Page images
PDF
EPUB

L E CTURE XV.

METAPHOR.

LE CT.

XV.

FTER the preliminary observations 1

have made, relating to Figurative Language in general, I come now to treat separately of such Figures of Speech, as occur most frequently; and require particular attention: and I begin with Metaphor. This is a Figure founded entirely on the resemblance which one object bears to another. Hence, it is much allied to Simile, or Comparison ; and is indeed no other than a comparison, expressed in an abridged form. When I say of fome great minister, “ that he upholds the “ state, like a Pillar which supports the weight o of a whole edifice,” I fairly make a comparison ; but when I say of such a minister, * that he is the Pillar of the state,” it is now become a Metaphor. The comparison betwixt the Minister and a Pillar, is made in the mind; but is expressed without any of the words that denote comparison. The com

parison

XV.

parison is only infinuated, not expressed : LECT. the one object is supposed to be so like the other, that, without formally drawing the comparison, the name of the one may be put in the place of the name of the other.

$ The « minister is the Pillar of the state.” This, therefore, is a more lively and animated manner of expressing the resemblances which imagination traces among objects. There is nothing which delights the fancy more, than this act of comparing things together, discovering resemblances between them, and describing thein by their likeness. The mind, thus employed, is exercised without being fatigued ; and is gratified with the consciouspess of its own ingenuity. We need not he surprised, therefore, at finding all Language tinctured strongly with Metaphor. It insinuates itself even into familiar conversation; and, unfought, rises up of its own accord in the mind, The very words which I have casually employed in describing this, are a proof of what I say; tin&tured, infinuates, rises up, are all of them metaphorical expressions, borrowed from some resemblance which fancy forms between sensible objecls, and the internal operations of the mind; and yet the terms are no less clear, and, perhaps, more expressive, than if words had been used, which were to be taken in the strict and literal fense.

THOUGH

Bb 3

[ocr errors]

L Ест.

XV.

THOUGH all Metaphor imports comparison, hand, therefore, is, in that respect, a Figure of

thought; yet, as the words in a Metaphor are not taken literally, but changed from their

proper to a Figurative sense, the Metaphor is commonly ranked among Tropes or Figures of words. But, provided the nature of it be well understood, it signifies very little whether we call it a Figure or a Trope. I have confined it to the expression of resemblance between two objects. I must remark, however, that the word Metaphor is sometimes used in a looser and more extended sense; for the application of a term in any figurative sigo nification, whether the Figure be founded on resemblance, or on some other relation, which two objects bear to one another. For instance; when grey hairs are put for old age, as, " to “ bring one's grey hairs with forrow to the

grave ;” some writers would call this a Metaphor, though it is not properly one, but what rhetoricians call a Metonymy;

that is, the effect put for the cause ; « grey hairs” being the effect of old age, but not bearing any sort of resemblance to it. Aristotle, in his Poetics, uses Metaphor in this extended fense, for any figurative meaning imposed upon a word; as a whole put for the part, or a part for the whole; a species for the genus, or a genus for the species. But it would be unjuft to tax this most acute writer with any

inaccuracy

XV.

inaccuracy on this account; the minute lub- LECT. divisions, and various names of Tropes, being unknown in his days, and the invention of later rhetoricians. Now, however, when these divisions are established, it is inaccurate to call every figurative use of terms, promiscuously, a Metaphor.

Of all the Figures of Speech, none comes so near to painting as Metaphor. Its peculiar effect is to give light and strength to description; to make intellectual ideas, in some fort, visible to the eye, by giving them colour, and substance, and sensible qualities. In order to produce this effect, however, a delicate hand is required; for, by a very little inaccuracy, we are in hazard of introducing confusion, in place of promoting Perspicuity. Several rules, therefore, are necessary to be given for the proper management of Metaphors. But, before entering on these, I shall give one instance of a very beautiful Metaphor, that I may show the Figure to full advantage. I shall take my instance from Lord Bolingbroke's Remarks on the History of England. Just at the conclusion of his work, he is speaking of the behaviour of Charles I. to his last parliament: “In a word,” says he, “ about a “ month after their meeting, he dissolved them; " and, as soon as he had diffolved them, he ** repented; but he repented too late of his ralho

« ness.

Bь 4

LE € T.

XV.

“ ness. Well might he repent; for the vessel
" was now full, and this last drop made the
“ waters of bitterness overflow.” “ Here," he
adds, “ we draw the curtain, and put an end
” to our remarks," Nothing could be more
happily thrown off. The Metaphor, we see,
is continued through several expressions. The
vessel is put for the state or temper of the na-
țion already full, that is, provoked to the
highest by former oppressions and wrongs ;
this last drop, stands for the provocation re-
çently received by the abrupt dissolution of
the parliament ; and the overflowing of the
waters of bitterness, beautifully expresses all
the effects of resentment let loose by an exas-
perated people.

On this passage, we may make two remarks in passing. The one, that nothing forms a more spirited and dignified conclusion of a subject, than a Figure of this kind happily placed at the close. We fee the effect of it, in this instance. The author goes off with a good grace; and leaves a strong and full impression of his subject on the reader's mind. My other remark is, the advantage which a Metaphor frequently has above a formal comparison How much would the sentiment here have been enfeebled, if it had been expressed in the style of a regular fimile, thus : * Well might he repent; for the state of the

nation,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »