網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

a beautiful ornament. But if the proportions are juft, the posture true, the figure bold, and the refemblance according to nature, tho' the colours happen to be rough, or carelessly laid on, yet the picture fhall lofe nothing of its efteem. Such are many of the ineftimable pieces of Raphael: whereas the finest and niceft colour that art can invent, is but labour in vain when the reft is in diforder; like paint bestow'd on an ill face, whereby the deformity is render'd but fo much the more confpicuous and remarkable. It would not be unseasonable to make some obfervationsupon this fubject, by way of advice to many of our prefent writers, who feem to lay the whole ftrefs of their endeavours upon the Harmony of words: Like Eunuchs they facrifice their manhood for a voice, and reduce our Poetry to be like Echo, nothing but Ecund.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

CHA P. I.

Containing a Definition of POETRY, and the Qualifications of a true POET.

P

OETRY is the art of compofing poems, or pieces in verfe, in order to please and to inftruct. But a skill in making verfes, or writing in numbers, is one of the leaft qualifications of a good poet; for a person of an indifferent genius may be taught to compofe verfes that will flow fmoothly, and found well to the ear, which yet may be of fio value for want of ftrong fenfe, propriety, and elevation of thought, or purity of diction. A true poet is diftinguished by a fruitfulness of invention, a lively imagination tempered by a folid judgment, a nobleness of sentiments and ideas, and a bold, lofty, and figurative manner of expreffion. He thoroughly understands the nature of his fub. ject; and, let his poem be never fo fhort, he forms a defign or plan, by which every verse is directed to a certain end, and each has a juft dependence on the other; for it is this produces the beauty of order and harmony, and gives fatisfaction to a rational mind. The duke of Buckingham, in his Effay on Poetry, very justly observes :

Numbers, and rhymes, and that harmonious found
Which never does the ear with harfhness wound,
Are neceffary, yet but vulgar, arts:
For all in vain thefe fuperficial parts
Contribute to the ftructure of the whole,
Without a genius too, for that's the foul;
A fpirit, which infpires the work throughout,
As that of nature moves the world about;

A heat which glows in every word that's writ;
'Tis fomething of divine, and more than wit;
Itfelf unfeen, yet all things by it shown,
Defcribing all men, but defcrib'd by none.

A poetical genius is the gift of nature, and cannot be acquired; nor can the want of it be fupplied by art or indufry but where fuch a genius is found, it may be affifted by proper rules and directions; and fuch we fhall endeavour to lay down.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

CHA P. II.

Of the Structure of English VERSE; and of RHYME:

I

Norder to make verses, you must understand that fyllables are diftinguished into long and short, and this length or fhortnefs is called their quantity. Of two, three, and fometimes more fyllables, the antients formed their poetical feet, giving each of them a different name. foot confifting of two long fyllables, was called a spondee; of a thort one follow'd by a long one, an iambic; of a long one followed by two short ones, a dactyle, &c. and of thefe feet they compofed various kinds of verfes.

Thus a

But there is very little variety of feet in the English poetry, the iambic being, as it were, the fole regent of our verfe, efpecially of our heroics, which confift of five fhort and five long fyllables intermixed alternately, though this order is fometimes beautifully varied by our beft poets, as an excellent writer obferves:

Two fyllables our English feet compofe,
But quantities diftinguish them from profe.
By long and fort, in various stations plac'd,
Our English verfe harmoniously is grac❜d:
With fort and long heroic feet we raise,
But thefe to vary is the poet's praife;
For the fame founds perpetually difguft :
Dryden to this variety was juft.

After all, the quantity of the fyllables in ours, and other modern languages, is not well fixed; nor need we be very

folicitous about it in the compofition of verfes. The number of fyllables, the paufe, and the feat of the accents and emphafis, are the chief things to be confidered in the English verfification.

Accent is a particular ftrefs or force of the voice, laid upon any syllable in fpeaking, as upon fi in finite, upon in in infinite; and emphasis is that firefs or force of the voice which is laid on fome particular word or words in a sentence to exprefs the true meaning of the author.

In English verfe, it is the accent that denominates a fyllable long, rather than the nature of the vowel, diphthong, &c. though accent and quantity are, in reality, two different things,

It is not enough that verfes have their juft number of fyllables; for the words must be so difpofed, as that the accent and the pause may fall in fuch places, as to render them harmonious and pleafing to the ear.

This pause is a small reft or flop which is made in pronouncing the longer forts of verfes, dividing them into two parts, each of which is called an hemiftich, or half-verse : but this divifion is not always equal, that is, one of the hemiftichs does not always contain the fame number of fyllables as the other. This inequality proceeds from the feat of the accent, that is ftrongest in the firit hemiflich; for the paufe is to be made at the end of the word where fuch accent happens, or at the end of the word following; as will prefently be fhewn.

Metre, or measure, which is fuch an harmonicus difpofition of a certain number of fyllables as above mentioned, is all that is abfolutely neceffary to conftitute English verse ; but rhyme is generally added to make it more delightful.

Now rhyme is a likeness of found between the last fyllable or fyllables of one verfe, and the latt fyllable or fyllables of another.-When only one fyllable at the end of one line rhymes to one fyllable at the end of another, it is called fingle rhyme, as made, trade; confefs, distress: but when the two last fyllables are alike in found, as drinking, thinking; able, table; it is called double rhyme. Wc have alfo fome inftances of treble rhyme, where the three lat fyllables chime together; as charity, parity, &c. But this is feldom or never admitted in ferious fubjects, and in fuch the double rhyme is to be used but fparingly.

You are further to obferve, that the conionants which

precede the vowels where the rhyme begins, must be different in each verfe; fo that light and delight, vice and advice, move and remove, must not be made to rhyme together; for though the fignification of the words are different enough, the rhyming fyllables are exactly the fame, and gcod rhyme confifts rather in a likeness than a fameness of found. From hence it follows, that a word cannot rhyme to itself, nor even words that differ both in fignification and orthography, if they have the fame found; as heir, air; prey, pray; blew, blue, &c. Such rhymes indeed, and others equally bad, as nation and affection, vil lainy and gentry, follow and willow, where the likeness is not fufficient, were allowed of in the days of Chaucer, Spencer, and the reft of our antient poets, but are by no means to be admitted in our modern compofitions. It may be farther observed, that the rhyming of words depends upon their likeness of found, not of orthography; for laugh and quaff, though differently written, rhyme very well together; but plough and cough, though their terminations are alike, rhyme not at all.

That fort of verfe which has no rhyme is called blank verse; some specimens of which will be given hereafter. We have verfes of feveral measures containing feldom lefs than four, nor more than fourteen fyllables; in speaking of which I fhall begin with those that are mostly in use.

CHAP.

III.

Of the feveral forts of English VERSES.

HE verfes chiefly used in our poetry, are thofe of ten, eight, and feven fyllables; especially the firft, which are used in heroic poems, tragedies, elegies, paftorals, and many other subjects, but generally thofe that are grave and ferious.

In this fort the words are commonly fo difpofed, that the accent may fall on every fecond, fourth, fixth, eighth, and tenth fyllable; as in the two following lines.

From vúlgar bounds with bráve difórder párt,
And fnátch a gráce beyond the reách of árt.

« 上一頁繼續 »