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during the delivery, but called not off attention from the subject, the thoughts, nor the language ;-as conversation may be carried on in a drawing-room, while low, sweet, undisturbing instrumental harmony in the vestibule, or under the window, is heard, though not listened to, all the time. In fact, rhyme is a running bass accompaniment, that wonderfully aids the spirit and melody of the song, throughout which, without being distinctly regarded, it is, nevertheless, so interfused, that if it be suspended for a single note, the spell is broken; and treble, alt, tenor,—soaring, sinking, swelling, or passing by the most subtle transitions through the whole diapason of their range,--seem to want the sustaining power which kept them afloat and accordant. But rhyme ought ever to be subdued, and made subsidiary to the richer and more varied rhythm of the lines: for the instant it becomes conspicuous by its singularity, it attracts attention from the theme to the mechanism of the verse; and offering no more than a tinkling, momentary sound to the ear, it either displeases at once as an interruption, or soon becomes offensive because it is frivolous. Rhymes should be employed as expletives,-graceful only when they are not reflected upon; or, rather, as an element of composition, resembling air, light, health, and other of the higher and more essential requisites of happy existence, which are breathed, seen, enjoyed, without disturbing the common tenour of our feelings. When thus adapted, rhyme becomes an ingredient, so equally blended with the other constituent parts of good verse, as to do its office not less quietly, nor less
effectively, in upholding the general harmony, than the articles of nouns, auxiliaries of verbs, and other small words, which occur over and over, again and again, in all kinds of discourse, as well as literary composition, and not less in prose than in poetry. These particles, though noticed by nobody, unless bunglingly brought in, are nevertheless felt by all to be absolutely necessary for the purpose of connecting, adjusting, and filling up the verbal import of every
sentence. Rhyme may be a snare to idle versifiers, with whom,
6. One line for sense, and one for rhyme,
Are quite sufficient at one time:
These it may betray into verbosity; while
“ The mob of gentlemen who write with ease"
may be tempted, by its “ fatal facility,” to copy the practice of Elkanah Settle,
“ Who faggoted his notions as they fell,
But the genuine poet, who knows how 6 to build the lofty rhyme," in the higher as well as the vulgar sense of the word,—he, in the search after consonant endings, will start many a noble image and idea, while he is only pursuing a sound. So far from being seduced to attenuate his matter for the accommodation of recurring points, where the rhymes must strike in like oars in rowing, which, while they
feather the surge, and make it flash in the sun, impel the boat onward, and accompany the song of the seamen, -the genuine poet, of whom we speak, like Pope, the greatest master of rhyme in our own, or perhaps in any language, because in none other is it so difficult, shy, and perverse*, - will deliberately prefer it, for the remarkable reason which he states in the introduction to his “ Essay on Man,” because of its power of compression! Hear him :
“ If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite; in passing over terms utterly unintelligible, and in forming a temperate yet not inconsistent, and a short yet not imperfect, system of ethics. This I might have done in prose ; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious ;- that principles, maxins, or precepts, so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards. The other may seem odd, but it is true ;~ I found that I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as
* In proof of this may be mentioned the simple circumstance of plural nouns ending in the consonant s, while in verbs, the usual termination of the third person singular, present tense, (that which of all others occurs the oftenest) is the same. This is a source of perpetual sorrow and plague to metre-mongers, and probably curtails the available rhymes in the English tongue, one fourth of what they might be, were the unmanageable s equally the termination of either singular or plural nouns and verbs.
grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness.”
To this may be added, that if poets understood the secret of compression thus ingeniously expounded, and if they practised it after the example of their preceptor, - poetry, instead of being the dullest, heaviest, and least attractive species of literature to the great mass of readers, which I do not hesitate to acknowledge that it is, would be, at least, as generably acceptable as imaginative and intellectual prose.
It is not. “Do you like poetry ?” said the Frenchman to his friend. “O yes !” replied the other, “next to prose!” This is the real sentiment of
many a reader of feeble, fanciful, fashionable verse,-ay, and of verse of the first order, who has neither courage nor ingenuousness to avow his indifference; indeed, who will hardly acknowledge it to himself, though he has shrewd misgivings, which he represses, because they make him suspect that he must be miserably deficient in taste.
The reason is plain; and even good poets have too often to thank themselves for the failure of their most elaborate efforts, because they will not write naturally, but rather choose to disguise common sense with oracular ambiguity, and trick out common-place in the foppery of euphuism. It is impossible to please people by convincing them that they ought to be pleased : you must make them, that they cannot help being so. How to do that, I pretend not to teach.
Let us try a paragraph from the “ Essay on Man," by the poet's own gauge,- elegant compression:
6 Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use?— Pride answers, 'Tis for mine;
The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew;
This brilliant clause shows the fine tact and masterly management of the ten-syllable couplet, peculiar to Pope, who is at once the most affluent in resources, and yet the most compact and energetic in the employment of them, of all writers in rhyme (without any exception) in our language. Here all the great features of the visible universe, the bounties of Divine Providence, and the general business of human life, are presented in the smallest possible compass consistent with distinct and harmonious arrangement: sun, moon, and stars; earth, ocean, air; flowers, fruits, harvest, and vintage; wealth, luxury, commerce: and, the “ end” of all, the gratification of the rational creature! It is remarkable, that, throughout this melodious flow of nevertiring numbers, the cæsural pauses float between the fourth and fifth, and the fifth and sixth syllables. This, probably, was accidental, the poet being ruled solely by the infallible test of his ear, which most exactly suited the cadence and consonance of the verse to the subject. It has been suggested, that it would improve the passage morally, if these lovely lines, and lovelier sentiments, instead of being uttered