Page images

(if that be possible) in the fifth, nay, some assert, in the third century. Take a sample of his versification :

Saturnusque senex, si dēus, quando senescit ? And again :

Nec divinus erat, sed dēum sesě dicebat. And again :

Jupiter hic natūs in insulă Cretă Săturno,

Ut fuit adultus, patrem de regno privavit. And again :

Ille autem in Cretâ regnavit, et ībi děfecit. I shall crown the whole with an admirable distich, where (as I observed not long ago) the rhythm of the verse gives alone the quantity, while the quantity of the syllables is wholly disregarded.

Tot reŭm crimînībūs, părricīdām quoqúe fútūrüm,

-Ex aŭctorītātē vēstră contŭlistis in altūm. Dr. Davies, at the end of his Minutius Felix, has thought it worth giving us an edition of this wretched author, who, if he lived so early as supposed, must have been from among the dregs of the people, since Ausonius, Claudian, Sulpicius Severus, and Boethius, who were all authors of the same or a later period, wrote both in prose and verse with classical elegance.

We have mentioned the debasement of Latin previously to that of Greek, because it was an event which happened much sooner. As early as the sixth century, or the seventh at farthest, Latin ceased to be the common language of Rome, whereas Greek was spoken with competent purity in Constantinople even to the fifteenth century, when that city was taken by the Turks.

Not but that corruption found its way also into Greek poetry, when Greek began to degenerate, and accent, as in Latin, to usurp

dominion over quantity. It was then began the use of the Versus Politici, a species of verses so called, because adapted to the vulgar, and only fit for vulgar ears. It was then the sublime hexameters of Homer were debased into miserable trochaics, not even legible as verses but by a suppression of real quantity.

Take a sample of these productions, which, such as it is, will be easily understood, as it contains the beginning of the first Iliad:

Την οργήν άδε, και λέγε,
*Ω θεά μου Καλλιόπη,
Του Πηλείδου Αχιλλέως,
Πώς έγένετ' ολεθρία,
Και πολλές λύπας επoίσε
Είς τους Αχαίους δή πάντας,
και πολλάς ψυχάς ανδρείας

Πώς απέστειλεν εις "Αδην.
In reading the above verses we must carefully regard accent,

• See Fabricii Biblioth. Græc. vol. x. p. 253. 318, 319.

to which, and to which alone, we must strictly adhere, and follow the same trochaic rhythm as in those well-known verses of Dryden :

Wâr be súng is toil and trouble,

Honour bút an empty bubble, &c. The accentual quantity in the Greek, as well as in the English, totally destroys the syllabic: de in äde is made long; so also is λε in λέγε ; α, in θεά; o, in Καλλιόπη. Again, μου is short ; 80 also is Πη in Πηλείδου. Ιη Αχιλλέως every syllable is corrupted; the first and third, being short, are made long; the second and fourth, being long, are made short. We quote no farther, as all that follows is similar, and the whole exactly applicable to our present versification.

This disgraceful form of Homer was printed by Pinelli, at Venice, in the year 1540, but the work itself was probably some centuries older.d

Besides this anonymous perverter of the Iliad and Odyssey, (for he has gone through both,) there are political verses of the same barbarous character by Constantinus Manasses, John Tzetzes, and others of that period.

And so much for the verse of these times. Of their prose (though next in order) we say nothing, it being loss of time to dwell upon authors, who being unable to imitate the eloquence of their predecessors, could discover no new roads to fame but through obscurity and affectation. In this class we range the Historia Augustæ Scriptores, Marcianus Capella, Apuleius, together with many others, whom we may call authors of African Latinity. Perhaps, too, we may add some of the Byzantine historians.

Before we quit accentual quantity, there is one thing we must not omit. Strange as it appears, there are traces of it extant even in classical writers.

