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THE slight metrical importance of this measure, the representative of the ancient dactyl, was stated when first the rhythm was named. It only exists at all under sharply
It is found that when a member of three feet opens with what has been called the strong beginning, which puts the first accents three apart, while in the next, and only other foot, they approach a syllable nearer, that from this propinquity the latter accent is so proportionally weakened, the first and second monopolise the stress between them, and so doing make their expression in the backward rhythm.
This effect, however, by no means takes place where such a member is only casual in the rhythm running the other way, as
'Much must remain unthought.'
Complete the line, and more untold,' and no longer any doubt of which is the correct run is possible.
But in a succession of lines of the character described the reversion is most marked and distinct.
But when I older grew,
Wild was the life we led;
By our stern orders.-LONGFELLOW.
The short lines, it is seen, consort very well with the others under the influence of their attraction; but by themselves they are too short to have any determinable run; their scanning as they stand alone may be made as well in one way as another.
I am the God Thor,
Here amid icebergs
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it.-LONGFELLOW.
The combinations of the two members in longer lines is exemplified in the next piece.
The two first lines not having the cesura immediately previous to the third accent are in a different run to the rest.
The next two long lines are simply equivalent to one of the long and one of the short conjoined, side by side, and the reversion is maintained throughout.
Had I a cave on some wild distant shore,
Where the winds howl to the waves' dashing roar;
There would I weep my woes,
There seek my last repose,
Till grief my eyes should close,
Ne'er to wake more.
Falsest of womankind! canst thou declare
All my fond plighted vows-fleeting as air!
To thy new lover hie,
Laugh o'er thy perjury,
Then in thy bosom try
What peace is there!-BURNS.
Stars of the summer night!
Far in your azure deeps,
Hide, hide your golden light!
My lady sleeps!
Moon of the summer night!
Far down yon western steeps,
Sink, sink, in silver light!
My lady sleeps
In the next some of the verses appear to run one way, some the other, determination resting with cesural contingencies, the four lines marked having the break immediately after the sixth syllable, and before the third accent, are qualified to rank as revert, the others not, unless purposely so constrained.
Backward, turn backward, oh Time, in your flight,
* Make me a child again just for to-night,
It is by no means wished to be asserted that the above is in two different metres, but that the revert is a form to which verses of a certain construction have a tolerable leaning, so much so that there is no violence done in accounting them that way, rather the contrary. In mixed instances like the last the choice lies open, and any reader personally decides for the one or the other as he gives the intonation.
A hover in the last place from the mental desire of connecting an accent therewith, consequently making a revert foot in that place, will, from attraction, have a tendency to assimilate the preceding part of the line to the same run if the structure favour, as in the two prior lines of the following Under this ruling, each of the lines indicated becomes of four feet revert regular.
Glaucon of Lesbos, the son of Euphorion,
Burned for Corinna the blue-eyed Milesian ;
Nor father nor mother had she;
Beauty and wealth had the orphan.
Short was the wooing, and fixed was the wedding-day,
But envy not lovers their bliss,
Brief is the bliss of a mortal.-BULWER LYTTON.
If it be conceded that this is the natural run of these verses it renders them incapable of harmonious connection with
the other part of the stave, which is decidedly in the forward run.
To obviate such disaccordance, one inclines on the whole to order the entire stanza on the forward run, though the conflicting tendencies create a sort of dubiousness. It may be remarked that had the third line opened with the strong beginning as the fourth does, the rhythmic connection of parts would have been closer, there not then occurring three successive unaccented syllables between them together as
From what was stated when first drawing the distinction between forward and backward rhythm, it is evident that the estimation of verses by the poetic run alone is not altogether fair to the class expressly designed for music, that of songs, &c. An important modification often thus comes about with regard to pace; where, as here, for instance, musically ruled, an elegy no longer appears a gallop.
Oh breathe not his name, let it sleep in the shade,
ON RHYME, HALF-RHYME, ALLITERATION, ETC.
THE practice of rhyme has been illustrated at some length; we will now subject it to a little interior scrutiny, and see besides what modifications of it may be used as substitutes.
It is an anomaly that rhyme, being of so great metrical avail, it has not been received into greater favour among us; but except at the time of Pope, when sovereign fashion brought French modes into currency, our highest have almost invariably looked askance at rhyme, and scorned to be called rhymers.
In opposition to those not of the craft, who are apt to think that the whole art of poetry consists in the truly
wonderful feat of finding one word that jingles with another, they have generally held rhyming as a sort of degradation which the supposed inferiority of their tongue to the so-called classical languages compelled them to undergo. They may have been in error, but such was their opinion.
Shelley, in his first work, 'Queen Mab,' made an attempt to dispense with rhyme in the lyric. The success may not have been striking, but the intent is plain. Southey, again, Wordsworth, Milton, anti-rhymists: and who not, except Byron ?
What Shakspeare thought of rhyme, if he at all expressed his own sentiments under the personality of Hotspur, may be judged from this :—
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew,
Than one of those same metre ballad mongers.
For this general disesteem there must surely be some latent cause, notwithstanding that most of the carping to which rhyme has been subjected is solely owing to its being unclassic, and accordingly of disputed title to legitimacy.
It may be urged that, if any poets felt contempt for rhyming, they could and would have abstained from the practice. But from the scarcity of unrhymed forms, strict blank verse-in fact until a very recent date-and no other, choice may be said to have been debarred them. They might, indeed, have hit out for themselves new metres, as well at an early day as at a late; but in this, from whatever cause, they have been most backward. How, indeed, should they not be backward? Anything approaching innovation from an unknown writer would simply not be 'heard of,' while those who had made their way by the beaten track could not be expected to be over-zealous in devising others. The connection between rhyme and melody is the next point to be discussed. First, what is melody itself? Over and above the mere amount of warbling incident to a large employment of vowels, it rests entirely on the lesser kind of rhyming which consists in ringing changes upon foregone