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poetry excites contempt for any object by assuming dignity of style in representing it, we call it burlesque.
It may be remarked that poetry does not consist merely of measured words, but of poetic ideas. Common business, whatever relates to gaining money, and to supplying the mere wants of the body, is not poetical. What ever employs the imagination without regard to bodily wants—God and his works, the mind and its pleasures, great actions of good men, the appearance of the heavens and the beauty of the earth, and the hopes and probable enjoyments of another life, are poetical subjects. There is a proper manner or style of writing upon these subjects, more dignified and more refined than that which we use in ordinary writing : this is the poetic style, and it admits of ornaments which are explained by Rhetoric. Grammar informs us how to speak and write with propriety, Rhetoric instructs us to do both with elegance.
Rules do not convey exact ideas of a just and beautiful style of writing; they are useful, but not sufficient. Good examples set before a writer, and good sense and good taste on his part, are necessary to make him write well; and the careful and intelligent reading of the best books in his own language, is the best help which any young person can find to exalt and multiply his own ideas, or to create the power of expressing them with effect upon others.
The genius of a man determines whether he shall be a fine
poet, an original artist, or an eloquent orator ; but genius does not determine whether whatever he does shall be done well, or ill ; his education, his habits, and his own will determine that. Industry and application of mind, are the means of improving all the faculties. Taste consists in the knowledge of what is beautiful
and in the love of it. If a young person be careless how he speaks and writes, if his desire of excellence be no higher than to spell well, and to be amused by books, he has no chance of any high enjoyments derived from literature. A person really accomplished, capable of sustaining any eminence with honour, must know how to converse and to write well, and to form a correct judgment of the abilities of others in these respects.
Perhaps there is no mortification more frequently felt than that of an embarrassed speech, a want of self-satisfying power to give ready utterance of one's thoughts. This may be obviated by careful and early study, and by a habit of committing our ideas to writing. We ought to know what terms are suitable to ordinary discourse. A person who reads much becomes pedantic or bombastical, if he does not learn that the subjects and language of his books are somewhat distinct from the topics which spring up in common conversation ; but his conversation will be corrupted if he does not bear in mind the corrections which vulgar speech may take from an intimacy with good authors ; and his written compositions will not attain their suitable elegance unless he knows what is proper.
What is proper, is the style which the best writers have agreed to consider proper. The models of what is proper must be known—we must read poetry and prose in order to know them. We are not obliged exactly to imitate any style of writing. If we understand and love what we read, our minds will be conformed to the spirit of our reading; and if we have judgment and the desire of excelling in whatever we do we may improve upon the manner of others. No artist could have formed the statue of a god who had never seen a man; but having seen and studied the human figure, images far surpassing the beauty of any individual man have been formed. Books are in every house ; instruction lifts up her voice every where ; we have nothing to do but to read, to listen, to think of these things, and to elevate ourselves above "the vulgar flight of low desire," to be all that we ought to be.
Poetry is so happily adapted to our faculties that its construction catches the ear instantly, it fastens upon the mind, assimilates our thoughts to its suggestions, and is held more tenaciously in the memory than any other part of our knowledge which is not connected with the mere preservation of life. The pleasure it affords as a luxury of imagination is incalculable, and, as a purifying influence upon the heart and life, its moral benefit is beyond estimation. We cannot love things high and holy, and things mean and unworthy, at the same time. Poetry utters the oracles of God; she is the voice of wisdom : let us seek for instruction from her inspiration. She is the handmaid of religion, her flights are upward, and her dwelling place is Heaven: let us follow whither she will lead us—there is the throne of the Almighty, and there is the intelligence of angels; there will be the last growth of our minds; and there the highest felicity of our nature. i
FIGURES OF SPEECH.
Figures of speech are properly ornaments of written language, embellishments of thought, and illustrations of fact; associated ideas brought before the mind of a writer or speaker, and exhibited to other minds, in order to set off or adorn some primary object of thought : thus,
“ The rose, with feeble streak
Rokeby, Canto iv. The primary, or first idea in this example, is the delicate glow of Matilda's cheek ; the associated idea is the pale red of a faintly coloured rose.
