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Volume 42, 1909
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Art. LIII.—Classification of Verse.

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 2nd June, 1909.]

The Stress-unit.

Section 1.

1. The “stress-unit” is the smallest regularly recurring period or unit in a verse of poetry, the name being here used instead of the usual name “foot.” The unit may be altogether silent, or it may contain from one to four or even five syllables, the last syllable bearing the stress when stress is present.

2. As it is commonly held that the stress may fall on any syllable of a unit, the following remarks are offered as reasons for suggesting that it always normally falls on the last; further, that all apparent varieties of units are closely allied, and spring from a common source. It will be attempted to show that all units may be resolved to the two-syllabled unit, commonly called the “iamb,” which unit is capable naturally of expansion to the three-syllabled and four-syllabled units. As the stress is held to fall always on the last syllable of a unit, a unit will vary only in having less or more syllables; and for convenience a two-syllabled unit will be called a “duple unit,” a three-syllabled a “triple unit,” and a four-syllabled a “quadruple unit.”

3. As mention of the various “feet” must be made during the discussion, the symbols and names are here given, the sign ⌣ representing an unaccented syllable, and—an accented, or stressed.

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Pyrrhic. Anapest.
Spondee. Amphibrach.
Iamb. Dactyl.
Trochee. Choriamb.
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It is wished to show that all these feet may be traced to one fundamental duple unit, with its natural triple and quadruple expansions, such expansion being an innate quality.

4. The pyrrhic and spondee are admitted by prosodists to be feet of only occasional occurrence in British poetry: they are “variations,” and not “fundamentals,” and never of themselves form a metrical scheme, occurring only as isolated feet, due to the dropping or insertion of a stress.

5. The iamb and trochee, however, are fundamental feet—that is, in aggregation either one may form a metrical scheme; but whereas the resulting measures were at one time considered quite distinct, there are now few prosodists who maintain that there is any real difference between them: the lilt of the measures is due rather to the syntactic than to the rhythmic construction. Their indiscriminate mingling in much of the best poetry is in itself sufficient to suggest their identity; and this identity may be made apparent by a few examples. The following pairs are from Milton's “L'Allegro.” They are not consecutive lines in the poem, but are chosen on account of their internal construction being similar:—

(1.) a. Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee (1. 25.)
b. So buxom, blithe, and debonair. (1. 24.)
(2.) a. Some time walking, not unseen, (1. 57.)
b. With store of ladies, whose bright eyes (1. 121.)
(3.) a. Shallow brooks, and rivers wide; (1. 76.)
b. By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green, (1. 58.)

The only difference between the two lines of each pair is that the first begins with a stressed, the second with an unstressed, syllable; the internal pauses fall in the same manner, and drop the unstressed syllable opening b of each pair, and the lines of each pair are rhythmically identical. In the following examples the lines of each pair are consecutive:—

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(4.) Mountains, on whose barren breast (1. 73.)
The labouring clouds do often rest;
(5.) Where perhaps some Beauty lies, (1. 79.)
The Cynosure of neighbouring eyes
(6.) Sometimes with secure delight (1. 91.)
The upland hamlets will invite,
(7.) There let Hymen oft appear, (1. 125.)
In saffron robe, with taper clear.

In these four examples a trochaic line, or line stressed on the first syllable, is followed, with no break in the metre, by an iambic line, or line stressed on the second syllable; and the arbitrariness of this nomenclature is most apparent when it is pointed out that each of the couplets is no more than one long verse bisected. Quotations (6) and (7) should stand,—


Sometimes with secure delight the upland hamlets will invite,


There let Hymen oft appear, in saffron robe, with taper clear.

The absurdity of giving the two halves of one verse different names, and holding that they are in different measures, is surely evident. They are in the same measure from start to finish; and the only question is, which measure is it to be, trochaic or iambic?

6. Take other examples, where the order of the last four is reversed—that is, where a trochaic line follows an iambic:—

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(8.) And young and old come forth to play (1. 97.)
On a sun-shine holy day,
(9.) Oft listening how the hounds and horn (1. 53.)
Cheerly rouse the slumbering morn.
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These in the full verse would stand,—


And young and old come forth to play on a sun-shine holy day,


Oft listening how the hounds and horn cheerly rouse the slumbering morn.

A distinct pause breaks the verse into two halves, and such pause is not so much syntactic as rhythmic; it takes the place of a syllable which is required to complete the metre. This pause gives the clue for the recognition of iambic metre in that which appears to be trochaic: the pause is evident in every instance where a trochaic line follows a stressed syllable, as in examples (8) and (9). It disappears when the line preceding has a double, or, as it is more commonly called, a “feminine” ending, as in the following:—

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(10.) And at my window bid good morrow (1. 46.)
Through the sweet-briar, or the vine,

Here the light syntactic pause after “morrow” is quite different from the heavy rhythmic pause after “play” and “horn” in examples (8) and (9): the rhythmic pause has, in fact, been filled by the last syllable of “morrow.”

7. The pause cannot, of course, be detected at the beginning of a poem whose opening is trochaic, but its presence in all subsequent places where a trochaic line follows a stressed syllable is indubitable evidence in favour of its presence at the opening also. It may occur in other parts of the verse than the beginning, as in Shakspeare's—

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(11.) Thou for whom Jove would swear (On a day … 1. 17.)
Juno but an Ethiop were.

It is evident that a pause equal to a syllable separates “whom” and “Jove”: is it not equally that a pause equal to a syllable separates “swear” and “Juno”?

8. The fact that the ear is conscious of a trochaic effect in many verses is by no means disputed; but it is contended that it is not the rhythm or the metre which causes this effect, but the construction of the words themselves. Again quoting from “L'Allegro”:—


Shallow brooks, and rivers wide;


Mountains, on whose barren breast

The words “shallow,” “rivers,” “mountains,” and “barren” are themselves trochaic, or are accented on the first syllable, and not on the second, and they impress their own character upon the rhythm in which they float; for that rhythm, be it remembered, is itself inaudible. In “Il Penseroso,” however, the following lines occur—

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(14.) With antique pillars massy proof, (1. 158.)
And storied windows richly dight,

—where six words out of ten are trochaic, yet they occur in iambic lines. The trochaic effect is still more noticeable when the lines have feminine endings, as in,—

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(15.) Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Whilst the landscape round it measures;
Russet lawns and fallows gray,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray; (L'All., 1. 69, &c.)

The feminine endings give the perfect form to the trochaic measure, and it will be noticed how great is the change when the feminine endings cease. It will also be noticed how the first and second lines are run together with absolutely no pause dividing them; and how the slight syntactic pause after “measures” is widened to the absolute rhythmic pause after

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“gray.” Yet, though feminine endings make the perfect trochaic measure, such endings also occur in admitted iambic measure:—

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(16.) With wanton heed and giddy cunning; (1. 141.)
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the charms that tie
The hidden soul of harmony;

A quite different effect results from the feminine endings in this example. Comparing (15) and (16), we have,—


Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures, whilst the landscape round it measures;


With wanton heed and giddy cunning; the molting voice through mazes running,

Example (15a) reads quite smoothly; (16a) has a curious “catch” in the middle, a “tripping” effect which is altogether absent from (15a). In fact, the endings “cunning” and “running” in example (16) are truly feminine, each introducing a triple unit into the verses: the endings “pleasures” and “measures” in (15) are only apparently feminine; no triple units result, as the extra syllables of the feminines merely take the places of syllables dropped from the trochaic openings.

9. Since they produce a triple unit, the last syllables of “cunning” and “running” would by many prosodists even of the present day be called hypermetrical or extra-metrical; but they are surely as much part of themetre as extra syllables introduced in any other part of the verse, as,—.


Of herbs and other country messes, which the neat-handed Phillis dresses: (1. 85.)

Presumably “the” would be considered the extra-metrical syllable, for the verse runs smoothly without it:—


Of herbs and other country messes, which neat-handed Phillis dresses;

The fact is, however, that these so-called extra-metrical syllables occupy slight syntactic pauses. These pauses will receive fuller attention in a subsequent section, and they need not receive further consideration at this point, it being noted that it is their presence after certain words arranged in syntactic groups that gives the iambic or trochaic effect.

10. In “L'Allegro” and “Il Penseroso” the trochaic and iambic lines can be readily perceived; but unless absolute indication is afforded by the rimes, or by some index other than the words themselves, it is often impossible to say of many poems if they are to be regarded as iambic or trochaic. Often it goes by majority: if over half the lines begin with trochees, the poem is considered trochaic; if over half with iambs, iambic: it has even been contended that the former gives a merry, the latter a more solemn, measure; and by these two arbitrary distinctions “L'Allegro” has been called trochaic and “Il Penseroso” iambic. Led by the rimes, a first reading of the following “Bacchanalian Verse” by Herrick will probably be iambic:—

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(18.) Drink up That we
Your cup, Foresee,
But not spill wine; You are cloy'd here,
For if you If so, no
Do Hoe,
‘Tis an ill signe; But avoid here.

This can be read, and the rimes would indicate that it should be read, as ambic verse; and it is not until the last line is reached that the reader

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can be certain the lines should be read not in iambic, but in trochaic measure.

11. Seeing, then, the absolutely interchangeable nature of these measures in poems like Milton's “L'Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”—remembering, too, the important fact that when a trochaic line follows one ending with a stressed syllable it is always divided from that syllable by an undoubted pause, and that when this pause, as is often the case, is filled with the syllable of a feminine ending the two lines run on as one—it appears to be beyond doubt that the names “iambic” and “trochaic” have been applied to one and the same metre, whose words may have a peculiar lilt, such lilt being imparted to them by their syntactic construction, and not by the rhythm in which they float. It is due to a misdirected zeal that a false standard has been established requiring the syllabic form of poems to conform with one or other of two “ideals,” iambic or trochaic. The standard is, however, cumbered with permitted licenses. For instance, trochaic measure, which in its perfect form should throughout run in the form of the first two lines of example (15), is allowed the license of dropping the last and unaccented syllable of each line—is licensed, in fact, to become iambic, a license of which it makes use most freely; again, iambic measure is allowed the license of dropping an occasional opening unaccented syllable—is licensed, in other words, to become trochaic. What does this mean more than that the same metre is appearing now in one form, now in the other, according as the syntactic construction, which is the visible and audible index, may direct?

Section II.

1. The two fundamental “two-syllabled feet” having been reduced to one simple unit with its stress on the second syllable, the three “three- syllabled feet”—viz., anapest, amphibrach, and dactyl—may now be taken into consideration.

2. The first three lines of the lyric opening Byron's “The Bride of Abydos” have been quoted by prosodists as examples of the three three-syllabled metres resulting from the use of anapestic, amphibrachic, and dactylic feet respectively:—

(1.) Knów ye the/ lánd where the/ cýpress and/ mýrtle
Are émblems/ of déeds that/ are dóne in/ their clíme,
Where the ráge/ of the vúl/ ture, the lóve/ of the túr/ tle,
[Now mélt in / to sórrow/ now mádden/ to críme ?]

Taking each line as an entity, and numbering off from the beginning, the lines have been split into three-syllabled units, or feet, the first line containing dactyls, or feet stressed on the first syllable; the second line amphibrachs, or feet stressed on the second syllable; the third line anapests, or feet stressed on the third syllable. The fourth line is of the same construction as the second. It will be noted that each line tails off with a mutilated foot. Edgar Allan Poe was the first to point out the fallacy of the above division. He showed that the lines, though dividing in this mutilated way to the eye, flowed on unbrokenly to the ear when read aloud. In fact, the ear suggested a different division; and were it not for the syntactic construction it would be impossible to say where one metre ended and the other began.

3. As in the case of duple metre discussed in Section I, each line as printed in example (1) of this section is only a half-verse; the lines may

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therefore be printed as full verses, still divided in feet of three syllables, starting from the beginning of each verse,—

(1a.) Knów ye the / lánd where the/ cýpress and/ mýrtle are/ émblems of/ déeds that are/ dóne in their/ clíme,
Where the ráge/ of the vúl/ true, the lóve/ of the túr/ tle, now mélt/ into sór/ row now mád/ den to críme ?/

By this division the two verses read quite smoothly, and there is only one faulty foot in the two—viz., the last foot of the first verse, which contains but one syllable stressed. Note, however, that were the two verses considered as one metrical entity, and the dívision continued as from the beginning, the whole would be composed of dactylic feet, instead of, as at present, half being dactylic and half anapestic. The second verse, however, would end with a defective foot, a single stressed syllable. The entity, then, containing two complete verses, or four lines, reads with perfect rhythmic swing throughout, and opens and closes with stressed syllables. Cannot an inference be drawn from an analogous example in duple metre?—

  • (2.) Thére let/ Hýmen/ óft a/ ppéar, in/ sáffron/ róbe, with/ táper/ clér,

  • And pómp/, and feást/, and ré/ velrý/, with másk/, and án/ tique pá/ geantrý/;

Here also are two verses, or four lines, in perfect rhythm, opening and closing with stressed syllables; in two metres as divided, but only in one in reality—iambic. Example (2) should, then, be divided,—

  • (2a.) Thére/ let Hý/ men óft/ appéar/, in sáf/ fron róbo/, with tá/ per cléar/,

  • And pómp/, and féast/, and ré/, with másk/, and án/, and án/ tique pá/ geantrý/;

Now, it has been shown that though a verse may open with a stressed syllable in duple metre, that metre is still iambic, the first unit being composed of a stressed syllable preceded by a pause. Example (1a) is no more than the triple equivalent of (2a), which implies, also, that the dactylic foot is simply the reverse of the anapestic foot, the shadowy amphibrachic foot being nothing more than the intermediary. This may be put in the language of signs thus:—

Anapest. Amphibrach. Dactyl.
⌣ ⌣— ⌣—⌣ —⌣ ⌣

The contention, then, as regards Byron's lines is that their division should be in units stressed on the third syllable, thus:—

(3.) Knów/ ye the lánd/ where the cý/ press and mýre/ tle are ém/ blems of déeds/ that are dóne/ in their clíme/,
Where the ráge/ of the vúl/ ture, the lóve/ of the túr/ tle, now mélt/ into sór/ row now mád/ den to crime ?/

4. Examples, almost pure, of the three supposed triple metres may, of course, be found, and one of each is quoted:—

(4.) Dactylic

Bird of the wilderness,
Blithesome and cumberless,
Light be thy matin o'er woodland and lea!
Emblem of happiness!
Blest is thy dwelling-place!
Oh, to abide in the desert with thee!

(Hogg, “The Skylark.”)

(5.) Amphibrachic.
The gay birds are singing,
The gay flowrets springing,
O'er meadow and mountain and down in the vale;
The green leaves are bursting;
My spirit is thirsting
To bask in the sunbeams, and drink the fresh gale.

(Barton, “Spring.”)

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(6.) Anapestic.

The Assyrian, came down like a wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
And the sheen of his spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

(Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib.”)

