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“ At evening from the top of Fefolé,
He has, indeed, been more attentive to his fyllables than to his accents, and does not often offend by collisions of consonants, or openings of vowels upon each other; at least, not more often than other writers who have had less important or complicated subjects to take off their care from the cadence of their lines.
% The great peculiarity of Milton's versification, compared with that of later poets, is the elifion of
more attentive to his Syllables thun his accents,] It should be remembered, however, that the accentuation of words was very unsettled in Milton's time. Many words, as obscure, fupreme, complete, oblique, congeald, &c. were accented on either fyllable, to fuit the poet's purpose. Even odorous, with the accent on the second syllable, may be found in other poetry; although it has been said to exist only in that of Milton. See the Note on Par. Lot, B. v. 432. The Latin accent seems to have been intended also by Milton in infinite, Ibid, B. v. 874.
“ Through the infinite host" Future, prostrate, &c. are also thus accented, in fome places by Milton, like the Latin words from which they are derived. And he is countenanced by Spenser and Fairfax. TODD.
& The great peculiarity &c.] I must add to Dr. Johnson's remark, that in our ancient poetry verses frequently occur, in which diliyllabick words stand in the places of monofyllables, even where a consonant intervenes ; as anger, iron, evil, garden, Spirit, &c. as well as ruin, trial, riot, &c. in which the two vowels are melted together. Thus perhaps (unless we may suppose that Milton intended the “ verfe to labour" more strongly by the admillion of an hyperrhythmical Syllable,) the distyllable huges should be pronounced as a monofyllable, Par. Loft, B. i. 202. Examples of funilar licence occur in Paradise Lojt, as highell, B. i. 667, B. iv. 51. Milton long before allumed the liberty, 1o much practised by the Italian poets,, of suppresling
one vowel before another, or the suppreslion of the last fyllable of a word ending with a vowel, when a vowel begins the following word. As
" Knowledge “ Oppreffes else with surfeit, and foon turns “ Wisdom to folly, as nourilhment to wind."
This licence, though now disused in English poetry, was practised by our old writers, and is allowed in many other languages ancient and modern; and therefore the criticks on Paradise Lost have, without much deliberation, commended Milton for continuing it. But one language cannot communicate its rules to another. We have already tried and rejected the hexameter of the ancients, the double clofe of the Italians, and the alexandrine of the French; and the elision of vowels, however graceful it may seem to other
the last fyllable of a word ending with a vowel; as in his eighth Sonnet :
“ The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower-" And thus Drummond, in one of his Sonnets also:
“ To spread the azure canopy of heaven,
“ And Spangle' it all with sparks of burning gold." Many instances of words of three syllables in the places of diffyllables may likewise be found in Paradise Lost; which must be pronounced, like dactyls, distinct, but short. Thus, indeed in his earliest poetry, Hymn on the Nativity. It. ii.
“ To hide her guilty front with innocent fuow :" As in Macbeth, A. ii. S. ii.
“ Macbeth does murder sleep, the innoc?nt sleep." Compare alfo Comus, v. 574, 762, 831. And Samsun Agonistes, v. 627. Where see the Note. TODD.
nations, may be very unsuitable to the genius of the Englih Tongue.
There is reason to believe that we have negli gently loft part of our vowels, and that the filent e, which our ancestors added to most of our monofyllables, was once vocal. By this detruncation of our tyllables, our language is overstocked with conionants; and it is more necessary to add vowels to the beginning of words, than to cut them off from the end.
Milton therefore seems to have somewhat miftaken the nature of our language, of which the chief defect is ruggedness and asperity; and has left our harsh cadences yet harsher. But his elisions are not all equally to be cenfured: In some fyllables they may be allowed, and perhaps in a few be safely imitated. The abfcifion of a vowel is undoubtedly vicious when it is strongly founded, and makes, with its associate consonant, a full and nudible syllable:
" What he gives “ Spiritual, may to purest Spirits be found “ No ingrateful food: And food alike those pure “ Intelligential substances require.".
Hesperian fables true, “ If true, here only, and of delicious taste.”
Evening now approach'd, “For we have also our evening and our morn."
“ Of guests he makes them faves Inhospitally, and kills their infant males.” “ And vital virtue infus'd, and vital warmth ~ Thiougiwut the fluid mass."
~ God made thee of choice his own, and of his own “ To serve him.”
I believe every reader will agree that in all these passages, though not equally in all, the mufick is injured, and in some the meaning obscured. There are other lines in which the vowel is cut off, but it is so faintly pronounced in common speech, that the loss of it in poetry is scarcely perceived; and therefore such compliance with the measure may be allowed:
« Nature breeds, “ Perverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things, « Abominable, inutterable, and worse “ Than fables yet have feign’d”
“ From the shore « They view'd the vast immeasurable abyss. “ Impenetrable, impal’d with circling fire.”
“ To none communicable in Earth or Heaven." Yet even these contractions encrease the roughnes of a language too rough already; and though in long poems they may be fometimes suffered, it never can be faulty to forbear them.
Milton frequently uses, in his poems, the hypermetrical or redundant line of eleven fyllables :
« Thus it thall befall “ Him, who, to worth in women overtrusting, « Lets her will rule.”
“ I also err’d in over-much admiring.”
Verses of this kind occur almost in every page; but, though they are not unpleasing or diffonant,
Verses of this kind &c.) Dr. Johnfon has not observed, that Milton admits into his poetry, verses having two redundant fyllables at the end; as in Par, Loft, B, viii. 216;
they ought not to be admitted into heroick poetry, since the narrow limits of our language allow us no other distinction of epick and tragick meafures, than is afforded by the liberty of changing at will the terminations of the dramatick lines, and bringing them by that relaxation of metrical rigour nearer to profe.
It is very difficult to write on the minuter parts of literature without failing either to please or to instruct. Too much nieety of detail disgusts the
“ Imbued, bring to their sweetness no satiety." Again, B. ix. 249
“ For folitude fometimes is best fociety." Again, Par. Reg. B. i. 302.
“ Such folitude before choicest fociety." Such licences may be often observed in dramatick poetry. And thus Milton himself, in Comus :
“ And link'd itself to carnal sensuality.” The brevity of these concluding syllables, however, may seem to exempt the lines from the charge of harshness. The pronunciation of fociety, indeed, is so weak, that it is admitted in the middle of an hypermctrical line, in Shakspeare, with little injury to the melody. See K. Lear, A. v. S. iii.
“ Shunn'd my abhor'd (society;) but then, finding
66 Who 'twas that so endur'd, &c." There is perhaps, in this passage, what is properly called an hy. perrhythmical pause; which, a Icarned critick obferves, will never offend in dramatick poetry, if not too frequentiy repeated. See Mitford's Etay upon the llarmony of Language, p. 128 Thus in Comus, v. 66. " To quench the drouth (of Phabus, which as they
taste." See also the same pauses, ibid. v. 302, 602. TODD.