« PreviousContinue »
that remains to be said concerning the Diction. And here, that a judicious choice of proper and magnificent tèrms has wonderful effects in winning upon and entertaining an audience, cannot, I think, be denied. For it is from hence, that the greatest writers derive with indefatigable care the grandeur, the beauty, the solemnity, the weight, the strength, and the energy of their expressions. This clothes a composition in the most beautiful dress, makes it shine like a picture in all the gaiety of colour, and in a word, it animates our thoughts, and inspires them with a kind of vocal life. But it is needless to dwell upon these particulars, before
persons of so much taste and experience. . Fine words are indeed the peculiar light in which our thoughts must shine. But then it is by no means proper that they should every where swell and look big. For dressing up a trifling subject in grand exalted expressions, makes the same ridiculous appearance, as the enormous mask of a tragedian would do upon the diminutive face of an infant. But in poetry
[ remainder of this Section is lost.]
[The beginning of this Section is lost.] * In this verse of Anacreon; the terms are vulgar, yet there is a simplicity in it which pleases, because it is natural: Nor shall this Thracian vex me more!
2 And for this reason, that celebrated expression of Theopompus seems to me the most sig. nificant of any I ever met with, though Cecilius has found something to blame in it,
Philip (says he) was used to swallow af
fronts, in compliance with the exigencies " of his affairs.'
2 Vulgar terms are sometimes much more significant than the most ornamental could
* There never was a line of higher grandeur, or more honourable to human nature, expressed at the same time in a greater plainness and simplicity of terms, than the following, in the Essay on Man.
An honest man's the noblest work of God.
Images, drawn from common life or familiar objects, stand in need of a deal of judgment to support and keep them from sinking, but have a much better effect, and are far more expressive, when managed by a skilful hand, than those of a higher nature: the truth of this remark is visible from these lines in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet;
possibly be. They are easily understood, , because, borrowed from common life ; and what is most familiar to us, soonest engages
I would have thee gone,
So loving jealous of its liberty.-
Thus o'er the dying lamp th' unsteady flame
And falls again, as loth to quit its hold.
our belief. Therefore when a person, to promote his ambitious designs, bears ill treatment and reproaches not only with patience, but a seeming pleasure, to say that he swallows affronts, is as happy and expressive a phrase as could possibly be. invented. The following passage from Herodotus in my opinion comes very near it*.
remark, in that part of it which regards the Terms, may be illustrated by the following lines of Shakespeare, spoken by Apemantus to Timon, when he had abjured all human society, and vowed to pass the remainder of his days in a desert.
-What? think'st thou That the bleak air, thy boist'rous chamberlain, Will put thy shirt on warm? will these moist trees, That have out-liv'd the eagle, page thy heels, And skip when thou pointst out? will the cold brook, Candied with ice, cawdle thy morning taste To cure thy o'er-night's surfeit? Call the creatures, Whose naked natures live in all the spite Of wreakful heav'n, whose bare unhoused trunks, To the conflicting elements expos'd, Answer mere nature; bid them flatter thee; Oh! thou shalt find
The whole is carried on with so much spirit, and supported by such an air of solemnity, that it is noble and affecting. Yet the same expressions and allusions, in inferior hands, might have retained their original baseness, and been quite ridiculous. * Herod. l. 6. c. 75.
(says he) being seized with madness, with
little knife that he had, cut his flesh into “ small pieces, till having entirely mangled “ his body, he expired.” And again*,
Pythes remaining still in the ship, fought
courageously, till he was hacked in pieces." These expressions approach near to vulgar, but are far from having vulgar significations.
SECTION XXXII. . As to a proper number of Metaphors, Cecilius has gone into their opinion, who have settled it at two or three at most, in expressing the same object. But in this also, let Demosthenes be observedas our model and guide; and by him we shall find, that the proper
time to apply them, is, when the passions are so much worked up, as to hurry on like a torrent, and unavoidably carry along with them a whole crowd of metaphors.
66 i Those
* Herod. 1. 7. c. 181.
Demosthenes, in this instance, bursts not out upon the traitorous creatures of Philip, with such bitterness and severity, strikes them not dumb, with such a continuation of vehement and cutting Metaphors, as St. Jude some profligate wretches in his Epistle, ver. 12, 13. “ These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they M2