Page images
[ocr errors]

the contrary, a good effect, by raising or swelling the
mind : for one passes with satisfaction from a linall
to a great object ; but cannot be drawn down, with-
out reluctance, from great to small, Hence the fol,
lowing similes are faulty.

Meanwhile the troops beneath Patroclus' care,
Invade the 'Trojans, and commence the was.
As wasps, provok'd by children in their play,
Pour from their mansions by the broad highway,
In fwarms the guiltless traveller engage,
Whet all their itings, and call forth all their rage ;
All rise in arms, and with a general cry
Affert their waxen domes, and buzzing progeny :
Thus from the tents the fervent legion (waris,
So loud their clamours, and so keen their arms,

Iliad xvi. 312,

[ocr errors]

So burns the vengeful hornet (soul all o'er)
Repuls'd in vain, and thirty still of gore ;
(Bold son of air and heat) on angry wings
Untam'd, untir'd, he turns, attacks and Itings.
Fir'd with like ardour fierce Atrides flew,
And sent his soul with ev'ry lance he threw.

lliad xvii. 642

[ocr errors]

Instant ardentes Tyrii : pars ducere muros,
Molirique arcem, et manibus subvolvere faxa
Pars aptare locuin' tecto, et concludere fulco.
Pura nagistratusque lcgunt, fan&tumque fenaium,
Hic portus alii eftodiunt : hic alia theatris
Fundamenta locant alii, immanesque columnas
Rupibus excidunt, fcenis decora alta futuris.
Qualis apes æftate nova per fiorca rura
Exercet fub fole labor, cum gentis adultos
Educunt foetus, aut cum liquentia mella
Stipant, et dulci diftendunt nectare cellas
Aut onera accipiunt venientum, aut aginine facto
Ignavum fucos pecus a pra sepibus arcent.
Feiyet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.

Ecd. i. 427.


To describe bees gathering honey as resembling the builders of Carthage, would have a much better effect.*

Tum vero Teucri incumbunt, et littore cellas
Deducunt toto naves : natat unda carina ;
Frondentesque ferunt remos, et robora sylvis
Infabricata, fugæ studio.
Migrantes cernas, totaque ex urbe ruentes.
Ac veluti ingentem formicæ farris acervum
Cum populant, hyemis memores, tectoque reponunt ;
It nigruin campis agmen, prædamque per herbas
Convectant calle angufto : pars grandia trudunt
Obnixæ frumenta humeris: pars agmina cogunt,
Castigantque moras : opere omnis semita fervet.

Æneid. iv. 397. The following simile has not any one beauty ta recommend it. The subject is Amata, the wife of King Latinus.

Tum vero infelix, ingentibus excita monstris,
Immenfam fine more furit lymphata per urbem :
Ceu quondam torto volitans fub verbere turbo,
Quem pueri magno in gyro vacua atria circum
Intenti ludo exercent. Ille actus habena
Curvatis fertur fpatiis : ftupet inscia turba,
Impubesque manus, mirata volubile buxum ;
Dant animos plagæ. Non cursu segnior illo
Per medias urbes agitur, populofque feroces.

Æneid. vii. 376,
This fimile seems to border upon the burlesque.

An error opposite to the former, is the introducing a resembling image, so elevated or great as to bear no proportion to the principal subject. Their remarkable disparity, seizing the mind, never fails to depress the principal subject by contrast, instead of

raising * And accordingly Demetrius Phalerius (of Elocution, fe&t. 85.) ob. serves, that it has a better effect to compare small things to great thay great things to small,

[ocr errors]

raising it by resemblance : and if the disparity be very great, the fimile degenerates into burlesque ; nothing being more ridiculous than to force an ob. ject out of its proper rank in nature, by equalling it with one greatly superior or greatly inferior.

This will be evident from the following comparisons.

