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prey, is great and picturesque; but on the other hand, he has omitted the circumstance of devouring it without being intimidated, or restrained by the dogs and youths that surround him; a circumstance that adds greatly to our idea of his strength, intrepidity, and importance.
ON THE USE OF HYPER BOLE.
Of all the figures in poetry, that called the Hyperbole is managed with the greatest difficulty. The hyperbole is an exaggeration with which the muse is indulged for the better illustration of her subject, when she is warmed into enthusiasm. Quintilian calls it an ornament of the bolder kind. Demetrius Phalereus is still more severe. He says the hyperbole is of all forms of speech the most frigid ; Máxira & # "Torpéox, Jux; tarov rávray; but this must be understood with some grains of allowance. Poetry is animated by the passions; and all the passions exaggerate. Passion itself is a magnifying medium. There are beautiful instances of the hyperbole in the Scripture, which a reader of sensibility cannot read without being strongly affected. The difficulty lies in choosing such hyperboles as the subject will admit of ; for, according to the definition of Theophrastus, the frigid in style is that which exceeds the expression suitable to the subject. The judgment does not revolt against Homer for representing the horses of Ericthonius running over the standing corn without breaking off the heads, because the whole is considered as a fable, and the north wind is represented as their sire; but the imagination is a little startled, when Virgil, in imitation of this hyperbole, exhibits Camilla as flying over it without even touching the tops.
“Illa vel intactae segetis per summa volaret
This elegant author, we are afraid, has upon some other
occasions degenerated into the frigid, in straining to improve upon his great master. Homer, in the Odyssey, a work which Longinus does not scruple to charge with bearing the marks of old age, describes a storm in which all the four winds were concerned together. Søy 3’ 'Eve's ro, Noré, r' #wiri, Zipv64, rs ovazhs, Kai Begins aidenyivira; oftya Aouz zvaiy?ay. We know that such a contention of contrary blasts could not possibly exist in nature; for even in hurricanes the winds blow alternately from different points of the compass. Nethertheless, Virgik adopts the description, and adds to its extravagance.
“Incubuère mari, totumque à sedibus imis Uná Eurusque Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis Africus.” Here the winds not only blow together, but they turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turvy.— “ East, west, and south, engage with furious sweep, And from its lowest bed upturn the foaming deep.” The north wind, however, is still more mischievous:— « Stridens aquilone procella Velum adversa ferit, fluctusque ad sidera tollit.
“The sail then Boreas rends with hideous cry,
The motion of the sea between Scylla and Charybdis is still more magnified; and AEtna is exhibited as throwing
out volumes of flame, which brush the stars.") Such expressions as these are not intended as a real representation of the thing specified; they are designed to strike the reader's imagination; but they generally serve as marks of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his own conception, is hurried into excess and extravagance. Quintilian allows the use of hyperbole, when words are wanting to express any thing in its just strength or due energy : then, he says, it is better to exceed in expression than fall short of the conception ; but he likewise observes, that there is no figure or form of speech so apt to run into fustian. Nec aliá magis viá in nanoğnatay itur. If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon poetical probability, what can we expect from Lucan but hyberboles even more ridiculously extravagant He represents the winds in contest, the sea in suspense, doubting to which it shall give way. He affirms, that its motion would have been so violent as to produce a second deluge, had not Jupiter kept it under by the clouds; and as to the ship during this dreadful uproar, “the sails touch the clouds, while the keel strikes the ground.”
“Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carină.”
This image of dashing water at the stars, Sir Richard Blackmore has produced in colours truly ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison:
“Like some prodigious water engine made
(1) Speaking of the first, he says,
“Tollimur in coelum curvato gurgite, et iidem
Of the other,
The great fault in all these instances is a deviation from propriety, owing to the erroneous judgment of the writer, who, endeavouring to captivate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks the understanding with extravagance. Of this nature is the whole description of the Cyclops, both in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the AEneid of Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great original to dazzle us with false fire, and practise upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will not bear the critic's examination. There is not in any of Homer's works now subsisting such an example of the false sublime, as Virgil's description of the thunderbolts forging under the hammers of the Cyclops. “Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosae Addiderant, rutili tres ignis et alitis Austri.
“Three rays of writhen rain, of fire three more,
This is altogether a fantastic piece of affectation, of which we can form no sensible image, and serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the admiration of a judging reader.
Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in great plenty through the works of our admired Shakspeare. In the following description, which hath been much celebrated, one sees he has had an eye to Virgil's thunderbolts.
“O, then I see queen Mab hath been with you.
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinner's legs;
Even in describing fantastic beings there is a propriety to be observed ; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, that this numbering of the moon-beams among the other implements of queen Mab's harness, which, though extremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless objects of the touch, and may be conceived capable of use.
The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyperboles; such exaggerations suit the impetuous warmth of the one; and in the other have a good effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against vice. They may be likewise successfully used in comedy, for moving and managing the powers of ridicule.
Verse is an harmonious arrangement of long and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured cadence, or music, which was used when the first songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided into different parts, required a regular return of the same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrophe, stanza, contained the same number of feet. To know what constituted the different kinds of rythmical feet among the ancients, with respect to the number and quantity of their syllables, we have nothing to do but to consult those who have written on grammar and prosody: it is the business of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishment of a man of taste.