Page images
PDF
EPUB

vividly described, or introduced on a more proper occasion, than the same great poet's representation of the affliction and consternation of Nature on the occasion of Eve's eating the forbidden fruit:

“ So saying, her rash hand, in evil hour

Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she ate;
Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat
Sighing, through all her works, gave signs of woe
That all was lost."

Nor is the following personification, in which the whole creation is represented a second time in convulsions as a sign of her sympathy for the fall of man, inferior in vigour and beauty of expression :

“ Earth trembled from her entrails, as again

In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan :
Sky loured, and muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept, at completing of the mortal sin.”

And the personification by which the heavens, the earth, and all Nature are made to rejoice over and share the happiness of the parents of mankind on their first interview in the Garden of Eden, is equally beautiful and expressive :

• To the nuptial bow'r
I led her, blushing like the morn; all heaven
And happy copstellations, on that hour
Shed their selectest influence; the earth
Gave signs of gratulation."

The circumstances described in this stanza of the poem « On the Memory of Christ's Nativity,”

Affrights the Flamens at their service quaint;

And the chill marble seems to sweat,
While each peculiar power foregoes his wonted seat,"

makes the reader, as Wharton, in his Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope, observes, start and look round, as if he beheld the superstitions alluded to being actually performed.

Among the numerous instances that might be cited from classical writers, of bold and animated personification, are the winds in the Æneid rushing at the command of their sovereign to swell the agitated ocean (Lib. i.); the exclamation of Eurydice (“ Jamque vale," &c.) in the fourth Georgic; the laws, in Cicero's Oration for Milo, stretching forth their hands to the party assailed, and presenting to him a sword to put the assailant to death ; the country reaching forth her hands, and recommending herself and the lives of her children to the senate, in the fourth Catalinarian; Rome expostulating with Cataline, in the same oration; the figure of Melancholy, in Pope's Eloisa to Abelard (vers. 163 to 171); that of Night, in the Complaint of Young (bk. i. vers. 18 to 25); that of the nature and offices of Law, in Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity; and that of Bishop Sherlock's comparison of the Saviour with Mahomet, in which he personifies Natural Religion. Collins's Ode on the Passions affords the most expressive examples of animation conferred on abstract ideas by means of this figure. Milton's " соу submission,"

," “ modest pride,” “ proud humility,” “ astonished thought;” Ossian's “joy of grief;" Burton's " offspring of phantasie;" and the impersonizing style of Johnson, “ indolence reposes," instead of “ the indolent man reposes ;"

;" “ criticism pronounces," instead of “ the critics pronounce," are impersonized forms of expression.

THE VISION, OR HYPOTYPQSIS.

The vision, or, according to Greek terminology, the hypotyposis, is a vivid representation of transactions past or future, or of things distant and unseen, so as to bring the scene described present (as it were) to the view of the audience, and impress it more strongly on their imagination. Thus, the description of a riotous entertainment preserved in a fragment of a lost harangue of Cicero, exhibits an inimitable specimen of this figure :-“ Videbar videre alios intrantes, alios vero exeuntes;

quosdam ex vino vacillantes, quosdam hesterna potatione osci“ tantes : humus erat immunda, lutulenta vino,” &c.) I seem

to see some coming in, others going out; some staggering “ with drunkenness, others belching with yesterday's debauch : “ the very ground was befouled and polluted with wine.”

In his fourth oration against Cataline, occurs also the following beautiful specimen of this form of rhetorical composition by which he forcibly depicts the effects of the conspiracy : (Videor enim mihi hanc urbem videre, lucem orbis terrarum atque arcem omnium gentium, subito uno incendio concidentem; cerno animo sepulta in patria miseros atque insepultos acervos civium; versatur mihi ante oculos aspectus Cethegi, et furor, in vestra cæde bacchantis.) “ I seem to myself to behold this city, the “ light of the earth, and the citadel of all nations, suddenly in66 volved in one conflagration. I see before me the slaughtered “ heaps of citizens, lying unburied in the midst of their ruined

country. The image of Cethegus furiously revelling in your 6 blood and triumphing in your miseries is now before my eyes.” The same orator's description of the conduct of Verres to a Roman citizen in the island of Sicily is of equal force and beauty

Quinctilian speaking of a town sacked by an enemy presents the following vivid and picturesque scene: (Fusæ per domus ac templa flammæ; et ruentium fragor ; et ex diversis clamoribus unus quidem sonus; aliorum fuga incerta ; alii in extremo complexu cohærentes; et infantium fæminarumque ploratus; et malè usque in illum diem servati fato senes ; tum profanorum sacrorumque direptio ; efferentium prædas; repetentiumque discursus; et conata retinere infantem suum mater; et sicubi majus lucrum est, pugna inter victores.) “We behold houses “ and temples wrapt in flames; we hear the crash of roofs fall“ ing in, and one general uproar proceeding from a thousand “ different voices; we see some flying they know not whither, “ others hanging over the last embraces of their families and “ friends; we see mothers agonizing over their frightened in“ fants; and old men, in bitterness of heart, cursing themselves “ for being reserved to so dismal an hour. Athwart this scene

we see houses plundered and temples rifled, soldiers carrying “ off the spoil and returning for more; each driving before a “ band of captive citizens in chains; the mother tearing from “ the ruffian's grasp her helpless babe; and the victors cutting “ each other's throats wherever the plunder is most inviting.”

Milton furnishes a fine illustration of this figure, where he describes the consternation of Adam on his being informed by Eve of her having eaten the forbidden fruit. The same immortal bard's description of rural solitude in Il Penseroso, Shakspeare's description of Dover Cliff in King Lear, Goldsmith's description of the effects of a compulsory emigration in the Deserted Village, and Pope's of a lady's toilet in the Rape of the Lock, as also that in the beginning of his Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, are superlatively beautiful ; they are master-pieces in this species of rhetorical composition, The specimens in the Greek and Latin classics are numerous and beautiful; but none excels Virgil's picture of a country life in the second Georgics.

The Ingoldsby Legends, also, in the inimitably humorous description of the perilous journey and the heroic adventures of the peer of fashion Lord Tomnoddy and his tiger Tom to the Old Bailey, “ to do what was fit for a nobleman to do”get drunk in company with his aristocratic friends,

“ Captain Mc Fuse,

Lieutenant Tregoose,

And Carny Jenks of the Blues," while they were witnessing the sight of a fellow-creature dangling in his shoes from the gallows at the end of a string, in compliance with the injunctions of the awful ceremonies of the law, furnish a beautiful specimen of this figure, full of pathos and the sweetest touches of genuine poetry, as well as of the most exalted philanthropy and philosophy.

And hark! a sound comes big with fate,

The clock from St. Sepulchre's tower strikes eight !
List to that low funereal bell,
It is tolling, alas! a living man's knell !
And see! from forth that opening door
They come-he steps that threshold o'er
Who never shall tread upon threshold more
God ! 'tis a fearsome thing to see
That pale wan man's mute agony;
The glare of that wild despairing eye,
Now bent on the crowd, now turn'd to the sky,
As though 'twere scanning in doubt and in fear
The path of the spirit's unknown career ;
Those pinion'd arms, those hands that ne'er
Shall be lifted again,-not ev’n in prayer,
That heaving chest !- Enough—'tis done!
The bolt has fallen! the spirit has gone-
For weal or for woe is known but to One!
Oh! 'twas a fearsome sight !- Ah me!
A deed to shudder at,-not to see,”

« PreviousContinue »