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as to be pronounced without elision, and yet form no distinct syllable.
Rule IV. Almost every verse admits of a pause in or near the middle of the line, which is called the cæsura; this must be carefully observed in reading verse, or much of the distinctness, and almost all the harmony will be lost.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
The memory's soft figures melt away. Pope. These lines have seldom any points inserted in the middle, even by the most scrupulous punctuists; and yet nothing can be more palpable to the ear, than that a pause in the first at things, in the se. cond at curb’d, in the third at land, in the fourth at parts, and in the fifth at soul, is absolutely necessary to the harmony of these lines; and that the sixth, by admitting no pause but at understanding, and the seventh none but at imagination, border very nearly upon prose. The reason why these lines will not admit of a pause any where but at these words, will be evident to those who have perused the former part of this work on the division of a sentence, (Part I. page 32 ;) and if the reader would see one of the most curious pieces of analysis on this subject in any language, let him peruse in Lord Kaim's Elements of Criticism the chap. ter on Versification, where he will find the subject of pausing, as it relates to verse, discussed in the deepest, clearest, and most satisfactory manner. It will be only necessary to observe, in this place, that though the most harmonious place for the capital pause is after the fourth syllable, it may, for the sake of expressing the sense strongly and suitably, and sometimes even for the sake of variety, be placed at several other intervals.
'Tis hard to say-if greater want of skill.
But besides the capital pause, there are certain subordinate pauses, which, though not so essential a's the capital pause, yet, according to some of our prosodists, form some of the greatest delicacies in reading verse, and are an inexhaustible source of variety and harmony in the composition of poetick numbers. . But in the exemplifying of this demi-cæsura, or subordinate pause, our prosodists either show the impropriety of many of these pauses, or that they may be accounted for upon a different principle.
Relent | less walls || whose darksome round contains.
Nothing could be more puerile and destructive of the sense than to make pauses as they are here marked in the middle of the words relentless, hymeneal, and awful, which are the instances Lord Kaims brings of the use of this half pause. In the lines quoted by Mr. Sheridan, as instances of the demi-cæsura, we find an emphatick opposition at every one ; and this
opposition always requires a pause, whether in prose or verse. See Part I. page 65.
Glows / while he reads || but trembles as he writes.
From storms, a shelter || and from heat | a shade., So that, on the whole, notwithstanding the decided manner in which these prosodists speak of the demicæsura as necessary in verse, I am apt to conclude that it often exists no where but in their own imagi. nations. But the next Rule will lead us to the consideration of a pause of much more importance, which is a pause at the end of the line.
Rule V. At the end of every line in poetry must · be a pause proportioned to the intimate or remote connection subsisting between the two lines.
Mr. Sheridan, in his Art of Reading, has insisted largely on the necessity of making a pause at the end of every line in poetry, whether the sense requires it or not, which he says has hitherto escaped the observation of all writers on the subject; and this, he observes, is so necessary, that without it we change the verse into prose. It is with diffidence I dissent from such an authority, especially as I have heard it approved by persons of great judgment and taste. * I must own, however, that the necessity of this pause, where the sense does not require it, is not so evident to me, as to remove every doubt about it; for, in the first place, if the author has so united the preceding and following lines in verse as to make them real prose why is a reader to do that which his author has neglected to do ; and indeed seems to have forbidden by the very nature of the
* I asked Dr. Lowth, Mr. Garrick, and Dr. Johnson, about the proprie ety of this pause, and they all agreed with Mr. Sheridan. Had I been less acquainted with the subject, and seen less of the fallibility of great names upon it, I should have yielded to this decision ; but great names are noth. ing where the matter in question is open to experiment; and to this et. periment I appeal."
composition? In the next place, this slight and almost insensible pause of suspension does not seem to answer the end proposed by it; which is, that of making the ear sensible of the versification, or of the number of accentual impressions in every line. For this final pause is often so small, when compared with that which precedes or follows it in the body of the line, and this latter and larger pause is so of. ten accompanied with an inflection of voice which marks the formation of perfect sense, that the boundaries of the verse become almost, if not utterly imperceptible, and the composition, for a few lines, falls into an harmonious kind of prose. For it is evident, that it is not a small pause at the end of a line in verse, which makes it appear poetry to the ear, so much as that adjustment of the accented syllables which forms a regular return of stress, whether the line be long or short. Accordingly, we find, that those lines in blank verse, which have a long pause in the middle, from a conclusion of the sense, and a very short one at the end, from the sense continuing, are, in spite of all our address in reading, very prosaical. This prosaick air in these lines may have a very good effect in point of expression and variety, but if too frequently repeated, will undoubtedly render the verse almost imperceptible; for, as was before observed, the ear will measure the lines by the greatest pauses, and if these fall within, and not at the end of the line, the versification will seem to be composed of unequal lines, and will want that measure which the ear always expects in verse, and never dispenses with, but when sense, variety, or expression is promoted by it.
Deeds of eternal fame
A standing fight; then soaring on main wing,
The pauses at the ends of these lines are so small when compared with those in the body of the lines, that an appeal may be made to every ear for the truth of what has been just observed. This disproportion in the pauses cannot, however, be said to reduce the composition to prose; nay, even if we were to use no pauses at all at the end of the lines, they would not, on this account, entirely lose their poetick character; for, at worst, they might be called numerous or harmonious prose : and that the greatest part of blank verse is neither more nor less than this, it would not be difficult to prove.
Mr. Sheridan defines numbers to be certain impressions made on the ear at stated and regular distances ; and as he supposes verse would be no verse without a pause at the end of each line, he must define verse to be a certain number of impressions made on the ear at stated and regular distances, terminated by a pause, so as to make this number of impressions perceptibly equal in every line. But if a pause comes into the definition of verse because it serves to show the equal number of impressions in ev. ery line, a pause that is insufficient for this purpose is not, strictly speaking, a poetical pause ; for if the pause classes words into such portions as obliges the ear to perceive the equality or inequality of these portions, the longest pauses will be the boundaries of those portions the ear will most readily perceive, and the short pauses will, like the demi-cæsura, appear either imperceptible, or subservient only to the greater pause : Thus the foregoing passage from Milton will, while we are pronouncing it, address the ear in the same manner it does the eye in the following arrangement :