« AnteriorContinuar »
when the accent rests upon every second syllable through the whole line.
Courage uncertain dangers may abate,
MILTON. The accent may be observed, in the second line of Dryden, and the second and fourth of Milton, to repose upon every second syllable.
The repetition of this sound or percussion at equal times, is the most complete harmony of which a single verse is capable, and should therefore be exactly kept in distichs, and generally in the last line of a paragraph, that the ear may rest without any sense of imperfection.
But, to preserve the series of sounds untransposed in a long composition, is not only very difficult but tiresome and disgusting ; for we are soon wearied with the perpetual recurrence of the same cadence. Necessity has therefore enforced the mixed measure, in which some variation of the accents is allowed ; this, though it always injures the harmony of the line, considered by itself, yet compensates the loss by relieving us from the continual tyranny of the same sound, and makes us more sensible of the harmony of the pure measure.
Of these mixed numbers every poet affords us innumerable instances, and Milton seldom has two pure lines together, as will
appear graphs be read with attention merely to the musick.
of his para
Thus at their shady lodge arriv'd, both stood,
In this passage it will be at first observed, that alı the lines are not equally harmonious, and upon a nearer examination it will be found that only the fifth and ninth lines are regular, and the rest are more or less licentious with respect to the accent. the accent is equally upon two syllables together, and in both strong. As
Thus at their shady lodge arrivd, both stood,
In others the accent is equally upon two syllables, but upon
both weak :
To fill the earth, who shall with us extol
In the first pair of syllables the accent may deviate from the rigour of exactness, without any unpleasing diminution of harmony, as may be observed in the lines already cited, and more remarkably in this,
- Thou also mad'st the night, Maker omnipotent! and thou the day. But, excepting in the first pair of syllables, which may be considered as arbitrary, a poet who, not having the invention or knowledge of Milton, has more need to allure his audience by musical cadences, should seldom suffer more than one aberration from the rule in any single verse.
There are two lines in this passage more remarkably unharmonious :
This delicious place,
Partakers, and uncrop'd falls to the ground. Here the third pair of syllables in the first, and fourth pair in the second verse, have their accents retrograde or inverted; the first syllable being strong or acute, and the second weak. The detrinient which the measure suffers by this inversion of the accents is sometimes less perceptible, when the verses are carried one into another, but is remarkably striking in this place, where the vicious verse concludes a period, and is yet more offensive in rhyme, when we regularly attend to the flow of every single line. This will appear by reading a couplet in which Cowley, an author not sufficiently studious of harmony, has committed the same fault :
his harmless life
In these the law of inetre is very grossly violated by mingling combinations of sound directly opposite to each other, as Milton expresses in his sonnet, by committing short and long, and setting one part of the measure at variance with the rest. The ancients, who had a language more capable of variety than ours, had two kinds of verse, the Tambick, consisting of short and long syllables alternately, from which our heroick measure is derived, and the Trochaick, consisting in a like alternation of long and short. These were considered as opposites, and conveyed the contrary images of speed and slowness; to confound them, therefore, as in these lines, is to deviate from the established practice. But where the senses are to judge, authority is not necessary, the ear is sufficient to detect dissonance, nor should I have sought auxiliaries on such an occasion against any name but that of Milton.
NUMB. 87. Tuesday, January 15, 1751.
Invidus, iracundus, iners, vinosus, amator,
The slave to envy, anger, wine, or love,
THAT few things are so liberally bestowed, or
squandered with so little effect, as good advice, has been generally observed; and many sage positions have been advanced concerning the reasons of this complaint, and the means of removing it. It is indeed an important and noble enquiry, for little would be wanting to the happiness of life, if every man could conform to the right as soon as he was shown it.
This perverse neglect of the most - salutary precepts, and stubborn resistance of the most pathetick persuasion, is usually imputed to him by whom the counsel is received, and we often hear it mentioned as a sign of hopeless depravity, that though good advice was given, it has wrought no reformation.
Others, 'who imagine themselves to have quicker sagacity and deeper penetration, have found out that the inefficacy of advice is usually the fault of the counsellor, and rules have been laid down, by which this important duty may be successfully per: Vol. V.