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most; after which must be a pause : and as the final member consists only of two accented words, appeal and me, no tolerable cadence can be formed; for these words, having necessarily the rising and falling inflection, are but a repetition of the same inflections, in the same order as on the words twice and most, which forms as monotonous a conclusion as the series,
A, B, A, B. It seldom happens, however, that the sentence is so constructed as to prevent the ear from falling into one or other of the two before mentioned arrangements of inflection. For so agreeable to the ear is an harmonious cadence, that, for the sake of forming one, allowances will be made for giving an emphatick accent even to words not entitled to it from their sense. Let us suppose the following sentence forming the conclusion of a discourse :
So that from what has been said, we may certainly conclude, that as virtue is not always rewarded in the present life, it will be sure to meet with the most ample and satisfactory reward in the life to come.
If this sentence is properly pronounced, there must be a considerable pause at the word reward, in order to pronounce the last member with a distinct and harmonious fall; but if we pause here, we shall find it impossible to pronounce the last member harmoniously without laying a stress on the word in; and though this word has no title either to accent or emphasis from the sense it conveys, yet the necessity of concluding a discourse, or any capital branch of a discourse, with an harmonious fall, will sufficiently authorize a considerable stress and distinct inflection on that insignificant word.
A good ear, therefore, will sometimes lay a stress on certain words, and sometimes omit it for the sake of an harmonious cadence. Thus, in Sterne's Ser. mon on the House of Mourning and the House of Feasting, we meet with this passage:
From reflections of this serious cast, how insensibly do the thoughts carry us farther ! and from considering what we are, what kind of world we live in, and what evils befall us in it, how naturally do they set us to look forwards at what possibly we shall be ! for what kind of world we are intended what evils may befall us there--and what provision we may make against them here, whilst we have time and opportunity.
In this passage we find the last member, whilst we have time and opportunity, necessarily requires that the word whilst should be pronounced with the degree of force due to an accented word, or the cadence would be faulty. But if this last member were constructed in this manner; whilst we have time and opportunity afforded us ; in this case, I say, we need give no force to the word whilst, as there are three accented words, time, opportunity, and afforded, which will be sufficient to form the cadence without it.
These observations necessarily suggest the importance of such a choice and arrangement of words as fall in with the most harmonious pronunciation. Pronunciation and composition mutually throw light on each other ; they are counterparts of one great operation of the human mind, namely, that of conveying the ideas and feelings of one man to another with force, precision, and harmony. It will not be very surprising, therefore, if the foregoing observations on pronunciation should have hinted a few rules on the harmony of composition. We have seen that the harmony of every sentence depends more particularly on the construction of the latter part, * as this forms what is commonly called the cadence. This part of the sentence, therefore, should be more particularly attended to, as it is that which crowns the whole, and makes the most lasting impression on the ear.
* Quint. L. IX. Cap. iv.
Rules for Reading Verse.
WHATEVER difficulties we may find in reading prose, they are greatly increased when the composition is in verse ; and more particularly if the verse be rhyme. The regularity of the feet, and the sameness of sound in rhyming verse, strongly solicits the voice to a sameness of tone; and tone, unless directed by a judicious ear, is apt to degenerate into a song, and a song, of all others, the most disgusting to a person of just taste. If, therefore, there are few who read prose with propriety, there are still fewer who succeed in verse; they either want that equable and harmonious flow of sound which distinguishes it from loose, unmeasured composition, or they have not a sufficient delicacy of ear to keep the harmonious smoothness of verse from sliding into a whining cant; nay, so agreeable is this cant to many readers, that a simple and natural delivery of verse seems tame and insipid, and much too familiar for the dignity of the language. So pernicious are bad habits in every exercise of the faculties, that they not only lead us to false objects of beauty and propriety, but at last deprive us of the very power of perceiving the mistake. For those, therefore, whose ears are not just, and who are totally deficient in a true taste for the musick of poetry, the best method of avoiding this impropriety is to read verse exactly as if it were prose ; for though this may be said to be an errour, it is certainly an errour on the safer side.
To say, however, as some do, that the pronunciation of verse is entirely destitute of song, and that it is no more than a just pronunciation of prose, is as distant from the truth, as the whining cant we have been speaking of is from true poetick harmony. Poe. try without song is a body without a soul. The tune of this song is, indeed, difficult to hit; but when once it is hit, it is sure to give the most exquisite pleasure. It excites in the hearer the most eager desire of imitation; and if this desire be not accompanied by a just taste or good instruction, it generally substitutes the tum ti, tum ti, as it is called, for simple, elegant poetick harmony.
It must, however, be confessed, that elegant readers of verse often verge so nearly on what is called sing song, without falling into it, that it is no wonder those who attempt to imitate them, slide into that blemish which borders so nearly on a beauty. And, indeed, as an ingenious author observes, * there is “such an affinity between poetry and musick, that they “ were in the earlier ages never separated; and though “ modern refinement has, in a great measure, destroy“ed this union, yet it is with some degree of difficul"ty, in rehearsing these divine compositions, that we “ forget the singing of the Muse."
The truth is, the pronunciation of verse is a species of elocution very distinct from the pronunciation of prose : both of them have nature for their basis ; but one is common, familiar, and practical nature; the other beautiful, elevated, and ideal nature; the latter as different from the former as the elegant step of a minuet is from the common motions in walking. Accordingly, we find, there are many who can read prose well, who are entirely at a loss for the pronunciation of verse : for these, then, we will endeavour to lay down a few rules, which may serve to facilitate the acquiring of so desirable an accomplishment.
But first it may be observed, that though all the passions may be in a poetical dress, and that the movement of the verse may be suited to all their different characters ; yet, ás verse is a species of musick,
• Philosophical Essay on the Delivery of written Language.
none of the passions appear to such advantage in po. etry as the benevolent ones; for as melody is a thing pleasing in itself, it must naturally unite with those passions which are productive of pleasing sensations ; in like manner as graceful action accords with a generous sentiment, or as a beautiful countenance gives advantage to an amiable idea. Thus the noble and generous passions are the constant topicks of ancient and modern poets ; and of these passions, the pathetick seems the favourite and most endearing theme. Those readers, therefore, who cannot assume a plaintive tone of voice, will never succeed in reading poetry ; and those who have this power, will read verse very agreeably, though almost every other requisite for delivery be wanting.
It has been observed upon a former occasion,* that the different inflections of the voice upon particular words are not so perceptible in verse as prose ; and that in the former, the voice sometimes entirely sinks the inflection, and slides into a monotone. This propensity of the voice in reading verse, shows how nearly poetry approaches to musick ; as those notes properly called musical, are really so many mono. tones, or notes without slides, in different degrees of the musical scale, and sometimes in the same degree. This approach to a monotone, especially in plaintive poetry, makes it often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to distinguish whether the slides that accompany the pauses and emphasis of verse are rising or falling : and at those pauses where we can easily distinguish the inflections, we sometimes find them different from such as we should adopt in reading the passage if it were prose; that is, we often find the rising inflection at a pause in verse, where, if it were prose, we should use the falling : an instance is given of this at the end of the series, (p. 134); and to this many more might be added. For as pronun,
• Part 1. p. 166.