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ness of melody which is remarkable in Hexameter verse, and which made Aristotle pronounce, that an epic poem in any other verse would not succeed. One defect, however, must not be dissembled, that the same means which contribute to the richness of the melody, render it less fit than several other sorts for a narrative poem. There cannot be a more artful contrivance, as above observed, than to close an Hexameter line with two long syllables preceded by two short. but unhappily this construction proves a great embarrassment to the sense; which will thus be evident. As in general, there ought to be a strict concordance between a thought and the words in which it is dressed; so in particular, every close in the sense ought to be accom panied with a close in the sound. In prose, this law may be strictly observed; but in verse, the same strictness would occasion insupera ble difficulties. Willing to sacrifice to the melody of verse some share of the concordance between thought and expression, we freely excuse the separation of the musical pause from that of the sense during the course of a line; but the close of an Hexameter line is too conspicuous to admit this liberty: for which reason there ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every Hexameter line, were it but such a pause as is marked with a comma; and for the same reason, there ought never to be a full close in the sense but at the end of a line, because there the melody is closed. An Hexameter line, to preserve its melody, cannot well admit any greater relaxation; and yet in a narrative poem, it is extremely difficult to adhere strictly to the rule even with these indulgences. Virgil, the chief of poets for versification, is forced often to end a line without any close in the sense, and as often to close the sense during the running of a line; though a close in the melody during the movement of the thought, or a close in the thought during the movement of the melody, cannot be agreeable.
The accent, to which we proceed, is no less essential than the other circumstances above handled. By a good ear it will be discerned, that in every line there is one syllable distinguishable from the rest by a capital accent: that syllable, being the seventh portion, is invariably long.
Nec bene promeritis | capitûr nec | tangitur ira.
Non sibi sed toto l genitûm se | credere mundo.
Qualis spelunca ll subitô com mota columba.
In these examples, the accent is laid upon the last syllable of a word; which is favorable to the melody in the following respect, that the pause, which for the sake of reading distinctly must follow every word, gives opportunity to prolong the accent. And for that reason, a line thus accented, has a more spirited air, than when the accent is placed on any other syllable. Compare the foregoing lines with the following: Alba neque Assyrio || fucâtur | lana veneno. Panditur interea || domus ômnipotentis Olympi
* Poet. cap. 25.
Olli sedato ll respondit | corde Latinus.
In lines where the pause comes after the short syllable succeeding the fifth portion, the accent is displaced, and rendered less sensible: it seems to be split into two, and to be laid partly on the 5th portion, and partly on the 7th, its usual place; as in
Nuda genu nodôque | sinûs collecta fluentes.
Formosam resonâre Il docês Amaryllida sylvas.
Beside this capital accent, slighter accents are laid upon other portions; particularly upon the fourth, unless where it consists of two short syllables; upon the ninth, which is always a long syllable; and upon the eleventh, where the line concludes with a monosyllable. Such conclusion, by the by, impairs the melody, and for that reason is not to be indulged, unless where it is expressive of The following lines are marked with all the accents.
Ludere quæ vêllem calamô permîsit agresti.
Et duræ quêrcus sudâbunt rôscida mella.
Parturiunt montes, nascêtur ridiculûs mus.
Reflecting upon the melody of Hexameter verse, we find, that order or arrangement doth not constitute the whole of it; for when we compare different lines, equally regular as to the succession of long and short syllables, the melody is found in very different degrees of perfection; which is not occasioned by any particular combination of Dactyles and Spondees, or of long and short syllables, because we find lines where Dactyles prevail, and lines where Spondees prevail, equally melodious. Of the former take the following instance: Eneadum genetrix hominum divumque voluptas. Of the latter:
Molli paulatim flavescet campus arista
What can be more different as to melody than the two following lines, which, however, as to the succession of long and short syllables, are constructed precisely in the same manner?
Spond. Dact. Spond. Spond. Dact. Spond.
Spond. Dact. Spond. Spond. Dact. Spond.
Placatumque nitet diffuso lumine cœlum.
In the former, the pause falls in the middle of a word, which is a great blemish, and the accent is disturbed by a harsh elision of the vowel a upon the particle et. In the latter, the pauses and the accent are all of them distinct and full: there is no elision; and the words are more liquid and sounding. In these particulars consists the beauty of an Hexameter line with respect to melody: and by neglecting these, many lines in the satires and epistles of Horace are less agreeable than plain prose; for they are neither the one nor the other in perfection. To draw melody from these lines, they must be pronounced without relation to the sense: it must not be regarded, that words are divided by pauses, nor that harsh elisions are multi
plied. To add to the account, prosaic low-sounding words are intro duced; and which is still worse, accents are laid on them. Of such faulty lines take the following instances.
Candida rectaque sit, munda hactenus sit neque longa.
Nunc illud tantum quæram, meritone tibi sit.
