Goold Brown.

The Grammar of English Grammars online

. (page 177 of 254)
Online LibraryGoold BrownThe Grammar of English Grammars → online text (page 177 of 254)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

short, as were the Roman, what "advantage over the ancients," can we derive
from the fact, that quantity is regulated by stress, whether accent or

OBS. 17. - We have, I think, no prosodial treatise of higher pretensions
than Erastus Everett's "System of English Versification," first published
in 1848. This gentleman professes to have borrowed no idea but what he has
regularly quoted. "He mentions this, that it may not be supposed that this
work is a compilation. It will be seen," says he, "how great a share of it
is original; and the author, having deduced his rules from the usage of the
great poets, has the best reason for being confident of their
correctness." - _Preface_, p. 5. Of the place to be filled by this System,
he has the following conception: "It is thought to supply an important
desideratum. It is a matter of surprise to the foreign student, who
attempts the study of English poetry and the structure of its verse, to
find that _we have no work on which he can rely as authority on this
subject_. In the other modern languages, the most learned philologers have
treated of the subject of versification, in all its parts. In English
alone, in a language which possesses a body of poetical literature more
extensive, as well as more valuable than any other modern language, not
excepting the Italian, _the student has no rules to guide him_, but a few
meagre and incorrect outlines appended to elementary text-books." Then
follows this singularly inconsistent exception: "We must except from this
remark two works, published in the latter part of the sixteenth century.
But as they were written before the poetical language of the English tongue
was fixed, and as the rules of verse were not then settled, these works can
be of little practical utility." - _Preface_, p. 1. The works thus excepted
as of _reliable authority without practical utility_, are "a short tract by
_Gascoyne_," doubtless _George Gascoigne's_ 'Notes of Instruction
concerning the making of Verse or Rhyme in English,' published in 1575, and
Webbe's 'Discourse of English Poetry,' dated 1586, neither of which does
the kind exceptor appear to have ever seen! Mention is next made,
successively, of Dr. Carey, of Dryden, of Dr. Johnson, of Blair, and of
Lord Kames. "To these _guides_," or at least to the last two, "the author
is indebted for many valuable hints;" yet he scruples not to say, "Blair
betrays a paucity of knowledge on this subject;" - "Lord Kames has slurred
over the subject of Quantity," and "shown an unpardonable ignorance of the
first principles of Quantity in our verse;" - and, "Even Dr. Johnson speaks
of syllables in such a manner as would lead us to suppose that he was in
the same error as Kames. These inaccuracies," it is added, "can be
accounted for only from the fact that Prosodians have not thought
_Quantity_ of sufficient importance to merit their attention." - See
_Preface_, p. 4-6.

OBS. 18. - Everett's Versification consists of seventeen chapters, numbered
consecutively, but divided into two parts, under the two titles Quantity
and Construction. Its specimens of verse are numerous, various, and
beautiful. Its modes of scansion - the things chiefly to be taught - though
perhaps generally correct, are sometimes questionable, and not always
consonant with the writer's own rules of quantity. From the citations
above, one might expect from this author such an exposition of quantity, as
nobody could either mistake or gainsay; but, as the following platform will
show, his treatment of this point is singularly curt and incomplete. He is
so sparing of words as not even to have given a _definition_ of quantity.
He opens his subject thus: "VERSIFICATION is the proper arrangement of
words in _a line_ according to _their quantity_, and the disposition of
_these lines in_ couplets, stanzas, or in blank verse, in such order, and
according to such rules, as are sanctioned by usage. - A FOOT is a
combination of two or _more_ syllables, whether long or short. - A LINE is
one foot, or more than one. - The QUANTITY of each _word_ depends on its
_accent_. In words of more than one syllable, all accented syllables are
long, and all unaccented syllables are short. Monosyllables are long or
short, according to the following Rules: - 1st. All Nouns, Adjectives,
Verbs, and Participles are long. - 2nd. The articles are always short. - 3rd,
The Pronouns are long or short, according to _emphasis_. - 4th.
Interjections and Adverbs are generally long, but sometimes _made short by
emphasis_. - 5th. Prepositions and Conjunctions are almost always _short_,
but sometimes _made long by emphasis_." - _English Versification_, p. 13.
None of these principles of quantity are unexceptionable; and whoever
follows them implicitly, will often differ not only from what is right, but
from their author himself in the analysis of verses. Nor are they free from
important antagonisms. "Emphasis," as here spoken of, not only clashes with
"accent," but contradicts itself, by making some syllables long and some
short; and, what is more mysteriously absurd, the author says, "It
_frequently happens_ that syllables _long by_ QUANTITY become _short by_
EMPHASIS." - _Everett's Eng. Versif._, 1st Ed., p. 99. Of this, he takes the
first syllable of the following line, namely, "the word _bids_," to be an

"B~ids m~e l=ive b~ut t=o h=ope f~or p~ost=er~it~y's pr=aise."

OBS. 19. - In the American Review, for May, 1848, Everett's System of
Versification is named as "an apology and occasion" - not for a critical
examination of this or any other scheme of prosody - but for the
promulgation of a new one, a rival theory of English metres, "the
principles and laws" of which the writer promises, "at an other time" more
fully "to develop." The article referred to is entitled, "_The Art of
Measuring Verses_." The writer, being designated by his initials, "J. D.
W.," is understood to be James D. Whelpley, editor of the Review. Believing
Everett's principal doctrines to be radically erroneous, this critic
nevertheless excuses them, because he thinks we have nothing better! "The
views supported in the work itself," says his closing paragraph, "_are not,
indeed, such as we would subscribe to, nor can we admit the numerous
analyses of the English metres which it contains to be correct_; yet, as it
is as complete in design and execution as anything that has yet appeared on
the subject, and well calculated to excite the attention, and direct the
inquiries, of English scholars, to the study of our own metres, we shall
even pass it by without a word of criticism." - _American Review, New
Series_, Vol. I, p. 492.

OBS. 20. - Everett, although, as we have seen, he thought proper to deny
that the student of English versification had any well authorized "rules to
guide him," still argues that, "The laws of our verse are just as fixed,
and may be as clearly laid down, if we but attend to the usage of the great
Poets, as are the laws of our syntax." - _Preface_, p. 7. But this critic,
of the American Review, ingenious though he is in many of his remarks,
flippantly denies that our English Prosody has either authorities or
principles which one ought to respect; and accordingly cares so little whom
he contradicts, that he is often inconsistent with himself. Here is a
sample: "As there are _no established authorities_ in this art, and,
indeed, _no acknowledged principles_ - every rhymester being permitted to
_invent_ his own _method_, and write by _instinct_ or _imitation_ - the
critic feels quite at liberty to say just what he pleases, and _offer his
private observations_ as though these were really of some moment." - _Am.
Rev._, Vol. i, p. 484. In respect to writing, "_to invent_," and _to
"imitate_," are repugnant ideas; and so are, _after a "method_," and "_by
instinct_." Again, what sense is there in making the "liberty" of
publishing one's "private observations" to depend on the presumed absence
of rivals? That the author did not lack confidence in the general
applicability of his speculations, subversive though they are of the best
and most popular teaching on this subject, is evident from the following
sentence: "We intend, also, that if these principles, with the others
previously expressed, are true in the given instances, _they are equally
true for all languages and all varieties of metre_, even to the denial that
_any_ poetic metres, founded on other principles, can properly
exist." - _Ib._, p. 491

OBS. 21. - J. D. W. is not one of those who discard quantity and supply
accent in expounding the nature of metre; and yet he does not coincide very
nearly with any of those who have heretofore made quantity the basis of
poetic numbers. His views of the rhythmical elements being in several
respects _peculiar_, I purpose briefly to notice them here, though some of
the peculiarities of this new "_Art of Measuring Verses_," should rather be
quoted under the head of _Scanning_, to which they more properly belong.
"Of every species of beauty," says this author, "and more especially of the
beauty of sounds, _continuousness_ is the _first element_; a succession of
_pulses_ of sound becomes agreeable, only when the breaks or intervals
cease to be heard." Again: "Quantity, or the _division into measures of
time_, is a _second element_ of verse; each line must be _stuffed out with
sounds_, to a certain fullness and plumpness, that will sustain the voice,
and force it to dwell upon the sounds." - _Rev._, p. 485. The first of these
positions is subsequently contradicted, or very largely qualified, by the
following: "So, the line of significant sounds, in a verse, is also marked
by _accents_, or _pulses_, and divided into portions called _feet_. These
are necessary and natural for the very simple reason that _continuity by
itself is tedious_; and the greatest pleasure arises from the union of
continuity with _variety_. [That is, with "_interruption_," as he elsewhere
calls it!] In the line,

'Full màny a tàle theír mùsic tèlls,'

there are at least four accents or stresses of the voice, with faint
_pauses_ after them, just enough to separate the continuous stream of sound
into these four parts, to be read thus:

Fullman - yataleth - eirmus - ictells,[503]

by which, new combinations of sound are produced, of a singularly musical
character. It is evident from the inspection of the above line, that the
division of the feet by the accents is quite independent of the division of
words by the sense. The sounds are melted into continuity, and _re-divided
again_ in a manner agreeable to the musical ear." - _Ib._, p. 486.
Undoubtedly, the due formation of our poetic feet occasions both a blending
of some words and a dividing of others, in a manner unknown to prose; but
still we have the authority of this writer, as well as of earlier ones, for
saying, "Good verse requires to be read _with the natural quantites
[sic - KTH] of the syllables_," (p. 487,) a doctrine with which that of the
_redivision_ appears to clash. If the example given be read with any regard
to the _cæsural pause_, as undoubtedly it should be, the _th_ of _their_
cannot be joined, as above, to the word _tale_; nor do I see any propriety
in joining the _s_ of _music_ to the third foot rather than to the fourth.
Can a theory which turns topsyturvy the whole plan of syllabication, fail
to affect "the _natural quantities_ of syllables?"

OBS. 22 - Different modes of reading verse, may, without doubt, change the
quantities of very many syllables. Hence a correct mode of reading, as well
as a just theory of measure, is essential to correct scansion, or a just
discrimination of the poetic feet. It is a very common opinion, that
English verse has but few spondees; and the doctrine of Brightland has been
rarely disputed, that, "_Heroic Verses_ consist of five _short_, and five
_long_ Syllables _intermixt_, but not so very strictly as never to alter
that order." - _Gram._, 7th Ed., p. 160.[504] J. D. W., being a heavy
reader, will have each line so "_stuffed out with sounds_," and the
consonants so syllabled after the vowels, as to give to our heroics three
spondees for every two iambuses; and lines like the following, which, with
the elisions, I should resolve into four iambuses, and without them, into
three iambuses and one anapest, he supposes to consist severally of four
spondees: -

"'When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
Ah! whither strays the immortal mind?'

[These are] to be read," according to this prosodian,

"Whencoldn - esswrapsth - issuff'r - ingclay,
Ah! whith - erstraysth' - immort - almind?"

"The verse," he contends, "is perceived to consist of _six_ [probably he
meant to say _eight_] heavy syllables, each composed of a vowel followed by
a group of consonantal sounds, the whole measured into four equal feet. The
movement is what is called spondaic, a spondee being a foot of two heavy
sounds. The absence of short syllables gives the line a peculiar weight and
solemnity suited to the sentiment, and doubtless prompted by
it." - _American Review_, Vol. i, p. 487. Of his theory, he subsequently
says: "It maintains that good English verse is as thoroughly quantitative
as the Greek, though it be _much more heavy and spondaic_." - _Ib._, p.

OBS. 23 - For the determining of quantities and feet, this author borrows
from some old Latin grammar three or four rules, commonly thought
inapplicable to our tongue, and, mixing them up with other speculations,
satisfies himself with stating that the "Art of Measuring Verses" requires
yet the production of many more such! But, these things being the essence
of his principles, it is proper to state them _in his own words_: "A short
vowel sound followed by a double consonantal sound, usually makes a _long_
quantity;[506] so also does a long vowel like _y_ in _beauty_, before a
consonant. The _metrical accents_, which _often differ from the prosaic_,
mostly fall upon the heavy sounds; _which must also be prolonged in
reading_, and never slurred or lightened, unless to help out a bad verse.
In our language _the groupings of the consonants furnish a great number of
spondaic feet_, and give the language, especially its more ancient forms,
as in the verse of Milton and the prose of Lord Bacon, a grand and solemn
character. One vowel followed by another, unless the first be _naturally
made long_ in the reading, makes a short quantity, as in _th[=e] old_. So,
also, a short vowel followed by a single short consonant, gives a short
_time_ or _quantity_, as in _tö give_. [Fist] A great variety of rules for
the detection of long and short quantities _have yet to be invented_, or
applied from the Greek and Latin prosody. _In all languages they are of
course the same_, making due allowance for difference of organization; but
it is as absurd to suppose that the Greeks should have a system of prosody
differing in principle from our own, as that their rules of musical harmony
should be different from the modern. Both result from the nature of the ear
and of _the organ of speech_, and are consequently _the same_ in all ages
and nations." - _Am. Rev._, Vol. i, p. 488.

OBS. 24. - QUANTITY is here represented as "_time_" only. In this author's
first mention of it, it is called, rather less accurately, "_the division
into measures of time_." With too little regard for either of these
conceptions, he next speaks of it as including both "_time and accent_."
But I have already shown that "_accents_ or _stresses_" cannot pertain to
_short_ syllables, and therefore cannot be ingredients of quantity. The
whole article lacks that _clearness_ which is a prime requisite of a sound
theory. Take all of the writer's next paragraph as an example of this
defect: "The two elements of musical metre, _time_ and _accent_, both
together constituting _quantity_, are _equally_ elements of the metre of
verse. Each _iambic_ foot or metre, is marked by a swell of the voice,
concluding abruptly in an _accent_, or _interruption_, on the _last sound_
of the foot; or, [omit this 'or:' it is improper,] in metres of the
_trochaic_ order, in such words as _dandy, handy, bottle, favor, labor_, it
[the foot] begins with a heavy accented sound, and declines to a faint or
light one at the close. The line is thus composed of a series of swells or
waves of sound, _concluding and beginning alike_. The _accents_, or points
at which the voice is most forcibly exerted in the feet, _being the
divisions of time_, by which a part of its musical character is given to
the verse, are _usually made to coincide_, in our language, with the
accents of the words as they are spoken; which [coincidence] diminishes the
musical character of our verse. In Greek hexameters and Latin hexameters,
on the contrary, this coincidence is avoided, as tending to monotony and a
prosaic character." - _Ibid._

OBS. 25. - The passage just cited represents "_accent_" or "_accents_" not
only as partly constituting _quantity_, but as being, in its or their turn,
"_the divisions of time_;" - as being also stops, pauses, or
"_interruptions_" of sound else continuous; - as being of two sorts,
"_metrical_" and "_prosaic_," which "usually coincide," though it is said,
they "often differ," and their "interference" is "very frequent;" - as being
"the points" of stress "in the _feet_," but not always such in "the
_words_," of verse; - as striking different feet differently, "each _iambic_
foot" on the latter syllable and every _trochee_ on the former, yet
causing, in each line, only such waves of sound as conclude and begin
"_alike_;" - as coinciding with the long quantities and "_the prosaic
accents_," in iambics and trochaics, yet not coinciding with these
always; - as giving to verse "a part of its musical character," yet
_diminishing_ that character, by their usual coincidence with "_the prose
accents_;" - as being kept distinct in Latin and Greek, "_the metrical" from
"the prosaic_" and their "coincidence avoided," to make poetry more
poetical, - though the old prosodists, in all they say of accents, acute,
grave, and circumflex, give no hint of this primary distinction! In all
this elementary teaching, there seems to be a want of a clear, steady, and
consistent notion of the things spoken of. The author's theory led him to
several strange combinations of words, some of which it is not easy, even
with his whole explanation before us, to regard as other than _absurd_.
With a few examples of his new phraseology, Italicized by myself, I dismiss
the subject: "It frequently happens that _word and verse accent_ fall
differently." - P. 489. "The _verse syllables_, like _the verse feet_,
differ _in the prosaic and_ [the] _metrical reading_ of the line." - _Ib._
"If we read it by _the prosaic syllabication_, there will be no possibility
of measuring the quantities." - _Ib._ "The metrical are perfectly distinct
from the _prosaic properties of verse_." - _Ib._ "It may be called _an
iambic dactyl_, formed by the substitution of two short for one long time
in the last portion of the foot. _Iambic spondees and dactyls_ are to be
distinguished by the _metrical accent_ falling on the last syllable." - P.


The principal kinds of verse, or orders of poetic numbers, as has already
been stated, are four; namely, _Iambic, Trochaic, Anapestic_, and
_Dactylic_. Besides these, which are sometimes called "_the simple orders_"
being unmixed, or nearly so, some recognize several "_Composite orders_" or
(with a better view of the matter) several kinds of mixed verse, which are
said to constitute "_the Composite order_." In these, one of the four
principal kinds of feet must still be used as the basis, some other species
being inserted therewith, in each line or stanza, with more or less


The diversification of any species of metre, by the occasional change of a
foot, or, in certain cases, by the addition or omission of a short
syllable, is not usually regarded as sufficient to change the denomination,
or stated order, of the verse; and many critics suppose some variety of
feet, as well as a studied diversity in the position of the cæsural pause,
essential to the highest excellence of poetic composition.

The dividing of verses into the feet which compose them, is called
_Scanning_, or _Scansion_. In this, according to the technical language of
the old prosodists, when a syllable is wanting, the verse is said to be
_catalectic_; when the measure is exact, the line is _acatalectic_; when
there is a redundant syllable, it forms _hypermeter_.

Since the equal recognition of so many feet as twelve, or even as eight,
will often produce different modes of measuring the same lines; and since
it is desirable to measure verses with uniformity, and always by the
simplest process that will well answer the purpose; we usually scan by the
principal feet, in preference to the secondary, where the syllables give us
a choice of measures, or may be divided in different ways.

A single foot, especially a foot of only two syllables, can hardly be said
to constitute a line, or to have rhythm in itself; yet we sometimes see a
foot so placed, and rhyming as a line. Lines of two, three, four, five,
six, or seven feet, are common; and these have received the technical
denominations of _dim'eter, trim'eter, tetram'eter, pentam'eter,
hexam'eter_, and _heptam'eter_. On a wide page, iambics and trochaics may
possibly be written in _octom'eter_; but lines of this measure, being very
long, are mostly abandoned for alternate tetrameters.


In Iambic verse, the stress is laid on the even syllables, and the odd ones
are short. Any short syllable added to a line of this order, is
supernumerary; iambic rhymes, which are naturally single, being made double
by one, and triple by two. But the adding of one short syllable, which is
much practised in dramatic poetry, may be reckoned to convert the last foot
into an amphibrach, though the adding of two cannot. Iambics consist of the
following measures: -


_Psalm XLVII, 1 and 2_.

"O =all | y~e p=eo | -pl~e, cl=ap | y~our h=ands, | ~and w=ith | tr~i=um
| -ph~ant v=oi | -c~es s=ing;
No force | the might | -=y power | withstands | of God, | the u
| -niver | -sal King."
See the "_Psalms of David, in Metre_," p. 54.

Each couplet of this verse is now commonly reduced to, or exchanged for, a
simple stanza of four tetrameter lines, rhyming alternately, and each
commencing with a capital; but sometimes, the second line and the fourth
are still commenced with a small letter: as,

"Your ut | -most skill | in praise | be shown,
for Him | who all | the world | commands,
Who sits | upon | his right | -eous throne,
and spreads | his sway | o'er heath | -en lands."
_Ib._, verses 7 and 8; _Edition bound with Com. Prayer_,
N. Y., 1819.

_An other Example_.

"The hour | is come | - the cher | -ish'd hour,
When from | the bus | -y world | set free,
I seek | at length | my lone | -ly bower,
And muse | in si | -lent thought | on thee."
THEODORE HOOK'S REMAINS: _The Examiner_, No. 82.


_Example I. - Hat-Brims_.

"It's odd | how hats | expand [ their brims | as youth | begins
| to fade,
As if | when life | had reached | its noon, | it want | -ed them
| for shade."
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES: _From a Newspaper_.

_Example II. - Psalm XLII_, 1.

"As pants | the hart | for cool | -ing streams, | when heat | -ed in
| the chase;
So longs | my soul, | O God, | for thee, | and thy | refresh
| -ing grace."
EPISCOPAL PSALM-BOOK: _The Rev. W. Allen's Eng. Gram._, p. 227.

_Example III. - The Shepherd's Hymn_.

"Oh, when | I rove | the des | -ert waste, | and 'neath | the hot
| sun pant,
The Lord | shall be | my Shep | -herd then, | he will | not let
| me want;
He'll lead | me where | the past | -ures are | of soft | and shad
| -y green,
And where | the gen | -tle wa | -ters rove, | the qui | -et hills

Online LibraryGoold BrownThe Grammar of English Grammars → online text (page 177 of 254)