Page images
PDF
EPUB

The fertility of Shakespear's vein betrays him frequently into this error. There is the same impropriety in another simile of his :

Ilero. Goo1 Margaret, run thee into the parlour ;
There halt thou find my coulin Beatrice ;
Whilper her ear, and tell her, I and Ursula
Walk in the orchard, and our whole discourfe
Is all of her ; tay, that thou overheard it us :
And bid her iteal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripen'd by the sun,
Forbid the fun to enter ; like to favourites,
Made proud by princes, that advance their pride
Against that power that bred it.

Much ada cbsut Nothing, at 3. sc. I.

Rooted grief, deep anguish, terror, remorse, despair, and all the severe dispiríting passions, are declared enemies, perhaps not to figurative language in general, but undoubtedly to the pomp and lolemnity of comparison. Upon that account, the simile pronounced by young Rutland, under terror of death from an inveterate enemy, and praying mercy, is unnatural :

So looks the pent-up lion o'er the wretch
That trembles under his devouring paws;
And fo he walks insulting o'er his prev,
And so he coines to rend his limbs alunder.
Ah, gentle Clifford, kill me with thy sworil,
And not with such a cruel threat'ning look.

Third fart, Henry VI. ałt 1. sc. 5.

Nothing appears more out of place, nor more awkwardly introduced, than the following simile :

Lucia.

Farewell, my Portius, Farewell, though death is in the word, for-ever !

Portius. Stay, Lucia, ftay; what doft thou say? forever?

Lucia.

[ocr errors]

Lucia. Have I not sworn ? If, Portius, thy success
Must throw thy brother on his fate, farewell,
Oh, how thall I repeat the word, for-ever !

Portius. Thus, o'er the dying lamp th' unsteady flame'
Hangs quivering on a point, leaps off by fits,
And falls again, as loath to quit iis hold. *

Thou must not go, my foul still hovers o'er thcc,
And can't get loose.

Cito, act 3. sc. 2.

[ocr errors]

Nor doth the simile which closes the first act of the same tragedy make a better appearance ; the situation there represented being too dispiriting for a fimile. A fimile is improper for one who dreads the difcovery of

secret machination ;

a

Zara. The mute not yet return'd! Ha 'was the King,
The King that parted hence! frowning he went ;
His eyes like meteors rold, then darted down
Their red and angry beams; as it his fight
Would, like the raging Dog-star, scorch the earth,
And kindle ruin in its course.

Mourning Bride, alt 5. sc. 3.

1

A man spent and dispirited after losing a battle, is not dispoled to heighten or illustrate his discourse by fimiles :

York. With this we charg'd again ; but out, alas!
We body'd again ; as I have feen a fwan
With bootless labour swim against the vide,
And spend her ftrength with over-matching waves.
Ah ! hark, the fatal followers do pursue ;
And I am faint and cannot fly their fury.
The sands are number'd that make up my life ;
Here inult I stay, and here my lite must end.

Third part, Henry VI. cet 1. sc. 6.

Far * This fimile would have a fine effect pronounced by the chorus in a Greek tragedy

Far less is a man disposed to fimiles who is not only defeated in a pitch'd battle, but lies at the point of death mortally wounded : Warwick.

My mangled body shows, My blood, my want of strength, my fick heart shows, That I must yield my body to the earth, And, by my fall, the conquest to my foe. Thus yields the cedar to the ax's edge, Whose arms gave shelter to the princely cagle ; Under whose İade the ramping lion slept, Whose top-branch over-peer'd Jove's spreading tree, And kept low shrubs from winter's pow'sful wind.

Third part, Henry VI. aft 5. fc. 3. Queen Katherine, deserted by the King, and in the deepest affliction on her divorce, could not be dit. posed to any fallies of imagination : and for that reason, the following simile, however beautiful in the mouth of a spectator, is scarce proper in her own;

I am the most unhappy woman living,
Shipwreck'd upon a kingdom, where no pity,
No friends, no hope ! no kindred weep for me!
Almost no grave allow'd me ! like the lily,
That once was mistress of the field, and flourish'd,
I'll hang my head, and perilh.

