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Imagery and figurative expreffion, are difcordant, in the highest degree, with the agony of a mother, who is deprived of two hopeful fons by a brutal murder. Therefore the following paffage is undoubtedly in a bad tafte.
Queen. Ah, my poor princes! ah, my tender babes!
If yet your gentle fouls fly in the air,
Richard III. act 4. fc. 4.
K. Philip. You are as fond of grief as of your child.
King Jon, at 3. Sc. 6.
A thought that turns upon the expreffion inftead of the subject, commonly called a play of words, being low and childish, is unworthy of any compofition, whether gay or ferious, that pretends to any degree of elevation; thoughts of this kind make a fifth class.
In the Aminta of Taifo* the lover falls into
a mere play of words, demanding how he who had loft himself, could find a miftrefs. And for the fame reason, the following paffage in Corneille has been generally condemned:
Chimene. Mon pere eft mort, Elvire, et la premiére épée
Dont s'eft armée Rodrigue à fa trame coupée.
Cid, act 3. fc. 3.
To die is to be banish'd from myself :
Two Gentlemen of Verona, act 3. Sc. 3.
Countess. I pray thee, Lady, have a better cheer :
All's well that ends well, act 3. Sc. 3.
K. Henry. O my poor kingdom, fick with civil blows!
Second part, Henry IV. act 4. c. 11.
Cruda Amarilli, che col nome ancora
Paftor Fido, act 1. sc. 2.
Antony, fpeaking of Julius Cæfar:
O world! thou waft the foreft of this hart;
Playing thus with the found of words, which is ftill worse than a pun, is the meanest of all conceits. But Shakespear, when he defcends to a play of words, is not always in the wrong; for it is done fometimes to denote a peculiar character, as in the following paffage :
K. Philip. What fay'ft thou, boy? look in the lady's face.
Lewis. I do, my Lord, and in her eye I find A wonder, or a wond'rous miracle;
The fhadow of myfelf form'd in her eye;
Till now infixed I beheld myself
Drawn in the flatt'ring table of her eye.
Faulconbridge. Drawn in the flatt'ring table of her eye! Hang'd in the frowning wrinkle of her brow!
And quarter'd in her heart! he doth efpy
That hang'd, and drawn, and quarter'd, there fhould be, In fuch a love fo vile a lout as he.
King John, act 2. fc. 5.
A jingle of words is the loweft fpecies of this low wit; which is fcarce fufferable in any cafe,
and least of all in an heroic poem: and yet Milton in some instances has defcended to this puerility:
And brought into the world a world of wo.
Befeeching or befieging
Which tempted our attempt————
At one flight bound high overleap'd all bound.
-With a fhout
One fhould think it unneceffary to enter a caveat against an expreffion that has no meaning, or no diftinct meaning; and yet fomewhat of this kind may be found even among good writers. Such make a fixth clafs.
Sebaftian, I beg no pity for this mould'ring clay.
If burnt and scatter'd in the air; the winds
That ftrow my duft, diffufe my royalty,
And spread me o'er your clime; for where one atom
Dryden, Don Sebaftian King of Portugal, act 1.
Cleopatra. Now, what news. my Charmion?
Dryden, All for Love, act̃ 2.
His whole poem, infcribed, My Picture, is a jargon of the fame kind.
'Tis he, they cry, by whom
Not men, but war itself is overcome.
Such empty expreffions are finely ridiculed in the Rehearfal:
Was't not unjust to ravish hence her breath,
End of the FIRST VOLUME.
At 4. fc. 1.