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often passing into verse. Nor, when the express limit is passed, and one leaves prose avowedly for verse, is the variability of the syntax with the movement of the thought or meaning so wholly concluded already that there can be no natural variation farther. Verse is itself a proclamation that the mood of the highest prose moments is to be prolonged and sustained; and the very devices that constitute verse not only serve for the prolongation of the mood, but occasion perpetual involutions of it and incalculable excitements. (2) Study of beauty of all kinds is natural to every artist; and the poet, when he comes to be an artist in verse, will seek beauty in sound. Here, too, though we call it art, nature dictates. The writer in verse may lawfully aim at musical effects on the ear not consistent with prose-syntax. In fact, this is not a distinct principle from the last, but only a particular implication of that principle, worthy of separate notice.
The syntax of Milton's poetry certainly is affected by the verse to a larger extent than we might guess from Wordsworth's enthusiastic references to him as the perfect model for poets at the very time when he was expounding his Reform of Poetic Diction. In no poet do we see the movement of ideas, and therefore the order of the words, swayed more manifestly by that elevation of feeling, that glow of mood, which comes upon the poet when he has risen above the cool element of prose," and is "soaring in the high region of his fancies with his garland and singingrobes about him." Indeed all through his life the leading characteristic of Milton's mind was that it could not be prosaic. He lived in song; it was his most natural mode of speech. Even in his prose-writings, all that were not mere hackwork, he every now and then spurns the ground, grows metrical, and begins to ascend. And so, when he actually was in his proper element of verse, his thoughts came in an order ruled not only by the logic of custom and reason, or by that modified by the Latinism of his syntax as it would have told in prose, but also by the conditions of roused feeling musically moved. In the following passage of At a Solemn Music is there not an inversion of ordinary syntax greater in amount, and more subtle in kind, than can be debited to Latin habits of construction or to any other cause than the verse-excitement ?
"Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heaven's joy,
That undisturbèd song of pure concent,
With saintly shout and solemn jubilee ;
In this connexion we may note the frequency with which the adjective old is put after its substantive. The word old occurs about sixty times in the poems; and nineteen times it occurs in this manner. "And last of kings and queens and heroes old" is, I think, the first case (Vac. Ex. 47); in the same piece we have "A Sibyl old" (69); after which we have "Melibaus old" (Com. 822), "Bellerus old" (Lyc. 160), "Kishon old" (Ps. LXXXIII. 37), "Saturn old" (P. L., I. 519), "heroes old" again (P. L., I. 552), "warriors old" (P. L., I. 565), "Mount Casius old" (P. L., II. 593), "the Anarch old" (P. L., II. 988), "Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old" (P. L., III. 36), "Darkness old" (P. L., III. 421), "fables old" (P. L., XI. II), "kings and heroes old” again (P. L., XI. 243), “Salem old” (P. R., II. 21), 'seers old" (P. R., III. 15), "prophets old" again (P. R., III. 178), "Ninus old" (P. R., III. 276), and "giants old” (S. A. 148).
V. MILTON'S VERSIFICATION AND HIS PLACE IN THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH VERSE.
Although the terms of classical Prosody-Iambus, Trochee, Spondee, Dactyl, Anapæst, Tribrach, etc.—may be applied to English verse effectively enough on the principle of taking accented syllables for longs and unaccented for shorts, there is a superior convenience in some respects in the mode
of scanning English verse adopted by Dr. Latham in his work on the English Language. Let a stand for an accented syllable, and x for an unaccented one: then for the Iambus we have xa, for the Trochee ax, for the Spondee aa, for the Dactyl axx, for the Anapest xxa, for the Tribrach xxx, etc.; and we have the means of constructing a formula which shall express the metre of any given line of English verse. Thus, instead of saying of the line "Dearly bought the hidden treasure" that it consists of four Trochees, or is Trochaic Dimeter or Trochaic Quaternarius, we may say that it is of the formula 4 ax; instead of saying of the line "The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold" that it consists of four Ana
pæsts, we may say that it is of the formula xxa; and, instead of saying that a normal line of our ordinary blank verse consists of five Iambi, we can say that its formula is 5 xa. With the help of such additional symbols as + for a supernumerary syllable and - for a syllable, or part of a foot, in defect, we can express the peculiarities for which the terms hypermetrical, catalectic, etc., are used in classical Prosody. We shall employ this mode of notation, with some extensions, in what follows.
