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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

ONE plain consequence of the doctrine on this head, which I have been endeavouring to elucidate, is, that in every nation where from time to time there is an increase of knowledge, and an improvement in the arts, or where there often appear new works of genius in philosophy, history, or poetry, there will be in many words a transition more or less gradual, as that improvement is more or less rapid, from their being the figurative to their being the proper signs of certain ideas, and sometimes from their being the figurative signs of one, to their being the figurative signs of another idea. And this, by the way, discloseth to us one of the many sources of mutation to be found in every tongue. This transition will perhaps more frequently happen in metaphor than in other tropes, inasmuch as the relation of resemblance is generally less striking, and therefore more ready to be overlooked, than those relations on which the others are founded. Yet that they too will sometimes be affected by it, we have no reason to question. That in those metonymies in particular, of which some instances have been given, wherein the connection may be justly accounted more imaginary than real, such changes in the application should arise, might naturally be expected. The transition from the figurative to the proper, in regard to such terms

tuagint and in the New Testament, is not cruel, as the English word imports, but indocile, intractable. The general remark might be illustrated by numberless examples, but this is not the place.

Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes....Part I. Preliminary observations.

as are in daily use, is indeed inevitable. The word vessel in English hath doubtless been at first introduced by a synecdoché to signify a ship, the genus for the species, but is now become by use as much a proper term in this signification, as the word ship itself.

WITH regard to metaphor, it is certain, that in all languages there are many words which at first had one sense only, and afterwards acquired another by metaphorical application, of which words both senses. are now become so current, that it would be difficult for any but an etymologist, to determine which is the original, and which the metaphorical. Of this kind, in the English tongue, are the substantives, conception, apprehension, expression; the first of these, conception, when it notes an action of the mind, and when the beginning of pregnancy in a female, is alike supported by use; the second and third terms, apprehension for seizure, and expression for squeezing out, are now rather uncommon. Yet these are doubtless the

primitive significations.

It may be further remarked, that in some words the metaphorical sense hath justled out the original sense altogether, so that in respect of it they are become obsolete. Of this kind, in our tongue, are the verbs to train, to curb, to edify, to enhance, the primitive significations whereof were, to draw, to bend, to to build, to lift. And if one should now speak of the

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

acuteness of a razor, or of the ardour of a fire, we could not say that to a linguist he would speak unintelligibly, but by every man of sense he would be thought to express himself both pedantically and improperly. The word ruminate, though good in the metaphorical sense, to denote musing on a subject, would scarce be admitted, except in poetry, in the literal sense, for chewing the cud. Thus it happens with languages as with countries; strangers received at first through charity, often in time grow strong enough to dispossess the natives.

Now in regard to all the words which fall under the two last remarks, whatever they were formerly, or in whatever light they may be considered by the grammarian and the lexicographer, they cannot be considered as genuine metaphors by the rhetorician. I have, upon the matter, assigned the reason already. They have nothing of the effect of metaphor upon the hearer. On the contrary, like proper terms, they suggest directly to his mind, without the intervention of any image, the ideas which the speaker proposed to convey by them.

FROM all that hath been said, it evidently follows, that those metaphors which hold mostly of the thought, that is, those to which the ear hath not been too much familiarised, have most of the peculiar vivacity resulting from this trope; the invariable effect of very frequent use being to convert the metaphorical into a

Sect. 11.

Rhetorical tropes....Part I. Preliminary observations.

proper meaning. A metaphor hath undoubtedly the strongest effect, when it is first ushered into the language; but, by reason of its peculiar boldness, this, as was hinted already, is rarely to be hazarded. I may say, it ought never to be hazarded, unless when both the perspicuity is secured to an ordinary understanding by the connection, and the resemblance suggested is very striking. A new metaphor (and the same holds, though in a lower degree, of every trope) is never regarded with indifference. If it be not a beauty, it is a blemish. Besides, the more a language advanceth in richness and precision, and the more a spirit of criticism prevails among those who speak it, the more delicate the people become in this respect, and the more adverse to the admission of new metaphors. It is even proper it should be so, there not being the same plea of necessity in such languages, as in those that are but poorly supplied with words. Hence it is that in modern times the privilege of coining these tropes, is almost confined to poets and orators; and as to the latter, they can hardly ever be said to have this indulgence, unless when they are wrought up to a kind of enthusiasm by their subject. Hence also have arisen those qualifying phrases in discourse, which, though so common in Greek and Latin, as well as in modern languages, are rarely, if ever, to be met with either in the rudest or in the most ancient tongues. These are, so to speak, if I may thus express myself, and the like.


Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

I CANNOT help remarking, before I conclude this article of the origin of tropes, and of the changes they undergo, through the gradual operation of custom, that critics ought to show more reserve and modesty than they commonly do, in pronouncing either on the fitness or on the beauty of such as occur sometimes in ancient authors. For first, it ought to be observed, (as may be collected from what has been shown above) that the less enlightened a nation is, their language will of necessity the more abound in tropes, and the people will be the less shy of admitting those which have but a more remote connection with the things they are employed to denote. Again, it ought to be considered, that many words which must appear as tropical to a learner of a distant age, who acquires the language by the help of grammars and dictionaries, may, through the imperceptible influence of use, have totally lost that appearance to the natives, who considered them purely as proper terms. A stranger will be apt to mistake a grammatical for a rhetorical trope, or even an accidental homonymy for a far-fetched figure. Lastly, it ought to be remembered, how much the whole of this matter is everywhere under the dominion of caprice, and how little the figurative part of the language of any people, is susceptible of a literal translation, that will be accounted tolerable, into the language of any other. If these things were properly attended to, I imagine we should, on these subjects, be more diffident of our

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