Imagini ale paginilor

restriction. If we receive greater pleasure from the regular ode, which I fully believe, it must be sought for from another cause, in conjunction with that of the difficulté surmontée ;' chiefly from the uniformity we associate with our notions of all poetical composition; from our being accustomed to measures which have regularity and proportion in their parts; and from the perplexity and confusion arising in our minds, from intricacy and irregularity of structure. There is a repugnance which we feel at first to the introduction of any novel form of composition: perhaps there is no young reader of poetry, who does not at first dislike the use of the triplet in Dryden, because it is unexpected; and indeed in all cases, the beauty of it will depend on some nice preparation in the cadence, and on the skilfulness of its introduction in the preceding lines. Το συνήθες, 8ays Aristotle,* ηδυ μάλλον του ασυνηθούς. And in a problem he has on this subject, he says, Διά τι ήδιον ακούουσιν αδόντων, όσα προεπιστάμενοι τυγχανωσι των μέλων, ή ων μη επιστανται. And in the forty-first problem of the same chapter, he asks, Διά τι ήδιον ακούουσιν αδόντων, όσα αν προεπιστάμενοι τύχωσι των μέλων, ή εαν μη επιστώνται, πότερον ότι μάλλον δηλος έστιν ο τυγχάνων, ώσπερ σκόπου, όταν γνωρίζωσι το αδόμενον. γνωριζόντων δε, ηδυ θεωρείν" ή ότι συμπαθής έστιν ο ακροατής, τω το γνώριμον άδοντι.

* Vid. Problemata 0. ε. p. 763, and 768. ed. Duval : and Probl. θ-μ. p. 768.


The assertion of Voltaire is of less force, because it is not known, that such a thing can exist, as a French tragedy in blank verse. Rhyme, and the inversion of the words, are the constituents of their

It is laid down as a rule by the best writers, that no word * should be used in French poetry, that may not with equal propriety be used in prose : and blank verse could not be formed in a language, whose verse invariably demands a pause in the middle of each line, and has a regular accent on the sixth foot before the pause. Before it can be proved that blank verse can be successfully written in French,t it must be shown, that this pause and accent can be removed and altered. Independently of that, I may be permitted to doubt whether Voltaire has not overrated (for the sake of the argument) the difficulty of rhyming : though, perhaps, it exists in the French language more than in others. We know, however, that an Englishman has translated the whole of the long poem of Hudibras into French verses of four feet, with admirable success, I where one would suppose the

* See Voltaire's Henriade, c. iii. and note.

+ M. de la Motte says, that it is impossible to write a poem of any considerable length in French, which shall not weary the reader by the perpetual uniformity of its sounds. Does not this partly account for almost all the Didactic Poems by French authors being written in Latin verse ?— “ Boileau se vantoit d'avoir appris à Racine à rimer difficilement.” v. Rousseau's Emile, vol. ii. p. 36, ed. Cazin.

# I allude to that extraordinary work, · Hudibras, Poëme écrit dans le tems des troubles d'Angleterre, et traduit en

difficulty of finding rhymes would be absolutely insuperable : and when even this poem, with its short lines and strange phraseology, has been excellently versified, shall we lay such great stress upon the difficulty of finding rhymes in the plays of Racine, Corneille, or other authors. I am not sure also, whether the rule of la difficulté surmontée,' though it has a certain force in the versification of the French drama, where so much art of various kind is displayed, may not act with less power

in that species of English poetry, which has always relied more on its fertility of invention, and richness and sublimity of imagination, than on its precise conformity to the exact rules of criticism.

Upon the hole, it appears to me, that the superior pleasure which we receive from the regular lyric ode, * arises from two causes. First, from

vers François,' Londres, 1757, by Mr. Townley, an officer in the Irish Brigade, and Knight of the Order of St. Louis. He died in 1782, aged 85.

* The odes in blank verse, by Milton, Collins, and T. Warton, have less singularity in their numbers, than perhaps is generally supposed. They consist of two common Heroic, or five-footed verses, with an Alexandrine or sixfooted. The last divided into two portions, by the pause, at the end of the third foot. Surrey has an Alexandrine in 4th Æneis, v. 23, 72, 714; see Nott's ed. vol. i. p. 416-7; see Jortin's Tracts, vol. i. p. 182. Milton admits an Alexandrine into his Par. Lost, ix. ver. 249; which, together with the two preceding lines, forms the metre of these blank-verse odes.

“ Assist us—But if much converse perhaps

the satisfaction which is derived from the harmony and proportion of its parts; from its connected variety, and corresponding relation in itself.* This is entirely lost in the irregular ode; because there is no room to institute that comparison, in which we delight so much, when we contemplate all works of art and design. Secondly, we participate in the pleasure that attends any difficult or laborious work overcome and subdued by our skill. Although, in the long heroic verse, I think rhyme is little source of difficulty; yet it indisputably is, when added to the short lyric stanza. can be so constructed as to present these difficulties of such a nature that they are evidently not insuperable to genius and skill, its merit will no doubt

Now if a poem

Thee satiate, to short absence I could yield,

For solitude sometimes
Is best society."

Par. Lost, ix. 249. Young has admitted the Alexandrine into his Night Thoughts:

“The wisdom of the wise, and prancings of the great." Cowper also, in the 2d book of his Task :

“ Storms rise to overwhelm them, or if stormy winds.” I perceive that it is also authorised by Mr. Southey in his Madoc. It is to be found in Spenser, in the 2d line of the stanza, iii. 41 :

He bound that piteous ladye prisoner, now releast.” * See Johnson's Life of Prior, p. 183, of Congreve, p. 201, of Cowley, p. 52, of Dryden, p. 443, in Murphy's Ed. be enhanced by the conquest which it has made. But if the difficulties are such, as cannot be overcome, but only avoided by awkwardness of language, ungracefulness of idiom, and obscurity of sense, then they must give way to metre of an easier construction. The cost of the labour would manifestly be far greater than the gain : and the taste that delights to sport in such perverse misapplications of ingenuity, must be regarded as corrupt. Such, for instance, would be the case, if in the common lyric stanza, we should be forced to begin each line with a certain letter, or to make it an acrostic; or to end every line with a double rhyme. It would then become merely an exercise of ingenuity, and not a work of genius : and this is the plain and broad distinction, that the younger Racine did not see, when he calls this argument a paradox, and says, that instead of admiring we despise “ces vers techniques, enfans du mauvais goût, les Rophaliques, Retrogrades, Léonins, Numéraux, Soladiques, Acrostiches, &c.”* It is true that we should despise them, if they were attempted to be displayed as works of genius; or if they selected subjects above their nature; or if they mixed themselves with the ode, the epic or tragic poem: and besides this, their example proves only the excess or abuse of the doctrine, which of course is no argument against its confined and legitimate use.

* See Réflexions sur la Poësie, par M. L. Racine, p.


« ÎnapoiContinuați »