Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

The words submit and shov'd are particularly expressive of the action here ascribed to Neptune. The former of these verbs submit may indeed be called a latinism, in the signification it hath in this

passage. But such idioms, though improper in prose, are sometimes not ungraceful in the poetic dialect. If, in the last line, instead of shov'd, the poet had used the verb raised, which, though not equivalent, would have conveyed much the same meaning, the expression had been fainter *.

The next examples shall be in adjectives and participles.

The kiss snatch'd hasty from the sidelong maid,
On purpose guardless- t.

Here both the words sidelong and snatch'd are very significant, and contribute much to the vivacity of the expression. Taken or ta'en substituted for the latter, would be much weaker. It may be remarked, that it is principally in those parts of speech which regard life and action that this species of energy takes place.

I SHALL give one in nouns from Milton, who says

* In this instance Dryden hath even improved on the original he imitated; which is not often the case either of translators or of imitators. Virgil says simply, “ Levat ipse tridenti.”

f Thomson's Winter.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

concerning Satan, when he had gotten into the garden of Eden,

Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life
Sat like a cormorant *.

If for cormorant he had said bird of prey, which would have equally suited both the meaning and the measure, the image would still have been good, but weaker than it is by this specification.

In adjectives the same author hath given an excellent example, in describing the attitude in which Satan was discovered by Ithuriel and his company, when that malign spirit was employed in infusing pernicious thoughts into the mind of our first mother,

[blocks in formation]

No word in the language could have so happily expressed the posture, as that which the poet hath chosen.

It will be easy from the same principles to illustrate a remark of the Stagyrite, on the epithet rosyfinger'd, which Homer hath given to the morning. This, says the critic, is better than if he had said purple-fingerd, and far better than if he had said red

* Paradise Lost, B. iv.

+ Ibid. B. iv.

[blocks in formation]

finger'd +. Aristotle hath observed the effect solely

t in respect of beauty, but the remark holds equally true of these epithets in respect of vivacity. This in a great measure may be deduced from what hath been said already. Of all the above adjectives the last is the most vague and general, and therefore the worst ; the second is better, because more special, purple bè. ing one species comprehended under red; the first is

; the best, because the most particular, pointing to that single tint of purple which is to be found in the rose. I acknowledge, at the same time, that this metaphorical epithet hath an excellence totally distinct from its vivacity. This I denominate its elegance. The object whence the metaphor is taken is a grateful object. It at once gratifies two of the senses, the nose by its fragrance, and the eye by its beauty. But of this quality I shall have occasion to treat afterwards.

I PROCEED at present in producing examples to confirm the theory advanced. And to show how much even an adverb that is very particular in its signification, may contribute to vivacity, I shall again hare recourse to the Paradise Lost.

Some say, he bid his angels turn askance,
The poles of earth twice ten degrees and more,
From the sun's axle

+ Arist. Rhet. 1. 3. Διεφερει δ' ειπείν, οιου ροδοδακτυλα ηως μαλλον Doivixedex\u705, 17: Paul.dtsger sguêzodaxto),os.

Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

If the poet, instead of saying askance, had said aside, which properly enough might have been said, the expression would have lost much of its energy. This adverb is of too general signification, and might have been used with equal propriety, if the plane of the ecliptic had been made perpendicular to that of the equator ; whereas the word askance, in that case, could not have been employed, it denoting just such an obliquity in the inclination of these two planes as actually obtains. We have an example of the same kind in the description which Thomson gives us of the sun newly risen.

Lo! now apparent all
Aslani the dewbright earth, and colour'd air,
He looks in boundless majesty abroad *.

FURTHER, it will sometimes have a considerable effect in enlivening the imagery, not only to particularise, but even to individuate the object presented to the mind. This conduct Dr Blair, in his very ingenious Dissertation on the poems of Ossian, observes to have been generally followed by his favourite bard. His similitudes bring to our view the mist on the hill of Cromla, the storm on the sea of Malmor, and the reeds of the lake of Lego. The same vivacious manner is often to be found in holy writ, swift as a roe! or as a fawn upon mount Bether t, white as the snow in Salmon #, fragrant as the smell of Lebanon s And in the passage lately quoted from the gospel, the in

* Summer. + Cant. ii. 17. | Psal. Ixviü. 14. § Hosea xiv. 6.

[blocks in formation]

troduction of the name of Solomon hath an admirable effect in invigorating the sentiment, not only as it points out an individual, but one of great fame in that country among the people whom our Saviour addressed ; one besides, who was universally esteemed the wisest, the richest, and the most magnificent. prince that ever reigned over Israel. Now this is a consideration which was particularly apposite to the design of the speaker.

It may indeed be imagined, that this manner can enliven the thought only to those who are acquainted with the individuals mentioned ; but, on mature reflection, we may easily discover this to be a mistake. Not only do we, as it were, participate by sympathy in the known vivid perceptions of the speaker or the writer ; but the very notion we form of an individual thing, known or unknown, from its being conceived as an individual, or as one thing is of a more fixed nature than that we form of a species, which is conceived to be equally applicable to several things, resembling indeed in some respects, though unlike in others : and for the same reason, the notion we have of a species is of a more steady nature than that we form of a genus, because this last is applicable to a still greater number of objects, amongst which the difference is greater and the resemblance less.

I MEAN not however to assert, that the method of individuating the object ought always to be preferred VOL. II.


« AnteriorContinuar »