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BOOK II.-COMPOSITION IN VERSE.
Chapter I.-Preliminary Definitions and Processes.
141. The practice of Versification, or the art of Composition in VERSE,—the outward form in which poetry expresses itself, may be made to have an important influence on Prose style, tending as it does to promote perspicuity and energy, as well as grace of language, and to cultivate refinement of thought and taste. Moreover, even as regards those who are born poets, the art deserves more careful cultivation than it has usually received. For while the uninspired have generally left the art to poets, poets have been apt to think that their genius could dispense with the art. Not so thought Ben Jonson,-himself a thoroughly artistic poet,-who, speaking of Shakespeare,
“ Though the poet's matter Nature be,
His art doth give the fashion.” He also gives warning against the neglect of the poetical art, saying that if the poet trust too much to the “ poeta nascitur, non fit” of Cicero,
“ For the laurel he may gain a scorn,
For a good poet ’s made as well as born." Wordsworth, too, has expressed himself most unequivocally on this subject
“O many are the poets that are sown
By nature, men endowed with highest gifts,
142. English verse derives its character from RHYTHM, or the recurrence of stress, beat, or accent, at regular intervals of duration.
*** In this respect, English metre differs from the classical metres, which are constructed principally according to the quantity of syllables; though modified by the rhythm in many instances. Thus, in English verse, we speak of accents as strong or weak, while Latin verse is measured by syllables regarded as long or short. This essential difference between English and Latin versification is, however, apt to be lost sight of, when, as has hitherto been customary, the terminology of classical prosody is applied to that of our own language. Dr Latham has substituted for these terms, formulæ which, however convenient in some respects, are very inconvenient as names. He has, moreover, made his formulæ exactly correspond with five classical “ feet,” a number which, as will presently be explained, the case does not require. In the following paragraphs the classical names for feet (as iambus, trochee, &c.), are discarded, as only tending to mislead. Such names, however as tetrameter, trimeter, &c., are not liable to this objection, and are more convenient than their English equivalents, four-measure, three-measure, &c. They are therefore re
tained. 143. The equivalent parts, each consisting of an interval and an accent, into which a line is divided, are called measures or feet, and correspond with measures or bars in musical melody. The division of a verse or line into feet is called scanning, or scansion.
144. The Accent in a foot consists always of a single syllable, represented, according to Dr Latham's notation, by the letter á.
The Interval most commonly consists of a single syllable, represented by the letter w. Sometimes, however, it contains two syllables, but they are sounded in the same time as one, and are represented by the letters ss. Thus, x = ss, and xá ssá; e. g., in the line,
“Not a pine / in my grove | is there seen;" the intervals are of exactly the same duration as in the line,
“No pine | in grove 1 is seen,”
Read by the metronome (an instrument used by musicians for measuring the beat of time), they would be found exactly to correspond. Indeed, x and ss correspond in the same way as a minim and two crotchets do in a bar of music. We have a further illustration of this in the occurrence of feet of two and of three syllables in the same line ; e. g. :6 The vine
to the moul | -dering wall, And at ev
leaves fali." —Tennyson. 145. A foot in which the interval consists of one weak syllable is called a simple foot; as, ax or xa.
A foot in which the interval consists of two weak syllables is called a complex foot ; as, ass or ssa.
146. A verse in which the feet are either all simple or all complex is called a pure verse; e. go:
“ Look here upon | this pic | -ture, and on this." One in which some of the feet are simple and some complex is called a mixed verse ; e. g.:
"I have read | in some | old mar I -vellous tale.” | 147. When a verse wants a weak syllable to make it complete, it is called defective (catalectic); as,
“ Life is | but an empty | dream. 2. When a complete verse has a weak syllable added to it, it is called excessive (hypercatalectic); as,
So o | -ver vi | -olent | and 0 | -ver ci | -vil.” 148. A verse consisting of one foot or measure is called monometer; of tuo, dimeter; of three, trimeter; of four, tetrameter; of five, pentameter; of six, hexameter, &c., &c.
149. A foot is not necessarily a single word. It may consist of— 1. A succession of monosyllables ; as,
“And ten | long words oft creep | in one | dull line." 2. Parts of polysyllables; as,
“In friend / -ship false, , impla | -cable | in hate." 150. RHYME is the correspondence of one verse with another in final sound. Perfect rhymes must comply with the following rules :
I. The vowel sounds and final consonants of the rhyming
syllables must be the same ; and the consonant sounds pre-
k-ind, or err-ing. II. The rhyming syllables must both have the strong accent ; e. g.:
ring rhymes with sing, but not with pleásing. III. The penultimate syllables may rhyme, provided the ultimates are identical and weak in accent; e. g.;
beár-ing rhymes with teár-ing. IV. The antepenultimate syllables may rhyme, provided the
two last syllables are identical in the two lines, and both are weak in accent; e. g.:
impór-tunate rhymes with fór-tunate. 151. The Rhythm sometimes requires words to be slightly changed in pronunciation, so as to suit a particular measure. This is done
1. By contraction, so as to reduce the number of syllables ;
'Tis, for it is, a'er, for over; ta'en, for taken ; I've, for I have;
cunning'st, for cunningest; pow'r, for power; spir’tu'l, for
spiritual ; might-iest, for mightiest. 2. By expansion, to increase the number of syllables ; as,
th(o)rough, for through; command(e)ment, for commandment;
drenched, for drench’d; na-ti:on, for nation. 152. The number of words in the English language which form perfect rhymes is so limited that some slight deviations from the above rules are sanctioned by the practice of the best poets, and are called allowable rhymes. In allowable rhymes, the final consonant sounds remain the same, and the vowel sound is modified ; e. g. :
sun, upon ; adores, powers; war, car; love, move; lost, coast.
1. Grace, match, detract, gladden, invade, safe, epitaph, chain, taking, flame, trance, chant, lapse, beware, grave.
2. Speech, creak, conceal, extreme, gleaning, heard, cease, death, shred, steed, sweep, offence, islander, wariness, bedew.
3. Bribe, slid, Ides, midst, defy, brief, drift, thrilling, guileless, shrine, spring, sire, desist, united, driven, guise, lisp.
4. Throb, shewed, scoffer, voice, anoint, spoke, golden, stolen, prone, song, brood, roofless, gloomy, grope, forswore.
5. Rude, judge, skull, overruling, sun, importune, blunt, spur, numberless, birds, nurse, dangerous, persecute, mistrust.
Exercise 60. Point out which of the following Rhymes are Allowable, and which Bad Shew what rules the latter violate. 1. “ So some rats of amphibious nature,
Are either for the land or water"-Butler. 2. “Wine or delicious fruits unto the taste,
A music in the ears will ever last."-Johnson. 3. “ Yet to his guest though no way sparing,
He ate himself the rind and paring.”—Pope. 4. “ And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist instead of a stick."-Butler. 5. “That jelly 's rich, this wine is healing,
Pray dip your whiskers and your tail in.”—Pope. 6. “Whose yielded pride and proud submission,
Her heart did melt in great compassion.”—Spenser. 7. “Pleased to the last he crops the flowery food,
And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood.”—Pope. 8. “Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile.”—Gray. 9. “Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy.”— Wordsworth. 10. “Oh! not in cruelty, not in wrath,
'Twas an angel visited the green carth.”- Longfellow.