Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of all the Cambrian fhires-their heads that bear fo high,
And far furvey their foils-with an ambitious eye,
Mervinia for her hills- -as for their matchlefs crouds,
The nearest that are faid-to kiss the wand'ring clouds,
Especial audience craves-offended with the throng,
That she of all the rest-neglected was so long.

Poly-Olbion.

The reader will obferve, that the pause in thefe lines is uniformly placed on the fixth fyllable. This languid measure is now antiquated, and no longer employed in English verfification. The French however ftill retain it.

"The best French verfes," fays F. Buffier "are composed of twelve fyllables: as,

"Du fouverain des cieux conftant adorateur,
"Portez fa loi toujours au fond de votre cœur.”

"These verses of twelve fyllables are chiefly ufed, where the subject is elevated, as in heroic poems and tragedies, whence they take the name of heroic verses."

Polyolbion in 1613, and the fecond in 1622, making in all thirty books, or fongs, containing a chorographical description of England and Wales. The title of this work, Пohuonov, fignifies perbeatum, very happy; and bears an allufion to Albion, the ancient name of this island. Drayton died in 1631. Buffier on the Rules of French Poetry, c. I.

[blocks in formation]

A Frenchman undoubtedly perceives a peculiar sweetness and elevation in these twelve fyllables, uniformly divided by a pause in the middle. But fuch verses are insufferably fatiguing to an English ear*.

Whatever may be the number of fyllables in a poetic line, it should always be remembered, that the cæfura fhould coincide, as much as poffible, with the paufe in the fenfe, or in the ftructure of the fentence.

Unless the reader attend to this poetical reft, he can have no juft notion of the nature of English poetry; nor can he read it with any propriety.

It is a fortunate circumftance, that our modern poets have agreed to extend the heroic

It is univerfally allowed, that the French verfification labours under great disadvantages. The judicious M. Rollin bferves, that "to divide the Alexandrine line into exact hemiftichs, to make a kind of stop after the three first feet, to have a regular rhyme at the end of the three laft, and to proceed, exactly in the fame method, in all the verses following, must be liable to tire the reader's attention foon, unless fupported and reinforced by other beauties, fufficient to cause this perpetual monotony to be forgotten," Rollin on Bell. Let. vol. i. b. 2. c. 2.

line no farther than ten fyllables. On this account, it is properly adapted to the human voice, which may proceed from point to point, or, where there is no intervening ftop, from the cæfural pause to the end of the line, with ease and vivacity; and, at the fame time, avoid the disgusting habit of uniformly dropping the voice, when the breath is exhausted, at the end of every verfe, or every couplet.

§ XII.

THERE is a remarkable beauty in the English language, not equally confpicuous in any other; that is, a ftriking refemblance between the found of certain words, and their fignification. We have innumerable inftances of this kind: as, the roaring lion, the growling bear, the croaking raven, the grunting fwine, the bellowing bull, the hiffing ferpent, the rattling car, the tinkling bell, the clashing swords, the clanging arms, the tottering ruin, the whizzing arrow, the twanging bow-string, the whiftling wind, the crackling flames, the sparkling fire-brand, the glittering stars, the flashing lightning, the rumbling thunder.

It is well known, that Homer, Virgil, and other ancient poets, have happily accommodated their numbers to the facts they describe, and made the found of the words an echo to the

Dr. Wallis has given us a copious collection of English words, "quorum foni funt rerum indices," the found of which fuggefts to the mind of the reader a striking idea of their fignification, Gram. p. 148, ed. 1765.

8

fense.

fenfe. Some of our beft poets have very fuccessfully imitated this poetical beauty. Thus Milton describes the almost instantaneous motion of the angels:

Light, as the lightning glimpfe, they ran, they flew.
P. L. vi. 642.

The quick movement of this line will appear more confpicuous, when contrafted with the following representation of the mountains, rifing up flowly and heavily, and with a seeming difficulty, at the creation :

Immediately the mountains huge appear,

Emergent; and their broad, bare backs upheave.

vii. 285.

Or with this defcription of the fea-monsters, rolling in the ocean:

Part huge of bulk,

Wallowing, unwieldy', enormous in their gait,

Tempeft the ocean.

vii. 410.

The opening of the infernal doors is admirably represented in these sonorous verses:

On a fudden open fly,

With impetuous recoíl, and jarring sound,
The infernal doors, and on their hinges grate
Harfh thunder.

i. 879.

Qn

« PreviousContinue »