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William Shepherd.

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has some alliance with the metaphor ; but still more with
metonymy; and in fact it seems, in most cases, to be to the
latter, what the allegory is to the metaphor. In some cases it
is not easy to determine whether the figure be a metonymy or
a prosopopoeia, as in the phrase " Youth and beauty are laid
in the dust." Dr. Gregory quotes a fine specimen of this
figure from Miss Seward's Monody on Major Andr6, who,
according to the laws of civilized war, as they are called, was
executed ; but, in the eye of reason, murdered by the Ame-
ricans,

Loud Iiowls the storm, the vex'd Atlantic roars,
Thy Genius, Britain, wanders on its shores !
Hears cries of horror wafted from afar,
The groans of anguish 'mid the shrieks of wart
Hears the deep curses of the great and brave.
Sigh in the wind, and murmur in the wave !
O'er liis damp brovv the sable crape he binds,
And throws his victor garland to the winds.

Another beautiful figure is taken by the same author, from
Hayley's Essay on History :

Humility herself, divinely mild.
Sublime Religion's meek and modest child,
Like the dumb son of Croesus, in the strife.
When force assail'd his father's sacred life,
Breaks silence, and with filial duty warm.
Bids thee revere her parent's hallowed form.

Although personification is particularly adapted to poetry,
yet this figure serves frequently to adorn the works of the best
prose writers : thus in Tacitus^ *' After the slaughter of sq



160 BELLES LETTRES.

many distinguished men, Nero meditated, at length, the ex-
tirpation of virtue herself, by the murder of Thrasca."

The mind, agitated by certain passions, is prone to bestow
sensibility upon things inanimate, hence Antony, mourning
over the body of Caesar murdered in the Senate, supposes the
dead corpse listening to him,

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,

That I am meek and gentle with these butchers, &c.

Shakespeare makes Richard exclaim, upon landing from his
Irish expedition.



-I weep for joy



To stand upon my kingdom once again.
. Dear earth, I do salute thee with my hand.
Though rebels wound thee with their horses' hoofi.

The same poet personifies death in a fanciful, but striking
manner :



-Within the hollow crown,



That rounds the mortal temples of a king.

Keeps Death his court; and there the antic sits.

Scoffing his state, aud grinning at his pomp ;

Allowing him a breath, a little scene,

To nionarchize, be feared, and kill with looks;

Infusing him with self and vain cdnccit,

As if this flesh, which walls about our life.

Were brass impregnable : aud, humour'd thus.

Comes at the last, and with a little pin

Bores through his castle-wall, aud, farewell ! king.

Richard II.

Shakespeare's personification of sleep is as well known as it
is highly celebrated :

O gentle Sleep,



Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee!
That thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down,
Aud steep my senses in forgetfulness, &c.

Dr. Blair observes, that one of the greatest pleasures which
we receive from poetry, is, to find ourselves always in the



FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. l6l

midst of our fellows, and to see every thing thinking, feel-
ing, and acting as we ourselves do : this, perhaps, is the prin-
cipal charm of the figure personification. It introduces us
into society with all nature, and interests us, even in inanimate
objects, by forming a connexion between them and us, through
that sensibility which it ascribes to them. Our author gives
some passages in illustration of this theory, of which we shall
transcribe a part :

But, yonder comes the powerful king of day,

Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud,

The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow

Tipt with ethereal gold, bis near approach

Betoken glad. Thomson's Summer.



-To the nuptial bower,



I led her, blushing like the morn. All heaven,
And happy constellations, on that hour
Shed their selectest influence. The earth
Gave signs of gratulation, and each hill :
Joyous the birds ; fresh gales and gentle airs
Whisper'd it to the woods, &c. Milton.