The third example only is perfect; (4) to be perfect should have the words “lea” and “thee” each followed by two unaccented syllablus, and (5) to be perfect should have the words “vale” and “gale” each followed by one unaccented syllable. In all three examples each full verse ends on a stressed syllable; and dividing a verse of each, not in accordance with its supposed metre, but in accordance with (3) above, we have,—


Bird/ of the wil/ derness, blíthe/ some and cúm/ berless, light/ be thy má/ tin o'er wóod/ land and leá !/


The gáy/ birds are sing/ ing, the gáy/ flowrets spring/ ing o'er méa/ dow and moún/ tain and dówn/ in the vále/.


The Assý/ rian came dówn/ like a wólf/ on the fóld/, and his có/ horts were gleá/ ming in púr/ ple and góld/.

Each verse is now identical in all but the first unit; and in examples (4) and (5) it will be noticed that there is a metrical pause after “lea” and “vale,” such pause representing in the case of (4) two dropped syllables, and in the case of (5) one dropped syllable. It appears probable, then, that examples (4), (5), and (6) are in reality in the same metre—anapestic; an important fact to remember being that whilst a poem in anapests almost invariably ends on a stressed syllable, it very rarely opens with two unaccented syllables—in the great majority of cases it opens with one, and sometimes with the stressed syllable, as in such poems as (4) and (5) and the following:—

(7.) My heart's in the ‘Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer.

(Burns, My “Heart's in the Highlands.”)

(8.) Hie upon Hielands
And low upon Tay,
Bonnie George Campbell
Rode out on a day.

(Anon., “Bonnie George Campbell.”)

5. In their absolutely perfect form, poems in dactylic and amphibrachic measures are not so frequently met with: examples are:—

(9.) Dactylic.

Tell me, thou bonny bird,
When shall I marry me ?
When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.

(Scott, “Proud Maisie.”)

(10.) Amphibrachic.

And do I then wonder that Julia deceives me,
When surely there's nothing in nature more common ?
She vows to be true, and, while vowing, she leaves me—
But could I expect any more from a woman ?

(Moore, “Inconstancy.”)

The very rarity of such perfect forms shows that, whilst they exist, they are unnatural.

6. Objection may be made that by the proposed anapestic division of Hogg's verses the words “wilderness,” “blithesome,” “cumberless,” “matin,” &c., are divided, part being in one unit and part in another; whereas in a dactylic division the whole of each of these words falls within the unit. This objection has already been met in paragraph 8 of

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Section I: it is the words themselves that are dactylic, not the rhythm; and to divide according to the word-construction is syntactic, not rhythmic, division. Take a poem where this dactylic effect, produced, as before noted, by the almost impalpable syntactic pauses dividing words, is most strongly marked—Hood's “Bridge of Sighs”:—

(11.) Make no deep scrutiny
Into her mutiny
Rash and undutiful:
Past all dishonour—
Death has left on her
Only the beautiful.

The “effect” here is undoubtedly dactylic; but Hood could only maintain the perfect measure in short snatches, heightening the effect by the free use of dactylic words—or words of three syllables accented on the first syllable—as, “tenderly,” “slenderly,” “humanly,” “womanly,” “dutiful,” “beautiful,” &c. But other effects are evident:—

(12.) The bleak wind of March
Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch
Of the black flowing river.

Here anapests and amphibrachs take the place of dactyls. Amphibrachs preponderate in—

(13.) a. So far in the river.
b. From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood, with amazement—&c.

Anapests in—

(14.) a. Young, and so fair!
b. Swift to be hurled—&c.

The examples in (14) are paralleled by Thackeray's “Mahogany Tree,” which is in anapests. (See example (61) in Section III.)

7. The difficulty of maintaining a dactylic metre that shall be perfect in form for any length of time is shown by the continual lapses in such metre. The “Bridge of Sighs” evidences this, and still more does Scott's song,—

(15.) Where shall the lover rest,
Whom the fates sever
From his true maiden's breast,
Parted for ever?
Where, through groves deep and high,
Sounds the far billow,
Where early violets die
Under the willow.

Not only are the units “lover rest,” “maiden's breast,” “deep and high,” “violets die,” very poor dactyls, the necessarily unaccented syllables being much too heavy, but the riming is most faulty. The rime should being on the stress and ring through the unaccented syllables, as in “slenderly” and “tenderly”; here it does not appear until the last syllable, which is unaccented. In the third stanza—

(16.) Where shall the traitor rest,
He the deceiver,
Who could win the maiden's breast,
Ruin and leave her ?
In the lost battle,
Borne down by the flying,
Where mingles war's rattle
With groans of the dying,

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—the metre breaks down; it becomes amphibrachic, intermediate between dactylic and anapestic.

8. As in Byron's lyric, so in Moore's “Sound the Loud Timbrel,” the three metres are mixed:—

(17.) Praise to the Conqueror, praise to the Lord!
His word was our arrow, His breath was our sword.
Who shall return to tell Egypt the story
Of those she sent forth in the hour of her pride ?
For the Lord hath looked out from His pillar of glory,
And all her brave thousands are dash'd in the tide.
Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark sea!
Jehovah hath triumphed; His people are free.

Here lines 3 to 6 are identical with quotation (1) in this section, so-called dactyl, amphibrach and anapest following one another and dovetailing perfectly.

9. Prosodists allow dactylic verse two licenses: the last two unaccented syllables may be dropped, so that the verse ends on a stress, and it may be preceded by an unaccented syllable. By the examples from Byron and Moore, (1) and (17), it will be seen that it may also be preceded by two unaccented syllables. What results? By allowing the dactylic verse these licenses it is allowed to become an anapestic verse—a consummation towards which it is perpetually struggling. The conclusion then appears inevitable: The ending on a stressed syllable, and the prefixing of unaccented syllables, are not so much licenses as assertions of the natural type: the metre is doing its utmost to revert—a constantly recurring act in all artificial forms throughout living nature. In the quotation above (17) it will be observed that after each of the first two lines there is a pause, as also after the sixth and seventh. These pauses take the places of syllables that have been dropped; the syllables are present in the third to fifth lines, hence their unbroken swing. Restore the syllables throughout, and what is the result ? Either the whole stanza is in dactyls minus the last two unaccented syllables, or in anapests minus the first two, or in amphibrachs minus the first and the last. Is it not, then, supererogative to give three names all duple metre is more naturally iambic than trochaic, all triple metre is more naturally anapestic than either amphibrachic or dactylic.

Section III.

1. Having offered reasons for reducing the number of constituent units of British metre to two normal basic units, two-syllabled and three-syllabled, or duple and triple, it remains to consider the relationship of these two each to the other. It has been maintained that each has its own peculiar “effect”; that the “time” of duple metre differs from the “time” of triple metre in the same manner that march-time differs from waltz-time; that the two do not naturally mingle in one metrical scheme, but that where they do occur together the triple unit becomes a “triplet,” of a nature different from the triple unit when it occurs unmixed with the duple.

2. In any poem that may be examined some lines will appear syllabically fuller than others. Quoting again from “L'Allegro,” the line,


And fresh-blown roses wash'd in dew.

is fuller than the line,


To live with her, and live with thee

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There is less pause between the units of the first line than between the units of the second, because in the former case there is more articulate sound in the units, they being much more heavily charged with consonants. In the second line there appears a distinct though undefinable pause, or, rather, a sustaining of the voice, after each unit:—


To live with her, and live with thee

Each unit is occupied by something more than the words—a space which in the first line is almost entirely occupied by the consonantal sounds of “fresh,” “roses,” and “wash'd.” When the unit has a naturally long vowel in the stressed place the pause is perhaps not so apparent, as such vowel is instinctively dwelt on; so, too, when the stressed vowel is followed by a liquid, upon which the voice finds no difficulty in dwelling. The reality of this “vocal pause” is more apparent when syllables are inserted to take its place, as in the following lines from “L'Allegro”:—


The la/bouring clouds/ do of/ ten rest/. (1. 74.)


