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LE C T U RE XVII.

COMPARISON, ANTITHESIS, INTER-
ROGATION, EXCLAMATION, AND

OTHER FIGURES OF SPEECH.

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WE

E are still engaged in the confideration of

figures of speech; which, as they add much to the beauty of style when properly employed, and are at the same time liable to be greatly abused, require a careful discullion. As it would be tedious to dwell on all the variety of figurative expressions which rhetoricians have enumerated, I chose to select the capital figures, such as occur most frequently, and to make my remarks on these ; the principles and rules laid down concerning them, will sufficiently direct us to the use of the rest, either in profe or poetry. Of metaphor, which is the most common of them all, I treated fully; and in the last lecture I discoursed of hyperbole, personification, and apostrophe. This lecture will nearly finish what remains on the head of figures.

Comparison, or simile, is what I am to treat of first : a figure frequently employed both by poets

and profe-writers, for the ornament of compofition. In a former lecture, I explained fully the difference betwixt this and metaphor. A metaphor is a comparison implied, but not expressed as such ; as when llay, “ Achilles is a lion,” meaning, that he reiembles one in courage or strength. A comparison is, when the resemblance between two objects is expressed in form, and generally pursued more fully than the nature of a metaphor admits; as when I say, “ The actions of princes are like " those great rivers, the course of which every

one beholds, but their springs have been seen by " few.” This flight inítance will show, that a happy comparison is a kind of sparkling ornament, which adds not a little lustre and beauty to difcourse ; and hence such figures are termed by Cicero,

" Orationis lumina.” The pleasure we take in comparisons is just and natural. We may remark three different sources whence it arises. First, from the pleasure which nature has annexed to that. act of the mind by which we compare any two objects together, trace resemblances among those that are different, and differences among those that resemble each other; a pleasure, the final cause of which is, to prompt us to remark and obferve, and thereby to make us advance in useful knowledge. This operation of the mind is naturally and universally agreeable ; as appears from the delight which even children have in comparing things together, as soon as they are capable of attending to the objects that surround them. Secondly, the pleasure of comparifon arises from the illustration which the fimile employed gives to the principal object; from the clearer view of it which it presents ; or the more strong impression of it which it stamps upon the mind : and, thirdly, it arises from the introduce tion of a new and commonly a splendid object,

associated to the principal one of which we treat; and from the agreeable picture which that object presents to the fancy; new scenes being thereby brought into view, which, without the assistance of this figure, we could not have enjoyed.

All comparifons whatever may be reduced under two heads, explaining and embellishing comparisons. For when a writer likens the object of which he treats, to any other thing, it always is, or at least always should be, with a view either to make us underftand that object more distinctly, or to dress it up, and adorn it. All manner of subjects admit of explaining comparisons. Let an author be reasoning ever so strictly, or treating the most abftrufe point in philosophy, he may very properly introduce a comparison, merely with a view to make his subject better understood. Of this nature, is the fole lowing in mr. Harris’s Hermes, employed to explain a very abstract point, the distinction between the powers of sense and imagination in the human mind. “ As wax," says he, would not be ade

quate to the purpose of signature, if it had not " the power to retain as well as to receive the im“ pression ; the same holds of the foul, with respect " to sense and imagination. Sense is its receptive

power ; imagination its retentive. Had it fense " without imagination, it would not be as wax, u but as water, where, though all impressions be “ instantly made, yet as soon as they are made, they

are instantly lost.” In comparisons of this nature, the understanding is concerned much more than the fancy : and therefore the only rules to be observed, with respect to them, are, that they be clear, and that they be useful ; that they tend to render our conception of the principal object more diftinet ; and that they do not lead our view aside, and bewilder it with any false light.

But embellishing comparisons, introduced not fo much with a view to inform and instruct, as to adorn the subject of which we treat, are those with which we are chiefly concerned at present, as figures of speech ; and those, indeed, which most frequently occur. Resemblance, as I before mentioned, is the foundation of this figure. We must not, however, take resemblance, in too strict a sense, for actual similitude or likeness of appearance. Two objects may sometimes be very happily compared to one another, though they resemble each other, strictly speaking, in nothing ; only, because they agree in the effects which they produce upon the mind; because they raise a train of similar, or what may be called, concordant ideas

i so that the remembrance of the one, when recalled, serves to strengthen the impression made by the other. For example, to describe the nature of soft and melancholy music, Ollian fays, The music “ of Carryl was, like the memory of joys that are

past, pleasant and mournful to the soul.” This is happy and delicate. Yet, surely, no kind of mufic has any resemblance to a feeling of the mind, such as the memory of past joys. Had it been compared to the voice of the nightingale, or the murmur of the stream, as it would have been by some ordinary poet, the likeness would have been more strict ; but, by founding his fimile upon the effect which Carryl's music produced, the poet, while he conveys a very tender image, gives us, at the fame time, a much stronger impression of the nature and strain of that music. “ Like the memory of

joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the foul." In general, whether comparisons be founded on the fimilitude of the two objects compared, or on some analogy and agreement in their effects, the fundamental requisite of a comparison is, that it suall serve to illustrate the object, for the sake of which it is introduced, and to give us a stronger conception of it. Some little excursions of fancy may be permitted in pursuing the simile ; but they muit never deviate far from the principal object. If it be a great and noble one, every circumstance in the comparison must tend to aggrandisę it'; if it be a beautiful one, to render it more amiable ; if terrible, to fill us with more awe. But to be a little more particular : the rules to be given concerning comparisons, respect chiefly two articles

; the propriety of their introduction, and the nature of the objects whence they are taken.

First, the propriety of their introduction. From what has been alrcady said of comparisons, it appears, that they are not, like the figures of which I treated in the last lecture, the language of strong passion. No; they are the language of imagination rather than of passion of an imagination {prightly, indeed, and warmed--but undisturbed by any violent or agitating emotion. Strong passion is too severe to admit this play of fancy. It has no leisure to cast about for resembling objects ; it dwells on that object which has seized and taken possession of the foul. It is too much occupied and filled by it, to turn its view aside, or to fix its attention on any other thing. An author, therefore, can scarcely commit a greater fault, than, in the midst of passion, to introduce a simile. Metaphorical expression may be allowable in such a situation; though even this may be carried too far : but the pomp and folemnity of a formal comparison is altogether a stranger to passion. It changes the key in a moment ; relaxes and brings down the mind; and shows us a writer perfectly at his ease, while he is personating some other, who is supposed to be under the torment of agitation. Our writers of tragedies are very apt to err here. In some of mr. Rowe's plays, these flowers of fimiles have been Vol. I.

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