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A. That figure of speech by which we liken one thing to another, either for the purpose of informing the judgment, or of pleasing the fancy.
Q. Can you give an example of this figure ? Ă. “A virtuous man, slandered by evil tongues, is like a diamond obscured by smoke."
“And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.”
A. Analogy, or resemblance, either in character or effect.
Q. From what source, then, must similes be drawn?
A. From objects of a different class from those to be explained or illustrated, but yet possessing some quality in common with them.
Q. Why do we not compare things of the same kind ?
A. Because the resemblance is then too close and obvious to admit of comparison; and exhibits not likeness, but identity.
Q. Do we never compare things of the same class?
A. We compare things of the same class, for the purpose of marking their difference; but those of a different class, with a view to point out their resemblance.
Q. What rule have you to give for the use of this figure ?
A. When used for the purpose of illustration, it should always be taken from something that is better known than the thing to be explained.
Can you give any example of this? A. “ As a river rolls its waters to the sea, whence its spring was supplied, so the heart of a grateful man delights to return a benefit received."
Q. What is the rule respecting similes when used for embellishment as well as illustration ?
A. They ought always to be deduced from objects that are dignified and important, or such as may be contemplated with pleasure.
Q. Can you give any examples of this?
A. The following is taken from G. B. Cheever's Lectures on the Pilgrim's Progress. It approaches to an allegory.
“You follow with intense interest the movements of Bunyan's soul. You seem to see a lovely bark driving across the ocean in 8 hurricane. By the flashes of the lightning you can just discern her through the darkness, plunging and laboring fearfully in the midnight tempest, and you think that all is lost; but there again you behold her in the quiet sunshine; or the moon and the stars look down upon her, as the wind breathes softly: or in a fresh and favorable gale she flies across the flying waters. Now it is clouds, and rain, and hail, and rattling thunder, storms coming down as sudden, almost, as the lightning; and now again her white sails glitter in heaven's light, like an albatross in the spotless horizon. The last glimpse you catch of her, she is gloriously entering the narbor, the haven of eternal rest; yea, you see her like a star, that in the morning of eternity dies into the light of heaven. Can there be any thing more interesting than thus to follow the perilous course of an immortal soul, from danger to safety, from conflict to victory, from temptation to triumph, from suffering to blessedness, from the city of Destruction to the city of God!”
Q. By what terms are comparisons generally introduced ?
A. By the words like, thus, as, so, in like manner &c.
Q. What, then, do you deem a perfect simile?
Å. One that both illustrates and ennobles a subject; though it can not be said to be misapplied, should it do only the one.
Q. What sort of comparisons should we avoid ?
A. Such as have no tendency either to explain or beautify; and, therefore, neither convey knowledge, nor excite new and pleasing trains of thought.
EXERCISES ON SIMILE OR COMPARISON. Fill up the blanks in the following passages with suitable objects of comparison. “ Great men, like
have many crooked cuts and dark alleys in their hearts, whereby he that knows them may save himself much time and trouble." “ Russia, like
is rather unwieldy in attacking others, but most formidable in defending herself.”
" When error sits in the seat of power and authority, and is generated in high places, it may he compared to which originates, indeed, in the mountain, but commits its devastation in the vale." “ The true motives of our actions, like
are usually concealed but the gilded and the hollow pretext is pompously placed in the front of show."
“ Mental pleasures never cloy ; unlike those
they are increased by repetition, approved by reflection, and strengthened by enjoy“ Society, like
must be viewed in all situations, or its colors will deceive us." “ The mob, like
is very seldom agitated without some cause superior and exterior to itself; but (to continue the simile) both are capable of doing the greatest mischief after the cause which first set them in motion has ceased to act." “ The beauties and sublimities of nature are like
which the storm shuts out, but when the heavens are serene they come out, one after another, to the eye that is watching for them, till the firmament glows with their light." “ Bad books are like
sailing under false colors in every sea, and delighting in the wreck and conquest of every thing precious."
A. A comparison in which the words denoting the similitude are suppressed ; as, “ I will be to her a wall of fire ;" that is, " as a wall of fire."