As dactyls and anapæsts were frequently intermixed with iambics, we find no less a writer than the accurate Terence, make syllables short, which by position were long, in order to form the feet above mentioned. Take the following instances, among many others :

°Et id grātum fuisse advorsum te habeo gratiam. Andr. act. i. & l. 15.
Próptěr hospitaï hujusce consuetudinem.
°Ego exclūdor: ille recipitur, quâ gratiâ ?

Eunuch. act. i. s. 2. 79. Among these verses, all beginning with anapæsts, the second syllable id in the first verse is made short, though followed by three consonants: the first syllable propter in the second verse

Andr. act. ii. 8. 6. 8.

• A sort of glossary is subjoined, whence, ters ;" kilocal, “tents,” are called by the for curiosity, we select some very singular name of tévTQ! ; múpyos, “a tower," by explanations: Nún, “a gate,” is explained that of toúpn; and of Kapuś we are inby πορτα; θυρωροί, those « who keep formed, σημαίνει όλον τρουμπετάριν, « that gates," are called Toprápou, that is, “por- it signifies, in general, a trumpeter.”

is made short, though followed by two consonants: and the third syllable, èx in excludor, in the third verse is made short, though followed by a double consonant, and two others after it.

We are to observe, however, that, while licences were assumed by the dramatic writers of the comic iambic, and by Terence more than the rest, it was a practice unknown to the writers of hexameter. It is to be observed, likewise, that these licences were taken at the beginning of verses, and never at the end, where a pure iambic was held as indispensable. They were also licences usually taken with monosyllables, dissyllables, or prepositions ; in general with words in common and daily use, which in all countries are pronounced with rapidity, and made short in the very speaking. It has been suggested, therefore, with great probability, that Terence adopted such a mode of versifying, because it more resembled the common dialogue of the middle life, which no one ever imitated more happily than himself.e

We are now to proceed to the modern languages, and to our own in particular, which, like the rest, has little of harmony but what it derives from accentual quantity. And yet as this accentual quantity is wholly governed by ancient rhythm, to which, as far as possible, we accommodate modern words, the speculations are by no means detached from ancient criticism, being wholly derived from principles which that criticism had first established.




In the scrutiny which follows we shall confine ourselves to English, as no language, to us at least, is equally familiar. And here, if we begin with quoting poets, it must be remembered, it is not purely for the sake of poetry, but with a view to that harmony of which our prose is susceptible.

A few pure iambics of the syllabic sort we have, though commonly blended with the spurious and accentual. Thus Milton:

Foũntains, and ye, that warble, as ye flow. Par. Lost, v. 195. And again, more completely, in that fine line of his,

För eloquênce, thẻ soul; SẼng charms thế sẽme. Par. Lost. ii. 556. In the first of these verses the last foot is (as it always should e See the valuable tract of the celebrated title of De Metris Terentianis xediaoBentley, prefixed to his Terence, under the


bek) a pure syllabic iambic; in the second verse every foot is such, but in the fourth.

Besides iambics, our language knows also the heroic foot. In the verse just quoted,

Fountains, and ye, that warble as ye flow; the first foot is a spondee: so is the fourth foot in that other Verse,

For eloquence, the soul ; sõng chārms the sense. This foot seems to have been admitted among the English iambics precisely for the same reason as among the Greek and Latin; to infuse a certain stability, which iambics wanted, when alone :

Tardior ut paullo, graviorque veniret ad aures,
Spondeos stabiles in jura paterna recepit.

Hor. Art. Poet. Nor do we want that other heroic foot, the dactyl, and that, too, accompanied (as usual) with the spondee. Thus in the second Psalm we read,

Whỹ dỡ thẻ pẽoplẽ imāgine & cãia thing ? And soon after,

Against the Lord ănd against his ānointēd. Where in both instances we have the hexameter cadence, though perhaps it was casual, and what the translators never intended.

It must, indeed, be confessed, this metre appears not natural to our language, nor have its feet a proper effect, but when mixed with iambics, to infuse that stability which we have lately mentioned."

