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way of ornament and illustration. There is a beautiful instance of this in Milton's description of the admiration with which he supposes the serpent to have gazed upon Eve, in the garden of Eden, before the Fall: :"Much he the place admired, the person more. As one who long in populous city pent, Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air, Forth issuing on a summer's morn to breathe Among the pleasant villages and farms Adjoin'd, from each thing met conceives delight; The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine, Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound; If chance, with nymph-like step, fair virgin pass What pleasing seem'd, for her now pleases more : She most, and in her look sums all delight. Such pleasure took the Serpent to behold This flow'ry plat, the sweet recess of Eve Thus early, thus alone."
Such a comparison is called a simile.* Besides these more studied comparisons, we constantly employ, both in poetry and prose, short comparisons to convey our meaning readily and forcibly. Thus we say, "swift as an eagle," "fierce as a lion," and the like.
A metaphor is an indirect comparison. It occurs when, in describing one thing, we employ terms which properly belong to something that resembles it. The use of the term carries our mind to that to which we indirectly compare the thing of which we are speaking. Thus if we say, "evil often lurks unseen in the heart," the words suggest a comparison between evil in the heart, and some beast of prey lurking unseen in a thicket. Many of the most common phrases are really metaphorical, though we often do not think of the comparison suggested. The word "inspire means literally "breathe upon;" but we are so accus* Simile is a Latin word, meaning like.
tomed to use it, that we constantly lose sight of its original meaning. "The music inspires delight," may seem to say no more than "the music causes delight," but the additional force of the word "inspire" will be understood by the beautiful comparison in Shakspeare—
"That strain again; it had a dying fall:
O! it came o'er my ear like the sweet south
Stealing and giving odours."
Here music coming to the ear is compared to the south wind breathing upon a bank of violets; and so in the word "inspires," a comparison is suggested between the approach of music to the ear and the breath of the wind. It is necessary to know accurately the meaning of each word employed, in order to understand the full sense of a sentence. This is especially the case in poetry, because comparison is among the chief ornaments of language, and poetry delights in
The verses of Cowper in the last Lesson furnish an apt illustration :
"Weak and irresolute is man;
The purpose of to-day,
Woven with pains into his plan,
The poet wishes to describe the want of resolution But instead of saying simply, "He will abandon to-morrow what he purposes to-day," he expresses the same idea more elegantly, by the use of a metaphor. The words woven and rends suggest the comparison between man, who first purposes and then abandons his purpose, and one who takes pains to weave a certain pattern, and the next day has his
work torn away from the loom.
To-morrow puts an
end to a purpose, at which to-day great pains have been employed, just as one might rend away from the loom a pattern carefully planned upon a previous day. "The bow well bent, and smart the spring,
Vice seems already slain;
But Passion rudely snaps the string,
And it revives again."
Here the determination to conquer vice is compared, by suggestion, to an archer about to shoot a beast of prey; his bow is well bent, and the spring is smart, when the string is let go, the bow springs back smartly. The weapon being in perfect order, the beast seems to be already slain, it is so certain that the shot will tell. But by some violence the string is snapt, and the beast rises up unharmed. So the mind is resolved and vigorous to overcome vice (like a wellstrung bow), and seems to have already overcome it; but violent passion breaks in upon this resolution (as if the bowstring were snapt rudely), and vice is as strong as ever.
"Some foe to his upright intent
Finds out his weaker part."
Some tempter, wishing to do away with his right intentions, finds out how to persuade him, as an enemy or foe finds out the weak part of a fortress he is about to attack.
"Virtue engages his assent,
But Pleasure wins his heart."
Here Pleasure and Virtue appear as two women, each of whom tries to win the affections of a man. He assents to what Virtue says, but his heart is won by Pleasure.
""Tis here the folly of the wise,
Through all his art we view.'
The words here suggest the notion of something which is purposely covered with a veil, which, however, is not sufficient to prevent us seeing through it. Art is like a covering, which a person who wishes to be thought wise throws over his folly"And, while his tongue the charge denies,
His conscience owns it true."
These words may not, at first sight, appear metaphorical. But the word "charge" suggests the idea of a court of justice. The seemingly-wise man is, as it were, put upon his trial for "folly." He denies the accusation, but knows in his conscience that the charge is true.
"Bound on a voyage of awful length
A stranger to superior strength,
Man vainly trusts his owu."
Man is compared to one who undertakes a long voyage without knowing its dangers, or being aware of any strength superior to his own, and yet trusting to himself without good reason.
"But oars alone can ne'er prevail
To reach the distant coast;
The breath of Heaven must swell the sail,
Or all the toil is lost."
Man, by his own strength, can never reach heaven, —he must be assisted by the Holy Spirit, who is here brought to our minds by the expression, "the breath of Heaven."
He is like some mariner toiling hard to row to a distant coast, but unable to reach it unless he has the help of wind to swell his sail. If he has nothing but the oars which must be pulled by the strength of his own arms, his labour will be in vain.
By looking back to Cowper's poem, it will be seen how briefly and how forcibly all these comparisons are suggested, and how aptly they illustrate the proposed subject. Such is the use of metaphor.
THE PAPER KITE.
ONCE on a time a paper kite
"See how yon crowds of gazing people
And pierce the clouds beyond their sight;
It tugg'd and pull'd, while thus it spoke,
In vain it tried to soar away;
The winds soon plung'd it in the tide.
*Towering.] Rising to a height.