A Grammar of the English Tongue Part 12

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16. Polysyllables, or words of more than three syllables, follow the accent of the words from which they are derived, as arrogating, continency, incontinently, commendable, communicableness. We should therefore say disputable, indisputable; rather than disputable, indisputable; and advertis.e.m.e.nt, rather than advertis.e.m.e.nt.

17. Words in ion have the accent upon the antepenult, as salvation, perturbation, concoction; words in atour or ator on the penult, as dedicator.

18. Words ending in le commonly have the accent on the first syllable, as amicable, unless the second syllable have a vowel before two consonants, as combustible.

19. Words ending in ous have the accents on the antepenult, as uxorious, voluptuous.

20. Words ending in ty have their accent on the antepenult, as pusillanimity, activity.

These rules are not advanced as complete or infallible, but proposed as useful. Almost every rule of every language has its exceptions; and in English, as in other tongues, much must be learned by example and authority. Perhaps more and better rules may be given that have escaped my observation.

VERSIFICATION is the arrangement of a certain number of syllables according to certain laws.

The feet of our verses are either iambick, as aloft, create; or trochaick, as holy, lofty.

Our iambick measure comprises verses

Of four syllables,

Most good, most fair, Or things as rare, To call you's lost; For all the cost Words can bestow, So poorly show Upon your praise, That all the ways Sense hath, come short. Drayton.

With ravish'd ears The monarch hears. Dryden.

Of six,

This while we are abroad, Shall we not touch our lyre?

Shall we not sing an ode?

Or shall that holy fire, In us that strongly glow'd, In this cold air expire?

Though in the utmost peak, A while we do remain, Amongst the mountains bleak, Expos'd to sleet and rain, No sport our hours shall break, To exercise our vein.

What though bright Phbus' beams Refresh the southern ground, And though the princely Thames With beauteous nymphs abound, And by old Camber's streams Be many wonders found:

Yet many rivers clear Here glide in silver swathes, And what of all most dear, Buxton's delicious baths, Strong ale and n.o.ble chear, T' a.s.swage breem winters scathes.

In places far or near, Or famous, or obscure, Where wholsom is the air, Or where the most impure, All times, and every where, The muse is still in ure. Drayton.

Of eight, which is the usual measure for short poems,

And may at last my weary age Find out the peaceful hermitage, The hairy gown, and mossy cell, Where I may sit, and nightly spell Of ev'ry star the sky doth shew, And ev'ry herb that sips the dew. Milton.

Of ten, which is the common measure of heroick and tragick poetry,

Full in the midst of this created s.p.a.ce, Betwixt heav'n, earth, and skies, there stands a place Confining on all three; with triple bound; Whence all things, though remote, are view'd around, And thither bring their undulating sound.

The palace of loud Fame, her seat of pow'r, Plac'd on the summit of a lofty tow'r; A thousand winding entries long and wide Receive of fresh reports a flowing tide.

A thousand crannies in the walls are made; Nor gate nor bars exclude the busy trade.

Tis built of bra.s.s, the better to diffuse The spreading sounds, and multiply the news; Where echoes in repeated echoes play: A mart for ever full; and open night and day.

Nor silence is within, nor voice express, But a deaf noise of sounds that never cease; Confus'd and chiding, like the hollow roar Of tides, receding from th' insulted sh.o.r.e; Or like the broken thunder heard from far, When Jove to distance drives the rolling war.

The courts are fill'd with a tumultuous din, Of crouds, or issuing forth, or ent'ring in: A thorough-fare of news; where some devise Things never heard, some mingle truth with lies: The troubled air with empty sounds they beat, Intent to hear, and eager to repeat. Dryden.

In all these measures the accents are to be placed on even syllables; and every line considered by itself is more harmonious, as this rule is more strictly observed. The variations necessary to pleasure belong to the art of poetry, not the rules of grammar.

Our trochaick measures are Of three syllables,

Here we may Think and pray, Before death Stops our breath: Other joys Are but toys. Walton's Angler.

Of five,

In the days of old, Stories plainly told, Lovers felt annoy. Old Ballad.

Of seven,

Fairest piece of well form'd earth, Urge not thus your haughty birth. Waller.

In these measures the accent is to be placed on the odd syllables.

These are the measures which are now in use, and above the rest those of seven, eight, and ten syllables. Our ancient poets wrote verses sometimes of twelve syllables, as Drayton's Polyolbion.

Of all the Cambrian shires their heads that bear so high, And farth'st survey their soils with an ambitious eye, Mervinia for her hills, as for their matchless crouds, The nearest that are said to kiss the wand'ring clouds, Especial audience craves, offended with the throng, That she of all the rest neglected was so long; Alledging for herself, when, through the Saxons' pride, The G.o.dlike race of Brute to Severn's setting side Were cruelly inforc'd, her mountains did relieve Those whom devouring war else every where did grieve.

And when all Wales beside (by fortune or by might) Unto her ancient foe resign'd her ancient right, A constant maiden still she only did remain, The last her genuine laws which stoutly did retain.

And as each one is prais'd for her peculiar things; So only she is rich, in mountains, meres and springs, And holds herself as great in her superfluous waste, As others by their towns, and fruitful tillage grac'd.

And of fourteen, as Chapman's Homer.

And as the mind of such a man, that hath a long way gone, And either knoweth not his way, or else would let alone, His purpos'd journey, is distract.

The measures of twelve and fourteen syllables were often mingled by our old poets, sometimes in alternate lines, and sometimes in alternate couplets.

The verse of twelve syllables, called an Alexandrine, is now only used to diversify heroick lines.

Waller was smooth, but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestick march, and energy divine. Pope.

The pause in the Alexandrine must be at the sixth syllable.

The verse of fourteen syllables is now broken into a soft lyrick measure of verses, consisting alternately of eight syllables and six.

She to receive thy radiant name, Selects a whiter s.p.a.ce. Fenton.

When all shall praise, and ev'ry lay Devote a wreath to thee, That day, for come it will, that day Shall I lament to see. Lewis to Pope.

Beneath this tomb an infant lies To earth whose body lent, Hereafter shall more glorious rise, But not more innocent.

When the Archangel's trump shall blow, And souls to bodies join, What crowds shall wish their lives below Had been as short as thine! Wesley.

We have another measure very quick and lively, and therefore much used in songs, which may be called the anapestick, in which the accent rests upon every third syllable.

May I govern my pa.s.sions with absolute sway, And grow wiser and better as life wears away. Dr. Pope.

In this measure a syllable is often retrenched from the first foot, as

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A Grammar of the English Tongue Part 12 summary

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