The idea of the rose serves to convey to the mind of a reader the idea of the tint of Matilda's cheek, by inducing a comparison between the two objects—that is, by making him think of both at the same time. Figures of speech are very imprese sive illustrations of ideas, when the figure is suitable to the primary idea. From the print of an elephant, as he may sometimes be seen in books, one who had never seen an elephant could not form a just notion of his size ; but if the figure of a man, in proper proportion, should be placed near that of the elephant the greater inagnitude of the latter would be obvious ; and by comparing the two objects a tolerably correct notion of their relative bulk might be formed. The figure of the man serves for an illustration of that of the elephant. In a similar way
the image or thought presented to the mind by a figure of speech illustrates, or makes plain, some original or fore-mentioned idea.
A simile, or comparison, is a figure of speech. It shows one thing, or circumstance, to be like another. The latter subject of the comparison, illustrates the former part. Here is a simile taken from Parnell's Hermit :
“ Then pleased and thankful from the porch they go,
As one who spies a serpent in his way,
The shining spoil his wily partner showed." The propriety of this simile, detached from the story to which it belongs, is not quite clear. From the porch they go—who go? An old hermit, and a young man, his companion, who are travelling on foot. The time is morning, and they have just left the hospitable mansion of a rich man to whom they were strangers, but in whose house they had fared sumptuously the night before. Wine was presented to them in a valuable silver cup,
younger, at his departure, stole, and soon after showed to the hermit. The virtuous old man, struck with the dishonesty and ingratitude of the youth, regards him with the horror he would have felt at the sight of a venomous snake, suddenly discovered in his path.
The danger of being attended by a wicked companion, and the detestation felt by the good at a treacherous action, are forcibly suggested by the image of the danger and terror which any person would be in at the sudden appearance of so frightful a reptile.
A Metaphor is an expression used as a simile ; but it substitutes one thing for another, and speaks of the illustration as being the thing compared with it: thus—God is the rock of ages, is a Metaphor. The meaning of this is, God is like a rock—a firm immoveable foundation for human trust in every age. We readily understand this species of comparison. Here is a fine metaphor from the poetry of Thomas Moore :
* .* "The fresh buoyant sense of being
But in its own glad essence bright." Metonymy is a figure in which one name is put for another, on account of some relation between the thing named, and that understood ; or some resemblance between the original implied and the individual whose name is substituted for his : as, we call a wise man, a Franklin, and a base one, a Catiline. Such a Metonymy as this, is a sort of comparison. When the name of a place is used to convey the idea of its inhabitants, the expression is Metonymy : as when we say " the resources of Britain are immense," we mean, the resources of the people of Britain.
A Synecdoche puts the whole for a part, or a part for the
" Thy growing virtues justified my cares,
An Hyperbole is a figure that goes beyond the bounds of strict truth, and represents things as much greater, better, or worse, than they really are. Sir Walter Scott says of Ellen, in the Lady of the Lake ;
"E'en the light hare-bell lifts its head
This is Hyperbole. Ellen was lively and light, but her footprints must have broken the tender herb. However, we understand this to be poetic license, and admire the delicate illustration of her slight form and animated motion. Poetic license signifies the liberty permitted to poets to exceed the literal limits of truth.
Irony is common to poetry and prose—it is an expression of one idea, when we would convey the idea of its opposite ex. treme : thus, in common conversation, in order to ridicule his choice, we say, when we think a friend has preferred an inferior to a better thing “ I admire your taste." In Scott's Rokeby two assassins are described watching their intended victims ; one of them approaches a young man whom he fears, and when he discovers who he is, suddenly withdraws; upon this his companion laughs grimly, and says,
6 A trusty mate art thou, to fear
A single arm, and aid so near." Interrogation is asking a question. When the interrogation is made in writing, or public speaking, no reply is expected. It is used to induce the hearer to reflect with attention, and answer to his own reason if the speaker's argument be not just and forcible.
When Habakkuk, the Hebrew prophet, forewarns his country. men of God's vindictive justice, that is, his punishment of their sins, which had been revealed to him, and of which he speaks as if it were past, he says:
"Was the Lord displeased against the rivers ?
Was thy wrath against the sea ?" An obvious answer would be, No. God is not displeased with the rivers, nor angry against the sea ; but he wounds the head of the wicked, and as a whirlwind, he scatters the nations that offend.
Exclamation is little more than a cry—a sudden, broken expression of surprise, pleasure, contempt, indignation, or pain. The Duke, in Shakspeare's Twelfth Night, relieving his melancholy with music, exclaims :
"That strain again ! it had a dying fall!
Stealing and giving odour." This example of exclamation from Shakspeare, expresses rapture-unexpected, lively delight..