Page images
PDF
EPUB

take their place wholly in the realm of the beautiful. The sound still serves to convey the thought, but it here thrusts itself on the attention as a pleasing, sensuous element to the ear. Of so much value is this element of beauty that the poet has license to constrain the sense for the sake of the sound. In fact, metric utterance is so much of bondage to thought as not to be admissible when the thought is expressed for its own sake.

The chief fact about poetic form is that of Rhythm. This has reference to a certain flowing, wave-like movement of voice, which, to a certain extent, obscures the stiff requirements of articulate speech. This wave-like movement is highly complex, and is divided into parts within parts. The simplest element in this movement is the syllable. This enters into elementary combinations with other syllables; this new combination into still more complex combinations; and so on till the stanza or the poem is reached.

The simplest order of rhythm consists of one strong and one or more weak impulses of the voice. One movement of the voice from the stress to the remission or from the remission to the stress is called a Foot. A Foot is a single compound movement of the voice. The strong impulse of the voice which falls on a certain syllable is called the Rhythm-accent. The syllable not only receives more stress but more time in its pronunciation. In Latin and Greek, the Rhythm-accent falls on a long syllable; hence, the rhythm in these languages is said to be based on quantity. English rhythm is said to be based on accent; but in giving the accent, more time is required in its pronunciation, so that the two are inseparable. The syllable that is accented in prose is used for the Rhythm-accent, thus speaking the sense of the word and at the same time securing the music of the verse.

A single compound movement of the voice never extends over more than three syllables. Accordingly, a foot will always consist of either one, two, or three syllables, giving one accented and one or two unaccented syllables to each foot. The accent may fall on either syllable in the foot — first, second, or third. Falling on the last, we have, if two syllables, the Iambic foot; if three syllables, the Anapaestic foot. Falling on the first, we have, if two syllables, the Trochaic foot; if three syllables, the Dactylic foot. When the middle of the three syllables is accented, the foot is called the Amphibrach. The following are examples of each in the order named above:

1. The mel an chol' y days' are come', the sad' dest of the year'.

2. There's a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower'. 3. Tell me not in mourn' ful num' bers. 4. Wist ful ly wan' der ing over the wa'ters, she

Sought for the land of the bless' ed. 5. The wa' ters are flash' ing,

The white hail is dash' ing.

Seldom will the verse be made up of the same kind of feet. Yet one kind must prevail, and this one gives character to the verse. There is great gain in substituting a foot for the regular one, for thus variety is secured. There is, however, a limit to such substitu

tion. Two accented syllables or three unaccented syllables should not occur together, because such an arrangement prevents free, easy movement of the voice. One accented syllable cannot be pronounced after another accented syllable without a pause, thus causing a jerking movement and an unpleasant sensation. Hence, a foot accented on the last syllable, an Iambus or an Anapaest, should not be followed by a foot accented on the first syllable, a Trochee or a Dactyl. And since three unaccented syllables standing together interfere with rhythmical effect, an Anapaest must not follow a Trochee; neither an Iambus, an Amphibrach, or an Anapaest follow an Amphibrach. At the beginning or at the end of a line, more freedom of substitution is permitted. A Trochee may begin a line of Iambic feet, since nothing precedes the accented syllable and only two unaccented syllables are brought together. The end feet, not standing between other feet, make possible a great variety of combinations not permitted within the line. The principle stated is a safe guide. Two accented syllables or three unaccented syllables standing together cannot be pronounced with rhythmic movement of voice. Within this limit the poet has all possible freedom, and the highest rhythmical beauty is attained by variety in the kinds of feet. One kind of foot, however, must characterize the verse; and the variety must be secured by substituting for the regular feet others that will not interfere with the free onflowing of the voice.

It will be observed that the substituted feet are pronounced in the same time as those for which they are substituted, thus giving variety in the rate of utterance as well as in the quality. The so-called Monosyllabic foot occupies the same time as the other feet of the stanza in which it occurs. This gives, when required, a slow and stately movement; as if borne down with grief or by dignity of sentiment, as in the first line of this:

“ Break, break, break,
On the cold, grey stones, O sea;
And I would that my tongue could utter

The thoughts that arise in me.”

The poet has great power of adjustment in the movement of the verse to adapt it to the sentiment he wishes to express. This may be pointed out in the examples at the close of this topic, and the method of securing the suitable movement explained. It will be interesting to note, also, what kind of foot is most commonly employed, and which is seldom met with.

The simplest order of Rhythm has been stated to be that of the foot. These feet are again grouped into higher orders of Rhythm — grouped by the sense into phrases, making convenient stages of rest for the voice, and marked by what is known as the Caesural pause; or grouped by Alliterative rhythm or by some Emphatic word. This second order of groups is again grouped in the line or the verse, marked by some natural pause required by the sense or by ease of utterance or by Rhyme. Only the last grouping of the elementary rhythmical movement need here be noted.

A Verse is the coördination of several elementary rhythmical movements into one compound movement,

bearing a definite relation in number to the primary movement. The verse is characterized, therefore, by the number of its primary movements. A verse consisting of one foot is called a Monometer; of two feet, Dimeter; of three feet, Trimeter; of four feet, Tetrameter; of five feet, Pentameter; of six feet, Hexameter. The number of feet in the verse may vary in the poem, but there is a prevailing number which gives character to the poem.

As already stated, the grouping into feet is sometimes indicated by Rhyme, giving rise to the distinction of . Rhyming verse and Blank verse. Rhyme is the recurrence of the same sound at the close of each of two or more lines. These sounds must not be identical throughout, but only so from the accented syllable to the close. When the accented vowel and the sound or sounds which follow are identical, the rhyme is said to be perfect; provided the sounds which precede the accented vowel are different. Thus dreary rhymes perfectly with weary; day with pay; and tenderly with slenderly. In the imperfect rhyme, the sounds, which in the perfect rhyme are identical, differ; yet they are sufficiently alike to suggest similarity, as poor and door; wrong and tongue; afternoon and love-tune. Rhymes are also single, double, and triple, illustrated respectively in day and pay; dreary and weary; tenderly and slenderly. Rhymes are further classified on the basis of their manner of succession. Some are successive, some alternate, and some occur at variously contrived intervals; yet usually with a regularity which becomes the more beautiful in proportion as it breaks

« PreviousContinue »