Next in order comes English heroic verse, which shall be exam ined under the whole five heads, of number, quantity, arrangement, pause, and accent. This verse is of two kinds; one named rhyme or metre, and one blank verse. In the former, the lines are connected two and two by similarity of sound in the final syllables; and two lines so connected are termed a couplet: similarity of sound being avoided in the latter, couplets are banished. These two sorts must be handled separately, because there are many peculiarities in each. Beginning with rhyme or metre, the first article shall be discussed in a few words. Every line consists of ten syllables, five short and five long; from which there are but two exceptions, both of them rare. The first is, where each line of a couplet is made eleven syllables, by an additional syllable at the end:
There heroes' wits are kept in pond'rous vases,
The piece, you think, is incorrect? Why, take it;
This license is sufferable in a single couplet; but if frequent, would give disgust.
The other exception concerns the second line of a couplet, which is sometimes stretched out to twelve syllables, termed an Alezan drine line:
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
It does extremely well when employed to close a period with a certain pomp and solemnity, where the subject makes that tone proper. With regard to quantity, it is unnecessary to mention a second time, that the quantities employed in verse are but two, the one double of the other; that every syllable is reducible to one or other of these standards; and that a syllable of the larger quantity is termed long, and of the lesser quantity short. It belongs more to the present article, to examine what peculiarities there may be in the English language as to long and short syllables. Every language has syllables that may be pronounced long or short at pleasure; but the English above all abounds in syllables of that kind in words of three or more syllables, the quantity for the most part is invariable: the exceptions are more frequent in dissyllables: but as to monosyllables, they may, without many exceptions, be pronounced either long or short; nor is the ear hurt by a liberty that is rendered familiar by custom. This shows, that the melody of English verse
must depend less upon quantity, than upon other circumstances: in which it differs widely from Latin verse, where every syllable, having but one sound, strikes the ear uniformly with its accustomed impression; and a reader must be delighted to find a number of such syllables, disposed so artfully as to be highly melodious. Syllables variable in quantity cannot possess this power: for though custom may render familiar, both a long and a short pronunciation of the same word; yet the mind wavering between the two sounds, cannot be so much affected as where every syllable has one fixed sound. What I have farther to say upon quantity, will come more properly under the following head, of arrangement.
And with respect to arrangement, which may be brought within a narrow compass, the English heroic line is commonly Iambic, the first syllable short, the second long, and so on alternately through the whole line. One exception there is, pretty frequent, of lines commencing with a Trochæus, i. e. a long and a short syllable: but this affects not the order of the following syllables, which go on alternately as usual, one short and one long. The following couplet affords an example of each kind.
Some in the fields of purest ether play,
It is a great imperfection in English verse, that it excludes the bulk of polysyllables, which are the most sounding words in our language; for very few of them have such alteration of long and short syllables as to correspond to either of the arrangements mentioned. English verse accordingly is almost totally reduced to dissyllables and monosyllables: magnanimity, is a sounding word totally excluded: impetuosity is still a finer word, by the resemblance of the sound and sense; and yet a negative is put upon it, as well as upon numberless words of the same kind. Polysyllables composed of syllables long and short alternately, make a good figure in verse; for example, observance, opponent, ostensive, pindaric, productive, prolific, and such others of three syllables. Imitation, imperfection, misdemeanor, mitigation, moderation, observator, ornamental, regu lator, and others similar of four syllables, beginning with two short syllables, the third long, and the fourth short, may find a place in a .ine commencing with a Trochæus. I know not if there be any of five syllables. One I know of six, viz. misinterpretation: but words so composed are not frequent in our language.
One would not imagine without trial, how uncouth false quantity appears in verse; not less than a provincial tone or idiom. article the is one of the few monosyllables that is invariably short; observe how harsh it makes a line where it must be pronounced long This nymph, tỏ thẻ děstruction of mankind.
Th' advent'rous baron the bright locks admir'd.
Let it be pronounced short, and it reduces the melody almost to nothing better so however than false quantity. In the following examples we perceive the same defect:
The great variety of melody conspicuous in English verse, arises chiefly from the pauses and accents; which are of greater importance than is commonly thought. There is a degree of intricacy in this branch of our subject, and it will be difficult to give a distinct view of it; but it is too late to think of difficulties after we are engaged. The pause, which paves the way to the accent, offers itself first to our examination; and from a very short trial, the following facts will be verified. 1st, A line admits but one capital pause. 2d, In different lines, we find this pause after the fourth syllable, after the fifth, after the sixth, and after the seventh. These four places of the pause lay a solid foundation for dividing English heroic lines into four kinds; and I warn the reader beforehand, that unless he attend to this distinction, he cannot have any just notion of the richness and variety of English versification. Each kind or order has a melody peculiar to itself, readily distinguishable by a good ear: and I am not without hopes to make the cause of this peculiarity sufficiently evident. It must be observed, at the same time, that the pause cannot be made indifferently at any of the places mentioned: it is the sense that regulates the pause, as will be seen afterward; and consequently, it is the sense that determines of what order every line must be: there can be but one capital musical pause in a line; and that pause ought to coincide, if possible, with a pause in the sense, in order that the sound may accord with the sense.
What is said shall be illustrated by examples of each sort or order. And first of the pause after the fourth syllable:
Back through the paths II of pleasing sense I ran.
And old impertinence Il expel by new
Roar'd for the handkerchief that caus'd his pain