Fervet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.
Ac veluti lentis Cyclopes fulmina mallis
Cum properant : alii taurinis follibus auras
Accipiunt, redduntque : ali stridentia tingunt
Æra lacu ; gemit impofitis incudibus Ætna :
Ili inter sese magna vi brachia tollunt
In numerum ; versantque tenaci forcipe ferrum.
Non aliter (si parva licet componere magnis)
Cecropias innatus apes amor urget habendi,
Munere quamque suo. Grandævis oppida curæ,
Et munire favos, et Dædala fingere tecta.
At feffæ multâ referunt fe nocte minores,
Crura thymo plenæ: pascuntur et arbuta paflim,
Et glaucas falices, caliamque crocumque rubentem,
Et pinguem tiliam, et ferrugineos hyacinthos.
Omnibus una quies opesum, labor omnibus unus.

Georgic. iv. 169.

The Cyclopes make a better figure in the follow. ing finile;

The Thracian leader prest,
With eager courage, far before the rest ;
Him Ajax met, inflam'd with equal rage:
Between the wond'ring hosts the chiefs engage ;
Their weighty weapons round thcir heads they throw,
And swift, and heavy, falls each thund'ring blow.
As when in Ætna's caves the giant brood,
The one-ey'd servants of the Lemnian god,
In order round the burning anvil stand,
And forge, with weighty itrokes, the forked brand;
The thaking hills their fervid toils confess,
And echoes rattling through each dark recess :
Se rag'd the fight.

Epigoniad, b. 8.


Tum Bitian ardentem oculis animisque frementem ;
Non jaculo neque enim jaculo vitam ille dediflet;
Sed magnum itidens contorta falarica venit
Fulminis alia modo, quam nec duo taurea terga,
Nec duplici squama lorica fidelis ct auro
Suftinuit : collapsa ruunt immania membra :
Dat tellus gemitum, et clypeum super intonat ingens.
Qualis in Euboico Baiarum liuore quondam
Saxea pila cadit, magnis quam molibus ante
Contructam jaciunt ponto : fic illa ruinam
Prona trahit, penitusque vadis illisa recumbit:
Miscent se maria, et nigræ attolluntur arenæ :
Tum fonitu Prochyta alta tremit, durumque cubile
Inarime Jovis imperiis impoita Typhoëo.

Æneid. ix. 703.

Loud as a bull makes hill and valley ring,
So roai'd the lock when it releas'd the spring.

Odysey, xxi. 51.

Such a simile upon the simplest of all actions, that of opening a door, is pure burlesque.

A writer of delicacy will avoid drawing his comparisons from any image that is nauseous, ugly, or remarkably disagreeable: for however strong the resemblance may be, more will be lost than gained by such comparison. Therefore I cannot help condemning, though with some reluctance, the following fim. ile, or rather metaphor,

O thou fond many! with what loud applause
Did/t thou beat heav'n with blessing Bolingbroke
Before he was what thou would't have him be?
And now being trimm'd up in thine own defires,
Thou, beally feeder, art fo full of him,
That thou provok'it thyself 10 cast him up.
And so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
'Thy glutton bofom of the royal Richard,


And now thou would'st eat thy dead vomit up,
And howl'st to find it.

Second part, Henry IV. act 1. sc. 6.

The strongest objection that can lie against a coin. parison is, that it confifts in words only, not in sense. Such false coin, or bastard wit, does extremely well in burlesque ; but is far below the dignity of the epic, or of any serious composition :

The noble fister of Poplicola,
The moon of Rome ; charte as the isicle
That's curdled by the frost from purest snow,
And hangs on Dian's temple.

Coriolanus, alt 5. sc. 3.

[ocr errors]

There is evidently no resemblance between an ificle and a woman, chaste or unchaste : but chafity is cold in a metaphorical sense, and an isicle is cold in a proper sense : and this verbal resemblance, in the hurry and glow of composing, has been thought a fufficient foundation for the fimile. Such phantom similes are mere witticisms, which ought to have no quarter, except where purposely introduced to provoke laughter. Lucian, in his diffcrtation upon hiftory, talking of a certain author, makes the following comparison, which is verbal merely :

[ocr errors]

This author's descriptions are so cold, that they surpass the Caspian snow, and all the ice of the north.

irgil has not escaped this puerility :

Galathaa thymo mihi dulcior Hyblæ.

Bucli vii. 37.

Ego Sardois videar tibi amarior herbis.

Ibid. 41.


« PreviousContinue »