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to ascribe to it, in a higher or more extensive degree. Thus a huge dog, or even a man, described under the metaphor of an elephant, will appear to the imagination of the hearer as greater perhaps than the object really is. A ❝torrent of words" magnifies in imagination the loudness and rapidity of the speaker: though this metaphor, like some of those which I have mentioned, is now so common, that its force as a figure is greatly weakened. Sometimes even a metaphor or comparison taken from an inferior subject will have this effect, by impressing the circumstance more strongly on the mind, by means of a familiar idea. Thus, when in the book of Job, leviathan is described as "making the deep to boil like a pot," our notion of the magnitude and strength of the animal is not lessened, since we still carry in our minds the idea of the ocean, and apply the simile of the boiling cauldron only to the agitation occasioned by his motions.
4thly. For these reasons they bestow dignity on composition. How much nobler is it to say, "the vault of heaven," than to use the common word, "the sky." So we say, "the evening of life," for "old age." Thus the
expression, "Death spares neither the rich nor the poor," is low, when compared with Ho
"With equal pace impartial fate
"Knocks at the palace, as the cottage gate."
5thly. By metaphors, two objects are presented at the same time, without any confusion; as in the example already mentioned, we can, at the same time, have a clear and distinct view of the evening and of old age.
6thly. They often afford us a more clear and striking view of things; they place them in a picturesque manner before our eyes; so in that example we easily call to mind, that as noon succeeds to morning, and evening to noon, so youth is followed by manhood, and that by old age. The dark and silent evening too presents us with a striking picture of the gradual decline and deprivation of the faculties, both bodily and mental," When the grasshopper shall be a burthen, and desire shall fail," &c.
Though however metaphors thus enliven and diversify composition, much taste is required
in the employment of them. Young writers especially are too apt to be enamoured of them, and to use them in too great profusion, and with too little discrimination and selection. Nearly the same rules will apply to metaphors, as I have endeavoured to establish with respect to comparisons. I shall however subjoin a few further practical instructions.
The first rule then that I would lay down is not to be too profuse of them. By introducing too many metaphors into one sentence, we render it obscure, instead of more perspicuous. If they are too gay also, they probably may not suit the subject. Young authors are very apt to fall into this mistake; they commonly think that composition the best that is crowded with shining metaphors; but, as Dr. Blair justly remarks, we should remember that they are only the dress of the thoughts, and as the dress ought always to be suited to the station of the person who wears it, so language should be suited to the nature of the subject and the sentiment. We expect different language in argument and description; in the first clearness only, in the other ornament also. When a man wears the dress of a person above his rank he is always
accounted a vain coxcomb: so when mean sentiments are clothed in a pompous style, they only serve to make them more ridiculous. We have an example of this (quoted by the author to whom I have just referred) in Dr. Smollet's history, concerning the passing of a bill for preventing clandestine marriages. At length it floated through both houses, on the tide of a great majority, and passed safe into the port royal approbation."
2dly. They should not be taken from objects which are mean, disgusting, or vulgar. These inevitably debase a subject instead of exalting it. So Cicero blames some orators of his time for calling his fellow citizens "stercus curiæ." Tillotson is sometimes guilty of this fault when he speaks of "thrusting religion," "driving a strict bargain with God." And, speaking of the last judgment, he talks of the "heavens cracking about our ears." See his sermon preached before Queen Ann, when Princess of Denmark. So Shakspeare alludes to a dunghill, in his Henry the Fifth, when describing the death of those who fell in France, fighting bravely in defence of their country. A similar one is introduced into one of the execrable
versions of the Psalms, which have been "done" into English verse.
"And Sis'ra which at Endor fell,
"As dung to fat the ground."
Mr. Burke, though a writer of incomparable fancy, is very faulty in this respect.
3dly. Metaphors ought not to be" far fetched," as it is sometimes, though not elegantly, termed; in other words, they should be clear, easy, and natural. This circumstance has not escaped the notice of Cicero, in his book De Oratore, who says, they ought naturally to rise from the subject. In opposition to this, Cowley is always searching where he can find the most remote connexion;* he frequently uses metaphors where the reader cannot trace the smallest resemblance; these darken the subject and bewilder by their perplexity, instead of throwing light on what was obscure. Thus when a common reader meets such a passage as this: "When the radical idea branches out into parallel ramifications, how can a consecutive series be formed of senses in their na
* See Johnson's Life of Cowley.