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only in heroics; for in odes they are gracefully 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 tbree, four, five, and fix fyllables ; but those of four and fix are molt common, of which let the following specimen suffice :
The battle near
When cowards fear,
Their courage warms,
They rush to arms,
It is now proper to say something of the elifions or con. tractions that are admitted in our poetry, according as the measure requires.
CH A P. IV. Of the ELISions allowed of in ENGLISH POETRY; and
fome miscellaneous Remarks.
Elifion is the cutting off one or more letters, either from
the beginning, ending, or middle of a word, whereby two syllables are contracted into
and are so pronounced.
In words of three or more syllables, which are accented on the last save two, when the liquid r comes between two vowels, that which precedes the r is frequently cut off; as in temperance, difference, flatterer, victory, amorous, and others; which, though three syllables, and often used as such in verse, may be contracted into two when the mea. sure requires it ; and this contraction is denoted by a little mark called an apostrophe, the words being written or printed temp'rance, diff'rence, flatt'rer, vi&'ry, am'rous, and pronounced accordingly. . An elifion is made of both vowels before the r in lab'ring, endeav'ring, neighb'ring, and such like words.
Sometimes a vowel is cut off before the other liquids 1, m, n, when found between two vowels in words accent.
ed like the former ; as in fab'lous, en my, mariner, instead of fabulous, enemy, mariner : but this ought to be avoided, the Tound being harsh and ungrateful.
Contractions are agreeable enough in some words of three syllables, where the letter s happens between two vowels, the latter of which is cut off ; as in reas'ning, pris'ner, bus'nefs, &c.
The letter o between Il and w, in words of three fylla. bles, suffers an elision ; as in follwer, bellwing, &c.
When the vowel e falls between v and y, and the ac. cent lies upon the foregoing fyllable, it is frequently cut off, as in heav'n, fev'n, giv'n, driv'n, &c. The same vowel is also cut off in the words pow'r, flow'r, and others of the like termination.
The words never, ever, over, may lose the consonant v, and be thus contracted, ne'er, c'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, abandon'd, &c.
Some words admit of an elision of their first syllable; as 'mong, 'mong/, 'tween, 'twixt, 'gainst, 'bove, &c. are used instead of among, amongs, batween, betwixt, againji, above.
Instead of it is, it was, it were, it will, it would, we sometimes use 'tis, was, 'were, 'twill, 'would. So like. wise by't, for by it ; do't, for do it ; was't, for was it, &c. But these last contractions are scarce allowable, especially in heroic poetry
Am may lose its vowel after I; as I'm, for I am: and so may are after we, yox, 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 elifion of its two first letters, after I, you, we, they; as I've, you've, we've, they've, for I have, you have, we bave, they have. So will and world are often contracted after the personal pronouns ; as I'll for I will, be'd for he would, &c. or after who, as who'd for ruho would, who'll for who will, &c.
The particle to sometimes loses its o when it comes before a verb that begins with a vowel ; as t'avoid, t'increase, t'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' expreffive, th' amazing, tb honefl, &c. and sometimes before an aspirated h when an e follow's it; as th' 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 off before words beginning with a vowel; as wh' expose, for who expose; b' oppreffion, for by oppreffion : 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 bis sometimes loses its first letters after words ending with a vowel; as to's, by's, for to bis, by his; and after several words that end with a consonant; as in's, for's, for in his, for his, &c. But this is rather to be observed than imitated.
These are the elisions and contractions most usually made in our versification ; 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 few more particulars relating to this fubject that are worth observing. In the first 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. T'hus region, valiant, beauteous, mutual, and fuch-like words, are to be reckond only as two syllables in poetry; and fo ambition, familiar, perpetual, presumptuous, fuperior, and other words of the fame nature, though consisting of four syllables, are to be used in verse
The words diamond, diadem, violet, and a few others, may be excepted from this rule ; which, though accented on the first vowel, are sometimes used but as two 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 juftness of measure or propriety of contractions. It will very much add to the beauty of our verse to avoid, as much as poflible, 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 disagree
able to the ear. Mr. Pope has censured this fault, and given us an instance of it in the following line :
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire. For this reason the e of the particle the is generally cut off (as has been observed) before words that begin with a. vowel.
It is not well to make use of several words in a verfe that begin with the same letter, unless it be to suit the sound to the subject. And observe, that though verses consisting wholly of monosyllables are not always to be condemned, (nay, possibly may be very good) yet they ought to be feldom used, a series of little low words having generally an ill effect in our poetry.
Be careful also not to make use of expletives, that is, such words as contribute nothing to the fense, but are brought into the verse, merely to fill up the measure. These two last faults Mr. Pope has taken notice of, and exemplified in the following verses :
While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line. Take care likewise not to end a verse with an adjective, whose substantive begins the next verse; and the same is to be observed with respect to a preposition, and the words it governs. In short, avoid every thing that tends to destroy. that agreeable cadence and harmony which is required in poetry, and of which (after all the rules that can be laid down concerning it) the ear is the most proper judge. Remember, however, that easy and flowing numbers are not all that is requisite in versification ; for, as the last mention'd excellent poet observes,
"Tis not enough no harshness gives offence ; The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
We now proceed to the beauty of thought in poetry, and to give some farther directions concerning the poetic Ayle.
CH A P
CH A P. V.
chapter and the ensuing may, perhaps, seem like a repetition, and be thought useless ; but it is to be considered, that though thoughts in poetry and profe differ but little, (except in pieces of fiction) a sublime thought being fill the same, wbecher expressed in prose or verse, yet as the diction of poetry is very different from that of prose, and as this volume is intended to stand alone, and to be read diftinctly from the other sciences, it will be here necessary to say something on thefe subjects, which are the foundation of elegance and fublimity.
Thoughts may, not improperly, be called the foundation or body of a poem, or discourse ; and the Ayle, or diction, the dress with which they are decorated ; for the choiceft and most brilliant expreslions will be looked upon as mere empty and contemptible sounds, unless they are animated with good sense and propriety of thought : but on the contrary, a new and beautiful thought will affect us agreeably, though unadorned, because it strikes the imagination with its novelty, and carries with it fome degree of information, which it has drawn from truth and nature.
Thoughts are the images of things, as words are the images of thoughts, and they are both, like other pictures and images, to be esteemed or despised, as the representa: tion is just and natural, true or false.
The thoughts we find in the best authors are natural and intelligible; they are neither affected to display wit, nor far-fetched to discover learning ; but are such as arise, as it were spontaneously, out of the subject treated of, and feem so inseparable from it, that we cannot conceive how it could have been otherwise express'd with so much propriety.
Were we inclined to give instances of false and unnatural thoughts, enough might be found in the works of our modern poets, and not a few even among the ancients, especially in Ovid, Lucan and Seneca.