Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Pallentes umbras Erebi, noctemque profundam,
Ante pudor quam te violo, aut tua jura resolvo.

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
Have ears more deaf than adders, to the voice
Of any true decision.

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
That rounds the mortal temples of a king,
Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state, and grinning at his pomp;
Allowing him a breath, a little scene

[ocr errors]

To monarchize, be fear'd, and kill with looks;
Infusing him with self and vain conceit;
As if his flesh, which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable; and humour'd thus,
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle-walls, aud farewell king.

Richard II. Act III. Sc. 2.

Not less successfully is life and action given even
to sleep:
King Henry. How many thousands of my poorest

subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O gentle Sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, Sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfum'd chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lulld with sounds of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile
In loathsome beds, and leav'st the kingly couch,
A watch-case to a common larum-bell? .
Wilt thou, upon the high and giddy mast,
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them
With deaf'ning clamours in the slippery shrouds,
That, with the hurly, Death itself awakes ?
Can'st thou, O partial Sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;

And in the calmest and the stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a King? Then, happy low ! lie down;.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. ,,

Second Part Henry IV. Act III. Sc. 1.

e

e

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,
How they advance into a dangerous world;
Our duty only can conduct us safe.
Our passions are seducers; but of all
The strongest Love. He first approaches us
In childish play, wantoning in our walks:
If heedlessly we wander after him,
As he will pick out all the dancing way,
We're lost, and hardly to return again.
We should take warning: he is painted blind,
To shew us, if we fondly follow him,
The precipices we may fall into.
Therefore let Virtue take him by the hand:
Directed so, he leads to certain joy. Southern. '

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,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,
And they did make no noise; in such a night,
Troilus methinks mounted the Trojan wall, ..
And sigh'd his soul towards the Grecian tents
Where Cressid lay that night.

Merchant of Venice, Act v. Sc. 1.

I have seen
Thambitious ocean swell, and rage, and foam,
To be exalted with the threatning clouds.

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,
When men revolted shall upon record
Bear hateful memory, poor Enobarbus did
Before thy face repent
Oh sovereign mistress of true melancholy,
The poisonous damp of night dispunge upon me,
That life, a very rebel to my will, :
May hang no longer on me.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act Iv. Sc. 9.

« AnteriorContinuar »