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Words, and Figures of Thought. The for- LECT.
mer, Figures of Words, are commonly called
Tropes, and consist in a word's being em-
ployed to signify something that is different
from its original and primitive meaning ; so
that if you alter the word, you destroy the
Figure. Thus, in the instance I gave before ;

Light ariseth to the upright, in darkness."
The Trope consists in “ light and darkness,"
being not meant literally, but substituted for
comfort and adversity, on account of some re-
semblance or analogy which they are sup.
posed to bear to these conditions of life. The
other class, termed Figures of Thought, sup-
poses the words to be used in their proper and
literal meaning, and the Figure to consist in
the turn of the thought; as is the case in ex-
clamations, interrogations, apostrophes, and
comparisons; where, though you vary the
words that are used, or translate them from
one Language into another, you may, never-
theless, still preserve the same Figure in the
Thought. This distinction, however, is of no
great use; as nothing can be built upon it in
practice ; neither is it always very clear. It
is of little importance, whether we give to
some particular mode of expression the name
of a Trope, or of a Figure; provided we
remember, that Figurative Language always
imports some colouring of the imagination,
or some emotion of passion, expressed in our



LECT. Style: And, perhaps, Figures of Imagination,

and Figures of Paffion, might be a more useful distribution of the subject. But, without insisting on any artificial divisions, it will be more useful, that I enquire into the Origin and the Nature of Figures. Only, before I proceed to this, there are two general observations which it may be proper to premise.

The first is, concerning the use of rules with respect to Figurative Language. I admit, that persons may both speak and write with propriety, who know not the names of


of the Figures of Speech, nor ever studied any rules relating to them. Nature, as was before observed, dictates the use of Figures ; and, like Mons. Jourdain, in Moliere, who had spoken for forty years in prose, without ever knowing it, many a one uses metaphorical expressions to good purpose, without any idea of what a metaphor is. It will not, however, follow thence, that rules are of no service. All science arises froin observations on practice. Practice has always gone before method and rule ; but method and rule have afterwards improved and perfected practice, in every art. We, every day, meet with persons who fing agreeably, without knowing one note of the gamut. Yet, it has been found of importance to reduce these notes to a scale, and to form an art of music; and it would be



ridiculous to pretend, that the art is of no ad- LECT,
vantage, because the practice is founded in
nature. Propriety and beauty of Speech, are
certainly as improveable as the ear or the
voice ;, and to know the principles of this
beauty, or the reasons which render one
Figure, or one manner of Speech, preferable
to another, cannot fail to affist and direct a



proper choice.

But I must observe, in the next place, that, although this part of Style merits attention, and is a very proper object of science and rule; although much of the beauty of composition depends on Figurative Language; yet we must beware of imagining that it depends solely, or even chiefly, upon such Language. It is not so. The great place which the doctrine of Tropes and Figures has occupied in systems of rhetoric; the over-anxious care which has been shewn in giving names to a vast variety of them, and in ranging them under different classes, has often led persons to imagine, that, if their compofition was well bespangled with a number of these ornaments of Speech, it wanted no other beauty ; whence has arisen much stiffness and affectation, For it is, in truth, the sentiment or passion, which lies under the figured expreffion, that gives it any merit. The Figure is only the dress.; the Sentiment is the body and


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LECT. the substance. No Figures will render a cold

or an empty composition interesting; whereas, if a sentiment be sublime or pathetic, it can support itself perfectly well, without any bor. rowed affistance. Hence several of the most affecting and admired passages of the best au. thors, are expressed in the simplest language. The following sentiment from Virgil, for instance, makes its way at once to the heart, without the help of any Figure whatever. He is describing an Argive, who falls in battle, in Italy, at a great distance from his na

tive country:

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Sternitur, infelix, alieno vulnere, cælumque
Afpicit, et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos *.

Æn. X. 781.

A fin

*“ Anthares had from Argos travell’d'far,

• Alcides' friend, and brother of the war ;
" Now falling, by another's wound, his eyes

" He cafts to Heaven, on Argos thinks, and dies." In this translation, mach of the beauty of the original is loft. “On Argos thinks and dies,” is by no means equal to“ dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos;" As he dies, he s remembers his beloved Argos.” It is indeed observa able, that in most of those tender and pathetic paffages, which do so much honour to Virgil, that great poet expreffes himself with the utmost fimplicity; as,

Te, dulcis Conjux, te solo in littore fecum, : Te veniente die, te decedente canebat. GEORG. IV.



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A single stroke of this kind, drawn as by the LECT.
very pencil of Nature, is worth a thousand
Figures. In the same manner, the simple
style of Scripture : “ He spoke, and it was
“ done ; he commanded, and it stood fast."-
« God said, Let there be light; and there was
" light;" imparts a lofty conception to much
greater advantage, than if it had been deco-
rated by the most pompous metaphors. The
fact is, that the strong pathetic, and the pure
sublime, not only have little dependance on
Figures of Speech, but, generally, reject them.
The proper region of these ornaments is,
where a moderate degree of elevation and
passion is predominant; and there they con-
tribute to the embellishment of discourse,
only, when there is a basis of folid thought
and natural sentiment; when they are inserted

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And so in that moving prayer of Evander, upon his parting
with his fon Pallas :

At vos, O Superi ! et Divûm tu maxime rector
Japiter, Arcadii quæfo miferescite regis,
Et patrias audite preces. Si numina vestra
Incolumem Pallanta mihi, fi fata reservant,
Si visurus eum vivo, et venturus in unum,
Vitam oro ; patiar quemvis durare laborem !
Sin aliquem infandum casum, Fortuna, minaris,
Nunc, O nunc liceat crudelem abrumpere vitam!
Dum curæ ambiguæ, dum spes incerta futuri;
Dum te, chare Puer! mea sera et sola voluptas !
Amplexu teneo ; gravior ne nuncius aures

EN. VIII, 572.


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