« PreviousContinue »
Othello, ači 4. sc. 9. Poverty here must be conceived a fluid, which it refembles not in any manner.
Speaking to Bolingbroke banished for fix years :
The fullen passage of thy weary steps
Richard II. acl 1. c. 6.
Here is a letter lady,
Merchant of Venice, act 3. fo 3.
Æneid, i. 37 The following metaphor is strained beyond all endurance : Timur-bec, known to us by the name of Tamerlane the Great, writes to Bajazet Emperor of the Ottomans in the following terms:
Where is the monarch who dares resist us? where is the potentate who doth not glory in being numbered among our attendants ? As for thee, descended from a Turcoman sailor, since the vessel of thy unbounded ambition hath been wreck'd in the gulf of thy felf-love, it would be proper, that thou shouldt take in the fails of thy temcrity, and caft the anchor of repentance in the port of sincerity and justice, which is the port of safety ; left the tempeit of our vengeance make thee perish in the sea of the punishment thou defervelt.
Such strained figures, as observed above,* are not unfrequent in the first dawn of refinement : the mind in a new enjoyment knows no bounds, and is generally carried to excess, till talte and experience discover the
Secondly, Whatever resemblance subjects may have, it is wrong to put one for another, where they bear no mutual proportion : upon comparing a very high to a very low subject, the fimile takes on an air of burlesque ; and the same will be the effect, where the one is imagined to be the other, as in a metaphor ; or made to represent the other, as in an allegory.
Thirdly, These figures, a metaphor especially, ought not to be crowded with many minute circumstances ; for in that case it is scarcely possible to avoid obfcurity. A metaphor above all ought to be short: it is difficult, for any time, to support a lively image of a thing being what we know it is not ; and for that reason, a metaphor drawn out to any length, instead of illustrating or enlivening the principal subject, becomes disagreeable by overstraining the mind. Here Cowley is extremely licentious : take the following inslance.
Great and wise conqu'ror, who where-e'er
Who can't defend as well as get,
Now thou art in, ihou ne'er wilt part
With one ich of my vanquish'd heart;
For the same reason, however agreeable long allegories may at first be by their novelty, they never afford any lasting pleasure : witness the Fairy-Queen, which with great power of expression, variety of images, and melody of versification, is scarce ever read a second time.
In the fourth place, the comparison carried on in a simile, being in a metaphor funk by imagining the principal subject to be that very thing which it only resembles ; an opportunity is furnished to describe it in terms taken strictly or literally with respect to its imagined nature. This suggests another rule, That in constructing a metaphor, the writer ought to make use of such words only as are applicable literally to the imagined nature of his subject : figurative words ought carefully to be avoided ; for such complicated figures, instead of setting the principal subject in a strong light, involve it in a cloud ; and it is well if the reader, without rejecting by the lump, endeavour patiently to gather the plain meaning regardless of the figures :
A stubborn and unconquerable flame
Lady Jane Gray, alt 1. sc. I.
Metamorph. lib. ix. 172. Let us analyse this expression. That'a fever may be imagined a 'flame, I admit ; though more than one step is necessary to come at the resemblance : a fever, by heating the body, resembles fire ; and it is no stretch to imagine a fever to be a fire : Again, by a figure of speech, flame may be put for fire, because they are commonly conjoined ; and therefore a fever
may be termed a flame. But now admitting a fever to be a fame, its effects ought to be explained in words that agree literally to a flame. This rule is not observed here ; for a flame drinks figuratively only, not properly.
King Henry to his fon Prince Henry :
Thou hid'st a thousand daggers in thy thoughts,
Second Parl, Henry IV. act 4. sc. It.
Such faulty metaphors are pleasantly ridiculed in the Rebearsal :
Physician, Sir, to conclude, the place you fill, has more than amply exacted the talents of a wary pilot ; and all these threatening storms, whicb, like impregnate clouds, hover o'er our heads, will, when they once are grasp'd but by the eye of reason, melt into fruitful thowers of blessings on the people.
Bayes. Pray mark that allegory: Is not that good ?
Johnson. Yes, that grasping of a storm with the eye is admirable.
A Et 2. fc. s.
Fithly, The jumbling different metaphors in the fame sentence, beginning with one metaphor and ending with another, commonly called a mixt metaphor, ought never to be indulged. Quintilian bears testimony against it in the bitterest terms ; “Nam id quoque in primis est custodiendum, ut quo ex genere cæperis translationis, hoc definas. Multi enim, cum initium a tempestate fumpferunt; incendio aut ruina finiunt : quæ eft inconsequentia rerum foedissima." L. 8, cap. 6. § 21
Will you again unknit
Fird part, Henry VI. at 5. fc. I.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
Hamlet, cet 3. sc. 2. In the sixth place, It is unpleasant to join different metaphors in the same period, even where they are preserved distinct : for when the subject is imagined to be first one thing and then another in the same period without interval, the mind is distracted by the rapid transition ; and when the imagination is put on such hard duty, its images are too faint to produce any good effect :
At regina gravi jamdudum saucia cura,
Æneid, iv. 1.
Eft mollis flamma medullas Interea, et tacitum vivit fub pectore vulnus.
Æneid, iv. 66.
Motun ex Metello consule civicum,
Principum amicitias, et arma
Horat. Carm. I. 2. ode 1.
In the last place, It is still worse to jumble together metaphorical and natural expreslion, so as that