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25. When these observations on the.accent and quantity of the ancients are all put together, shall we wonder that the learned and ingenious author of Elements of Criticism * should go so far as to assert that the dactyls and spondees of hexameter verse, with respect to pronunciation, are merely ideal, not only with us, but that they were so with the ancients themselves ? Few, however, will adopt an opinion which will necessarily imply that the Greek and Latin critics were utterly ignorant of the nature of their own language: and every admirer of those excellent writers will rather embrace any explanation of accent and quansity, than give up Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Cicero, Quintilian, and Longinus. Suppose then, as a last refuge, we were to try to read a Greek or Latin verse, both by accent and quantity, in the manner they have prescribed, and see what such a trial will produce.
26. By quantity, let us suppose the vowel lengthened to express the long quantity; and by the acute accent, the rising inflexion as explained above.
Títyre, tú pátulæ récubans súb tégmine fági,
Μηνιν άειδε Θεα Πηλητάδεω 'Αχιληος
Ουλομένην, η μυρί αχαιούς αλγε έθηκη.
* Elements of Criticism, vol. II. page 106. See also the Essayupon the Hare mony of Language, page 234.
27. Now there are but four possible ways of pronouncing these verses without going into a perfect song *: one is, to pro. nounce the accented syllable with the falling inflexion, and the unaccented syllable with the same inflexion in a lower tone, which is the way we pronounce our own words when we give them the accent with the falling inflexion: the second is, to pronounce the accented syllable with the rising inflexion, and the unaccented syllables with the same inflexion in a lower tone, which we never hear in our own language: the third is, to pronounce the accented syllable with the falling inflexion, and the unaccented syllables with the rising, in a lower tone : and the fourth, to pronounce the accented syllable with the rising inflexion, and the unaccented with the falling, in a lower tone,
None of these modes but the first and last do we ever hear in our own language : the second and third seem too difficult to permit us to suppose that they could be the natural current of the human voice in any language. The first leaves us no possible means of explaining the circumflex: but the last, by doing this, gives us the strongest reason to suppose that the Greek and Latin acute accent was the rising inflexion, and the grave accent the falling inflexion, in a lower tone.
* This, I may be bold to say, is coming to the point at once, without hiding our ignorance, by supposing that the ancients had some mysterious way of pronouncing which we are utterly incapable of conceiving. Mr. Sheridan tells us, that “the ancients did observe the distinction of accents by an eleva. “ tion and depression of voice ; but the manner in which they did it must re“ main for ever a secret to us; for, with the living congue, perislied the tones “ also; which we in vain endeavour to seek for in their visible marks." Lecture on Elocution,. 4to edition, page 39.- From these and similar observations in many of our writers, one would be tempted to imagine that the organs of speaking in ancient Greece and Rome were totally different from those of the present race of men in Europe.
29. But if the reader were sufficiently acquainted with these inflexions of voice, or could be present while I exemplified them to him, I doubt not that he would immediately say, impossible so monotonous a pronunciation could be that of the Greeks and Romans * : but when we consider the monotony of the Scotch, Welch, and Irish, why should we wonder that other nations should be as monotonous ? Let us view the Greek and Latin pronunciation on which side we will, we must, to be consistent with their own rules, feel them to be extremely monotonous. According to the laws of ancient prosody, every unaccented syllable must be lower than that which is accented; and if so, a most disagreeable monotony must necessarily ensue: for as every word in Latin, "and almost every word in Greek, of more than one syllable, ended with the grave accent, that is, in a lower tone than the preceding syllables, almost every word in those languages ended with the same tone, let that tone have been what it would t.
29. I am supported in this conjecture, notwithstanding all
* Dr. Burney tells us, that Meibomius, the great and learned Meibomius, when prevailed upon at Stockholm to sing Greek strophes, set the whole court of Christina in a roar ; as Naudé did in executing a Roman dance. And Scaliger observes, that if the nice tonical pronunciation of the ancients could be expressed by a modern, it would be disagreeable to our ears.
