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But (as we have intimated already) this order may be frequently difpenfed with, without destroying the harmony of the verfe; nay, it adds a peculiar beauty to the poetry, to indulge fuch a variety now and then, efpecially in the first and fecond fyllables of the line, of which the following is an inftance, where the accent is on the first syllable, and not on the fecond.
Nów to the main the búrning fún defcénds.
The paufe to be in verses of this kind (as I have before obferved) is determined by the feat of the moft prevailing accent in the first half-verfe, which ought to be either on the fecond, fourth, or fixth fyllable; and the paufe muft immediately follow the word where this accent happens, or the word after it.
In the following lines you have inftances of each of the cafes mentioned, where the ruling accent only is marked, and the paufe denoted by a dash
As búfy as intentive emmets are.
Defpife it-and more noble thoughts purfue.
Belinda fmil'd-and all the world was gay.
Some have at first for wits-then poets pafs'd.
The pause is fometimes to be allowed of in other places of a verfe; but then the verfes are not quite fo agreeable to the ear, as is evident from the following inftance:
Bright Hefper twinkles from afár-away
Here is nothing difagreeable in the structure of these verses but the paufe, which in the firft of them (you fee) is after the eighth fyllable, and in the latter after the second; whereas fo unequal a divifion cannot produce any true harmony.
It must be confeffed, that the prevailing accent is f
times not eafily diftinguished, as when two or three in the fame verfe feem equally ftrong; in which cafe the fenfe and conftruction of the words must be your guide. And after all, a perfon who has a tolerable ear for poetry, will have little occafion for rules concerning the paufe or the accents, but will naturally fo difpofe his words as to create a certain harmony, without labour to the tongue, or violence to the fenfe.
Next to verfes of ten fyllables, thofe of eight are most frequent in our poetry, whereof we have many entire poems. In thefe verfes, as in the former, the accents generally fall on every fecond fyllable, but not without exception, as you will fee in the following example:
A fhów'r of foft and fléccy ráin
'The verses next to be confidered, are those of seven fyl lables, which are called anacreontic, from Anacreon, a Greek poet, who wrote in verfe of that measure.
The accents in this kind of verfe, fall on the firft, third, fifth, and feventh fyllables, as in the following lines:
Glitt'ring flónes and golden things,
Wéalth and honours thát have wings,
As for verfes of nine and eleven fyllables, they are not worth our notice, being very seldom used, except thofe which are of double rhyme, and properly belong to the verfes of eight and ten fyllables.
There is a kind of verfe of twelve fyllables, having the accent on every third, which is only made ufe of in fubjects of mirth and pleasantry, as are thofe of eleven fyllables, which run with much the fame cadence. But there is another fort of twelve fyllables, which are now and then introduced amongst our heroics, being fometimes the last of a couplet, or two verfes, as in the following inftance.
The ling'ring foul th' unwelcome doom receives,
Sometimes a verfe of this kind concludes a triplet, or three lines that rhyme together, where the fenfe is full and complete; as for example:
Millions of op'ning mouths to Fame belong,
Here let us obferve by the way, that the fenfe ought always to be clofed at the end of a triplet, and not continued to the next line; tho' inftances of this fault (if it be one) are to be found in fome of our best poets.
This verfe of twelve fyllables (which is call'd Alexandrine, or Alexandrian, from a poem on the life of Alexander, written or tranflated into fuch verfe by fome French poets) is alfo frequently used at the conclufion of a ftanza in Lyric or Pindaric odes, of which we shall speak hereafter. The paufe, in thefe verfes, ought to be at the fixth fyllable, as we fee in the foregoing examples.
In this place it cannot be amifs to obferve, that tho' the Alexandrine verfe, when rightly employ'd, has an agree able effect in our poetry, it must be ufed fparingly, and with judgment. Mr. Pope has cenfured the improper ufe of it, and at the fame time given us a beautiful verse of this kind, in his excellent Essay on Criticism, where, speaking of those who regard verfification only, he says,
A needlefs Alexandrine ends the fong,
That, like a wounded fnake, drags its flow length along.
