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of getting them to distinguish between perfect rhymes and imperfect, and also in the fact that very imperfect rhymes pass most easily in popular and vernacular poetry? Quite independent of the principle, however, is the conclusion which Mr. Ellis has arrived at respecting the practice of Chaucer, Gower, and the other oldest English rhyming poets. Their rhymes, he contends (pp. 245 et seq.), are all but invariably perfect, apparent exceptions being due either to wrong reading or to clerical errors in the editions. Very soon, however, says Mr. Ellis, this strictness of rhyming ceased, and when we reach the time of Spenser and Shakespeare we are in a changed world. The era of perfect rhymes, he says, is then left behind, so that it is no longer possible to derive exact information as to the pronunciations of words from the rhymes of the poets. He is especially severe on Spenser, to whose laxities and forced shifts in rhyming he devotes ten pages (pp. 862—871). Sir Philip Sidney he finds more careful in this particular, though with licences unknown to Chaucer and Gower (pp. 872–874); and of Shakespeare the report (pp. 953—966) is that, as he was a contemporary of Spenser, and doubtless a reader of the Faery Queene, we do not expect "any very great regularity in his rhymes," and should be much disappointed if we did. Although Mr. Ellis expressly refrains from “the æsthetic question,” and confines himself to an investigation and statement of the facts, one rather infers, from his tone and some of his phrases, that he regrets the laxity which introduced imperfect rhymes into English verse and regards it as a degeneracy. Goethe's dictum on the subject to Eckermann ought, therefore, again to be remembered, as well as the fact that imperfect rhymes have been ratified by the continued practice of the most careful and musical of our poets, Tennyson among the latest.

Milton's practice is interesting in itself, and may be allowed to have some bearing on the ästhetic question.—He has, of course, his full proportion of Perfect Rhymes, chiefly monosyllabic, but occasionally dissyllabic. Equally of course, we may add, no sanction of the hideous modern Cockney rhymes, as claiming to belong to this class, will be found in him. Of "identical rhymes" he is not so innocent, though one can see that, despite the example of Chaucer, Spenser, and the Italian poets generally, he did not like them.

In Psalm LXXX. 21-23 he makes “ tears” rhyme to itself; in Psalm LXXXVI. 26—28 he makes “worksrhyme to itself; in Vac. Ex. 89, 90, he makes "not" rhyme with knot; in Sonnet IX. he makes the proper name Ruthrhyme with "ruththe abstract noun; in Psalm II. 20—22 he makes averse" rhyme with “converse; in Psalm VII. 32–35 he makes "righteous

rhyme with “wickedness”; in Psalm LXXX. he makes "vouchsaferhyme several times with "safe"; and search may

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detect some more latent instances. On the other hand, in the Psalm Translations in Service metre, when a rhyme is due in the third line to the word ending the first, he sometimes fails to give it. In these Psalm Translations, however, he was not at all fastidious.

But what in the main matter of Imperfect Rhymes? Well, Milton, if not so lax here as Spenser had been, fully asserted the liberty which has been maintained by succeeding English poets to

He furnishes examples freely of all the kinds of Imperfect Rhymes recognised in our classification. The following is a pretty extensive miscellaneous list of his Imperfect Rhymes; but it is representative only, and does not profess to be complete. Some of the rhymes noted only once occur several times :

this day.



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flood ...
verse ...

even ...



wear ...




stood ... blood

promontory story
tears characters feast



youth shew'th pierce

Heaven throne thereon pored on ... word on ... Gordon birth earth

good blood one ... soon

throng ... tongue request feast

God ... load stood bud

victories arise wears tears (n)

chide denied fall funeral



seat great
moan ...

one overthrown again sustain
known down

alone one home ... come

put glut
affirm term

iniquity he
hearers ... bearers unstable miserable
were ...


less increase

soul roll foul end fiend

this ... is tie harmony

righteousness ... cease strove above

severe forbear throne ... Contemplation Deity high mirth hearth


set Bear sphere

lord word tragedy by



rise enemies
breathe beneath shield ... withheld

forgive ... grieve lie ... necessity

harbinger err were her

done alone excuse (n) ... muse God abroad gone overgrown shew true return mourn

on Son wear ... ear

fast placed flood ... mood


timelessly ... dry blest

hoverest sphere were hence pestilence first

worst deity he pass was come ... room birth hearth still invisible nothing ... clothing spreads ... meads underneath ... death unsufferable table God abode her eyes deformities sphere harbinger stood flood appear

bear voice noise lose close alone union quire heir said made great set vanity .., die wearing steering infancy glorify session throne bliss is torn mourn sweat seat Ashtaroth ... both horn

... mourn fast haste stable serviceable verse ...



seas ...




I ...



... her

... move

tomb ...

... are

wave resort


... cave



IMPERFECT RHYMES (continued). there ... clear drove

true ... shew prayer


comb great entreat descry solemnity

have known oblivion pair are

sport removed ... loved have

there cheer eye ... misery where sphere

shew dew forth ... worth

skies harmonies wound (n) ... ground severity ... lie madrigal ... vale

her A doubt may exist whether some of these rhymes, imperfect now in our present pronunciation of English, may not have been perfect in the pronunciation of Milton's time. With respect to two of the pronunciations, where such a supposition seems most plausible (roll...soul...foul, and shew...dew...true, with shew'th...youth), this point has been discussed already in the part on Spelling. But, with all possible deduction on account of such dubious pronunciations, the proof is positive that Milton made free and large use of imperfect rhymes. From a rough calculation, I should say that, in the whole of his rhymed poetry, extending to about 2700 lines, every eighth or tenth rhyme is more or less imperfect. Nor is it only in his least elaborate poems and passages that such rhymes

They occur in passages the most finished and dainty, the most lyrical and musical. Take for example the Echo Song in Comus, sung by the lost Lady in the woods at night. That song is avowedly an address to the very Genius of Sound; it is the song of which the Guardian Spirit said that its perfection had enraptured Silence herself, and might have created a soul under the ribs of Death. Well, that song is even conspicuous for its imperfect rhymes :


“ Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv’st unseen

Within thy airy shell

By slow Meander's margent green,
And in the violet-embroidered vale

Where the love-lorn nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad song mourneth well :
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle pair

That likest thy Narcissus are ?

O, if thou have
Hid them in some flowery cave,

Tell me but where,
Sweet Queen of Parley, Daughter of the Sphere !

So may'st thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heaven's harmonies ! '


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