On the merest general survey of English Poetry in respect of its Verse-mechanism, one discerns two important features in which it contrasts with the Poetry of the Greeks and Latins, in addition to that feature of contrast which is the most obvious of all: viz. the liberty and frequency of Rhyme :-(1) English Verse is prevailingly Iambic, or of the xa metre. In Classical Poetry we have the Dactylic Hexameter for epic, narrative, and didactic purposes, the Iambic Trimeter or Iambic Senarius for the purposes of the Tragic Drama, and the same, with Trochaic and other licences and varied ranges of measure, for the purposes of Comedy; and these metres, with that variation of the first which consists of Elegiacs or alternate Hexameters and Pentameters, share the bulk of Greek and Latin Poetry among them, while other miscellaneous metres and combinations are used by the Greek and Latin lyrists. In English Verse, on the other hand, the xa metre is overwhelmingly the most frequent. Trochaic, Dactylic, and Anapæstic measures occur occasionally in our lyric poetry; but the Iambic is all but our metrical factotum. Nay, among Iambic measures, we have tended mainly to one in
particular. Though a good deal of our best-known poetry from Chaucer till now is in Iambic Octosyllabics or the 4 xa formula, much more of it is in Iambic Decasyllabics or the 5 xa formula. In the form of our common blank verse, or in the older form of heroic rhyming couplets, we have made this 5 xa metre suit for the narrative and didactic purposes to which the Greeks and Latins appropriated the Dactylic Hexameter or 6 axx; we have made it suit also for the purposes of the Tragic Drama, for which they employed the Iambic Trimeter or 6 xa, and for the purposes of Comedy, for which they used that verse more laxly and with many licences; besides which, we use the same 5 xa largely for various purposes in rhyming stanzas. (2.) In what has just been said another fact is involved: to wit, that the English ear has not hitherto shown itself capable of sustaining easily or continuously verse of such length of line as the classic ear favoured. There are specimens in our older poetry of verse in 6 xa, or even longer measures; Tennyson in his Maud has introduced a rhyming variation of the Dactylic Hexameter, and elsewhere he has given us poems in 8 ax-; and there have been similar experiments by other recent English poets. Still the fact remains that, while the Greeks and Romans liked 6 axx or 6 xa or yet longer measures, we do not generally, in continuous poetry, go beyond 5 xa. This also is a fact worth noting. How is it that, while on the Greek stage the tragic dialogue was in complete Iambic Trimeters, which to our reading are 6 xa, our English blank verse, used for the same dramatic purpose, and for other purposes besides, gives five Iambi willingly, but shrinks from a sixth?
How far Milton conformed to the customs of English Verse which he found established, and in what respects he innovated upon these, will appear best after a chronological view of his Poems in the matter of their versification :
EARLIEST PIECES: 1624.
Paraphrase on Psalm CXIV.-Ordinary rhyming Heroics (Iambic Decasyllabics) or the 5 xa couplet; with one couplet 5 xa +.
Paraphrase on Psalm CXXXVI.- Ordinary rhyming Iambic Octosyllabics, or the 4 xa couplet; with a general Trochaic or ax effect, arising from the fact that a good many of the lines, including the refrain, omit the initial unaccented syllable.
THE CAMBRIDGE PERIOD: 1625-1632.
On the Death of a Fair Infant: 1626.-A seven-line rhyming stanza, the first six lines 5 xa, the seventh line an Alexandrine or 6 xa. It differs only in this 6 xa ending from the " Rhyme Royal" of the prosodians, used by Chaucer (Clerk's Tale, Troilus and Cresseide, etc.), by Spenser (Ruines of Time, Hymn of Heavenly Love, etc.), and by Shakespeare (Lucrece).
At a Vacation Exercise: 1628.--Ordinary rhyming Heroics.
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.-Introduction in same stanza as On the Death of a Fair Infant; but "The Hymn" in a peculiar rhyming eight-line stanza of combined 3 xa, 4 xa, 5 xa, and 6 xa.
The Passion.-Same stanza as On the Death of a Fair Infant. Song on May Morning.-Ten lines of combined 5 xa and 4 xa, in rhyming couplets; with a Trochaic or ax effect in some of the lines.
On Shakespeare: 1630.- Ordinary rhyming Heroics.
On the University Carrier: 1630-1.-Ordinary rhyming Heroics.
Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester: 1631.-Ordinary Octosyllabic Iambics, or 4 xa couplets, as in Paraphrase of Psalm CXXXVI.; with the same frequent Trochaic or ax effect from the omission of the initial unaccented syllable.
Sonnets I. and II.—Both in 5 xa and after Italian precedents.
THE HORTON PERIOD: 1632-1638.
L'Allegro and Il Penseroso.-Both mainly in ordinary Octosyllabic Iambics, or 4 xa couplets, with the frequent Trochaic effect of a line in which the initial unaccented syllable is missing; but each Poem bėginning with an introductory lyric of ten lines of combined 3 xa (or 3 xa +) and 5 xa (or 5 xa +).
Arcades.-Three lyrics or songs, in 4 xa, 3 xa, and 2 xa, variously rhymed, and with a frequent Trochaic or ax effect; together with a speech in ordinary rhymed Heroics, or the 5 xa couplet.
At a Solemn Music --A single burst of twenty-eight lines of combined 3 xa, 4 xa, 5 xa, and 6 xa, rhyming irregularly in pairs.
On Time.-A single burst of twenty-two lines of combined 3 xa, 4 xa, 5 xa, and 6 xa, rhyming irregularly in pairs.
Upon the Circumcision-A complex rhyming stanza of fourteen lines of combined 2 xa, 3 xa, and 5 xa.
Comus: 1634.-The dialogue in the ordinary dramatic blank verse of 5 xa, varied by 5 xa + (the first time of Milton's use of Blank Verse); with one passage, however (lines 495-512), in ordinary rhyming Heroics or the 5 xa couplet. The interspersed lyrical pieces of two sorts, viz. : 1. considerable passages of recitative in ordinary Octosyllabics or the 4 xa couplet, with the customary Trochaic liberty in many lines, and occasionally an elongation into Heroics or the 5 xa measure. 2. Songs