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Our poets

1. A great variety of poetry is written with the perfect regularity of the different standard measures, and with the sense corresponding to its regularity.

2. But, with all its beauty and harmonious flow, it becomes monotonous and lacks

power. have therefore added greatly to the beauty of their work by using irregular feet without actually varying the time.

3. Sometimes this gives a shock by its abruptness, and thus increases the force of the thought.

“For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,

And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.”

This last line could easily have been made to conform to the first by inserting "he" after “and,”

“And he breathed in the face of the foe as he passed,"

but it would have detracted from the force of the line.

4. The fact of giving the same time to the two syllables as would have been allowed to the three gives the emphasis of time to the expression.

The night || is made for cooling shade,

For silence || and for sleep.

And when Ī was à child || Ī laid
My hands upon my breast || and prayed,

And sank to slumbers deep.”

5. The first line is regular, and glides along like the coming of night. The second line has an unaccented foot which, connecting the two important words, adds force to "silence" and "sleep,” the two factors in night. The third line contains short syllables only until the dominant idea is reached; while the fourth line, with its unaccented foot, again gives variety and emphasis, which are increased in the fifth line by the regular succession of syllables as it drops into the flow of slumber.

6. It is a mark of genius in a poet to use these irregular feet so skillfully as to bring added beauty to his verses, and it is a wonderful aid in reading poetry well to be able to distinguish the poet's reason for these changes from a regular to an irregular form.

7. It has been customary to find a long syllable in every foot, whether it were there or not. This is one of the stumbling-blocks in the way of good reading

8. It is certain that all long syllables ought to have greater or less emphasis. In all true poetry the sense requires it, but it by no means follows that every foot has a long or an emphatic syllable.

The way I was long, || the wind | was cold.

The min (strel || was I infirm I and old.” The second foot in the last line has no accented syllable, but the number of feet is the same and the time is the same, while the unaccented foot takes away the idea of past time as prominent, and brings out more clearly the age and infirmity of the minstrel.


“I saw two clouds at morning,

Tinged with the rising sun,
And in the dawn they floated on,

And mingled into one."

“Ă chieftain, to the Highlands bound,

Cries, ' Boatman, do not tarry,
And Il give thee a silver pound

To row us o'er the ferry.'

These two extracts illustrate the unaccented feet, as well as the way in which the sense directs the reading

10. The second line in the first extract is not

"Tinged with the rising sun,"

but should be read

Tinged with the rising sun."

And the first and third lines of the second extract should not be read

“A chieftain || to the Highlands bound,”

And I'll give thee || a silver pound," but should bring out the sense as well as the rhythm by reading it,

A chieftain || to the Highlands bound,”
And I'll give thee || a silver pound.

11. You will find a full description of meters in the first part of this book for reference, but what is given here has been chosen to help you get the sense of a poem, and thus to lead you to read it with proper time and movement, not ignoring the meter, but subordinating it to the sense.

12. This will bring out the differences between prose and poetry, and will aid you also in determining whether a so-called poem is poetry or rhymed prose.

1. Regularity, harmonious, monotonous, abruptness, conform, detracted, factors, skillfully, requires, minstrel, infirmity, prominent, dominant, chieftain, extracts, description, reference.

2. What are the “standard measures ” in poetry? Why are irregular feet used ? What is the effect when two syllables are given the time of three? What is meant by a long syllable ? What is meant by “meter”? Take any stanza, and mark the feet so as to show the proper emphasis.

XVII. THE SOWER'S SONG. 1. Now hands to seed sheet, boys!

We step and we cast; old Time's on wing: And, would ye partake of harvest's joys, The corn must be sown in spring.

Fall gently still, good corn,

Lie warm in thy earthy bed,
And stand so yellow some morn

That beast and man may be fed. 2. Old earth is a pleasure to see

In sunshiny coat of red and green: The furrow lies fresh; this year will be As the years that are past have been.

Fall gently. 3. Old mother, receive this corn,

The seed of six thousand golden sires. All these on thy kindly breast were borne: One more thy poor child requires.

Fall gently. 4. Now steady and sure, again,

And measure of stroke and step we keep. Thus


and thus down, we cast our grain; Sow well, and you'll gladly reap.

Fall gently still, good corn,

Lie warm in thy earthy bed,
And stand so yellow some morn

That man and beast may be fed.

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