Page images

Sect. II.

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

A tyrant's power in rigour is exprest,
The father yearns in the true prince's breast.

[ocr errors]

The father, to denote fatherly affection, or the disposition of a father. In fine, it may justly be affirmed of this whole class of tropes, that as metaphor in general hath been termed an allegory in epitomé, such metaphors and metonymies as present us with thing s animate in the room of things lifeless, are prosopopeias in miniature.

BUT it will be proper here to obviate an objection against the last mentioned species of metonymy, an objection which seems to arise from what hath been advanced above. Is it possible, may one say, that the concrete put for the abstract should render the expression livelier, and that the abstract put for the concrete should do the same? Is it not more natural to con-) clude, that, if one of these tropes serve to invigorate the style, the reverse must doubtless serve to flatten it? But this apparent inconsistency will vanish on a nearer inspection. It ought to be remembered, that the cases are comparatively few in which either trope will answer better than the proper term, and the few which suit the one method, and the few which suit the other, are totally different in their nature. Το affirm that, in one identical case, methods quite opposite would produce the same effect, might, with some appearance of reason, be charged with inconsistency; but that, in cases not identical, nor eyen similar, con

[ocr errors]

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.


trary methods might be necessary for effecting the same purpose, is nowise inconsistent. But possibly the objector will argue on the principles themselves severally considered, from which, according to the doctrine now explained, the efficacy of the tropes ariseth" If," says he," the abstract for the concrete "confers vivacity on the expression, by concentring "the whole attention on that particular with which "the subject is most intimately connected, doth it not “lose as much on the other hand, by presenting us "with a quality instead of a person, an intelligible for "a sensible, an inanimate for a living object?” ́ If this were the effect, the objection would be unanswerable. But it is so far otherwise, that in all such instances, by ascribing life, motion, human affections, and actions, to the abstract, it is in fact personified, and thus gains in point of energy the one way, without losing any thing the other. The same thing holds of all the congenial tropes, the dole for the donor, and the rest. In like manner, when the concrete is used: for the abstract, there is, in the first place, a real per sonification, the subject being in fact a mere quality both inanimate and insensible: nor do we lose the particularity implied in the abstract, because, where this trope is judiciously used, there must be something in the sentence which fixes the attention specially on that quality. Thus, to recur to the preceding examples, when David and the king, though known to be the same person, are contradistinguished in the same line, the mind is laid under a necessity of considering the

[ocr errors]

Sect. II.

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



word king as implying purely that which constitutes him such, namely, the royal power. The same may be said of the other instances. So far indeed I with the objector, that wherever the trope is not distinctly marked by the words with which it is connected, it is faulty and injudicious. It both misses vivacity, and throws obscurity on the sentiment.

I HAVE here examined the tropes so far only as they are subservient to vivacity, by presenting to the mind some image, which, from the original principles of our nature, more strongly attaches the fancy than could have been done by the proper terms whose place they occupy. And in this examination I have found, that they produce this effect in these four cases: first, when they can aptly represent a species by an individual, or a genus by a species; secondly, when they serve to fix the attention on the most interesting particular, or that with which the subject is most intimately connected; thirdly, when they exhibit things intelligible by things sensible; and fourthly, when they suggest things lifeless by things animate. How.conducive the tropes are in like manner both to elegance and animation, will be examined afterwards. They even sometimes conduce to vivacity, not from any thing preferable in the ideas conveyed by them, but in a way that cannot properly come under consideration, till we inquire how far this quality depends on the number of the words, and on their arrangement.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.


PART III........ The use of those tropes which are obstructive to vivacity.

LET us now, ere we finish this article, bestow some attention on the opposite side (for contraries serve best to illustrate each other), and make a few remarks on those tropes which either have a natural tendency to render the expression more languid, or at least are noway fitted for enlivening the diction. That there are tropes whose direct tendency is even to enfeeble the expression, is certainly true, though they are fewer in number, and more rarely used, than those which produce the contrary effect. The principal tropes of this kind, which I remember at present, are three sorts of the synecdoché, the genus for the species, the whole for a part, and the matter for the instrument or thing made of it, and some sorts of the metaphor, as the intelligible for the sensible. Of the genus for the species, which is the commonest of all, vessel for ship, creature or animal for man, will serve as examples. Of the whole for a part, which is the most uncommon, I do not recollect another instance but that of the man or woman by name, sometimes for the body only, sometimes only for the soul; as when we say, "such a one was buried yesterday," that is,



body of such a one was buried yesterday." neas saw his father in Elysium," that is, his father's ghost. The common phrase "all the world," for a great number of people, and some others of the same

Sect. II. Rhetorical tropes.... Part III. The use of tropes obstructive to vivacity.

kind, have also been produced as examples, but improperly; for in all such expressions there is an evident hyperbole, the intention being manifestly to magnify the number. Of the third kind, the matter for what is made of it, there are doubtless several instances, such as silver for money, canvass for sail, and steel for sword.

Ir is proper to enquire from what principles in our nature, tropes of this sort derive their origin, and what are the purposes which they are intended to promote. The answer to the first of these queries will serve effectually to answer both. First, then, they may arise merely from a disposition to vary the expression, and prevent the too frequent recurrence of the same sound upon the ear. Hence often the genus for the species. This is the more pardonable, if used moderately, as there is not even an apparent impropriety in putting at any time the genus for the species, because the latter is always comprehended in the former; whereas, in the reverse, there is inevitably an appearance of impropriety, till it is mollified by use. If one is speaking of a linnet, and sometimes instead of linnet says bird, he is considered rather as varying the expression than as employing a trope. Secondly, they may arise from an inclination to suggest contempt without rudeness; that is, not openly to express, but indirectly to insinuate it. Thus, when a particular man is called a creature or an animal, there is a sort of tacit refusal of the specific attributes of hu

« PreviousContinue »