« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
agreeable in what may be termed an anticlimax, where the progress is from great to little; for this has the effect to make diminutive objects appear still more di
Pronunciation, therefore, may be considered as a branch of the present subject; and with some observations upon it, the section shall be concluded.
In order to give a just idea of pronunciation, it must be distinguished from singing. The latter is carried on by notes, requiring each of them a different aperture of the windpipe: the notes properly belonging to the former, are expressed by different apertures of the mouth, without varying the aperture of the windpipe. This, however, doth not hinder pronunciation to borrow from singing, as one sometimes is naturally led to do, in expressing a vehement passion.
In reading, as in singing, there is a key-note. Above this note the voice is frequently elevated, to make the sound correspond to the elevation of the subject: but the mind in an elevated state is disposed to action; therefore, in order to a rest, it must be brought down to the key-note. Hence the term cadence.
The only general rule that can be given for directing the pronunciation, is, To sound the words in such a manner as to imitate the things they signify.
Give examples of resemblance between sound and signification. How is slow motion imitated?-laborious, interrupted motion?rough, tumultuous motion?-prolonged motion?-a slow succession of ideas?-hard labor?-labor of thought?
What is anticlimax?-what is its effect?
What is the general rule for pronunciation?
To explain the music of verse, several nice and delicate feelings must be employed, and the distinction between it and prose arises from the difference of the melody, though that difference cannot with any accu
racy be explained in words; all that can be said, is, that verse is more musical than prose, and its melody more perfect." The difference between verse and prose, resembles the difference, in music properly so called, between the song and the recitative: and the resemblance is not the least complete, that these differences, like the shades of colors, approximate sometimes so nearly as scarce to be discernible: the melody of a recitative approaches sometimes to that of a song; which, on the other hand, degenerates sometimes to that of a recitative. Nothing is more distinguishable from prose, than the bulk of Virgil's hexameters: many of those composed by Horace, are very little removed from prose: Sapphic verse has a very sensible melody: that, on the other hand, of an Iambic, is extremely faint.
This more perfect melody of articulate sounds, is what distinguisheth verse from prose. Verse is subjected to certain inflexible laws: the number and variety of the component syllables being ascertained, and in some measures the order of succession.
To verse of every kind, five things are of importance. 1st. The number of syllables that compose a verse line. 2d. The different lengths of syllables, i. e. the difference of time taken in pronouncing. 3d. The arrangement of these syllables combined in words. 4th. The pauses or stops in pronouncing. 5th. The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone. The three first mentioned are essential to verse: if any of them be wanting, there cannot be that melody which distinguisheth verse from prose. To give a just notion of the fourth, it must be observed, that pauses are necessary for three different purposes: one, to separate periods, and members of the same period, according to the sense; another, to improve the melody of verse; and the last, to afford opportunity for drawing breath in reading. A pause of the first kind is variable, being long or short, frequent or less frequent, as the sense requires. A pause of the second kind, being deter
mined by the melody, is not arbitrary. The last sort is arbitrary, depending on the reader's command of breath. With respect then to the pauses of sense and of melody, it may be affirmed that their coincidence in verse is a capital beauty; but as it cannot be expected that every line should be so perfect, the pause necessary for the sense must often be sacrificed to the verse pause, and the latter sometimes to the former.
The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone, contributes also to melody. In reading either prose or verse, a certain tone is assumed, which may be called the key-note; and in that tone the bulk of the words are sounded. Sometimes to humor the sense, and sometimes the melody, a particular syllable is sounded in a higher tone; and this is termed accenting a syllable, or gracing it with an accent. Opposed to the accent, is the cadence, one of the requisites of verse, because it is regulated by the sense, and hath no peculiar relation to verse. The cadence is a falling of the voice below the key-note at the close of every period; and so little is it essential to verse, that in correct reading the final syllable of every line is accented, that syllable only excepted which closes the period, where the sense requires a cadence.
Though the five requisites above-mentioned are governed by different rules, peculiar to each species, upon quantity only one general observation may be premised, because it is applicable to every species of verse: That syllables, with respect to the time taken in pronouncing, are long or short; two short syllables, with respect to time, being precisely equal to a long one. These two lengths are essential to verse of all kinds; and to no verse is a greater variety of time necessary in pronouncing syllables. The voice is frequently made to rest longer than usual upon a word that bears an important signification; but this is done to humor the sense, and is not necessary for melody. A thing not more necessary for melody occurs with respect to accenting, similar to that now mentioned: A word signi
fying any thing humble, low, or dejected, is naturally, in prose, as well as verse, pronounced in a tone below the key-note.
We are now sufficiently prepared for particulars; beginning with English heroic verse, which shall be examined under the 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. 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;
The other exception concerns the second line of a couplet, which is sometimes stretched out to twelve syllables, termed an Alexandrine line:
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
It doth well when employed to close a period with 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. The English
language abounds in long and short syllables 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. This shows, that the melody of English verse must depend less upon quantity than upon other circumstances.
And with respect to arrangement, 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, one short and one long. The following couplet affords an example of each kind:
Some in the fields of purest ether play,
It is an imperfection in English verse, that it excludes the bulk of polysyllables, which are the most sounding words in our language, and it is accordingly 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, and such others of three syllables. Imitation, imperfection, and others of four syllables, beginning with two short syllables, the third long, and the fourth short, may find a place in a line commencing with a trochæus.
One would not imagine, without trial, how uncouth false quantity appears in verse; not less than a provincial tone or idiom. The article the is one of the few monosyllables that is invariably short: observe