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Sometimes a verse of this kind concludes a triplet, or three lines that rhyme together, where the sense is full and complete ; as for example :
Millions of op'ning mouths to Fame belong,
hung. Here let us observe by the way, that the sense ought always to be closed at the end of a triplet, and not continued to the next line ; tho' instances of this fault (if it be one) are to be found in some of our best poets.
This verse of twelve syllables (which is call'd Alexandrine, or Alexandrian, from a poem on the life of Alexander, written or translated into such verse by some French poets) is also frequently used at the conclusion of a stanza in Lyric or Pindaric odes, of which we shall speak hereafter. The pause, in these verses, ought to be at the fixth fyllable, as we see in the foregoing examples.
In this place it cannot be amiss to observe, that tho' the Alexandrine verse, when rightly employ'd, has an agree. able effect in our poetry, it must be used sparingly, and with judgment. Mr. Pope has censured the improper use of it, and at the same time given us a beautiful verse of this kind, in his excellent Essay on Criticisin, where, speak. ing of those who regard versification only, he says,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
Verses of fourteen syllables are not so often used as those of twelve ; but they are likewise inserted in heroic poems, and are agreeable enough when they conclude a triplet where the fenfe is finish'd, especially if the preceding verse be of twelve syllables; as in this of Mr. Dryden.
For thee the land in fragrant Aow'rs is dreft ;
If these verses follow one of ten fyllables, the inequality of the measure renders them less pleasing ; but this
only in heroics; for in odes they are gracefully placed after verses of any number of fyllables whatsoever.
The shorter kinds of verses are chiefly used in operas, oles, and our common fongs ; but they have nothing in them worth notice. We meet with them of three, four, five, and hx fyllables ; but those of four and fix are moft common, of which let the following specimen fuffice :
The battle near
When cowards fear,
Their courage warms,
They rush to arms,
It is now proper to say something of the elifrons or contractions that are admitted in our poetry, according as the measure requires
CH A P. IV. Of the ELISIONS allowed of in ENGLISH POETRY; and
fome miscellaneous Remarks.
Elision is the cutting off one or more letters, either from
the beginning, ending, or middle of a word, whereby two syllables are contracted into one, and are so pronounced.
In words of three or more syllables, which are accented on the last fave two, when the liquid r comes between two vowels, that which precedes the r is frequently cut off; as in temperance, difference, flatterer, vi&tory, amorous, and others; which, though three fyllables, and often used as fuch in verse, may be contracted into two when the meafure requires it ; and this contraction is denoted by a little mark called an apostrophe, the words being written or printed temp'rance, dif'rence, flatt'rer, via'ry, am'rous, and pronounced accordingly. An elision is made of both vowels before the r in lab'ring, endeav'ring, neighboring, and such like words.
Sometimes a vowel is cut off before the other liquids m, n, when found between two vowels in words accent.
ed like the former; as in fab'lous, en'my, mariner, instead of fabulous, enemy, mariner : but this ought to be avoided, the found being harsh and ungrateful.
Contractions are agreeable enough in some words of three syllables, where the letter s happens between two vowels, the latter of which is cut off ; as in reas'ning, pris'ner, bus nefs, &c.
The letter o between ll and w, in words of three fyllables, fuffers an elifion ; as in follwer, bellwing, &c.
When the vowel e falls between 0 and n, and the ac-cent lies upon the foregoing fyllable, it is frequently cut off, as in heav'n, Jev'n, giv'n, driv’n, &c. The same vowel is also cut off in the words pow'r, flow'r, and others of the like termination.
The words never, ever, over, may lose the consonant v, and be thas contracted, ne'er, e'er, d'er.
Most words ending in ed, which we contract in our common discourse, may also be contracted in poetry; as, lov'd, threaten'd, exprejš’d, ador’d, abandon'd, &c.
Some words admit of an elision of their first fyllable; as mong, 'mongst, 'tween, 'twixt, 'gainst, 'bove, &c. are used instead of among, amongst, between, betwixt, against, above.
