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FOR THE USE OF STUDENTS.
REV. JAMES C. PARSONS,
PRINCIPAL OF PROSPECT HILL SCHOOL, GREENFIELD, MASS.
BY JAMES C. PARSONS.
C. J. PETERS & SON,
PRESS OF BERWICK & SMITH.
THIS little book is intended to take its place as one of a series for the study of the English Language, for pupils in our higher institutions of learning. There seems no good reason why the young men and women in our schools should be more thoroughly and intimately acquainted with the phonetics, the grammar, the rhetoric, and the prosody of the classical languages, than with those of their vernacular. But, unfortunately, this is too often the case, notwithstanding the constant multiplication of text-books upon the English language.
These text-books, for the most part, lack perspective, and grasp of the natural method. We need, first, a book which shall treat thoroughly, but simply, of the phonetic elements of English, with the laws of euphony, of roots and derivation, of grammatical forms, and of the syntactical and idiomatic structure of sentences. The next book in the series should be an English Prose Composition, not dignified by the name of Rhetoric, but devoted wholly to mastering the various transformations of which sentences are capable, to produce variety of expression. The third book might be English Versification, for which the present manual is offered
as a sample; and the fourth would be a Rhetoric in its most comprehensive form.
In preparing this book, the author has been guided by the experience of many years in the class-room. No attempt has been made to produce an exhaustive treatise on the fascinating subject of prosody. The controversy of scholars as to the degree in which quantity prevails as a basis for English rhythm has been studiously avoided. It seems sufficient to follow the prevalent habit of our best poets, as evidenced in their utterance and their works, of assigning to accent the determining characteristic of English verse. Given this as a basis, it is possible to go on and add all the charms of phonetic richness and depth of which the language is capable.
One of the chief features of the book will be found in the copiousness of examples. From the beginning of the study, it is absolutely essential that the ear of the student should be trained to detect all the varieties of melody and harmony, and those subtler effects which can be better exemplified than described. For this training, much depends upon the guidance of the teacher.
It was at first intended to append to each chapter an exercise for the study and practice of the principles contained in it; but upon consideration, it was thought better to leave such a course to the individuality of the teacher, with only such general suggestions as are embodied in the advice to teachers following this preface.
The need, to an educated person, of familiarity with the laws of verse, has received but inadequate attention in our
courses of study. It is true, that the feeling for rhythmic expression is born, not made. But whoever is capable of understanding and reading correctly the best prose in our literature, is capable also of giving a proper rendering of our higher poetry, with the same amount of attention to the laws of rhythm and metre.
Especially is such study important to those who seek expression of their own thoughts in prose or verse. The vocabulary in English is essentially the same in poetry as in prose. "Our prosody," says Henry Reed, in his lectures on English Literature, "seldom if ever disqualifies words on account of their sound, whereas in the Latin, as has been ascertained, one word out of every eight is excluded from its chief metres by the rules of its prosody. The study of English poetry, being thus in closer affinity with the prose, admits of an important use in the formation of a good prose style. A mind as earnestly practical as Dr. Franklin's observed this, and he recommended the study of poetry and the writing of verse for this purpose; it was one of the sources of his own excellent English."
Even for the sake of the few, in each generation, who are favored with the gift of song, we may well afford to offer the advantages of such a study in our regular courses upon language. If one of the uses of teaching music and drawing in our public schools is the opportunity afforded to the fortunate ones to discover their gift and to cultivate it, may we not claim the same office for the study of verse? Who can say what young soul may even now be born among us, who, "mute and inglorious" else, may be thus stimulated and