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PREPOSITIONS. On metaphorically used

On, upon (interchanged in E. E. with "an"), represents juxtaposition of any kind, metaphorical or otherwise. It was in Early English a form of the preposition "an" which is used as an adverbial prefix (see 141); and as late as Ascham we find-- “I fall on weeping.” ASCH. iii. 4.

“For sorrow, like a heavy-hanging bell
Once set on ringing, with his own weight goes.

Compare also our a-head with “Hereupon the people ran on-head in tumult together.” N. P. 191. “Why runnest thou thus on head?” Homily on Matrimony.

The metaphorical uses of this preposition have now been mostly divided among of, in, and at, &c. We still, however, retain the phrase, "on this," "on hearing this," &c. where on is "at the time of," or "immediately after." But we could not say --

“Here comes (333) the townsmen on (in) procession.

“Read on (in) this book.

So MONTAIGNE, 227: “To read on some book.”

“Blushing on (at) her.

“On (at) a moderate pace.

“The common people being set on a broile.” N. P. 190. (Comp. our "set on fire.") “Horses on ('in' or 'of') a white foam.” N. P. 186.

“On (of) the sudden.

“And live to be revenged on ('for' or 'about') her death.

Be not jealous on (of) me.

“Fond on her.

“Nod on (at) him.

“Command upon me.

On, like "upon," is used metaphorically for "in consequence of" in

“Lest more mischance
On plots and errors happen.

for "in dependence on" in

“I stay here on my bond.


“She's wandering to the tower
On pure heart's love to greet the tender princes,

there is a confusion between "on an errand of love" and "out of heart's love."

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