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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 aesthetic 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 æsthetic 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 works' rhyme to itself; in Vac. Ex. 89, 90, he makes notrhyme 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

" ness rhyme with wickedness”; in Psalm LXXX. he makes “vouchsafe" rhyme 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 this day. 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 :

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... blood

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word on ... on ...

... was


... bud

fall ...

save ..

moan ...


... one

blest ... hoverest

... were
hence pestilence
first worst

he pass 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

die wearing ... steering infancy ... glorify session throne bliss is torn mourn sweat seat

both horn mourn fast haste stable ... serviceable



promontory. story
tears characters feast ... guest
entombed ... consumed societies. eyes
flood ... good

youth shew'th verse pierce

even Heaven throne thereon pored

Gordon birth earth

good blood one ... soon

throng ... tongue request feast

God ... load stood

victories arise wears ...

tears (n) chide ... denied


seat great

wear ... severe one ... overthrown

again sustain known down

alone home come

put glut
affirm term

iniquity he
hearers bearers unstable miserable
were ... carrier


less increase

soul roll

end ... fiend

this is
tie harmony righteousness cease
strove ... above

severe ...

forbear throne ... Contemplation Deity high mirth hearth

great set Bear sphere

lord word tragedy ... by



rise enemies
breathe beneath shield withheld
I ... harmony

forgive ... grieve
lie . necessity

harbinger ... err

done alone
excuse (n)

God abroad gone overgrown

shew true return mourn

Son wear ear

fast placed flood mood

seas ...


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verse ...

ear ...




... are

... are


... Cave


IMPERFECT RHYMES (continued). there clear drove

true ... shew prayer


tomb comb

descry solemnity wave ... have known oblivion pair

resort - sport removed ... loved have

there cheer eye misery where sphere


dew forth ... worth

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

were 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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