King Henry VIII. act 3. fc. 1. Similes thus unseasonably introduced, are finely ridiculed in the Rehearsal.

Bayes. Now here she must make a simile.
Smith. Where's the neceility of that, Mr. Bayes?

Baves. Because she's surprised ; that's a general rule ; you must ever make a simile when you are surprised ; 'tis a new way of writing.

A comparison is not always faultless even where it is properly introduced. I have endeavoured above

to

to give a general view of the different ends to which a comparison may contribute : a comparison, like other human productions, may fall short of its aim ; of which defect instances are not rare even among good writers ; and to complete the present subject, it will be necessary to make some observations upon such faulty comparisons. I begin with observing, that nothing can be more erroneous than to institute a comparison too faint ; a distant resemblance or contrast fatigues the mind with its obscurity, instead of amusing it : and tends not to fulfil any one end of a comparison. The following similes seem to labour under this defect.

Albus ut obscuro deterget nubila celo
Sæpe Notus, neque parturit imbres
Perpetuos : sic tu sapiens finire memento
Triftitiam, vitæque labores,
Molli, Plance, mero.

Horat. Carm. I. 1. ode 7
Medio dux agmine Turnus
Vertitur ar ma tenens, et toto vertice supra eft.
Ceu feptem furgens sedatis amnibus altus
Per tacitum Ganges ; aut pingui flumine Nilus
Cum refluit campis, et jam fe condidit alveo.

Æneid. ix. 28.
Talibus orabat, talefque miferrima fletus
Fertque refertque soror ; sed nullis ille movetur
Fletibus, aut voces ullas tractabilis audit.
Fata obstant : placidasque viri Deus obstruit aures.
Ac veluti annolo validam cum robore quercum
Alpini Borex, nunc hinc, nunc flatibus illinc
Eruere inter se certant ; it stridor, et alte
Confternunt terram concusso ftipite frondes :
Ipfa hæret fcopulis : et quantum vertice ad auras
Æthereas, tantum radice in Tartara tendit.
Haud fecus affiduis hinc atque hinc vocibus heros
Tunditur, et magno persentit pectore curas :
Mens immota manet, lacrymæ volvuntur inanes.

Æneid. iv. 437 L4

K. Rich.

K. Rich. Give me the crown.--Here cousin, seize the

crown,
Here, on this fide, my hand; on that side, thine.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well,
That owes Two blickets, filling one another ;
The empiicr ever dancing in the air,
The ohor down, unseen and full of water :
That bucket down, and full of tears, am I,
Drinking iny griets, whilft you mount up on high.

Richard II. act. 4. fc. 3.
King John. Oh! Cousin, thou art come to set mine eye ;
The tackle of my heart is crack'd and burnt ;
And all the throuds wherewith my life should fail,
Are turned to one thread, one little hair :
My licari ha:h one poor ftring to stay it by
Which holus tut till thy news be uttered.

King John, alt 5. fc. 10,
Zork. My uncles both are flaio in rescuing me ,
And all my followers, to the eager foe
Turn back, and fly like thips before the wind,
Or lämbs pursu'd by hunger-Itarved wolves.

Third part, Henry VI. act 1. fo. 6. The latter of the two fimiles is good : the former, by its faintness of resemblance, has no effect but to load the narration with an useless image.

The next error I shall mention is a capital one. In an epic poem, or in a poem upon any elevated subject, a writer ought to avoid raising a simile on a low image, which never fails to bring down the principal subject. In general, it is a rule, That a grand object ought never to be resembled to one that is diminutive, however delicate the resemblance may be ; for it is the peculiar character of a grand object to fix the attention, and swell the mind, in which state, to contract it to a minute object, is unpleasant. The resembling an object to one that is greater, has, on

the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »