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T ATIONS, whose language and pronunciation were musical, rested their versification chiefly on the quantities of their fyllables; but mere quantity has very little effect in English verse. For the difference, made between long and short fyllables in our manner of pronouncing them, is very inconsiderable. The only perceptible difference among our syllables arises from that strong percussion of voice, which is termed accent., This accent however does not always make the fyllable longer ; but only gives it more force of found; and it is rather upon a certain order and succession of accented and unaccented syllables, than upon their quantity, that the melody of our verse depends.
In the constitution of our verse there is another essential circumstance. This is the cæsural pause, which falls near the middle of each line. This pause may fall after the fourth, fifth, fixth, or seventh fyllable ; and by this mean uncommon variety and richness are added to English versification.
Our English verse is of lambic structure, composed of a nearly alternate succession of unaccented and accented syllables. When the pause falls earliest, that is, after the fourth fyllable, the briskest melody is thereby
formed. Of this the following lines from Pope are a' happy illustration ;
On her white breast | a sparkling cross she wore,
When the pause falls after the fifth fyllable, dividing the line into two equal portions, the melody is sensibly altered. The verse, losing the brisk air of the former pause, becomes more smooth and flowing.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind,
When the pause follows the sixth fyllable, the melo. dy becomes grave. The movement of the verse is more folemn and measured.
The wrath of Peleus' fon, the direful spring
The grave cadence becomes still more sensible, when the pause follows the seventh fyllable. This kind of verse however seldom occurs; and its effect is to diverfify the melody.
And in the smooth, descriptive / murmur still.
Our blank verse is a noble, bold, and disencumbered mode of versification. It is free from the full clofen which rhyme forces upon the ear at the end of every couplet. Hence it is peculiarly suited to subjects of dignity and force. It is more favorable, than rhyme, to the fublime and the highly pathetic. It is the most proper for an epic poem and for tragedy. Rhyme finds its proper place in the middle regions of poetry ; and blank verse in the highest.
The present form of our English heroic rhyme in couplets is modern. The measure, used in the days of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. was the stanza of eight lines. Waller was the first, who introduced couplets ; and Dryden established the usage. Waller smoothed our verse, and Dryden perfected it. The versification of Pope is peculiar. It is flowing, smooth, and correct in the highest degree. He has totally thrown aside the triplets, so common in Dryden. In eafe and variety Dryden excels Pope, He frequently makes his couplets run into one another with somewhat of the freedom of blank verse.
T was not, before men had begun to assemble in great cities, and the bustle of courts and large societies was known, that pastoral poetry affumed its pref
ent form. From the tumult of a city life men look ed back with complacency to the innocence of rural retirement. In the court of Ptolemy Theocritus wrote the first pastorals, with which we are acquainted; and in the court of Augustus Virgil imitated him..
The pastoral is a very agreeable species of poetry. It lays before us the gay and pleasing scenes of nature. It recalls objects, which are commonly the delight of our childhood and youth. It exhibits a life, with which we associate ideas of innocence, peace, and leisure. It transports us into Elysian regions. It presents many objects favorable to poetry ; rivers and mountains, meadows and hills, rocks and trees, Alocks and shep. herds void of care.
A pastoral poet is careful to exhibit, whatever is most pleasing in the pastoral state. He paints its fimplicity, tranquillity, innocence, and happiness; but conceals its rudeness and misery. If his pictures be not those of real life; they must resemble it. This is a general idea of pastoral poetry. But, to understand it more perfect. ly, let us consider, 1. The scenery. 2. The characters; and lastly the subjects, it should exhibit.
The scene must always be in the country; and the poet mult have a talent for description. In this respect Virgil is excelled by Theocritus, whose descriptions are richer and more picturesque. In every pastoral a rural prospect should be drawn with distinctness. It is not
enough to have unmeaning groups of roses and violets, of birds, breezes, and brooks thrown together. À good poet gives such a landscape, as a painter might copy. His objects are particularised. The stream, the rock, or the tree, fo stands forth, as to make a figure in the imagination, and give a pleasing conception of the place, where we are.
In his allusions to natural objects as well, as in professed descriptions of the scenery, the poet must study. variety. He must diversify his face of nature by presenting us new images. He must also suit the scenery to the subject of his pastoral ; and exhibit nature under such forms, as may correspond with the emotions and sentiments, he describes. Thus Virgil, when he gives the lamentation of a despairing lover, communicates a gloom to the scene.
Tantum inter densas, umbrosa cacumina, fagos,
With regard to the characters in pastorals it is not sufficient, that they be persons residing in the country. Courtiers and citizens, who resort thither occasionally, are not the characters, expected in pastorals. We expect to be entertained by shepherds, or persons wholly engaged in rural occupations. The shepherd must be plain and unaffected in his manner of thinking. An amiable fimplicity must be the groundwork of his