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“ Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carina."

This image of dashing water at the stars, Sir Richard Blackmore has produced in colors truly ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison :

“ Like some prodigious water engine made

To play on heaven, if fire should heaven invade."

The great fault in all these instances is a deviation from propriety, owing to the erroneous judgment of the writer, who, endeavoring to captivate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks the understanding with extravagance. Of this nature is the whole description of the Cyclops, both in the Odyssey of Homer, and the Æneid of Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great original to dazzle us with false fire, and practise upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will not bear the critic's examination. There is not in any of Homer's works now subsisting such an example of the false sublime, as Virgil's description of the thunderbolts forging under the hammers of the Cyclops.

« Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosæ

Addiderant, rutili tres ignis et alitis Austri.

“Three rays of writhen rain, of fire three more,

Of winged southern winds and cloudy store,
As many parts, the dreadful mixture frame."-DRYNEN.

This is altogether a fantastic piece of affectation, of which we can form no sensible image, and serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the admiration of a judging reader.

Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in great plenty through the works of our admired Shakspeare. In the following description, which hath been much celebrated, one sees he has had an eye to Virgil's thunderbolts.

“O, then I see queen Mab hath been with you.

She is the fairies' midwife ; and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinner's legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers ;
The traces, of the smallest spider's web;
The collars, of the moonshine's watry beams,&c.

Even in describing fantastic beings there is a propriety to be observed ; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, than this numbering of the moonbeams among the other implements of quéen Mab's harness, which though extremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless objects of the touch, and may be conceived capable of use.

The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyperboles ; such exaggerations suit the impetuous warmth of the one; and in the other have a good effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against vice. They may be likewise successfully used in comedy, for moving and managing the powers of ridicule.

ESSAY XXIII.

ON VERSIFICATION,

Verse is a harmonious arrangement of long and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured cadence, or music, which was used when the first songs or hymus were recited. This music, divided into different parts, required a regular return of the same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrophe, stanza, contained the samo number of feet. To know what constituted the different kinds of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect to the number and quantity of their syllables, we have nothing to do but to con. sult those who have written on grammar and prosody: it is the business of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishment of a man of taste.

Various essays have been made in different countries to com pare the characters of ancient and modern versification, and to point out the difference beyond any possibility of mistake. But they have made distinctions, where in fact there was no difference, and left the criterion unobserved. They have transferred the name of rhyme to a regular repetition of the same sound at the end of the line, and set up this vile monotony as the characteristic of modern verse, in contradistinction to the feet of the ancients, which they pretend the poetry of modern languages will not admit.

Rhyme, from the Greek word Puquos, is nothing else but number, wbich was essential to the ancient, as well as to the modern versification. As to the jingle of similar sounds, though it was never used by the ancients in any regular return in the middle, or at the end of the line, and was by no means deemed essential to the versification, yet they did not reject it as a blemish, where it occurred without the appearance of constraint. We meet with it often in the epithets of Homer ; Αργυρεοιο, Βιοιο -Αναξ Ανδρων, Αγαμεμνον--almost the whole first ode of Anacreon is what we call rhyme. The following line of Virgil has been admired for the similitude of sound in the first two words:

" Ore Arethusa tuo siculis confunditur undis."

Rhythmus, or number, is certainly essential to verse, whether in the dead or living languages; and the real difference between the two is this: the number in ancient verse relates to the feet, and modern poetry to the syllables ; for to assert that modern poetry has no feet, is a ridiculous absurdity. The feet that principally enter the composition of Greek and Latin verses, are either of two or three syllables: those of two syllables are either both long, as the spondee; or both short, as the pyrrhic; or one short and the other long, as the iambic; or one long and the other short, as the trochee. Those of three syllables are the dactyl, of one long and two short syllables; the anapest, of two short and one long; the tribrachium, of three short; and the molossus, of three long

From the different combinations of these feet, restricted to certain numbers, the ancients formed their different kinds of verses, such as the hexameter or heroic, distinguished by six feet, dactyls and spondees, the fifth being always a dactyl, and the last a spondee: e. g.

3 4 5 6 Principi-is obs-ta, se-ro medi-cina pa-ratur.

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The pentameter of five feet, dactyls and spondees, are of six, reckoning two cæsuras.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Cùm mala per lon-gas invalu-êre mo-ras.

They had likewise the iambic of three sorts, the dimeter, the trimeter, and the tetrameter, and all the different kinds of lyric verse specified in the odes of Sappho, Alcæus, Anacreon, and Horace. Each of these was distinguished by the number, as well as by the species of their feet; so that they were doubly restricted. Now all the feet of the ancient poetry are still found in the versification of living languages; for as cadence was regulated by the ear, it was impossible for a man to write melodious verse without naturally falling into the use of ancient feet, though per

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haps he neither knows their measure nor denomir ation. Thus Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, and all our poets, abound with dactyls, spondees, trochees, anapests, &c., which they use indiscriminately in all kinds of composition, whether tragic, epic, pastoral, or ode, having in this particular greatly the advantage of the ancients, who were restricted to particular kinds of feet in particular kinds of verse. If we then are confined with the fetters of what is called rhyme, they were restricted to particular species of feet; so that the advantages and disadvantages are pretty equally balanced: but, indeed, the English are more free in this particular, than any other modern nation. They not only use blank verse in tragedy and the epic, but even in lyric poetry. Milton's translation of Horace's ode to Pyrrha * is universally known, and generally admired, in our opinion much above its merit. There is an ode extant without rhyme addressed to Evening, by the late Mr. Collins,t much more beautiful; and Mr. Warton, with some others, has happily succeeded in divers occasional pieces, that are free of this restraint: but the number in all of these depends upon the syllables, and not upon the feet, which are unlimited.

It is generally supposed that the genius of the English language will not admit of Greek or Latin measure; but this, we apprehend, is a mistake, owing to the prejudice of education. It is impossible that the same measure, composed of the same times, should have a good effect upon the ear in one language, and a bad effect in another. The truth is, we have been accustomed from our infancy to the numbers of English poetry, and the very sound and signification of the words dispose the ear to receive them in a certain manner; so that its disappointment must be

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" ["What slender youth bedew'd with liquid odors,

Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave," &c.) + [" If aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song,

May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear," &c.)

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