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impassioned, feeling. The Tyrolese, amidst their
And to our children will transmit, or die ;
LECTURES ON POETRY.
THE DICTION OF POETRY.
Alliterative English Verse.
ENGLISH verse may be constructed according to three forms,- alliterative, with rhyme, or simply metrical (blank, as it is called).
" Pierce Plowman's Vision,” by William Langlande, who lived in the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., and published his poem about the year 1350, is the largest specimen of alliterative poetry bequeathed to us from remote times. This kind of versification is founded upon Icelandic and AngloSaxon models; and neither depends for its effect upon the quantity of the syllables, their number, their particular accent, nor yet their rhyming terminations, but consists in an artful repetition of the same sounds, at least three times in each distich. The lines, likewise, have a certain slipshod cadence, with a marked cesura about the middle of each; and, on the whole, they read much more like Greek or
Roman measures than any others in our language. A brief sample will be found not altogether unagreeable to modern ears. Much of Chaucer, on account of his lame metres, is harder to be read than the following:
“ Thus robèd in russet, I roamèd about,
All a summer-season, to seeke Do-wel,
6 that man is dwellinge, And ever hath, as I hope, and ever shall hereafter.' - Contra,' quod I, as a clarke and cumsed to dis
puten, And said him sotheley, Septies in die cadit Justus,' • Seven sythes **,' said the Boke, synneth the right
full,' And who so synneth, I say, doeth evil, as men thinketh, And Do-wel and Do-evil may not dwell together ;
* Enquired. + Dwelt. $ Tell. I Saluted them kindly. To inform me.
♡ Lived. ** Times,
Ergo, he is not alway among you fryers,
• I shall say thee, my sonne,' said the fryer than, • How seven sythes, the sadde * man on a day syn
neth, By a forvisne t,' quod the fryer, I shall thee faire
-Let bryng a man in a botte $ amid the brode water ; The winde and the water the botte wagging S, Make a man many a time to fall and to stande; For stande he never so stiffe, he stumbleth if he move; And yet he is safe and sounde, and so him behoveth; For if he arise the rather, and raght to the steer, The winde would with the water the botte overthrow, And then were his life lost through latches of him
Our elder poets often availed themselves of “apt alliteration's artful aid,” (as Churchill significantly calls it,) in their minor pieces:
“ The life is long, that lothsomely doth last,
The dolefull dayes draw slowly to their date ; The present panges and painfull plagues forepast, Yielde griefe aye greene to stablish this estate."
Shakspeare has many fine touches of this poetical seasoning, which, indeed, is seldom otherwise than pleasing, when unobtrusively thrown in. If the vowel i be pronounced in the substantive “wind,” as it is in the verb " to wind," the effect of the
+ A simile. Rocking the boat.
I A boat. || By his own carelessness,
double alliteration in the following line will be exceedingly impressive :
“ The churlish chiding of the wintry wind.”
To show how subtle the charm of exquisite verse may be, let " wind” be pronounced with the usual flat i, and the “ wintry wind” will be hardly endurable,
Later poets, even the most eminent, have not disdained to employ this pretty artifice. Gray, one of the most fastidious of the tribe, was even fond of it.
" Ruin seize thee, ruthless king!
Confusion on thy banners wait;
They mock the air with idle state.”
Alliteration, open or occult, may be traced through every turn of this brief paragraph.
Young, in his most sombre lucubrations, and epigrammatic arguments, plays with alliteratives in his own quaint way:
« Fondness for fame is avarice of air !"
Our national verse may be written either with rhyme or without it. By universal usage, however, rhyme seems to be almost indispensable in lesser metres, to distinguish the lines in recitation, and give a certain finish to the cadence of each; as though the strain were set to some kind of music, which played