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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 “twilight” expresses 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, -
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:
“ 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.
- Enter this wild wood,
Throngs of insects in the glade
So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
That all was lost.
Thou 'rt purpling now, O Sun, the vines of Canaan,
The tempests of fortune.
My ear is pained,
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,
TRANSLATION OF PLAIN INTO FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE.
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.
The sun sank lingering in the west.
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.
Rejoicing in the east.
The snow covers the earth.
Figurative. The clouds have dropped their garnered fulness down.
Plain. The fair morning makes the eastern skies look bright.
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.
I shall never attempt it with rain.
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.