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to mislead those that are entering upon the regions of learning; and the traveller, uncertain of his way, and forsaken by the fun, will be pleased to see a fainter orb arise on the horizon, that may rescue him from total darkness, though with weak and borrowed luftre.
Addison, though he has confidered this Poem under most of the general topicks of criticism, has barely touched upon the VERSIFICATION; not probably because he thought the art of numbers unworthy of his notice, for he knew with how minute attention the ancient criticks considered thic disposition of lyllables, and had himself given hopes of some metrical observations upon the great Roman poet; but being the first who undertook to dilo play the beauties, and point out the defects, of Milton, he had many objects at once before him, and passed willingly over those which were most barren of ideas, and required labour rather than genius.
Yet versification, or the art of modulating his numbers, is indispensably necessary to a poet. Every other power by which the understanding is enlightened, or the imagination enchanted, may be exercised in profe. But the poet has this peculiar fuperiority, that, to all the powers which the perfcction of every other compofition can require, he adds the faculty of joining musick with reason, and of acting at once upon the senses and the passions. I suppose there are few who do not feel themselves touched by poetical melody, and who will not confess that they are more or less moved by the fame thoughts, as they are conveyed by different founds; and more affected by the same words in one order, than in another. The perception of harmony is indeed conferred upon men in degrees very unequal; but there are none who do not perceive it, or to whom a regular series of proportionate founds cannot give delight.
In treating ON THE VERSIFICATION OP MITON, I am desirous to be generally understood, and shall therefore studiously decline the dialect of grammarians; though, indeed, it is always difficult, and sometimes scarcely possible, to deliver the precepts of an art without the terms by which the peculiar ideas of that art are expressed, and which had not been invented but because the language; already in use, was insufficient. If therefore I lhall sometimes seem obscure, may it be imputed to this voluntary interdiction, and to a desire of avoiding that offence which is always given by unusual words.
The heroick measure of the English language may be properly considered as pure or mixed. It is pure, when the accent rests upon every second fyllable through the whole line :
“ Courage uncertain dangers may abate,
· Dryden. “ Here Love his golden shafts employs, here lights “ His constant lámp, and waves his púrple wings, “ Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile « Of hárlots, lóveless, jóyless, únendeár’d.”
The accent may be observed in the second line of Dryden, and in the second and fourth of Milton, to repose upon every second fyllable.
The repetition of this sound or percussion at equal times, is the most complete harmony of which a fingle 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 founds untranf
ficult, but tirefome and disgusting; for we are soon wearied with the perpetual recurrence of the same cadence. Necefsity 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 feldom has two pure lines together, as will appear if any of his paragraphs be read with attention merely to the mufick:
.« Thus, at their shady lodge arriv'd, both stood,
“ And starry pole: Thou also madst the night,
* Have finish’d, happy in our mutual help
“ But thou hatt promis’d from us two a race
In this passage it will be at first observed, that all the lines are not equally harmonious; and upon a nearer exainination 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. In fome the accent is equally upon two syllables together, and in both strong. As
« Thus at their shady lodge arriv'd, both flood, “ Both turn'd, and under open sky ador’d
In others the accent is equally upon two fyllables, but upon both weak:
.« To fill the earth, who fhall 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 Omuipotent, 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 fuffer more than one aberration from the rule in any single verse.
There are two lines in this passage more remarkably unharmonious :
" this delicious place “ For us too large, where thy abundance wants
• Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.) Milton was fond of the ancient measures. See his prefaces to Par. Loft and Samt. Agonistes; and indeed Dr. Johnson's own remark, pp. 171, 2. These lines exhibit choriumbicks in the third and fourth, and in the fourth and fifth places :
“ For us too large, where thý ăbuīndance wants
" Partakers, and incropt fälls tō the ground.” So, in Par. Reg. B. iv. 412. in the fourth and fifth places:
« Fierce rain with lightning mix’d, wātër with fire." Milton often introduces this measure into his verses. Thus in Comus, in the first and second places :
“ Il nu arë yöu vēx'd Lady? why do you frown;" Again, in Par. Reg. B. ii. 180.
“ Cast wăntön cjes on the daughters of men.” Again, B. iv. 289.
" Līght from úbote, from the fountain of light.” Tu the second and third places, in Par. Loft, B. viii, 299.
“ To the garden of bliss, thy feat prepar'd.” See also B. v. 750, B. xi. 79, Pur. Reg. B. iv. 597, and Sams. Agon. v. 1533. And, lastly, in the third and fourth places, as well as in the first and second, in Lycidas: « Wbere were ye, Nymplis, when the remorseless deep."