« PreviousContinue »
operation where there are artistic possibilities, leads men to take satisfaction in this kind of an arrangement; and when they have made it, they have produced rhythm.
A larger rhythm makes prominent as in prose, every second or third accent; but metrical rhythm, i. l., metre, regards every accent. When reading verse, the accents seem to mark it off; if marching, our feet would keep time to them. Hence, as many syllables as can be grouped about one syllable clearly accented, are termed a measure or foot,—words synonymous as applied to English verse; though the classic measure sometimes contained two feet. Here are feet separated by bars :
Tell me | not in | mournful | numbers The train from out the castle drew Over the roadways and on through the / villages There came to the beach a poor exile / of Erin O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave Roses are in | blossom and the rills are filled with water-cresses The king has come I to marshal us | in all his ar | mor dressed. The number of measures in a line determines its metre; Hence the use of the Greek terms, monometer, meaning a line of one measure, and dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter, etc., meaning respectively a line of two, three, four, five, and six measures.
All this, however, need scarcely be known as a preparation either for writing or reading English verse. poet has only to arrange his words so that the accents will recur at like intervals, and very few for whom he writes will fail to recognize the character of his rhythm, and to measure it off correctly in their reading. It is true that, if unusual measures are used, it may be neces sary to put long words, or those in which the accent is unmistakable, at the beginning of the first line or two,
but, the clew once given, the rhythm will take care of itself. The smallest children, able to talk, catch with ease the movements of Mother Goose's melodies, some of which contain metres as complicated as are ever constructed.
In the classic languages metre was determined by the quantities or relative lengths of the vowel-sounds or consonant-sounds composing the syllables. Our own language is not spelled phonetically, and therefore we fail to notice the effect of similar elements in it. Yet they are present to a greater extent than we ordinarily suppose, as will be brought out clearly when we come to consider quantity, especially that which is used in the English hexameter. Any one acquainted with the subject, knows that it is a mistake to hold that quantity has nothing whatever to do with the movements of our metres, and an analogous mistake, probably, would be made in supposing that the emphasis of ordinary pronunciation had nothing to do with the movements of the classic metres. Notice what Schmidt has to say on this subject in the quotation from his “Introduction to the Rhythmic and Metric of the Classic Languages," given in the ninth chapter of this work. It is true that, in constructing verse, the Greeks and Romans subordinated every thing else to quantity; but they did so in order to produce a rhythmic effect when chanting their lines, analogous to that which we produce when reading ours according to accent. Unlike ourselves, however, if, in composing, they came to a word in which long quantity and the ordinary accent did not go together, they seem always to have been at liberty to disregard the accent, and occasionally, too, to change the quantity. At the same time, that which controlled their action in the matter appears to
have been largely a consideration of convenience. In serious poety, it was lawful for them to produce results not wholly unlike that in the third rhyme of the following, the classic quality of which some of us hitherto may not have recognized :
For he might have been a Roosian,
Or perhaps I-tal-i-an.
-Pinafore : Gilbert.
Our poets, on the contrary, base the rhythms of their verse on the accents of the standard pronunciation, and to these subordinate all considerations of quantity. The result, as compared with the language of our prose, is more natural than that reached by the other method; and in its way is fully as artistic. Nor, in other regards, is English inferior to the classic tongues in its capabilities of artistic treatment. Owing to an extensive use of terminations in nouns, articles, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs, in order to indicate different grammatical relationships, the Greeks and Romans could change the order of words in a sentence without changing its meaning. In their language, “The dog ate the wolf,” with slightly varied terminations, could read, “ The wolf ate the dog." For this reason, they could alter their phraseology, in order to accommodate it to the requirements of metre, as is not possible for us; and so far they had an advantage over us. Nevertheless, for some reason, when they came to put their words into verse, every school-boy who tries to scan, knows that they produced a language which, like the present French poetic diction, sounded unlike
that of conversation. Even supposing, with some scholars, that in reading they did not scan their verses as we do now, nor even chant them invariably, as some infer was the case, their poetical language was not the same as their spoken language. Aristotle tells us, when mentioning things which it is legitimate for the poet to do, that he can invent new words, that he can expand old ones, either by lengthening vowels or by adding syllables, that he can contract them by shortening vowels or omitting syllables, and that he can alter them in various other ways. Spenser and others since him have applied similar methods to English poetic diction ; but, at present, such changes are not considered admissible, except in rare instances, and this because they are recognized to be unnecessary. The fact that they are not admissible in our language, and were admissible in the classic languages, proves that, in one regard at least, our language is superior to them as a medium of metre. The following is a typical English stanza. In it there are no changes from ordinary prose in the arrangement, spelling, or pronunciation of any of the words:
“ Tell me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream,
-Psalm of Life: Longfellow.
ELOCUTION: ITS REPRESENTATIVE ELEMENTS CLASSI
Pause and Accent-Analyzed, the Former gives us the Element of Duration ;
the Latter gives Duration, Force, Pitch, and Quality_Must find What each Element represents in DISCOURSIVE ELOCUTION, developed from Ejaculatory or Instinctive Modes of Utterance, and in DRAMATIC ELOCUTION, developed from Imitative or Reflective Utterance; and then apply to Poetry-General Statement of What is represented by Duration, Force, Pitch, and Quality ; Rhythm the Effect of the First
Two, and Tune of the Last Two. HAVIN AVING sufficiently established now the general
fact that certain poetic forms are traceable to the pause and accent of ordinary conversation, we are prepared to pass on and ask what these forms represent? To answer this we must decide first what the pause and accent represent; and, after that, try to determine whether, in any sense, they represent corresponding ideas when developed into the forms of poetry. Let us pursue our inquiry in the order thus suggested.
What the pause and accent represent can be ascertained only by a reference to the principles of elocution. This art, as we know, has the power of producing an almost endless variety of effects, and all these, as a moment's thought will show us, simply by making more or less emphatic the very pauses and accents now engaging our attention. In these, therefore, must be enfolded many possibilities of expression capable of development. Let