Page images

Sect. II.

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

own judgment, and consequently less captious and de


So much for the nature of tropes in general, and those universal principles on which in every tongue their efficacy depends; and so much for the distinction naturally consequent on those principles into grammatical tropes and tropes rhetorical.

PART II.... The different sorts of tropes conducive to vivacity.

I NOW consider severally the particular ways wherein rhetorical tropes may be rendered subservient to vivacity.

1. The less for the more general.

THE first way I shall mention is, when, by means of the trope, a species is aptly represented by an individual, or a genus by a species. I begin with this, because it comes nearest that spaciality in the use of proper terms, from which, as was evinced already, their vivacity chiefly results. Of the individual for the species I shall give an example from our celebrat ed satirist Mr Pope:

May some choice patron bless each grey goose quill!
May every Bavius have his Bufo still *!

* Prologue to the Satires.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

Here, by a beautiful antonomasia, Bavius, a proper name, is made to represent one whole class of men, Bufo, also a proper name (it matters not whether real or fictitious), is made to represent another class. By the former is meant every bad poet, by the latter every rich fool who gives his patronage to such. As what precedes in the Essay secures the perspicuity, (and in introducing tropes of this kind, especially new ones, it is necessary that the perspicuity be thus secured) it was impossible in another manner to express the sentiment with equal vivacity.

THERE is also a sort of antonomasia to which use hath long ago given her sanction, and which therefore needs not be introduced with much precaution. Such is the following application of famous names; a Solomon for a wise man, a Cresus for a rich man, a Judas for a traitor, a Demosthenes for an orator, and a Homer for a poet. Nor do these want a share of vivacity, when apposite and properly managed.

THAT kind of synecdoché by which the species is put for the genus, is used but sparingly in our language. Examples however occur sometimes, as when an assassin is termed a cut-throat, or a fiction a lie, as in these words of Dryden,

The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply,
The truth is moral, tho' the tale a lie.

In like manner, slaughter, especially in battle, is by

Sect. II.

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

poets sometimes denominated murder, and legal prosecution, persecution. Often, in these instances, the word may justly be said to be used without a figure. It may, however, in general, be affirmed of all those terms, that they are more vivid and forcible, for this single reason, because they are more special.

THERE is one species of the onomatopeia, which very much resenibles the antonomasia just now taken notice of. It is when a verb is formed from a proper name, in order to express some particular action, for which the person to whom the name belonged was remarkable. An example of this we have in the instructions which Hamlet gave the players who were to act his piece before the king and the queen. He mentioned his having seen some actors who, in their way, out-heroded Herod, intimating that, by the outrageous gestures they used in the representation, they over-acted even the fury and violence of that tyrant. This trope hath been admirably imitated by Swift, who says concerning Blackmore, the author of a translation of some of the psalms into English verse,

Sternhold himself he out-sternholded.

How languid in comparison of this would it have been to say, that in Sternhold's own manner Sir Richard outdid him. But it must be owned, that this trope, the onomatopeia, in any form whatever, hath little scope in our tongue, and is hardly admissible except in burlesque.

[blocks in formation]

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

2. The most interesting circumstance distinguished.

THE second way I shall take notice of, wherein the use of tropes may conduce to vivacity, is, when the trope tends to fix the attention on that particular of the subject which is most interesting, or on which the action related, or fact referred to, immediately depends. This bears a resemblance to the former method; for by that an individual serves to exhibit a species, and a species a genus; by this a part is made to represent the whole, the abstract, as logicians term it, to suggest the concrete, the passion its object, the operation its subject, the instrument the agent, and the gift the giver. The tropes which contribute in this way to invigorate the expression, are these two, the synecdoché and the metonymy.

FOR an illustration of this in the synecdoché, let it be observed, that, by this trope, the word hand is sometimes used for man, especially one employed in manual labour. Now, in such expressions as the following,

All hands employ'd the royal work

grows warm


it is obvious, from the principles above explained, that the trope contributes to vivacity, and could not be with equal advantage supplied by a proper term. But in such phrases as these, "One of the hands fell over


Sect. II.

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

“board :” “All our hands were asleep :" it is ridiculous, as what is affirmed hath no particular relation to the part specified. The application of tropes in this undistinguishing manner, is what principally characterises the contemptible cant of particular professions. I shall give another example. A sail with us frequently denotes a ship. Now, to say, " We descried a “ sail at a distance," hath more vivacity than to say, "We descried a ship," because in fact the sail is that part which is first discovered by the eye; but to say, "Our sails ploughed the main," instead of" our ships "ploughed the main," would justly be accounted nonsensical, because what is metaphorically termed ploughing the main, is the immediate action of the keel, a very different part of the vessel. To produce but one other instance, the word roof is emphatically put for house in the following quotation :

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

The notion of a house as a shelter from the inclemencies of the sky, alluded to in these lines, directly leads the imagination to form a more vivid idea of that part of the building which is over our heads ‡.

Shakespeare's Lear.

The Latin example quoted from Tully in a note on the first

« PreviousContinue »