« AnteriorContinua »
At ease reclined beneath the verdant shade,
Here the word pendere wonderfully improves the landscape, and renders the whole passage beautifully picturesque. The same figurative verb we meet with in many different parts of the Æneid.
Hi summo fluctu pendent, his unda dehiscens
These on the mountain billow hung; to those
In this instance, the words pendent and dehiscens, hung and yawning, are equally poetical. Addison seems to have had this passage in his eye, when he wrote his Hymn, which is inserted in the Spectator :
-For though in dreadful worlds we hung,
And, in another piece of a like nature in the same collection :
Thy providence my life sustain'd,
And all my wants redress'd,
And hung upon the breast.
Shakespeare, in his admired description of Dover cliff, uses the same expression :
half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire- dreadful trade!
Nothing can be more beautiful than the following picture, in which Milton has introduced the same expressive tint :
We shall give one example more from Virgil, to shew in what a variety of scenes it may appear with propriety and
effect. In describing the progress of Dido's passion for Eneas, the poet says,
Iliacos iterum demens audire labores
Exposcit, pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore.
The woes of Troy once more she begg'd to hear;
The reader will perceive, in all these instances, that no other word could be substituted with equal energy; indeed, no other word could be used, without degrading the sense and defacing the image.
There are many other verbs of poetical import fetched from nature, and from art, which the Poet uses to advantage, both in a literal and metaphorical sense; and these have been always translated for the same purpose from one language to another; such as quasso, concutio, cio, suscito, lenio, sævio, mano, fluo, ardeo, mico, aro, to shake, to wake, to rouse, to soothe, to rage, to flow, to shine or blaze, to plough. Quassantia tectum limina― Æneas casu concussus acerbo-Ere ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantuEneas acuit Martem et se suscitat ira- Impium lenite clamorem. Lenibant curas — -Ne sævi magne sacerdos Sudor ad imos manabat solos-Suspensæque diu lachrymae fluxere per ora—Juvenali ardebat amore Micat cereus ensis - Nullum maris æquor arandum. It will be unnecessary to insert examples of the same nature from the English poets.
The words we term emphatical, are such as by their sound express the sense they are intended to convey; and with these the Greek abounds, above all other languages, not only from its natural copiousness, flexibility, and significance, but also from the variety of its dialects, which enables a writer to vary his terminations occasionally as the nature of the subject requires, without offending the most delicate ear, or incurring the imputation of adopting vulgar provincial expressions. Every smatterer in Greek can repeat
Βῆ δ ̓ ἀκέων παρὰ πῖνα πολυφλοισβοῖο θαλάσσης,
in which the two last words wonderfully echo to the sense, conveying the idea of the sea dashing on the shore. How
much more significant in sound than that beautiful image of Shakespeare
The sea that on the unnumber'd pebbles beats.
And yet, if we consider the strictness of propriety, this last expression would seem to have been selected on purpose to concur with the other circumstances, which are brought together to ascertain the vast height of Dover cliff; for the poet adds, "cannot be heard so high." The place where Glo'ster stood was so high above the surface of the sea, that the photocos, or dashing, could not be heard; and therefore an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare might with some plausibility affirm, the poet had chosen an expression in which that sound is not at all conveyed.
In the very same page of Homer's Iliad we meet with two other striking instances of the same sort of beauty. Apollo, incensed at the insults his priest had sustained, descends from the top of Olympus, with his bow and quiver rattling on his shoulder as he moved along :
Εκλαγξαν δ ̓ ἂς ὀιστω ἐπ ̓ ὤμων.
Here the sound of the word "Exλayav admirably expresses the clanking of armour; as the third line after this surprisingly imitates the twanging of a bow.
Δεινὴ δὲ κλαγγὴ γένετ ̓ ἀργυρέοιο βιοῖο.
In shrill-toned murmurs sung the twanging bow.
Many beauties of the same kind are scattered through Homer, Pindar, and Theocritus, such as the BoμCεvoa μελίσσα, susurrans apicula ; the ἃδυ ψιθύρισμα, dulcem susurrum; and the eλoderal, for the sighing of the pine.
