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XVI.

L'E CT. state as disposes it to rise and swell along with

the hyperbolical expression, he is always hurt and offended by it. For a sort of disagreeable force is put upon him; he is required to ftrain and exert his fancy, when he feels no inclination to make any fuch effort. Hence the Hyperbole is a Figure of difficult management; and ought neither to be frequently used, nor long dwelt upon. On some occafions, it is undoubtedly proper; being, as was before observed, the natural style of a sprightly and heated imagination; but when Hyperboles are unseasonable, or too frequent, they render a composition frigid and unaffecting. They are the resource of an author of feeble imagination; of one, describing objects which either want native dignity in themselves; orwhose dignity he cannot fhow by describing them fimply, and in their just proportions, and is therefore obliged to reft upon tumid and exaggerated expressions,

HYPERBOLES are of two kinds; either such as are employed in description, or such as are suggested by the warmth of passion. The best by far, are those which are the effect of paflion: for if the imagination has a tendency to magnify its objects beyond their natural proportion, paflion pofseffes this tendency in a vastly stronger degree; and therefore not only excuses the most daring Figures, but very 5

often

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often renders them natural and just. All LECT.
paffions, without exception, love, terror,
amazement, indignation, anger, and even
grief, throw the mind into confusion, aggra-
vate their objects, and of course prompt a
hyperbolical style. Hence the following sen-
timents of Satan in Milton, as strongly as
they are described, contain nothing but what
is natural and proper ; exhibiting the picture
of a mind agitated with rage and despair :

Me, miserable ! which way shall I die
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair ?
Which way I fie is Hell, myself am Hell;
And in the lowest depth, a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer feems a Heaven.

B. iv. 1. 73.

In simple description, though Hyperboles are not excluded, yet they must be used with more caution, and require more preparation, in order to make the mind relish them. Either the object described must be of that kind, which of itself seizes the fancy strongly, and disposes it to run beyond bounds; something vaft, surprising, and new; or the writer's art must be exerted in heating the fancy gradually, and preparing it to think highly of the object which he intends to exaggerate. When a Poet is describing an earthquake or a storm, or when he has brought us into the midst of a battle, we can bear strong Hyberboles with

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LECT.

XVI.

out displeasure. But when he is describing only a woman in grief, it is impossible not to be disgusted with such wild exaggeration as the following, in one of our dramatic Poets :

I found her on the floor
In all the storm of grief, yet beautiful ;
Pouring forth tears at such a lavish rate,
That were the world on fire, they might have drown'd
The wrath of Heaven, and quench'd the mighty ruin.

LEE.

This is mere bombast. The perfon herself who was under the distracting agitations of grief, might be permitted to hyperbolize strongly; but the spectator describing her, cannot be allowed an equal liberty : for this plain reason, that the one is supposed to utter the sentiments of passion, the other speaks only the language of description, which is always, according to the dictates of nature, on a lower tone: a distinction, which, however obvious, has not been attended to by many writers.

How far a Hyperbole, supposing it properly introduced, may be safely carried without overstretching it; what is the proper meafure and boundary of this Figure, cannot, as far as I know, be ascertained by any precise rule. Good senfe and juft taste must determine the point, beyond which, if we pafs, we become

extravagant.

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XVI.

extravagant. Lucan may be pointed out as L E C T. an author apt to be exceffive in his Hyperboles. Among the compliments paid by the Roman Poets to their Emperors, it had become fashionable to ask them, what part of the heavens they would chuse for their habitation, after they thould have become Gods? Virgil had already carried this sufficiently far in his address to Augustus :

Tibi brachia contrahit ingens Scorpius, & Cæli justa plus parte relinquit*.

GEOR. I.

But this did not suffice Lucan. Resolved to outdo all his predeceffors, in a like address to Nero, he very gravely beseeches him not to chuse his place near either of the poles, but to be sure to occupy just the middle of the heavens, lest, by going either to one side or other, his weight should overset the universe:

Sed neque in Arctoo sedem tibi legeris orbe
Nec polus adversi calidus qua mergitur austri;
Ætheris immenfi partem fi prefferis unam
Sentiet axis onus. Librati pondera Coeli
Orbe tene medio to-

PHARS. I. 53

Such

* “ The Scorpion ready to receive thy laws,

“ Yields half his region, and contracts his paws." # But, oh! whatever be thy Godhead great, Fix not in regions too remote thy feat ;

Nor

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XVI.

LECT. Such thoughts as these, are what the French

call outrés, and always proceed from a false fire of genius. The Spanish and African writers, as Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustin, are rernarked for being fond of them. As in that epitaph on Charles V. by a Spanish writer :

Pro tumulo ponas orbem, pro tegmine coelum,

Sidera pro facibus, pro lacrymis maria, Sometimes they dazzle and impofe by their boldness; but wherever reason and good sense are so much violated, there can be no true beauty. Epigrammatic writers are frequently guilty in this respect; resting the whole merit of their epigrams on some extravagant hyperbolical turn; such as the following of Dr. Pitcairn's, upon Holland's being gained from the ocean :

Tellurem fecere Dii; fua littora Belgæ;

Immensæque molis opus utrumque fuit;
Dii vacuo fparfas glomerârunt æthere terras,

Nil ibi quod operi poffit obeffe fuit.
At Belgis, maria & cæli naturaqué rerum

Obftitit ; obftantes hi domuệre Deos.

Nor deign thou near the frozen Bear to shine,
Nor where the sultry southern stars decline.
Prefs not too much on any part the sphere,
Hard were the task thy weight divine to bear i
Soon would the axis feel the unusual load,
And, groaning, bend beneath th’incumbent God;
O'er the mid orb more equal shalt thou rise,
And with a jufter balance fix the skies. Rowe.

So

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