Instead of it is, it was, it were, it will, it would, we sometimes use 'tis, 'twas, 'twere, 'twill, 'twould. So like. wise by't, for by it; do't, for do it ;. was't, for was it, &c. But these last contractions are fcarce allowable, especially in heroic poetry
Am may lose its vowel after I; as I'm, for I am: and fo may are after we, you, they; as we're, you’re, they're ;. for we are, you are, they are : we also sometimes use the contraction, let's, for let us.
The word have suffers an elifion of its two first letters, after I, you, we, they; as I've, you've, we've, they've, for I have, you have, we have, they have. So will and would are often contracted after the perfonal pronouns; as I'll for I will, he'd for he would, &c. or after who, as who'd for who would, who'll for who will, &c.
The particle to sometimes lofes its o when it comes before a verb that begins with a vowel ; as t'avoid, t’increase, t’undo, &c. but this elision is not fo allowable before nouns, and seldom used by correct writers.
When the particle the comes before a word that begins with a vowel or an h not aspirated, it generally loses its
as th' immortal, th' expreffive, th' amezing, tl' honefi, &c. and sometimes before an aspirated h when an e. follows it; as th' heroic, &c. but elisions of this last kind are not to be commended.
Sometimes the o in who, and the y in by, is cut off before words beginning with a vowel ; as wh' expose, for who expole ; b oppreffion, for by oppression : and other contractions of this kind are to be met with in some of our poets ; but such a liberty is by no means to be indulged. T
pronoun sometimes oses its irft letters after words ending with a vowel ; as to's, by's, for to his, by his; and after several words that end with a consonant; as in's, for’s, for in his, for his, &c.. But this is rather to be obferved than imitated.
These are the elifions and contractions most usually made in our versification ; the rest may be learnt by reading our best modern poets; for the liberties taken by some of our antient ones are not to be encouraged..
There are a few more particulars relating to this subject that are worth observing. In the first place, it may be laid down as a general rule, that whenever one fyllabie of a word ends with a vowel, and the next begins with another, these two syllables in verse are to be considered as one only, except when either of the syllables is the seat of the accent. Thus region, valiant, beauteous, mutual, and fuch-like words, are to be reckond only as two fyllables in poetry; and so ambition, familiar, perpetual, presumptueus, superior, and other words of the same nature, though consisting of four syllables, are to be used in verse as three.
The words diamond, diadem, violet, and a few others, may be excepted from this rule; which, though accented on the first vowel, are sometimes used but as two fyllables.
In general the ear is to be consulted ; we must consider how words are pronounced in reading prose, and observe how they are used by the best poets, and we shall feldom fail either with respect to justness of measure or propriety of contractions. It will very much add to the beauty of our verse to avoid, as much as poflible, a concourse of clashing vowels ; that is, when one word ends with a vowel and the next begins with another, which occasions what is called an hiatus, or gaping, and is very disagree
able to the ear. Mr. Pope has censured this fault, and given us an instance of it in the following line :
Tho' ost the ear the open vowels tire. For this reason the e of the particle the is generally cut off (as has been observed) before words that begin with a vowel.
It is not well to make use of several words in a verfe that begin with the same letter, unless it be to suit the sound to the subject. And observe, that though verses consisting wholly of monofyllables are not always to be condemned, (nay, posibly may be very good) yet they ought to be feldom used, a series of little low words having generally an ill effect in our poetry. Be careful also not to make use of expletives, that is, such words as contribute nothing to the sense, but are brought into the verse, merely to fill up the measure. These two lait faults Mr. Pope has taken notice of, and exemplified in the following verses :
While expletives their feeble aid do join,
Take care likewise not to end a verse with an adjective, whose subfiantire begins the next verse; and the same is to be observed with respect to a preposition, and the words it governs. In short, avoid cvery thing that tends to destroy that agreable cadence and harmony which is required in poetry, and of which (after all the rules that can be laid down concerning it) the car is the most proper judge. Remember, however, that easy and fowing numbers are not all that is requisite in versification ; for, as the last: mention'd excellent poet observes,
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence ; The sound must seen an echo to the sense.
We now proceed to the beauty of thought in poetry, and to give some farther directions concerning the poetic style.
c H A P.