« ПредишнаНапред »
OF METAPHORS. SYMBOLS.
METAPHOR (Greek metaphora, from phero, I carry, and meta, beyond) is that form of speech by which a word, or phrase, is extended beyond its original acceptation, and applied to something else which the mind conceives to be, in a certain respect, similar, or analogous. Thus, a stone is the general name of a class of minerals, better known, perhaps, than defined; and the phrase, "a pillar of stone” describes what we consider as a reality; but when a man is said to have “a heart of stone,” we allude to some imaginary likeness, and speak in the language of metaphor: “his heart is hard and impenetrable,"-"it is cold and unfeeling.”
The fact is, that speech is almost entirely composed of metaphor. There are but few objects, or relations, in nature with which mankind are acquainted; and yet it must be solely from these few that our ideas can be formed. Abstract thoughts are the shadows of reality; but shadows cannot exist without the substances on which they depend. The structure of language, however aerial it may appear, is not a palace of enchantment. The materials of which it is built are taken from the palpable objects around us. They are rude and common in their appearance, while the beauty and fairy elegance of the fabric are owing entirely to the illusions of imagination. Things and actions, the most ordinary and obvious, are, in the most eminent degree, stretched in their signification; and we compare the primary and consequent meanings of the term with a portion of incredulity, when we are told that the distinction has been produced solely by custom and usage. Examples may be easily adduced: To sit and TO STAND are common actions of the human body, but their figurative significations are uncommonly extensive. A seat is that on which we sit, but it also denotes a villa or country residence. SITUATION is literally the action of sitting, but it expresses our manner of existence, whether in body or mind. The Latin status, like our state and the French estat or état, in its first sense, is merely a standing, or the particular posture of the body which to STAND recals to our mind. These words, however, signify condition of whatever kind; as, also, a government, and the country so governed. When we follow the French spelling, Estate, it is used for a quantity of land in the possession of a proprietor. The word stand is, likewise, subject to a similar figure; and we say of an advocate, who has had long and extensive practice, that he is of considerable sTANDING at the bar. Station is the place where any thing stands ;—it is, also, the rank held in society.
The nature of our language (made up, in a great degree, of compounds, the parts of which exist only in other tongues,) serves to hide, from common eyes, many of the metaphors that would, otherwise, be obvious. The last written word (obvious), for instance, is a Latin compound, (from ob and via) and denotes that the thing spoken of stands in the WAY; and that, consequently, it cannot escape notice. Now a man, an animal, or any material substance, may, naturally, be in the way; but to such as these the word obvious is never applied: it is confined to metaphorical usage. The church is obvious,' meaning that it is before my eyes --would be reckoned a strange application of the word. 'It is obvious that he hates me,' would pass without notice, although it is obvious that there is no real OBJECT, (Latin objectus),-nothing thrown before me, to be seen.
As a farther illustration, we shall take a sentence from Mr. Lindley Murray's " Address to Young Students,” which its author intended to be simple rather than figurative:
Contemplating the dangers to which you are exposed, the sorrows and dishonour which accompany talents misapplied, and a course of indolence and folly, may you exert your utmost endeavours to avoid them!”
Here are eight substantives of which certain things are asserted; but there is not one of them which represents any object that is cognizable by the senses:
Contemplating (that is looking at the dangers to which you are exposed (that is placed among,)” must be merely a metaphorical view; for dangers are contingent evils that may or may not happen.
“Sorrows and dishonour which accompany (that is, go along with) misapplied talents.” Sorrows and dishonour are feelings of the mind, and it is a strong figure, indeed, that makes them the companions of talents (that is abilities), however those talents may be applied. It is conduct, not talents, to which dishonour can be associated; and, with respect to sorrows, they, like the showers of heaven, fall equally on the just and the unjust.
“ A course of indolence and folly;" that is, “ a race, or circuit, of laziness and stupidity," for this is the only sort of folly connected with indolence. The metaphor, it must be confessed, is rather an awkward one.
“May you exert your utmost endeavours to avoid them!” That is,
That is, “ May you put forth your farthest out attempts to keep away from the dangers to which you are (already) exposed."
The whole of the Address is in the same strain. It is a series of metaphors; scarcely referring literally to a single object in nature. This, however, arises from the subject and not from the writer; for nothing that is general, or abstract, can be expressed in other terms. The thoughts and feelings of man have no visible prototype in external nature. All is comparison of imaginary similitudes. The philosophy of the human mind is a science of metaphors.
Since, then, it appears that Metaphor is, necessarily, in possession of the far greater portion of the thoughts which language endeavours to express;
it may be asked, what do we mean when we particularize a phrase, or sentence, as being metaphorical ? We answer, that, in grammatical usage, the term is applied to such deviations, from the literal meaning of words, or phrases, as have not been incorporated, by custom, into the language. The new allusions are striking, because uncommon; while the customary ones