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Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
Second part, Henry IV. all 3. fc. .
Oh ! let the steps of youth be cautious,
Therefore let Virtue take him by the hand :
Hitherto success has attended our steps : but whether we shall complete our progress with equal fuccefs, seems doubtful; for when we look back to the expressions mentioned in the begining, thirsty ground, furious dart, and such like, it seems no less difficult than at first, to say whether there be in them any fort of personification. Such expreffions evidently raise not the flighteft conviction of sensibility : nor do I think they amount to defcriptive personification; because, in them, we do not even figure the ground or the dart to be animated. If so, they cannot at all come under the present subject. To show which, I shall endeavour to trace the effect that such expressions have in the mind. Doth not the expresfion angry ocean, for example, tacitly compare the ocean in a storm to a man in wrath ? By this tacit comparison, the ocean is elevated above its rank in nature ; and yet personification is excluded, because, by the very nature of comparison, the things compared are kept distinct, and the native appearance of each is preserved. It will be shown afterward, that expressions of this kind belong to another figure, which I term a figure of speech, and which employs the seventh section of the present chapter.
Though thus in general we can distinguish descriptive personification from what is merely a figure of speech, it is however, often difficult to say, with respect to fome expreilions, whether they are of the one kind or of the other. Take the following inftances.
The moon shines bright : in such a night as this,
And they did make no noise ; in such a night,
Merchant of Venice, act 5. sc. i.
I have seen
Julius Cæsar, act 1. sc. 6. With respect to these and numberless other exam. ples of the fame kind, it must depend upon the reader, whether they be examples of personification, or of a figure of speech merely : a sprightly imagination will advance them to the former class; with a plain reader they will remain in the latter.
Having thus at large explained the present figure, its different kinds, and the principles upon which it is founded : what comes next in order, is, to fhow in what cases it may be introduced with propriety, when it is suitable, when unsuitable. I begin with obferving, that passionate personification is not promoted by every passion indifferently. All dispiriting passions are averse to it; and remorse, in particular, is too serious and severe to be gratified with a phantom of the mind. I cannot therefore approve the following speech of Enobarbus, who had deserted his master Antony :
Be witness to me, thou blessed moon,
If this can be justified, it must be upon the Heathen fyftem of theology, which converted into deities the fun, moon, and stars.
Secondly, After a passionate personification is properly introduced, it ought to be confined to its proper province, that of gratifying the passion, without giving place to any sentiment or action but what answers that purpose ; for personification is at any rate a bold figure, and ought to be employ'd with great reserve. The passion of love, for example, in a plaintive tone, may give a momentary life to woods and rocks, in order to make them sensible of the lov. er's distress ; but no passion will support a conviction so far stretched, as that these woods and rocks should be living witnesses to report the distress to others :
Ch' i' t'ami piu de la mia vita,
Pastor Fido, act 3. fo. 3. No lover who is not crazed will utter such a fentiment : it is plainly the operation of the writer, indulging his inventive faculty without regard to na
The same observation is applicable to the following paffage :
In winter's tedious nights fit by the fire
For why; the senseless brands will sympathise
Richard II. act 5. sc. 1.
One must read this passage very seriously to avoid
Dryden, All for Love, act s. Next comes descriptive personification ; upon which I must observe, in general, that it ought to be cautiously used.
A personage in a tragedy, agitated by a strong passion, deals in warm sentiments; and the reader catching fire by fympathy, relisheth the boldest personifications : but a writer, even in the most lively description, taking a lower flight, ought to content himself with such easy personifications as agree with the tone of mind inspired by the description. Nor is even such easy personification always admitted ; for in plain narrative, the mind, serious and sedate, rejects personification altogether. Strada, in his history of the Belgic wars, has the following passage, which, by a strained elevation above the tone of the subject, deviates into burlesque.
Vix descenderat a prætoria navi Cæfar; cum foeda illica exorta in portu tempestas, clalien impetu disjecit, prætori