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straining, and produceth an effect directly opposite to what is intended. To ascertain any precise boundary, would be difficult, if not impracticable. Mine shall be an humbler task, 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 instances are found even among classical writers ; witness the following hyperbole, too bold even for an Hotspur.
Hotspur talking of Mortimer :
In single opposition hand to hand,
First part, Henry IV. ait 1. sc. 4.
Speaking of Henry V.
England ne'er had a king until his time :
Tiril part, Henry VI. act 1.16. 1.
Se tutti gli alberi del mondo fossero penne,
Se tante lingue haveffi, e tante voci,
It is observable, that a hyperbole, even the most extravagant, commonly produces fome emotion : the present hyperbole is an exception; and the reason is, that numbers, in which the extravagance entirely confists, make no impression upon the imagination when they exceed what can easily be conceived.
Lastly, an hyperbole, after it is introduced with all advantages, ought to be comprehended within the fewest words poffible : as it cannot be relished but in the hurry and swelling of the mind, a leisurely view dissolves the charm, and discovers the description to be extravagant at least, and perhaps also ridiculous. This fault is palpable in a sonnet which passeth for one of the most complete in the French language. Phillis, in a long and florid description, is made as far to outshine the sun as he outshines the stars,
Le Glence regnoit sur la terre et sur l'onde,
L'Aurore déployoit l'or de la trelle blonde,
Quand la jeune Phillis au visage riant,
There is in Chaucer a thought expressed in a single line, which gives more luftre to a young beauty, than the whole of this much-laboured
Up rose the sun, and up rose Emelie.
S E C T. IV.
The Means or Instrument conceived to be the Agent.
HEN we survey a number of connected objects, that which makes the greatest figure employs chiefly our attention ; and the emotion it raises, if lively, prompts us even to exceed nature in the conception we form of it. Take the following exam. ples.
For Neleus' son Alcides' rage had llain.
A broken rock the force of Pirus threw.
In these instances, the rage of Hercules and the force of Pirus, being the capital circumstances, are so far exalted as to be conceived the agents that produce the effects,
In the following instances, hunger being the chief circumstance in the description, is itself imagined to be the patient. Whose hunger has not tasted food these three days.
As when the force
A Figure, which, among related Objects, extends the
Properties of one to another.
HIS figure is not dignified with a proper name, because it has been overlooked by writers. It merits, however, a place in this work ; and must be distinguished from those 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 signify any quality of the substantives to which they are joined : a brink, for example, cannot be termed giddy in a sense, either proper or figurative, that can liga nify any of its qualities or attributes. When we examine attentively the expression, we discover that a brink is termed giddy from producing that effe& in those who stand on it. In the same manner a wound
is faid to be daring, not with refpect to itfelf, but with refpect to the boldness of the person who inflicts it ; and wine is said to be jovial, as inspiring mirth and jollity. Thus the attributes of one subject are extended to another with which it is connected; and the expression of such a thought must be confidered as a figure, because the attribute is not applicable to the subject in any proper sense.
How are we to account for this figure, which we see 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 bestow attributes upon a subject to which they do not belong ? We have had often occasion to inculcate, that the mind pafieth easily and sweetly 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 ; especially when it is in any degree infiamed with these properties. * From this principle is derived the figure under consideration. Language, invented for the communication of thought, would be imperfect, if it were not expresfive even of the flighter propensities and more delicate feelings : but language cannot remain so imperfect among a people who have received any polish ; because language is regulated by internal feeling, and is gradually improved to express whatever países in the mind. Thus, for example, when a sword in the hand of a coward, is termed a coward sword, the expreslion is significative of an internal operation ; for the mind, in pafling from the agent to its initrument, is disposed to extend to the latter the properties of the former. Governed by the same principle, we say listening fear, by extending the attribute listen
ing * See chap. 2. part 1. fe&. 5.