Are at/their sa/voury din din/ner set/. (1. 84.)


The clouds/ in thou/ sand li/ veries dight/. (1. 62.)


To ma/ ny a youth/ and ma/ ny a maid/. (1. 95.)

In each italicised unit the pause has been filled by an extra syllable, and the effect produced is unmistakable. The pause can be restored by writing and pronouncing “labouring” “lab'ring,” “savoury” “sav'ry,” “liveries” “liv'ries,” and by eliding or coalescing the vowles “y” and “a” in “many a”—“many'a”; and it will be remembered how common such mutilated forms are in verse printed according to the older rigid artificial school of poetry, whose inflexible rule was that in duple metre no unit could contain more than two syllables. When such mutilations are indulged in, it will be noted that the restored pause, whilst it follows the unit, divides the word.

3. The pause is made more apparent by the presence of triple units:—

(7.) As blithe as the linnet sings in the green wood,
So blithe we'll wake the morn;
And through the wide forest of merry Sherwood,
We'll wind the bugle horn.

(Ballad-farce, “Robin Hood,” 1751.)

Here the palpable pauses in the second and forth lines seem to call for syllables, and the call is answered and satisfied by saying,—

(7a.) As blithe as the linnet sings in the green wood,
So blithely we'll waken the morn;
And through the wide forest of merry Sherwood,
We'll blow on the echoing horn.

This, it may be held, is an undoubted proof that the metre in this instance is triple, not duple, and is so indicated by the opening line, even though in the whole stanza there are only six triple against eight duple units. There are poems, however, in which the duple and triple units blend so perfectly that the contrast is not so pronounced as in (7). Take, for example, “The Fairy's Song,” by J. H. Dixon:—

(8.) When the village is wrapt in quiet sleep,
And the hum of voices is still,
From our tiny mansions we softly creep,
And hie to the thymy hill.
And there we trip with our nimble feet,
While the moonbeams fall on the fell,
And our melody is the music sweet
That peals from the heather-bell.

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Here the first stanza contains seven each of duple and triple units; the second contains six triple and eight duple; what is the resultant metre ? The fact is, it is impossible to say where duple metre ends and triple begings. This is notably so in many of the older ballads; for example, “The Lochmaben Harper,” “Jock o' the Tyde,” “Hobbie Noble,” “Kinmont Willie”—all from Scott's “Border Minstrelsy.” On the rise of the artificial school of prosody all such “mixed” verse was considered not only faulty, but vulgar, and was left to the mercies of the uneducated; and their mercies certainly proved tender, for to them we owe the preservation of our immortal ballads. The artificial school held that all units should be uniform—that in a verse all should contain either two or three syllables. Furthermore, it was considered impossible to rise to poetic heights in three-syllabled metres, so that metre fell into disrepute. Dryden and Pope, the chief exponents of the artificial school, confined themselves almost entirely to the two-syllabled metre. Dryden, according to Samuel Johnson, carried to more perfect pitch the reform in English verse begun by Waller and Denham. The following extract is from his Life of Dryden: “After about half a century of forced thoughts, and rugged metre, some advances towards nature and harmony had been already made by Waller and Denham; they had shown that long discourses in rhyme grew more pleasing when they were broken into couplets, and that verse consisted not only in the number, but in the arrangement of syllables.” So important was the number of syllables considered, that to write in verse was to write in numbers: Pope, in whom the artificial style culminated, “Lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.” It is due to the fact that we have not yet cast off this yoke of “number” that we look askance at a mingling of duple and triple metres; yet can we find fault with poems like Coleridge's “Christabel” or Shelley's “Sensitive Plant” ?

4. Cowper, master of the anapest, was the first to revive the three-syllabled metre; and whilst he did not, perhaps, intentionally mingle the two-syllabled and three-syllabled, from two of his finest examples of the anapest, “The Rose” and “The Poplar Field,” the following lines are taken:—


The rose had been wash'd, just wash'd in a shower,


The poplars are fell'd; farewell to the shade

The poems of which these two are the opening lines are admittedly anapestic; yet a line of exactly similar construction—


And ever his chere is sobre and softe, (C.A., Book I, “Pride,” 1. 45.)

—is iambic. It occurs in Gower's “Confessio Amantis.” How can a metre of identical construction bear one name in one context, another in another ? It may be held that we do not know how such a line would be read in now ? If it is read like Cowper's lines, is it not the same metre ? The anomaly disappears if it is admitted that two-syllabled and three-syllabled (duple and triple) metres are interchangeable—are, indeed, two manifestations of the same unit. Then Gower's lines,

(12.) Out of the temple he goth his way.
And she began to bid and pray,

(C.A., Book I, “Pride,” 1. 359.)

and (11) above offer no stumbling-block to scansion: the unit has protean powers, and these are the powers contributing towards the endless variations

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in which it is capable of appearing. Thus it is that the following lines from “Thomas the Rhymer” are congruous and harmonious:—

(13.) Alas, he seyd, ful wo is me,
I trow my dedes will werke me care,
Jesu, my sole tak to ye,
Whedir so euyr my body sal fare.

(Appendix to “Thomas the Rhymer,” Scott's Minstrelsy.)

5. Mr. T.S. Omond, in his “Study of Metre” (p. 54), quotes the following verse—


The sun, the moon, the stars, the seas, the hills

—and says concerning it, “No one, reading it, would doubt its iambic structure… Yet, if we turn to Tennyson's poem ‘The Higher Pantheism,’ we shall find the words in the first line, followed by other three: ‘and the plains.‘This addition works a notable change … the time underlying the whole poem is triple.” If this be so, then surely the time underlying all duple verse may be considered as triple, for all duple units have the latent power of amplification to triple; and in this light the identification of British with classic iambs may not, after all, be altogether erroneous. But, employing similar argument as with Tennyson's verse, should not Shelley's “Indian Serenade” be in triple time ?—for we find in almost every line a triple unit in the most important position, the opening—

(15.) I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright.

—yet who will hold that this poem is in triple rather than in duple time ? If, again, quotation (14) is in triple time simply because it is followed by a triple unit, what is to be said of Milton's verse ?—


And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flies: (P.L., ii, 950.)

This verse, from “Paradise Lost,” is undoubtedly duple. If, then, Tennyson's verse is triple, though exactly similar in construction, is that fact not a proof of the triple potentiality of duple verse ? Take the opening of a Song, by Miss Bryant:—

(17.) Ah! friend beloved, in the cold earth fading,
By every fragile mind forgot;

A first reading would make this duple:—

(17a.) Ah! friend/ beló/ ved ín/ the cóld/ earth fá/ ding,
By é/ very frá/ gile mínd/ forgót/;

but on the addition of the following verse quite another grouping of the syllables starts up:—

(17b.) Ah ! friend beloved in the cold earth fading,
By every fragile mind forgot;
Like a drooping tree a dead flow'ret shading,
My form still bends o'er thy resting spot.

The metre has become triplé. Again, take Drayton's “Battle of Agincourt”:—

(18.) Fair stood the wind for France,
When we our sails advanco,
Nor now to prove our chance
Longer will tarry,
But putting to the main
At Kaux the mouth of Seine.
With all his martial train
Landed King Harry.

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In the first line the words naturally accented are the second, fourth, and sixth; the same is true of the second and third lines. Naturally, then, the stanza will be read in iambics until the fourth line breaks the metre, and the eighth rouses a doubt as to what metre is really intended. The doubt is resolved when a stanza like the following is met:—

(18.) Suffolk his axe did ply,
Beaumont and Willoughby
Bore them right doughtily,
Ferrers and Fanhope.

The metre is intended for dactylic; and as such, rugged indeed, yet dactylic, it must be read.

6. A more curious example of the interchangeable nature of duple and triple is furnished by Lady Nairn's “Land o' the Leal.” The first stanza is in perfect triple metre:—

(19.) I'm wearing awa', Jean,
Like snaw when it's thaw, Jean,
I'm wearing awa’
To the land o' the leal.

(I'm wéar/ ing awá'/, Jean, like snáw/ when it's tháw/, Jean, I'm weár/ ing awá'/ to the lánd/ o' the léal/.)

Yet take the last stanza:—

(19a.) Then dry that tearfu' e'e, Jean,
My soul langs to be free, Jean,
And angels wait on me
To the land o' the leal.

Now the metre appears undoubtedly duple; and with this duple idea the first stanza is sung paused as follows:—

(19b.) I'm wear/ ing/ awa'/, Jean/,
Like snaw/ when/ it's thaw/, Jean/,
I'm wear/ ing/ awa'/ to/ the land/ o'/ the leal/.

7. The questions of “pause” and “time” go together. The “time” of a unit is the interval of time between stress and stress; and, whilst such intervals vary in a slight degree according to the emotion of the verse, in any one metrical scheme they are approximately equal. The greatest amount of variation is caused by the syllabification; a unit containing only one syllable would appear to be of shorter duration than one containing three; but the one-syllabled unit is compensated by pause, and both are practically equal, though there is always a tendency towards the shortening of a pause. Triple units appear to be in faster time than duple; but, if anything, they are in slower time. It is not so much, however, the time that varies, as the rate of articulation of the syllables spoken. Though the “time” of any two units is comparatively equal, if one has more syllables than the other it will appear to be faster. In ballad-metre, owing to the abstract emotion of the narrative form, the time-value of the units varies little, and it is this which gives the sing-song nature to that metre; in dramatic blank verse, on the other hand, where action makes the emotion actual, the time-value of the units varies constantly. This variation can be demonstrated by reading aloud; and, whilst the unaided ear cannot always detect the variations of time in progressive units, such variation is a once apparent when the reading is done to the beats of a metronome. In the fundamental rhythm of poetry, time-value is of primary importance; syllables are secondary, though the presence of syllables is necessary to indicate metre. The metrical units float upon rhythmic units, accent and

– 494 –

stress usually coinciding; but the rhythm is still there, though the syllables be absent—hence the “pauses.” It is for this reason, too, that once the time-value of the rhythm has been impressed on the imagination syllables may be dropped, and stresses suppressed, without danger of the rhythm being lost. More: there may even be occasional clash of accent and stress—that is, the syntactic accent may fall in places where there is no rhythmic stress, an unaccented, unimportant word clogging and muffling the stress. The result is momentary dissonance; and, as in music, it must be sparingly used, or the rhythmic harmony is destroyed.

8. The school of poetic “numbers” made syllables, not time, of primary importance. Many verses even of our first poets were by that school regarded as defective if they happened to contain less or more than the standard number of syllables supposed to go a verse. In blank verse or heroics, for example, every verse was to contain ten syllables; certainly not less, and, if at all possible, not more. Procrustean drastic measures were adopted by the prosodists to compel recalcitrant verses to conform to this rule. That school also required that every unit of iambic verse should contain two syllables: the result to them was “smoothness of numbers”; to us, intolerable monotony. Pope's verses glitter artificially; they do not flash with life. The two verses from “Paradise Lost”—

(20.) To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,

(P.L., i, 159.)

—are animadverted upon by the commentator Newton in this way: “Dr. Bentley would read it thus:


To do ought good will never be our task,

as of a smoother and stronger accent; but I conceive that Milton intended it to vary the acent of never and ever in the next verse.” Bentley, then, would mend an irregular metre by changing the position of the words, and Newton would destroy a strong metre with a wrong accent. Smoothness and evenness are accentuated and relieved by occasional departures from the rigid type, and it is in the subtlety of variation caused by such departure that Milton excels. Neither of his commentators could appreciate the value of a pause other than that at the verse-end, and neither would admit a triple unit; but in this instance the irregular construction brought about by making the first syllable of “never,” preceded by a pause, occupy a whole unit, a triple unit following, adds most decided emphasis to the text:—


To dó/ ought good/ né/ ver will bé/ our tásk/.

This emphasis is entirely lost by both renderings of the commentators. The second verse, too, departs from the usual type—there is a “clash of accent and stress”:—


But ever to do ill our sole delight.

Here the syntactic accent should fall on “do,” the rhythmic stress on “to.” A compromise is necessary. Either the accent and stress should be made to coincide by introducing a triple unit followed by a paused unit, as,—


But é/ ver to dó/ ill/ our sóle/ delight/,

or accent and stress should be equalised, the words “to” and “do” being given equal weight, such weight probably, but not perhaps necessarily, to be less than that of the other stressed syllables of the verse—


But é/ ver to/ do ill/ our sóle/ delight/

when again emphasis is given by a slight pause before “ill.”

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9. It is still held by some prosodists that poets at times deliberately give words a different accent from the prose accent. R. Bridges, quoting from Dr. A. Schmidt's “Shakespeare Lexicon,” gives a very full list of examples in his Appendix on “Recession of Accent.” From that list the following are taken:—

  • (22.) a. He is compléte in feature and in mind. (Gent., II, iv, 73.)

  • b. A maid of grace and cómplete majesty. (L.L.L., I, i, 137.)

  • c. Though time seem so advérse and means unfit. (All's W., V, i, 26.)

  • d. Thy ádverse party is thy advocate. (Sonn., 35, 10)

Here again is a clash of accent and stress, but the alternative scansions of (21a) and (21b) will not hold. Is there an actual recession of accent ?—that is, has the accent absolutely been transferred from the second syllable to the first ? Without doubt the first syllable bears the stress in the alternate examples of (22), but has the accent altogether disappeared from the second syllable ? I think not. It will, I think, be found that (22) b will be spoken, not as—

  • (23.) A máid of gráce and cómplete májestý,

but as—

  • (24.) A máid of gráce and cómpléte májestý,

where the two syllables of “complete” receive almost equal prominence, the first by virtue of stress, the second by virtue of natural accent; the stress is, if anything, slightly heavier than the accent, but only slightly. It will be noted that most words with this alternative accent are two-syllabled words accented on the second syllable. This may be in accord with some philological law in the English tongue, where two-syllabled words accented on the first syllable greatly predominate over those accented on the second, in the proportion of at least three to one. This, too, may be the reason why, in poetry, two-syllabled words naturally accented on the first syllable seldom have the alternative accent on the second.

(25.) Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh like parrots at a bag-piper;
And others of such vinegar aspéct
That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile,
Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable.

(Merch. Ven., I, i, 51.)

Can a reason be assigned for the fact two-syllabled words tend to take the accent on the first syllable ? Words like “courage,” “reason,” “honour,” “virtue,” accented on the second syllable in Chaucer, now receive the accent on the first; the law in obedience to which this has resulted is still operative, for in Australia “miráge” is as often pronounced “mirage.” and there, as elsewhere, does not the Scot say “result” for “result” ? We have many instances, of course, where the two accents are used to give two different meanings, as “cófines,” “cónduct,” “abstract,” “óbject,” “súbject,” “rébel,” for the noun, and “confines,” “condúct,” “abstráct,” “objéct,” “subject,” “rebél,” for the verb. These words could naturally not receive the alternate accents, as each accent has its own definite signification. Again, there are words which in the old ballads, as, too, in some modern compositions, received the alternative accents—such as “dáughter,” “pláyer,” lády,” cóuntry,” distorted into “daughtér,” “playér,” “ladyé,” “countree” or even “counterie.” It belongs perhaps to philology to explain many of these variations, but prosody must at least notice them.

