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the mind does not seem very probable. We are more pleased, in general, with comparisons derived from the works of nature, than with those which are borrowed from the works of art; partly, because natural objects are not limited to a particular class of observers, but may be supposed to have been present to the senses of all in every period of their life, and, therefore, to be of more ready and general occurrence in suggestion,-and partly, because with works of human art there is associated a degree of minute labour, which is not favourable to conceptions of beauty and sublimity, and which carries with it the feeling of toil and artificial preparation into all the groups of images with which it is combined. In exactness of analogy, -and this, too, in a case in which such similitude could scarcely have been expected,—it is not easy to find a comparison more striking than that which Butler has made of honour, to the drop of quickly-cooled glass, which chemists have called prince Rupert's drop, and which has long attracted their attention, in consequence of the particular quality described in the simile :
“ Honour is like that glassy bubble,
Yet, truly accurate as it is, how absurd would such a simile have appeared in any other species of poetry than that, of which it is a part of the province to bring far-fetched images together!
The different degrees of the pleasure received from comparisons, as they appear to harmonize more or less with the natural influence of the principle of suggestion in spontaneous trains of thought, is finely shewn, in what has always appeared to me a very striking imperfection in one of the most popular stanzas of Gray's very popular Elegy. I quote also the two preceding stan
“ Perhaps, in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart, once pregnant with celestial fire;
Or waked to ecstacy the living lyre.
* That finds, Orig.
The two similies in this stanza certainly produce very
different degrees of poetical delight. That which is borrowed from the rose blooming in solitude pleases in a very high degree, both as it contains a just and beautiful similitude, and still more, as the similitude is one of the most likely to have arisen to a poetic mind in such a situation. But the simile in the first two lines of the stanza, though it may, perhaps, philosophically be as just, has no other charm, and strikes us immediately as not the natural suggestion of such a moment and such a scene. To a person moralizing amid the simple tombs of a village church-yard, there is perhaps no object that would not sooner have occurred than this piece of minute je wellery—a gem of purest ray serene, in the unfathomed caves of Ocean. When the analogies are suggested by surrounding objects, or by objects that harmonize with the surrounding scenery, they appear more natural, and, therefore, more pleasing. It is this which forms the principal charm of the separate stanzas of another very popular poem of a similar class, the Hermit of Dr Beattie, in which the moral allusions are all caught from objects that are represented as present to the eye or ear of the moralist. I confess, however, that, when the poem is read as a whole, the uniformity of the allusions, drawn from such a variety of objects to the single circumstance of man's mortality, gives an appearance of laborious search, almost in the same manner as if the analogy had been traced from very remote objects. I select, therefore, only a single stanza from the whole :
“'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more.
I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you ;
Perfum'd with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew.
# V. 45–56.
Nor yet for the rayage of winter I mourn,
Kind Nature the embryo blossom will save.
0! when shall it dawn on the night of the grave ?"*
We have seen, then, what an accession to our pleasure the suggesting principle of analogy has produced, in giving birth to the figurative language of poetry; and how necessary it is to have frequent recourse to this principle, in laying down the general laws of philosophical criticism. But there is another class of most important analogies, which we have not yet considered,- those which form the powerful associations that direct the genius of scientific invention. These are the analogies of objects, considered as means, in reference to a particular end. When a mechanician sees a machine, the parts of which all concur in one great ultimate effect, if he be blessed with inventive genius, he will not merely see and comprehend the uses of the parts, as they co-operate in the particular machine before him, but there will perhaps arise in his mind the idea of some power, yet unapplied to the same purpose, some simpler process, by which the ultimate effect may be augmented, or improved, or at least obtained at less cost of time, or labour, or capital. When the crucible of the chemist presents to him some new result, and his first astonishment is over, there arise in his mind the ideas of products, or operations, in some respects analogous, by the comparison of which he discovers some new element, or combination of elements, and perhaps, changes altogether the aspect of his science. A Newton sees an apple fall to the ground,--and he discovers the system of the universe. In these cases, the principle of analogy, whether its operation be direct or indirect, is too forcible, and too extensive in its sway, to admit of much dispute. It is sufficient to know, that by the suggestions which it has afforded, to those whom Heaven has formed for the high destiny of constituting a part of that series of minds, which spread from age to age the progress of improvement over all the regions and generations of mankind, we have risen to a degree of empire over nature, which, compared with our original imbecility, is a greater advance in the scale of being, than that fabulous apotheosis which the ancient world conferred on its barbarous heroes.
