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times not easily distinguished, as when two or three in the fame verse seem equally strong; in which case the sense and construction of the words must be your guide. And after all, a person who has a tolerable ear for poetry, will have little occasion for rules concerning the pause or the accents, but will naturally so dispose his words as to create a certain harmony, without labour to the tongue, or violence to the sense.
Next to verses of tfn syllables, those of eight are most frequent in our poetry, whereof we have many entire poems. In these verses, as in the former, the accents generally fall on every second syllable, but not without exception, as you will see in the following example:
A shdw'r of soft and sleecy rain
The verses next to be considered, are those of seven syllables, which are called anacreontic, from Anacreon, a Greek poet, who wrote in verse of that measure.
The accents in this kind of verse, fall on the first, thirds fifth, and seventh syllables, as in the following lines:
Glitt'ring stones and golden things,
As for verses of nine and eleven syllables, they are not worth our notice, being very seldom used, except those which are of double rhyme, and properly belong to the verses of eight and ten syllables.
There is n kind of verse of twelve syllables, having the accent on every third, which is only made use of in subjects of mirth and pleafantry, as are those of eleven syllables, which run with much the fame cadence. But there is another fort of twelve syllables, which are now and then introduced amongst our heroics, being sometimes the last of a couplet, or two verses, as in the following instance.
The ling'ring soul th' unwelcome doom receives,
Aud, murm'ring with disdain,—the beauteous body leaves.
Sometimes a verse of this kind concludes a triplet, or three lines that rhyme together, where the sense is sull and complete; as for example:
Millions of op'mng mouths to Fame belong,
Here let us observe by the way, that the sense ought always to be closed at the end of a triplet, and not continued to the next line; tho' instances of this fault" (if it be one); are to be found in some of our best poets.
This verse of twelve syllables (Which is call'd Alexandrine, or Alexandrian, from a poem on the lise of Alexander, written or translated into such verse by some French poets)' is also frequently used at the conclusion of a stanza in Lyric at Pindaric odes, of which we shall speak hereafter. The pause, in these verses, ought to be at the sixth syllable, as we see in the foregoing examples.
In this place it cannot be amiss to observe, that tho' the Alexandrine verse, when rightly employ'd, has an agree, able essect in our poetry, it must be used sparingly, and with judgment. Mr. Pope has censured the improper use of it, and at the fame time given us a beautisul verse of this kind, in his excellent Essay on Criticism, where, speaking of those who regard versisication only, he fays,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its flow length along.
Verses of fourteen syllables are not so often used as those of twelve; but they are likewise inserted in heroic poems, and are agreeable enough when they conclude a triplet where the sense is sinish'd, especially if the preceding verse be of twelve syllables; as in this of Mr. Dryden.
For thee the land in fragrant flow'rs is drest;
If-these verses follow one of ten syllables, the inequality of the measure renders them less pleasing; but this is
only in heroics; for in odes they are gracesully placed after verses of any number of syllables whatsoever.
The shorter kinds of verses are chiefly used in operas, odes, and our common songs; but they have nothing in them worth notice. We meet with them of thru, four, five, and fix syllables; but those of sour and fix are most common, of which let the following specimen sussice:
The battle near
It is now proper to fay something of the elisions or contractions that are admitted in our poetry, according as the measure requires.
the beginning, ending, or middle of a word, whereby two syllables are contracted into one, and are so pronounced.
In words of three or more syllables, which are accented on the last fave two, when the liquid r comes between two vowels, that which precedes the r is frequently cut osf; as in temperance, difference, flatterer, -vi£iory, amorous, and otheis; which, though three syllables, and often used as such in verse, may be contracted into two when the measure requires it; and this contraction is denoted by a little mark called an apostrophe, the words being written or printed temp'rance, diff'rence, flatfrer, vift'ry, amorous, and pronounced accordingly. An elision is made of both vowels before the r in laboring, endea.v'ring, neighboring, and such like words.
