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Here the winds not only blow together, but they turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turvy.
East, west, and south, engage with furious sweep,
The north wind, however, is still more mischievous :
Stridens aquilone procella
The sail then Boreas rends with hideous
cry, And whirls the maddning billows to the sky.
The motion of the sea between Scylla and Charybdis is still more magnified; and Ætna is exhibited as throwing out volumes of flame, which brush the stars.'
Such expressions as these are not intended as a real representation of the thing specified; they are designed to strike the reader's imagination, but they generally serve as marks of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his own conception, is hurried into excess and extravagance.
Quintilian allows the use of hyperbole, when words are wanting to express any thing in its just strength or due energy: then, he says, it is better to exceed in expression than fall short of the conception; but he likewise observes, that there is no figure or form of speech so apt to run into fustian. Nec alia magis via in xXxoxehear itur.
• Speaking of the first, he says,
Tollimur in cælum curvato gurgite, et iidem
Of the other,
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit.
If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon poetical probability, what can we expect from Lucan but hyperboles even more ridiculously extravagant? He represents the winds in contest, the sea in suspense, doubting to which it shall give way. He affirms, that its motion would have been so violent as to produce a second deluge, had not Jupiter kept it under by the clouds; and as to the ship during this dreadful uproar, the sails touch the clouds, while the keel strikes the ground:
Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carinâ.
This image of dashing water at the stars, Sir Richard Blackmore has produced in colours truly ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison :
Like some prodigious water-engine made
The great fault in all these instances is a deviation froin propriety, owing to the erroneous judgment of the writer, who, endeavouring to captivate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks the understanding with extravagance. Of this nature is the whole description of the Cyclops, both in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the Æneid of Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great original to dazzle us with false fire, and practise upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will not bear the critic's examination. There is not in any of Homer's works now subsisting such an example of the false sublime, as Virgil's description of the thunderbolts forging under the hammers of the Cyclops.
Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosæ
of writhen rain, of fire three more,
This is altogether a fantastic piece of affectation, of which we can form no sensible image, and serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the admiration of a judging reader.
Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in great plenty through the works of our admired Shakspeare. In the following description, which hath been much celebrated, one sees he has had an eye to Virgil's thunderbolts.
0, then I see queen Mab hath been with
Even in describing fantastic beings there is a propriety to be observed; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, than this numbering of the moon-beams among the other implements of queen Mab's harness, which, though extremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless objects of the touch, and may be conceived capable of use.
The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyperboles : such exaggerations suit the impetuous warmth of the one; and in the other have a good effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against vice. They may be likewise successfully used in comedy, for moving and managing the powers of ridicule.
VERSE is an harmonious arrangement of long and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured cadence, or music, which was used when the first songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided into different parts, required a regular return of the same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrophe, stanza, contained the same number of feet. To know what constituted the different kinds of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect to the number and quantity of their syllables, we have nothing to do but to consult those who have written on grammar and prosody: it is the business of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishment of a man of taste,
Various essays have been made in different countries to compare
the characters of ancient and modern versification, and to point out the difference beyond any possibility of mistake. But they have made distinctions, where in fact there was no difference, and left the criterion unobserved. They have transferred the name of rhyme to a regular repetition of the same sound at the end of the line, and set up this vile monotony as the characteristic of modern verse, in contradistinction to the feet of the an
cients, which they pretend the poetry of modern languages will not admit.
Rhyme, from the Greek word Puĝuos, is nothing else but number, which was essential to the ancient, as well as to the modern versification. As to the jingle of similar sounds, though it was never used by the ancients in any regular return in the middle, or at the end of the line, and was by no means deemed essential to the versification, yet they did not reject it as a blemish, where it occurred without the appearance of constraint. We meet with it often in the epithets of Homer; Αργυρεοιο Βιοιο-Αναξ Ανδρων Αγαμεμνωνalmost the whole first ode of Anacreon is what we call rhyme. The following line of Virgil has been admired for the similitude of sound in the first two words.
Ore Arethusa tuo siculis confunditur undis.
Rhythmus, or number, is certainly essential to verse, whether in the dead or living languages; and the real difference between the two is this: the number in ancient verse relates to the feet, and in modern poetry to the syllables; for to assert that modern poetry has no feet, is a ridiculous absurdity. The feet that principally enter into the composition of Greek and Latin verses, are either of two or three syllables: those of two syllables are either both long, as the spondee; or both short, as the pyrrhic; or one short, and the other long, as the iambic; or one long, and the other short, as the trochee. Those of three syllables are the dactyl, of one long and two short syllables ; the anapest, of two short and one long; the tribrachium, of three short; and the molossus, of three long.
From the different combinations of these feet, restricted to certain numbers, the ancients formed their different