Page images
[ocr errors]

To conclude this article, the accents are not, like the syllables, confined to a certain number : some lines have no fewer than five, and there are lines that admit not above one. This variety, as we have seen, depends entirely on the different powers of the component words : particles, even where they are long by position, cannot be accented; and polysyllables whatever space they occupy, admit but one accent. Polysyllables have another defect, that they generally exclude the full pause. It is shown above, that few polysyllables can find place in the construction of English verse ; and here are reasons for excluding them, could they find place.

I am now ready to fulfil a promise concerning the four sorts of lines that enter into English Heroic verse. That these have, each of them, a peculiar melody distinguishable by a good ear, I ventured to fuggelt, and promised to account for : and though the subject is extremely delicate, I am not without hopes of making good my engagement. But first, by way of precaution, I warn the candid reader not to expect this peculiarity of modulation in every instance. The reason why it is not always perceptible has been mentioned more than once, that the thought and expression have a great influence upon the melody ; so great, as in many instances to make the poorest melody pass for rich and spirited. This consideration makes me insist upon a concession or ywo that will not be thought unreasonable : first, • That the experiment be tried upon lines equal with

respect to the thought and expression : for otherwise one may easily be misled in judgii.g of the mel. ody : and next, That these lines be regularly accented before the pause ; for upon a matter abundantly refined in itself, I would not willingly be embarrassed with faulty and irregular lines.


[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

These preliminaries adjusted, I begin with some general observations, that will fave repeating the same thing over and over upon every example. And, first, an accent succeeded by a pause, as in lines of the first and third order, makes a much greater figure than where the voice goes on without a stop. The fact is fo certain, that no person who has an ear can be at a loss to distinguish that accent from others. Nor have we far to teek for the efficient cause : the elevation of an accenting tone produceth in the mind a similar elevation, which continues during the pause:* but where the pause is separated from the accent by a short fyllable, as in lines of the second and fourth order, the impression made by the accent is more Night when there is no stop, and the elevation of the accent is gone in a moment by the falling of the voice in pronouncing the short fyllable that follows. The pause also is sensibly affected by the position of the accent. In lines of the firit and third order, the clofe conjunction of the accent and pause, occasions a sudden stop without preparation, which rouses the mind, and bestows on the melody a spirited air. When, on the other hand, the pause is leparated from the accent by a short fyllable, which always happens in lines of the second and fourth order, the pause is soft and gentle : for this short unaccented syllable, fucceeding one that is accented, must of course be pronounced with a falling voice, which naturally prepares for a pause ; and the mind falls


* Hince the liveliness of the French language as to found, above the English ; the last fyllable in the former being generally long and accented, the loug (vllable in the later being generally as far back in the word as poflib'c, and often without an acceut. For this difference I find n cause fo probable as temperament and disposition; the French being brisk and lively, the English Redate and referved : and this, if ie hold, is a pregnant instance of a selemblance between the character of a people and that of their language.

Cave repeating de


le that is

ed, I begin wit gently from the accented syllable, and slides into rest

as it were insensibly. Further, the lines themselves example

. di derive different powers from the position of the pause, as in lines ob which will thus appear.

A pause after the fourth 1

greater hyu syllable divides the line into two unequal portions, of ut a stop. I which the larger comes laft; this circumitance rehas an ear c. folving the line into an ascending series, makes an from others

impression in pronouncing like that of afcending ; at cause : ca. and to this impression contribute the redoubled effort <th in the c

in pronouncing the larger portion, which is last in during the order. The mind has a different feeling when the -m the acca pause fucceeds the filth syllable, which divides the econd and: line into two equal parts : these parts, pronounced

with equal eífort, are agreeable by their uniformity. elevatice: A line divided by a pause after the fixth fyllable, e falling a makes an impression opposite to that first mentioned:

being divided into two unequal portions, of which the politi the shorter is last in order, it appears like a flow dehird orda scending series ; and the second portion being proule, oltre

nounced with less effort than the first, the diminished effort prepares the mind for rest. And this prep

aration for rest is still more sensibly felt where the - text

pause is after the seventh syllable, as in lines of the fourth order.

To apply these observations is an easy task. A line of the first order is of all the most spirited and lively : the accent, being followed instantly by a paule, makes an illustrious figure : the elevated tone of the accent elevates the mind : the mind is fupported in its elevation by the sudden unprepared pause, which rouses and animates : and the line itfelf, representing by its unequal division an alçend. ing series, carries the mind still higher, making an impreslion similar to that of going upwanil. The second order has a modulation fenfibly, sweet, soft, and flowing ; the accent is not to sprightly as in the

ch rouls fpirited:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



chat .

[ocr errors]

former, because a short fyllable intervenes between it
and the pause: its elevation, by the same means, van.
iheth instantaneously : the mind, by a falling voice,
is gently prepared for a stop: and the pleasure of
uniformity from the division of the line into two
equal parts, is calm and sweet. The third order has
a modulation not so easily expressed in words : it in
part resembles the first order, by the liveliness of an
accent succeeded instantly by a full pause: but then
the elevation occasioned by this circumstance, is bal-
anced in some degree by the remitted effort in pro-
nouncing the second portion, which remitted effort
has a tendency to rest. Another circumstance dis-
tinguisheth it remarkably : its capital accent comes
late, being placed on the sixth syllable : and this cir-
cumstance bestows on it an air of gravity and fo.
lemnity. The last order resembles the second in the
mildness of its accent, and softness of its pause; it is
still more folemn than the third, by the lateness of
its capital accent : it also possesses in a higher degree
than the third, the tendency to rest ; and by that cir.'
cumstance is of all the best qualified for closing a pe-
riod in the completest manner.

But these are not all the distinguishing characters of the different orders. Each order also is distinguished by its final accent and pause: the unequal division in the first order, makes an impression of afcending; and the mind at the close is in the highest elevation, which naturally prompts it to put a strong emphasis upon the concluding syllable, whether by raising the voice to a sharper tone, or by expressing the word in a fuller tone. This order accordingly is of all the least proper for concluding a period, where a cadence is proper and not an accent. The fecond order being destitute of the impression of alcent; cannot rival the first order in the elevation of


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

its concluding accent, nor consequently in the dignity of its concluding pause; for these have a mutual influence. This order however with respect to its close, maintains a superiority over the third and fourth orders: in these the clofe is more humble, being brought down by the impresion of defcent, and by the remitted effort in pronouncing : considerably in the third order, and still more considerably in the last. According to this defcription, the concluding accents and pauses of the four orders being reduced to a fcale, will form a descending series probably in an arithmetical progreslion,

After what is faid, will it be thought refining too much to suggest, that the different orders are qualified for different purposes, and that a poet of genius will naturally be led to make a choice accordingly ? I cannot think this altogether chimerical. As it appears to me, the first order is proper for a sentiment that is bold, lively, or impetuous; the third order is proper for what is grave, folemn, or lofty ; the fecond for what is tender, delicate, or melancholy, and in general for all the sympathetic emotions, and the last for subjects of the same kind when tempered with any degree of solemnity. I do not contend, that any one order is fitted for no other task than that afligned it; for at that rate, no sort of melody would be left for accompanying thoughts that have nothing peculiar in them. I only venture to suggest, and I do it with diffidence, that each of the orders is peculiarly adapted to certain subjects, and better qualified than the others for expressing them. The best way to judge is by experiment; and to avoid the imputation of a partial search, I shall confine my in Itances to a single poem, beginning with the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »