The Principles of English Verse

9780217766999: The Principles of English Verse

This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher. Not indexed. Not illustrated. 1905. Excerpt: ... CHAPTER V /Miscellaneous /Metres The superiority of the iambic pentameter has been partly explained already. It is unsymmetrical, and therefore admits of freer division and more variety than lines of four stresses, or of six. The line of three stresses is equally unsymmetrical, but is too short to admit much variety of treatment. This is partly a mere matter of mathematics, since six syllables obviously cannot be arranged in as many ways as ten; but it is also to be observed that the shortness of the line restricts the operation of the law of conflict. The ends of the lines come so near together that the line-structure is forcibly emphasized and becomes the dominant feature of the rhythm; it is impracticable for the rhythmical periods to gain their independence. Poets feel this instinctively, and when they write verse of three stresses they make no effort to treat it as they treat blank verse; they let the conflict between the line-structure and the rhythmical periods almost disappear, and rely almost wholly on their other resources. Perhaps the most familiar example of this verse is in Tennyson's Maud. O, let the solid ground Not fall beneath my feet Before my life has found What some have found so sweet! Then let come what come may, What matter if I go mad, I shall have had my day. The same thought might be expressed in blank verse somewhat as follows: O let the solid ground not fail beneath me, Before my life has found what some have found So passing sweet! Then let come what come will, Though I go mad, I shall have had my day. This transformation brings gain as well as loss. By smoothing out the jerkiness of the line-structure we have given to the first sentence a new kind of dignity and force; and the last words of the sentence, by their isolated pos...

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