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was the Poet's quest of this, that his similes, in the very act of forming, often become half-metaphors, as from a sort of instinct. Thus, instead of fully forming a simile, he merely suggests it; throwing in just enough of it to start the thoughts on that track, and then condensing the whole into a semi-metaphorical shape. Which seems to explain why it is that these suggestions of similes, notwithstanding the stereotyped censures of a too formal criticism, seldom trouble any reader who is so unsophisticated as to care little for the form, so he be sure of the substance.
The thoughtful student can hardly choose but feel that there is something peculiar in Shakespeare's metaphors. And so indeed there is. But the peculiarity is rather in degree than kind. Now the Metaphor, as before remarked, proceeds upon a likeness in the relations of things; whereas the Simile proceeds upon a likeness in the things themselves, which is a very different matter. And so surpassing was Shakespeare's quickness and acuteness of eye to discern the most hidden resemblances in the former kind, that he outdoes all other writers in the exceeding fineness of the threads upon which his metaphors are often built. In other words, he beats all other poets, ancient and modern, in constructing metaphors upon the most subtile, delicate, and unobvious analogies.
Among the English poets, Wordsworth probably stands next to Shakespeare in the frequency, felicity, originality, and strength of his metaphorical language. I will therefore quote a few of his most characteristic specimens, as this seems the fairest way for bringing out the unequalled virtue of Shakespeare's poetry in this kind.
" With heart as calm as lakes that sleep,
In frosty moonlight glistening;
“Leave to the nightingale her shady wood ;
A privacy of glorious light is thine ;
To a Skylark.
“ And this huge Castle, standing here sublime,
I love to see the look with which it braves
A Morning Exercise. “One who was suffering tumult in his soul,
Yet fail'd to seek the sure relief of prayer,
Mis. Son., Pt. ii. 15. “ So deem'd the man who fashion'd for the sense
These lofty pillars, spread that branching roof
Lingering, — and wandering on as loth to die.” “ But, from the arms of silence, - list, O list!
The music bursteth into second life ;
Eccle. Son., Pt. iii. 43, 44.
“ The towering headlands, crown'd with mist,
Their feet among the billows, know
Power of Sound.
“Past and Future are the wings On whose support harmoniously conjoin'd Moves the great spirit of human knowledge.”
Prelude, Book vi
“ Child of loud-throated War ! the mountain Stream
Roars in thy hearing ; but thy hour of rest
“What art thou, from care Cast off,
abandon'd by thy rugged Sire, Nor by soft Peace adopted ?”
“ Shade of departed Power,
come forth froin thy Tyrolean ground,
“ Ye Storms, resound the praises of your King! And
mild Seasons in a sunny clime,
Son. to Lib., Pt. ii. 10, 85.
In the foregoing passages, the imagery of course loses more or less of its force and beauty from being cut out of its proper surroundings; for Wordsworth's poetry, too, is far from being mere gatherings of finely-carved chips: as a general thing, the several parts of a poem all rightly know each other as co-members of an organic whole. Far more must this needs be the case in the passages that follow, inasmuch as these are from the most dramatic of all writing; so that the virtue of the imagery is inextricably bound up with the characters and occasions of the speakers:
“Look, love, what envious streaks
Rom. and Jul., iii. 5. “Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty :
Why art thou yet so fair ? shall I believe
Ibid., v. 3.
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
Midsum.-Night's D., ii. 1. “Rush on his host, as doth the melted snow
Upon the valleys, whose low vassal seat
King Henry V., iii. 5. " His face is all bubukles, and whelks, and knobs, and flames o fire ; and his lips plows at his nose, and it is like a coal of fire, some
times plue, and sometimes red; but his nose is executed, and his fire is out.” Ibid., iii. 6.
“0, then th' Earth shook to see the heavens on fire,
And not in fear of your nativity.
1 King Henry IV., iii. 1.
Let heaven kiss earth! now let not Nature's hand
2 King Henry IV., i 1. “ An habitation giddy and unsure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.
Ibid., 1. 3.
“ But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill."
Hamlet, i. 1.
“So, haply slander Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,