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Manner of reading verse.
When we are reading verse, there is a peculiar difficulty in making the pauses justly. The difficulty arises from the melody of verse, which dictates to the ear pauses or rests of its own; and to adjust and compound these properly with the pauses of the sense, so as neither to hurt the ear, nor offend the understanding, is so very nice a matter, that it is no wonder we so seldom meet with good readers of poetry. There are two kinds of pauses that belong to the melody of verse : one is, the pause at the end of the line ; and the other, the cæsural pause in or near the middle of it. With regard to the pause at the end of the line, which marks that strain or verse to be finished, rhyme renders this always sensible ; and in some measure compels us to observe it in our pronunciation. In respect to blank verse, we ought also to read it, so as to make every line sensible to the ear: for, what is the use of melody, or for what end has the poet composed in verse, if, in reading his lines, we suppress his numbers, by omitting the final pause; and degrade them, by our pronunciation, into mere prose? At the same time that we attend to this pause, every appearance of sing.song and tone must be carefully guarded against. The close of the line where it makes no pause in the meaning, ougtat not to be marked by such a tone as is used in finishing a sentence; but, without either fall or elevation of the voice, it should be denoted only by so slight a suspension of sound, as may distinguish the passage from one line to ano. ther, without injuring the meaning.
The other kind of melodious pause, is that which falls
somewhere about the middle of the verse, and divides it into two hemistichs: a pause, not so great as that which belongs to the close of the line, but still sensible to an ordinary ear. This, which is called the cæsural pause, may fall, in English heroic verse, after the 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th syllable in the line. Where the verse is so constructed that this cæsural pause coincides with the slightest pause or division in the sense, the line can be read easily ; as in the two first verses of Pope's Messiah:
“ Ye nymphs of Solyma !'' begin the song;
But if it should happen that words which have so strict and intimate a connexion, as not to bear even a momentary separation, are divided from one another by this cæsural pause, we then feel a sort of struggle between the sense and the sound, which renders it difficult to read such lines harmoniously. The rule of proper pronunciation in such cases, is, to regard only the pause which the sense forms; and to read the line accordingly. The neglect of the cæsural pause may make the line sound somewhat unharmoniously; but the effect would be much worse, if the sense were sacrificed to the sound. For instance, in the following line of Milton,
............ " What in me is dark, “ Illumine; what is low, raise and support."
the sense clearly dictates the pause after illumine, at the end of the third syllable, which, in reading, ought to be made. accordingly; though, if the melody only were to be regarded, illumine should be connected with what follows,
and the pause not made till the fourth or sixth syllable. So in the following line of Pope's Epistle to Di. Arbuthnot,
the ear plainly points out the cæsural pause as falling after sad, the fourth syllable. But it would be very bad reading to make any pause there, so as to-separate sad and civility. The sense admits of no other pause than after the second syllable sit, which therefore must be the only pause -made in reading this part of the sentence.
There is another mode of dividing some verses, by introducing what may be called demi-cæsuras, which require very slight pauses; and which the reader should manage with judgment, or hewill be apt to fall into an affected sing-song mode of pronouncing verses of this kind. The following lines exemplify the demi-cæsura:
“ Warms in the sun", refreshes' in the breeze,
Before the conclusion of this introduction, the Compiler takes the liberty to recommend to teachers, to exercise their pupils in discovering and explaining the emphatic words, and the proper tones and pauses, of every portion assigned them to read, previously to their being called out to the performance. These preparatory lessons, in which they should be regularly examined, will improve their judgment and taste; prevent the practice of reading withont attention to the subject; and establish a habit of readily discovering the meaning, force, and beauty, of every sentence they peruse.