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§ 4. Before we quit the Hyperbole, it may be proper to fubjoin the following remarks.
(1) It appears that the Hyperbole, when it is expressed in plain and direct terms, is only common language, and neither Trope nor Figure; and that when it is expressed by a Similitude, it is a Figure, but no Trope; for there is no alienation of a word from a common to a borrowed sense, in which, as, has been observed, the very essence of a Trope consifts. It appears further, that when the Hyperbole is expressed by a strong Metaphor, as in the third cafe, it is rather to be considered as a particular fpecies of the Metaphor than a distinct and particular kind of Trope. But yet as all the Writers on Rhetoric, as far as I have observed, place the Hyperbole among the Tropes, and afsign it a division by itself, I have accordingly discoursed concerning it.
(2) The ground of the Hyperbole seems to lie in the difficulty of conveying to others the ardor and extent of our ideas, and therefore we venture beyond the boundaries of truth, that the mind of the hearer without any further labour may reach as far as the truth at once.
"We are allowed, fays QUINTILIAN, to speak beyond the truth, because we cannot exactly "ftrike upon the truth; and it is better we "fhould go beyond, than not attain the truth in our difcourfes *." Every Hyperbole, fays "SENECA,
Conceditur enim amplius dicere, quia dici quantum eft
"SENECA, is extended with this view, that by "falfhood it may arrive at the truth. So he "who faid,
"In colour whiter than the fnow,
"faid indeed what was impofsible; but it was with a design, that as much as was possible might be credited. In like manner he who “faid,
"He is lefs moveable, than rocks,
"And more impetuous than the fea,
"did not imagine that he fhould perfuade man"kind that there was any perfon fo immoveable
as a rock. An Hyperbole never expects fo "much as it dares; but affirms what is incredi
ble, that it may reach what is credible *." (3) The Hyperbole is one of the boldest freedoms in all language. It is a moft exquisite, elevated, and impafsioned form of fpeech. Like a flame
non poteft; meliufque ultra quam citra ftat oratio. QUINT. lib. viii. cap. 6. § 2.
* In hoc omnis Hyperbole extenditur, ut ad veram mendacio veniat. Itaque qui dixit,
Qui candore nives anteirent, curfibus auras :
quod non poterat fieri, dixit; ut crederetur quantum plurimum poffet. Et qui dixit,
His immobilior fcopulis, violentior amne :
ne hoc quidem fe perfuafurum putavit, aliquem tam immobilem effe, quàm fcopulum. Nunquam tantum fperat Hyperbola, quantum audet; fed incredibilia affirmat, ut ad credibilià perveniat. SENEC. de Beneficiis, lib. vii. § 23.
a flame from a strong internal fire, it breaks out
(4) Great judgment is required in the use of
fays QUINTILIAN, let there be fome measure obferved; for though every Hyperbole is be"yond belief, yet it ought not to be beyond "bounds, nor is there a more ready way to the "bombaft, than a tranfgrefsion in this kind. It "would be disagreeable to repeat how many er"rors have fprung from this fource, efpecially "as they are far from being fecret and unknown. "It is fufficient to fay, that the Hyperbole speaks "what is false, but not so as to desire to deceive by its falfhood; upon which account we should "be very careful how far we may exceed with propriety, and where it is that we are to stop *."
Sed hujus quoque rei fervetur menfura quædam ; quam
vis enim eft omnis Hyperbole ultra fidem, non tamen effe
Mr POPE, in his humorous piece on the Art of Sinking +, gives us several instances of this fort, one of which is the following, where it is faid of a lion,
He roar'd fo fierce, and look'd so wondrous grim,
An afsertion void of all possibility or colour of truth, and therefore wild and extravagant,
Another Hyperbole, no lefs intolerable, we have in the following lines;
See these dead bodies hence convey'd with care :
Whereas, when the union between foul and body is difsolved, there can be no hope by any means whatever of a restoration to life, and confequently there is not the leaft ground for fuch an Hyperbole.
I might add, to the number of these vain tumors in language, two lines which I have heard repeated:
Collected in himself Prince ARTHUR ftood,
But how could a single man, however majeftic, be mistaken for an army, or his spear, however great, be imagined to be a wood?
ignota & obfcura. Manore fatis eft, mentiri Hyperbolem, nec ita ut mendacio fallere velit. Quo magis intuendum eft, quoufque deceat extollere, quod nobis non creditur. QUINTIL. lib. viii. cap. 6. § 2.
+ Vol. vi. page 196.
This extravagant Hyperbole, as I have heard, was burlefqued by a keen Satirift in the following imitation :
Prodigious bard! thy mufe let loose !
I fear Dr YOUNG himself may be justly condemned for a fault of this kind, when, fpeaking of the luminaries of heaven, he fays,
So bright, with fuch a wealth of glory stor❜d, "Twere fin in Heathens not to have ador'd *.
How monftrously abfurd is it in a Chriftian Writer thus to affirm that idolatry, though of the hoft of heaven, was ever the duty GoD required of the Pagan world, and that it was sin in them not to pay that divine homage to the works of the Deity, which should center only in himself...
Dr. TRAPP, who bestows his highest praises upon VIRGIL, yet arraigns his description of CAMILLA, as an unnatural flight of the hyperbolic kind t:
She o'er the tops of corn her flight could fteer,
*YOUNG'S Laft Day, book i.
+ Extant pauca, fateor, apud Homerum verè improbabilia; eft & apud Virgilium unum hujus generis fpecimen, Camillam intelligo elegantiffimis verfibus defcriptam- Pulcherrimi fanè funt verfus, quo circa magis dolendum rem effe impoffibilem. Prælect. Poetic, vol. ii. p. 299.