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tion, formed most commonly into regular numbers.” As the primary object of a poet is to please and to move, it is to the imagination and the passions that he addresses himself. It is by pleasing and moving, that he aims to instruct and reform.
Poetry is older than prose. In the begioning of society there were occasions, upon which men met together for feasts and sacrifices, when music, dancing, and songs were the chief entertainment. The meetings of American tribes are distinguished by music and songs. In songs, they celebrate their religious rites and martial achievements; and in such songs we trace the beginning of poetic composition.
Man is, by nature, both a poet and musician. The same impulse which produced a poetic style, prompted a certain melody or modulation of sound, suited to the emotions of joy or grief, love or anger. Music and poetry are united in song, and mutually assist and exalt each other. The first poets sung their own verses. Hence the origin of versification, or the arrangement of words to tune or melody.
Poets and songs are the first objects that make their appearance in all nations. Apollo, Orpheus, and Amphion were the first tamers of mankind among the Greeks. The Gothic nations had their scalders,or poets. The Celtic tribes had their bards. Poems and songs are among the antiquities of all countries; and, as the occasions of their being composed are nearly the same, so they remarkably resemble each other in style. They comprise the celebration of gods, and heroes, and victories. They abound in fire and enthusiasm; they are wild, irregular, and glowing.
During the infancy of poetry, all its different kinds were mingled in the same composition; but in the progress of society, poems assumed their different regular forms. Time separated into classes the several kinds of poetic composition. The ode, and the elegy, the epic poem, and the drama, are all reduced to rule, and exercise the acuteness of criticism.
ENGLISH VERSIFICATION. Nations, whose language and pronunciation were musical, rested their versification chiefly on the qualities of their syllables; but mere quantity has very little effect in English verse. For the difference, made between long and short syllables, in our manner of pronouncing them, is very inconsiderable.
The only perceptible difference among our syllables, arises from that strong percussion of voice, which is termed accent. This accent, however, does not always make the syllable longer, but only gives it more force of sound; and it is rather upon a certain order and succession of accented, and unaccented syllables, than upon their quantity, that the melody of our verse depends.
In the constitution of our verse, there is another essential circumstance. This is, the cæsural pause, which falls near the middle of each line, This pause may fall after the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh syllable; and by this mean, uncommon variety and richness are added to English versification.
Our English verse is of lambic structure, composed of a nearly alternate succession of unaccented and accented syllables. When the pause falls earliest, that is, after the fourth syllable, the briskest melody is thereby formed. Of this the following lines from Pope, are a happy illustration;
On her white breast | a sparkling cross she wore,
When the pause falls after the fifth syllable, dividing the line into two equal portions, the melody is sensibly altered. The verse, losing the brisk air of the former pause, becomes more smooth and flowing.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind,
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign'd. When the pause follows the sixth syllable, the melody becomes grave. The movement of the verse is more solemn and measured.
The wrath of Peleus' son, I the direful spring
Of all the Grecian woes, 10 goddess, sing. The grave
cadence becomes still more sensible, when the pause follows the seventh syllable. This kind of verse, however, seldom occurs; and its effect is to diversify the melody.
And in the smooth, descriptive ( murmur still. Long lov'd, ador'd ideas, I all adieu. Our blank verse is a noble, bold, and disencumbered mode of versification. It is free from the full close which rhyme forces upon the ear at the end of every couplet. Hence it is peculiarly suited to subjects of dignity and force. It is more favourable than rhyme to the sublime, and highly pathetic. It is the most proper for an epic poem, and for tragedy. Rhyme finds its proper place in the middle regions of poetry; and blank verse in the bigbest.
The present form of our English heroic rhyme, in couplets, is modern. The measure used in the days of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. was the stanza of eight lines. Waller was the first, who introduced couplets; and Dryden establish
Waller smoothed our verse, and Dryden perfected it. The versification of Pope is peculiar. It is flowing, smooth, and correct, in the highest degree. He has totally thrown aside the triplets so common in Dryden. lo ease and variety, Dryden excels Pope. He frequently makes bis couplets run into one another, with somewhat of the freedom of blank verse.
ed the usage.
It was not before men had begun to assemble in great cities, and the bustle of courts and large societies was known, that pastoral poetry assumed its present form. From the tumult of a city life, men looked back with complacency to the innocence of rural retirement. In the court of Ptolemy, Theocritus wrote the first pastorals with which we are acquainted; and in the court of Augustus, Virgil imitated him.
The pastoral is a very agreeable species of poetry. It lays before us the gay and pleasing scenes of nature. It recals objects which are
commonly the delight of our childhood and youth. It exhibits a life, with which we associate ideas of innocence, peace, and leisure. It transports us into Elysian regions. It presents many objects favourable to poetry; rivers and mountains, meadows and hills, rocks and trees, flocks and shepherds void of care.
A pastoral poet is careful to exhibit whatever is most pleasing in the pastoral state. He paints its simplicity, tranquillity, innocence, and happiness; but conceals its rudeness and mişery. If his pictures be not those of real life, they must resemble it. This is a general idea of pastoral poetry. But, to understand it more perfectly, let uş consider, 1. The scenery; 2. The characters; and lastly, the subjects it should exhibit.
The scene must always be in the country; and the poet must have a talent for description. In this respect, Virgil is excelled by Theocritus, whose descriptions are richer and more picturesque. In every pastoral, a rural prospect should be drawn with distinctness. It is not enough to have unmeaning groups of roses and violets, of birds, breezes, and brooks thrown together. A good poet gives such a landscape as a painter might copy. His objects are particularized. The stream, the rock, or the tree, 60 stands forth, as to make a figure in the imagination, and give a pleasing conception, of the place where we are.
In his allusions to natural objects as well as in professed descriptions of the scenery, the poet must study variety. He must diversify his face of nature by presenting us new images. He must also suit the scenery to the subject of his pastoral; and exhibit nature under such forms, as may