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indispensable to a right understanding of our verse in any of its divisions. So long as we imagine that syllables indicate time, we attach to them undue importance. Our poets handle syllables with great freedom. "Quantity is loose in all modern verse," say the critics; but it is so for a good reason. Our strong rhythm and punctuating accent enable us to dispense with quantitative recurrence. Syllabic variety contrasted with temporal uniformity creates the charm of English metre. A succession of words like " more room or say, Muse" would give remarkably heavy periods. Even a succession of iambs would make heroic verse too monotonous, though at least one English versifier took this as his ideal. Our poets, as a rule, evidently desire nothing of the kind. Their aim is toward freedom and variety. Pope narrowed and artificialized our verse, yet even Pope constantly varies his move- 1 ment. Other writers of course do it far more. By what has been called opposing accent to quantity, but is really opposing both accent and quantity to time, they keep our attention alert, and give elasticity to their metre. There must indeed be a limit to such variation. It must never be carried so far as
to crush our sense of rhythm. When syllabic variety overpowers temporal recurrence a line ceases to be metrical. But, short of this, any sort of irregularity-whether in the bulk of syllables, or their stress-value, the rate of their succession, their partial or even complete suppression-seems capable of being so handled as to gratify our ears. It is 1 Richard Glover, "Leonidas" (1737).
idle, therefore, to expect in syllables any key to the actual structure of verse.
These considerations seem to show what English scansion really means. It cannot mean attaching a definite value to every syllable of every word. That way madness lies. Guest with his twelve hundred and ninety-six possible cadences, Mr. A. J. Ellis (than whom no higher authority can be quoted) with his forty-five different degrees of syllableprominence, show whither such attempts lead. Fortunately, no such task is incumbent on the student of our verse. It is only necessary to determine the time-measure of any particular poem-which in our chief metres should be known already, while in others a poet succeeds only by making it clear-and then to consider, with as much or as little minuteness as he chooses, the way in which syllables correspond to time.
All the excellent work done by many critics in the way of analyzing the mechanism, content, and character of particular lines has its proper place and function. It becomes of the highest value when it is placed in relation to rhythm. But it is still secondary, not primary. The child who "singsongs" his line has grasped its essential principle, though foolishly emphasizing this at the expense of other elements. The broad lines of scansion are patent and obvious, however delicate and difficult be
1 As before, p. 560.
2 See Philological Society's "Transactions," 1875-1876, p. 442; or Mayor, as before, chapter v., where the views of Mr. Ellis are quoted and discussed.
their application to individual cases. They consist essentially in relating syllables to time.
It will also be evident how futile it is to expect correspondence between the methods of metre and music. Musical notes are almost pure symbols. In theory at least, and no doubt substantially in practice, they can be divided with mathematical accuracy -into fractions of,,,, etc.—and the ideal of music is absolute accordance with time. Verse has other materials and another ideal. Its words are concrete things, not readily carved to such exact pattern. Our poets know this well, and turn it to account. The very stubbornness of their raw material is converted into a grace. Verse and song, as has been said, probably originated together. The earliest form, common to both, may very well have been an inarticulate chant, such as survives slightly modified in the "baloo, balay," or "hey derry down" of popular ballads. But they were soon separated. Neglecting other differences (of pitch, compass, stress, quantitative prolongation, melodic quality), we see that they also differ in their relation to time. The perfection of music lies in absolute accordance with time, that of verse in continual slight departures from time. This is why no musical representations of verse ever seem satisfactory. They assume regularity where none exists. They show syllables as uniform which are really various, and pretend that these keep perfect time when its imperfection forms part of the charm. On the other hand, to suppose that this imperfection is itself rhythmical—that these aberrations from type, variations of stress and
quantity and what not, constitute in themselves the law of verse-would be a still more fatal blunder. Variations are intelligible only by contrast with perfect rhythm, and in studying their nature and limitations it must be remembered that to this contrast they owe their very existence.
General questions have detained us so long, that particular examination of duple rhythm must be reserved for next chapter. The work, however, that has now been done is done once for all. It will not require repetition for each form of verse. If the principles that have been contended for are real, they apply to all varieties of metre. Their reality will, it is hoped, receive confirmation from subsequent examples. It seemed useless to discuss details of scansion, till the general laws governing scansion were defined. Exaggerated views of the part played by syllables would have rendered true analysis impossible. Variations are not rightly understood till it is known from what they vary. Only now that the basis of duple metre may be assumed as known, can we safely proceed to examine particular instances. But the way is now left clear for such examination.
DUPLE METRE (SPECIAL)
THE time-beat of duple metre being determined, we pass on to more particular questions. After time comes accentual notation. When two syllables meet in a period, one usually outweighs the other, and our poets emphasize rhythm by repeating such alternations consecutively. The result is, to put it more precisely, that accentual impact normally rises or falls, increases or diminishes, through each successive period. Duple metre may therefore be divided into duple rising and duple falling (corresponding to the " iambic" and "trochaic" of our grammars), according as one or other alternation is adopted. But these are really subdivisions of the same metre. Our poets, as has been already noted, pass backwards and forwards from one form to the other at their pleasure. Critics have professed to find different effects in the two types; but in view of this interchangeability such professions must be received with distrust. Others would fain annihilate the distinction by writing both alike. As in music the accented note comes first in a bar, so in verse-they say—the syllable of main accentuation should always begin the period. In itself this latter idea is harmless. Where we place