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oration, because the sermon is a piece of instruction in which the truth is to be announced; while the funeral oration is a declamation in which it is to be
The poetry of enthusiasm, as the epopee and the ode, is that to which this style is best adapted. It is less admissible in tragedy, where the dialogue should be natural as well as elevated ; and still less in comedy, where the style must be more simple.
The limits to be set to the figurative style, in each kind, are determined by taste. Balthazar Gracian* says, our thoughts depart from the vast shores of memory, embark on the sea of imagination, arrive in the harbour of intelligence, and are entered at the custom-house of the understanding."
This is precisely the style of Harlequin. He says to his master, “ The ball of your commands has rebounded from the racket of my obedience.” Must it not be owned that such is frequently that oriental style which people strive to admire.
Another fault of the figurative style is the accumulating of incoherent figures. A poet, speaking of some philosophers, has called them :
Vont redoublant leurs folles escalades. + When philosophers are to be written against, it should be done better. How do ambitious pigmies, reared on their hind legs on mountains of arguments, continue escalades? What a false and ridiculous image! What elaborate dulness !
In an allegory by the same author, entitled the Liturgy of Cytherea, we find these lines :
De toutes parts, autour de l'inconnue,
* A Spanish Jesuit, who wrote in the seventeenth century.-T. + Epistle from Jean Baptiste Rousseau to Louis Racine, son of Jean Racine.
De par Venus nous venons cette affaire
Pour ramener la brebis au bercail. Here we have harvests of hearts thrown on the ground like small hail; and among these hearts palpitating on the ground, are gods bound to the car of the unknown; while Love, sent by Venus, ruminates in his seraglio in heaven, what he shall do to bring back to the fold this lost mutton surrounded by scattered hearts. All this forms a figure at once so false, so puerile, and so incoherent, -50 disgusting, so extravagant, so stupidly expressed, we are astonished that a man, who made good verses of another kind, and was not devoid of taste, could write anything so miserably bad.
Figures, metaphors, are not necessary in an allegory: what has been invented with imagination, may be told with simplicity. Plato has more allegories than figures; he often expresses them elegantly and without ostentation.
Nearly all the maxims of the ancient orientals and of the Greeks were in the figurative style. All those sentences are metaphors, or short allegories; and in them the figurative style has great effect in rousing the imagination and impressing the memory.
We know that Pythagoras said, “In the tempest, adore the echo," that is, during civil broils retire to the country; and, “ Stir not the fire with the sword,” meaning, do not irritate minds already inflamed.
In every language, there are many common proverbs, which are in the figurative style.
FIGURE IN THEOLOGY.
It is quite certain, and is agreed by the most pious men, that figures and allegories have been carried too far. Some of the fathers of the church regard the piece of red cloth, placed by the courtezan Rahab at her window, for a signal to Joshua's spies, as a figure of the blood of Jesus Christ. This is an error of an order of mind, which would find mystery in everything. Nor can it be denied that St. Ambrose made a very bad use of his taste for allegory, when he says, in his book of Noah and the Ark, that the back-door of the ark was a figure of our hinder parts.
All men of sense have asked how it can be proved that these Hebrew words, “ maher, salal-has-bas," (take quick the spoils) are a figure of Jesus Christ? How Judah, tying his ass to a vine, and washing his eloak in the wine, is also a figure of him ? How Ruth, slipping into bed to Boaz, can figure the church? How Sarah and Rachel are the church, and Hagar and Leah the synagogue? How the kisses of the Sunamite typify the marriage of the church?
A volume might be made of these enigmas, which, to the best theologians of latter times, have appeared to be rather far-fetched than edifying.
The danger of this abuse is fully admitted by the abbé Fleury, the author of the “Ecclesiastical History.” It is a vestige of rabbinism; a fault into which the learned St. Jerome never fell. It is like oniromancy, or the explanation of dreams. If a girl sees muddy water, when dreaming, she will be ill married ; if she sees clear water, she will have a good husband ; a spider denotes money, &c.
In short, will enlightened posterity believe it? the understanding of dreams has, for more than four thousand years, been made a serious study.
Symbolical Figures. All nations have made use of them, as we have said in the article EMBLEM. But who began? Was it the Egyptians ? It is not very likely. We think we have already more than once proved that Egypt is a country quite new, and that many ages were requisite to save the country from inundations, and render it habitable. It is impossible that the Egyptians should have invented the signs of the zodiac, since the figures denoting our seed-time and harvest cannot coincide with theirs. When we cut our corn, their land is covered with water; and when we sow, their reapingtime is approaching. Thus the bull of our zodiac, and the girl bearing ears of corn, cannot have come from Egypt.
Here is also an evident proof of the falsity of the new paradox, that the Chinese are an Egyptian colony. The characters are not the same. The Chinese mark the course of the sun by twenty-eight constellations; and the Egyptians, after the Chaldeans, reckoned only twelve, like ourselves.
The figures that denote the planets are in China and in India all different from those of Egypt and of Europe; so are the signs of the metals; so is the method of guiding the hand in writing. Nothing could have been more chimerical than to send the Egyptians to people China.
All these fabulous foundations, laid in fabulous times, have caused an irreparable loss of time to a prodigious multitude of the learned, who have all been bewildered in their laborious researches, which might have been serviceable to mankind if directed to arts of real utility.
Pluche, in his History, or rather his fable, of the Heavens, assures us that Ham, son of Noah, went and reigned in Egypt, where there was nobody to reign over ; that his son Menes was the greatest of legislators, and that Thoth was his prime minister.
According to him and his authorities, this Thoth, or somebody else, instituted feasts in honour of the deluge; and the joyful cry of “Io Bacche,” so famous among the Greeks, was, among the Egyptians, a lamentation. Bacche came from the Hebrew beke, signifying sobs, and that at a time when the Hebrew people did not exist. According to this explanation, joy means sorrow, and to sing signifies to weep.
The Iroquois have more sense. They do not take the trouble to enquire what passed on the shores of lake Ontario some thousand years ago: instead of making systems, they go hunting.
* See“ La Philosophie de l'Histoire," " Essai sur les Meurs," &c. tom. i.
The same authors affirm that the sphynxes, with which Egypt was adorned, signified superabundance, because some interpreters have asserted that the Hebrew word spang meant an excess ; as if the Egyptians had taken lessons from the Hebrew tongue, which is, in great part, derived from the Phenician: besides, what relation has a sphynx to an abundance of water? Future schoolmen will maintain, with greater appearance of reason, that the masks which decorate the keystones of our windows are emblems of our masquerades; and that these fantastic ornaments announced that balls were given in every house to which they were affixed. Figure, Figurative, Allegorical, Mystical, Tropological,
Typical, &c. This is often the art of finding in books everything but what they really contain. For instance, Romulus killing his brother Remus shall signify the death of the duke of Berry, brother to Louis XI.; Regulus, imprisoned at Carthage, shall typify St. Louis captive at Massoura.
It is very justly remarked in the Encyclopedia, that many fathers of the church have, perhaps, carried this taste for allegorical figures a little too far; but they are to be reverenced, even in their wanderings.
If the holy fathers used and then abused this method, their little excesses of imagination may be pardoned, in consideration of their holy zeal.
The antiquity of the usage may also be pleaded in justification, since it was practised by the earliest philosophers. But it is true that the symbolical figures employed by the fathers are in a different taste.
For example: When St. Augustin wishes to make it appear that the forty-two generations of the genealogy of Jesus are announced by St. Matthew, who gives only forty-one, he says that Jechonias must be counted twice, because Jechonias is a corner-stone belonging to two walls; that these two walls figure the old and the new law; and that Jechonias, being thus the