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XVII. sunt et durae, id est a longinqua similitudine ductae, ut “capitis nives” et “Iuppiter hibernas cana nive conspuit Alpes”. In illo vero plurimum erroris, quod ea quae poetis, qui et omnia ad voluptatem referunt et plurima vertere etiam ipsa metri necessitate coguntur, permissa sunt convenire quidam etiam prorsae putant. XVIII. At ego in agendo nec “pastorem populi” auctore Homero dixerim nec volucres per a‰ra “nare”, licet hoc Vergilius in apibus ac Daedalo speciosissime sit usus. Metaphora enim aut vacantem locum occupare debet aut, si in alienum venit, plus valere eo quod expellit.
17. Some are harsh, that is, based on a resemblance not sufficiently close, as “The snows of the head,” and,
Jupiter hibernas canâ nive conspuit Alpes,
Jove over the Alps spits forth the wintry snows.
But the greatest source of error in regard to this subject is that some speakers think whatever is allowed to poets (who make it their sole object to please and are obliged by the necessity of the meter to adopt many metaphorical expressions) is permissible also to those who express their thoughts in prose. 18. But I, in pleading, would never say the “shepherd of the people” on the authority of Homer, nor speak of “birds rowing with their wings,” though Virgil, in writing of bees and of Daedalus, has used that phrase with great happiness. For a metaphor ought either to occupy a place that is vacant, or, if it takes possession of the place of something else, to appear to more advantage in it than that which it excludes.
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XIV. Vt modicus autem atque oportunus eius usus inlustrat orationem, ita frequens et obscurat et taedio complet, continuus vero in allegorian et aenigmata exit. sunt etiam quaedam et humiles tralationes, ut id de quo modo dixi,”saxea est verruca”, et sordidae. XV. Non enim, si Cicero recte “sentinam rei publicae” dixit, foeditatem hominum significans, idcirco probem illud quoque veteris oratoris: “persecuisti rei publicae vomicas”. Optimeque Cicero demonstrat cavendum ne sit deformis tralatio, qualis est (nam ipsis eius utar exemplis): “castratam morte Africani rem publicam”, et “stercus curiae Glauciam”: XVI. ne nimio maior aut, quod saepius accidit, minor, ne dissimilis. Quorum exempla nimium frequenter deprendet qui scierit haec vitia esse. Sed copia quoque modum egressa vitiosa est, praecipue in eadem specie.
14. But as a moderate and judicious use of metaphors adorns language, so a too frequent introduction of them obscures it and renders the perusal of it fatiguing, while a continuous series of them runs into allegory and enigma. Some metaphors, too, are mean, as that which I recently mentioned, “There is a wart of stone, etc.” 15. Some are repulsive, for though Cicero uses the _expression sentina rei publicae, “sink of the commonwealth,” with great happiness, to signify a herd of bad characters, yet I cannot for that reason approve of the saying of an old orator, Persecuists rei publicae vomicas, “You have lanced the ulcers of the commonwealth.” Cicero himself excellently shows that we must take care that a metaphor be not offensive, as in his own examples that “the republic was castrated by the death of Africanus,” or that “Glaucia was the excrement of the senate”; 16. that it be not too great, or, as more frequently happens, too little for the subject; and that it be not inapplicable. He who knows that they are faults will find numerous such examples. But an excess of even good metaphors is vicious, especially if they are of the same kind.
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XI. Praecipueque ex his oritur mira sublimitas quae audaci et proxime periculum tralatione tolluntur, cum rebus sensu carentibus actum quendam et animos damus, qualis est “pontem indignatus Araxes” et illa Ciceronis: XII. “Quid enim tuus ille, tubero, destrictus in acie Pharsalica gladius agebat? cuius latus ille mucro petebat? Qui sensus erat armorum tuorum”? duplicatur interim haec virtus, ut apud Vergilium: “ferrumque armare veneno”, nam et “veneno armare” et “ferrum armare” tralatio est. XIII. Secantur haec in pluris partis, ut a rationali ad rationale et idem de inrationalibus et haec invicem, quibus similis ratio est et a toto et a partibus. Sed iam non pueris praecipimus, ut accepto genere species intellegere non possint.
11. From the last kind of metaphor, when inanimate things are exalted by a bold and daring figure, and when we give energy and feeling as it were to objects that are without them, extraordinary sublimity is produced, as in Virgil,
Pontem indignatus Araxes,
Araxes that disdained a bridge;
12. in Cicero, “What was your drawn sword, Tubero, doing in the field of Pharsalia? At whose body did its point direct itself? What was the meaning of your arms?” Sometimes this beauty is doubled, as in Virgil,
Ferrumque armare veneno,
To arm the steel with poison,
for to arm with poison and to arm steel are both metaphors. 13. These four might be distinguished into more species, as a word may be taken from one sort of rational animal and applied metaphorically to another, and the same may be done with regard to irrational animals. In like manner, we may apply a metaphor from the rational to the irrational, or from the irrational to the rational, and from the whole of a thing to a part, or from the part to the whole. But I am not now giving directions to boys, or supposing that my readers, when they understand the genus, cannot master the species.