It is proper also to observe, that, though metrical feet, in English, have a few long and short syllables, even in their genuine character, (that, I mean, which they derive from true syllabic quantity,) yet is their quantity more often determined by accent alone, it being enough to make a syllable long, if it be accented; and short, if it be unaccented; whatever may be the position of any subsequent consonants. Thus in Milton, we read,

On the sēcrèt top
Of “Oreb didst inspire.

Par. Lost, i. 6, 7.

And again,

Hŭrld headlòng, flăming, from th'ěthēriăl ský. Par. Lost, i. 45. In these examples, the first syllable of inspire is short by accentual quantity, though the position of its vowel is before three consonants; the last syllable of headlong and the last syllable of & Sup. p. 82.

nec abjectam orationem, nec nimis altam et h The use of the heroic and the iambic is exaggeratam probat; plenam tamen eam vult well explained by Cicero from Aristotle. esse gravitatis, ut eos, qui audiunt, ad ma

Quod longe Aristoteli videtur secus, qui jorem admirationem possit traducere. Ad judicat heroum numerum grandiorem quam Brut. Orat. s. 192. desideret soluta oratio ; iambum autem ni- Sup. p. 408, 411. mis e vulgari sermone. Ita neque humilem,


flaming, are short, even though the consecutive consonants are in both cases four.

Such then, in English, being the force of accentual quantity, we are now to consider those feet, through which not our verse, but our prose may be harmonized.

Now these feet are no other than the two pæans already described," and their equivalent, the cretic, which three may more particularly be called the feet for prose.'

In prose-composition they may be called those ingredients which, like salt in a banquet, serve to give it a relish. Like salt, too, we should so employ them, that we may not seem to have mistaken the seasoning for the food. But more of this hereafter.m

As to the place of these pæans, though they have their effect in every part of a sentence, yet have they a peculiar energy at its beginning and its end. The difference is, we are advised to begin with the first pæan and to conclude with the second, that the sentence in each extreme may be audibly marked." If the sentence be emphatical, and call for such attention, nothing can answer the purpose more effectually than that characteristic long syllable, which in the first pæan is always inceptive, in the second is always conclusive.

For want of better examples we venture to illustrate by the following, where we have marked the two pæans, together with their equivalent, the cretic; and where we have not only marked the time over each syllable, but separated each foot by a disjunctive stroke.

Beautý măy bě-löst, măy bě fõr---yēars oŭtlīv'd: but virtue remains the same, till līfe itsělf—¡s åt ăn ēnd.

Again :

Stöep is thẻ ă–scõnt by which we=moũnt tỏ fame;ănör is the sum-mít tố bẻ gaind=bút bỹ sigã-citỷ ănd toil. Fõols ăre sure tõ lose their wāy, ănd cowărds sink běnēath the difficulty: thě wīse ănd brāve ălone săccēed; pērsīst—in their əttempt–ăng năvẹr yield-tô the fatigue.

The reader in these examples will regard two things; one, that the strokes of separation mark only the feet, and are not to be regarded in the reading; another, that though he may meet, perhaps, a few instances agreeable to ancient prosody, yet in modern rhythm like this, be it prosaïc or poetic, he must expect to find it governed, for the greater part, by accent.°

And so much for prosaïc feet, and numerous prose, which,

* Sup. p. 407, 408.

quo libentius enim recepit oratio. | Sit egitur (oratio] (ut supra dixi) per- m Infr. p. 418. mista et temperata numeris, nec dissoluta, n Vid. Aristot. Rhetor. I. iii. c. 8. p. 30. nec tota numerosa, pæone maxime, &c. Ad edit. Sylb. "Eoti de Taravos dúo elon, ayBrut. Orat. s. 196; and soon before, s. 194, TIKEineva århnouso by od uer, K. t. X. Pæon autem minime est aptus ad versum ; • Sup. p. 409, 411, 412.

« PreviousContinue »