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fore, must be found in the repetition of some one of these, and to these three elements, therefore, and no where else, we must look for the constant basis of versification, which, accordingly, may be defined as
A series of words, which is of definite extent, and follows an arrangement which depends on the regulated recurrence of a syllable which is
peculiarly marked according to some one of the forementioned elements.
The extent is determined by the number of intervals and returns thus formed, for example in the verses,
Múrmuring, síghing, and sorrowing,
The syllables follow according to the arrangement of the return of the stress at the interval of every two; and the verses are equal in length, each consisting of three returns and three intervals, only in a reverse order in either line
Thus verse is entirely independent of the inward and mental part of language, so that even utter nonsense may be conveyed in the most harmonious verse ; and, depending on the invariable properties of the voice alone, it has nothing really to do with alliteration or rhyme, or any of the variable accidents of mere articulation, though these may be taken additionally into the account for the sake of ornament. And it is from the number of the returns, and from the measure of the intervals, and from the proportions thus presented, that the terms numbers, measure, rhythm, time, harmony, and the like, here become applicable to verse. We will now proceed to discuss these elements of versification.
3. The first is the time taken up in the pronunciation of a syllable. Thus, if in any language its syllables were divisible into two or more classes, according to two or more invariable times of pronouncing them, then a return might be made by the syllables of one time recurring at the interval of syllables of another time, or even of two other times, as thus, AaAaAa, &c., or even AaaAaaAaa, &c. The latter, however, of these schemes is too artificial for any known language. It would not indeed be too complex for the eye, which can comprehend a whole in one glance, and dwell long enough upon it for comparison of parts, as in the survey of specimens of embroidery and architecture; but it would scarcely be appreciated by the ear,
which can bring but a portion present before the mind at a time, the preceding part existing but in memory, and the succeeding anticipated in thought from it. The only languages, therefore, that have employed this basis for verse, which
are the Greek and Latin, have been content with acknowledging but two times, and those in the simplest proportion of one to two, so that in the word musa, the pronunciation of the first syllable shall take up twice as much time as does that of the second. Our word muses exemplifies a similar difference of times. The former of these is called the long time, the latter the short time. The return is naturally denoted by the former, as by the more important, the interval by the latter; and a verse will be formed thus :
Mūsa quæ meās ad aures,
where the return is double of the interval. thus,
where the return and interval are equal. Such a basis has proved quite sufficient in the supply of variety for every possible use of verse, and indeed far more sufficient than the two put together that remain for mention. Hence the word quantity has been applied to syllables, as denoting the quantity of time which their pronunciation occupies.
4. The second is the key of voice in which a syllable is pronounced. Thus, if any language had
its syllables divisible into two or more classes, according to the respective keys, higher or lower, in which by invariable usage they were pronounced, here again were a basis for versification. Suppose a certain number were pronounced in the note F, another in A, another in C, then syllables would admit of the arrangement, FACFAC, &c., together with the varieties arising from the permutations of the combination FAC. And there would be just the same resources for return and interval as before; but here again, also, even the most musical of languages, the Greek and Latin, do not recognize more than two classes; the one, of syllables pronounced in a lower tone, called the grave, the other, of syllables pronounced in a higher tone, called the acute; the latter but on one syllable of the word, the former occupying all the remainder, as in calamitas; and the harmony resulting, and the flexibility of the instrument are very inferior to what is experienced in the former case ; for although no return can be better marked than that which is afforded by the syllable on which the acute falls, yet the means of supplying the interval are very imperfect, since this must now be regulated by the number of syllables on which the grave falls, there being no other measure of them, and not by the intervening time, which may occupy the place of one or more syllables.
For example, in ámnibus and amnes the interval is the same in time but different in number, and in ámnes and amnis different in time but the same in number. Hence this basis is much inferior to the former, inasmuch as, through its limitation of the number of syllables in the interval, it excludes all that expansion and contraction which gives such expression according to the former basis, allowing the hexameter to roll on through seventeen syllables, or stop at thirteen. Besides, the interval is subjected to a foreign influence; namely, the number, as well as the gravity, of the syllables, and thus the simplicity and symmetry of the former basis does not exist.
But there is also an insuperable difficulty attending the construction of verse upon it, and which is the greater in proportion to the polysyllabic genius of the language. According to the former basis, we may have more than one return in a word, as in candidos, and more than one interval, as in silebịt; and thus we have little difficulty in finding words to follow each other according to any required metrical arrangement. But here one syllable only in a word can make the return, as in animadversiónes, while an unmanageable number may form the interval on one or both sides of it, as in this very word, which cannot enter any ordinary system according to the strict definition of