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strewed unseasonably. Mr. Addison's Cato, too, is justly censurable in this respect; as, when Portius, just after Lucia had bid him farewel forever, and when he should naturally have been represented as in the most violent anguish, makes his reply in a studied and affected comparison :
Thus o'er the dying lamp th' unsteady flame | Hangs quiviring on a point, leaps off by fits,
And falls again, as loth to quit its hold.
Every one must be sensible, that this is quite remote from the language of nature on such occafions.
However, as comparison is not the style of strong passion, so neither, when employed for embellishment, is it the language of a mind wholly unmoved. It is a figure of dignity, and always requires some elevation in the Tubject, in order to make it proper : for it supposes the imagination to be uncommonly enlivened, though the heart be not agitated by passion. In a word, the proper place of comparisons lies in the middle region between the highly pathetic, and the very humble style. • This is a wide field, and gives ample range to the figure. But even this field we must take care not to overstock with it. For, as was before faid, it is a sparkling ornament ; and all things that sparkle, dazzle and fatigue, if they recur too often. Similes should, even in poetry, be used with moderation ; but, in prose writings, much more: otherwife, the style will become disagreeably florid, and the ornament lose its virtue and effe&.
I proceed, next, to the rules that relate to objects, whence comparisons should be drawn ; fupposing them introduced in their proper place.
In the first place, they must not be drawn from things, which have too near and obvious a resemblance to the object with which we compare them.
The great pleasure of the act of comparing lies, in discovering likenesses among things of different species, where we would not, at the first glance, cxpect a resemblance. There is little art or ingenuity in pointing out the resemblance of two objects, that are fo much akin, or lie fo near to one another in nature, that every one fees they must be like. When Milton compares satan's appearance, after his fall, to that of the sun suffering an eclipse, and affrighting the nations with portentous darkness, we are struck with the happiness and the dignity of the similitude. But, when he compares Eve's bower in paradise, to the arbour of Pomona, or Eve herself, to a dryad, or woodnymph, we receive little entertainment : as every one fees, that one arbour must, of course, in several respects, resemble another arbour, and one beautiful woman another beautiful woman.
Among similes, faulty through too great obviousness of the likeness, we must likewise rank those which are taken from objects become trite and familiar in poetical language. Such are the fimiles of a hero to a lion, of a person in sorrow to a flower drooping its head, of violent passion to a tempest, of chastity to snow, of virtue to the fun or the stars, and many more of this kind, with which we are fure to find modern writers, of fecond rate genius, abounding plentifully ; handed down from every writer of verses to another, as by hereditary right. These comparisons were, at first, perhaps, very proper for the purposes to which they are applied. In the ancient original poets, who took them directly from nature, not from their predecessors, they had beauty. But they are now beaten ; our ears are so accustomed to them, that they give no amusement to the fancy. There is, indeed, no mark by which we can more readily distinguish a poet of true genius, from one of a barren imagination, than by the strain of their comparisons. All who call themselves poets, aftect them : but, whereas a mere versifier copies no new image from nature, which appears, to his uninventive genius, exhausted by those who have gone before him, and, therefore, contents himself with humbly following their track; to an author of real fancy, nature seems to unlock, spontaneously, her hidden stores ; and the eye, quick glancing 66 from earth to heaven," discovers new fhapes and forms, new likenesses between objects unobserved before, which render his similes original, expressive, and lively.
But, in the second place, as comparisons ought not to be founded on likenesses too obvious, still lefs ought they to be founded on those which are too faint and remote. For these, in place of affisting, strain the fancy to comprehend them, and throw no light upon the subject. It is also to be observed, that a comparison, which, in the principal circumstances, carries a fufficiently near resemblance, may become unnatural and obscure, if pulhed too far. Nothing is more opposite to the design of this figure, than to hunt after a great number of coincidences in minute points, merely to show how far the poet's wit can stretch the resemblance. This is mr. Cowley's, common fault ; whose comparisons generally run out fo far, as to become rather a studied exercise of wit, than an illustration of the principal obje&t. We need only open his works, his odes especially, to find instançes every where.
In the third place, the object from which a comparison is drawn, should never be an unknown object, or one, of which few people can form clear ideas : “ Ad inferendam rebus lucem," says Quintilian, repertæ sunt similitudines. Præcipue,
igitur, eft custodiendum, ne id quod similitudinis “ gratia afcivimus, aut obfcurum fit, aut ignotum. 6 Debet enim id quod illustrandæ alterius rei gratia " affumitur, ipsum esse clarius eo quod illumina
tur. *” Comparisons, therefore,founded on philo. sophical discoveries, or on anything with which
perfons of a certain trade only, or a certain profeflion,
t are conversant, attain not their proper effect. They should be taken from those illustrious, noted objects, which most of the readers either have seen, or can strongly conceive. This leads me to remark a fault of which modern poets are very apt to be guilty. The ancients took their similes from that face of nature, and that class of objects, with which they and their readers were acquainted. Hence lions, and wolves, and serpents, were fruitful, and very proper sources of similes amongst them ; and these having become a sort of consecrated, classical images, are very commonly adopted by the moderns--injudiciously, however; for the propriety of t them is now in a great measure loft. It is only at second hand, and by description, that we are acquainted with many of those objects; and, to most readers of poetry, it were more to the purpose to describe lions, or serpents, by fimiles taken from men, than to
describe men by lions, Now-a-days, we can more easily form the conception of a fierce combat between two men, than between a bull and a tiger. Every country has a scenery peculiar to itself; and the imagery of eve
• « Comparisons have been introduced into discourse, for the fake of throwing light on the subject. We must, there. fore, be much on our guard, not to employ, as the ground of our fimile, any object which is either obscure or unknown, That, furely, which is used for the purpose of illustrating fome other thing, ought to be more obvious and plain, than the thing intended to be illustrated."
ry good poet will exhibit it. The introduction of unknown objects, or of a foreign scenery, betrays å poet copying, not after nature, but from other writers. I have only to observe further,
In the fourth place, that, in compositions of a serious or elevated kind, similes should never be taken from low or mean objects. These are degrading ; whereas, fimiles are commonly intended to embellish, and to dignify : and, therefore, unless in burlesque writings, or where similes are introduced purposely to vilify and diminish an object, mean ideas should never be presented to us. Some of Homer's comparisons have been taxed, without reason, on this account. For it is to be remembered, that the meanness or dignity of objects depends, in a great degree, on the ideas and manners of the age wherein we live. Many fimiles, therefore, drawn from the incidents of rural life, which appear low to us, had abundance of dignity in those simpler ages of antiquity.
I have now considered such of the figures of speech as seemed most to merit a full and particular discussion--metaphor, hyberbole, personification, apostrophe, and comparison. A few more yet remain to be mentioned; the proper use and conduct of which will be easily understood from the principles already laid down.
As comparison is founded on the resemblance, so antithesis on the contrast or opposition of two objects. Contrast has always this effect, to make each of the contrasted objects appear in the stronger light. White, for initance, never appears so bright as when it is opposed to black, and when both are viewed together. Antithesis, therefore, may, on many occasions, be employed to advantage, in order to strengthen the impression which we intend that any object should make. Thus Cia cero, in his oration for Milo, representing the im