Verfes of fourteen fyllables are not fo often used as those of twelve; but they are likewife inferted in heroic poems, and are agreeable enough when they conclude a triplet where the fenfe is finish'd, efpecially if the preceding verfe be of twelve fyllables; as in this of Mr. Dryden.
For thee the land in fragrant flow'rs is dreft;
If thefe verfes follow one of ten fyllables, the inequality of the measure renders them lefs pleafing; but this
only in heroics; for in odes they are gracefully placed after verses of any number of fyllables whatsoever.
The shorter kinds of verfes are chiefly used in operas, odes, and our common fongs; but they have nothing in them worth notice. We meet with them of three, four, five, and fix fyllables; but thofe of four and fix are most common, of which let the following fpecimen fuffice:
It is now proper to fay fomething of the elifions or contractions that are admitted in our poetry, according as the measure requires.
CHA P. IV.
Of the ELISIONS allowed of in ENGLISH POETRY; and fome mifcellaneous Remarks.
FLifion is the cutting off one or more letters, either from the beginning, ending, or middle of a word, whereby two fyllables are contracted into one, and are so pronounced.
In words of three or more fyllables, which are accented on the last save two, when the liquid r comes between two vowels, that which precedes the r is frequently cut off; as in temperance, difference, flatterer, victory, amorous, and others; which, though three fyllables, and often ufed as fuch in verfe, may be contracted into two when the meafure requires it; and this contraction is denoted by a little mark called an apostrophe, the words being written or printed temp'rance, diff'rence, flatt'rer, vi'ry, am'rous, and pronounced accordingly. An elifion is made of both vowels before the in lab'ring, endeav'ring, neighb'ring, and fuch like words.
Sometimes a vowel is cut off before the other liquids m, n, when found between two vowels in words accent.
ed like the former; as in fab'lous, en'my, mar'ner, instead of fabulous, enemy, mariner: but this ought to be avoided, the found being harth and ungrateful.
Contractions are agreeable enough in fome words of three fyllables, where the letter s happens between two vowels, the latter of which is cut off; as in reas'ning, pris'ner, bus nefs, &c.
The letter o between // and w, in words of three fyllables, fuffers an elifion; as in follwer, bell'wing, &c.
When the vowel e falls between and n, and the accent lies upon the foregoing fyllable, it is frequently cut off, as in heav'n, fev'n, giv'n, driv'n, &c. The fame vowel is alfo cut off in the words pow'r, flow'r, and others of the like termination.
The words never, ever, over, may lofe the confonant v, and be thus contracted, ne'er, e'er, der.
Moft words ending in ed, which we contract in our common discourse, may also be contracted in poetry; as lov'd, threaten'd, exprefs'd, ador'd, abandon'd, &c.
Some words admit of an elifion of their first fyllable; as "mong, mongft, tween, 'twixt, 'gainft, 'bove, &c. are used inftead of among, among ft, between, betwixt, againft, above.
Inftead of it is, it was, it were, it will, it would, we fometimes use 'tis, 'twas, 'twere, 'twill, 'twould. So like. wife by't, for by it; do't, for do it was't, for was it, &c. But thefe laft contractions are fcarce allowable, especially in heroic poetry.
Am may lofe its vowel after I; as I'm, for I am: and fo may are after we, you, they; as we're, you're, they're ; for we are, you are, they are: we also fometimes ufe the contraction, let's, for let us.
The word have fuffers an elifion of its two first letters, after I, you, we, they; as I've, you've, we've, they've, for I have, you have, we have, they have. So will and would are often contracted after the perfonal pronouns ; as I'll for I will, he'd for he would, &c. or after who, as who'd for avho would, who'll for who will, &c.
The particle to fometimes lofes its when it comes before a verb that begins with a vowel; as t'avoid, t'increase, fundo, &c. but this elifion is not fo allowable before nouns, and feldom used by correct writers.
When the particle the comes before a word that begins with a vowel or an 1⁄2 not aspirated, it generally lofes its