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accent too prominent, too uniform, and too regular, regardless of the varying sense and rhythm.
But accent, as we have seen, is not the only or the most prominent part of poetic measure.* Nor is accent uniform in its degree of force. It must vary in loudness with every degree of emphasis, to suit the sense, and with the word accent, and has but the very lightest degree of force when it is merely metric.
Nor is accent always regular—that is, on the first, or last, or middle syllable of the successive feet-but, as we have seen in the quotations given, often varies, in part to accommodate the sense and language, and in part for the pleasure of rhythmic variety itself.
TO AVOID SINGSONG.
1. The metric accent must be subordinate to the logical accent (the emphasis) and to the verbal accent; that is, the sense must be made more prominent than the meter.
2. The rhythm, or kind of regular feet, with their equivalents and substitutes, must be minded more than the mere number of feet.
* I know it has been so often written and repeated, "that accent alone marks the genius of English verse," and that quantity belongs exclusively to the classic poetry of Greece and Rome, that it is generally assumed to be true. But from this merely traditional authority we may safely appeal to the intrinsic nature of poetry as metric composition, and, still better, to any one with a good ear who will read aloud a few melodious lines, and prove for himself that the accent does not distinguish a "monosyllabic" from a "dissyllabic" or a "trisyllabic foot"-that it does not even measure the accented syllable itself, only so far as time is a part of accent.
It is true, of course, that we can not apply to English syllables the definite rule of "long and short quantity"; but we can and do measure our "poetic feet" by time in its double character, as quantity and rest, and by making the several "groups" of syllables in the different feet of the same measure equal to each other, as a whole, in time.—M. B.
3. Equal and regular time must be given to the measure of "equivalent feet," rather than equal or regular accent.
4. The imperfect or unaccented feet must be partially suppressed in reading.
5. The general time and movement must be changed with the spirit of the lines, as in this line from "The Battle of Waterloo":
"Since' upon night' so sweet' such aw'ful morn' could rise'."
The faster movement of joy, in the first half of the "hexameter," changes to the slow time of dread and awe, in the last half.
But this need not disturb the metric regularity of associated feet, any more than the change of a march in music to faster or slower time disturbs the equable steps before or after it.
Read a stanza from "Lord Ullin's Daughter," by Campbell. First, as it should not be, with uniform and regular accent. The meter is of "four" and "three " feet, in alternate lines; dissyllabic measure, with accent in the regular foot on the last syllable :
"A chieftain, to the Highlands bound,
And I'll give thee a silver pound,
Second, as it should be read—with the emphatic accent on "chieftain" and " Highlands" only, in the first line. Give "bound" only a very light metric accent, as it is not an emphatic word, and linger on "to," in the unaccented foot, "-tain, to," just long enough to show the attentive ear that the meter is not wholly lost.
Note that the accent is changed in the first and second feet of the third line to the first syllable, and how agreeably this varies the rhythm. The only other emphatic idea is the uncommon sum offered "a silver pound." To row people o'er the ferry was the boatman's common task, and so is not a differential or emphatic idea, and should receive, therefore, only the delicate metric accent; as,
"A chief'- | tain, to | the High'- | lands bound', Cries, Boat'- | man, do' | not tar'ry,
And' I'll give' thee | a sil'- | ver POUND',
To row' | us o'er' | the fer'ry.''
Study the measure in Tennyson's great "Ode on the Death of Wellington." The standard foot is dissyllabic, with the meter of four feet in most of the lines, varying to five feet in a part of the after verses. The first line has but three feet. Mark the frequent use of the monosyllabic foot in the opening verse, and the simple dignity it gives, when read with slow time, to the rhythm. Note the long trisyllabic foot used in the fourth line (with one foot of four syllables), and the change of the accent in the fourth and seventh lines, and how naturally these rhythmic changes seem to wed the sense to the measure everywhere with that rare "art which conceals art."
"Bur'y the Great' | Duke'
With' an em'pire's | lam'en- | ta'tion!
To the noise' of the mourn'ing | of a might'-y na'tion-
I. Keep in mind, that poetry must be read with the natural speaking tones.
II. The ideas, the sense, must be made to stand out as distinctly as in prose.
III. The meter may be determined by the number of accented syllables in a line (except there be an unaccented foot in the line).
IV. The rhythm (with the same exception) may be determined by the number of the unaccented syllables, and the place of the accent in the feet. (a.) The "prevalent foot," which gives the "standard measure." (b.) The "irregular feet," used as substitutes. (c.) The "unaccented feet," if any, to be read as written. (d.) The "changes of accent."
V. That the sense, with all its rhythmic changes, must be read in the "metric time" of the "standard measure." That, when this can not be done, the meter is poor, and may wisely be sacrificed to the sense.
VI. In lines of doubtful rhythm or meter, follow the "standard."
VII. Keep in mind, above all, that this special study of the "musical part" of poetry is only one of many preparatory steps toward good poetic reading; that to this must be added all the elements of good prose reading; and that these elements, though mastered separately, can be fused, at last, into the living whole of eloquent prose or poetic expression only by the imagination and sympathy of the READER.
CII. THE CORAL GROVE.
1. Deep in the wave is a coral grove,
2. The floor is of sand, like the mountain drift, And the pearl shells spangle the flinty snow; From coral rocks the sea plants lift
Their boughs, when the tides and billows flow.
3. The water is calm and still below,
For the winds and waves are absent there, And the sands are bright as the stars that glow In the motionless fields of upper air.
4. There, with its waving blade of green,
The sea flag streams through the silent water, And the crimson leaf of the dulse is seen
To blush like a banner bathed in slaughter.
5. There, with a light and easy motion,
The fan coral sweeps through the clear deep sea; And the yellow and scarlet tufts of ocean Are bending like corn on the upland lea ;
6. And life in rare and beautiful forms
Is sporting amid those bowers of stone,
7. And when the ship from his fury flies, When the myriad voices of ocean roar,