In The Structure of Complex Words, Empson distinguishes Mutual Comparison from Mutual Metaphor. This distinction does not hold. There is only one trope, but one, lit up by Empsonian analysis, well worth study. Both Mutual Comparison and Mutual Metaphor turn on part-for-whole relations rather than on metaphorical ones of comparison. With Mutual Comparison, vehicle and tenor are so fused as to suggest, not so much comparison, as a sharing in an encompassing generality; with Mutual Metaphor, the hierarchical relation of vehicle and tenor collapses into an equal relation of two parts, each standing for a whole, an elusive ground encompassing both. With both figures, the relation to a greater whole suggests being in touch with the nature of things, an approach to the pantheistic ground Empson declared might alone be worshipped without shame. Especially attractive in Empson’s explorations is that, in analyzing the tricks of language, he accepts these tricks as ways the mind naturally works.


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pp. 851-880
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