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L. E. Kastner, M.A.
Assistant Lecturer in French Language and Literature
In the present work I have endeavoured to apply the historical and scientific methods of Tobler's Versbau to a concise yet complete history of French versification, without any pretence, however, of rivalling his minute scholarship or his wealth of detail. But instead of confining myself to the treatment of certain phases of the subject only1, and of devoting my attention chiefly to the Old French period, I have dealt most fully with the period extending from Marot to the present day, and have included several chapters omitted by Tobler, and discussed fully certain points in others which he has only skimmed or to which he is content to give a passing reference.
Yet, though the character of the work I proposed to myself precluded any detailed examination of medieval French versification, the continuity of the subject seemed to require a complete if succinct exposition of the laws of Old and Middle French versification. In this part of my work I found, as was to be expected, that Tobler's results had almost invariably to be accepted, yet I considered it necessary to make them my own and to corroborate them by new examples from my own reading in order properly
1 Apart from the Introduction, Tobler's Versbau contains only four chapters, dealing respectively with syllabism, the interior structure of the line, hiatus, and rime.
to estimate their scope and appreciate their relative importance in the subsequent development of French verse
On the other hand I venture to think that the part of my book dealing with the period from Marot to Verlaine will be found to contain a full and accurate presentment of the problems involved in the study of more modern French versification, based on the results of modern scholarship and a personal investigation of the sources. I trust also that the treatment of those portions of older French versification omitted by the author of the Versbau, with regard to which I have had to rely almost exclusively on my own research, may be considered equally satisfactory.
As the different authorities I have utilized are enumerated in the Bibliography prefixed to the book, I may be excused for mentioning here only those to which I have constantly referred. Of these I have derived most help from Stengel's admirable contribution to Grober's Grundriss, while of the dissertations and papers accessible to me the most useful were Langlois' De artibus rhetoricae rhythmicae in Francia ante litterarum renovationem editis, and Zschalig's Die Verslehren von Fabri, Du Pont und Sibilet, whose conclusions, however, I was in nearly every case able to check or supplement from a firsthand acquaintance with the most important early French treatises on poetry. I also found Souriau's L'Evolution du vers francais au xvii" siecle useful,
1 I may say that such has been my practice throughout as regards the examples; in the few cases where I have departed from that course I have duly acknowledged my source.
and frequently consulted, seldom without profit, Bellanger's litudes sur la rime francaise, and Jeanroy's Les origines de la poteie lyrique en France au moyen-dge. Occasional reference has likewise been made to the standard French manuals—Quicherat, Becq de Fouquieres, De Gramont, &c.—but, as their treatment of the subject differs diametrically from the one here adopted, the debt I owe them is not large. In fact it is in that divergence of treatment that lies my chief excuse for the publication of the present work.
It will be noticed that I have not included a chapter on the origins of Romance metres. The omission is intentional, and due to the conviction that no advantage could accrue, in a book of this scope, from the discussion of problems which are as yet not only far from settled, but which indeed have not advanced much beyond the purely hypothetical. On the other hand, it seemed to me that it was no longer possible to ignore the reforms advocated and carried out by the group of the Symbolists during the last twenty years. These reforms, inspired as they are in the main by the laudable intention of doing away with the glaring antagonism existing between the traditional canons of French versification and modern pronunciation (as a consequence of which French verses are frequently only true on paper), have made it difficult, if not impossible, for future poets to write verses according to rules justified three hundred years ago, but which have since become meaningless or only serve to disturb poetic rhythm.
If I am taken to task for having devoted too much space to the poems with a fixed form, my answer is