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Figures are certain modes of expression different from those of ordinary speech.
They have been divided into two Classes, viz., 1. Figures of Arrangement; 2. Figures of Conversion.
In Figures of Arrangement, the words or members of a sentence are placed in a more lively and emphatic form than that of ordinary discourse ; as, “Sweet is the breath of morn,” for “The breath of morn is sweet ;” “How brightly shines the sun!” for “The sun shines very brightly.”
In Figures of Conversion, words are turned from their original signification, in order to render a discourse more forcible and attractive. In the expression, “ All nature smiles," the word “smiles," which originally applies to the human countenance, is beautifully turned, so as to describe a pleasing appearance in nature.
Figures of Conversion have also been named Tropes.
The use of figures is universal, being in a greater or less degree as natural to man as the ordinary forms of speech. A poetical and luxuriant fancy especially delights in figures. Judgment and aptitude in their use are most likely to be attained by an assiduous study of the most eminent poets and rhetorical writers.
FIGURES OF ARRANGEMENT.
The principal Figures of Arrangement are Interrogation, Exclamation, Hyperbaton or Transposition, Pleonasm, Antithesis, and Climax.
1. Interrogation introduces a question without requiring an answer, in order to render the subject more striking or convincing; as, Who can by searching find out God? If God be for us, who can be against us?
2. Exclamation expresses emotion in a more animated form than ordinary speech; as, How are the mighty fallen! What an endless variety in the works of nature !
3. Hyperbaton or Transposition changes the natural order of words, for the purpose of making the subject more emphatic; as, Fallen is thy throne, O Israel! Great is Diana of the Ephesians !
4. Pleonasm employs a redundancy of words, to add force to the expression ; as, I cried unto the Lord with my voice. Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom !
5. Antithesis contrasts words and sentiments, in order to render them more clear and striking; as, Virtue ennobles the mind; vice degrades it. The wicked flee when no man pursueth ; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
6. Climax makes each successive member of a sentence rise in force and elevation of expression, so as to impress the subject more powerfully on the mind; as, What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In action how like an angel ! In apprehension how like a God!
FIGURES OF CONVERSION OR TROPES.
The principal Tropes are Simile, Metaphor, Allegory, Metonymy, Synecdoche, Hyperbole, Personification, Apostrophe, and Irony.
Simile, Metaphor, and Allegory, are Figures of Comparison.
In every comparison there are two objects, the primary and the secondary.
1. The Simile compares the primary object to the secondary, for the purpose of illustrating the character and qualities of the former; as, The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold.
2. Metaphor assimilates the primary more closely to the secondary, by using no sign of comparison; as, God is my fortress. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.
3. Allegory continues the comparison throughout a discourse or story, but, in general, keeps the primary out of view; as, My well-beloved hatha vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he fenced it and gathered out the stones thereof
, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine press therein ; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
The Parables of our Lord, Æsop's Fables, some proverbs and enigmas, furnish examples of Allegory.
4. Metonymy consists in a change of names which have some relation to one another. 1. The effect is sometimes put for the cause; as, Gray hairs should be respected. 2. The thing containing for the thing contained ; as, He drank the fatal cup. 3. The sign for the thing signified; as, The sceptre shall not depart from Judah. 4. The author for his writings; as, Have you read Milton? 5. The material for the thing made of it; as, Now clashes first the meeting steel. 6. The place for the inhabitants; as, The country rose in arms.
5. Synecdoche puts the whole for a part, or a part for the whole; as, The
of the world were turned upon him. Consider the lilies, how they grow.
6. Hyperbole exceeds the truth, in order to render the subject more striking; as, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the Heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore.
7. Personification imparts life and action to inanimate objects, abstract qualities, or affections of the mind; as, The sea rages. Wisdom crieth aloud. Hope whispers peace to the penitent soul.
8. Apostrophe addresses some person either absent or dead, and conceives him to be present; as, O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom ! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !-Apostrophe often includes Personification ; as, O Death! where is thy sting? O Grave! where is thy victory?
9. Irony conveys a meaning directly opposite to that which is expressed, and ridicules or censures under the disguise of praise; as, You are remarkably civil! Cry aloud, for he is a God!
DISTINCTION OF FIGURES.
FIGURES OF ARRANGEMENT. 1. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Interrogation.
2. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Exclamation.
3. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Hyperbaton or Transposition.
4. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Pleonasm.
5. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Antithesis.
6. Write from the following paragraph the example of Climax.
PARAGRAPH FOR EXERCISES. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. The prodigal robs his heir ; the miser robs himself. Who shall separate us from the love of God? It is highly criminal to bind a Roman citizen ; to scourge him is enormous guilt ; to kill him is almost parricide ; but by what name shall I designate the crucifying of him? Then shook the hills, with thunder riven. Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? He heareth it with his ears, and understandeth it with his heart. How majestic are the starry heavens! The wise man considers what he wants; and the fool what he abounds in. I saw it with these eyes. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God !
FIGURES OF CONVERSION OR TROPES. 1. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Simile.
2. Write from the following paragraph the two examples of Metaphor.