« הקודםהמשך »
jects, which have a powerful influence, claim precedence in this inquiry. In the chapter of grandeur and sublimity it is established, that a grand or sublime object, inspires a warm enthusiastic emotion disdaining strict regularity and order; which emotion is very different in its tone from that inspired by the moderately-enlivening music of rhyme. Supposing then an elevated subject to be expressed in rhyme, what must be the effect? The intimate union of the music with the subject, produces an intimate union of their emotions; one inspired by the subject, which tends to elevate and expand the mind; and one inspired by the music, which, confining the mind within the narrow limits of regular cadency, and similar found, tends to prevent all elevation above its own pitch. Emotions so little concordant, cannot in union have a happy effect. But it is scarce necessary to reason upon a case, that never did, and probably never will happen, viz. an important subject clothed in rhyme, and yet supported in its utmost elevation. A happy thought or warm expression, may at times give a sudden bound upward; but it requires a genius greater than has hitherto existed, to support a poem of any length in a tone much more elevated than that of the melody: Tasso and Ariosto ought not to be made exceptions, and still left Voltaire. And after all, where the poet has the dead weight of rhyme constantly to struggle with, how can we expect an uniform elevation in a
high pitch; when such elevation, with all the support it can receive from language, require* the utmost effort of the huinan genius?
But now, admitting rhyme to be an unfit drest for grand and lofty images; it has one advantage however, which is, to raise a low subject to its own degree of elevation. Addison * observes, "That rhyme, without any other assistance, «' throws the language off from prose, and very •* often makes an indifferent phrase pass unregard■*' ed; but where the verse is not built upon "rhymes, there, pomp of found and energy of At expression are indispensably necessary, to sup"port the style, and keep it from falling into the "flatness of prose." This effect of rhyme is remarkable in the French verse, which, being iimple, and in a good measure unqualified for inversion, readily sinks down to prose where it iy not airtficially supported: rhyme is therefore indispensable in the French tragedy, and may be proper even in their comedy. Voltaire -f assign* this very reason for adhering to rhyme in these compositions. He indeed candidly owns, that, even with the support of rhyme, the tragedies of his country are little better than conversationpieces; which shows, that the French language is weak, and an improper dress for any grand, subject. Voltaire was sensible of this imperfec
• Spectator, N'28y. f Preface to his OEdipus, and in his discourse upon tragedy, preyed to the tragedy of Brutus.
tion; and yet Voltaire attempted an epic poem in that language.
The chearing and enlivening power of rhyme, is still more remarkable in poems of short lines, •where the rhymes return upon the ear in a quick succession; and for that reason, rhyme is perfectly well adapted to gay, light, and airy subjects: witness the following.
O the pleasing, pleasing anguisli.
Rosamtnd, all i. fe. a.
For this reason, such frequent rhymes are very improper for any severe or serious passion: the dissonance between the subject and the melody^ is very sensibly felt; witness the following*
Fra Tire del cor. ,
Metastaff. JrUfirst, aU 3. ft. %y
Now under hanging mountains,
He makes his moan,
And calls har ghost, ,
Forever, ever, ever lost j
Pope, Ode for Music, I. 97,
Rhyme is not less unfit for anguish or deep distress, than for subjects elevated and lofty; and for that reason has been long disused in the English ani Italian trigeuy. In a work where the subject is serious tnough not elevated, it has not a good effect; becaule the airiness of the melody agrees not with the gravity of the subject: the EJJ'ay on Matty wlncn treat* a subject great and
important. important, would sliow much better in blank verse. Sportive love, mirth, gaiety, humour, and ridicule, are the province of rhyme. The boundaries assigned it by nature, were extended in barbarous and illiterate ages, and in its usurpations it has long been protected by custom: but taste in the fine arts, as well as in morals, improves daily; and makes a progress, slowly Indeed, but uniformly, toward perfection; and there is^no reason to doubt, that rhyme, in Britain, will in time be forc'd to abandon its unjust conquests, and to confine itself within its natural limits.
Having thrown out what occurred upon rhyme, I close the section with a general observation, That the melody of verse so powerfully inchants the mind, as to draw a vail over very gross faults and imperfections. Of this power a stronger example cannot be given, than the episode of Aristæus, which closes the fourth book of the Ceorgics. To renew a stock of bees when the former is lost, Virgil asserts, that they will be 'produced in the intrails of a bullock, slain and managed in a certain manner. This leads him to fay, how this strange receipt was invented; which is as follows. Aristæus having lost his bees by disease and famine, never dreams of employing the ordinary means for obtaining a new stock; but, like a froward child, complains heavily of his misfortune to Ms mother Cyrene, a