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Many words that are used in common discourse have two significations or rather significations of two different kinds; namely, a literal and a figurative signification.

A word is said to be used literally or to have its literal signification when it is used in a manner, which is authorized by the general consent of those who speak and write with correctness the language in which it is found.

A word is used figuratively, when though it retains its usual signification it is applied in a manner different from its common application. Thus when we speak of the head of an animal, we use the word head in its literal signification as implying that part of the body which contains the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, &c. But when we speak of the head of a class, or of a division of an army, or any thing without life, we recall to mind the analogy or resemblance between two objects, separately considering the highest or most prominent part of each, and apply the name of that part in the one, to the similar part in the other. In this manner the word is turned from its literal meaning to a figurative signification, and this turning of the word receives the rhetorical name of a trope ; a derivation from a Greek word, which signifies a turning. So also, " The dawn," properly means the earliest part of the morning, or of the day; and “twilightexpresses the close or latter part of day. But, by a rhetorical figure, these words are used to express the earliest and latest parts of other subiects. Thus, “ the dawn of bliss," expresses the commencement of happiness or bliss; and, “the twilight of our woes,” is used to signify the close or termination of sorrow. “The morning of our joy," implies the earliest period of our enjoyment. “The eve of his departure,” implies me latest point of time, previous to his departure.

The use of figures, or of figurative language, is, -
1. They render the language copious.
2. The richness of language is thereby increased.
3. They increase the power and expressiveness of language.
4. They impart animation to style.*

There is another class of figures styled metaphors, which so nearly resemble tropes, that the difference cannot always be easily described.

The literal meaning of the word metaphor is a transferring from one subject to another. As used in rhetoric, it implies a transferring of the

" And the faults of figures are six:


“ Figures unnatural, senseless, too fine spun,
Over adorned, affected, copious, shun.” (!!!)

Rhetoric made Easy, by John Holmes, London, 1755.” * The student who would see a beautiful illustration of this subject, is referred to Newman's Rhetoric, chap. 3d.

application of a word, in its literal meaning, from one object, or class of objects, to another, founded upon some similarity, analogy, or resemblance.* *.

A metaphor is a simile or comparison expressed in one word. Thus: The soldiers were lions in the combat: The soldiers fought like lions. [See Comparison.]

A trope is the mere change, or turning, of a word from its original sig. nification. Hence, if the word be changed, the figure is destroyed. Thus, when we say, The clouds foretell rain, we have a trope in the word foretell. If the sentence be read, The clouds foreshow rain, the figure disappears.

The following examples will clearly illustrate the difference between plain and figurative language:


Figurative. She had been the pupil of the village pastor, the favorite lamb of his little flock.

Plain. She had been the pupil of the village clergyman, the favorite child of his small congregation.

Figurative. Man! thou pendulum between a smile and tear.

Plain. Man! thou who art always placed between happiness and misery, but never wholly enjoying the one, nor totally afflicted with the other.

Figurative. He found the tide of wealth flowing merely ine the channels of traffic; he has diverted from it invigorating rills to refresh the garden of literature.

Plain. He saw that men of wealth were employing their riches only in the business of commerce. He set the example of appropriating a portion of wealth to the increase and dirfusion of knowledge.

Figurative. A stone, perhaps, may tell some wanderer where we lie, when we came here, and when we went away; but even that will soon refuse to bear us record: Time's effacing fingers will be busy on its surface, and at length wear it smooth.

Plain. A stone, perhaps, may be erected over our graves, with an inscription bearing the date of our birth, and the day

*“Metaphore is an alteration of a worde, from the proper and naturall ineaning to that which is not proper, and yet agreeth thereunto by some likenesse that appeareth to be into it."-Wilson - The Arte of Rhetorique, p. 175.

of our death; but even that will not last long. In the course of time the stone will be mutilated or broken, and the inscription be entirely destroyed.

It will readily be seen from these examples that analogy is the foundation of a large proportion of figurative language. Thus in the first example, " She had been the pupil of the village pastor, the favorite lamb of his little flock,” the analogy lies between a clergyman and a shepherd; a congregation and a flock of sheep, the little ones of the congregation and the young lambs of the flock.

It will be found a very useful exercise for the student to trace out the analogies thus presented by figurative language. The following extracts are selected, in which he may point out the subjects between which the analogy is directly or indirectly implied. Such an exercise will open his eyes to the beauties of poetry, and prepare him for the imitation of those beauties. Perhaps it will be better that this should be an oral exercise.

The meek-eyed morn appears, mother of dews,
At first faint gleaming in the dappled east.
How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
To bear aloft its arched and ponderous roof,
By its own weight made steadfast and immovable,
Looking tranquillity!
Youth is not rich in time; it may be poor;
Part with it, as with money, sparing; pay
No moment but in purchase of its worth;
And what its worth - ask death-beds; they can tell.

- Enter this wild wood,
And view the haunts of nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze,
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart.

Throngs of insects in the glade
Try their thin wings, and dance in the warın beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in, and sheds a biessing on the scene.
The breath of night's destructive to the hue
Of every flower that blows.

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.
The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

Thou 'rt purpling now, O Sun, the vines of Canaan,
And crowning with rich light the cedar tops of Lebanon.

The tempests of fortune.
The last steps of day.
The storms of adversity.

My ear is pained,
My soul is sick with every day's report

Of wrong and outrage with which earth is filled. The superb lotus was holding up his cup to the sun. as if for a full draught of his light.

Life is a sea as fathomless,
As wide, as terrible, and yet sometimes
As calm and beautiful. The light of heaven
Smiles on it, and 'tis decked with every hue
Of glory and of joy. Anon, dark clouds
Arise, contending winds of fate go forth,
And Hope sits weeping o'er a general wreck.



The following Examples present instances of plain language converted into figurative. This exercise will require a greater effort of imagination than the last ; but the difficulty of the task must not prevent an attempt at its execution.

Plain. It was evening, and the sun slowly went down.
Figurative. ’T was eve:-upon his chariot throne

The sun sank lingering in the west.
Plain. Showery April.
Figurative. Tear-dropping April.
* For an example showing the difference in the vivacity of style in plain
And figurative language, see note on pages 118 and 119.

Plain. The winds made the large trees bend.

Figurative. The giant trees leaned back from the encountering breeze.

Plain. The thunder is echoed from the tps of the mountains.

Figurative. From peak to peak leaps the live thunder.

Plain. It is again morning, a bright, fair, and pleasant morning; and the clouds have all passed away. Figurative. The inorn is up again, the dewy morn,

With breath all incense, and with cheek all bloom,

Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn.
Plain. Oldest of Lakes.
Figurative. Father of Lakes.
Plain. Yonder comes the bright sun, enlightening the East.
Figurative. But yonder comes the powerful King of day,

Rejoicing in the east.
Plain. The light dew — the unpleasant storms.
Figurative. The light-footed dews:— the surly storms.
Plain. The earth is covered with snow, or

The snow covers the earth.
Figurative. The earth lies buried in a shroud of snow.
Plain. Much rain has fallen from the clouds to-day.

Figurative. The clouds have dropped their garnered fulness down.

Plain. The fair morning makes the eastern skies look bright.
Figurative. The fair morning gilds the eastern skies.

Plain. Some solitary column stands alone, while the others · have been thrown down.

Figurative. Some solitary column mourns above its prostrate brethren. Plain. If pleasant looks will not soothe your displeasure,

I shall never attempt it with tears.
Figurative. If sunshine will not dissolve thy snow,

I shall never attempt it with rain.
Plain. The love that is caused by excitement is soon de-
stroyed by affliction.
Figurative. The love that is ordered to bathe in wine,

Would be sure to take cold in tears. Plain. Authors of modern date write for money, not for fame.

Figurative. 'Tis but to snip his locks they (modern authors; follow the golden-haired Apollo.

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