave composition.
Examples of the three degrees of personification for the student' to designate :
With other ministrations, thou, oh Nature,
* No personification is more striking, or introduced on a more proper pocesion, than the following of Milton, upon Eve's eating the forbidden kait :
“So saying, her rasn hanů, in evil hour,
Sighing, through all her works, gave signs of woe,
Sweet scented flower, who't wopt to bloom
I have marked
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
* Any volume of poetry will furnish exercises of this kind to the student rendering it unnecessary to multiply them here. In personifying inanimate objects, things remarkable for power, greatness, or sublimity, are represented as males. Things beautiful, amiable, or prolific, or spoken of as receivers and containers, are represented as females.
SIMILE, OR COMPARISON.*
A simile is the likening of the subject, of which we speak, to another subject having some similarity, in order to render the description more forcible and perspicuous. In a strict sense, it differs from comparison, in which the subject may have an obvious likeness. † But many rhetoricians consider the terms as synonymous, and in this light they are presented in this connexion. This figure is extremely frequent both in prose and poetry; and it is often as necessary to the exhibition of the thought, as it is ornamental to the language in which that thought is conveyed.
In all comparisons there should be found something new or surprising, in order to please and illustrate. Consequently they must never be instituted between things of the same species. I
* Every simile is more or less a comparison, - but every comparison is not a simile ; the latter compares things only as far as they are alike; but the former extends to those things which are different. In this manner there may be a comparison between large things and small, although there can be no good simile.
† The distinction between simile and comparison is, that the former has reference to the quality; the latter to the quantity. Comparison is between more and less ; similitude is between good and bad. “Hannibal hung like a tempest on the declivities of the Alps" is a likeness by similitude. “The sublimity of the Scriptural prophets exceeds that of Homer, as much as thunder is louder than a whisper” – is a likeness by comparison. — J. Q. Adams, Lec. 9.
| The simile, or comparison, may be considered as differing in form only from a Metaphor the resemblance being stated in the comparison, which in the metaphor is only implied. Each may be founded on actual resemblance or on analogy. Metaphors and comparisons founded on analogy are the more frequent and the more striking, because the more remote and unjike in themselves any two objects are, the more is the mind impressed and gratified by the perception of some point in which they agree. Intimately connected with Simile and Comparison is the Emblem; the literal meaning of which is, "something inserted in the body of another ;” but the word is used to express
a picture, representing one thing to the eye, and another to the understanding :” or, a painting, or representation, intended to hold forth some moral, or political instruction. Thus, a balance is an emblem of justice; a crown is the emblem of royalty ; a sceptre, of power or sove reignty. Any thing, which represents another thing in its predominant qualities, is also an emblem. Thus a looking glass, which shows spots, without magnifying them, is an emblem of a true friend, who will show us our faults without exaggeration. A torch, reversed and expiring, with the
All comparisons, says Dr. Blair, may be reduced under two heads, explaining, and embellishing. But embellishing com. parisons are those which most frequently occur.
Resemblance, it has been observed, is the foundation of this figure, but resemblance must not be taken in too strict a sense for actual simili tude. Two objects may raise a train of concordant ideas in the mind, though they resemble each other, strictly speaking, in nothing. For example, to describe the natnre of soft and melancholy music, Ossian says
“ The music of Carryl, like the memory of joys that are past, was plens ant and mournful to the soul."
This is happy and delicate; yet no kind of music bears any actual resemblance to the memory of past joys.
Comparisons should not be introduced on all occasions. As they are the language of imagination, rather than of passion, an author can hardly commit a greater fault, than in the midst of passion or strong feeling to introduce a simile. Even in poetry it should be employed with moderation; but in prose much more so.
The following rules are laid down bv Dr. Blair in the use of comparisons :
In the first, they must not be drawn from things which have too near and obvious à resemblance of the object with which they are compared ; for he pleasure which we receive from the act of comparing arises from the discovery of likenesses among things of different species where we shoul] not, at first sight expect, a resemblance.
In the second place, as comparisons ought not to be founded on likenesses too obvious, much less ought they to be founded on those which are too faint and distant. These, instead of assisting, strain the fancy to compre hend them, and throw no light upon the subject.
In the third place, the object from which a comparison is drawn ought never to be an unknown object, nor one of which few people can have a clear idea. Therefore similes founded on philosophical discoveries, or on any thing with which persons of a particular trade only, or a particular profession, are acquainted, produce not their proper effect. They should be drawn from those illustrious and noted objects, which most readers have either seen, or can strongly conceive.
In the fourth place, in compositions of a serious or elevated kind, similes should not be drawn from low or mean objects. These degrade and vilify; whereas similes are generally intended to embellish and dignify. Therefore, except in burlesque writings, or where an object is meant to be de graded, mean ideas should never be presented.
motto, “My nourishment is my bane,” is an emblem of the improper uso we are too apt to make of things, when either by using them improperly, 01 too freely we subvert the design for which they were at first intended.
" The oil thus feeds, thus quenches flame:
Quarles' Book of Emblems. Emblems are frequently the foundations of both Simile and Compariscon Analogy is the foundation of the three.