In the wake of the Arizona shootings and the targeting imagery used by Sarah Palin (the ignoramus hockey-mom talking about blood libel and looking to be presidential candidate again). I pick the following terms out of today's football gossip at the BBC Sports site:
a target for Liverpool
may also try and tempt left-back
also on manager Kenny Dalglish's list of targets.
wasting their time pursuing the Serbia international defender
to beat Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United to the signature of
Stoke are poised to swoop for Hoffenheim midfielder
Blackburn have won the race for
Diego Godin in the west London side's sights.
are hopeful of landing unsettled Tottenham striker
Mark van Bommel is being pursued by Tottenham and Aston Villa
still trying to prise manager Eddie Howe from Bournemouth
The image is of the player as a trophy animal, the club wishing to sign the player as a hunter of some sort: chasing, beating rivals to, laying traps for, shooting, angling, swooping like a bird of prey, fighting over.
What is the specific range of metaphors doing here? I don't think anyone thinks that Harry Redknapp (say) has gone out with a vast fishing net and 'landed' (say) David Beckham in it, or that he has actually grappled with the manager of the LA team to 'prise' Beckham from his physical grasp. No, the accusation against Palin doesn't work that way.
The metaphors above want to rouse excitement by association - and they do actually work pretty well. Football fans want to get excited, and do get excited by perceiving the teams with which they identify as aspects of a metaphysical struggle for survival and supremacy. They pay good money for it, they may even take physical action to achieve it. In an excited atmosphere where everyone is shouting, the most excitable do take physical action (the Liverpool fans ripping seats out at Old Trafford last week and throwing them at the United supporters below). It was ever thus. Nor is it, before anyone suggests it, just a masculine trait, not if one studies the behaviour of women at wrestling bouts. Men, having been hunters, have simply formalised these routines in a specific way.
We live by metaphor: metaphor doesn't say one thing is like another, it says it is another. It doesn't say, this is a figure of speech, it says this is where you are.
That doesn't make Palin guilty of anyone's murder, but it does perhaps demonstrate that she of the 'blood libel' is not best equipped to deal with metaphor. She has no idea of the origins of the term and can't be bothered to find out. 'Couldn't be bothered to find out,' is not a good epitaph to a presidential candidate's career.
It also suggests that one useful guide to sanity might be a basic understanding of the difference between metaphor and reality. That is where poetry comes in. The more a poem is aware of itself as a structure, the more the reader is aware of the poem as an act in a distinct sphere, the clearer that distance between reality and imagination remains. The metaphor can exercise its full effect on the imagination actually perceived as the imagination. It is, after all, a willing suspension of disbelief that makes art. That is how art humanises us and keeps us sane.
At the splendid Drawbridge, a piece, partly autobiographical, on Flight Path