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(Those bully Greeks, who as the moderns do,
Description of a City Shower. Swift.
Clubs, diamonds, hearts, in wild disorder feen,
Rape of the Lock, canto 3.
He does not consider that sincerity in love is as much out of faihion as sweet snuff ; nobody takes it now.
Lady Easy. My dear, I am afraid you have provoked her a little too far.
Sir Charles. O! Not at all. You thall fee, I'll sweeten ber, and she'll cool like a dith of tea.
Figures. THE endless variety of expressions brought under the head of tropes and figures by ancient critics and grammarians, makes it evident, that they had no precise criterion for distinguishing tropes and figures from plain language. It was accordingly my opinion, that little could be made of them in the way of rational criticism ; till discovering, by a sort of accident, that many of them depend on principles formerly explained, I gladly embrace the opportunity to show the influence of these principles where it would be the least expected. Confining myself therefore to such figures, I am luckily freed from much trash; without dropping, as far as I remember, any trope or figure that merits a proper name. And I begin with Profopopæia or personification, which is justly intitled to the first place.
HE bestowing sensibility and voluntary motion upon things inanimate, is so bold a figure, as to require, one should imagine, very peculiar circumstances for operating the delusion : and yet, in the language of poetry, we find variety of expressions, which though commonly reduced to that figure, are used without ceremony, or any sort of preparation ; as, for example, thirsty ground, hungry church-yard, furious dart, angry ocean. These epithets, in their proper meaning, are attributes of fenfible beings : what is their meaning when applied to things inani
mate ? do they make us conceive the ground, the church-yard, the dart, the ocean, to be endued with animal functions ? This is a curious inquiry ; and whether fo or not, it cannot be declined in handling the present subject.
The mind, agitated by certain passions, is prone to bestow sensibility, upon things inanimate.* This is an additional instance of the influence of passion upon our opinions and belief.f I give examples. Antony, mourning over the body of Cæsar murdered in the fenate-house, vents his passion in the following words:
Antony. O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
Julius Cæfar, act 3. fo. 4.
Here Antony must have been impressed with a notion, that the body of Cæsar was listening to him, without which the speech would be foolish and absurd. Nor will it appear strange, considering what is said in the chapter above cited, that passion should have such power over the mind of man.
In another example of the same kind, the earth, as a common mother, is animated to give refuge against a father's unkindness :
Almeria. O Earth, behold, I kneel upon thy bosom,
+ Chap. 2. part 5.
And step between me and the curse of him,
Mourning Bride, act 4. fe. 7.
Plaintive passions are extremely folicitous for vent; and a soliloquy commonly answers the purpose : but when such a passion becomes excessive, it cannot be gratified but by sympathy from others; and if denied that consolation in a natural way, it will convert even things inanimate into sympathising beings. Thus Philoctetes complains to the rocks and promontories of the isle of Lemnos ;* and Alcestes dying, invokes the sun, the light of day, the clouds, the earth, her husband's palace, &c.f Moschus, lamenting the death of Bion, conceives, that the birds, the fountains, the trees, lament with him. The shepherd, who in Virgil bewails the death of Daphnis, exprefl. eth himself thus :
Daphni, tuum Ponos etiam ingemuiffe leones
Eclogue, V. 274 Again :
Illum eriam lauri, illum etiam flevere myricæ.
Eclogue, X. 13
Ho visto al pianto mio
* Philoftetes of Sophocles, aa, 4. sc. &.
+ Alceftes of Euripides, act 2. sc. ).
E fofpirar le fronde
Ne spero di vedere
Aminta di Tajo, a£1. sc. 2. That such personification is derived from nature, will not admit the least remaining doubt, after finding it in poems of the darkest ages and remotest countries. No figure is more frequent in Ossian's works ; for example,
The battle is over, said the King, and I behold the blood of my friends. Sad is the heath of Lena, and mournful the oaks of Cromla.
The sword of Gaul trembles at his fide, and longs to glitter in his hand.
King Richard having got intelligence of Bolingbroke's invasion, fays, upon landing in England from his Irish expedition, in a mixture of joy and resentment,
I weep for joy To stand upon my kingdom once again. Dear earth, I do falute thee with my hand, Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofs. As a long parted mother with her child Plays fondly with her tears, and smiles in meeting ; So weeping, smiling, greet I thee, my earth, And do thee favour with my royal hands. Feed not thy sovereign's foc, my gentle earth, Nor with thy sweets comfort his sav'nous sense : But let thy spiders that fuck up thy venom, And heavy-gaited toads, lie in ihreir way ;