W. T. (William Tenney) Brewster.

English composition and style; a handbook for college students online

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five years the birth rate has fallen off perceptibly. The figures for
divorces indicate that the women who are entitled to write the
obnoxious initials 'D. C./ after their names have increased from
one in twenty-eight marriages to one in eighteen marriages.

** While the growing tendency of women to industrial independ-
ence subjects them to many hardships and annoyances, the effect
upon society as a whole, at least so far as the one State of Massa-
chusetts may be accepted as typical of the other States of the
Union, seems to be the reverse of salutary. It is sufficiently clear
that if the crowding of women into trades, business and the pro-
fessions results in a reduction of the marriage and birth rates and
the encouragement of divorce, or, if it only accompanies these, the
effect upon the community as a whole is eviL"

10. Analyze such arguments as are contained in the following
essays, by showing the gist of the. thesis and the evidence in sup-
port of it.*«

1. R. L. Stevenson: An Apology for Idlers,

2. Charles Kingsley's argument for the existence of Water Babies.

3. Edmund Burke : Reflections on the Revolution in France,

4. Jonathan Swift: The Conduct of the Allies,

5. Matthew Arnold: Sweetness and Light,

6. R. W. Emerson: Self -Reliance,

7. T. H. Huxley: On a Piece of Chalk,

8. George Bernard Shaw : The Perfect Wagnerite,

9. William James: The Will to Believe.

10. Henry W. Beecher: The Liverpool Speech,

11. In what sense are such articles and books as the following
to be regarded as arguments? What, in other words, do they

*® Several of these essays will be found in Baker's Specimens of Argu-
mentation and in Carpenter and Brewster's Modem English Prose.
The specific references are : i. Virginihus Puerisque, 2, Water Babies,
3. Works. 4. Works: Tracts written in defense of the Harley ad-
ministration. 5. Culture and Anarchy, chap. i. 6. Essays, First Series,
7, Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews, 8. The Perfect Wagnerite.
g. The Will to Believe, and other Essays in Popular Philosophy, la
Baker, p. 154.


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Argumentation 419

Jonathan Swift: The Battle of the Books.

H. B. Stowe : Uncle Tom's Cabin,

Edmund Burke : A Vindication of Natural Society,

H. D. Thoreau : Walden.

H. Ibsen: An Enemy of the People.

G. B. Shaw: Candida,

H. G. Wells : The New Machiavelli.

la. Arrange the following pieces of argument in *' brief form,"
as a portion of a discussion, correlating them very carefully.
Change the order of ideas and condense the phrasing so far as is

I. We used to talk, some of us, about the horrors of Anderson-
villa, and other things that were done during the Civil War. We
hope, all of us, never to hear them mentioned again. But is there
anything in them worse than that which an officer of high rank in
the Array, vouched for by a Senator on this floor, from personal
knowledge, as a man of the highest honor and veracity, writes about
the evils of these reconcentrado camps in the Philippine Islands?
Now all this cost, all these young men gone to their graves, all
these wrecked lives, all this national dishonor, the repeal of the
Declaration of Independence, the overthrow of the principle on
which the Monroe Doctrine was placed by its author, the devasta-
tion of provinces, the shooting of captives, the torture of prisoners
and of unarmed and peaceful citizens, the hanging men up by the
thumbs, the carloads of maniac soldiers that you bring home are
all because you would not tell and will not tell now whether you
mean in the future to stand on the principles which you and your
fathers always declared in the past

The Senator from Ohio says it is not wise to declare what we
will do at some future time. Mr. President, we do not ask you
to declare what you will do at some future time. We ask you to
declare an eternal principle good at the present time and good at
all times. We ask you to reaffirm it, because the men most clamor-
ous in support of what you are doing deny it That principle, if
you act upon it, prevents you from crushing out a weak nation,
because of your fancied interest now or hereafter. It prevents you
from undertaking to judge what institutions are fit for other nations
on the poor plea that you are the strongest. We are asking you
at least to go no further than to declare what you would not do
now or hereafter, and the reason for declaring it is that half of you
declare you will hold this people in subjection and the other half
on this matter are dumb. You declared what you would not do
at some future time when you all voted that you would not take


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420 English Composition and Style

Cuba against the will of her people, did you not? We ask you to
declare not at what moment you will get out of the Philippine
Islands, but <mly on what eternal principle you will act, in them or
out of them. Such declarations arc made in all history. They are
made in every important treaty between nations.

The Constitution of the United States is itself but a declaration
of what this country will do and what it will not do in all future
times. The Declaration of Independence, if it have the practical
meaning it has had for a hundred years, is a declaration of what
this country would do through all future times. The Monroe Doc-
trine, to which sixteen republics south of us owe their life and
their safety, was a declaration to mankind of what we would do
in all future time. Among all the shallow pretenses of imperialism
this statement that we will not say what we will do in the future
is the most shallow of all. Was there ever such a flimsy pretext
flaunted in the face of the American people as that of gentlemen
who say, " If any other nation on the face of the earth or all other
nations together attempt to overthrow the independence of any peo-
ple to the south of us in this hemisphere, we will fight and prevent
them," and at the same time think it dishonorable to declare whether
we will ever overthrow the independence of a weaker nation in
another hemisphere?

2. Gentlemen fear that, if we provide a marine, it will produce
collisions with foreign nations, plunge us into war, and ultimately
overturn the Constitution of the country. Sir, if you wish to avoid
foreign collision, you had better abandon the ocean, surrender all
your commerce, give up all your prosperity. It is the thing pro-
tected, not the instrument of protection, that involves you in war.
Commerce engenders collision, collision war, and war, the argu-
ment supposes, leads to despotism. Would the counsels of that
statesman be deemed wise who would recommend that the nation
should be unarmed; that the art of war, the martial spirit, and
martial exercises should be prohibited; who should declare, in
the language of Othello, that the nation must bid " farewell to the
neighing steed, and the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the
ear-piercing fife, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of
glorious war," and that the great body of the people should be
taught that the national happiness was to be found in a perpetual
peace alone? No, sir. And yet every argument in favor of a
power of protection on land applies, in some degree, to a power
of protection on the sea. Undoubtedly a commerce void of naval
protection is more exposed to rapacity than a guarded commerce;
and, if we wish to invite the continuance of the old or the enact-
ment of new edicts, let us refrain from all exertion upon that ele-


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Argumentation 421

ment where we must operate, and where, in the end, they must be

13. Write from a brief already constructed, a fpw paragraphs
to get as forcible and clear a presentation of the matter as pos-
sible. If the brief is made from the work of others, compare your
writing with the original

14. Draw up briefs in either structure heretofore suggested
from one of the lists on page 25 of this voliune. Write out several
paragraphs of the discussion.


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No COMPLETE or cvcn adequate account of the important
subject of versification, and still less of poetry, can be given
in the limits of these chapters. Some knowledge of verse is
desirable for students, and some practice in the simpler forms
is assuredly of value in the acquisition of a good prose style.
By such practice one's ingenuity and one's vocabulary are put
to severe tests. Here, then, is offered only the most ele-
mentary information. Students wishing to pursue the matter
farther are referred to the many excellent books on the sub-
ject, of which Professor F. B. Gummere*s A Handbook of
Poetics, for a brief survey of the theory and the history of
the subject, and Professor R. L. Alden's English Verse, for
its richness of illustrative material, may, without reflection
on the quality of other good books, be especially mentioned.
Palgrave's Golden Treasury, The Oxford Book of English
Verse and Ward's English Poets are the most convenient and
valuable anthologies.

Critical comment on verse usually assumes technical knowl-
edge of the subject and is, therefore, likely to deal severely
with delinquency in " numbers." On the other hand, it busies
itself with originality or " newness of note " and with stylistic
vigor and delicacy. Thus the criticism of correct verse, like
that of prose style, is largely concerned with the additions that
are being made to the body of poetry and with the comparative
freshness and vigor of those things which belong to metrics.
It will be necessary and convenient, therefore, in these chapters
to deal with the more important technical aspects of verse —



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426 English Composition and Style

rhythm, rime, stanzas, form — and also with certain matters
of style. The more intricate matters must remain tmtouched.

