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from conceits. The latter, speaking of a man's hand cut
Te decisa suum, Laride, dextera quærit;
thus enduing the amputated hand with sense and volition.
Virgil, in his sixth Eclogue, says,
quæ, Phoebo quondam meditante, beatus
ne tem of the
Whate’er, when Phoebus bless’d the Arcadian plain,
And Pope has copied the conceit in his Pastorals,
Thames heard the numbers as he flow'd along,
rribl bou. olved
Vida thus begins his first Eclogue,
Dicite, vos musæ, et juvenum memorate querelas;
Say, heavenly muse, their youthful frays rehearse :
Racine adopts the same bold figure in his Phædra:
Le flot qui l'apporta recule epouvante:
Even Milton has indulged himself in the same licence of expression
-As when to them who sail
And indeed more correct writers, both ancient and modern, abound with the same kind of figure, which is reconciled to propriety, and even invested with beauty, by the efficacy of the prosopopoeia, which personifies the object. Thus, when Virgil says Enipeus heard the songs of Apollo, he raises up, as by enchantment, the idea of a river god crowned with sedges, his head raised above the stream, and in his countenance the expression of pleased attention. By the same magic we see, in the couplet quoted from Pope's Pastorals, old father Thames leaning upon his urn, and listening to the poet's strain.
Thus in the regions of poetry, all naturé, even the passions and affections of the mind, may be personified
into picturesque figures for the entertainment of the reader. Ocean smiles or frowns, as the sea is calm or tempestuous; a Triton rules on every angry billow; every mountain has its Nymph; every stream its Naiad; every tree its Hamadryad; and every art its Genius.
art its Genius. We cannot therefore assent to those who censure Thomson as licentious for using the following figure:
O vale of bliss ! O softly swelling hills!
of cultivation lies, And joys to see the wonders of his toil.
We cannot conceive a more beautiful image than that of the genius of agriculture distinguished by the implements of his art, imbrowned with labour, glowing with health, crowned with a garland of foliage, flowers, and fruit, lying stretched at his ease on the brow of a gentle swelling hill, and contemplating with pleasure the happy effects of his own industry
Neither can we join issue against Shakspeare for this comparison, which hath likewise incurred the censure of the critics :
-The noble sister of Poplicola,
This is no more than illustrating a quality of the mind, by comparing it with a sensible object. If there is no impropriety in saying such a man is true as steel, firm as a rock, inflexible as an oak, unsteady as the ocean; or in describing a disposition cold as ice, or fickle as the wind;-and these expressions are justified by constant practice ;-we shall hazard an assertion, that the comparison of a chaste woman to an icicle is proper and picturesque, as it obtains only in the circumstances of cold and purity: but that the addition of its being curdled from the purest snow, and hanging on the temple of Diana, the patroness of virginity, heightens the whole into a most beautiful simile, that gives a very respectable and amiable idea of the character in question.
The simile is no more than an extended metaphor, introduced to illustrate and beautify the subject; it ought to be apt, striking, properly pursued, and adorned with all the graces of poetical melody. But a simile of this kind ought never to proceed from the mouth of a person under any great agitation of spirit; such as a tragic character overwhelmed with grief, distracted by contending cares, or agonizing in the pangs of death. The language of passion will not admit simile, which is always the result of study and deliberation. We will not allow a hero the privilege of a dying swan, which is said to chant its approaching fate in the most melodious strain ; and therefore nothing can be more ridiculously unnatural, than the representation of a lover dying upon the stage with a laboured simile in his · mouth.
The orientals, whose language was extremely figurative, have been very careless in the choice of their similes; provided the resemblance obtained in one circumstance, they minded not whether they disagreed with the subject in every other
respect. Many instances of this defect in congruity may be culled from the most sublime parts of Scripture.
Homer has been blamed for the bad choice of his similes on some particular occasions. He compares Ajax to an ass in the Iliad, and Ulysses to a steak broiling on the coals in
the Odyssey. His admirers have endeavoured to excuse him, by reminding us of the simplicity of the age in which he wrote; but they have not been able to prove that any ideas of dignity or importance were, even in those days, affixed to the character of an ass, or the quality of a beefcollop; therefore, they were very improper illustrations for any situation, in which a hero ought to be represented.
Virgil has degraded the wife of king Latinus, by comparing her, when she was actuated by the Fury, to a top which the boys lash for diversion. This doubtless is a low image, though in other respects the comparison is not destitute of propriety; but he is much more justly censured for the following simile, which has no sort of reference to the subject. Speaking of Turnus, he says, ,
Medio dux agmine Turnus
But Turnus, chief amidst the warrior train,
These no doubt are majestic images; but they bear no sort of resemblance to a hero glittering in armour at the head of his forces.
Horace has been ridiculed by some shrewd critics for this comparison, which, however, we think is more defensible than the former. Addressing himself to Munatius Plancus, he says:
to an 25
e coals in