« AnteriorContinuar »
Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam,
Æneid. iv. I. 24.
Thus, to explain the effects of slander, it is imagined to be a voluntary agent.
No, 'tis Slander; Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue Out-venoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie All corners of the world, kings, queens, and states, Maids, matrons; nay, the secrets of the grave This viperous Slander enters.
Cymbeline, Act. III. Sc. 4.. As also human passions : take the following ex. ample:
For Pleasure and Revenge
Troilus and Cressida, Act II. Sc. 2.
Virgil explains fame and its effects by a still greater variety of action. * And Shakespeare personifies death and its operations in a manner singularly fanciful:
-Within the hollow crown
To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
Richard II. Act III. Sc. 2.
Not less successfully is life and action given even
And in the calmest and the stillest night,
Second Part Henry IV. Act III. Sc. 1.
I shall add one example more, to shew that descriptive personification may be used with propriety, even where the purpose of the discourse is instruction merely:
Oh ! let the steps of youth be cautious,
Hitherto success has attended our steps : but whether we shall complete our progress with equal success, seems doubtful; for when we look back to the expressions mentioned in the beginning, thirsty ground, furious dart, and such like, it seems no less difficult than at first to say, whether there be in them any sort of personification. Such expressions evidently raise not the slightest conviction of sensibility: nor do I think they amount to descriptive personification; because in them, we do not even figure the ground or the dart to be animated. If so, they cannot at all come under the present subject. To shew which, I shall endeavour to trace the effect that such expressions have in the mind. Doth not the expression angry ocean, for example, tacitly compare the ocean in a storm to a man in wrath ? By this tacit .comparison, the ocean is elevated above its rank in nature; and yet personification is excluded, because, by the very nature of comparison, the things compared are kept distinct, and the native appearance of each is preserved. It will be shewn afterward, that expressions of this kind belong to another figure, which I term a figure of speech, and which employs the seventh section of the present chapter..
Though thus in general we can distinguish descriptive personification, from what is inerely a figure of speech, it is, however, often difficult to say, with respect to some expressions, whether they are of the one kind or of the other. Take the following instances :
The moon shines bright: in such a night as this,
Merchant of Venice, Act v. Sc. 1.
I have seen
Julius Cæsar, Act 1. Sc. 3.
With respect to these and numberless other exámples of the same kind, it must depend upon the reader, whether they be examples of personification, or of a figure of speech merely: a sprightly imagination will advance them to the former class ; with à plain reader they will remain in the latter."
• Having thus at large explained the present figure, its different kinds, and the principles upon which it is founded; what comes next in order is, to show in what cases it may be introduced with propriety, when it is suitable, when unsuitable. I begin with observing, that passionate personification is not promoted by every passion indifferently. All dispiriting passions are averse to it; and remorse, in particular, is too serious and severe to be gratified with a phantom of the mind. I cannot therefore approve the following speech of Enobarbus, who had deserted his master Antony:
Be witness to me, O thou blessed moon,
Antony and Cleopatra, Act Iv. Sc. 9.