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Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes....Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.

Here the terms prayer, vision, dream, (for the word theme is literal) are used each for its respective subject. Nothing is more natural or more common amongst all nations, the simplest as well as the most refined, than to substitute the passion for its object. Such tropes as these, my love, my joy, my delight, my aversion, my horror, for that which excites the emotion, are to be found in every language. Holy writ abounds in them; and they are not seldom to be met with in the poems of Ossian, "The sigh of her secret "soul," is a fine metonymy of this kind to express the youth for whom she sighs in secret. As the vivacity of the expression in such quotations needs no illustration to persons of taste; that the cause of this vivacity ariseth from the coincidence of the expression with the bent of the imagination, fixing on the most interesting particular, needs no eviction to persons of judg


3. Things sensible for things intelligible.

A THIRD way wherein tropes may be rendered subservient to vivacity, is when things intelligible are represented by things sensible. There is no truth more evident than that the imagination is more strongly affected by what is perceived by the senses, than by what is conceived by the understanding. If therefore my subject be of things only conceivable, it will conduce to enliven the style, that the tropes which I

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

employ, when I find it convenient to employ tropes, exhibit to the fancy things perceivable.

I SHALL illustrate this doctrine first in metaphors. A metaphor, if apposite, hath always some degree of vivacity, from the bare exhibition of likeness, even though the literal and the figurative senses of the word belong to the same class of objects; I mean only in this respect the same, that they be both sensible or both intelligible. Thus a blunder in the administration of public affairs, hath been termed a solecism in politics, both things intelligible. Again, when the word sails is employed to denote the wings of a fowl, or conversely, when the word wings is adopted to signify the sails of a ship, both objects are of the same class, as both are things sensible; yet these metaphors have a considerable share of vivacity, by reason of the striking resemblance, both in the appearance of the things signified and in their use. The last, however, is the best, for a reason which will be given in the next remark. But in general it may be asserted, that in the representation of things sensible, there is less occasion for this trope: Accordingly this application of it is now almost entirely left to the poets. On the contrary, if we critically examine any language, ancient or modern, and trace its several terms and phrases to their source, we shall find it hold invariably, that all the words made use of, to denote spiritual and intellectual things, are in their origin metaphors, taken from the objects of sense. This

Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes.... Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.

shows evidently, that the latter have made the earliest impressions, have by consequence first obtained names in every tongue, and are still, as it were, more, present with us, and strike the imagination more forcibly than the former.

Ir may be said, that if this observation be true, it is to no purpose to mention, as a method of enlivening the diction, the representing of intelligible things by sensible images, since it is impossible by language to represent them otherwise. To this I answer, that the words of which I am speaking, I call metaphors in their origin; notwithstanding which, they may be at present, agreeably to what was formerly observed, proper terms. When speaking of tropes in general, it was remarked, that many words, which to a grammatical eye appear metaphors, are in the rhetorician's estimate no metaphors at all. The ground of this difference is, that the grammarian and the rhetorician try the words by very different tests. The touchstone of the former is etymology, that of the latter is present use. The former peruseth a page, and perhaps finds not in the whole ten words that are not metaphorical; the latter examines the same page, and doth not discover in it a single metaphor. What critic, for example, would ever think of applying this appellation to terms such as these, spirit, evidence, understanding, reflection? Or what etymologist would not acknowledge, that to this trope solely these terms had owed their birth?

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

BUT I proceed to give examples of vivacity by true rhetorical metaphors, wherein things sensible are brought to signify things intelligible. Of this the following is one from Pope :

At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name,
(The glory of the priesthood, and the shame !)
Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age,
And drove these holy Vandals off the stage.

Here the almost irresistible influence of general manners, which is an object purely of the understanding, is very appositely and vivaciously represented by a' torrent, an object both of the sight and of the feeling. By the same vivid kind of metaphor, light is used for knowledge, bridle for restraint; we speak of burning with zeal, being inflamed with anger, and having a rooted prejudice.

Bur metaphor is not the only trope which can in this way confer vivacity, metonymy frequently in a similar manner promotes the same end. One very common species of the metonymy is, when the badge is put for the office, and this invariably exhibits a sensible in lieu of an intelligible object. Thus we say the mitre for the priesthood, the crown for royalty; for the military occupation we say the sword, and for the literary professions, those especially of theology, law, and medicine, the common expression is the gown. Often also in those metonymies wherein the cause is put for the effect, and contrariwise, in those

Sect. II.

Rhetorical tropes.... Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.

wherein the effect is put for the cause, we have the same thing exemplified, a sensible object presented to the mind instead of an intelligible. Of the former, the cause for the effect, the following lines of Dryden may serve as an illustration:

'Tis all thy business, business how to shun,
To bask thy naked body in the sun *.

Though the rhime had permitted the change, the word sun-shine instead of sun, would have rendered the expression weaker. The luminary itself is not on"ly a nobler and distincter, but a more immediate object to the imagination than its effulgence, which though in some respect sensible as well as the other, is in some respect merely intelligible, it not being perceived directly no more than the air, but discovered by reflection from the things which it enlightens. Accordingly we ascribe to it neither magnitude nor figure, and scarce with propriety even colour. As an exemplification of the latter, the effect or something consequential for the cause, or at least the implement for the motive of using it, these words of scripture will serve," the sword without, and terror "within †," where the term sword, which presents a particular and perceiveable image to the fancy, must be more picturesque than the word war, which conveys an idea that is vague and only conceivable, not being otherwise sensible but by its consequences.

+ Deut. xxxii. 25.

*Dryden's Perseus.

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