This figure has uncommon force and expression, as it is
used by Hebrew writers. What can be considered more apt,
more beautiful, or more sublime, than that personification of
Wisdom, which is so frequently introduced by Solomon ?
Prov. iii. viii. ix. &c. How admirable is that celebrated
personification of the divine attributes by the Psalmist !
Psalms, Ixxxv. 2. Such also is that in Habakkuk, chap. iii. 5,
of the pestilence marching before Jehovah, when He comes to
vengeance ; that, in Job, chap, xxviii. 22. in which Destruc-
tion and Death affirm of Wisdom, that her fame only had
come to their ears ; and that tremendous image, in Isaiah, of
Hades, extenduig her throat, and opening her insatiable and
immeasurable jaws, chap. v. 14. There is another beautiful
species of personification, which originates from a well-known
Hebrew idiom ; or that form of expression by which the sub-
ject, attribute, accident^ or effect of any thing, is denominated

VOL. I. M



%6^ BELLES LETTRES.

die son. Isaiali, pronounced by Dr. Lowth, to be the sub-
limest of poets, furnishes, in one short poem, exnmples of
almost every form of the prosopopoeia ; and, indeed, of all
that constitutes the sublime in composition. See Is. xiv. 4 27.
After a critique upon this sublime ode of Isaiah, the learned
writer concludes in the following manner : " How forcible is
this imagery, how diversified, how sublime ! how elevated the
diction, the figures, the sentiments ! The Jewish nation, the
cedars of Lebanon, the ghosts of departed kings, the Babylon-
ish monarch, the travellers who find his corpse, and, the last
of all, Jehovah himself, are the characters which support this
beautiful lyric drama. One continued action is kept up, or
rather a series of interesting actions are connected together in
an incomparable whole : this, indeed, is the principal and
distinguished excellence of the sublimer ode, and is displayed
in its utmost perfection in this poem of Isaiah, which may be
considered as one of the most ancient, and certainly the most
finished specimen of that species of composition, which
has been transmitted to us. The personifications here are
frequent, yet not confused ; bold, yet not improbable ; a free,
elevated, and truly divine spirit pervades the whole; nor is
there any thing wanting in this ode to defeat its claim to the
character of perfect beauty and sublimity." Lowth's Lectures.
Three rules are to be observed for the management of per-
sonification : ( I .) It should rarely be attempted, unless when
prompted by strong passiou ; nor continued when the passion
begins to flag. (2.) We must never personify any object, but
such as has some dignity in itself, and can make a proper
figure in the elevation to which we rais^ it. (S.) Whenever
it is introduced, the picture it presents should be complete in
itself, which shews the meanness of the following attempt :

Invidioas grave, how dost thon rend in sunder
Whom love has knit, aud sympathy made one !

A person must have a very fertile, or very strong imagination,
to form a picture of a grave rending in sunder.



FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. 163

The APOSTROPHE is a more animated personification, in
which the object persouitied is addressed in the second person,
A real personage may, however, be addressed in an apostrophe,
but he must be supposed either dead or absent. In the Old
Testament we have many remarkable instances of this figure,
as in the prophet Jeremiah, " O thou sword of the Lord !
how long will it be ere ihou be quiet? put thyself up into the
scabbard, rest, and be still !"

The apostrophe was never more properly introduced than
in Lear's address to the elements, when discarded and turned
out by Regan,

^ Spit, fire! spout, rain!



. Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters.
I tax not yoj ye elements, with unkindness,
I never gave yea a kingdom, called you, children,
You owe me no subscription, &c.

The following is also a fine example, put into the mouth of
Eve, by Milton,

O unexpected stroke, woi-se than of death !

Must I leave thee, Paradise ! thus leave

Thee, native soil, these happy walks and shades, i

Fit haunts of Gods? Where I had hoped to spend,

Quiet, though sad, the respite of that day

That must be mortal to us both. O flowers.

That never will in other climate grow,

My early visitation, and my last

At even ; which I bred up with tender hand,

From the first opening bud, and gave you names ;

Who now shall fear ye to the sun, or rank

Your tribes? &c.

The HYPERBOLE is nothing more than an excess of figur-
ative language, the effect, when it is natural, of passion. All
passions are inclined to magnify their objects. Injuries seem
greater than they really are, to those who have sustained them ;
and dangers are magnified to those who are in apprehension
of them :

Victors and vanquish'd join promiscuous cries.

And sbriilipg shouts, and dying groans arise ;

M a



164 BELLES LETTRES.

With stiaming blood, the slipp'ry fields are dy'd,
And slaiighter'd heroes swell the dreadful tide. r.

Homer's Iliad*

The hyperbole should never beJ introduced in the descrip-
tion of any thing ordinary or familiar, for in such case it is
unnatural, being destitute of surprise, which is its only found-
ation. The hyperbole can never suit a dispiriting passion :
and it should never be strained beyond diie bounds. Lon-
ginus compares such a one to a bow-string, which relaxes
by overstraining, and produces an effect directly opposite to
what is intended. Finally, the hyperbole ought to be com-
prehended in the fewest words possible.

