The word ‘metaphor’ has come from the Greek ‘meta’, meaning ‘change’ and ‘phera’ ‘I bear’. In this figure, there is a transfer of a word from one object to another whereby a comparison is implied or an identity is shown though not formally or directly expressed.
Metaphor is an implied comparison made between two different things or ideas.
- The camel is the ship of the desert.
- He is the pillar of the state.
- Variety is the spice of life.
- The ice mast high came floating by. –Coleridge
- I will drink life to the lees. -Tennyson
- This rudeness is a sauce to his good wit. – Shakespeare
- She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest.
All these examples imply a comparison between two different objects. In the first case, there is a comparison between camel and ship’, in the second, between ‘ho and pillar’, and in the third, between ‘variety’ and ‘spice’ In the remaining examples, the comparison is between ‘ice’ and ‘mast’, ‘life and ‘lees’, ‘rudeness’ and ‘sauce’, and ‘she’ and ‘angel’. In all cases, the comparison is, however, implied, not clearly expressed. The statement of identity is implicitly made.
(i) A comparison is made.
(ii) The comparison is between two things different in kind.
(ii) The point of comparison is implied. [These essential features are
all evident in the examples given above.)
(1)His crypt the cloudy canopy. -Hardy
This is a metaphor.
In a metaphor, an implied comparison is made between two things, different in kind.
(2) Let me not stir you up,
To such a sudden flood of mutiny. – Shakespeare
This is a metaphor.
This is an instance of the figure of speech, metaphor.
(5) I leant upon a coppice gate When frost was spectre gray. -Hardy
[‘Frost’ is compared to ‘spectre’. These two are unallied objects. The point of comparison is implied.]
(6) The curfew tolls
the knell of parting day. -Gray
[An implied comparison is made between ‘curfew’ and ‘knell’, two unallied objects.]
(7) Thou transitory
flower, alike undone
By proud contempt, or favour’s fostering sun.
[The implied comparisons are made between thou’ and ‘transitory flower’ and ‘favour’ and ‘sun’.]
(8) Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre.
[Here a comparison between ‘closing night’ and ‘the dome of a vast sepulchre’, two unallied objects, is made. The point of comparison is implied.]
(9) Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder. –Shakespeare [‘Lowliness’ and ‘ladder, two unallied elements, are compared. The point of comparison is implicit]
Types of Metaphor
Mixed Metaphor :
Sometimes, the inappropriate use of metaphors gives rise to the faulty metaphors known as mixed metaphors.
Mixed Metaphor Example
“It is sufficient to extinguish the seeds of pride”
– the metaphor is faulty, because pride is here compared to flame as well as seeds. If the verb ‘extinguish’ is to be used, then the word ‘seeds’ is to be changed to ‘flame’. Again, if the noun ‘seeds’ is to be retained, the verb ‘destroy’ or ‘uproot’ ought to have been used.
The sentence,” I smell a danger, but I will nip it in the bud”, is also an instance of the mixed metaphor, for a faulty comparison of one subject with two different things is here made. In the following lines from Addison
“I bridle in my struggling Muse with painThat longs to launch into a bolder strain.”
“O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold outAgainst the wrackful siege of battering days.”
A metaphor becomes strained, when the comparison becomes far fetched, or when the figure is dragged into irrelevant details. Such a strained metaphor tends to become obscure.
“Here lay Duncan,
His silver skin laced with his golden blood.”
Here the comparison between gold and blood is far-fetched.
Next may be taken the famous passage from Julius Caesar
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune :
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
Here the metaphor is both improper and strained. It is wrong to consider that man experiences only one tide in his life. Again, there is actually no justifiable reason for connecting together two facts – to miss a tide and to sail in shallows. Lastly, the union of two words ‘shallows’ and ‘miseries is inappropriate, for the former is metaphorical, while the latter, literal. In all cases, the metaphorical statement seems strained, not spontaneous.
Dead Metaphor Examples
‘The leg of a table’, ‘The heart of a matter’ etc.
English prose and poetry throughout the centuries have been enlivened and enriched by the use of metaphors. “Metaphor, Dr. Johnson observes, is a great excellence in style when used with propriety, for it gives you two ideas for one: conveys the meaning more luminously and generally with a perception of delight. Needless to say, it excites the fancy and helps one to imagine things more vividly. Martin remarks: ‘Metaphors, skillfully handled, are very effective and add ornament and, what is more important, clearness and force to writing. In the opinion of Sterling, a metaphor is usually a more lively and more pleasing mode of illustration then a simile, as it is more suggestive and leaves room for an agreeable exercise of the mind is detecting the points of resemblance implied in it.
Simile Vs Metaphor
1. I have measured out my life with coffee-spoons, (T. S. Eliot)
2. Do not waste a page on folly.
3. Man is a pendulum in the hand of Fate.
4. He is basking now in the royal favour.
5. How long can a rose remain hidden from the bee?
6. His efforts were crowned with success.
7. Annihilating all that’s made
8. For the black bat, night, has flown,
The news of her elopement was a dagger to his heart.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes.(T. S. Eliot)
9. Our death is but a sleep and a forgetting. (Gray)
10. Thou dirge of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchro. (Shelley)
11. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thy ear. (Shakespeare )
12. The burnt out ends of smoky days. (T. S. Eliot)