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The species of Dissyllabic Feet are four: 1. Pyrrhic, two shorts (UU) as Deus, and the English, fitted. 2. Spondee, two longs (---) as omnes, and the English,
love-lorn. 3. Iambus, one short and one long (U-) as pius, and the
English, deplore. 4. Trochee one long and one short (U) servat, and the
The Compound or Tetrasyllabic feet are made up of all the binary combinations of the Dissyllables, and, not being applicable to the English language, they need not here be minutely described.
The simple trisyllabic feet are eight,
1. Dactyl, one long and two short, (UU) as carmina,
and the English, bounteous. 2. Anapæst, two short and one long, (U U --) as animos,
and the English, disappoint. 3. Tribrach, three short, (UU U) as meliùs, and the Eng
lish, indigent. 4. Amphibrach, one short, one long and one short, (U – U)
as, honore, and the English, depended. 5. Molossus, three long, (---) as delectant, and the
English, Fade day-dream.' 6. Amphimacer, one long, one short and one long (U-)
as insito, and the English, ‘Flowery fields.' 7. Bacchius, one short and two long (U--) as dolores,
and the English, “The Sky-lark.' 8. Antibacchius, two long and one short (-U) as, pel
luntur, and the English, “Flow gently.'
As there is properly but one accented syllable in the word, and an accented syllable only can be long, there is never more than one long, in an English polysyllable. On this account, if we would endeavour to imitate the march of the four last mentioned feet, it must be by means of two or more words. It is the same with the spondee which when introduced (as it occasionally is for the sake of variety) is either formed by two separate monosyllables, or by such as have not yet been regularly conjoined. It was otherwise in the Greek and Latin; for, in those languages, every syllable in a verse is believed to have had, either naturally, or from situation, its fixt time of pronunciation, without
relation to accent as the word is now understood. This time was termed its quantity. The arrangement, or order of succession of the quantities, constituted the Rhythm (Greekrhythmos) of the verse. A sort of key to those regulated arrangements was prefixed to lyric poems, in numeral characters; and hence the Greek rhythmos, the Latin numerus and the English number, when speaking of versification, are synonymous:
“ I lisp'd in numbers for the numbers came.” The varieties of classic verse are many, and are differently denominated according to the measures (Greek meter) or number of feet which they
severally contain; or they take the names of the Poets by whom they were more particularly adopted. Attempts have been made to adapt some of those ancient measures to the modern languages, but generally without success. The Hexameter, (Greek hex, six) or measure of six feet, is also tèrmed the Heroic; because it is that of the Epic poems of Homer and of Virgil. The first four feet may be Dactyls or Spondees indifferently; the fifth is a Dactyl and the sixth a Spondee. The indiscriminate use of Dactyls and Spondees, in the greater portion of the feet, together with several customary exceptions, give a wide range to this kind of versification, on which it would be foreign to our present purpose to comment. The following are examples of Latin Hexameters, scanned, that is, divided into feet. To Scan is derived from scandere, to climb, or move by steps.
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare Poëtæ. Hor.
Intonsi crines longâ cervice fluebant. Tibull, which are thus scanned.
6 Aut pro- desse vo- lunt, aut dele- ctare Poëtæ, Tu nihil invi- tâ di- cas faci- asve Mi- nerva. Inton- si cri- nes lon- |ga cer- vice flu- ebant.
The manufacture of English Hexameters was
undertaken by Sir Philip Sidney two hundred and fifty years ago; but it never got into repute; and the attempt was forgotten, until it was renewed by the present Laureate in his “Vision of Judgment.” This poem has been published nearly ten years without its versification having acquired a single imitator. The German Poets have been more successful; for Klopstock's
Messiah,” which has many admirers, is written in this kind of verse. The Feet, however, of this writer are less confined than the Latin, seeing that he substitutes, at will, Trochees for Spondees. Why this sort of Verse has not hitherto been found agreeable to the English taste may be accounted for on examining a specimen. We shall take it from “The Vision of Judgment” when speaking of Washington:
“ Thoughtful awhile he gazed; severe, but serene, was
his aspect; Calm, but stern; like one whom no compassion could
weaken, Neither could doubt deter, nor violent impulses alter: Lord of his own resolves,-of his own heart absolute
master. Aweful spirit! his place was with ancient sages and
heroes: Fabius, Aristides, and Solon, and Epaminondas."
English dissyllables, in consequence of the accent, are necessarily either Iambics or Trochees; and, therefore, the terminating words, aspect, weaken, alter, master, and heroes, require a strained pronunciation before they can be drawled out into Spondees. The fifth foot creates no difficulty, for our language is full of Dactyls of which impulses and absolute, in the preceding lines, are examples. How the first four feet can be made up by any intermixture of Dactyls and Spondees we know not: the latter requires the succession of two obviously emphatic monosyllables, and the former would lengthen the verse so as to be intolerable to the English ear. The consequence is, that the first four feet of such Hexameters must be always prosaic and the last inaccurate; and the whole costs almost as much trouble to the Reader as to the Poet. The scanning, such as it is, can only be exercised upon the two last feet; for the former part of the line is nothing but recitative. Indeed, the measure of English Hexameters is only measure to the eye; and were it not for the abrupt terminations of the lines, the sentences would be merely a kind of poetical prose; distinguishable from common prose, solely by its inversion and declamatory mood. The following example is extracted from the poem already quoted. It will be an exercise for a learner to cut up the paragraph into verses.