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other relation, which two objects bear to one another. For instance; when grey hairs are put for old age, as, “ to bring one's grey hairs with forrow
to the grave;" fome writers would call this a metaphor, though it is not properly one, but what rhetoricians call a metonymy; that is, the effect put for the cause : “grey hairs” being the effect of old age, but not bearing any sort of resemblance to it. Aristotle, in his poetics, uses metaphor in this extended sense, for any figurative meaning imposed upon a word; as a whole put for the part, or a part for the whole ; a species for the genus, or a genus for the ipecies. But it would be unjuft to tax this most acute writer with any inaccuracy on this account; the minute subdivisions, and van rious names of tropes, being unknown in his days, and the invention of later rhetoricians. Now, however, when these divisions are established, it is inaccurate to call every figurative use of terms, promiscuouily, a metaphor.
Of all the figures of speech, none comes so near to painting as metaphor. Its peculiar effect is to give light and strength to description ; to make inteilectual ideas, in some fort, visible to the eye, by giving them colour, and substance, and sensible qualities. In order to produce this effect, however, a delicate hand is required : for, by a very little inaccuracy, we are in hazard of introducing confusion, in place of promoting perspicuity. Several rules, therefore, are necessary to be given for the proper management of metaphors. But, before entering on these, I shall give one instance of a very beautiful metaphor, that I may show the figure to full advantage. I shall take my instance from dord Bolingbroke's remarks on the history of England. Just at the conclusion of his work, he is speaking of the behaviour of Charles I. to his last parliament ; “ In a word,” says he,
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5 month after their meeting, he dissolved them; 66 and, as soon as he had dissolved them, he repent" ed; but he repented too late of his rashness. " Well might he repent; for the vessel was now “ full, and this last drop made the waters of bit66 terness overflow." “ Here,” he adds, “ we draw “ the curtain, and put an end to our remarks." Nothing could be more happily thrown off. The metaphor, we see, is continued through several expressions. The vessel is put for the state or temper of the nation, already full, that is, provoked to the highest by former oppressions and wrongs ; this last drop stands for the provocation recently received by the abrupt dissolution of the parliament; and the overflowing of the waters of bitterness, beautifully expresses all the effects of resentment let loofc by an exasperated people.
On this passage, we may make two remarks in passing. The one, that nothing forms a more fpirited and dignified conclusion of a subject, than a figure of this kind happily placed at the close. We fee the effect of it, in this instance. The author goes off with a good grace; and leaves a strong and full impression of his subject on the reader's mind. My other remark is, the advantage which a metaphor frequently has above a formal comparifon. How much would the sentiment here have been enfeebled, if it had been expressed in the style of a regular fimile, thus : “ Well might he re
pent; for the state of the nation, loaded with “ grievances and provocations, resembled a vessel " that was now full; and this fuperadded provo- cation, like the last drop infused, made their rage " and resentment, as waters of bitterness, over“ flow.” It lias infinitely more spirit and force as it now stands, in the form of a metaphor. “Well "might he repent ; for the vessel was now full; 66 and this last drop made the waters of bitterness 6 overflow."
Having mentioned, with applause, this instance from lord Bolingbroke, I think it incumbent on me here to take notice, that, though I may have recourse to this author, sometimes, for examples of style, it is his style only, and not his sentiments, that deserve praise. It is, indeed, my opinion, that there are few writings in the English language, which, for the matter contained in them, can be read with less profit or fruit, than lord Bolingbroke's works. His political writings have the merit of a very lively and eloquent style ; but they have no other ; being, as to the substance, the mere temporary productions of faction and party ; no better, indeed, than pamphlets written for the day. His posthumous, or, as they are called, his philosophical works, wherein he attacks religion, have still lefs merit ; for they are as loose in the style, as they are flimsy in the reasoning. An unhappy instance, this author is, of parts and genius fo miserably perverted by faction and paflion, that as his memory will defcend to pofterity with little honour, so his productions will soon pafs, and are, indeed, already passing into neglect and oblivion. · Returning from this digression to the subject before us, I proceed to lay down the rules to be observed in the conduct of metaphors ; and which are much the same for tropes of every kind.
