Page images

Doing annoyance to the treach'sous feet,
Which with ufurping steps do trample thee.
Yield tinging nei.l.s to mine enemies ;
And, when they from thy bosom pluck a flower,
Guard it, I pr'ythee, with a lurking adder ;
Whufe double tongue may with a mortal touch
Throw death upon thy sovereign's enemies.
Mock not my lenfeleis conjuration, Lords :
This earth iha'l have a feeling i and ihese stones
Prove armed soldiers, ere her native king
Shall taulter under foul rebellious arms.

Richard II. alt 3. f. 2.

After a long voyage it was customary among the ancients to salute the natal soil. A long voyage be. ing of old a greater enterprise than at present, the safe return to one's country after much fatigue and danger, was a delightful circumstance, and it was natural to give the natal foil a temporary life, in order to sympathise with the traveller. See an example, Againennon of Eschilus, act 3. in the beginning. Regret for leaving a place one has been accustomed to, has the same effect. *

Terror produceth the same effect : it is communicated in thought to every thing around, even to things inanimate :

Speaking of Polyphemus,

Clamorem immenfum tollit, quo pontus et omnes
Intremuere undæ, penitusque exterrita tellus

Æneid. iii. 672.

As when old Ocean roars,
And heaves huge surges to the trembling Thores.

llind ii. 249.


Philoclctes of Sophocles, at the close.

Go, view the settling fea. The stormy wind is laid ; but the billows still tremble on the deep, and seem to tear the blast.


Racine, in the tragedy of Phedra, describing the feamonster that destroyed Hippolytus, conceives the sea itself to be struck with terror as well as the spectators :

[merged small][ocr errors]

A man also naturally communicates his joy to all objects around, animate or inanimate :

As when to them who fail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
Sabean odour from the spicy shore
Of Arabia the Blett; with such delay
Well pleas'd, they lack their course, and many a Icague
Cheer'd with the grateful tmell old Ocean fiiles.

Paradise Loji, b. t.

I have been profuse of examples, to show what power many passions have to animate their objects. In all the foregoing examples, the personification, if I mistake not, is so complete as to afford.conviction, momentary indeed, of life and intelligence. But it is evident from numberless instances, that personification is not always fo complete : it is a common figure in descriptive poetry, understood to be the language of the writer, and not of the persons he defcribes : in this case, it feldom or never comes up to conviction, even momentary, of life and intelligence. I give the following examples.

First in his eart the glorious lamp was seen,
Regent of day, and all th' horizon round



. Invested with bright rays ; jocund to rin His longitude through heav'n's high road : the gray Dawn and the Pleiades betore him danc'd, Shedding sweet influence. Lefs bright the moon, But opposite, in levell’d west was set His mirror, with full face borrowing her light. From him ; for other light she needed none.

Paradije Loft, b.7. 1. 370.*

Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
S.ands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops.

Romeo and Juliet, ad 3. fc. 7.

But look, the morn, in ruffet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill.

Hamlet, alt 1. f. I.

It may, I presume, be taken for granted, that, in the foregoing instances, the personification, either with the poet or his reader, amounts not to a conviction of intelligence: that the sun, the moon, the day, the morn, are not here understood to be sensible beings. What then is the nature of this personification I think it must be referred to the imagination : the inanimate object is imagined to be a sensible being, but without any conviction, even for a moment, that it really is so. Ideas or fictions of imagination have power to raise emotions in the mind it and when any thing inanimate is, in imagination, supposed to be a sensible being, it makes by that means a greater figure than when an idea is formed of it according to


* The challity of the English language, which in common usage distinguishes by genders no words but what lignify beings male and female, gives thus a fine opportunity for the prosopopaia ; a beauty unknown in other languages, where every word is maleuline or feminine.

+ See Appendix, containing definitions and explanations of terms, $28.

[ocr errors]

truth. This sort of personification, however, is far inferior to the other in elevation. Thus personification is of two kinds. The first, being more noble, may be termed passionate personification : the other, more humble, descriptive personification ; because feldom or never is personification in a description carried to conviction.

The imagination is so lively and active, that its images are raised with very little effort ; and this justifies the frequent use of descriptive personification, This figure abounds in Milton's Allegro, and Pénje. roso.

Abstract and general terms, as well as particular objects, are often necessary in Poetry. Such termis however are not well adapted to poetry, because they suggest not any image : I can readily form an image of Alexander or Achilles in wrath ; but I cannot form an image of wrath in the abstract, or of wrath independent of a person. Upon that account, in. works addressed to the imagination, abstract terms are frequently personified ; but such personification rests upon imagination merely, not upon convi&ion.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Sed mihi vel Tellus optem prius ima dehiscat ;
Vel Pater omnipotens adigat me fulmine ad umbras,
Pallentes unibras Erebi, noctemque profundam,
Ante pudor, quam te violo, aut tua jura refolvo.

Eneid. iv. I. 24.

[ocr errors]

Thus, to explain the effects of flander, it is imagined to be a voluntary agent.

No, 'tis Slander ;
Whote edge is sharper than the sword: whose tongue
Out-venoms all the worms of Nile ; whole breath
Rides on the polting winds, and doth belie
All corners of the world, kings, queens, and states,

Maids,. i

Maids, matrons : nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous flander enters.

Shakespear, Cymbeline, act 3. fc. 4. As also human passions : take the following example.

-For Pleasure and Revenge Have ears more deaf than adders, to the voice Of any true decision.

Troilus and Crellida, act 2. sc. 4. Virgil explains fame and its effe&s by a still greater variety of action.* And Shakespear personifies death and its operations in a manner singularly fanciful :

Within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal teinpies of a king,
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic fits,
Scothing his state, and grinning at his pomp ;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks ;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As it his fieh, which wails about our life,
Were brass impregnable ; and humour'd thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle-walls, and farewell king.

Richard II. act 3. st. 4.
Not less successfully is life and action given even to
sleep :
King Henry. How many thousands of my pooreft fub-

Are at ihis hour allcep! O gentle Sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather Sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,


* Æneid iv. 173.

« PreviousContinue »