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it would run thus: “Sing, O heavenly Goddess! the wrath of Achilles, the direful spring of unnumbered woes to Greece.” And this example is by no means one of the most remarkable instances of inversion that could be adduced.
One of the most difficult things in the world is, to give rules for reading. So many of the qualifications of a good reader depend upon the structure of the organs of speech; so many more are the result of habits formed before the will or the reason could exercise control; and, finally, so many depend on the management of the voice, according to circumstances, that a system of general rules would be, in most cases, useless, and, in many, prejudicial. There are, however, some few principles to which the student's attention should be directed; not because they will certainly make him read well, but because, if he neglects them, he will undoubtedly read badly.
The first and most important is, “Be sure you understand what you read.” If you do not conceive, yourself, the sentiments of the author, it is utterly impossible that you should give them expression. But if you perfectly understand your author, you will know where to make the proper pauses, and lay the proper emphasis that the subject requires. Take, for instance, the following couplet:
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blest. The last line carelessly read, would be nearly nonsense, or if it had any meaning, it would be, that“ man exists always for the enjoyment of happiness.” But the intention of the poet is, that man does not enjoy any present happiness, but always looks forward to future bliss. To express this meaning, the emphasis must be thrown on the words is and to be, and the line be read as if printed
Man never is, but always to be blest. The next point to which the young reader's attention should be directed, is the metrical structure of the stanza or verse. It is not meant that he should, in reading, absolutely resolve each line into its several feet; but he should know what the feet are, so as to mark by a slight stress the accented syllables. It is very difficult to do this without falling into a kind of tune that is extremely unpleasant and this will certainly happen,
if the student read with any but his speaking voice. If, however, he be careful to use a natural, and not an affected voice, a little practice will enable him to read poetry metrically, without converting it into a bad song.
The Cæsural pauses, and the pauses at the end of each line, constitute the last difficulty in poetry that we shall notice. The pauses must be made by suspending, not dropping, the breath, and they must be so short as not to cause any interruption in the sense. But the practical application of this rule, as indeed of all other directions respecting reading, must depend very much on the goodness of the learner's ear, and the care of his tutor.
DIFFERENT SPECIES OF POETRY.
The origin and nature of Poetry are subjects that have been frequently discussed, and to very little purpose. In the early ages of almost every nation, we find the first compositions to have a poetic form: the history, the laws, and even the covenants of bargain and lease, were composed in verse, and were thus preserved in the memory, when the art of writing was confined to a few, or wholly unknown. The early history of Rome was contained in historical ballads, and from them the later historians derived the accounts they have transmitted to us. Many remains of the metrical laws of the Northern nations are still in existence; and the following curious specimen of rhyming tenure will show how verse was used as an aid to memory by our Saxon ancestors. It is necessary to add, that we have modernized the orthography.
I, Edward, King,
A different, and perhaps an earlier species of poetry, was that which, from its connexion with music, has been termed Lyrical.
To worship the Author of all goodness with hymns, is a feeling so natural, that it seems almost instinctive. The elements of natural music are everywhere around us; the songs of the birds, the whisphering of the breeze through the forest, the hum of bees, the murmuring of the sea in a calm, and its roar during a tempest, are sounds that fill the soul with admiration, and which we soon strive to imitate. The Ode, or Hymn, was, when first invented, designed to be accompanied with music, and was also connected with divine worship.
We have thus discovered, in the early ages, three distinct species of poetry, the Narrative, the Didactic, and the Lyric; to these were soon added, the Descriptive, the Pastoral, and the Dramatic. Satirical poetry belongs to a period when society was far advanced: it may, however, be considered as derived from the Didactic, because the censure of evil is a necessary consequence
from the teaching of good. Narrative poetry was originally nothing more than history in verse;
but from it was derived Epic, or Heroic poetry, generally esteemed the noblest species of composition. The requisites for an epic poem are numerous; but the chief are, that the subject should be important, entire, and of sufficient magnitude; that it should be related in language embellished and rendered pleasurable ; and that it should represent events above the circumstances of ordinary life. The continuity of the narrative should also be interrupted, but not broken, by episodes, or narratives, remotely connected with the main story, in order to give the poem the charm of variety. The greatest epic poem in our language, and probably in the world, is the Paradise Lost of Milton; and, in the three great requisites,-matter, manner, and means,—it is nearly perfect. Assuredly, no subject could be more important to man, than the loss of primeval innocence, with all its tremendous consequences. It is also a narrative complete in itself, having the beginning, middle, and end definitely marked. Its stupendous magnitude almost surpasses the boldest stretch of imagination; it embraces at once the concerns of time and of eternity. The manner of the Paradise Lost includes both the language and the structure of the verse; on this it would be useless to dwell; to speak of them with adequate praise, would tax the powers of a second Milton. The episodes of this great epic are not among the least of its beauties; nothing can be more sublimely terrific than the descriptions of Sin and Death,-nothing more exquisitely delightful than the pictures of the innocent and happy life led by our first parents in Paradise.
In this little volume we have quoted from another English epic, Madoc, by Dr. Southey, to which we gladly refer as an example of epic poetry, less sublime, indeed, than that of Milton, but scarcely less pleasing.
Allegorical poetry may be considered as a species of Narrative. In this personifications are introduced, instead of persons ; thus, Spenser's description of Pride as a queen:
High above all a cloth of state was spread,
To dim the brightness of her glorious throne,
As envying herself that too exceeding shoue. Or the power of human speech and human motives are attributed to animals and inanimate objects, as in Gay's Fables.
Romantic Narrative poetry is of very modern invention. Our specimens are taken from the best of those who have cultivated the style,-Southey and Scott. The former has laboured successfully to unite the extravagant fictions of the Eastern nations with the grace and delicacy of the West; the latter has given an air of modern refinement to the style of the old metrical romancers, who wrote on heroic subjects, without aspiring to the solemnity and dignity of epic poetry.
The aim of Didactic poetry is to instruct, and, in it, pleasure is but a secondary consideration. English literature is peculiarly rich in this species of composition: Young's Night Thoughts, Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination, Rogers's Pleasures of Memory, and Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, have contributed the chief examples of Didactic poetry in this volume.
1 Titan, a Greek epithet of the sun.
We have ventured to regard Satirical poetry as a species of Didactic; of this, the best example is Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel; there are few instances of merited satire that can equal the severe, but just, character of Villiers, duke of Buckingham, contained in that poem :
A man so various that he seem'd to be,
Lyrical poetry is capable of numerous subdivisions, which it would be tedious to specify. The most remarkable are, the greater Ode, the lesser Ode, Ballads, and Hymns. In the greater Ode, a more sustained elevation, both of thought and expression, is required, than in Epic poetry: it should also be characterized by rapturous enthusiasm and quick transitions. We have given two examples of the greater Ode, Gray's Bard, and his Progress of Poetry.
The characteristics of the lesser Ode are sweetness and ease; it comprehends a great variety of styles, from the sublime down to the ludicrous and sportive. In Wolfe's Ode on The Burial of Sir John Moore, we have an example of true sublimity in the lesser Ode:
Not a drum was heard-nor a funeral note,
As his corse to the rampart we hurried ;
O'er the grave where our hero we buried.