« PreviousContinue »
The views presented in the ensuing work—of the nature of the several figures, the office they fill, and the laws by which they are governed—are quite unlike those of Quintilian, Kaimes, Lowth, Blair, and other rhetoricians, and of the commentators on the poets, and the expositors of the sacred writings. Those writers give no exact analysis of them; they enter into no consideration of the principles on which they are used; they present no hint of the rules by which they are to be interpreted; and no intimations are found on the pages even of the most recent works on language and interpretation, of the necessity of an accurate understanding of their nature, in order to the just exposition of the sacred word, and the rejection and refutation of the false constructions to which large portions of it are now subjected.
The several figures are here minutely analysed; the particulars in which they differ from each other pointed out; the principles stated on which they are employed; the rules given by which their meaning is determined ; and their characteristics and laws verified by a large variety of examples from the sacred writings and the poets.
The subject will be found, by those who thoroughly study ity to be one of the finest in the whole circle of knowledge, both for the development and discipline of the intellect, and the evolution and refinement of the taste. The application of the characteristics and laws to the identification and interpretation of the figures of the sacred word, though after practice involving little difficulty, requires close and discriminative attention; and the perception of the analogies on which they are founded, and the delicate graces with which they are fraught, is eminently adapted to unfold and quicken the sensibility to what is beautiful and grand, and imbue the taste with delicacy and elegance.
The seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth chapter on musical feet and the modulation of verse, should be studied immediately after the introduction, that their principles may be applied by the learner to the passages from the poets that occur in the chapters on the figures.
THE NATURE OF FIGURES
-THEIR TWO CLASSES—THEIR
A Figure of Speech is a mode of expression in which a word or thing is used in an artificial manner, in order to a more forcible presentation of thought, or the illustration and embellishment of that to which it is applied. Thus in the sentence the clouds fly—there is a figure in the use of the verb, which properly denotes the movement of a bird or insect by its wings, but is applied by a metaphor to the clouds borne forward by the wind, to express more clearly and strongly the ease and rapidity of their motion, and makes the phrase equivalent to a comparison of their movement to that of a bird ; as in the simile—the clouds move like a bird; or they are borne on as though they moved by wings.
In this simile, however, instead of a word, it is the act itself of a bird, or a movement by wings, that is used in the figure. In like manner, it is an act that is used in the following comparisons; the clouds, gathered in masses, look like banks of snow; they move along the air like ships sailing before the wind; and so of the simile universally, the hypocatastasis, and the allegory. This distinction between figures is so absolute, that the same word may be used both in a metaphor, which is of the first class, and in a simile, which is of the other; as in the expressions—the ship flew over the water; the ship moved along the water, as though it had wings and flew. In the first, the figure is in the use of the verb; in the other, in the use of the act expressed by it.
Figures thus consist of two great classes—those that lie in an artificial use of words for the purpose of a more convenient or emphatic expression, and those that lie in an artificial use of things for that purpose, or for illustration and ornament. To the former belong the metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, personification, and the apostrophe; to the latter the comparison, the hypocatastasis, and the allegory.
Verbal figures consist in the application of words to things, of which they are not the natural or ordinary names; as when the motion of the clouds is called flying, and the rebounding of rain from the surface on which it falls, dancing. In the other class,