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mer, &c.; and this is so common, that it is no harsh expression to say "I have read such a writer."
"Trojani belli scriptorem, maxime Lolli,
Hor. Ep. 2.
"While you, my Lollius, on some chosen theme,
Again the effect or instrument is employed for the cause as "the tongue (that is the eloquence of Cicero) defended the cause of virtue and the republic;” “Pallida mors" (in Horace) for death that makes pale. The adjunct is used for the substantive, as when we speak of the fasces for the magistrate; and Virgil says, "bibit Germania Tigrim," mentioning the country for the inhabitants. In short, it is unnecessary to multiply instances, as metonymies occur in every page of every book, and in almost every sentence of conversation.
I need not remind you that the synecdoche (or figure of comprehension) according to old Farnaby, "takes the whole for the part, or the part for the whole," as the genus for the species, or the species for the genus; and is of consequence, evidently dependant on the same relation: thus a man is said to get his bread by his labour, when bread is taken to signify the whole of subsistence.
The circumstance which forms the principal difficulty of translation is, that metaphors, metonymies, and synecdoches, are often intranslatable; and the corresponding words are, in the new language, often trite or obscure.
The periphrasis is a metonymy in which more words than usual are employed, as when we speak of "the Lover of Daphne," to designate Apollo. Mr. Gibbon raises his style very beautifully by the use of this figure. It is also common with the Orientals, as "the son of Nouraddin," instead of the proper name of the person.
One of the most animated figures, when properly introduced, and managed with delicacy and judgment, is
the prosopopaia or personification. It has some alliance with the metaphor, but still more with the metonymy; and indeed seems in most cases to the latter what the allegory is to the metaphor. Thus, when we say " Youth and beauty are laid in the dust," it is not easy to determine whether it is a metonymy or a prosopopœia. This figure is the soul of poetry, and of lyric poetry in particular. It
"Gives to airy nothing
"A local habitation and a name."
In a production of an excellent poetess of our own times, there is a very fine specimen of this figure, as well as of most of the beauties of poetry.....
"Loud howls the storm, the vex'd Atlantic roars,
Thy genius, Britain, wanders on its shores!
"Hears cries of horror wafted from afar,
Miss Seward's Monody on Major Andre.
In all the lyric poems of Collins, you will find very fine examples of the prosopopoeia. None perhaps more pleasing than the opening of his Ode to Mercy....
"O thou, who sit'st a smiling bride
"Win'st from his fatal grasp the spear,
"And hid'st in wreaths of flow'rs his bloodless sword."
"Thou, who, amidst the deathful field,
"By godlike chiefs alone beheld,
"Oft with thy bosom bare art found,
"Pleading for him, the youth who sinks to ground."
Here are two very fine pictures, the embodied quality or character in two most interesting situations.
There is another striking instance in a contemporary poet, which is also accompanied with a fine allusion. You will recollect the lines are addressed to Mr. Gibbon.....
Humility herself, divinely mild,
"Sublime religion's meek and modest child,
But though personification is particularly adapted to poetry, yet this figure serves frequently to adorn the works of the best prose writers. I have seldom found a bolder instance than one in Tacitus, An. 16. 21.....
"Trucidatis tot insignibus viris, ad postremum Nero virtutem ipsam exscindere concupivit, interfectò Thrasea," &c.
"After the slaughter of so many distinguished men, Nero meditated at length the extirpation of virtue herself, by the murder of Thrasea."
Dr. Ogden, who is so fertile in beauties that I am obliged to have continual recourse to him, will also furnish us with another example.....
"Truth (says he) is indeed of an awful presence, and must never be affronted with the rudeness of direct opposition; yet will she consent for a moment to pass unregarded, while your respects are offered to her sister charity."
The use of the abstract for the concrete, as treachery, for treacherous men; modesty, for modest men, &c. is a kind of personification, and adds greatly to the animation of a discourse, as in this instance from Junius's Letters.....
"As for Mr. W―n, there is something in him which even treachery cannot trust."
Much of the spirit of Dr. Johnson's compositions depends upon this artful use of language; and he is, I think, improperly censured for it, by a gentleman, whose
lively talents and genuine humour have often engaged and interested the first assembly in this kingdom, and who favoured the public with an excellent criticism in verse on that great man's character and writings.
The 1st rule to be observed with respect to the prosopopœia is, that whenever it is introduced, the picture it presents should be complete. For this reason the following example is perfectly ridiculous.....
"Invidious grave, how dost thou rend in sunder
The idea of a grave rending in sunder, you see makes a very indifferent picture. I should not however have quoted this poem, had it not been made a subject of panegyric by a modern critic, whose genius is at least equal to his eccentricity.
2dly. Mean and vulgar objects should never be personified: for as the prosopopoeia is a bold figure, it should only be introduced to confer dignity on a subject. It follows of course that nothing vulgar or contemptible should be allowed to disgrace the figure. For this reason the following image from the poem I have just quoted, is not only unpoetical, but disgusting....
O great man-eater!
"Whose every day is carnival, not sated yet!
Here are two personifications, and the imagery, as well as the language in both, is as mean and colloquial as possible. The same want of dignity, and the same impropriety, pervade all the imagery of this writer. For instance.....
"Now tame and humble, like a child that's whipt,
Here is another most extraordinary picture, "a man
shaking hands with dust." Such writers are of use, because they teach us better than any precept can, what to avoid.
3dly. I do not subscribe to Dr. Blair's rule, "that this figure should never be attempted but when prompted by strong passion;" for in the happiest instances I have already given, there is no passion at all. Indeed it seems to me more a figure of fancy than of passion, and it is most happily introduced in those compositions where the fancy sports most uncontrolled, as in lyric productions. In very serious compositions, however, it is sometimes well introduced accompanied with passion; but then the effect will be destroyed if it appears artificial; for all art is inconsistent with strong emotion.
The apostrophe is a more animated prosopopœia, where the object personified is addressed in the second person. A real personage, however, may be addressed in an apostrophe, but he must be supposed either dead or absent; which almost reduces it to a mere personification. It is a figure more fit for poetry than prose; and nothing can excuse it in the latter but the very effervescence of passion. On this account, though it may be tolerated in oratory, it cannot be admitted in narrative or didactic compositions. In truth, the French preachers, who are very partial to this figure, render their discourses sometimes exceedingly frigid, by its too frequent and artificial introduction.
The apostrophe never was more properly and naturally introduced than in Lear's address to the elements, when discarded and turned out by Regan. There is a peculiar beauty in this part.....
Spit fire, spout rain!
"Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters.
That of Eve in the 11th book of Paradise Lost, v 269, is also beautiful and proper.....