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have neither the appearance nor air of Hyperboles. And this never fails to be the state of those, which in the heat of a passion flow out in the midst of some grand circumstance. Thus Thucydides has dexterously applied one to his countrymen that perished in Sicily* : “ The Syracusans (says he) came down upon " them, and made a slaughter chiefly of those “ who were in the river. The water was “ immediately discoloured with blood. But “ the stream polluted with mud and gore, “ deterred them not from drinking it greedily, nor many of them from fighting despe
rately for a draught of it.” A circumstance so uncommon and affecting gives those expressions of drinking mud and gore,
and fighting desperately for it, an air of probability. So, again, in return to the swelling arrogance of a bully,
To whom? to thee? what art thou? have not I
SHAKESPEARE'S CYMBELINE. Hyperboles literally are impossibilities, and therefore can only then be seasonable or productive of Sublimity, when the circumstances may be stretched beyond their proper size, that they may appear without fail important and great. * Thucydid. 1. 7. p. 446. ed. Oxon. .
Herodotus has used a like Hyperbole concerning those warriors who fell at Thermopyla*: “In this place they defended them“ selves with the weapons that were left, " and with their hands and teeth, till they
were buried under the arrows of barba66 rians. Is it possible, you
for men to defend themselves with their teeth against the fury and violence of armed assailants: Is it possible that men could be buried under arrows? Notwithstanding all this, there is a seeming probability in it. For the circumstance does not appear to have been fitted to the Hyperbole, but the Hyperbole seems to be the necessary production of the circumstance. For applying these strong Figures, only where the heat of action, or impetuosity of passion demands them (a point I shall never cease to insist upon), very much softens and mitigates the boldness of too daring expressions. So in comedy, circum
* Herod. 1. 7. c. 225.
3 The author has hitherto treated of Hyperboles as conducive to Sublimity, which has nothing to do with humour and mirth, the peculiar province of Comedy. Here the incidents must be so over-stretched as to promote diversion and laughter. Now what is most absurd and incredible, sometimes becomes the keenest
6. He was
stances wholly absurd and incredible pass off very well, because they answer their end, and raise a laugh. As in this passage:
owner of a piece of ground not so large as “ 4 a Lacedemonian letter.” For laughter is a passion arising from some inward pleasure.
But Hyperboles equally serve to two purposes; they enlarge and they lessen. Stretching any thing beyond its natural size is the property of both. And the Diasyrmi (the
joke. But there is judgment even in writing absurdities and incredibilities, otherwise instead of raising the laugh, they sink below it, and give the spleen. Genius and discretion are requisite to play the fool with applause.
Demetrius Phalareus has commended one of these letters for its sententious and expressive conciseness, which has been often quoted to illustrate this passage. It is very well worth observation. The direction is longer than the letter.
The Lacedemonians to Philip.
“ Dionysius is at Corinth.” At the tinie when this was written, Dionysius, who for his tyranny had been driven out of Sicily, taught school at Corinth for bread. So that it was a hint to Philip, not to proceed, as he had begun, to imitate his conduct, lest he should be reduced to the same necessitous condition.
other species of the Hyperbole) increases the lowness of any thing, or renders trifles more trifling".
SECTION XXXIX. We have now, my friend, brought down our enquiries to the fifth and last source of
Shakespeare has made Richard III. speak a merry Diasyrm upon himself:
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty, To strut before a wanton ambling nymph; I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion, Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time, Into this breathing world; scarce half made up, And that, so lamely and unfashionably, That dogs bark at me as I halt by them. * The author, in the fifth division, treats of Composition, or such a structure of the words and periods, as conduces most to harmony of sound. This subject has been handled with the utmost nicety and refinement by the ancient writers, particularly Dionysius of Halicarnässus and Demetrius Phalareus. The former, in his Treatise on the Structure of Words, has recounted the
Sublimity, which, according to the divisions premised at first, is the Composition or Structure of the words. And though I have
different sorts of style, has divided each into the periods of which it is composed, has again subdivided those periods into their different members, those members into their words, those words into syllables, and has even anatomized the very syllables into letters, and made observations on the different natures and sounds of the vowels, half-vowels, and mutes. He shews, by instances drawn from Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, &c. with what artful management those great authors have sweetened and ennobled their Compositions, and made their sound to echo to the sense. But a style, he says, may be sweet without any grandeur, and may be grand without any sweetness. Thucydides is an example of the latter, and Xenophon of the former ; but Herodotus has succeeded in both, and written his history in the highest perfection of style.
An English reader would be surprised to see with what exactness they lay down rules for the feet, times, and measures of prose as well as of verse. This was not peculiar to the Greek writers, since Cicero himself, in his rhetorical works, abounds in rules of this nature for the Latin tongue. The works of that great orator could not have lived and received such general ap-. plause, had they not been laboured with the utmost art; and what is really surprising, how careful soever his attention was, to the length of his syllables, the measure of his feet, and the modulation of his words, yet it has not damped the spirit, or stiffened the freedom of his thoughts. Any one of his performances, on a general survey, appears grand and noble ; on a closer