Page images

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

Macbeth, at 5. sc. 5.

O thou Goddess,
Thou divine Nature ! how thyself thou blazon'ft
In these two princely boys! they are as gentle
As zephyrs blowing below the violet,
Not wagging his sweet head ; and yet as rough,
(Their royal blood inchaf'd) as the rudeft wind,
That by the top doth take the mountain pine,
And make him stoop to th' vale.

Cymbeline, act 4. fc. 4.

Why did not I pass away in secret, like the flower of the rock that lifts its fair head unfeen, and strows its withered leaves on the blait ?


There is a joy in grief when peace dwells with the forrowful. But they are wafted with mourning, O daughter of Toscar, and their days are few. They fall away like the flower on which the sun looks in his strength, after the mildew has passed over it, and its head is heavy with the drops of night.


The fight obtained of the city of Jerusalem by the Christian army, compared to that of land discovered after a long voyage, Taffo's Gierusalem, canto 3. ft. 4. The fury of Rinaldo subsiding when not opposed, to that of wind or water when it has a free passage, canto 20. ll. 58.

As words convey but a faint and obfcure notion of great numbers, a poet, to give a lively notion of the object he describes with regard to number, does well 10 coinpare it to what is familiar and commonly known.' Thus Ilomer * compares the Grecian ar

my * Book 2. 1. 111.

[ocr errors]

my in point of number to a swarm of bees : in
another passage * he compares it to that profusion of
leaves and flowers which appear in the spring, or of
infects in a summer's evening : and Milton,

As when the potent rod
Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
Wav'd round the coast, up call'd a pitchy cloud
Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind,
That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
Like night, and darkened all the land of Nile :
So numberless were those bad angels seen,
Hovering on wing under the cope of hell,
'Twixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires.

Paradije. Lojt, b. i. Such comparisons have, by some writers of been core demned for the lowness of the images introduced : but surely without reason ; for, with regard to num. bers, they put the principal subject in a strong light,

The foregoing comparisons operate by resem. þlance ; others have the same effect by contrast.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

York. I am the last of Noble Edward's fons,
Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first;
In war, was never lior. rag'd more fierce ;
In peace, was never gentle lamb more mild;
Than was that young and princely gentleman,
His face thou hast, for even so look'd he,
Accomplish'd with the nuinber of thy hours.
But when he frewn'd it was against the French,
And not against his friends. His noble hand
Did win what he did spend ; and spent not that
Which his triumphant father's hand had won.
His hands were guilty of no kindred's blood,
But bloo:ly with the enemies of his kin.
Oh, Richard ! York is too far gone with grief,
Or else he never would compare between.

Richard II. a81 2. sc. 3.

Milton * Book 2. 1. 551.

+ See Vida Poctic. lib. 9. 1. 282.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Milton has a peculiar talent in embellishing the principal subject by afsociating it with others that are agreeable ; which is the third end of a comparison. Similes of this kind have, beside, a separate effect : they diversify the narration by new images that are not strictly neceffary to the comparison : they are fhort episodes, which, without drawing us from the principal subject, afford great delight by their beauty and variety:

He scarce had ceas'd when the superior fiend
Was moving toward the fhore ; his pond'rous shield,
Ethereal temper, mally, large, and round,
Behind him cait ; the broad circumference
Hung on his thoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views
At ev’ning from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to delcry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.

Milton, b. I.

Thus far these, beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet obferv’d
Their diead commander. He above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tow'r ; his form had yet not lost
All her original brightness, nor appear'd
Less than archangel ruin'd, and th' excess
Of glory obscurd : as when the fun new-risen
Looks through the horizontal milty air
Shorn of his beams; or froin behind the moon
In dim eclipfe, dilatrous twilight theds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs.

Milton, b. I.

As when a vulture on Imaus bred,
Whole snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds,
Dislodging from a region scarce of prey
To gorge the flesh of lambs, or yeanling kids,


[ocr errors]

On hills where flocks are fed, flies toward the springs
Of Ganges or Hydaspes, Indian streams,
But in his way lights on the barren plains
Of Sericana, where Chineses drive
With fails and wind their cany waggons light :
So on this windy fea of land, the fiend
Walk'd up and down alone, bent on his prey.

[ocr errors]

Milton, b. 3.

[ocr errors]

Yet higher than their tops
The verdurous wall of paradise up sprung :
Which to our general fire gave prospect large
Into this nether empire neighbouring round.
And higher than that wall, a circling row
Of goodliest trees loaden with fairest fruit,
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,
Appear'd, with gay enamel'd colours mix'd,
On which the fun more glad impressid his beams
Than in fair evening cloud, or bow,
When God had thow'r'd the earth ; fo lovely seein'd
That landscape : and of pure now purer air
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair : now gentle gales
Fanning their odoriferous wings dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balıny spoils. As when to them who fail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are pait
Mozambic, off at fea north-east winds blow
Sabcan odour from the fpicy thore
Of Araby the Bleft ; with such delay
Well-pleas'd they llack their course, and many a league
Cheer'd with the grateful smell, old Ocean finiles.

Milton, b. 4.

[ocr errors]

With regard to similes of this kind, it will readily occur to the reader, that when a resembling subject is once properly introduced in a simile, the mind is transitorily amused with the new object, and is not dissatisfied with the flight interruption.

interruption. Thus, in fine weather, the momentary excursions of a traveller for


agreeable prospects or elegant buildings, cheer his mind, relieve him froin the languor of uniformity, and without much lengthening his journey, in reality, shorten it greatly in appearance.

Next of comparisons that aggrandize or elevate. These affect us more than any other fort : the reason of which may be gathered from the chapter of Grandeur and Sublimity ; and, without reasoning, will be evident from the following instances :

As when a flame the winding valley fills,
And runs on crackling thrubs between the hills,
Then o'er the stubble, up the mountain flies,
Fires the high woods, and blazes to the skies,
This way and that, the spreading torrent roars ;
So sweeps the hero through the wasted thores.
Around him wide, immense deftru&tion pours,
And earth is delug'd with the fanguine show'rs.

Iliad xx. 569.
Through blood, through death, Achilles still proceeds,
O'er flaughtered heroes, and o'er rolling steeds.
As when avenging flames with fury driv'n
On guilty towns exert the wrath of Heav'n,

The pale inhabitants, some fall, fome fly,
And the red vapours purple all the sky :
So rag'd Achilles ; death and dire dismay,
And toils, and terrors, fillid the dreadful day.

Iliad xxi. 605.

Methinks, King Richard and myself should meet
With no less terror than the elements
Of fire and water, when their thund'ring Mock,
At meeting, tears the cloudy cheeks of Heav'n.

Richard II. act 3. fc. 5. As rusheth a foamy stream from the dark shady steep of Cromla, when thunder is rolling above, and dark brown night rests on the hill : fo fierce, To vaft, fo terrible, ruh forward the sons of Erin. The chief, like a whale of


« PreviousContinue »