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10. Often the clash between stress and accent is avoided by judicious pausing: the pause need not even be equal to a syllable, but it serves the purpose of separating two elements that are at war if juxtaposed, but are in harmony when superimposed. In any unit a rhythmic stress will never, apparently, yield to a syntactic accent: if the latter be present, the former will not be absent: they may be coalesced by a pause, and harmony is restored. Over and over again verses occur where it is impossible to overlook the fact that a pause forms a vital part of the unit. The pauses in Tennyson's

  • (26.) Break, break, break,

cannot possibly be overlooked; and they are as eident in the second of Moore's lines,—

(27.) But there's no/ thing half/ so sweet/ in life/
As love's/ young/ dream/

Is it not evident that a syllable has been dropped before each of the words “young” and “dream,” and that the place of such syllable is occupied by a pause,? forms a complete unit, equal in time-value to any other unit in the verse—even to the first, which contains three syllables. That this is no fictitious value may be seen in the two following lines—

(28.) a. Oh/, dear/, what/ can the mat/ ter be,
b. March/, march/, Et/ trick and Te/ viotdale,

—where there can be no doubt that the units composed of a single syllable and pause are equal to those containing three syllables.

11. Always, then, when the unit contains only one syllable—often when it contains two, and even when it contains three—more or less palpable pause may be discerned. This pause is most evident when the units of the verse are not equally syllabled—that is, when one-syllabled and two-syllabled, or two-and three-, or one-, two-, and three-syllabled units mingle in the one verse.

(29.) The né/ vir a wórd/ had Dí/ ckie to sáy/,
Sae he thrúst/ the lánce/ through his fáuse/ bodié/ .

This verse is from “Kinmont Willie,” one of the old ballads that show the intimate mingling of duple and triple metres. In “Kinmount Willie” the duple predominates, yet in verses such as (29) it will be noticed that whenever a duple unit follows a triple a slight pause comes between: a pause, be it remembered, which is vocal; it is not a cessation of sound, but a dwelling on the stressed vowel. In the second line of (29) a pause—slight indeed, yet a pause—precedes “the lance,” and another precedes “bodie.” It is possible to change the position of the first of these pauses by making the stress fall on “through” instead of on “lance”—

(29a.) Sae he thrúst/ the lance thrógh/ his faúse/ bodié/ .

—or it is possible to cause the disappearance of the pauses by putting syllables in their place—

(29b.) Sae he thrúst/ the long lánce/ through his crá/ ven bodié/ .

12. It is not contended that the two-syllabled and three-syllabled metres cannot each have a distinctive “tempo”; but it is contended that such “tempo” is artifical, and, if it exist, is the result of the schools drawing a sharp line of demarcation between units containing two and units containing three syllables—it is, in fact, a result of the artificial science of

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“numbers.” Coleridge and Shelley, in “Christabel” and “The Sensitive Plant,” are but reasserting the liberty that was enjoyed by the old balladists: they are restoring the form with an exalted spirit.

13. Again, it may be held that, admitting the pause on the stressed vowel, this pause is not due to the potentiality of the duple unit to expand to the triple, but to the fact that the stressed vowel is often a naturally long as in the last lines of Marvell's “Song of the Emigrants in the Bermudas”—

(30.) And all the way to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.

—where every stressed vowel except that in “kept” is long, and would naturally be dwelt on. This very fact that every duple unit has apparently the power of lengthening its stressed syllable, and the fact that the stressed syllable is in many cases actually sustained as if to bridge over some slight gulf between it and the following syllable, have led to the conception of the idea that “quantity,” as understood of classical verse, may be an integral part of English verse, or may be made so—that is, that there may be long and short syllables bearing some definite and constant relationship to each other. This is, in many cases, actually brought about when a poem is set to music, as in “Ye Banks and Braes,” “Jockey to the Fair,” “Love's Young Dream,” and so on, where the stressed syllables are twice the length of the others; but there is absolutely no uniformity or consistency in this, and the three songs mentioned could just as well have been set to music such as that of “Jock o' Hazeldean,” where each syllable, stressed or not, receives equal value, or that of “Macgregor's Gathering” and “Kitty of Coleraine,” whose words are not duple but triple.

14. In Shakespeare and Milton, vowels which certainly are naturally short appear in stressed positions quite as often as vowels that are naturally long; short vowels being the a, e, i, o, u in “pat,” “pet,” “pit,” “pot,” and “put” or “nut,” as against their long sounds in “mate,” “mete,” “mite,” “mote” and “moot,” or “mute.” These are not intended to comprise all the vowel sounds, but merely to show the difference between naturally short and naturally long vowels. They appear with equal frequency in stressed positions, and both may be dwelt on or vocally paused. As noted in example (29), the pause preceding a duple unit disappears when that unit is made triple. There is perhaps not a poet who has resisted the temptation offered him of filling the pause with a syllable. Dryden has these verses in “The Hind and the Panther”:—

(31.) a. We take the unuseful scaffolding away. (1. 125.)
b. Covering adultery with a specious name: (1. 354.)
c. Burnish'd, and battening on their food, to show (1. 390.)
d. As long as words a diferent sense will bear, (1. 462.)
e. Forgive the slanderous tongues that call'd you so. (1. 594.)
f. If sight by emission or reception be, (1.)

Pope has these in “An Essay on Man”:—

(32.) a. Some happier island in the watery waste, (Pt. i, 1. 106.)
b. How instinct varies in the groveling swine, Compared, half-reasoning elephant, with thine ! ‘Twixt that, and reason, what a nice barrier ?For ever separate, yet for ever near ! (Ib., 1. 221.)
c. Yet never pass the insuperable line ! (lb., 1. 228.)
d. On different sense different objects strike; (Pt. ii, 1. 128.)
– 498 –

Examples like (31) a and (32) c are extremely common in both these strict writers of “numbers.” The intruding syllable is avoided in reading by eliding the vowels—“th' unuseful,” “th' insuperable”; in the other examples the vowel making the extra syllable is cut out—“cov'ring,” “batt'ning,” “wat'ry,” “grov'ling,” &c.; in “by emission” the vowels “y” and “e” are read as one so far as possible, and the same with the “i” and “e” in “happier.” In verse 3 of (32) b the “a” appears to be intrusive. The “numbers” are very evident in these authors: the syllables in their heroic couplets are never less than ten, and not often more. In the former respect they followed Milton: they out-heroded him in the latter, slaughtering the vowels wherever possible; and the commentators marked their graves remorselessly with the sabre sign'. The fact to observe is, that whilst triple units were almost rigidly excluded from duple verse, the writers were conscious of a pause into which an extra syllable might be inserted without dislocation of rhythm.

15. The due observance of the time-value of units gives full effect to the subtle pause-melody of Christina Rossetti's poetry. What is the beautiful “Dream-love” without its pauses?—

(33.) Yoùng/ Love/lies slèe/ping /
In Mày-/time / of the yèar/, [or, In Mày-/time of/the yèar/]
Amòng/ /the li/lies /
Làpped/ in the tèn/der light/:
White/ làmbs/ come grà/zing, /
White dòves/ come buìl/ding thère/;
And ròund/ /abòut/hìm /
The Mày-/bùshès/are white/.

In these pauses, which need not always exactly fill the place of the dropped syllables, and whose places will without doubt be varied by different readers, there is a sustaining of sound that bridges any break. Without observation of the pauses the verse becomes rugged and displeasing. The poetess herself must have experienced the enchantment of the vocal pauses when she says,—

(34.) Him perfect music
Doth hush unto his rest,
And through the pauses
The perfect silence calms
Oh, the poor voices
Of earth from east to west,
And poor earth's stillness
Between the stately palms.

