Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum. Of this other line of Virgil, describing loud sound,

Suspiciunt; iterum atque iterum fragor intonat ingens: the rhythm is still the same, after making the necessary elisions; and if the reader pronounce it so, his ear will perhaps inform him, that it is more imitative than he at first imagined.

In the beginning of the Eneid, Eolus, at Juno's desire, sends out his winds to destroy the Trojan fleet. Neptune rebukes them for invading his dominions without his leave; and is just going to denounce a threatening, or inflict a punishment, when he recollects that it was proper to calm his waters before he did any thing else:

Quos ego-sed motos præstat componere fluctus.

The interrupted threat is a dactyl; the remainder of the line goes off in spondees. By this transition from a quick to a slow rhythm, is it not probable, that the poet intended to imitate the change of Neptune's purpose? But this is lost in our pronunciation, though in the ancient I believe it must have been observable. One instance more and I quit the subject.

When Dido, that fatal morning on which she VOL. VI.

L

put a period to her life, saw that Eneas and his Trojans were actually gone, she at first broke forth into frantick denunciations of revenge and ruin; but soon checks herself, as if exhausted by her passion, when she reflects that her ravings were all in vain. “Unhappy Dido! (says “ she) thy evil destiny is now come upon thee.”. This change of her mind from tempest to a momentary calm (for she immediately relapses into vengeance and distraction) is finely imitated in the poet's numbers. The words I have translated from a line of spondees, whose slow and soft motion is a striking contrast to the abrupt and sonorous rapidity of the preceding and following verses. This beauty, too, is in a great measure, lost in our pronunciation; for we give only five or six long syllables to a line which really contains eleven. Are these remarks too refined? Those readers will hardly think so, who have studied Virgil's versification, which is artful and apposite to a degree that was never equalled or attempted by any

[ocr errors]

other poet.

* Infelix Dido! nunc te fata impia tangunt. Æneid. iv. 596. If we read facta impia, with the Medicean Manuscript, the rhythm is still the same, and the sense not materially different: “ Unhappy Dido! now are the consequences of thy broken vows come upon thee.”

In the course of these observations on the sound of poetical language, I am not conscious of having affirmed any thing which does not admit of proof. Soine of the proofs, however, I was obliged to leave out; as they would have led me into long disquisitions, relating rather to the peculiarities of Latin and English verse, than to the general characters of the poetick art. These proofs may possibly find a place hereafter in a treatise of versification and English prosody, which I began some years ago, but have not yet finished.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

AN ESSAY

ON

LAUGHTER

AND

LUDICROUS COMPOSITION.

Written in the year 1764.

Ego vero omni de re facetius puto posse ab homine non inurbano, quam de ipsis facetiis, disputari.

CICERO.

nothing so dry as a

ر)

talion cu

[ocr errors]

L 2

« PreviousContinue »