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Rhetorical tropes....Part I. Preliminary observations.
proper meaning. A metaphor hath undoubtedly the strongest effect, when it is first ushered into the language ; but, by reason of its peculiar boldness, this, as was hinted already, is rarely to be hazarded. say, it ought never to be hazarded, unless when both the perspicuity is secured to an ordinary understanding by the connection, and the resemblance suggested is very striking. A new metaphor (and the same holds, though in a lower degree, of every trope) is never regarded with indifference. If it be not a beauty, it is a blemish. Besides, the more a language advanceth in richness and precision, and the more a spirit of criticism prevails among those who speak it, the more delicate the people become in this respect, and the more adverse to the admission of new metaphors. It is even proper it should be so, there not being the same plea of necessity in such languages, as in those that are but poorly supplied with words. Hence it is that in modern times the privilege of coining these tropes, is almost confined to poets and orators; and as to the latter, they can hardly ever be said to have this indulgence, unless when they are wrought up to a kind of enthusiasm by their subject. Hence also have arisen those qualifying phrases in discourse, which, though so common in Greek and Latin, as well as in modern languages, are rarely, if ever, to be met with either in the rudest or in the most ancient tongues. These are, so to speak, if I may thus
, express myself, and the like. VOL. II.
Of vivacity as depending on the choice of worde.
I CANNOT help remarking, before I conclude this article of the origin of tropes, and of the changes they undergo, through the gradual operation of custom, that critics ought to show more reserve and modesty than they commonly do, in pronouncing either on the fitness or on the beauty of such as occur sometimes in ancient authors. For first, it ought to be observed, (as may be collected from what has been shown above) that the less enlightened a nation is, their language will of necessity the more abound in tropes, and the people will be the less shy of admitting those which have but a more remote connection with the things they are employed to denote. Again, it ought to be considered, that many words which must appear as tropical to a learner of a distant age, who acquires the language by the help of grammars and dictionaries, may, through the imperceptible influence of use, have totally lost that appearance to the natives, who considered them purely as proper
A stranger will be apt to mistake a grammatical for a rhetorical trope, or even an accidental homonymy for a far-fetched figure. Lastly, it ought to be remembered, how much the whole of this matter is everywhere under the dominion of caprice, and how little the figurative part of the language of any people, is susceptible of a literal translation, that will be accounted tolerable, into the language of any other. If these things were properly attended to, I imagine we should, on these subjects, be more diffident of our
Rhetorical tropes.... Part II. Tropes conducive to vivacity.
own judgment, and consequently less captious and decisive.
So much for the nature of tropes in general, and those universal principles on which in every tongue their efficacy depends; and so much for the distinction naturally consequent on those principles into grammatical tropes and tropes rhetorical.
PART II.... The different sorts of tropes conducive to vivacity.
I now consider severally the particular ways wherein rhetorical tropes may be rendered subservient to vivacity
1. The less for the more general.
The first way I shall mention is, when, by means of the trope, a species is aptly represented by an individual, or a genus by a species. I begin with this, because it comes nearest that speciality in the use of proper terms, from which, as was evinced already, their vivacity chiefly results. Of the individual for the species I shall give an example from our celebrated satirist Mr Pope :
May some choice patron bless each grey goose quill!
* Prologue to the Satires.
Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.
Here, by a beautiful antonomasia, Bavius, a proper name, is made to represent one whole class of men, Bufo, also a proper name (it matters not whether real or fictitious), is made to represent another class. By the former is meant every bad poet, by the latter every rich fool who gives his patronage to such. As what precedes in the Essay secures the perspicuity, (and in introducing tropes of this kind, especially new ones, it is necessary that the perspicuity be thus secured) it was impossible in another manner to express the sentiment with equal vivacity.
THERE is also a sort of antonomasia to which use hath long ago given her sanction, and which therefore needs not be introduced with much precaution. Such is the following application of famous names; a Solomon for a wise man, a Cresus for a rich man, Judas for a traitor, a Demosthenes for an orator, and a Homer for a poet. Nor do these want a share of vivacity, when apposite and properly managed.
That kind of synecdoché by which the species is put for the genus, is used but sparingly in our language. Examples however occur sometimes, as when an assassin is termed a cut-throat, or a fiction a lie, as in these words of Dryden,
The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply,
In like manner, slaughter, especially in battle, is by
Rhetorical tropes.. Part 11. Tropes conducive to vivacity.
poets sometimes denominated murder, and legal prosecution, persecution. Often, in these instances, the word may justly be said to be used without a figure. It may, however, in general, be affirmed of all those terms, that they are more vivid and forcible, for this single reason, because they are more special.
THERE is one species of the onomatopeia, which very much resenibles the antonomasia just now taken notice of. It is when a verb is formed from a proper name, in order to express some particular action, for which the person to whom the name belonged was remarkable. An example of this we have in the instructions which Hamlet gave the players who were to act his piece before the king and the queen. He mentioned his having seen some actors who, in their way, out-heroded Herod, intimating that, by the outrageous gestures they used in the representation, they over-acted even the fury and violence of that tyrant. This trope hath been admirably imitated by Swift, who says concerning Blackmore, the author of a translation of some of the psalms into English verse,
Sternhold himself he out-sternholded.
How languid in comparison of this would it have been to say, that in Sternhold's own manner Sir Richard outdid him. But it must be owned, that this trope, the onomatopeia, in any form whatever, hath little scope in our tongue, and is hardly admissible except in burlesque.