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the cause of slowness in any operation, such a clashing of vowels is often employed to represent a tardy or lingering motion.* A second cause of difficulty in utterrance is the frequent recurring of the aspirate (h), especially when placed between two vowels that are both sounded. It is this which renders the translation of the passage above quoted from the Odyssey so significant of the same qualities.
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone." A like effect is produced by any of the mutes that are aspirated, as the th and ph, or f, especially if combined with other consonants. The following line of Chaucer is not a bad example of this :
“ He through the thickest of the throng gan threke.”+ A third cause of difficulty in pronunciation is the clash of two or more jarring consonants. Some consonants are easily combined; the combinations of such are not expressive of this quality, but it is not so with all. An instance of this difficulty we have in the following line:
“ And strains " from hard bound brains "'. six lines a year."I We have here once five consonants, sometimes four, and sometimes three, which are all pronounced without an intervening vowel. The difficulty is rendered still more sensible by the double pause, which occasions a very drawling movement. Another example I shall take from the same author:
“When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow." In the first of these lines, the harsh combinations of consonants make the difficulty of pronunciation very observable; in the second, the author hath not been so successful. I know not how it might affect the more delicate ear of an Italian, but if we compare it with the generality of English verses, we shall find it remarkably easy and flowing. It has nothing in respect of sound, either in the syllables separately or in the measure, that in the least favours the sentiment, except only in its ending in a spondee instead of an iambus. But this is too common in our poesy to have any effect that is worthy of notice. Vida's translator, in a passage extremely similar, hath been happier, if he may not be thought to have exceeded in this respect :
“If some large weight his huge arm strive to shove,
The verse too labours, the throng'd words scarce move."Il First, the word verse is harsher than line ; secondly, the ending is in two spondees, which, though perhaps admissible into
* It is chiefly from this cause that the line in the Odyssey above quoted is so expressive of both : " Aãav åvw XOCOKE" + Knight's Tale.
I Pope, Fragment of a Satire. ģ Essay on Criticism.
the iambic measure, is very rare, and hath for that reason a more considerable effect. A fourth cause of difficulty in the pronunciation is the want of harmony in the numbers. This is frequently an effect of some of the forementioned causes, and may be illustrated by some of the examples already quoted. In the following passage from Milton, one of the most unharmonious in the book, hugeness of size, slowness and difficulty of motion, are at once aptly imitated :
“ Part huge of bulk ! Wallowing, unwieldy, enormous in their gait,
Tempest the ocean—"* An illustration of tardiness, difficulty, and hesitancy through fear, the same author hath also given us in the ill-compacted lines which follow:
and with him Eve, •• more loth,' though first. To offend, discountenanced both, and discomposed.”+ Several of the foregoing causes concur in the following couplet:
“So he with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on, with difficulty and labour he.”I A fifth cause of difficulty, the last I shall take notice of, is when there is a frequent recurrence of the same letters or syllables, especially where the measure requires a quick pronunciation, because then there is the greatest risk of mistake and confusion.
I shall just mention another subject of imitation by sound which is very general, and may be said to comprehend everything not included in those above mentioned. The agreeable in things may be adumbrated to us by smooth and pleasant sounds, the disagreeable by such as are harsh and grating. Here, it must be owned, the resemblance can be but very remote ; yet even here it will sometimes serve to enliven the expression.
Indeed, the power of numbers, or a series of accordant sounds, is much more expressive than that of single sounds. Accordingly, in poetry, we are furnished with the best examples in all the kinds; and as the writer of odes hath, in this respect, a much greater latitude than any other kind of versifier, and at pleasure may vary his measure with his subject, I shall take a few illustrations from our lyric poets. All sorts of English verse, it hath been justly remarked, are reducible to three, the iambic, the trochaic, and the anapæstic. In the first of these, the even syllables are accented, as some choose to express it, or, as others, the even syllables are long; * Paradise Lost, b. vii.
+ Ibid., b. x.
| Ibid., b. ii. An excellent example of this kind we have from the Iliad, 1. 116:
«Πολλά δ' άναντα, κάταντα, πάραντά τε, δόχμιά τ' ήλθον.” This recurrence is the happier here, as it is peculiarly descriptive of rugged ways and jolting motion.
in the second, it is on the odd syllables that the accent rests: in the third, two unaccented syllables are followed by one accented. The nearer the verses of the several kinds are te perfection, the more exactly they correspond with the definitions just now given; though each kind admits deviations to a certain degree, and in long poems even requires them for the sake of variety. The jambus is expressive of dignity and grandeur; the trochee, on the contrary, according to Aristotle,* is frolicsome and gay. It were difficult to assign a reason for this difference that would be satisfactory; but of the thing itself, I imaginé, most people will be sensible on comparing the two kinds together. I know not whether it will be admitted as a sufficient reason that the distinction into metrical feet hath a much greater influence in poetry on the rise and the fall of the voice. than the distinction into words; and if so, when the cadences happen mostly after the long syllables, the verse will naturally have an air of greater gravity than when they happen mostly after the short. An example of the different effects of these two measures we have in the following lines of an admired modern, whose death lately afforded a just subject of lamentation to every good man, as well as to every friend of the muses :
“Thee the voice, the dance obey,
The bloom of young desire, and purple light of love.”+ The expression of majesty and grace in the movement of the last six lines is wonderfully enhanced by the light and airy measure of the lines that introduce them. The anapæst is capable, according as it is applied, of two effects extremely different: first, it is expressive of ease and familiarity, and, accordingly, is often used with success both in familiar epistles and in pastoral. The other effect is an expression of hurry, confusion, and precipitation. These two, however different, may be thus accounted for. The first is a consequence of its resemblance to the style of conversation: there are so many particles in our language, such as monosyllabic pro* Rhet., lib. ii.
+ Gray's Progress of Poesy.
nouns, prepositions, conjunctions, and articles, on which the accent never rests, that the short syllables are greatly supernumerary. One consequence of this is, that common chat is with greater ease, as I imagine, reduced to this measure than to any other. The second consequence ariseth purely from its rapidity compared with other measures. This effect it is especially fitted to produce, when it is contrasted with the gravity of the iambic measure, as may be done in the ode; and when the style is a little elevated, so as to be sufficiently distinguished from the style of conversation. All these kinds have been employed with success in the Alexander's Feast, an ode that hath been as much celebrated as perhaps any in our language, and from which I propose to produce some illustrations. The poet, on recognising Jove as the father of his hero, hath used the most regular and perfect iambics :
“The líst’ning crowd admire the lofty sound,
With ravish'd ears
Affécts to nód,
And seems to sháke the sphéres." But when he comes to sing the jovial god of wine, he very judiciously changes the measure into the brisk trochaic
“ Bácehus, ever fair and young,
Rich the treasure,
Sweet the pleasure,
Sweet is pleasure after páin.” Again, when he describes his hero as wrought up to madness, and setting fire to the city in a fit of revenge, he with great propriety exhibits this phrensy in rapid anapæsts, the effect of which is set off the more strongly by their having a few iambic lines interspersed.
" Révenge! révenge! Timótheus críes;
See the fúries arise !
How they híss in their háir,
How they point to the Persian abódes
And the king seized a fláinbeau with zeal to destroy." So much for the power of numbers. It may not be amiss now, ere I conclude this topic, to make a few cursory remarks on the imitative powers of the several letters which are the elements of all articulate sounds. And, first, soft and delicate sounds are mostly occasioned by an equal mixture of
consonants with short and monophthong vowels;
the consonants being chiefly those denominated liquids, l, m, n, r, and those among the mutes called slender, p, t, k, orc and ch when they sound as k; to these add v, also z and s, when they sound asin the two words Zion and Asia. In like manner, the duplication of a consonant sounds more delicately than the combi. nation of different consonants. Thus ammiro is softer than admiro, fatto than facto, atto than apto, and disse than dixe. Secondly, strong and loud sounds are better exhibited by diphthongs and long vowels, those of the mutes called middle, and which comparatively may be termed hard, b, d, g in both its sounds, and j, especially when these are combined with liquids, which render them more sonorous, without oc, casioning harshness, as in the words bombard, thunder, clangour, bludgeon, grumble. Thirdly, to roughness the letter h contributes as well as the gutturals. Such is the Greek X, to which there is no corresponding sound in English, though there is in Spanish and in German ; also those of the mutes called aspirates, as s or ph, and th in both its sounds,* the double and all uncouth combinations. Fourthly, to sharp and cutting sounds the following letters best contribute : S when it sounds as in mass, c when it has the same sound, ch when it sounds as in chide, x, sh, and wh; from the abounding of which letters and combinations among us, foreigners are apt to remark I know not what appearance of whistling or hissing in our conversation. Indeed, the word whistle is one whose sound is as expressive of the signification as perhaps any other word whatever. Fifthly, obscure and tingling sounds are best expressed by the nasals, ng and nk, as in ringing, swinging, twanging, sinking; by the sn, as in snuffle, sneeze, snort; and even by the n simply when it follows another liquid or mute, and when the vowel (if there be a vowel interposed between it and the preceding consonant) is not very audibly pronounced, as in morn, horn, sullen, fallen, bounden, gotten, beholden, holpen. This sound formerly much abounded in English. It was not only the termination of many of the participles, but also of most plurals, both of nouns and of verbs. As a plural termination, if we except a very few nouns, we may say it is now entirely banished, and very much, perhaps too much, disused in participles. The sound is unmusical, and, consequently, when too frequent, offensive, but may, nevertheless, have a good effect when used sparingly. Besides, it would be convenient, especially in verse, that we could oftener distinguish the preterit from the participle than our language permits.
Now, of the five sorts of sound above explained, it may be
* Of these one occurs in the noun breath, the other in the verb breathe, The tirst is the roughest.