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ÉSSAY XVI. Of all the implements of Poetry the metaphor is the most generally and successfully used, and indeed may be termed the Muse's caduceus, by the power of which she enchants all nature. The metaphor is a shorter simile, or rather a kind of magical coat, by which the same idea assumes a thousand different appearances. Thus the word plough, which originally belongs to agriculture, being metaphorically used, represents the motion of a ship at sea, and the effects of old age upon the human counte. nance....
....Plough'd the bosom of the deep....
Almost every verb, noun substantive, or term of art in any language, may be in this manner applied to a variety of subjects with admirable effect : but the danger is in sowing metaphors too thick, so as to distract the imagination of the reader, and incur the imputation of desert. ing Nature, in order to hunt after conceits. Every day produces poems of all kinds so indated with metaphor, that they may be compared to the gaudy bubbles blown up from a solution of soap. Longinus is of opinion, that a multitude of metaphors is never excusable, except in those cases when the passions are roused, and, like a winter torrent, rush down impetuous, sweeping them with collective force along. He brings an instance of the following quotation from Demosthenes. “Men, (says he) profligates, miscreants, and flatterers, who having severally preyed upon the bowels of their country, at length betrayed her liberty, first to Philip, and now again to Alexander; who, placing the chief felicity of life in the indulgence of infamous lusts and appetites, overturned in the dust that « freedom and independence, which was the chief aim and « end of all our worthy ancestors..... **
Anistotle and Theophrastus seem to think it is rather too bold and hazardous to use metaphors so freely, without interposing some mitigating phrase ; such as, “If I “ may be allowed the expression," or some equivalent excuse. At the same time, Longinus finds fault with Plato for hazarding some metaphors, which indeed appear to be equally affected and extravagant, when he says, “the “ government of a state should not resemble a bowl of hot 6 fermenting wine, but a cool and moderate beverage, 66 chastised by the sober deity”....a metaphor that signifies nothing more than “mixed or lowered with water.” De. metrius Phalereus justly observes, that though a judicious use of metaphors wonderfully raises, sublimes, and adorns oratory or elocution; yet they should seem to flow naturally from the subject; and too great a redundancy of them inflates the discourse to a mere rhapsody. The same observation will hold in poetry; and the more liberal or sparing use of them will depend in a great measure on the nature of the subject.
Passion itself is very figurative, and often bursts out into metaphors; but in touching the pathos, the poet must be perfectly well acquainted with the emotions of the human soul, and carefully distinguish between those metaphors, which rise glowing from the heart, and those cold conceits, which are engendered in the fancy. Should one of these last unfortunately intervene, it will be apt to destroy the whole effect of the most pathetical incident or situation. Indeed it requires the most delicate taste, and a consummate knowledge of propriety, to employ metaphors in such a manner, as to avoid what the Ancients called the to fuxpoy, the frigid, or false sublime. Instan
* "Avdgwnob, anoi, pescepos, rj anasopes, ry xondres, η ερωτηριασμενοι τας καύλων έκαςοι σαριδας, την ελευθεριαν προπεπωκοτες, προσερον Φιλιππω, ιυν δ' Αλεξαιδρω, τη γαςρι μερενιες και τους αισχσςοιι την ευδαιμονίων, την δ' ελευθεριαν, το μηδενα εχειν δεσποτην αυτων, α τοις προθεροις, "Ελλησιν οροι TWY cyclw nocy rj xavoves, &c. &c.
ces of this kind were frequent even among the correct ancients. Sappho herself is blamed for using the hyperbole divxotepo. xlovos, whiter than snow. Demetrius is so nice as to be disgusted at the simile of swift as the wind ; though, in speaking of a race-horse, we know from experience that this is not even an hyperbole. He would have had more reason to censure that kind of metaphor, which Aristotle stiles xal' svepyerry, exhibiting things inanimate as endued with sense and reason ; such as that of the sharp pointed arrow eager to take wing among the crowd. « O’Eubeans xal? Qui hoy eminlerbeke ME vedliwwy." Not but that in descriptive poetry this figure is often allowed and admired. The cruel sword, the ruthless dagger, the ruffian blast, are epithets which frequently occur. The faithful bosom of the earth, the joyous boughs, the trees that ad. mire their images reflected in the stream, and many other examples of this kind, are found disseminated through the works of our best modern poets : yet still they must be sheltered under the privilege of the poetica licentia : and, except in poetry, they would give offence.
More chaste metaphors are freely used in all kinds of writing; more sparingly in History; and more abundantJy in Rhetoric : we have seen that Plato indulges in them even to excess. The orations of Demosthenes are animated, and even inflamed with metaphors, some of them so bold ed, as even to entail upon him the censure of the critics. TOTE tw lub wyo TW ENTOpo peoylo rozd uuwi.....Then I did not “ yield to Python the orator, when he overflowed you with "a tide of eloquence.” Cicero is still more liberal in the use of them; he ransacks all nature, and pours forth a redundancy of figures, even with a lavish hand. Even the chaste Xenophon, who generally illustrates his subject by way of simile, sometimes ventures to produce an expressive metaphor, such as part of the phalanx fluctuated in the march; and indeed nothing can be more significant than this word egexuunve, to represent a body of men staggered, and on the point of giving way. Armstrong has used the word fluctuate with admirable efficacy, in his
philosophical poem entitled The Art of Preserving Health.
0! when the growling winds contend, and all
The word fluctuate on this occasion not only exhibits an idea of struggling, but also echoes to the sense like the SP gião da Maxon of Homer; which, by the bye, it is impossible to render into English; for the verb Ogroow signifies not only to stand erect like prickles, as a grove of lances, but also to make a noise like the crashing of armour, the hissing of javelins, and the splinters of spears.
Over and above an excess of figures, a young au. thor is apt to run into a confusion of mixed metaphors, which leave the sense disjointed, and distract the imagination ; Shakespeare himself is often guilty of these irregularities. The Soliloquy in Hamlet, which we have so often heard extolled in terms of admiration, is, in our opinion, a heap of absurdities, whether we consider the situation, the sentiment, the argumentation, or the poetry. Hamlet is informed by the Ghost, that his father was murdered, and therefore he is tempted to murder himself, even after he had promised to take vengeance on the usurper, and expressed the utmost eagerness to achieve this enterprize. It does not appear that he had the least reason to wish for death ; but every motive, which may be supposed to influence the mind of a young prince, concurred to render life desirable....revenge towards the usurper; love for the fair Ophelia ; and the ambition of reigning. Besides, when he had an opportunity of dying without being accessary to his own death; when he had nothing to do but, in obedience to his uncle's command, to allow himself to be conveyed quietly to England, where he was sure of suffering death; instead of amusing himself with meditations on mortality he very wisely consulted the means of self-preservation, turned the tables upon his attendants, and returned to Denmark. But granting him to have been reduced to the lowest state of despondence, surrounded with nothing but horror and despair, sick of this life, and eager to tempt futurity, we shall see how far he argues like a philosopher.
In order to support this general charge against an author so universally held in veneration, whose very errors have helped to sanctify his character among the multitude, we will descend to particulars and analize this famous Soliloquy.
Hamlet, having assumed the disguisé of madness, as a cloak, under which he might the more effectually revenge his father's death upon the murderer and usurper, appears alone upon the stage in a pensive and melancholy attitude, and communes with himself in these words :
To be, or not to be? That is the question.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,