Rhythm. Verse differs from prose by reason of the re-
currence, in the former, of accented or stressed syllables at
such regular intervals, that a beat, or recurring rise and fall,
is set up; whereas prose rhythm, on the other hand, suggests
no such beat, but depends rather on unmeasured groupings
of words, which, however, enable the eye or the voice to pass
over them with sc«ne sense of smoothness. It is not neces-
sary here to take up the claim of quantity, 1. e., of the regular
recurrence of long and short syllables, in English verse; for,
though the matter has been considerably discussed, English
verse is mainly controlled by accents. It is evident that in
good verse the important sentence-accents and the natural
word-accents are also those on which a metrical- or verse-
accent falls ; otherwise there would be a conflict between meter
and sense. The " fundamental principle of all Germanic
verse " is thus stated by Professor Gummere : " The word-
accent and the verse-accent must fall on one and the same
syllable; and this common accent consists in stress of tone!'^
The matter will be best understood by some further explana-
tion of the term meter and by an examination of those varia-
tions from strict regularity which are the life of verse.

I. Meter: the foot. The verse unit is the foot, a term
possibly not so applicable to modern as to classical verse;
hence, it may be remarked incidentally, it is quite as customary
to speak of modern verse as having two, three, four, five, six,
or more, accents, as to call it verse of two, three, four, five, six,
or more, feet. The term foot, however, is convenient A
foot is a combination of two or three syllables, of which one
is accented, the others unaccented. The following feet arc
therefore possible, and to them the ancient names are uni-
formly given (the line — represents the accented, the curve ^
the unaccented syllable) :

* A Handbook of Poetics, p. 144.


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Versification 427

(i) Trochee,—— w, as London, Shakspere, steamboat,
running, oyster, tumidt.

(2) Iamb,x^ — , as New York, grimace, demand, results.

(3) Dactyl,— sj s^, as Washington, Cordova, timorous,
murmuring, gardener.

(4) Anapest,v/ %j — , as Aberdeen, suffragette, abnegate.

It is possible, also, to recognize^ — \j, as in Trafalgar, Wis-
consin, becoming, primeval, but, in actual foot-combinations,
such would be treated as falling into another meter, or as verse
with a so-called " feminine " ending, i, e., an unaccented sylla-
ble added after the completion of the foot.

Now the foregoing words, read with proper accents, would
constitute regular verses and, looking at them thus, we have
examples of

(i) Trochaic verse with six accents, or trochaic hexameter.

(2) Iambic verse with four accents, or iambic tetrameter,
or octosyllabic verse.

(3) Dactylic verse with five accents, or dactylic pentameter.

(4) Anapestic verse with three accents, or anapestic trim-

But these are not good verses, for (i) they do not make good
sense, even in " murmuring gardener," or " demand results,"
" Aberdeen suffragette," or " running oyster," and (2) they
are not very smooth. Rather we must turn to

(i) Nobly, nobly. Cape St Vincent to the northwest died
away. (Browning.)
Life of life, thy lips enkindle. (Shelley.)

(2) The short and simple annals of the poor. (Gray.)

A book of verses underneath the bough. (Fitzgerald.)

(3) Matching their lily-white legs with the clothes that they

trod in the washtub. (Clough.)
After the pangs of a desperate lover. (Dry den.)

(4) And it flows and it flows with a motion. (O'Shaugh-

I am monarch of all 1^ survey. (Cowper.)


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428 English Composition and Style

Thus we have four well-recognized types of beat in verse
and these may, theoretically at least, be used in lines of from
one to a dozen feet, though practically two feet and eight feet
are the limits. By far the most common measure in English
is the iambic and the most frequent number of feet is four
or five.

2. Variations. Verses of great uniformity in measure
tend quickly to become monotonous, and good versifiers vary
their numbers in many ways, so that it is diflBcult anywhere
in English to find a long succession of lines that scan ac-
curately on the fingers. As a matter of fact, the sense-accent
of a verse rarely falls with equal importance on the metrically
accented syllables. Thus in Marlowe's iambic lines.

Though she be dead, yet let me think she lives

And feed my mind, which dies for want of her (Taniburlaine),

the important words are evidently dead and lives and, to a
slightly lesser degree, think, mind, and her; though feed, dies
and want might also be added to this class. But clearly the
metrically accented syllables she and let are rhetorically of less
importance. Even more striking are Milton's lines,

High on a throne of royal state, which far

Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind (Paradise Lost),

where on, metrically accented, cannot, in sense, receive any
stress whatever. There are various counterclaims in verse,
and, to quote Professor Gummere, "it is the business of the
poet to make an eqtiation of these claims, the metrical scheme
having the preference; and in proportion as this is done with
such art that we feel no conflict, no clash, by so much does
the poet's handicraft approach perfection."* Good verse, in
short, is a strong suggestion of regular beat of one kind rather
than a relentless scheme of scansion.

Two common types of variety may be spoken of. One
consists in the breaking of verse into grammatical units of

^A Handbook of Poetics, p. 173.


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Versification 429

various lengths, underlying which there is apparent, of course,
the regular rhythmic beat of whatever kind. Hence, most
verses of any length actually do break themselves into groups
not unlike the phrases of prose. There is in verse, besides
the one-two or the one-two-three beat of the foot, a series
of pauses varied as to position in the line. The pauses, for
example, in the opening stanza of Fitzgerald's Omar Khayydm
may be represented by single vertical lines for the slight pauses
and double vertical lines for the stronger breaks. Thus:

Wake ! 1 1 For the Sun 1 1 who scattered | into flight
The Stars || before him 1 1 from the Field | of Night,

Drives Night | along with them | from Hcav'n, 1 1 and strikes
The Sultan's Turret 1 1 with a Shaft | of Light

In reading these lines the voice hangs slightly, very slightly,
at the single lines — possibly a line could be added before
turret — and in a very evident way at the double lines.
Manifestly these breakings do not follow the metrical scansion
at all closely, for that scheme would accent such unimportant
words as for, from and with — and to do that would be neither
sensible nor pleasing. Whatever the minor pauses, a distinct
pause, called the cesura, comes somewhere near the middle of
the verse, usually. There is, as it were, in verses of some
length, say of four accents and over, a slight rise amounting
to the intake of a breath and a fall equal in length to its
expulsion. By this is not meant that the first part is said
while inhaling; for that would be absurd. Verses are merely
broken into groups of moderately uniform length, but this
break does not necessarily conform to any division of feet

Such groupings, common in all poetry, are best seen in
the so-called "run-on" verse; that is, in which the gram-
matical sense is carried from one line to another instead of
being conterminous with the line, as in the so-called "end-
stopt " verse. The latter form is characteristic of the heroic
couplet of Dryden and Pope, but an excellent example occurs
in Shakspere's sonnet:


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430 English Composition and Style

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry —
As, to behold desert a beggar born.
And needless nothing trimm'd in jollity.
And purest faith unhappily forsworn.

(The World's Way.)

Now there is a manifest cesural pause after these, desert,
nothing, and faith, but the pause at the end of the line is much
stronger. As an illustration of " run-on " verse, note Keats's,
(cf. page 221),

He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring's honey'd cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming hi^
Is nearest unto heaven; quiet coves

His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He f urleth close ; contented so to look
On mists in idleness — to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.

(The Human Seasons.)

Here the pauses at the cesura, very diversely placed, are evi-
dently much stronger than the pauses at the ends of the lines.
Pauses, again, in a less constant way, keep the rigid metrical
scheme from getting too much the upper hand. A classical
instance, Tennyson's,

Break, break, break.

On thy cold gray stones, O Sea ! (Break, Break, Break)

will not scan, though true to the ear, unless it is remembered
that pauses after each break make up for the lost syllables.
So with Browning's

Save the squadron, honor France, love thy wife the
Belle Aurore. (HervS Riel),

where France has to be read as a dissyllable or a pause made
to supply the unaccented syllable of the trochaic foot The
last example is interesting as a verse that is broken into four


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Versification 431

nearly equal groups, but even here the second the belongs met-
rically with wife and Belle Aurore consists of two trochaic
feet, of which the last syllable is missing.

The process of cutting off a last light syllable is known as
catalexis and verses so cut are called catalectic. The process
serves to introduce the other type of variety. Catalexis serves
to end a verse roundly. Its opposite, anacrusis, or the addition
of an extra light syllable, the so-called " f emmine " ending,
tends to lighten verse. So Fletcher's very common trick in
iambic pentameter of many successive lines with feminine end-
ings, as,

And their best censure's sack, sack in abundance,
or Scott's anapests:

He is gone on the mountain.

He is lost to the forest.
Like a summer-dried fountain.

When our need was the sorest.
The font reappearing

From the raindrops shall borrow.
But to us comes no cheering.

To Duncan no morrow I (Coronach,)

In this last quotation there may be also noted the substi-
tution of the iambs, the font, and to Dun, for the customary
anapests. That illustrates another way in which verse is
varied — by the occasional substitution of a different foot for
the regular foot but not so as to set up another beat. Son-
nets, for example, are in iambic pentameter, but notice two
of our most famous sonnets, Shakspere's

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,

and Milton's

When I consider how my light is spent, (On his Blindness),

where the first foot, in neither case, can be scanned as an
jamb without horrible distortion of sense and sound.


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^I32 English Composition and Style

Perhaps the most common form of varied foot occurs in the
so-called spondee (i. e., ), or spondaic verse, where (con-
trary to " When I consider ") we find successive heavy or
accented syllables, as in Pope's famous

And ten low words oft creep in one dull line

{Essay on Criticism),

where possibly every word except and, oft and in receives a
major accent. But one could not read many such verses on

Of deliberate changes in meter to effect different sugges-
tions, Dryden gives a classic example in The Song for St.
CecUicfs Day, as also in Alexander's Feast. Note,

The trumpet's loud clangor

Excites us to arms.
With shrill notes of anger

And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat

Of the thundering drum

Cries, "Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, 't is too late to retreat**

The soft complaining flute

In dying notes discovers

The woes of hopeless lovers
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

(5*/. Cecilia's Day.)

The changes of tone in these great odes of Dryden's are due
partly to changes in the metrical beat, and also partly to word-
quality. This last matter may best be treated later in the
exercises on verse style.

Summing up this aspect of the matter we may say that
verse is described by (i) the kind and (2) number of feet
in the line, by (3) the use of the cesura and other pauses, (4)
by being " end-stopt " or " run-on," (5) by anacrusis or cata-
lexis and by (6) the introduction of unusual feet. We have


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Versification 433

now to turn to the binding together of verses by tone-quality
— i. e., rime, assonance, and alliteration, by stanzas, and by

The binding of verses. Verses are very frequently bound
into groups by the recurrence of sounds of the same quality.
This binding is best seen in rime and in the recurring groups
of similar form known as stanzas, and two other ways, called
alliteration and assonance, are also recognized. Verses with-
out rime, assonance, or (usually) stanzas, are known as blank
verse, which may evidently make use of alliteration. These
methods may be spoken of in detail.

I. Alliteration, much less common to-day than in the earlier
English poetry down to the days of Langland, where it was
the chief means of linking verse, is essentially a riming of the
first syllables or opening sounds and initial letters of some of
the more important words. Thus Langland:

In a somer seson . whan soft was the sonne,
I shope me in shroudes • as I a shepe were.
In habite as an heremite . unholy of workes.
Went wyde in this world . wondres to here.

(The Vision of Piers Plowman.)

Alliteration is to-day rather an additional source of delight,
both to prose and verse, than an indispensable means of link-
ing lines. Thus Tennyson,

'T is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all. (In Memoriam),

or Swinburne's more deliberate,

When the hounds of spring arc on winter's traces.
The mother of months, in meadow or plain.

Fills the shadows and windy places
With lisp of leaves and ripple of rain.

{Atalanta in Calydon),


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434 English Composition and Style

or again, with a distribution of the similar sounds in various
places in different words, as often in good prose (cf. p. 239),
e. g., Keats's,

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Qose bosom-friend of the maturing sun.

(Ode to Autumn.)

2. Assonance. Here the final vowel of a line is similar in
quality to the final vowel of another line, but the consonants
have not the same quality, as is the case in proper rime. Thus

Online LibraryW. T. (William Tenney) BrewsterEnglish composition and style; a handbook for college students → online text (page 37 of 43)