+ This is certainly too general an assertion, if we consider the real pronunciation of the Greek language according to accent; as it must be allowed that great number of Greek words were accented with the acute or circumflex on the last syllable ; but when we consider the modern pronunciation of Greek which confounds it with the Latin, we shall not have occasion to recall the assertion. To which we may add, that those words in Greek that were circumflexed on the last syllable may very properly be said to end with the grave accent; and that those which had a grave upon the final syllable altered the grave to an acute only when they were pronounced alone, when they came before an enclitic, or when they were at the end of the sentence.
the fine things * the ancients, and many of the moderns, say of the variety and harmony of the Greek and Latin languages, by the definition which they give of the circumfiex accent; which is, that it was a combination of the acute and grave upon the same syllable. This is so incomprehensible to modern ears, that scarcely any one but the author of the present Observations has attempted to explain it by experiment. It stands for nothing but long quantity in all our schools'; and, contrary to the clearest testimonies of antiquity, it has, by Dr. Gally + and a late respectable writer on the Greek and Latin Prosodies, been explained away into nothing more than the acute accent. But if it means a raising and falling of the voice upon the same syllable, which is the definition the ancients uniformly give of it, it is just as easy to conceive as raising and falling the voice upon successive syllables ; or, in other words, as going from a lower tone to a higher upon one syllable, and from a higher to a lower
upon the next: and this consideration leads me to conjecture, that the acute accent of the ancients was really the rising
* The Græcian sage, (says Dr. Burney,) according to Gravina, was at once a philosopher, a poet, and a musician. “ In separating these characters,” says he,
they have all been weakened; the system of philosophy has been contracted; • ideas have failed in poetry, and force and energy in song. Truh no longer " subsists among mankind : the philosopher speaks not at present through the " medium of poetry; nor is poetry heard any more througli the vehicle of me,
lody."-"Now to my apprehension," says Dr. Burney, “the reverse of all « this is exactly true: for, by being separated, each of these professions receives
a degree of cultivation, which fortifies and renders it more powerful, if not more " illustrious. The music of ancient philosophers, and the philosophy of modern " musicians, I take to be pretty equal in excellence." History of Music, vol. I. page 162.--Here we see good sense and sound philosophy contrasted with the blind admiration and empty flourish of an overgrown school-boy concluding his theme.
+ Dissertation against Greek Accents, page 53.
inflexion, or upward slide of the voice; for this being once supposed, nothing is so easy as to demonstrate the circumflex in our own language; which, without this clue, it will be impossible to do in the ancient languages ; and even with it, we must be astonished they had but one circumflex; since it is just as easy to fall and raise the voice upon the same syllable as to raise and fall it *.
30. But our wonder at these peculiarities of the Greek and Latin languages will cease when we turn our thoughts to the dramatic perforinances of the people who spoke these lan
* To add to our astonishment, that the Greek and Latin languages had but one circumflex, what can be more wonderful, than that among so many of the ancients who have written on the causes of eloquence, and who have descended to such trifling and childish observations upon the importance of letters and syllables, we should not find a single author who has taken notice of the importance of ema phasis upon a single word ? Our modern books of elocution abound with in. stances of the change produced in the sense of a sentence by changing the place of the emphasis : but no such instance appears among the ancients. Not one poor Will you ride 10 town to-day?
Our wonder will increase when we consider that the ancients frequently mention the different meaning of a word as it was differently accented; that is, as the acute or circumflex was placed upon one syllable or another ; but they never hint that the sense of a sentence is altered by an emphasis being placed upon different words. The ambiguity arising from the same word's being differently accented is so happily exemplified by the author of the Greek and Latin Prosodies, that I shall use his words. “ Alexander Aphrodisiensis illustrates this species of sophism, by
a well-chosen example of a law, in which the sense depends entirely upon the ac
curacy of accentuation. “Εταίρα χρυσία, ει’ φοροίη δημόσια έστω. The o word equécia, with the acute accent upon the antepenult, is the neuter nominative plural, in apposition with Xgucia.
And the sense is, 'If a courtezan wear golden trinkets, let them (viz. her golden trinkets) be forfeited to the pub" lic use." But if the accent be advanced to the penult, the word, without any “ other change, becomes the feminine nominative singular, and must be taken in " apposition with staiga. And thus the sense will be, "If a courtezan wear * golden trinkets, let her become public property.' This is a very notable in