Byron was incapable of music of this kind: his units almost always have their complete tale of syllables, and his metres are generally remarkably pure and obvious. This fact, making the reading of his verses technically easy, has probably helped in adding to his popularity. He himself says in a letter to Moore, “I am a man of all measures.” He was freest in his triple measures, but altogether lacked the subtlety of pause and cunning variation. He, with Moore, could “sound the loud timbrel”; he could “tear a passion to tatters,” but he seldom approached the “perfect peace” of Christina Rossetti's verse. Moore shows curious, but obvious, examples of the pause in “Love's Young Dream,” and again in the following:—

(35.) While gazing on the moon's light,
A moment from her smile I turned,
To look at orbs, that, more bright,
In love and distant glory burned.
But too far
Each proud star,
For me to feel its warming glance:

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The pauses of this stanza are filled with syllables in the following almost parallel stanza:—

(36.) The young May-moon is beaming, love,
The glow-worm's lamp is gleaming, love:
How sweet to rove
Through Morna's grove,
While the drowsy world is dreaming, love.

Burns employs similar pauses in—

(37.) John Anderson my jo, John,

These pauses are obvious; and it will hardly be denied that the time-value of the units is the same whether they contain one or three syllables. (See paragraphs 2 and 3 of Section VI.)

16. The pause is neither so simple nor so obvious when it does not take the place of syllables; yet it was probably this pause which led Herrick to break the Alexandrine verse,

(38) Thus I passe by, and die: as One unknown, and gon:

into the Lilliputian stanza,

(39.) Thus I
Passe by,
And die:
As One
And gon:

The pauses after “die” and “gon” are considerably longer than those after the other stressed syllables, for they represent a dropped full unit.

17. Nor does the pause always fall evenly on or after the stressed syllables. In the line from “L'Allegro,”

(40.) But come, thou goddess fair and free, (1. 11.)

the second pause does not fall between the second and third units, but divides the third, appearing to make the second consist of the words “thou goddess,” as—

(40a) But come, thou goddess fair and free.

It was this irregular fall of the pause which led Bridges to formulate his system of stress-units. It has also led to certain syllables in a verse being called “extra-metrical” or “supernumerary.” These syllables appear more frequently in blank verse. The following are from Book II of “Paradise Lost”:—

(41.) a. Retire, or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with spirits of Heaven. (lines 686, 687)
b. Strange horror seize thee, and pangs unfelt before. (1. 703)

It may be said that the syllables in italics are “supernumerary” owing to the presence of the pause; but they were so considered when no account of pause was taken in the composition of units, for in older editions we find the verses printed,—

(41a.) a Retire, or taste thy folly'; and learn by proof,
b Strange horror seize thee', and pangs unfelt before.

The apostrophe was an indication that the two vowels between which it appeared were to be coalesced, or the first of the two elided. Neither act could take place were they separated by a pause, and the only interpretation that can be given to this manner of printing is that the actual barbarity of elision was intended—that the unit was to contain only two syllables.

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Newton, in his edition of Milton, praises this metrical variation as excellent in the poet; but adds, “But then these excellencies in Milton's verse are attended with this inconvenience, that his numbers seem embarras'd to such readers as know not, or know not readily, where such elision or abbreviation of vowels is to take place; and therefore for their sakes we shall take care throughout this edition to mark such vowels as are to be cut off, and such as are to be contracted and abbreviated, thus’.”* Verses containing one clipped and one untouched triple unit, are, however, not uncommon:—

(42.) a to mitigate and swage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish and doubt and fear and sorr'ow and pain (P.L., i, 558.)
From mortal or immortal minds.

b. But they
Dreaded not more th adventure than his voice (P.L., ii, 474.)
Forbidding; and at once with him they iose;

Innumerable verses containing a single unclipped triple unit could be quoted; the foregoing have been selected as containing one clipped and one untouched. Is there any difference between “anguish and doubt” and “sorrow and pain”? Surely both are identical in metrical structure. Take another verse:—

(43.) bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gambol'd before them; th' unwieldy elephant (P.L., iv, 345.)
To make them mirth us'd all his might,

Here the elision does not get rid even of the supernumerary syllable, for the unit contained four syllables in the first place, and still contains three. Again, take the following quotation from “Julius Caesar”:—

(44.) Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that Caesar?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ‘em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar.
Now, in the names of all the gods at once,

(Jul. Caes, I, ii, 1. 142, &c)

Here seven consecutive verses have their second units triple: is one of their syllables supernumerary? The metrical construction of the words “why should that name,” “write them together,” “Brutus will start,” is identical with the metrical construction of “sorrow and pain”: either all or none contain supernumerary syllables. Collocations of four syllables like “why should that name,” where the first and last only are stressed, are called “choriambs,” as though they constituted a complete unit; but they are nearly always preceded by a pause. One example from “Paradise Lost” may be given here:—

(45.) So numberless were those bad angels seen
Hòvering on wìng ùnder the còpe of hèll, (i, 345)

Here two choriambs come together, and a distinct pause separates them, unless the verse be read,—

(45a.) Hovering on wing undèr the còpe of hèll,

[Footnote] * They are, as Milton himself expresses it,—thrown out, as supernumerary To my just number found.

– 501 –

This could never have been intended; the rimed words “hovering” and “wing” would never have been allowed by Milton. The verse may be read,

(45b.) Hòvering on wìng undèr the còpe of hèll,

where one choriamb is retained, and the word “under” is irregularly accented. I think, however, the reading should be as in (45), where a pause—even though only slight—separates the choriambs, and a pause also comes between the first choriamb and the stressed last word of the preceding line. This pause is an integral part of the rhythm, and the choriamb should be resolved into two units, one consisting of a pause and a single stressed syllable, the other of three syllables. The construction “hovering on wing” at a verse-opening is very common in Milton and Shakspeare, and it will be found that a pause invariably separates the stressed first syllable of such opening from the stressed last syllable of the previous verse. Now, where such choriambs occur in Milton, they are never clipped; they are regarded as a combination of two units, a trochee followed by an iamb, and the pause is left out of count. The following example must be excepted:—

(46.) He ended frowning, and his look denounc'd
Dèsp'rate revènge, and battle dangerous
To less than Gods. (P.L., ii, 107.)

But this has been clipped only because the choriamb would otherwise contain five syllables. The leaving out of count of the pause preceding the choriamb would, in case of clipping, reduce the number of syllables in the verse to nine; and this would violate an old rule that such verse should never have less than ten syllables. It was also a rule, but a rule to which necessity compelled exceptions, that the verse should not have more than ten syllables; therefore it is that verses may be found with two clipped triple units:—

(47.) on thee
Impress'd th' effulgence of his glory' abides, (P.L., iii, 388.)
Transfus'd on thee his ample Spirit rests.

The fact that choriambs are not usually clipped seems conclusive evidence of the fact that they were looked on as trochee and iamb combined, and that the pause was disregarded. The following verses from “Paradise Lost” contain two choriambs:—

(48.) a. Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell, (i, 1. 345.)
b. Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve, (iv, 1. 800.)
c. Moors by his side under the lee, while night (i, 1. 207.)
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays:

The only pause considered at all was the cæsura, or natural break in the verse, which is not a part of the rhythm, but a slight suspension of it, as the pause [ unclear: ] is in music. It was never supposed that a pause might take the place of a syllable, though a study of the then despised ballad might have taught the possibility of it. Consider the following lines from “A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode”:—

(49.) And loke your hertes be seker and sad
Your strynges trusty and trewe. (fytte 4, st. 11.)

