Very Like a WhaleOne thing that literature would be greatly the better forWould be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,Can'ts seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but haveto go out of their way to say that it is like something else.What foes it mean when we are toldThat the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experienceTo know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lotof Assyrians.However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity,We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolfon the fold?In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy thereare a great many things,But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purpleand gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big redmouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof woof?Frankly I think it very unlikely and all you were entitled to say,at the very most,Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he hadto invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolatethem,With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiersto people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lotof wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,from Homer to Tennyson;They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanketafter a winter storm.Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanketof snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoeticalblanket material and we'll see which one keeps warm,And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly,What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.
Ogden Nash