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ftraining, and produceth an effect directly oppofite to what is intended. To afcertain any precife boundary, would be difficult, if not impracticable. Mine fhall be an humbler tafk, which is, to give a specimen of what I reckon overstrained hyperbole ; and I shall be brief upon them, because examples are to be found every where: no fault is more common among writers of inferior rank; and inftances are found even among claffical writers; witnefs the following hyperbole, too bold even for an Hotspur.
Hotfpur talking of Mortimer :
In fingle oppofition hand to hand,
He did confound the best part of an hour
In changing hardiment with great Glendower.
Three times they breath'd, and three times did they drink,
Upon agreement, of fwift Severn's flood;
Who then affrighted with their bloody looks,
Speaking of Henry V.
Firft part, Henry IV. act 1. fc. 4.
England ne'er had a king until his time:
His brandifh'd fword did blind men with its beams :
First part, Henry VI. act 1. fc. 1.
Se tutti gli alberi del mondo foffero penne,
Il cielo foffe carta, il mare inchoftro,
Se tante lingue haveffi, e tante voci,
Nel dire a pieno le voftri lodi immenfi.
It is obfervable, that a hyperbole, even the most extravagant, commonly produces fome emotion: the prefent hyperbole is an exception; and the reafon is, that numbers, in which the extravagance entirely confifts, make no impreffion upon the imagination when they exceed what can eafily be conceived.
Laftly, an hyperbole, after it is introduced with all advantages, ought to be comprehended within the feweft words poffible: as it cannot be relifhed but in the hurry and fwelling of the mind, a leisurely view diffolves the charm, and difcovers the defcription to be extravagant at leaft, and perhaps alfo ridiculous. This fault is palpable in a fonnet which paffeth for one of the most complete in the French language. Phillis, in a long and florid defcription, is made as far to outfhine the fun as he outfhines the ftars,
Le filence regnoit fur la terre et fur l'onde,
L'Aurore déployoit l'or de fa treffe blonde,
Quand la jeune Phillis au vifage riant,
Que les feux de la nuit avoient fait devant vous.
There is in Chaucer a thought expreffed in a fingle line, which gives more luftre to a young beauty, than the whole of this much-laboured poem:
Up rofe the fun, and up rofe Emelie.
The Means or Inftrument conceived to be the Agent
HEN we furvey a number of connected objects, that which makes the greatest figure employs chiefly our attention; and the emotion it raifes, if lively, prompts us even to exceed nature in the conception we form of it. Take the following examples.
For Neleus' fon Alcides' rage had flain.
A broken rock the force of Pirus threw.
In these instances, the rage of Hercules and the force of Pirus, being the capital circumftances, are fo far exalted as to be conceived the agents that produce the effects.
In the following inftances, hunger being the chief circumftance in the defcription, is itfelf imagined to be the patient.
Whofe hunger has not tafted food thefe three days.
As when the force
Of fubterranean wind tranfports a hill.
As when the potent rod
Of Amram's fon, in Egypt's evil day
Wav'd round the coaft, upcall'd a pitchy cloud
A Figure, which, among related Objects, extends the Properties of one to another.
THIS figure is not dignified with a proper
name, because it has been overlooked by writers. It merits, however, a place in this work; and muft be diftinguished from thofe formerly handled, as depending on a different principle. Giddy brink, jovial wine, daring wound, are examples of this figure. Here are adjectives that cannot be made to fignify any quality of the fubftantives to which they are joined a brink, for example, cannot be termed giddy in a fenfe, either proper or figurative, that can fignify any of its qualities or attributes. When we examine attentively the expreffion, we difcover that a brink is termed giddy from producing that effect in those who stand on it. In the fame manner a wound
is faid to be daring, not with refpect to itfelf, but with refpect to the boldnefs of the perfon who inflicts it and wine is faid to be jovial, as infpiring mirth and jollity. Thus the attributes of one fubject are extended to another with which it is connected; and the expreffion of fuch a thought must be confidered as a figure, because the attribute is not applicable to the fubject in any proper fenfe.
How are we to account for this figure, which we fee lies in the thought, and to what principle shall we refer it? Have poets a privilege to alter the nature of things, and at pleasure to beftow attributes upon a fubject to which they do not belong? We have had often occafion to inculcate, that the mind pafieth eafily and fweetly along a train of connected objects; and, where the objects are intimately connected, that it is disposed to carry along the good or bad properties of one to another; efpecially when it is in any degree inflamed with thefe properties.* From this principle is derived the figure under confideration. Language, invented for the communication of thought, would be imperfect, if it were not expreffive even of the flighter propenfities and more delicate feelings but language cannot remain fo imperfect among a people who have received any polish; because language is regulated by internal feeling, and is gradually improved to exprefs whatever paffes in the mind. Thus, for example, when a fword in the hand of a coward, is termed a coward fword, the expreflion is fignificative of an internal operation; for the mind, in paffing from the agent to its inftrument, is difpofed to extend to the latter the properties of the former. Governed by the fame principle, we fay listening fear, by extending the attribute liening
*See chap. 2. part 1. feat. 5.