صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

He says:

vention of any one people, and from them to have passed over into other languages and literatures; as do Warton and Sismondi, when they derive it from the Arabs. Rhyme can as little be considered the exclusive discovery of any one people as of any single age. It is rather, like poetry, like music, the natural result of a deep craving of the human mind; as it is the almost inevitable adjunct of a poetry not quantitative, and almost certainly developing itself there. This last point has been well expressed, and the causes of it rightly stated by a writer but just now quoted'.

66 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

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 its universality, in the fact, too, that it is peculiar neither to the early rudeness of a 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, indeed, that rather which exempts it from needing any


i Guest, History of English Rhythms, v. 1, p. 116.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

defence, being, as it is, the proof that it lies deep in our human nature and satisfies an universal need, since else so many people would not have come upon it, or having come, so inflexibly maintained it.

For we do encounter it everywhere in the furthest West, in the earliest Celtic poems, Welsh and Irish-in the extremest 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 quite,_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 1.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

i Ewald (On the Poetic Books of the Old Testament, v. 1, 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. 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.”




We may observe that the prosodic poetry of Greece and Rome was equally obliged to mark this, though it did it in another way. For example, had dactyles and spondees been allowed to be promiscuously used in every part of the hexameter line, if once the hearer had lost the termination of the line, it would have been almost impossible for him to recover it: at any rate, no satisfying indication would have reached his ear, that the verse was ending. But the fixed dactyle and spondee of the conclusion answer the same purpose of strongly marking the close, as does the rhyme in the accentual verse : and 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.

It is 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 “this it is which lies at the root of that singular theory concerning the unfitness of poetry to be a vehicle for our highest addresses to God, and most reverent utterances about Him, which the accomplished author of the Day in the Sanctuary has enounced in the preface to that volume. Any one who, with near the skill in versification and command over language which he himself has manifested elsewhere, undertakes to comply with the requirements which verse imposes, knows that the necessity for so doing is indeed no bondage, but

[merged small][ocr errors]

rather a perfect freedom; that 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,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

I have said above, that we are not bound to assume that the poetries of modern Europe derived their rhyme from the Latin ; when we reject the converse proposition, that the Latin derived it from them. But 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 a most effectual influence, and one which probably has been scarcely estimated as highly as it ought. It is difficult to measure the extent to which

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

1 Goethe's noble words, uttered with a larger intention, have yet their application here :

Vergebens werden ungebundne Geister
Nach der Vollendung reiner Höhe streben:
In Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister,
Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.

that poetry acted as a conductor of the thoughts and images of the old world to the new, making the stores of that old world to be again the heritage of the popular mind-stores which, but for it, would have been locked up till the more formal revival of learning, then perhaps to become, not the possession of the many, but only of the few. How important for the developement of the human mind was the part which it played, filling up a space that was in a great measure unoccupied by any other works of imagination at all; lending to men an organ by which to utter their thoughts, when as yet the modern languages of Europe were in the first process of their formation, and quite unable to be the adequate clothing for these.

Thus the earliest form in which the Reineke Fuchs, the great fable epic of the middle ages, appeared,--the significance of which in European literature, no one capable of forming a judgment on the matter will lightly esteem, is now acknowledged to have been Latin, A poem in four books, in elegiac metre, of which the author is unknown, supplied mediately or immediately the ground-plan to all the subsequent dispositions of the matter. Of course it is not meant hereby to deny the essentially popular character of the poem, or to affirm that the Latin poet invented that, which, no doubt, already lived upon the lips of the people; but only that in this Latin the fable-lore of the German world first took shape, and found a distinct utterance for itself1.

1 The existence of such an original was long unsuspected, even after an earnest interest had been awakened in the Reineke Fuchs

« السابقةمتابعة »