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THIS WORK claims to be an exhaustive treatise on English versification, giving a complete view of all measures, their nature, relative bearing, and application. Every possible form that English verse can assume will here be found indicated, besides every moot-point, such as the feasibility of naturalising the hexameter, fully and finally settled.
It is shown how much too narrowly drawn are the accepted limits of verse, and from how much the poet has allowed himself to be debarred, from a great if not indeed, the better part of his domain.
In addition to the fact that this is the first treatise of the kind ever completed, it is also the first attempt to set native versification on its own basis as independent of the system pursued by the Greeks and Romans, on which the British muse has so long been unwisely affiliated.
To the blind regard for precedent at the bottom of the false method prevalent is to be ascribed the present most backward and unsatisfactory state of the art both in practice and in theory, and its non-attainment of anything approaching what must be held as its due development. From time to time a very slight step in advance has been taken by some poet, in a slightly novel arrangement of rhymes, seldom more; but the progress has been slow and painful to the last degree, that to this hour much is unaccepted and tentative what to have been fully known and worked two centuries ago would not have been early.
From this neglect and misconception that English versification has so long lain under, having had to delineate almost a new science, it has been necessary, like for an explorer in an unknown country, to give appellations to every landmark pointed out; and here, be it said, care has been taken to render these as appropriate as possible.
A perusal of the present analysis will at once show, even to such as are comparatively unacquainted with the orthodox scope of English poetics, how much our national literature is likely to have suffered through want of some such induction to metric science as is now at length made attainable. It is hoped that this manual will in no mean degree serve to advance the proper study of the mother-tongue, only now beginning to receive in our schools and colleges some slight share of the consideration most justly its due.
To compare the number of hand-books that teem continually from the press, for teaching versification in Greek and Latin, with the utter dearth of books of the like nature for English, surely, if better were not known, one would be for forming notions quite contrary to correct as to which were the dead speech, which the living. Surely this is a state of affairs other than in national honour it should be, and here at least is one step remedial. It remains to be seen whether the confidence in a general desire for better things which this publication implies has or has not been misplaced.