The Latin language teems with sounds adapted to every situation, and the English is not destitute of this significant energy. We have the cooing turtle, the sighing reed, the warbling rivulet, the gliding stream, the whispering breeze, the glance, the gleam, the flash, the bickering flame, the dashing wave, the gushing spring, the howling blast, the rattling storm, the pattering shower, the crimp earth, the
mouldering tower, the twanging bow-string, the clanging arms, the clanking chains, the twinkling stars, the tinkling chords, the trickling drops, the twittering swallow, the cawing rook, the screeching owl; and a thousand other words and epithets, wonderfully suited to the sense they imply.
Among the select passages of poetry which we shall insert by way of illustration, the reader will find instances of all the different tropes and figures which the best authors have adopted in the variety of their poetical works, as well as of the apostrophe, abrupt transition, repetition, and prosopopoeia.
In the meantime, it will be necessary still farther to analyze those principles which constitute the essence of poetical merit; to display those delightful parterres that teem with the fairest flowers of imagination; and distinguish between the gaudy offspring of a cold insipid fancy, and the glowing progeny, diffusing sweets, produced and invigorated by the sun of genius.
ESSAY XVI. :
Of all the implements of Poetry, the metaphor is the most generally and successfully used, and indeed may be termed the Muse's caduceus, by the power of which she enchants all nature. The metaphor is a shorter simile, or rather a kind of magical coat, by which the same idea assumes a thousand different appearances. Thus the word plough, which originally belongs to agriculture, being metaphorically used, represents the motion of a ship at sea, and the effects of old age upon the human countenance :
-Plough'd the bosom of the deep
And time had plough'd his venerable front.
Almost every verb, noun substantive, or term of art in any language, may be in this manner applied to a variety of subjects with admirable effect; but the danger is in sowing metaphors too thick, so as to distract the imagination of the reader, and incur the imputation of deserting nature, in
order to hunt after conceits. Every day produces poems of all kinds, so inflated with metaphor, that they may be compared to the gaudy bubbles blown up from a solution of soap. Longinus is of opinion, that a multitude of metaphors is never excusable, except in those cases when the passions are roused, and like a winter torrent, rush down impetuous, sweeping them with collective force along. He brings an instance of the following quotation from Demosthenes : "Men," says he, "profligates, miscreants, and flatterers, who having severally preyed upon the bowels of their country, at length betrayed her liberty, first to Philip, and now again to Alexander: who, placing the chief felicity of life in the indulgence of infamous lusts and appetites, overturned in the dust that freedom and independence which was the chief aim and end of all our worthy ancestors."*
Aristotle and Theophrastus seem to think it is rather too bold and hazardous to use metaphors so freely, without interposing some mitigating phrase, such as, "if I may be allowed the expression," or some equivalent excuse. the same time, Longinus finds fault with Plato for hazarding some metaphors, which, indeed, appear to be equally affected and extravagant, when he says, "the government of a state should not resemble a bowl of hot fermenting wine, but a cool and moderate beverage chastised by the sober deity," a metaphor that signifies nothing more than "mixed or lowered with water." Demetrius Phalereus justly observes, that though a judicious use of metaphors wonderfully raises, sublimes, and adorns oratory or elocution, yet they should seem to flow naturally from the subject; and too great a redundancy of them inflates the discourse to a mere rhapsody. The same observation will hold in poetry; and the more liberal or sparing use of them will depend, in a great measure, on the nature of the subject.
Passion itself is very figurative, and often bursts out into metaphors; but, in touching the pathos, the poet must be
**Ανθρωποι, φησι, μιαροὶ, καὶ ἀλάστορες, καὶ κόλακες, ἠκρωτηριασμένοι τὰς ἑαυτῶν ἕκαστοι πατρίδας, τὴν ἐλευθερίαν προπεπωκότες, πρότερον Φιλίππω, νῦν δ ̓ Αλεξάνδρῳ, τῇ γαστρὶ μετροῦντες καὶ τοῖς αἰσχίστοις τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν, τὴν δ ̓ ἐλευθερίαν, καὶ τὸ μηδένα ἔχειν δεσπότην αὑτῶν, ἃ τοῖς προτέροις, Ελλησιν ὁροι τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἦσαν καὶ κανόνες, κ. το λο