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His quarter-staff-which he could ne'er forsake,
Hung half before-and half behind his back:
He trudgʻd along—not knowing what he sought,
And whistled as he went-for want of thought.
By chance conducted—or by thirst constrain’d,
The deep recesses of a grove he gain'd ;-
Where—in a plain defended by a wood,
Crept through the matted grass-a crystal flood,
By which—an alabaster fountain stood;
And on the margent of the fount was laid-
Attended by her slaves—a sleeping maid ;
Like Dian and her nymphs—when, tir'd with sport,
To rest by cool Eurotas they resort.-
The dame herself—the goddess well express’d
Not more distinguished by her purple vest-
Than by the charming features of the face-
And e’en in slumber—a superior grace:
Her comely limbs-compos’d with decent care,
Her body shaded—by a light cymarr,
Her bosom to the view-was only bare;
Where two beginning paps were scarcely spied-
For yet their places were but signified.-
The fanning wind upon her bosom blows-
To meet the fanning wind—the bosom rose;
The fanning wind—and purling stream-continue her repose.
For a further variety take, from the same author's Theodore and Honoria, a passage in which the couplets are run one into the other, and all of it modulated, like the former, according to the feeling demanded by the occasion ;
Whilst listening to the murmuring leaves he stood-
More than a mile immers'd within the wood-
At once the wind was laid. —The whispering sound
Was dumb./-A rising earthquake rock'd the ground.
With deeper brown the grove was overspread-
A sudden horror seiz'd his giddy head-
And his ears tinkled—and his color fled.
Nature was in alarm. --Some danger nigh
Seem'd threatend—though unseen to mortal eye.
Unus'd to fear-he summon'd all his soul,
And stood collected in himself- and whole :
Not long. -
But for a crowning specimen of variety of pause and accent, apart from emotion, nothing can surpass the account, in Para dise Lost, of the Devil's search for an accomplice ;
There was a place,
Nòw nòt—though Sìn—not Tìme-first wrought the chànge,
Where Tìgris-at the foot of Paradise,
Into a gùlf-shòt under ground—till part
Ròse up a fountain by the Tree of Life.
In with the river sunk—and with it rose
Satan—invòlv'd in rìsing mìst-athen soùght
Whère to lie hid.-Sèa he had search'd-and land
From Eden over Pòntus—and the pèol
Mæotis—up beyond the river Ob;
Downward as får antàrctic;—and in length
West from Orontes—to the ocean bàrr'd
At Dàriën—thènce to the land where fòws
Ganges and Indus.—Thùs the òrb he roam'd
With narrow search ;-and with inspection deep
Consider'd every crèature-which of all
Mòst opportune mìght sèrve his wiles—and found
The sèrpent-sùbtlest bèast of all the field.
If the reader cast his eye again over this passage, he will not find a verse in it which is not varied and harmonized in the most remarkable manner. Let him notice in particular that curious balancing of the lines in the sixth and tenth verses :
In with the river sunk, &c.,
It might, indeed, be objected to the versification of Milton, that it exhibits too constant a perfection of this kind. It some. times forces upon us too great a sense of consciousness on the part of the composer. We miss the first sprightly runnings of verse,—the ease and sweetness of spontaneity. Milton, I think, also too often condenses weight into heaviness. Thus much concerning the chief of our two most popular
The other, called octosyllabic, or the measure of
eight syllables, offered such facilities for namby-pamby, that it had become a jest as early as the time of Shakspeare, who makes Touchstone call it the “butterwoman's rate to market," and the " very false gallop of verses.
." It has been advocated, in opposition to the heroic measure, upon the ground that ten syllables lead a man into epithets and other superfluities, while eight syllables compress him into a sensible and pithy gentle
But the heroic measure laughs at it. So far from compressing, it converts one line into two, and sacrifices everything to the quick and importunate return of the rhyme. With Dry. den, compare Gay, even in the strength of Gay,
The wind was high-the window shakes;
With sudden start the miser wakes;
Along the silent room he stalks,
“stalks ;" but a rhyme was desired for
Looks back, and trembles as he walks :
Each lock and every bolt he tries,
In every creek and corner pries.
the chest with treasure stor'd,
And stands in rapture o'er his hoard;
(“Hoard” and “treasure stor’d” are just made for one another)
But now, with sudden qualms possessid,
He wrings his hands, he beats his breast;
By conscience stung, he wildly stares,
And thus his guilty soul declares.
And so he denounces his gold, as miser never denounced it ; and sighs, because
Virtue resides on earth no more !
Coleridge saw the mistake which had been made with regard to this measure, and restored it to the beautiful freedom of which it was capable, by calling to mind the liberties allowed its old
musical professors the minstrels, and dividing it by time instead of syllables ;-by the beat of four into which you might get as many syllables as you could, instead of allotting eight syllables to the poor time, whatever it might have to say. He varied it further with alternate rhymes and stanzas, with rests and omis. sions precisely analogous to those in music, and rendered it altogether worthy to utier the manifold thoughts and feelings of himself and his lady Christabel. He even ventures, with an exquisite sense of solemn strangeness and license (for there is witchcraft going forward), to introduce a couplet of blank verse, itself as mystically and beautifully modulated as anything in the music of Glück or Weber.
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And the owls have awaken'd the crowing cock;
Tu-whit! Tu-whoo !
And hark, again ! the crowing cock,
How drowsily he crew.
Sir Leoline, the baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch ;
From her kennel beneath the rock
She maketh answer to the clock
Four for the quarters and twelve for the hour,
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over loud :
Some she sees my lady's shroud.
Is the night chilly and dàrk !
The night is chilly, but not dàrk.
The thin grey cloud is spread on high,
It covers, but not hides, the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full,
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chilly, the cloud is grey ;
(These are not superfluities, but mysterious returns of im. portunate feeling)
Tis a month before the month of May,
And the spring comes slowly up this way.
The lovely lady, Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well,
What makes her in the wood so late,
A furlong from the castle-gate ?
She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothèd knight;
And shè in thě midnight wood will pray
For the wèal of hěr lover that's far away.
She stole along, she nothing spoke,
The sighs she heav'd were soft and low
And naught was green upon the oak,
But moss and rarest misletoe;
She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
And in silence prayeth she.
The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel !
It moan'd as near as near can be,
But what it is, she cannot tell,
On the other side it seems to be
Of thě hùge, broad-breasted, old oak trèe
The night is chill, the forest bare ;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak:
(This “ bleak moaning ” is a witch's)
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek-
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one rèd lèaf, the låst of its clan,
That dàncbs ls oftên ăn dànce it can,
Hàngắng sở làght and hàngắng sỠ hàgh,
On the topmost twig thăt looks up åt the sky
Hush, beating heart of Christabel !
Jesu Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there?
There she sees a damsel bright,
Dressed in a robe of silken white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone :
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck and arms were bare :
Her blue-vein'd feet unsandall’d were;
And wildly glitter'd, here and there,
The gems entangled in her hair.