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HÉ music of verse, though handled by ev. ery grammarian, merits more attention than it has been honoured with. It is a subject intimately con . Dected with human nature; and to explain it thoroughly, several nice and delicate feelings' must be employed. But before entering upon it, we must fee what verse is, or, in other words, by what mark it is distinguished from profe ; a point not so easy as may at first be apprehended. It is true, that the construction of verfe is governed by precise rules ; whereas prose is more loose, and scarce subjected to any rules. But are the many who have no rules, left without means to make the distinction and even with respect to the learned, must they apply the rule before they can with certainty pronounce whether the composition be prose or verse ? This will hardly be maintained ; and therefore instead of rules, the ear must be appealed to as the proper judge. But by what mark does the ear distinguish verse from prose? The proper and satisfactory answer is, That these make different impressions upon every one who hath an ear. This advances us one step ‘in our inquiry.
Taking it then for granted, that verse and profe make upon the ear different impressions : nothing remains but to explain this difference and to ashgn its cause. To this end, I call to my aid, an obfervation made above upon the found of words, that they are more agreeable to the ear when composed of long and short fyllables, than when all the syllables are of the fame fort ; a continued found in the famię
tone, makes not a musical impression: the same note successively renewed by intervals, is more agreeable; but still makes not a musical impreffion. To produce that impression, variety is necessary as well as number : the fucceffive sounds or fyllables, must be some of them long, some of them short; and if also high and low, the music is the more perfect. The musical impression made by a period consisting of long and short fyllables arranged in a certain order, is what the Greeks call rhythmus, the Latins numerus, and we melody or measure. Cicero justly observes, that in one continued found there is no melody : « Numerus in continuatione nullus est." But in what follows he is wide of the truth, if by numerus he means melody or musical measure : “Distinctio, et æqualium et fæpe variorum in tervallorum percuffio, numerum conficit; quem in cadentibus guttis, quod intervallis distinguuntur, notare poffumus." Falling drops, whether with equal or unequal intervals, are certainly not music: we are not sensible of a musical impression but in a succession of long and short notes. And this also was probably the opinion of the author cited, though his expression be a little unguarded.*
It will probably occur, that melody, if it depend on long and short fyllables combined in a sentence, may be found in prose as well as in verse ; considering especially, that in both, particular words are'accented or pronounced in a higher tone than the rest; and therefore that verse cannot be distinguished from prose by melody merely. The observation is just
* From this passage, however, we discover the etymology of the Latin term for musical impression. Every one being sensible that there is no music in a continued found; the first inquiries were probably carried no farther than to discover, that to produce a musical impression a number of fourids is necessary; and musical impression obtained the name of nua. merus, before it was clearly ascertained, "that variety is neceffary as welt * number.
and it follows, that the distinction between them, since it depends not singly on melody, must arise from the difference of the melody: which is precisely the cafe; though that difference cannot with any accuracy be explained in words ; all that can be said is, that verse is more musical than prose, and its melody more perfect. The difference betweeni verse and profe, resembles the difference, in music properly so called, between the song and the recitative: and the refemblance is not the least complete, that these differences, like the shades of colours, approximate fometimes so nearly as scarce to be discernible : the melody of a recitative approaches sometimes to that of a fong : which, on the other hand, degenerates sometimes to that of a recitative. Nothing is more diftinguishable from profe, than the bulk of Virgil's Hexameters : many of those composed by Horace, are very little removed from prose : Sapphic verte has a very sensible melody: that, on the other hand, of an lambic, is extremely faint.*
This more perfect melody of articulate founds, is what distinguisheth verse from profe. Verse is fubjected to certain inflexible laws ; the number and variety of the component fyllables being ascertained, and in some measure the order of fucceffion. Such restraint makes it a matter of difficulty to compose in verse ; a difficulty that is not to be surmounted but by a peculiar genius. Useful leffons conveyed to us in verse, are agreeable by the union of music with instruction : but are we for that reason to reject knowledge, offered in a plainer dress ? That would be ris
Mufic, properly so called, is analysed into melody and harmony. A fucceffion of sounds so as to be agreeable to the car, conßitutes melody : harmony arises from co-exilling sounds. Veise therefore can only reach welody, and not harmony. VOL. II.
diculous : for knowledge is of intrinsic merit, inde. pendent of the means of acquisition ; and there are many, not less capable than willing to instruct us, who have no genius for verse. Hence the use of profe ; which, for the reason now given, is not con. fined to precise rules. There belongs to it, a certain melody of an inferior kind, which ought to be the aim of every writer ; but for succeeding in it, practice is necellary more than genius. Nor do we rigidly infilt for melodious prose: provided the work convey instruction, its chief end, we are the less folicitous about its dress.
Having ascertained the nature and limits of our subject, I proceed to the laws by which it is regulated. These would be endless, were verse of all different kinds to be taken under consideration. I propose therefore to confine the inquiry, to Latin or Greek Hexameter, and to French and English Heroic verse; which perhaps may carry me farther than the reader will choofe to follow. The observations I Ihall have occasion to make, will at any rate be sufficient for a fpecimen ; and these, with proper variations, may easily be transferred to the composition of other forts of verse.
Before I enter upon particulars, it must be premifed in general, that to verse of every kind, five things are of importance. ift, The number of fyllables that compose a verse line. 2d, The different lengths of syllables, i. e, the difference of time taken in pronouncing. 3d, The arrangement of these syllables combined in words. 4th, The pauses or stops in pionouncing. 5th, The pronouncing syllables in a high or a low tone. The three first mentioned are obviously essential to verse : if any of them be wanting, there cannot be that higher degree of melody which distinguisheth verse from profe. To give a
just notion of the fourth, it must be observed, that pauses are necessary for three different purposes : one, to separate periods, and members of the same period, according to the sense; another, to improve the melody of verse ; and the last, to afford opportunity for drawing breath in reading. A pause of the first kind is variable, being long or short, frequent or less frequent, as the sense requires. A pause of the second kind, being determined by the melody, is in no degree arbitrary. The last fort is in a measure arbitrary, depending on the reader's command of breath. But as one cannot read with grace, unless, for drawing breath, opportunity be taken of a pause in the sense or in the melody, this pause ought never to be distinguished from the others ; and for that reafon shall be laid aside. With respect then to the pauses of sense and of melody, it may be affirmed without hesitation, that their coincidence in verse is a capital beauty : but as it cannot be expected, in a long work especially, that every line should be so perfect ; we shall afterward have occasion to fee, that the pause necessary for the sense must often, in fome degree, be sacrificed to the verse-pause, and the latter sometimes to the former.
The pronouncing syllables in a high or low tone, contributes also to melody. In reading whether verse or prose, a certain tone is assumed, which may be called the key-note ; and in that tone the bulk of the words are founded. Sometimes to humour the fenfe, and sometimes the melody, a particular fyllable is founded in a higher tone ; and this is te med accenting a fyllable, or gracing it with an accent. Opposed to the accent is the cadence, which I have not mentioned as one of the requisites of verle, because it is entirely regulated by the fense, and hath