« PreviousContinue »
pass : the sense must be curtailed and broken into parts, to make it square with the curtness of the melody ; and beside, short periods afford no latitude for inversion,
I have examined this point with the stricter accu. racy, in order to give a just notion of blank verse; and to show, that a slight difference in form inay produce a great difference in substance. Blank' verse has the fame pauses and accents with rhyme, and a pause at the end of every line, like what concludes the first line of a couplet. In a word, the rules of melody in blank verse, are the same that obtain with respect to the first line of a couplet, but being disengaged from rhyme, or from couplets, there is access to make every line run into another, precisely as to make the first line of a couplet run into the fecond. There must be a musical pause at the end of every line ; but this pause is fo flight as not to rea quire à pause in the sense: and accordingly the sense may be carried on with or without pauses, till a pea riod of the utmost extent be completed by a full close both in the sense and the sound: there is no restraint, other than that this full close be at the end of a line ; and this restraint is necessary, in order to preserve a coincidence between sense and found, which ought to be aimed at in general, and is indispensable in the case of a full close, because it has a striking effect. Hence the fitness of blank verse for inversion : and consequently the luftre of its “pauses and accents ; for which, as observed above, there is greater scope in inversion, than when words run in thcir natural order.
In the second section of this chapter it is shown, that nothing contributes more than inverfion to the force and elevation of language: the couplets of rhyme con
fine VOL. II.
fine inversion within narrow limits ; nor would the elevation of inversion, were there access for it in rhyme, readily accord with the humbler tone of that fort of verse. It is universally agreed, that the loftiness of Milton's style supports admirably the sublimity of his subject ; and it is not less certain, that 'the loftiness of his style arises chiefly from inversion. Shakespear deals little in inversion ; but his blank verfe being a fort of measured profe, is perfectly well adapted to the stage, where laboured inversion is highly improper, because in dialogue it never can be natural.
Hitherto I have considered that superior power of expression which verse acquires by laying aside rhyme. But this is not the only ground for preferring blank verse : it has another preferable quality not less sig. nal; and that is, a more extensive and more complete melody. Its music is not, like that of rhyme, confined to a single couplet ; but takes in a great compass, so as in some measure to rival music properly so called. The interval between its cadences may be long or fort at pleasure ; and, by that means, its melody, with respect both to richness and variety, is superior far to that of rhyme, and superior even to that of the Greek and Latin Hexameter. Of this observation no person can doubt who is acquainted with the Paradise Lost : in which work there are indeed many careless lines ; but at every turn the richest melody as well as the fublimest sentiments are conspicuous. Take the following specimen.
Now morn her rosy steps in th' eastern clime
Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora's fan,
Book 5. l. 1.
Comparing Latin Hexameter with English Heroíc rhyme, the former has obviously the advantage in the following particulars. It is greatly preferable as to arrangement, by the latitude it admits in placing the long and short syllables. Secondly, the length of an Hexameter line hath a majestic air : ours, by its shortness, is indeed more brilk and lively, but much less fitted for the sublime. And, thirdly, the long high-founding words that Hexameter admits, add greatly to its majesty. To compensate these advantages, English rhyme possesses a greater number and greater variety both of pauses and of accents. These two sorts of verse stand indeed pretty much in opposition: in Hexameter, great variety of arrangement, none in the pauses nor accents ; in English rhyme, great variety in the pauses and accents, very little in the arrangement.
In blank verse are united, in a good measure, the several properties of Latin Hexameter and English rhyme ; and it possesses beside many signal properties of its own. It is not confined, like Hexameter, by a full close at the end of every line ; nor, like rhyme, by a full close at the end of every couplet. Its construction, which admits the lines to run into each other, gives it a still greater majesty than arises from the length of a Hexameter line. By the same means, it admits inversion even beyond the Latin or Greek Hexameter ; for these suffer some confinement by the regular closes at the end of every line. In its music it is illustrious above all: the melody of Hexameter verse is circumscribed to a line ; and of English rhyme, to a couplet : the melody of blank verse is under no confinement, but enjoys the utmost privilege, of which melody of verse is susceptible ; which is, to run hand in hand with the sense. In a word, blank verse is superior to Hexameter in many articles ; and inferior to it in none, save in the freedom of arrangement, and in the use of long words.
In French Heroic verse, there are found, on the contrary, all the defects of Latin Hexameter and English rhyme, without the beauties of either : fubjected to the bondage of rhyme, and to the full close at the end of every couplet, it is also extremely fatiguing by uniformity in its pauses and accents : the line invariably is divided by the pause into two equal parts, and the accent is invariably placed before the pause.
Jeune et vaillant herôs || dont la liaute sagesse
Here every circumstance contributes to a tiresome uniformity : a constant return of the fame pause and
of the same accent, as well as an equal division of every line ; which 'fatigue the ear without intermission or change. I cannot set this matter in a better light, than by presenting to the reader a French translation of the following passage of Milton :
Two of far nobler shape, ercct and tall,
Were the pauses of the fenfe and found in this pasfage but a little better assorted, nothing in verse could be more melodious. In general, the great defect of Milton's versification, in other respects admirable, is the want of coincidence between the pauses of the sense and found.
The translation is in the following words :
Ce lieux délicieux, ce paradis charmant,