Page images
PDF
EPUB

in as concise à manner as possible, Wc have agreed upon a treaty of peace,' they would observe, “We have planted the tree of peace; we have buried the axe under its roots; we will henceforth repose under its shade; we will join to brighten the chain that binds our nations together. Such are the collections of metaphor which those unpolished nations employ in their public addresses : there is a liveliness and simplicity in the style which renders it extremely interesting. This peculiarity of expression appears, among other causes, to have partly arisen from the fewness of words. at first in use in any society: one thing was called by the name appropriated to another thing to which it bore some resemblance; but as language becomes more studied and enlarged, perspicuity and precision are attended to, and almost every thing acquires a name of its own, Thus, in a country long since civilized, fi

gurative language becomes, in some measure, obsolete that is, out of date, out of use-at least in common conversation.” . “But is not that to be regretted, papa, as the metaphorical language is so beautiful?” said Clara. . : “ It is no longer the language of nature to its inhabitants," replied her father, w who are educated in the habit of a plain and unembellished mode of speaking ; it is still, however, retained as the ornamental style of the imagination, and is proper in poetry and the belles lettres: but, to be used correctly, to be suited to the state of the prevailing literature, and to express at once the whole of my meaning, to be employed with elegance, propriety, and judgment, it must be studied with great and careful attention. . “But what led you to this subject, my love?. How came you to think of it just now?" .“ Because my sister Rosina was read

ing one of Mrs. Barbauld's Hymns a few evenings ago, papa, in which the four seasons are designated under different figures; and although I was then acquainted with the name of the 'beautiful virgin clad in a robe of light green, I did not fully comprehend the meaning of a metaphor.

“ Shall I repeat the lines to which I refer, papa ?"

"Do, my dear: it will give me pleasure to hear them.”

(Clara repeats.) . " Who is this beautiful virgin that approaches, clothed in a robe of light green? She has a garland of flowers on her head, and flowers spring up wherever she sets her foot. The snow which covered the fields, and the ice which was in the rivers, melt away when she breathes on them. The young lambs frisk about her, and the birds warble in their little throats to welcome her coming; and when they see her, they begin to choose their mates, and to build their nests. Youths and máidens, have you seen this beautiful virgin ? If you have, tell me who is she, and what is her name?'.

[ocr errors]

“Her name is not given, but I am sure it is Spring..“ Spring, personified under the figure of a beautiful female,” said Mr.C. “She has a garland of flowers upon her head, and flowers spring up wherever she sets her foot: - this is metaphorical or figurative language."

“ Yes; I understand. The flowers peep above the dark soil, and the little buds expand into full-blown blossoms, when Spring appears ; she makes all things look lovely. Oh, I am sure that spring is the beautiful virgin who performs such wonders! I am glad that I understand what is meant by metaphor, by figurative language. But why is spring habited in the robe of a woman, papa ?" .“ In compliment to your sex, I suppose, my dear. Its gentleness, loveliness, and general character, are imagined to bear some affinity to female charms.":

“How much better we like any thing

when we understand it !” said Clara. “I hope I shall never again be at a loss to comprehend any metaphor, papa. Mrs. Barbauld designates Summer under the figure of a female clad in a light transparent garment; whose breath is hot and sultry; who seeks the refreshment of the cool shade, and delights to bathe her languid limbs in the clear streams and crystal brooks. Autumn comes next, habited in garments red with the blood of the grape, and his temples are bound with a sheaf of ripe wheat.' Lastly, old sturdy Winter approaches,

clothed in furs and warm wool and whatever he touches, turns to ice. I understand all this; I like this description of the four seasons.".

“The figurative style is generally used to give more richness and vividness to poetic description,” said Mr. C. “Simple expression just makes an idea known to others; but figurative language em

« PreviousContinue »