PRIMARY LAWS OF SUGGESTION,—I. RESEMBLANCE, CONCLUDED,
GENTLEMEN, a great part of my last Lecture was occupied in considering the influence of resemblance, as a connecting principle in our trains of thought. The illustrations of it, which I used, were chiefly of the rhetorical kind, which are, in themselves, most striking illustrations of the varieties of spontaneous suggestion, and which appeared, to me, peculiarly valuable, as enabling me to point out to what simple universal principles of the mental constitution, even the boldest figures of the rhetorician are to be traced. It is the same in these as in all the other products of human skill. The very arts, which we seem to ourselves to create, as if it were in our power to add to nature, never can be any thing more than forms which nature herself assumes. Whether the province be that of matter or of mind, in the exercises of poetry and eloquence, and in the philosophic criticism, which estimates the degrees of excellence displayed in these delightful combats of intellectual glory,-as in the works of a very different kind, which the mechanic ingenuity and labour of man devise and execute, what appears most artificial is nothing more than a skilful application of the simple laws of nature,—of laws which we may apply, indeed, to our various purposes,—and which some may know how to apply more successfully than others, but which are continually operating on matter and mind, independently of the applications which our skill may make of them.
In examining how much the suggesting principle is influenced by similarity, we considered first, that most direct and obvious resemblance which objects bear to each other in their sensible qualities. We then proceeded to consider the fainter indirect resem
blance, which constitutes what is termed analogy, and we found, that it is to this species of shadowy likeness that philosophy owes its accessions of power, and poetry its most attractive charms; since to the invention of the philosopher it suggests, in the contemplation of a single desired effect, all the variety of analogous means, which may separately lead to the production of it, and to the fancy of the poet all that variety of kindred imagery and emotions with which, by a sort of double transformation, he gives life to inanimate objects, and form, and colour, and substance, to every feeling of the soul.
There is another set of resemblances, not in the objects themselves, but in the mere arbitrary signs which express them, that have a powerful, though less obvious influence on suggestion, and often guide the trains of our thought without appearing to guide them.
It is, when we consider, indeed, what language truly is, not more wonderful that words as sounds, without regard to the sensible objects or abstract meanings denoted by them, should awaken in the mind the conception of similar sounds, than that one form or colour should be suggested by a similar form or colour; and, so arbitrary is language, that these mere verbal similarities do not, necessarily, involve similarities of meaning. On the contrary, the
, words which express different objects may have the most exact resemblance, though there may not be the slightest direct resemblance, por even the faintest analogy, in the objects, which the words denote. The new word, however, which some former word may have suggested, by its mere similarity in sound, is itself significant of some peculiar meaning. It, too, is a symbol, and, as a symbol, cannot be thus suggested, without exciting uniformly, or almost uniformly, and immediately, the conception of the thing signified; and hence, from the accidental agreement of their mere verbal signs, conceptions arise which otherwise would not have arisen, and, consequently, trains of reflection altogether different. Our thoughts, which usually govern our language, are themselves also in a great measure governed in this way, by that very language over which they seem to exercise unlimited command; so true, in more senses than one, is the observation of Lord Bacon, 56 Credunt homines rationem suam verbis imperare, sed fit etiam, ut verba vim suam super rationem retorqueant."*
* Nov. Orig. Lib. I. aph. lis.