Sometimes a vowel is cut osf before the other liquids /, », », when sound between two vowels in words accent
ed like the former 5 as in sab'lous, en'my, marner, instead of fabulous, enemy, mariner: but this ought to be avoided, the found being harm and ungratesul.
Contractions are agreeable enough in some words of three syllables, where the letter i happens between two vowels, the latter of which is cut off; as in reas'ning, pris'ner, bm'ness, Sec.
The letter o between // and w, in words of three syllables, suffers an elision; as in fol?wer, btlTwing, Sec.
When the vowel e falls between v and », and the accent lies upon the foregoing syllable, it is frequently cut off, as in heav'n, sevn, giv'n, driv'n, &c. The fame vowel is also cut off in the words pow'r, stow'r, and others ef the like termination.
The words never, ever, over, may lose the consonant v, and be thus contracted, ne'er, e'er, o'er.
Most words ending in ed, which we contract in our common discourse, may also be contracted in poetry; as lov'd, threaten'd, express'd, ador'd, abandoned, he.
Some words admit of an elision of their sirst syllable; as 'mong, 'mongst, 'tween, 'twixt, 'gainst, 'hove, &c. are used instead of among, amongst, between, betwixt, against, ahove.
Instead of it is, it was, it were, it will, it would, we sometimes use 'its, 'twos, 'twere, 'twill, 'tweuld. So like, wise by'-t, for by it ; dt't, for do it ; was't, for was it, Sic. But these last contractions are scarce allowable, especially in heroic poetry.
Am may lose its vowel aster I; as Tm, for J am: and so may are aster we, you, they; as we're, you're, they're; for we are, you are, they are: we also sometimes use the contraction, let's, for let us.
The word have suffers an elision of its two sirst letters, after /, you, we, they; as I've, you've, we've, they've, for I have, you have, we have, they have. So will and would are often contracted aster the personal pronouns; -as Til for / will, he'd for he would, Sec. or aster who, as who'd for who would, who'll for who will, Sec.
The particle to sometimes loses its o when it comes before a verb that begins with a vowel ; as t'avoid, t'increase, (undo, &c. but this elision is not so allowable before nouns, and seldom used by correct writers.
When the particle the comes before a word that begins with a vowel or an h not aspirated, it generally loses its e; as th' immortal, th' expressive, tb' amazing, tb' hones, &c. and sometimes before an aspirated h when an e follows it; as tV heroic, &c. but elisions of this last kind are not to be commended.
Sometimes the o in -who, and the_y in by, is cut osf before words beginning with a vowel; as iib' expose, for who expose; y oppression, for by oppression: and other contractions of this kind are to be met with in some of our poets; but such a liberty is by no means to be indulged.
The pronoun bit sometimes loses its sirst letters after words ending with a vowel; as to't, b/s, for to his, by his; and after several words that end with a consonant; as in't, fir's, for in his, for his, Sec. But this is rather to be observed than imitated.
These are the elisions and contractions most usually made in our versisication; the rest may be learnt by reading our best modern poets; for the liberties taken by some of our antient ones are not to be encouraged.
There are a sew more particulars relating to this subject that are worth observing. In the sirst place, it may be laid down as a general rule, that whenever one syllable of a word ends with a vowel, and the next begins with another, these two syllables in verse are to be considered as one only, except when either of the syllables is the seat of the accent. Thus region, valiant, beauteous, mutual, and such like words, are to be reckon'd only as /TM syllables in poetry; and so ambition, familiar, perpetual, presumpr tuous, superior, and other words of the fame nature, though consisting of four syllables, are to be used in verle as three.
The words diamond, diadem, violet, and a sew others, may be excepted from this rule; which, though accented on the sirst vowel, are sometimes used but as t-wo syllables,
In general the ear is to be consulted ; we must consider how words are pronounced in reading prose, and observe how they are used by the best poets, and we shall seldom fail either with respect to justness of measure or propriety of contractions. It will very much add to the beauty of our verse to avoid, as much as possible, a concourse of clashing vowels; that is, when one word ends with a vowel and the next begins with another, which occasions what is called an hiatus, or gaping, and is very difagree