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Rhetorical tropes...Part I. Preliminary observations.
received the public sanction, and which are commonly very numerous in every tongue, the metaphorical meaning comes to be as really ascertained by custom in the particular language, as the original, or what is called the literal, meaning of the word. And in this respect metaphors stand on the same foot of general use with proper terms.
What hath been now observed concerning metaphor, may with very little variation be affirmed of these three other tropes, synecdoché, metonymy, and antonomasia. These are near a-kin to the former, as they also imply the substitution of one word for another, when the things signified are related. The only difference among them is, that they respect different relations. In metaphor the sole relation is resemblance ; in synecdoché, it is that which subsisteth between the species and the genus, between the part and the whole, and between the matter and the thing made from it ; in metonymy, which is the most various of the tropes, the relation is nevertheless always reducible to one or other of these three, causes, effects, or adjuncts; in antonomasia, it is nearly that of the individual to the species, or conversely. There is one trope irony, in which the relation is contrariety.' But of this I shall have occasion to speak, when I come to consider that quality of style, which hath been named animation.
Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.
On a little attention it will be found to be a plain consequence of what hath been observed above, that though any simile, allegory, or prosopopeia, is capable of being translated (and that even without losing any of its energy), from one tongue into another, a metaphor, a synecdoché, or a metonymy (for this holds more rarely of antonomasia) which is both significant and perspicuous in an original performance, is frequently incapable of being rendered otherwise than by a proper word. The corresponding metaphor, synecdoché, or metonymy, in another language, will often be justly chargeable with obscurity and impropriety, perhaps even with absurdity. In support of this remark, let it be observed, that the noun sail in our tongue is frequently used, and by the same trope the noun puppis in Latin, to denote a ship. Let these synecdochés of a part for the whole, which are so very similar, be translated and transposed, and you will immediately perceive, that a man could not be said to speak Latin, who in that language should call a ship velum ; nor would you think that he spoke better English, who in our language should call it a poop *.
* This doctrine might be illustrated by imumerable examples, if it were necessary. For an instance, take that expression of Ci cero, (Pro Legario) “ Cujus latus ille mucro petebat?" have a synecdoché in the word mucro, and a metaphor in the word petebat, neither of which can be suitably rendered into English. " Whose side did that point seek ?" is a literal version, but quite intolerable. “ Whom did you mean to assail with that sword ?" Here the sense is exhibited, but as neither trope is rendered, much
Rhetorical tropes... Part I. Preliminary observations.
These tropes therefore are of a mixed nature. At the same time that they bear a reference to the primitive signification, they derive from their customary application to the figurative sense, that is, in other words, from the use of the language, somewhat of the nature of proper terms.
In further confirmation of this truth, it may be remarked, that of two words even in the same language, which are synonymous, or nearly so, one will be used figuratively to denote an object, which it would be unsufferable to employ the other to denote, though naturally as fit for suggesting it. It hath been said, that “ an excellent vein of satire runs through the * whole of Gulliver's travels :” Substitute here artery in the room of vein, and you will render the sentence absolutely ridiculous. The two words beast and brute, are often metaphorically applied to human creatures, but not in the same signification. The former denotes either a blockhead or a voluptuary of the grossest kind; the latter, one in the highest degree unmannerly and ferocious. Accordingly we speak of beastly ignorance; we say, “ gluttony is a beastly vice ;"
of the energy is lost. In like manner in the phrase, “ Vario Marte "pugnatum est.” They fought with various success ;” there is a metonymy in the word Marte, which no translator into any modern language, who hath common sense, would attempt to transplant into his version. See Traité des Tropes, par M. du Marsais, Art. vii. iv.
Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.
but we should say, “ his behaviour to those unhappy “ people was quite brutal.” The word brutish, however, though derived from the same root, is employed like beastly, to donote stupid or ignorant. Thus, to say of any man, “ He acted brutishly,” and to say, " he acted brutally," are two very different things. The first implies, he acted stupidly ; the second, he acted cruelly and rudely. If we recur to the nature of the things themselves, it will be impossible to assign a satisfactory reason for these differences of application. The usage of the language is therefore the only reason.
It is very remarkable that the usages in different languages, are in this respect not only different, but even sometimes contrary; insomuch that the same trope will suggest opposite ideas in different tongues. No sort of metonymy is commoner amongst every people than that by which some parts of the body have been substituted to denote certain powers or affections of the mind, with which they are supposed to be connected. But as the opinions of one nation differ on this article from those of another, the figurative sense in one tongue will by no means direct us to the figurative sense in another. The same may be said of different ages. A commentator on Persius has this curious remark, “
“ Naturalists affirm, that men laugh “ with the spleen, rage with the gall, love with the
liver, understand with the heart, and boast with the
Rhetorical tropes.... Part I. Preliminary observations,
lungs *.” A modern may say, with Sganarelle in the comedy, “ It was so formerly, but we have chang“ ed all that t.” For so unlike are our notions, that the spleen is accounted the seat of melancholy and ill-humour. The word is accordingly often used to denote that temper ; so that with us a splenetic man, and a laughing merry fellow, form two characters that are perfect contrasts to each other. The heart we consider as the seat, not of the understanding, but of the affections and of courage. Formerly indeed we seem to have regarded the liver as the seat of courage ; hence the term milk-livered for cowardly 1.
* Cornutus on these words of the first satire, Sum petulansi splene cachinno. “ Physici dicunt homines splene ridere, felle irasci, jecore amare, corde sapere, et pulmone jactari.”
+ " Cela etoit autrefois ainsi ; mais nous avons changé tout " cela.” Le medecin malgré lui. Molière.
| From these things we may observe, by the way, how unsafe it is in translating, especially from an ancient language into a modern, to reckon that because the proper sense in two words of the different languages perfectly corresponds, the metaphorical sense of the same words will correspond also. In this last respect, the words, as we have seen, may nevertheless be very different in signification, or even opposite. I think in particular, that many translators of the Bible have been betrayed into blunders, through not sufficiently adverting to this circumstance. For instance, nothing at first appears to be a juster, as well as a more literal version of the Greek oxangoxagdio, than the English hard-hearted. Yet I suspect, that the true meaning of the former term, both in the Sep