Metaphor: An implied comparison

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Metaphor: An implied comparison

From English Composition and Rhetoric by Alexander Bain:

Metaphor is a comparison implied in the language used.
He bridles his anger.
He was a lion in combat.
The fact is clear.
By dispensing with the phrases of comparisonlike, as, etc.—it has the advantages of being brief and of not disturbing the structure of the composition.
Like similitudes generally, metaphors may (1) aid the understanding, (2) intensify an impression, and (3) give an agreeable surprise.

 

I. Metaphors aid understanding.

necessity is the mother of invention
the light of Nature
the geological record
Athens, the eye of Greece

 

II. Metaphors intensify feeling.

I speared him with a jest
the town was stormed
let loose these horrible hounds of war
the news was a dagger to his heart

 

III. Metaphor may give an agreeable surprise through the use of unorthodox comparison.

The fog comes

on little cat feet.   --Carl Sandburg

 

IV. Personifying metaphors are most often used in poetry.

O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse.
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green.

 

 

V. Metaphor expresses the hidden operations of the mind.

Thus, knowledge is light, passion is fire, depression of spirits is gloom: the thought struck him. So we speak of a ray of hope, a shade of doubt, a flight of fancy, a flash of wit,  eruptions of anger.
Words originally applied to the operations of the senses, are transferred to those of the understanding:
I see what you mean. (that is, you understand)
You have good taste. (you show discrimination in the fine arts)

 

VI. By frequent use, metaphors may lose their figurative character.

In these instances, the original meaning is no longer suggested to the mind:
melancholy (black bile), edify (build), acuteness (sharpness), ardor (heat), express (to press out)

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