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rosedby the allowed license of the age: where authority foiled he would have recourse (but soberly) to etymology and analogy; and if after all a few paslages remained not reducible to the strict laws of metre by any of the methods above-mentioned, if he were really (as I have supposed him) a sensible critick he would he apt rather t6 expect patiently the solution of his difficulties from more correct manuscripts, of a more complete theory of his author's versification, than to cut the knot by deciding peremptorily that the work was composed without any regard to me* trical rules.
§ 11. I beg leave to pursue the fame course with respect to Chaucer. The great number of verses founding complete even to our ears, which is to be found in all the least corrected copies of his Works, authorizes us to .conclude that he was not ignorant of the laws of metre. Upon this conclusion it is impossible'not to ground a strong presumption that lie intended to observe the same laws in the many other verses which seem to us irregular; and if this was really his intention, what reason can be assigned sufficient to account for his having failed so grossly and repeatedly, as is generally supposed, in an operation which every balladmonger inour days, man, woman, or child, is known to perform with the most unerring exactness, and without any extraordinary fatigue?
§ 13. The offences against metre in an English verse, as has partiy been observed before, must arise either from a superfluity or deficiency of syllables, or from the accents being improperly placed.
§ 14. With respect to the first species of irregularity, I have not taken notice of any superfluities in Chaucer's verses but what may be reduced to just yilumel. O
measure by the usual practices (66) of even modern poets; and this, by the way, is a strong proof of his real attention to metrical rules; for otherwise, if he hart written without any restraint of that kind, a certain proportion of his deviations from measure mult in all probability have been on the side of excess.
§ 15. But.a great number of Chaucer's verses labour under an apparent de6cicncy of a syllable or two. In some of these perhaps the defect may still be supplied from mis. but for the greatest part I am persuaded no such assistance is to Le expected (67);
(66) It is unnecessary to trouble the reader with an enumeration of syncope, api ilrophus, syneephoneiis, Izsc.
QuicquUI hn'-uit tL-lorum armamentaria vatum. They may all, I think, be comprehended in our language under this one general principle, tint ?.n English verse, though chiefly composed of sect of two syllable*, is capable of receiving feet of three fvlUble* in every part os it, provided only one of the three syllables be accented.— In short, whoever can taste the metrical harmony osthe following lines cf Milton will not be eiv.b.irasiVd how to dispose of the (seemingly) superfluous syllables which he may meet with in Chaucer; P. Z. ii. 123. Ominous ] conjecture on the whole success.
302. A pil [ lar of state ] ; deep on his front engra, ven—
658. Celestial spir | stain bon | dage, nor the abyss—
v. 4V5. No Inconvenient di | et, nor too [ light fare.
vii.iii. Things not revealed, which the invis | ible King—. (67) 1 would not he thought to undervalue the mss. which I have not seen, or to discourage those who may have inclination and opportunity to consult them; I only mean to say that where the text is supported (as It generally is in this edit.) by the concurrence of two or three good mss. and the sense is clear and complete, we may safely consider it as tolerably cor
and therefore supposing the text in these cases to be correct, it is worth considering whether the verse also fflay not be made correct by adopting, in certain words, a pronunciation different indeed from modern practice, but which we have: reason to believe was used by the Author himself.
For instance, in the genitive rase singular and the plural number of nouns (which as has been remarked above in the time of Chaucer had the siime expression) there can be no doubt that such words dsjhonr«, ver. I, erodes, ver. y,Jbires, ver. 15, hrd:s, ver. Alt'^fc. were regularly pronounced as consisting of two syllables : whenever they are used as monosyllables it must be considered ac a poetical license, warranted however even then fas we may presume from the natural progress of our lanvnngc) by the practice of innaccurate speakers in common conversation.
In like manner we may be sure that ed, the regular termination of the past tense and its participle, made or contributed to make a second syllable in the words perced, ver. 2, bathed, ver. 3,/o-W, ver.45, ivcred, ver. 75, t?V. (68.) The first step toward re
rect. In the course of the Notes T shall have occasion to point out several passages in which either the disagreement of the good mss. or the obscurity of their readings makes a further inquiry absolutely necessary in order to settle the text.
(63) It appears from the Preface to the last edition of Chaucer's Works, Lond. I7H, that Mr. Urry, the undertaker of that edition, had the fame opinion with respect to the pronunciation of the final syllables in this and the last mentioned instance, and that it was his intent iontodirtinguilh those sy II." bl es, whenever they tvere to be pronounced, hy printing them with an i hficad of an e, as /bouris* Jbirii, perc:dt lrv:dt &c. As suth a distinction is entirely unsupported by the mss. and mult necessarily very much disfigure the orthography of the Un
eva out ancient language was very generally pronounced as the e feminine is at this day by the French.
With respect to words imported directly from France, it is certainly quite natural to suppose that for some time they retained their native pronunciation, whether they were nouns substantive, as ioste, Ter. 753,_/»«, ver. I580, fcrV.—or adjectives, as large % ver. -,$5^jlrange, ver. 13, t!TV.—or verbs, as grartfr, ▼er. 12756,/TccAtf, ver. 12337, EsV.; and it cannot be doubted that in these and other similar words in the French language the final e was always pronounced, as it still is, so as to make them dissyllables.
We have not indeed so clear a proof of the original pronunciation of the Saxon part (69) of our language; but we know, from general observation, that
(So) This is owing to the Saxons not having left us any metrical compositions, as has been observed before, p. 126. Hickcs complains [OV. A. v. c. xxiii. § 7,] " that it U difficult to know u of how many syllables a Saxon verse sometimes confiits, for "this reason among other*, quodnonconsiAt qr.cmodtii-oces in •* e fa mi nino i>el obfeuro terminate fronuntiandxsunt in ear"mine." He might (perhaps with more propriety) havecomplained tli.it it is difficult to know how words ending in e feminine arc to be pronounced in a Saxon verse, because it is uncertain of how many syllables any of their verses con tilled. I have mentionecsin the text two cafes of words abbreviated, in which I think we might conclude from general reasoning th.it the final: was pronounced. As this theory, with respect to these words, is entirely confirmed by tin; practice of Or in, (the most au then tick metrical compete: that we have in our ancient language) it would not perhaps be unreasonable to infer that the mactice of Orm, in other words oi Saxon original in which '.he finalr is pronounced, is consonant to the old'Saxon usage. However that may be. \\\c pi.Ti.lice o! Orm muU certiinly be admitted to prove that such a pronunciation prevailed at least 15c years beipre Chaucer.