Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Deeds of eternal fame were done, but infinite ;
For wide was spread that war and various ;
Sometimes on firm ground a standing fight;
Then soaring on main wing, tormented all the air ;
All air seem'd then conflicting fire:
Long time in even scale the battle hung.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

This arrangement of the words, though exactly classed into those portions in which they come to the ear, seems to destroy the verse to the eye, and to reduce it into what may be called numerous prose : But have we not reason to suspect that the eye puts a cheat upon the ear, by making us imagine a pause to exist where there is only a vacancy to the eye ? Mr. Sheridan has very properly accounted for the perception of false quantity in Latin verse by this association of visible and audible objects, and there seems an equal reason to suspect the same fallacy here.

The best pronouncers of tragedy have never observed this pause, and why it should be introduced into other composition is not easily comprehended : The numbers of the verse, the dignity of the language, an inversion of the common order of the words, sufficiently preserve it from falling into prose; and if the name of verse only be wanting, the loss is not very considerable. When the line is terminated by a rhyme, the boundaries of the verse are very discernible by the smallest pause ; though the most harmonious rhyming verse must be acknowledged to be that where the rhyme is accompanied by a considerable pause in the sense ; but as too long a succession of these lines satiates the ear with too much equality, we readily exchange sound for variety or force of expression. Sometimes even the pauses before and after a rhyme are so considerable, and that at the end of the rhyme so small, that the boundaries of the verse are lost in the rapidity of the expression.

- -- -- -

Which, without passing through the judgment, gains.
The heart, and all its end at once attains.

Pope.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches ; none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.

Ibid.

In these lines I think it is evident, that if we make a small pause of suspension, as Mr. Sheridan calls it, at the end of the first verse, the pauses of sense at judgment and heart, and at watches and alike, are so much more perceptible, that every trace of the length of the verse is lost: The same may be observed of the following lines of Milton :

Sing, heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning, how the heav'ns and earth
Rose out of chaos: Or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook, that flow'd
Fast by the oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song.

In the fifth, sixth, and seventh lines of this passage, the pause in the sense falls so distinctly on the words chaos, more, and God, that a slight pause at hill, flow'd, and thence, would not have the least power of informing the ear of the end of the line, and of the equality of the verse, and, therefore, for these purposes would be entirely useless. For in all pronunci. ation, whether prosaick or poetick, at the beginning of every fresh portion, the mind must necessarily have the pause of the sense in view ; and this prospect of the sense must regulate the voice for that portion, to the entire neglect of any length in the verse, as an attention to this must necessarily interrupt that flow or current in the pronunciation which the sense demands. Thus the current of the voice is stopped at chaos ; and the succeeding part of the vesse, Or if Sion hill, is so much detached from the preceding. part, that the admeasurement of the verse is destroy

ed to the ear, and we might add a foot more to the latter part of the verse without seeming at all to lengthen it ; we might, for example, write the line in this manner,

Rose out of Chaos ; or if Sion's verdant hill, without any indication of false quantity to the ear, though the eye scans it as too long by two syl. lables.

The affectation which most writers of blank verse have of extending the sense beyond the line, whether necessary or not, is followed by a similar affectation in the printer, who will often omit placing a pause at the end of a line of verse, where he would have inserted one in prose ; and this affectation is still carried farther by the reader, who will generally run the sense of one line into another, where there is the least opportunity of doing it, in order to show that he is too sagacious to suppose there is any conclusion in the sense because the line concludes. This affectation, I say, has possibly given rise to the opposite one adopted by the learned ; namely, that of pausing where the sense absolutely forbids a pause, and so by shunning Scylla, to fall into Charybdis : This errour is excellently described by Pope :

The vulgar thus through imitation err,
As oft the learn’d by being singular;
So much they hate the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong.

The truth is, the end of a line in verse naturally inclines us to pause; and the words that refuse a pause so seldom occur at the end of a verse, that we often pause between words in verse where we should not in prose, but where a pause would by no means interfere with the sense : this, it is presumed, has been fury shown in the former part of this work ; and this, perhaps, may be the reason why a pause at the end

of a line in poetry is supposed to be in compliment to the verse, when the very same pause in prose is allowable, and, perhaps, eligible, but neglected as unnecessary : However this be, certain it is, that if we pronounce many lines in Milton, so as to make the equality of impressions on the ear distinctly per. ceptible at the end of every line ; if by making this pause we make the pauses that mark the sense less perceptible, we exchange a solid advantage for a childish rhythm, and, by endeavouring to preserve the name of verse, lose all its meaning and energy.

Rule VI. In order to form a cadence in a period in rhyming verse, we must adopt the falling inflection wita considerable force, in the cæsura of the last line but one,

EXAMPLE

One science only will one genius fit,
So vast is art, so narrow human wit ;
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft in those confin'd to single parts;
Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more ;
Each might his sev'ral province I well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.

In repeating these lines, we shall find it necessary to form the cadence, by giving the falling inflection with a little more force than common to the word province. The same may be observed of the word prospect, in the last line but one of the following passage:

So pleas'd at first, the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last :
But those attain's, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen's way;
Th' increasing pròspect ll tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Aips arise.

Rule VII. A simile in poetry ought always to be read in a lower tone of voice than that part of the passage which precedes it.

EXAMPLE.

"Twas then great Marlb'rough's mighty soul was prov'd,
That in the shock of charging hosts unmov'd,
Amidst confusion, horrour, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war.
In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid ;
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an angel, by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
(Such as of late o’er pale Britannia past,)
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast ;
And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides on the whirlwind, and directs the storm. Addison.

Rule VIII. Where there is no pause in the sense at the end of the verse, the last word must have exactly the same inflection it would have in prose.

EXAMPLE.

O'er their heads a crystal firmament,
Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure*
Amber, and colours of the show'ry arch.

Milton.

In this example, the word pure must have the falling inflection, whether we make any påuse at it or not, as this is the inflection the word would have if the sentence were pronounced prosaically. For the same reason the words retired and went, in the following example, must be pronounced with the ris. ing inflection.

• This, it is presumed, is an instance, that a pause of suspension may sometimes be improper at the end of a line. See page 277.

« ZurückWeiter »