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knows more of the appreciable time of syllables than it can at present boast, we may be justified in considering the denial of the susceptibility of a temporal rythmus to modern languages, as a mere assumption.
I am aware that the number of monosyllables and dissyllables in our language, exceeds that of the Greek; and this may possibly render the former less fit than the latter, for the construction of certain systems of measure. On this ground it has been asserted that English words could not be arranged in an agreeable dactylic succession. This may be the case, but we have too little slight in the management of quantity, to justify a positive opinion on this point; and the trials which have been made, are not quite decisive. Habit is a forestalled and obstinate judge over existing institutions, and often pronounces unwisely upon their better substitutes. It is very certain that an anapæstic measure, founded on a mixture of accent and quantity, and nearly identical in effect with the ancient full dactylic line, is well suited to the syllabic and verbal condition of our language, and that a very agreeable rythmus is produced by it.* Admitting the above objection, it will not overrule the design to establish the forms of lambic and Trochaic measure, now in use, on the basis of quantity alone.
Although English versification is avowedly founded on the accentual rythmus, entire lines are occasionally found, so satisfactorily fulfilling all the conditions of the temporal measure, that they might be judged by the revived poetical ear of a Greek. But such lines are always preceded and followed by others, founded on the mingled functions of both quantity and accent. A rythmus composed altogether of accent, if such a
* Let us subjoin a word here, for our delusions and prejudices. The dactylic foot, and the anapæstic, fall with a similar impression on the ear. The ancients used the former for themes of the highest dignity; and school boys are taught that it richly and gravely fulfils its purpose. We use the anapæstic foot for doggrel and burlesque, and believe too, that there is something in its light skip peculiarly adapted to the familiar gayety of its modern poetic use. Let a deaf worshipper of antiquity and an English prosodist, settle this matter between them : for, to serve a purpose, even the opposite ends of contradiction can be made to meet. I will only say, in the words by which the Yezedi of Persia, who worship the devil, briefly explained their faith, and pertinaciously defended it against a Christian missionary—"Thus it is.”
means, towards its improvement; and who, by taste and authority, have been qualified to listen to living voices, with progressively meliorating influence upon them, have only wandered off with an unavailing ear, among the silent graves of language in the remote realms of antiquity. We all feel an august delight over the works of the distant dead : There is scarcely a page of the poetic rythmus of the Greeks and the Romans, or a remaining trace of their plummet and chisel, that might not make me forget, through intense contemplation, the mere seclusion of a prison. But I could as soon admit, that the modern zeal in freighting our homeward ships with the fragments of their temples; and the covetousness of nations for the very purloined possession of their statuary, ought to preclude the future use of the marble of our mountains, for the accomplishment of equal or transcending works of art, as that a just admiration of classic measure should prevent the endeavour to transfer to our own language, the admissible principles of Greek and Roman poetry.
I have offered the last few pages of this section, as no more than digressive and desultory remarks on a subject intimately connected with the time of the voice, and with the cultivation of an important but neglected accident of speech.
The English language has an unbounded prospect before it. The unequalled millions of a great continent must hold a wide community, in the pleasures and interests of its advancement. I can not so far undervalue the emulative efforts of that great population which must hereafter form its literary class, as to suppose they will all merely vaunt in retrospective vanity, over what has been done, and not extend their views to other and deeper resources of their art. But, in thus looking forward to the establishment of English versification, on the basis of quantity, I see the limitation of the poet's abundance, by the substituted excellence of his few but finished lines. Our measure is now drawn from the two different sources of accent and quantity. To construct a rythmus by quantity alone, will require more rejections, and a wider search in composition ; more copiousness in the command of words; more accuracy of ear, and longer labour for a shorter work. I am here speaking of the great products of the pen. Of these, as of all perdurable human excellence, labour must be the means; and the
The Monotone and the Alternate phrase, are the only modes of melodial progression which attract the ear by a peculiarity of character, and thereby fulfil any remarkable purpose of expression.
A predominance of the monotone in melody, is suited to feelings of dignity, grief, tenderness, solemnity, and serious admonition.
The phrase of alternation is expressive of the more active sentiments of anger, joy and facetiousness, and to the earnest strife of argument. It is, however, to be taken into view, that the current melody must not consist altogether of either of these phrases. This would produce a disagreeable uniformity. The monotone should be occasionally broken by the rising or falling ditone ; and the alternation as frequently varied by a limited monotone.
An illustration of the dignified expression of the monotone may be given, on that magnificent picture of Satan's imperial presence in Pandemonium, at the opening of the Second Book of Paradise Lost.