Irony, according to some writers, has been classed as a
figure of rhetoric, but others do not alfow it that rank. All
irony, says Dr. Priestley, is humour, but all humour is 'not
irony; it generally consists in giving undeserved praise, im-
plying censure on the object ; or conveying censure under the
appearance of praise : the former is the most common. When
Frederic II. published his poem on tlie art of war, he omitted
to notice the Duke of Marlborough. On that circumstance
the Monthly Reviewers remarked, " that they presumed his
Majesty had omitted the name of Marlborough, in the cata-
logue of distinguished commanders, because he might be defi-
cient in one branch of his profession, having never, on any oc-
casion, evinced his skill in conducting a retreat."

The PARALEiPSis borders on irony, it implies an affecta-
tion of omission, as when an orator exclaims, " I refrain from
mentioning the rapacity, the venality, the exceeding corruption
of the person I accuse," &c. Cicero, in his orations, makes
much use of this figure, but it requires powerful talents, and
an ardent manner, to do justice to it.

Of the INTERROGATION, there are many fine instances in
the poetical and prophetical parts of Scripture, " God is not
a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man, that He should
repent. Hath He said, and shall He not do it P"

Exclamation b a stronger figure than the former, and



FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE. 165

must be but rarely used, as it will appear ridiculous, unless
where the passions are inflamed. When it is used by an
orator, it requires the voice to be raised, as in the exclama-
tion of Cicero, " O tempora ! O mores ! Senatus haec intelli-
git, consul vidit : hie vivit ; vivit f imo vero etiam in Senatum
venit." The same author uses this iigure to express a variety
of passions ; as indignation, resentment,^ contempt, grief, and
admiration. It has its use in ridicule and irony, thus the ora-
tor exclaims, in his oration for Balbus, deriding the accuser,
" O excellent interpreter of the law ! master of antiquity,
corrector and amender of our constitution !" St. Paul makes
use of the exclamation in exultation and triumph, " O death,
where is thy sting ! O grave, where is thy victory !" It is fre-
quently used with an interrogation, and serves to prepare the
mind by exciting attention.

Another figure of speech, called by Blair and other critics,
Vis ION, is adapted also to warm and animated composition, by
which we describe a thing that is past or absent, as if actually
passing before our eye, thus Cicero says, " Videor enim mihi
banc urbem videre, lucem orbis terrarum atque arcem omnium
gentium, subito uno incendio concidentem, &c." " I seem
to myself to behold this city, the ornament of the earth, and
the capital of all nations, suddenly involved in one conflagra-
tion. I see before me the slaughtered heaps of citizens lying
unburied in the midst of their ruined country. The furious
countenance of Cethegus rises to my view, while, with a savage
joy, he is triumphing in your miseries." This manner of de-
scription supposes a sort of enthusiasm which carries the
speaker or writer in some measure out of himself, and if well
executed, impresses the hearer or reader strongly, by the force
of the sympathy.

Repetition is another animated figure, by which the most
material words of a sentence are repeated, in order to make
the impression the stronger : one of the finest instances of this
figure is in St. Paul's second Epistle to the Corinthians, " Are
they Hebrews ? So am I. Are they Israelites ? So am I.



166 BELLES LETTRES.

Are they the seed of Abraham ? So am I. Are they minis-
ters of Christ ? (I speak as a fool) I am more ; in labours
more abuiuiaiit, in stripes ^bove measure, in prisons more
frequent, in deaths oft."

Such are the principal figures of rhetoric, many others are
enumerated and described by rhetoricians, all of which, says
Dr. Blair, are beautiful or not, in proportion as they are na-
tive expressions of the sentiment, or passion intended to be
heightened by them. Let nature and passion always speak
their own language, and they will suggest figures in abundance.
But if we seek to counterfeit a warmth which we do not feel,
no figures will either supply the defect, or conceal the im-
posture.



CHAP. XL



OF PROSE COMPOSITION.



Kules for didactic composition ^For deliberative, and Judicial eloquence
Of what regular orations nuist consist Of the exordium J*ropoition
Narration ^Arguments ; and Peroration.

A LL kinds of composition may be classed under two divi-
sions, prose and poetry. Prose compositions, tlie subject
of this chapter, may be arranged in the following classes:
(1.) Didactic and argunientative ; (2.) Oratorical; (3.) Nar-
rative and descriptive. The first comprehends whatever re-
lates to moral, political, or natural philosophy; all treatises
on the arts and sciences, and all discussions and controver-
sies, which do not come under the second division. This
second division, includes not only the three great braqches of
oratory, the senate, the bar and the pulpit, but likewise much
of controversy, and every thing that assumes a declamatory
form. The third and last division extends to real and fictir
tious history, memoirs, books of travels ; and essays, of which
most are either narratives or descriptions. The three kinds
are often found blended in one work, as in Thucydides, and
Livy, in which will be found as much of oratory as of rnere
narrative. 4

Jn didactic or argumentative compositions; a jSgurative



168 BELLES LETT RES.

style is improperly introduced, yet, in what are called moral
essays, figures are often very appropriate. Productions of this
kind, partake more or less of the nature of poetry or oratory,
and being, in a measure, works of imagination, the orna-
ments of fancy are not improperly bestowed upon them.
There are few productions of the narrative kind which will
not admit of ornament, but description is more open to it than
narrative ; oratory, however, admits of the greatest variety of
ornament. This, occasionally, has recourse to almost all the
figures which are appropriated to poetry, and to some peculiar
to itself; and it is to this branch of composition, that the
art of rhetoric particularly applies.

This art, like all others, is the result of observations made
by men of enlightened minds and enlarged understandings.
After a great variety of attempts, those principles were at
length discovered, which distinguish between the good and
^f^.^^ the bad; between the faulty and the perfect. These principles,
when reduced to method and well arranged, save succeedhig
inquirers much pains and trouble, considerably shorten the
Toad to knowledge, and materially assist in the formation of a
correct judgment. Though, as in poetry, accurate rules of
criticism will not bestow genius, they will be the means of
checking redundancy and bombast, and of detecting errors,
so also with regard to the precepts of rhetoric, it may be
asserted, that though they will not generate that energy of
mind, which rises to the highest flights of eloquence, they
will warn the orator against incongruity in the disposition of
his matter, absurdity in argument, and the false glitter of
ornament, which amuses instead of convincing ; or those inju-
dicious attempts to interest the feehngs, which excite ridicule
rather than sympathy.

The foundation of eloquence is. right reason, and its exer-
cise implies the possession of that faculty, both in the speaker
and hearer ; hence, rhetoric is neai ly allied to logic. Quin-
tilian, in treating of the utility of the art of rhetoric, says, " If in
any thing the Creator has distinguished us from the rest of the



PROBE COMPOSITION. 169

animals, it is by the gift of speech. They surpass us in
strength, in size, in swiftness, in patience, and, especially, in
independence of foreign aid. Guided by instinct, they soon
learn by its instructions to walk, to feed themselves, and to
swim. Their protection against the cold, and their weaporw
of defence, are provided for them by nature. But what pains
and labour does it cost man to procure all these things.
Reason is our inheritance, and this seems to associate us to
immortal beings. But how feeble would reason be, were it '

not for the faculty of expressing our thoughts by speech, which
is the faithful interpreter of reason ! This is what is wanting
in inferior animals much more than understanding, of which
it cannot be justly said that they are absolutely destitute. If
then, we have received nothing from the Deity better than
the use of speech, what is there which we ought to cultivate
with greater industry ! What object is more worthy our am-
bition, than rising above other men by that faculty, which
alone raises them above the level of brutes !"

A still greater dignity, says a modern writer, will attach to
the acquirement of eloquence, and consequently to the science
of rhetoric, if it be considered that eloquence and freedom
go hand in hand. It is only in free states, and under popular ,:
governments, that oratory can flourish. When the people ,3
are appealed to on the subject of state-affairs ; when political
measures are to be enforced, either by the enlightening their
judgment, or by the excitement of their passions, the greatest
talents are exercised in studying the art of persuasion, and
the result is found in the most wonderful efforts of human
ability. But when brute force predominates, and the people
bow beneath the yoke of tyranny, the voice of reason is stilled,
and eloquence is mute. The ancient rhetoricians divide ora-
torical composition into three species, viz. the demonstrative,
the deliberative, and the judicial. The demonstrative is
chiefly conversant in bestowing praise or blame, and com-
prehends the panegyric, and the funeral eulogy: such are
Isocrates' Panegyric on Evagoras, King of Salamis ; Cicero's



