Page images

how harsh it makes a line where it must be pronounced


This nymph, to the destruction of mankind.


Th' advent'rous bāron the bright locks ådmir'd.

Let it be pronounced short, and it reduces the melody almost to nothing.

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. 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. Each kind hath a melody peculiar to itself, readily distinguishable by a good ear; but the pause cannot be made indifferently at any of the places mentioned: it is the sense that regulates the pause, 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 ac cord with the sense.

First, the pause after the fourth syllable:

Back through the paths || of pleasing sense I ran. After the 5th:

So when an angel || by divine command, With rising tempests || shakes a guilty land. After the 6th:

Speed the soft intercourse || from soul to soul. After the 7th:

And taught the doubtful battle || where to rage.

Besides the capital pause, inferior pauses will be dis covered by a nice ear. Of these there are commonly

two in each line: one before the capital pause, and one after it. The former comes after the first long syllable, whether the line begin with a short or a long syllable. The other in its variety imitates the capital pause in some lines it comes after the 6th, in some after the 7th, and in some after the 8th syllable.

In Hexameter verse, a full pause ought never to divide a word: such license deviates too far from the coincidence that ought to be between the pauses of sense and melody.

The same rule is not applicable to a semi-pause, which, being short and faint, is not sensibly disagreeable when it divides a word:

Relentless walls || whose darksome round | contains.
For her white virgins || hyme | neals sing.

In these deep solitudes || and aw | ful cells.

The capital pause is so essential to the melody, that one cannot be too nice in the choice of its place, in order to have it clear and distinct. It cannot be in better company than with a pause in the sense; and if the sense require but a comma after the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllable, it is sufficient for the musical pause. But to make such coincidence essential, would cramp versification too much; and we have experience for our authority, that there may be a pause in the melody where the sense requires none. We must not, however, imagine that a musical pause may come after any word indifferently: some words, like syllables of the same word, are so intimately connected, as not to bear a separation even by a pause. The separating, for example, a substantive from its article would be harsh and unpleasant.

To explain the rules of accenting, we premised first, -That accents have a double effect: they contribute to the melody, by giving it air and spirit; and to the sense, by distinguishing important words from others.* These two effects never can be separated, without im

* An accent considered with respect to sense is termed emphasis.

[ocr errors]

pairing the concord that ought to subsist between the thought and the melody; an accent placed on a low word, has the effect to burlesque it, by giving it an unnatural elevation; and the injury thus done to the sense does not rest there, for it seems also to injure the melody. Secondly, a word, of whatever number of syllables, is not accented upon more than one of them; because the object is set in its best light by a single accent, so as to make more than one unnecessary for the sense: and if another be added, it must be for the sound merely; which would be a transgression of the foregoing rule, by separating a musical accent from that which is requisite for the sense.

The doctrine of accenting English heroic verse is extremely simple. In the first place, accenting is confined to the long syllables; for a short syllable is not capable of an accent. In the next place, as the melody is enriched in proportion to the number of accents, every word that has a long syllable may be accented; unless the sense interpose, which rejects the accenting a word that makes no figure by its signification. According to this rule, a line may admit five accents. But supposing every long syllable accented, there is, in every line, one accent that makes a greater figure than the rest, being that which precedes the capital pause. It is distinguished into two kinds; one immediately before the pause, and one divided from the pause by a short syllable. The former belongs to lines of the first and third order: the latter to those of the second and fourth. Examples of the first kind.

Smooth flow the waves | the zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smil'd I and all the world was gay,
He rais'd his azure wând I and thus began.

Examples of the other kind.

There lay three gârters || half a pair of gloves,
And all the trophies || of his former loves.
Our humble province II is to tend the fair,
Not a less pleasing though less glorious care.
And hew triumphal arches | to the ground.

It may be safely pronounced a capital defect in the composition of verse, to put a low word, incapable of an accent, in the place where this accent should be: this bars the accent altogether. No single circumstance contributes more to the energy of verse, than to put an important word where the accent should be, a word that merits a peculiar emphasis.

In a line expressive of what is humble or dejected, it improves the resemblance between the sound and sense to exclude the capital accent.

In these deep sôlitudes || and awful cells
The poor inhabitant || beholds in vain.

Accents are not, like syllables, confined to a certain number: some lines have no fewer than five, and there are lines that admit not above one. This variety depends entirely on the different powers of the component words: particles, even where they are long by position, cannot be accented; and polysyllables, whatever space they occupy, admit but one accent. Polysyllables have another defect, they exclude the full pause, and few of them can find place in the construction of English verse.

Blank verse has so many circumstances in common with rhyme, that its peculiarities may be brought within a narrow compass. With respect to form, it differs from rhyme in rejecting the jingle of similar sounds, which purifies it from a childish pleasure. The peculiar advantage of blank verse is, that it is at liberty to attend the imagination in its boldest flights. Rhyme necessarily divides verse into couplets: each couplet makes a complete musical period, the parts of which are divided by pauses, and the whole summed up by a full close at the end: the melody begins anew with the next couplet; and in this manner a composition in rhyme proceeds couplet after couplet. From the correspondence and concord that subsist between sound and sense, it is a plain inference, that if a couplet be a complete period, with regard to melody, it

ought regularly to be the same with regard to sense. As it is difficult to support such strictness of composition, licenses are indulged, which must be used with discretion, to preserve some degree of concord between the sense and the music: there ought never to be a full close in the sense, but at the end of a couplet; and there ought always to be some pause in the sense at the end of every couplet: the same period, as to sense, may be extended through several couplets; but each couplet ought to contain a distinct member, distinguished by a pause in the sense as well as in the sound; and the whole ought to be closed with a complete cadence. Rules such as these confine rhyme within narrow bounds: a thought of any extent, cannot be reduced within its compass; the sense must be curtailed and broken into parts, to make it square with the curtness of the melody; and beside, short periods afford no latitude for inversion.

I have examined this point with the stricter accuracy, to give a just notion of blank verse; and to show that a slight difference in form may produce a great difference in substance. Blank verse has the same pauses and accents with rhyme, and a pause at the end of every line, like that which concludes the first line of a couplet. In a word, the rules of melody in blank verse, are the same that obtain with respect to the first line of a couplet; but being disengaged from couplets, there is access to make every line run into another, precisely so as to make the first line of a couplet run into the second. There must be a musical pause at the end of every line; but this pause is so slight as not to require a pause in the sense: and accordingly the sense may be carried on with or without pauses, till a period of the utmost extent be completed by a full close both in the sense and the sound: there is no restraint, other than that this full close be at the end of a line. Hence the fitness of blank verse for inversion; and consequently the lustre of its pauses and accents.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »