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proper in combined 2 xa, 3 xa, 4 xa, 5 xa, and 6 xa, variously rhymed, and often with a Trochaic liberty in the lines.
Lycidas: 1637.-With the exception of the last eight lines, which form a separate stanza in the Ottava Rima (5 xa) of Ariosto, Tasso, and other poets, this pastoral is written in a peculiar style, which may be called "The free musical paragraph." The poet, we see, had not restricted himself beforehand by any rule, unless it were that the measure was to be Iambic or xa, and that the poem should on the whole be in rhyme. Accordingly the poem is an exquisite example of a kind of verse which theorists might perhaps pronounce the most perfect and natural of any-that in which the mechanism is elastic, or determined from moment to moment by the swell or shrinking of the meaning or feeling. Most of the lines are in 5 xa, but ever and anon this is shortened to 3 xa; the rhymes are occasionally in couplets, but are more frequently at longer intervals, as if running into stanzas; sometimes a rhyme affects but two lines, but sometimes it is extended through three or four,-once even through six in the same paragraph; while occasionally there is a line not rhyming at all, but so cunningly introduced that the absence of the rhyme is not felt.
MIDDLE LIFE (PERIOD OF PROSE POLEMICS): 1640-1660.
Sixteen English Sonnets (Sonnets VIII. - XXIII. of the general series): 1642-1658.-These, like Sonnets I. and II., are all after the Italian form of the Sonnet in its authorized varieties (see Introduction to the Sonnets, II. 276-281).—The piece On the Forcers of Conscience, belonging to the same series, is a Sonnet with a peculiar prolongation.— The metre in the Sonnets is, of course, always 5 xa; but in the "tail" or "prolongation" of the Sonnet in the last-named piece two of the lines are in 3 xa.
Scraps of Translated Verse in the Prose-Pamphlets.-These are all in the ordinary Blank Verse of 5 xa.
Horace, Ode I. V., Translated.-An unrhymed piece of sixteen lines, in alternate pairs of 5 xa (or 5 xa +) and 3 xa.
Psalms LXXX-LXXXVIII.: 1648.-All in four-line stanzas of alternate 4 xa and 3 xa, or Iambic "eights and sixes": differing from the so-called Service Metre only in the fact that the first line of each stanza generally rhymes with the third, as well as the second with the fourth.
Psalms I-VIII.: 1653.-Experiments in various metres and combinations of rhyme, no two alike.-Psalm I. is in ordinary rhymed Heroics or the 5 xa couplet; the others are in various rhymed stanzas, but all the lines in the xa metre, ranging from 2 xa or 2 xa + to 5 xa or 5 xa +.
LATER LIFE: 1660-1674. Paradise Lost: 1667.-Blank Verse of the established 5 ra or 5 xa +
measure; the use of which kind of verse for an Epic Poem was regarded by Milton himself as a great innovation upon English practice.
Paradise Regained: 1671.-Ordinary Blank Verse of 5 xa or 5 xa + continued.
Samson Agonistes: 1671.—Ordinary Blank Verse of 5 xa or 5 xa + continued, save in the choruses and lyrical parts of the soliloquies of Samson. In these, as Milton has himself explained (see his Preface to the Poem), he held himself released from all rule, and versified as he liked, with a view to produce in English something of the effect of the choruses in Greek Tragedy. In the main, however, the novelty of the versification in these lyrical parts does not consist in mixture of metres, but only in the use of a blank verse of varying lengths of line in the habitual Iambic or xa metre, from 2 xa to 6 ra at pleasure. Occasionally, indeed, in a whole line, or in part of a line, there is an Anapæstic or Dactylic character, or a greater deviation from the Iambic than is normal; but the very rareness of such instances at a time when Milton was avowedly free from all law, save that of his own ear, proves how difficult it was for him to get away from his normal xa measure, with its customary ax variation. It is perhaps more remarkable that, while the verse of these choral and lyric passages of intermingled short and long lines is generally Blank, like that of the dialogue, and though Milton had publicly taken farewell of Rhyme some time before, yet now and then he here reverts to Rhyme for a subtle effect.-On the whole, the verse of the choral and lyric parts of Samson Agonistes may be described as Blank Verse of various lengths of the Iambic metre, from 2 xa to 6 xa, with occasional touches of the Anapæstic and other metres, and with occasional rhymes.
In Eckermann's Conversations of Goethe, under the date April 6, 1829, there is this story :-" We sat a while longer at table, taking some glasses of old Rhenish wine, with some good biscuits. Goethe hummed to himself unintelligibly. The poem of yesterday [a poem of Goethe's in three stanzas, of the date January 1788, printed in the Zweiter Aufenthalt in Rom] came into my head again. 'One peculiarity of this poem,' said I, 'is that it has upon me the effect of rhyme, and yet it is not in rhyme. How is this?' 'That is the result of the rhythm,' he replied. The lines begin with a short syllable, and then proceed in trochees to the dactyl near the close, which has a peculiar effect, and gives a sad, bewailing character to the poem.' He took a pencil, and divided the line thus :
'Von | meiněm | breiten | Läger | bin ich věr | trieben.' We then talked of rhythm in general, and came to the con
clusion that no certain rules can be laid down in such matters. 'The measure,' said Goethe, 'flows, as it were, unconsciously from the mood of the poet. If he thought about it while writing the poem, he would go mad, and produce nothing of value."" -This anecdote is a fit preface to what is here to follow. Milton, in the act of writing or mentally composing his poetry, did not generally think of the minutia of the verse-mechanism, but obeyed the mood of his thought, and the instinct of a musical ear as perfect and fastidious as was ever given to man. There is no doubt, however, that, like Goethe, he could become the prosodian of his own verses when he chose, and was very learned and critical in all such matters. He would not have objected, therefore, to the most microscopic examination of his verse in search of the mechanical causes or accompaniments of the poetic effects. What of this kind can be given here may divide itself between two heads-I. Milton's Metrical Management, and II. Milton's Rhymes.
THE METRICAL MANAGEMENT.
It is by examining Milton's Blank Verse that we shall best learn his metrical art.
The formula of the normal line of Blank Verse is 5 xa: which means that each normal line consists of ten syllables, alternately weak and strong. Here are examples of such lines from Milton's poetry :
"At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound."-Comus, 555.
'Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen."-P. L., I. 330.
"Of flutes and soft recorders, such as raised
To highth of noblest temper heroes old."-P. L., I. 551, 552.
"The birds their notes renew, and bleating herds
P. L., II. 494, 495. "And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies."— P. L., 11. 950.
"And looking round, on every side beheld
P. R., I. 295, 296. "And I shall shortly be with them that rest."-S. A. 598.
Such regular lines of five Iambi, however, are much less frequent than might be supposed, and very rarely are two or three of them found consecutively. The reason is that any considerable series of lines of this uniform construction would be unendurable. The ear demands variety; and so, mutatis mutandis, that happens in English Blank Verse which happened in the various kinds of classic verse. The Heroic verse of Homer and Virgil is called Dactylic Hexameter, the formula of which, if we use our symbols for accent as symbols for quantity, would be 6 axx. In fact, however, no line of six Dactyls exists. Not only is the last or sixth foot invariably a Spondee (aa); but even the fifth, which generally must be a Dactyl, may now and then be a Spondee, and any of the preceding four may be either a Spondee or a Dactyl. Thus we may have lines occasionally with only one dactylic foot. The reason for the name of the verse, therefore, is that each line has a total effect equivalent to that of six Dactyls. So in the kind of verse called Iambic Trimeter or Iambic Senarius, which was the verse of the Greek tragedians for the dialogue, and of their Latin followers. The norm of each line was six Iambi, or, in our notation, 6 xa, so that the verse may be taken as our Blank lengthened by a foot. Regular lines of the six Iambi do occur; but a succession of such would have been thought monotonous. In the actual practice of the poets (Greek and Latin together) the ear therefore dictated varieties, which the prosodians, coming after them and watching what they had done, expressed in these rules-that any one of the first five feet might be a Tribrach (xxx); that any of the three odd feet (the 1st, the 3rd, and the 5th) might perfectly well be a Spondee (aa); and that this Spondee might be resolved into a Dactyl (axx) or an Anapest (xxa) in any of the three places, though in the third place the Anapæst, and in the fifth the Dactyl, ought to be very rare. The verse was called Iambic Senarius, in short, because each line was to consist of six Iambi, or what the cultured ear would accept as equivalent. Precisely so are we to be understood when we say that the formula of Milton's Blank Verse, or of English Blank Verse generally, is 5 xa. Lines may occur, frequently enough, that answer exactly to that formula; but the formula only means that each line delivers into the ear a general 5 xa effect, the ways of producing
this effect being various. What the ways are can be ascer. tained only by carefully reading and scanning a sufficient number of specimens of approved Blank Verse.
Unfortunately, the process of scanning Milton's Blank Verse, or any other English verse, is not so certain as that of scanning Greek or Latin verse. All depends on the reading; and the reading depends on the taste and habits of the reader. It would be easy to read Milton's Blank Verse so that all the lines, or most of them, should be redacted by force into the normal 5 xa. Thus, the first line of Paradise Lost might be read :—
'Ŏf mán's | first dís | ŏbéd | ience and | the frúit";
or the very abnormal line, P. L., vi. 866, might be read thus.
"Burnt áf❘ ter thém | to thé | bottóm | less pít."
This, of course, is too horrible; and such barbarous readers are imaginary. I am not sure, however, but that, in the reading of Milton or of Shakespeare, even by persons of education and taste, especially if they are punctilious about Prosody, there is a minor form of the same fault. It consists in reading so as to regularize the metre wherever it is possible to do so,-in reading the xa tune into the lines through and through, wherever, by a little persuasion, they will yield to it. This is wrong. The proper way is not to impose the music upon the lines, but to let the music of each line arise out of it as it is read naturally. Only in this way can we know what metrical effect Shakespeare or Milton anywhere intended. Perhaps the elision-marks and other such devices in the old printed texts, though well-intentioned, help to mislead here. When, in the original edition of Paradise Lost, I find flamed spelt flam'd, or Heaven spelt Heav'n, or Thebes spelt Theb's, I take the apostrophe as an express direction to omit the e sound and pronounce the words as monosyllables; but I cannot accept the apostrophe as an elision-mark of precisely the same significance in the lines "Above th' Aonian Mount, while it pursues" (P. L., I. 15) and "That led th' imbattelld Seraphim to warr” (P. L., I. 129),—for these reasons:-(1) Because the strict utterances thAonian and thimbattelld are comicalities now, which I cannot conceive ever to have been serious; (2)