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While the hoarse ocean beats the sounding shore,
This is tame and prosaic, with the exception of the Alexandrine in italics, which is highly expressive and picturesque. I must here quote a couplet from Wordsworth.
And see the children sporting on the shore,
The second is a magnificent line, and has an immortal air. The sound and the sense are equally impressive. It is even superior to a similar passage in Shelley.
-And hear the sea
While on the subject of the sea, I may as well also refer to Lord Byron, whose oceanic poetry has many fine illustrations of Pope's favorite rule. What a free, wave-like, sweeping harmony pervades the following exquisite stanza :
Once more upon the waters ! yet once more !
The harmony of this splendid Spenserean stanza, (a form of verse which Shelley considered inexpressibly delightful) is quite perfect, and the ideas are in unison with the music. portion of its excellence the noble poet was perhaps indebted to James Montgomery, of Sheffield, who had previously written :
Ile only, like the ocean-weed uptorn
In Lord Byron's grand and vivid description of a storm amongst the mountains, there is a specimen of imitative harmony.
But let me return to Pope, who after all has given us more specimens of this peculiar beauty than almost any other poet. What an admirable illustration of a lame Alexandrine is the following :
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
The hitch in the verse at the word drags has an excellent effect and completes the image. But Alexandrines are not always "needless," though in the heroic couplet they can very rarely be introduced without an awkward effect. In winding up the volume of sweet sounds in the Spenserean stanza, their grace and fitness are unquestionable. It is absolutely necessary, however, that the cæsural pause should be after the sixth syllable, or the line halts,
drags, like a wounded snake.” It has always excited my surprise that Shelley, who was deeply learned in the mysteries of versification, should have so frequently transgressed this rule. Byron, Campbell and others have been guilty
of the same error. Even Spenser himself is often at fault in his concluding lines.
The following lines from the Essay on Criticism illustrate the rules they would enforce :
These equal syllables alone require,
In the next couplet, I think Dryden's name should stand in the place of Denham's. The first line has the “ easy vigour" of which it speaks.
And praise the easy vigour of a line
The anecdote given by Leigh Hunt of Moore's repeating with great gusto, the following lines by Dryden, remarkable for their "easy vigour,” pleasantly occurs to me at this moment :
Let honour and preferment go for gold,
A comparison of a couplet of Dryden's with two of Doctor Johnson's, places the unaffected force and freedom of the former in a striking light.
Let observation with ertensive view
Listen to Glorious John Dryden, and compare his directness with the pompous pleonasms of the anthor of the Rambler.
Look round the habitable world, how few
* There are, however, many very fine monosyllabic lines in English Poetry.
Hazlitt, I think, mentions that it was Wordsworth who first drew attention to these parallel passages.
The modulation of the following lines from Dryden's “Theodore and Honoria” is in admirable keeping with the subject. The pauses are very happily arranged.
While listening to the murmuring leaves he stood
Here is another passage of a similar character from the same poet.
The fanning wind upon her bosom blows;
In Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day (Alexander's Feast) there are numerous adaptations of sound to sense. The repetition of the word fallen in the following lines has a remarkably fine effect.
He sung Darius great and good,
By too severe a fate
And weltering in his blood.
There is a similar beauty in the ensuing.
The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
Gazed on the fair
Who caused his care,
Sighed and looked, and sighed again;
The variation of the time in the following passage is extremely happy.
Now strike the golden lyre again :
Hark, hark, the horrid sound
Dryden seems to have particularly enjoyed the effect of representative harmony. The following verse from a song in his King Arthur has a very martial sound.
Come, if you dare, our trumpets sound;
We come, we come, 'we come, we come,
This, however, is a repetition of some lines in the first of the author's two Odes for St. Cecilia's Day.
The trumpet's loud clangor
And mortal alarms.
Cries hark! the foes come;
These noisy lines are perhaps not in the best taste, and remind me of Pope's description of Sir Richard Blackmore :
What! like Sir Richard, rumbling rough and fierce,