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"Let us since life can little more supply,
Expatiate free-o'er all this scene of man, "A mighty maze—yet not without a plan.”
Here the pause is finely varied, and the harmony complete, whereas in verse, where it falls too frequently in the same place, there is always a monotony, and consequently a tameness. It is only a good ear which, with proper practice, can regulate this essential adjunct to good poetry.
Rhyme is not, however, an essential ingredient in English poetry, as the tragedies of Shakspeare, and the epic poems of Milton may satisfy you. It is then called blank verse, as wanting the rhyme. Whether blank verse or rhyme is to be preferred is still a matter.in dispute among the critics. In tragedy it is certainly more natural, as approaching nearer to prose; but the few successful adventurers in blank verse in the other walks of poetry seems to form a presumptive argument against it. Milton himself appears to be supported rather by the grandeur and sublimity of his thoughts and language, than by the harmony of his numbers.
Our heroic poetry, whether in rhyme or blank verse, consists of ten syllables; and in rhyme, of couplets, or two lines rhyming to each other. Sometimes, however, a triplet is introduced, or an Alexandrine, or line of twelve syllables. You have an instance of both in these lines
"Waller was smooth-but Dryden taught to join
The most frequent measure next to this in English poetry is that of eight syllables. is often appropriated to ludicrous poetry, such as Hudibras, and most of Swift's humorous pieces, and the humour is often heightened by double rhymes. Take for example the first fines of Hudibras―
"When civil dudgeon first grew high,
"And made them fight like mad or drunk,
"Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
**Though not a man of them knew wherefore.
"When Gospel trumpeter, surrounded
By long-ear'd rout to battle sounded;
It is sometimes however used on more serious occasions, and seems well adapted to tender expression.
Both the ten and eight syllable verses are generally considered as iambics; but some short poems have only seven syllables, and these may be regarded as trochaic, with a long syllable or double rhyme at the close
"Fill the bowl-with rosy wine,
"Round our temples-roses twine,
Many poems, and especially songs, in our language, are written in the dactyl or anapestic measure, some consisting of eleven or twelve syllables, and some of less. Of this measure we have a good specimen in Dr. Byrom's pretty pastoral, inserted in one of the volumes of the Spectator
"My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent,
What I have said upon this subject will suffice to give you a general idea of metre, at least as far as respects our own poetry. I shall next call your attention to a higher subject, the thoughts and language of poetry. Though this letter is not so long as some that have preceded it, yet I think it will make a better division of the subject to conclude it here, than to enter upon a new and extended subject.
Thoughts and Language of Poetry.
MY DEAR JOHN,
I OBSERVED that my definition of a poem as "a metrical composition," &c. was, like most definitions, imperfect, for a poem was likewise to be considered as a high and vigorous effort of the imagination. In considering what is requisite to form a poet, both as to choice of subject, thought and language, I cannot do better than take for my text the well-known lines of Horace
"Ingenium cui sit, cui mens divinior atque os Magna soniturum, des nominis hujus honorem."
HOR. Sat. iv.
"Creative genius and the power divine
"That warms and melts th' enthusiastic soul;
"A pomp and prodigality of phrase:
“These form the poet."
There can be little doubt but the poet means by ingenium that strong power of mind which, as circumstances require, can form a fable, plot,