Page images
PDF
EPUB

RULES ON COMPARISONS.

93

others by the same author, are far-fetched, and yet their impressiveness when understood makes them pleasing and allowable:

"Life, like the olive, is a bitter fruit; then grasp both with the press, and they will afford the sweetest oil.

"Does the heaven of our existence, like the blue one over our heads, consist of mere empty air, which, when near to, and in little, is only a transparent nothing, and which only in the distance and in grasp becomes blue ether?"

(3.) Comparisons must be elevating or degrading, according to their purpose, whether it be to honor or debase.

The following from Horace Greeley utters a degree of contempt for the charge which it repels:

"None of them regarded the right of a State to secede from the Union as more defensible than the right of a stave to secede from the cask which it helps to form."

(4.) Comparisons should not be so frequent as to weary the mind; for, like all other good things, they may by superabundance become deformities.

(5.) Comparisons should not be made simply from habit, where they add neither information nor impressiveness to what has already been said, or may be better said, without them.

Common as this figure of speech is, it is not a little remarkable that many eminent authors have made no use of it whatever. In the celebrated oration of Demosthenes upon the Crown, the only well-marked simile is the following: "Like a winter storm, this whole affair came down upon the city."

EXERCISE.

Let the student examine the following compari sons, and decide whether they are correct or faulty, and whether they were probably used to illustrate, embellish, elevate, or degrade.

"I have ventured,

Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
This many summers in a sea of glory."

digrade

"At five she had to attend her colleague, a hateful old toad-eater, as illiterate as a chamber-maid, as proud as a whole German chapter."

"The project of mending a bad world, by teaching people to give new names to old things, reminds us of Walter Shandy's scheme for compensating the loss of his son's nose by christening him Trismegistus."

“The public mind in our country resembles the sea when the tide is rising. Each successive wave rushes forward, breaks and rolls back; but the great flood is steadily coming on.

""

"True art has nothing to do with such ephemeral and local affairs as Poor Laws and Poor Law Boards; and whenever art tries to serve such a double purpose, it is like an egg with two yolks-ncither is ever hatched."

"Curses, like chickens, always come home to roost."

"She never told her love,

But let concealment, like a worm in the bud,

Feed on her damask cheek. She pined in thought,

And with a green and yellow melancholy,

She sat, like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief."

"True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost."

"The music of Carryl, like the memory of joys that are past, was pleasant and mournful to the soul."

degra

[blocks in formation]

20. Definition.-AN Allusion is an implied Comparison. Any fact, character, object, or choice expression, supposed by a speaker to be well known to his hearers, may be alluded to, without being fully described, in such a way as to add force or beauty to the thought which he wishes to express. Thus allusions are illimitable in number and variety in modern literature.

Allusions may vary in perspicuity, from such clear statements of likeness as to be almost like formal comparisons, to such indistinct references as to be noticed only by persons of quick perception who are thoroughly familiar with the subject alluded to.

21. Scriptural Allusions.-The most frequently used are Scriptural allusions, or references to some passage, description, or thought in the Bible. A modern writer relates a fancied dream in which the Bible was annihilated; such an annihilation-if it should carry all Scriptural quotations and allusions with it-would make fearful chasms in the books of all modern nations; indeed, except a few works purely scientific, it would scarcely leave a complete book in the Christian world!

Patrick Henry, in his oft-quoted eloquent speech, exclaimed: "Gentlemen may cry Peace, Peace, when

there is no peace!" Was he not thinking of what he had often heard from Jeremiah vi. 14-"They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, Peace, when there is no peace?"

Take another example from the writings of a clergyman:

"Each one is sent to teach us something, and all together they have a lesson which is beyond the power of any to teach alone. But if they come together, we should break down, and learn nothing. The smoking flax would be put out.”

Reference here is made to an expression of Isaiah "The smoking flax shall he not quench."

"Misery," says Goethe, "becomes as prosaic and familiar to me as my own hearth, but nevertheless I do not let go my idea, and will wrestle with the unknown angel, even should I halt upon my thigh."

Those who remember the story of Jacob and the angel, as related in the thirty-second chapter of Genesis, perceive the force of this allusion.

The Bible is an inexhaustible fountain, not only of thought but of expressions, which may be employed with a great variety of signification, added to the associations of their original meaning, and of the times and places in which they have been heard. It indicates, however, a poor and depraved taste to use Scriptural allusions in such a way as to clothe Bible language with incongruous associations, or to offend religious feelings.

22. Classical Allusions.-What are called classical allusions are common in writers who have, or pretend to have, read carefully the best works in the Greek and

CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS.

97

Latin languages. As these have for some centuries been studied by learned men, it is assumed that all scholars are familiar with them, and thus facts and expressions are used as illustrations, or

"To point a moral or adorn a tale."

"The inundation of lawless power," said Robert Hall, "after covering the rest of Europe, threatens England; and we are exactly, most critically placed in the only aperture where it can be successfully repelled, in the Thermopyla of the universe."

Who has not heard of the brave Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans with him, who at the narrow defile of Thermopyla resisted, till the last one fell, the torrents of Persians who attempted to force a passage through?

66

"The railway and telegraph," says Dr. D. D. Whedon, are breaking up the hostile demarcations which once divided and inflamed mankind-and so wing-footed Mercury is tearing up old Ter

minus."

Mercury was the message-bearer, or errand-boy, of the gods; Terminus defended "the ancient landmarks which the fathers had set."

There is a classical allusion in the following good advice given to Gil Blas, by the ingenious author of that work:

"You may meet with people inclined to divert themselves with your credulity, but don't be duped, nor believe yourself, though they should swear it, the eighth wonder of the world."

This evidently alludes to a favorite notion of the ancients that the world had only seven great wonders, which they enumerated.

23. Miscellaneous Allusions. Good speakers and writers often make allusions to writings which every

E

« PreviousContinue »