The first which I shall mention, is, that they be suited to the nature of the subject, of which we treat ; neither too many, nor too gay, nor too elevated for it : that we neither attempt to force the subject, by means of them, into a degree of elevation which is not congruous to it; nor, on the other hand, allow it to fink below its proper dignity. This is a direction which belongs to all figurative language, and thould be ever kept in view. Some metaphors are allowable, nay, beautiful, in poetry, which it would be absurd and unnatural to employ in profe; some may be graceful in orations, which would be very improper in historical, or philofophical composition. We must remember, that figures are the dress of our sentiments. As there is a natural congruity between dress, and the character or rank of the person who wears it, a violation of which congruity never fails to hurt; the fame holds precisely as to the application of figures to sentiment. The excessive or unseasonable employe ment of them, is mere foppery in writing. It gives a boyish air to composition ; and, instead of railing a fubject, in fact, diminishes its dignity. For, as in: life, true dignity must be founded on character, not on dress and appearance, so the dignity of compor fition must arise from sentiment and thought, not from ornament. The affectation and parade of ornament, detracts as much from an author, as they do from a man. Figures and metaphors, therefore, fhould, on no occasion, be stuck on too profusely; and never should be such as refuse to accord with the strain of our sentiment. Nothing can be more unnatural, than for a writer to carry on a train of reasoning, in the same sort of figurative language which he would use in description. When he reasons, we look only for perfpicuity ; when he describes, we expect embellishment; when he dis vides, or relates, we desire plainness and fimplie city. One of the greatest secrets in composition, is, to know when to be simple. This always gives a heightening to ornament, in its proper place. The right disposition of the shade, makes the light and colouring strike the more : “ Is enim eft eloquens," fays Cicero, “ qui et humilia fubtiliter, et maga
na graviter, et mediocria temperate poteft dis " cere. Nam qui nihil poteft tranquille, nihil le“ niter, nihil definite, distincte, poteft dicere, is, “ cum non' præparatis auribus inflammare rem
cæpit, furere apud fanos, et quasi inter sobrios " bacchari temulentus videtur*.” This admonition should be particularly attended to by young practitioners in the art of writing, who are apt to be carried away by an undistinguishing admiration of what is showy and florid, whether in its place or nott.
The second rule, which I give, respects the choice of objects, from whence metaphors, and other figures, are to be drawn. The field for figurative language is very wide. All nature, to speak in the style of figures, opens its stores to us, and admits us to gather, from all sensible objects, whatever can illustrate intellectual or moral ideas. Not only the gay and fplendid objects of sense, but the grave, the terrifying, and even the gloomy and dismal, may, on different occafions, be introduced
* “ He is truly eloquent, who can discourse of humble subjects in a plain style, who can treat important ones with dignity, and speak of things, which are of a middle nature, in a temperate train. For one who, upon no occasion, can express himself in a calm, orderly, distinct manner, when he begins to be on fire before his readers are prepared to kindle along with him, has the appearance of raving like a madman among persons who are in their senses, or of reeling like a drunkara in the midst of fober company."
+ What person, of the least taste, can bear the following paflage, in a late historian? He is giving an account of the famous act of parliament against irregular marriages in England : « The bill,” says he, “ underwent a great number of alterations and amendments, which were not effected withont violent conteft.” This is plain language, suited to the subject ; and we naturally expect, that he should go on in the same strain, to tell us, that, after these contests, it was carried by a great majority of voices, and obtained the royal affent. But how does he express himfelf in finishing the period ? « At length, however, it was floated through both houses, on the tide of a great majority, and iteered into the fafc harbour of royal approbation.” Nothing can be more puerile than fuch language. Smollet's biftory of England, as quoted in the critical review for Oct. 1761, p. 251, Vol. I.