Elements of Eloquence Single-Line Challenge Chapter 5: The Blazon
Apparently we’re supposed to disapprove of this one, even though it’s in the book. Forsyth compares it to chopping up a body into parts. It’s that list where you enumerate the good or bad parts of a thing and then comments on the parts individually. Frequently the something is a lover whose lips, eyes, and hair are all dwelt upon in turn.
He says it’s awkward, and I suppose if each part has a different simile, and if you analyze it visually, the mental picture can become grotesque. However, my neck stiffens at the idea that a rhetorical figure so venerable is not salvageable. The passage he quotes from Canticles, for instance, has the following virtue: that unlike the dull and derided Thomas Watson example, it communicates the level of amorous rapture that makes the blazon believable.
“Behold thou art fair, my Love; behold, thou art fair;
Thou hast dove’s eyes within thy locks;
Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Mount Gilead…”
I think he kissed the eyes and those shaggy locks as he murmured the words; and I think it was like Isaiah kissing the coals.
I fear our delightful and generally dependable author has here fallen into the usual postmodern trap: he simply can’t imagine that people in other times were genuinely capable of such feelings, simply because people in our times are about a half-inch deep, and those who aren’t are in perpetual danger of being institutionalized.
Assuming none of us are blessed with so furious a passion as was Solomon, to what other uses might we put the blazon?
Suppose that instead of parts, we think of members. And suppose that instead of dividing them, we merely distinguish them. Good start? Yes, if the subject is a person’s body, and the body lives.
Or alternatively, what if we use it for some other use than a body? What if we use it for a geographical locale? Or a volleyball team? Or a banquet?
Let’s give it a try.
Or skip it, if you don’t feel the same.