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In the second section of this chapter it is shown, that nothing contributes more than inversion to the force and elevation of language: the couplets of rhyme confine inversion; nor would the elevation of inversion, in rhyme, accord with the humbler tone of that sort of verse. The loftiness of Milton's style supports admirably the sublimity of his subject: and this loftiness arises chiefly from inversion. Shakspeare deals little in inversion: his blank verse is a sort of measured prose, perfectly well adapted to the stage, where labored inversion is highly improper, because in dialogue it never can be natural.
That superior power of expression which verse acquires by laying aside rhyme, is not the only ground for preferring blank verse: it possesses more extensive and complete melody. Its music is not confined to a single couplet; but takes in a great compass, so as to rival music properly so called. The interval between its cadences may be long or short; and, by that means, its melody, with respect both to richness and variety, is far superior to that of rhyme, and superior even to that of the Greek and Latin hexameter. Of this observation no person can doubt who is acquainted with the Paradise Lost: in which work there are indeed many careless lines; but at every turn the richest melody as well as the sublimest sentiments are conspicuous.
English hexameter would be destitute of melody, unless by artful pronunciation; because of necessity the bulk of its sounds must be arbitrary. The pronunciation is easy in a simple movement of alternate long and short syllables; but would be perplexing and unpleasant, in the diversified movement of hexameter
In modern tongues, rhyme has become universal among men as well as children; and it cannot have such currency without some foundation in human nature. In fact, it has been successfully employed by
poets of genius, in their serious and grave compositions, as well as in those which are more light and airy.
Rhyme, which connects two-verse lines by making them close with two words similar in sound, rouses the mind, and produces an emotion moderately gay without dignity or elevation; like the murmuring of a brook gliding through pebbles, it calms the mind when perturbed, and gently raises it when sunk. These effects are scarce perceived when the whole poem is in rhyme; but are extremely remarkable by contrast, in the couplets that close the several acts of our later tragedies; the tone of the mind is sensibly varied by them, from anguish, distress, or melancholy, to some degree of ease and alacrity.
Having described the impression that rhyme makes on the mind, I proceed to examine whether there be any subjects to which rhyme is peculiarly adapted, and for what subjects it is improper. Grand and lofty subjects, which have a powerful influence, claim precedence in this inquiry. In the chapter of Grandeur and Sublimity, it is established that a grand or sublime object inspires a warm enthusiastic emotion, disdaining strict regularity and order. This emotion is different from that inspired by the moderately enlivening music of rhyme. Supposing then an elevated subject to be expressed in rhyme, what must be the effect? The intimate union of the music with the subject, produces an intimate union of their emotions; one inspired by the subject, tends to elevate and expand the mind; and one inspired by the music, which tends to prevent all elevation above its own pitch.
The cheering and enlivening power of rhyme is still more remarkable in poems of short lines, where the rhymes return upon the ear in a quick succession: for which reason rhyme is perfectly well adapted to gay, light, and airy subjects.
For that reason, such frequent rhymes are very improper for any severe or serious passion: the disso
nance between the subject and the melody is very sensibly felt.
Rhyme is not less unfit for anguish or deep distress, than for subjects elevated and lofty; and for that reason has been long disused in the English and Italian tragedy. In a work where the subject is serious, though not elevated, rhyme has not a good effect, as in the Essay on Man. Sportive love, mirth, gaiety, humor, and ridicule, are the province of rhyme. The boundaries assigned it by Nature, were extended in barbarous and illiterate ages; and in its usurpations it has long been protected by custom: but taste in the fine arts, as well as in morals, improves daily, and makes a progress toward perfection, slow indeed, but uniform; and there is no reason to doubt that rhyme, in Britain, will in time be forced to abandon its unjust conquest, and to confine itself within its natural limits.
From what does the distinction between prose and verse arise? What does the difference between them resemble?
What five things are important to verse?
Which are essential to it?
For what three things are pauses important?
What is meant by the key-note?
What by accenting a syllable?
How are syllables classified?
Upon what word does the voice rest longer than usual?
How is the former distinguished?
What is a couplet?
How is the latter distinguished?
What are the exceptions?
Give examples of the first exception-of the other.
May most monosyllables be pronounced long or short?
Give an example.
What imperfection in English verse is mentioned?
From what does the great variety and melody of English verse arise?
Where may the capital pause in a line fall?
With what should it coincide?
Give an example of its falling after the 4th syllable-after the 5th -after the 6th-after the 7th.
What other pauses are there?
What rule is given concerning the full pause?
Does it apply to the semi-pause?
May there be a pause in the melody where the sense requires none?
May a musical pause come after any word indifferently?
What is the effect of placing an accent on a low word?
To what syllables is accenting confined?
Are accents confined to a certain number?
What words exclude the full pause?
How does blank verse differ from rhyme with respect to form? What is its peculiar advantage?
How does rhyme prevent this?
What rules of melody apply to blank verse?
What is observed of the melody of blank verse?
What sort of rhyme rouses the mind, and produces a gay emotion?
Is rhyme suited to grand and lofty subjects?-why not?
To what subjects is rhyme perfectly adapted?
COMPARISONS serve two purposes: when addressed to the understanding, their purpose is to instruct; when to the heart, to please. The means which contribute to the latter, are, suggesting some unusual resemblance or contrast, setting an object in the strongest light, associating an object with others that are agreeable, elevating or depressing an object.
Objects of different senses cannot be compared together; for being separated from each other, they have no circumstance in common to admit resemblance or contrast. Objects of hearing, of taste, of smell, and of touch, may be compared; but the chief fund of comparison are objects of sight; because, in writing or speaking, things can only be compared in idea, and ideas of sight are more distinct than those of any other
When a nation, emerging out of barbarity, begins to think of the fine arts, the beauties of language cannot long lie concealed; and when discovered, they are, by the force of novelty, carried beyond moderation. In the early poems of every nation, we find metaphors and similies founded on slight and distant resemblances, which, losing their grace and their novelty, wear gradually out of repute; by the improvement of taste, none but correct metaphors and similies are admitted in polite composition. With respect to similies, take the following specimen :
Thou art like snow on the heath; thy hair like the mist of Cromla, when it curls on the rocks, and shines to the beam of the west: thy arms are like two white pillars in the hall of the mighty Fingal. FINGAL.
It has no good effect to compare things by way of simile that are of the same kind; nor to compare by contrast things of different kinds. The reason is given