Q. What is the origin of metaphors ? A. It may be founded on a comparison, 1. Of the qualities of a man with those of a beast; as when we call a prafty and cruel man a fox :
2. Of one inanimate thing with another; as when we say, clouds of dust, loods of fire :
3. Of a man with an inanimate thing; as when Homer calls Ajax a bule wark of the Greeks ;
4. Of inanimate things with what has life and feeling; as when Virgil calls a plentiful crop a joyful one, lætas segetes :
5. Of the qualities of mind with those of mutter; as when we say, a solid judgment, a fiery temper, a hard heart, &c. To this head may be referred a number of metaphors common in Holy Writ, which convey, in such a way as our finite natures can comprehend, some faint idea of the operations of the Supreme Being ; as when God is said to hear, to see, to repent, to be angry, to open his hand, to hide his face, &c., phrases which nobody understands in the literal sense.
Q. In what respects does the metaphor differ from the simile ?
A. The former, the most common of all the figures, substitutes one thing for another, and applies to the primary object language which is, strictly speaking, descriptive only of the secondary. Thus, in Wolsey's description of the state of man, “To-day he puts forth the tender leaves of hope, to-morrow blossoms, a tree is put for man, and the changes, which can in
strictness be predicated only of the secondary, tree, are attributed to the primary, man.
Comparison, or Simile, is founded on resemblance, as well as metaphor, but it has nothing else in common with it; and though it has been sometimes called a lengthened metaphor, it is altogether distinct figure. Metaphor always asserts what is manifestly false; comparison asserts nothing but what is true. In metaphor, the resembling qualities in the two objects must be distinguishing qualities of those objects. In comparison, any striking resemblance may be made the subject of the figure. The former asserts that one object has the properties of another; the latter, that one object resembles another. The two figures are, indeed, near akin, but they have a distinct personality ; they are sisters, the daughters of Like ness, by different fathers. The one is the child of Fancy, the other of Truth.
Q. Can you illustrate this difference by example ?
A. When I say of a minister, “ He upholds the state, like a pillar that supports an edifice,” I use a comparison ; but when I say, “He is the pillar of the state," I then use a metaphor. Q. What is the first rule in the use of metaphors ?
Ă. Do not employ them too profusely, and let them be such as accord with the natural train of the thoughts. Q. What is the next?
A. Let the resemblance upon which the figures are founded be clear and perspicuous, and the metaphors drawn from such objects as are easily understood. Q. On what is this rule founded ?
A. On the circumstance that, if a word is unintelligible in a literal, it must be much more so in a metaphorical sense. Q. What is the next rule?
Ă. Metaphorical and literal language should never be mixed together. Q. Can you illustrate this by example ?
" To thee the world its present homage pays ;
is a mixed metaphor; for harvest is figurative, but praise is literal, in its meaning. Q. What would it require to be to make it accurate ?
A. “ The harvest early, but mature the fruit,” which would probably have been the word used, had it suited the poet's rhyme.
Q. What farther have you to remark respecting the use of met aphors ?
A. We should neither pursue them too far, nor use, in reference to the same object, two metaphors that are inconsistent with each other.
By the first part of this rule is meant, that we should not seek to trace out a great number of resemblances between the thing illustrated by the figure, and the figure itself; for this would show that the writer's mind is wandering, and less intent upon sense than upon wit; which, when the matter requires seriousness and simplicity, is always offensive. Genius, regulated by correct taste, instead of fatiguing the attention with unnecessary circumstances, chooses rather to leave many things to be supplied by the reader's fancy; and is always too much engrossed by its subject to have leisure to look out for minute similitudes.
Q. Can you give any example of the latter part of the rule! A. “I bridle in my struggling muse with pain,
That longs to launch into a bolder strain.” Q. What is the error here?
À. The muse is first compared to a horse, held in by a bridle, that it may not launch, an action which belongs properly to a ship; and then it is to launch, not into water, but into a strain or singing, which, being literal, produces a strange jumble of figures, altogether incompatible with correct writing. The nature of the thing expressed by the figure should not be confounded with that of the thing which the figure is intended to illustrate.
When Penelope, in Pope's Odyssey, calls her son a pillar of the state, the figure is good, because it signifies that he assisted in supporting the government; but when, in the next line, she complains that this pillar had gone away without asking leave or bidding farewell, there is a confusion of the nature of a pillar with that of a man: