Page images



tor Hugo thus antithetically describes Wellington and Napoleon:

"Napoleon and Wellington: they are not enemics, they are opposites. Never has God, who takes pleasure in antithesis, made a more striking contrast and a more extraordinary meeting. On one side, precision, foresight, geometry, prudence, retreat assured, reserves economized, obstinate composure, imperturbable method, strategy to profit by the ground, tactics to balance battalions, carnage drawn to the line, war directed watch in hand, nothing left voluntarily to chance, ancient classic courage, absolute correctness: on the other hand, intuition, inspiration, a military marvel, a superhuman instinct, a flashing glance, a mysterious something which gazes like the cagle and strikes like the thunderbolt; prodigious art in disdainful impetuosity, all the mysteries of a deep soul, intimacy with Destiny, river, plain, forest, hill commanded, and in some sort forced to obey, the despot going even so far as to tyrannize over the battle-field, faith in a star joined to strategic science, increasing it, but disturbing it."

39. Antitheses and Comparisons combined.-Antitheses are sometimes united with comparisons and far extended, in the portraiture of two similar and dissimilar characters, or of two similar ages, or governments, countries, or objects of any kind that will admit of such a description. Such portraitures are usually labored and wearisome; and among the many that have been attempted, but few are satisfactory. One of the most noted is the comparison of Dryden and Pope, as poets, by Dr. Samuel Johnson. We give two or three sentences as specimens:

"Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope. *** Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied

exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shorn by the scythe, and levelled by the roller. * * * If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight."

Such antithetical comparisons of two or more similar characters were often made, especially by writers in the eighteenth century, but too frequently the writer is either tempted to strain the truth for the sake of the contrast, or to make it more verbal than real, while the ostentatious display of art in the style will displease, unless both the sound and sense are unobjectionable.

40. Should Antithesis be cultivated?-As it regards the cultivation of this figure of thought and speech, it may be observed that few use it efficiently, and that when well used it is exceedingly pleasing and impressive. It undoubtedly requires patient study. It is a characteristic of the most cultivated ages and authors. Like the most advanced music, it is appreciated fully only by the highly educated. The habit of employing it well should be acquired.

41. The Epigram.-Antithesis generally gives point to an Epigram. An Epigram proper is a sentence in prose, or a short poem, treating only of one thing, and embracing some striking or ingenious thought. Usually the thought is antithetically expressed. One of the oldest, translated from the Greek of Callimachus, on the death of his friend Heraclitus, a poet, we give as follows:


"I heard thy fate, loved friend, and dropped a tear;
Rushed on my mind the scenes of many a year,
When on our chat sun after sun went down.
But thou hast long been dust-thy days are flown!
Yet still thy songs survive; nor these shall Doom,
All-spoiler he, with withering touch consume."


The epigram is now made to embrace any brief expression of a startling thought.

"Silence is the most effective eloquence."

"Riches empty the soul and the pocket; poverty replenishes both."

Hesiod says: "How often is a half greater than the whole!" "He described the whole world-and also the West Indies."

Such expressions are allied to wit, in which antithesis is often employed.

42. Further Examples, and Conclusion.

"Is not wild Shakspeare thine and nature's boast ?"

"He that's convinced against his will

Is of the same opinion still.”

"A fool with judges; among fools a judge."

"Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."

Dr. Campbell justly remarks: "The excess itself," in the use of antithesis, "into which some writers have fallen, is an evidence of its value-of the lustre and emphasis which antithesis is calculated to give to the expression. There is no risk of intemperance in using a liquor which has neither spirit nor flavor."

An antithetical form of expression, when there is no contrast in the thoughts, is jejune and displeasing.




43. Definition, and Illustrations.-An Allegory is a fictitious narrative or description so constructed as to suggest thoughts and facts entirely different from those which it appears to relate. The word is derived from the Greek αλλος, another, and αγορεύω το speak, and means literally what speaks another thing; that is, it speaks one thing, and means another.


The nature of it will be best appreciated by studying some examples.

In the prophesy of Hosea, chap. x. ver. 1, we read, "Israel is an empty vine." This is called either a metaphor or a trope, because "vine" is used in a figurative sense for a "nation" preserved by Jehovah as a grape-vine is cared for by a gardener. It will be observed that "Israel" is mentioned, so that no ingenuity is required on the part of the reader to determine what the writer means. Now let us suppose that the word "Israel" was not mentioned, but that the writer should describe a "vine," but yet so describe it that the reader should soon perceive that the writer meant to have him think about a nation, which he was describing under the figure of a vine. This would be an Allegory.



Fortunately we have just such an instance in the eightieth Psalm.

"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt." [Observe, the writer does not inform us that vine represents the nation of Israel. If he did so, he would begin with a comparison, or he might use a metaphor, but he leaves it to our discrimination to perceive that though he says "vine," he means Israel.] "Thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it." [It would have been more allegorical to say, Thou hast rooted up the wild vines, and planted it.] "Thou preparedst room

for it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars; she sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts, look down from heaven, and behold and visit this vine."

This is a beautiful allegory, and the Bible has several more good specimens.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a pure allegory. No key to its real meaning is given, but every reader of good sense knows that it is designed to convey a meaning entirely different from the literal signification of the words. It is so with all the parables of the Saviour, all being allegorical. In the Book of Proverbs, chap. ix., and the first six verses, a short Allegory will be found.

44. The Fable, and Illustrations.—The word fable is derived from the Latin fabula, and meant originally nearly the same thing as an allegory, a fictitious narrative. But as it is contrary to the genius of the English language to have two words meaning precisely the same thing, fable, by usage, has acquired a differ ent shade of signification.

A Fable is a fictitious story, in itself improbable,

« PreviousContinue »