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In most instances of this sort, where the metrical accent would do violence to every ear of any refinement, the reader should not attempt to hide the fault of the poet, by committing a greater one himself. There are some cases, however, in which the best way of obviating the difficulty, is to give both the metrical and the customary accent; or at least to do this so far, that neither shall be very conspicuous; thus-
Our súpréme foe, in time may much relent.
Of thrones and mighty seraphim próstráte-
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wingI think of only two excepitons to these remarks on accent. The first occurs where a distinguished poet has purposely violated harmony, to make the harshness of his line correspond with that of the thought. This Milton has effectually done, in the following example, by making the customary accent supersede the metrical.
On a sudden open fly,
Harsh thunder. The other exception occurs, where a poet of the same order, without any apparent reason, has so deranged the customary accent, that, to restore it in reading, would be a violation of euphony not to be endured ; thus
-And as is due
Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute
5. The pauses of verse should be so managed, if possible, as most fully to exhibit the sense, without sacrificing the harmony of the composition. No good reader can fail to observe the cæsural pause, occurring after the fourth syllable, in these flowing lines ;
Warms in the sun || refreshes in the breeze,
Glows in the stars || and blossoms in the trees. Yet no good reader would introduce the same pause, from regard to melody, where the sense utterly forbids it, as in this line;
I sit, with sad civility I read. While the ear then, in our heroic measure, commonly expects the cæsura after the fourth syllable, it often demands its postponement to the sixth or seventh, and sometimes rejects it altogether.
But there is another poetical pause, namely, that which occurs at the end of the line, concerning which there has been more diversity of opinion and practice among respectable men. The most competent judges have, indeed, very generally concurred in saying, that this pause should be observed, even in blank verse, except on the stage. Lowth, Johnson, Garrick, Kaimes, Blair, and Sheridan, were all of this opinion. Others, particularly Walker, have questioned the propriety of pausing at the end of the line, in blank verse, except where the same pause would be proper in prose.
Now it seems clear to me that, (if there is ble harmony in the measure,) even when the sense of one line runs closely into the next, the reader may generally, mark the end of the line by a proper protraction and sus
pension of voice, on the closing syllable,--as in the following notation;
Thus with the year -
-All air seemed then ..
-For now the thought..
In none of these cases perhaps, would a printer insert a pause at the end of the line; and yet there appears to be no difficulty in making one of the voice, by a moderate swell and protraction of sound. But there certainly are examples, and those not a few, in which the writers of blank verse have so amalgamated their lines by prosaic arrangement of pauses, that all attempts of the reader to distinguish these lines would be useless. Here, again, as was said of misplaced accent, the reader must look to the sense, and let the poet be responsible for the want of musical versification.
I add, in this place, a judicious remark of Walker, to whom by the way, I am indebted for several of the foregoing illustrations. “The affectation,” says he," which most writers of blank verse have of extending the sense beyond the line, is followed by a similar affectation in the printer, who will often omit a pause at the end of a line in verse, when we would have inserted one in
and this affectation is still carried farther by the reader, who will run the sense of one line into another, where there is the least opportunity for doing it, in order to show that he is too sagacious to suppose that there is any conclusion in the sense, because the line concludes."
In regard to rhyme, there can be no doubt that it should be so read, as to make the end of the line quite perceptible to the ear: otherwise the correspondent sound of the final syllables, in which rhyme consists, would be entirely lost. It is a strange species of trifling, therefore, which we sometimes witness in a man, who takes the trouble to adjust his rhymes, in a poetic composition, and then in reading or speaking, slurs them over with a preposterous hurry, and confounds them by an undiscriminating utterance, so that they are necessarily unperceived by the hearers.
6. I entirely concur with Walker in his remark that the vowels e and o, when apostrophized, in poetry, should be preserved in pronunciation. But they should be spoken in a manner so slight and accelerated, as easily to coalesce with the following syllable. An example or two of this will require no explanation.
But of the two, less dang`rous is th' offence.
Who durst defy th' Omnipotent to arms.
It was my intention, for the benefit of young preachers, to remark at some length, in this section, on the reading of Hymns in the pulpit. But as the foregoing observations apply generally, to the reading of psalms and hymns, as well as other poetry; it may be sufficient to give a few suggestions, on points which pertain especially to this interesting, and often very defective branch of Christian elocution.
The chief object of sacred poetry as connected with sacred music, is to inspire devotional feeling. For this purpose it has been, from the earliest ages, incorporated into the public worship of God, by his own appointment. Poetry written for the silent perusal of individuals, or adapted only to the instruction or amusement of the social circle, though read unskilfully, suffers only a diminution of interest, respecting a subject perhaps of momentary concern. But poetry written expressly to aid the public devotions of Christians, and designed to be repeated, again and again, in their solemn assemblies, cannot be read unskilfully, without a serious loss of interest in the hearers, respecting subjects in which their duty and happiness are involved.
That discrimination of taste and sensibility, which feels the spirit of poetry, doubtless may be very defective in some men, even of elevated piety. Sometimes from this want of discrimination, and oftener still from inattention to the subject, arise the faults which I shall briefly notice.
Perhaps the most comprehensive of these faults consists in the injudicious selection of the psalm or hymn to be read. Not a few of these compositions, in the best books that have been written or complied, are merely narrative or didactic in subject, and destitute of all poetic spirit in execution. Even those of the seraphic Watts, surpassing, as they certainly do, all others in their general