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We see it in its weak and indistinct beginnings, not yet knowing itself or its own importance; we mark its irregular application at first; the lack of skill in its use, the poor assonances instead of the full consonances ; with an only gradual discovery of all which it would effect ;—the chimes having been at first, probably, but happy chances, found, like the pointed arch, without having been sought; but which yet, being once lighted on, the instinct of genius did not let go, but adopted and improved, as that very thing which it needed, and unconsciously had been feeling after; and now at length had attained.
But when we thus refuse to admit that the Latin rhyming poetry borrowed its rhyme from the Romance or Gothic languages, we are not therefore obliged to accept the converse, and with Tyrwhitt* and others to assume that they obtained it from the Latin, however that might be of the two the more tolerable supposition. For, after the investigations of later years, no one ought any longer to affirm rhyme to have been the exclusive invention of any one people, and from them to have past over into other languages and literatures; which Warton and Sismondi have done, who derive it originally from the Arabs. Rhyme can as little be considered the exclusive discovery of any one people as of any qui nous avait déjà frappés chez Saint Ambroise, a toujours été, de siècle en siècle, s'accusant plus nettement. Au temps où nous sommes parvenus, elle a fini par triompher. Ce qui n'était d'abord qu'une fantaisie de l'oreille a fini par devenir un besoin impérieux et par se transformer en loi.
Il n'est donc pas nécessaire de chercher d'autre origine à la rime; elle est née du 1 sein de la poésie latine dégénerée.
* Essay on the Language and Versification of Chaucer, p. 51.
single age. It is rather, like poetry, like music, like dramatic representation, the natural result of a deep craving of the human mind; as it is the well-nigh inevitable adjunct of a poetry not quantitative, being almost certain to make a home for itself therein. This last point has been well expressed, and the causes of it rightly stated by a writer already quoted, and whose words must always carry weight:* “When the same modification of sound recurs at definite intervals, the coincidence very readily strikes the ear, and when it is found in accented syllables, such syllables fix the attention more strongly than if they merely received the accent. Hence we may perceive the importance of rhyme in accentual verse. It is not, as it is sometimes asserted, a mere ornament: it marks and defines the accent, and thereby strengthens and supports the rhythm. Its advantages have been felt so strongly, that no people have ever adopted an accentual rhythm, without also adopting rhyme.”
In this the universality of rhyme, as in the further fact that it is peculiar neither to the rudeness of an early and barbarous age, nor to the over-refined ingenuity of a late and artificial one, but runs through whole literatures from their beginning to their end, we find its best defence;—or, more accurately, that which exempts it from needing any defence against charges like that brought by Milton against it f; for there is
* Guest, History of English Rhythms, vol. i. p. 116.
☆ It will be remembered what he calls it in the few words which he has prefixed to Paradise Lost—"the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre ;
a thing of itself to all judicious ears trivial and of no true musical delight”-with much more in the same strain.
here the evidence that it lies deep in our human nature, and satisfies an universal need, since otherwise so many people would not have lighted upon it, or having lighted, so inflexibly maintained it. For we do encounter it everywhere—in the extreme West, in the earliest Celtic poems, Welsh and Irish—in the further East, among the Chinese, in the Sanscrit,-and no less in the Persian and Arabic poetry,-in the Gothic and Scandinavian ;--no formal discovery, as no borrowed skill, in any case; but in all the well-nigh instinctive result of that craving after periodic recurrence, proportion, limitation,—of that sense out of which all rhythm and all metre springs, namely, that the streams of passion must have banks within which to flow, if they are not to waste and lose themselves altogether,—with the desire to mark and to make distinctly noticeable to the ear these limits and restraints, which the verse, for its own ultimate good, imposes upon itself.* We may
Over against this we might set what I much esteem the wiser words of Daniel in his Defence of Rhyme, or indeed more honourably confute him out of his own mouth, and by the fact that the noblest lyrics which English literature possesses, being his own, are rhymed.
* Ewald (On the Poetic Books of the Old Testament, vol. i. p. 57) has expressed himself very profoundly on this matter:
“A stream of words and images, an overflowing and impetuous | diction, a movement which in its first violence seems to know no
bounds nor control-such is the earliest manifestation of poetic diction! But a diction which should only continue in this its earliest movement, and hurry onward, without bounds and without measure, would soon destroy its own beauty, even its very life. Yea rather, the more living and overflowing this onward movement is, by so much the more needful the restraint and the limitation, the counteraction and tranquillization, of this becomes.
observe that the prosodic poetry of Greece and Rome was equally obliged to mark this, though it did it in another way. Thus, had dactyles and spondees been allowed to be promiscuously used throughout the hexameter line, no satisfying token would have reached the ear to indicate the close of the verse; and if the hearer had once missed the termination of the line, it would have been almost impossible for him to recover it. But the fixed dactyle and spondee at the end of the line answer the same purpose of strongly marking the close, as does the rhyme in the accentuated verse: and in other metres, in like manner, licenses permitted in the beginning of the line are excluded at its close, the motives for this greater strictness being the same.
The non-recognition of this, man's craving after, and deep delight in, the rhythmic and periodic—a craving which nature everywhere meets and gratifies, and which all truest art seeks to gratify as well,-a seeing nothing in all this but a trick and artifice applied from without,lies at the root of that singular theory concerning the unfitness of poetry to be the vehicle for our highest addresses to God and most reverent utterances about Him, which the accomplished author of the Day in the Sanctuary has put forth in the preface to that volume. Any one who, with at all the skill in versification and command over language which he himself has manifested elsewhere, undertakes to comply with the requirements
This mighty inspiration and exspiration; this rise with its commensurate fall; this advance in symmetrical diction, which shall combine rest and motion with one another, and mutually reconcile them; this is rhythm, or regulated beautiful movement."
which verse imposes, knows that the obligations which he thus assumes are very far from being felt as a bondage, but rather that here, as everywhere else, to move according to law is felt to be the freest movement of all.* Every one, too, who without this peculiar experience has watched the effect on his own mind of the orderly marching of a regiment, or of the successive breaking of waves upon the shore, or of ought else which is thus rhythmic and periodic, knows that in this, inspiring as it does the sense of order, and proportion, and purpose, there is ever an elevating and solemnizing power-a truth to which language, the best, because the most unconscious, witness, sets its seal, having in the Latin but one and the same word, for the solemn and the recurring
I have said above, that we are not bound to assume that the poetries of modern Europe derived rhyme from the Latin ; because we reject the converse proposition, that the Latin derived it from them. At the same time the medieval Latin poetry, without standing in so close a technical relation as this to the modern poetry of Europe, without having been thus the source from which the latter obtained its most characteristic ornament, does yet stand in most true and living relation to it; has exerted upon it an influence which probably
* Goethe's noble words, uttered with a larger intention, have yet their application here :
Vergebens werden ungebundne Geister