170 BELLES LETTRES.

Oration on the pardoning of Marcellus, his Phillippici
against Mark Anthony, his orations against Catiline, and
Pliny's Panegyric on Trajan : such also are the funeral ora-
tions composed by Thucydides and Plato, to commemorate
the virtue of the Athenians, who fell at the commencement
of tlie Peloponnesian war. In modern times, we have the
funeral discourses of many celebrated French and English
preachers ; the eloges pronounced upon eminent men, before
the French academy, and the occasional commendatory or
vituperative speeches, which have been delivered in the Brit-
ish senate, by a Chatham, a Fox, a Burke, a Pitt, and
many others, as well in the upper asi in the lower house
of Parliament. Most of these have, within the last twenty
years. Been collected and published in separate works, and
afford rich subjects of study to those who wish to become
acquainted with the principles of demonstrative eloquence.

Deliberative eloquence embraces, as its object, the whole
extent of public affairs, and has never been exercised in a
higher style, than in the senate of our own country. It
includes all discussions relating to war and peace : all poli-
tical negociations, foreign alliances, regulations of trade and
commerce, and, in general, all matters connected with legis-
lation and government. This species of eloquence cannot
be cultivated in any other than a free state. The will of
an arbitrary monarch supersedes its use, or terrifies it into
silence. It is, therefore, to the best states of Athens and
Home, that we must look for its energies as exhibited in
fuicient times, and in the works of Demosthenes and Cicero
are to be found its noblest memorials. In modem times, it
has, by the operation of political causes, been almost exclu-
sively confined to the limits of our own island.

Judicial eloquence comprehends every thing relating to the
business of the courts of law, both civil and criminal ; that
is, to the attack and defence of persons and property. In an-
pient times, the business of judicial pleading was not confined
to a particular class of men. The Roman orator was at all



PROSE COMPOSITION. 171

drives ready to impeach a state criminal, or to plead in defence
of the life, the honour, or the fortune of his friend. This was
the period when the first characters of the republic displayed
their abilities at the bar; when Cicero and Hortensius gave
full scope to their superlative talents ; and, ni the proceedings
of the British courts of justice, there have, for a long series of
years, been exhibited proofs of the most searching sagacity,
the soundest judgment, and the most ready wit.

In regular orations of every species, there will generally be
found the exordium^ or introduction ; the statement of the
subject ; the narrative, or explanation ; the reasoning, or ar-
gument ; xhe pathetic part ; and, lastly, the peroration, or con-
clusion. On each of tlfese heads we shall say a few words,
referring to other and more elaborate works for a fuller illus-
tration, with examples.

The object of the exordium is* to conciliate the good-will
of the hearers, to awaken iheir attention, and to render them
open to persuasion. Cicero defines an exordium to be a part
of an oration, by which the minds of the audience are duly
prepared for what remains to be said. The exordium is a part
of chief importance, and is to be laboured with extraordinary
care ; hence it has been called " difficiilima pars orationis."
The topics by which the purposes of an exordium are best
effected, will generally suggest themselves to the good sensfe
of the speaker or writer : they arise from the particular situa-
tion of the speaker himself, or of his cause, or client ; or from
the character and behaviour of his antagonist, contrasted witfi
his own ; on other occasions, from the nature of the subject,
as closely connected with the interest of the hearers ; and, in
general, from the modesty and good intention with which the
speaker enters upon his subject ; to engage the attention of
the hearers, some hints may be thrown out respecting the im-
portance, dignity, and novelty of the subject ; and to render
them docile, or open to persuasion, the speaker should en-
/^eavour to remove any particular prepossessions or preju-



-^



172 BELLES LETTRES.

dice against the cause, or side of the argument which he

espouses.

The exordium requires propneii/ of address, that it may
appear easy and natural, and become of a piece with the
whole discourse, and match it as a part does the whole. It
was the rule of Cicero to make the exordium last ; and he
says, " when I have planned and digested all the materials of
my discourse, it is my custom to think, in the last place, of
the introduction with which I am to begin. For if, at any
time, I have endeavoured to invent an introduction first, no-
thing has ever occurred to me for that purpose, but what was
trifling, nugatory, and vulgar." Modesty is another requisite
in the exordium of a discourse : it sHpuld discover itself not



Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 44)