In the second line, divided thus—

(49a.) Your stryn/ges trus/ty and trewe/

– 502 –

—there is a triple unit; and a unit ending a line in this way is of frequent occurrence:—

(50.) a. Dwelled styll/ full ma/ny a day/.
b. They rode/ up in/to the towne/.
c. And bad/ them mer/ry to be/.

In example (49) there is a word, “strynges,” which, originally a word of two syllables, is now a word of one syllable; and the line would now be read,

(49b.) Your strings/ trus/ty and true/,

where a pause takes the place of the dropped second syllable of “strynges,” and the triple unit is still present. Is not this construction identical with the following?—

on wing/ un/der the cope/
a toad/ close/at the ear/
his side/ un/der the lee/.

18. Disregarding the pause, the following verses from “Paradise Lost”—

(51.) a. and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessor; one who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by place or time. (i, 253.)

b. to fall off
From their Creator, and transgress his will
For one restraint, lord of the world besides? (i, 32.)

c. what in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support; (i, 23.)

—would be scanned—

(51a.) a. A mind/ nòt to/be chàng'd/ by plàce/ or tìme/.
b For òne/restràint/, lòrd of/the wòrld/besìdes?/
c. Illù/min, whàt/is lòw/raìse and/suppòrt/;

The natural pause following each of the words “mind,” “restraint,” and “low” is disregarded, the consequence being an entirely unexpected metamorphosis. The verses, instead of being heroic or five-stressed verses, have practically become romance or four-stressed lines containing two triple units, one of which is composed of an unaccented, an accented, and a stressed syllable, as in the following lines from Shelley's “Sensitive Plant”:—

(52.) 1, a The sàp shrànk/to the ròot/through èv/ ery pòre/ (Pt. iii, 1. 88.)
b. The dàrk gràss/and the flòwers/amòng/the gràss/, (Ib., 1. 13.)
c. Like yòung lò/vers whom yòuth/and lòve/make dèar/ (Pt. i, 1. 68.)
2, a. To ròof/the glòw-wòrms/ from the evè/ning dèw/. (Pt. i, 1. 57.)
b. The wà/ter bloòms ùn/der the rìv/ulèt/ (Pt. iii, 1. 42.)
3, a. Broad wà/ter lì/lies lày trèm/ulously/, (Pt. i, 1. 45)
b. Brought plèa/sure thère/ and lèft pà/ssion behìnd/. (Pt. ii, 1. 24.)

Each of these lines contains two consecutive triple units. In the former of these units the syllable bearing the stress is preceded by a syllable bearing a syntactic accent; this accent is only slightly less marked than the stress. In what respect do Milton's verses, read without the pause, differ from Shelley's lines coupled with them in the following pairs?—

(53.) a Like yòung lò/vers whom yoùth/and lòve/make deàr/
A mind nòt/to be chang'd/ by plàce/or time/.
b. To ròof/ the glòw-wòrms/from the ève/ning dèw/.
For one/restraìnt, lòrd/ of the wòrd/ besides?/
c. Brought pleà/sure thère/and lèft pà/ssion behìnd/.
Illù/min; whàt/ is lòw raìse/and suppòrt/;

– 503 –

This result must follow if there is not sufficient vocal pause between the two syllables bearing the rhythmic stress; and through this result the first stress is converted into a syntactic accent only. It may be held that in Shelley's lines there are also choriambs: that (53)a should read,—

(53a.) a. Like yòung/lòvers/whom yòuth/and lòve/make dèar/

But, as a five-stressed or heroic verse results, this clearly cannot be right. It will be found that if Shelley's lines be repeated to beaten time, by tapping with the foot or otherwise, making the stresses fall with the beats, the syllables of (53) a falling with the beats will be “lo” of “lovers,” “youth,” “love,” and “dear”; of (53) b, “roof,” “worms,” “eve” of “evening,” and “dew”; and, as the intervals of time separating the beats are equal, it follows that the units between the stresses that fall with the beats must be temporally equal also, whatever they may be syllabically—that is, “the glow-worms” occupies no more time than “ning dew.” It follows, too, that “glow” does not bear a stress, though it bears an accent almost equal to a stress.

19. Were it desired to expand Shelley's lines into five-stressed verses, then it could not be done by means of choriambs. Read aloud, however, the following pairs, being combinations of verses from “Epipsychidion” and “The Sensitive Plant”:—

(54.) a. And therefore I went forth, with hope and fear (Ep., 1. 246.)
Like young lovers whom youth and love make dear
b. And as a cloud charioted by the wind (Ep., 1. 290.)
Brought pleasure there and left passion behind.
c. And through the cavern without wings they flew, (Ep. 1. 305.)
To roof the glow-worms from the evening dew.

The lines from “The Sensitive Plant” have acquired an entirely new character. In (54) a the second verse would be read in one of the following ways:—

(54a.) a. Like yòung/lovèrs/whom yòuth/and lòve/make dèar/


Like yòung/ lòv/ers whom yòuth/and lòve/make dèar/

and similarly (54) b as,—

(54b.) b. Brought plèa/sure thère/ and lèft/ passìon/ behind/


Brought pleà/sure thère/and lèft/ pà/ssion behind/

and I think the latter reading in each case would be more favoured. Compare this reading with Milton's verse—

(55.) Brought pleà/sure thère/and lèft/ pà/ssion behind/
Illù/min, whàt/is lòw/ ràise/and suppòrt/

—and we have evidence favouring the contention that a choriamb consists of two units, the first containing a pause and a stressed syllable; the second three syllables, the last being stressed.

20. A construction which appears to be reverse of that under consideration is seen in the verse,—

(56.) A shout that tore Hell's concave, and beyond
Frìgh/ted the reìgn/ of Chà/os and/òld Night/.
(P.L., i, 1. 543.)

In the previous case two syllables, one accented and one stressed, preceded two syllables without either accent or stress; here the unaccented syllables

– 504 –

come first. The construction is, however, different. In the cases considered above, as in (55), the word “low,” bearing the rhythmic stress, is followed by a word “raise,” also apparently bearing a stress. But it has been shown that “raise” cannot bear a stress unless it is separated by a pause from the already stressed “low”—that is, two rhythmic stresses cannot come together; if no pause intervene, the second syllable receives the stress, the first syntactic accent only, and this is appreciably lighter than stress. In (56) “Night” bears the rhythmic stress, “old” bears syntactic accent. The stress on “and” has been suppressed, not on account of the syntactic accent following, for it is often suppressed when no such accent follows: it could be present in the above construction were it so desired, as may be shown by writing “thròugh òld Night” instead of “and òld Night.” Were it desired to throw a rhythmic stress on “old,” a pause would have to be inserted between it and “Night,” as,—

(57.) a Frigh/ted the reìgn/of Chà/os and òld/ Night/.
b He's speaking now,
Or mùr/muring, “Whère's/my sèr/pent of òld/ Nile?”
For so he calls me (Ant. & Cleo., I, v, 25.)
c Look here, and at thy sovereign leisuie read
The gàr/boils shè/awàked/; at the làst/, bèst/;
(Ant. & Cleo, I, iii, 60.)

Here we get the reverse construction of (55)—that is, a triple unit is followed by a unit containing a pause and a stressed syllable. The reading (57), whilst not usual, gives strength in this instance, and also in the following:—

(58.) a O sòv/ran, vìr/tuous, prè/cious of àll/ trèes/.
In Paradise, (P.L., ix, 795.)
b. Equal in days and nights, except to those
Beyònd/the pò/lar cìr/cles; to thèm/ dày/
Had unbenighted shone. (P.L, x, 681.)
c. Give me some wine, fill full.
I drink/ to the gèn/eral jòy/o'the whòle/ tà/ble.
(Macb., III, iv, 89)

In the case of c, the construction “o' the whole” seems to demand the pause, unless it be supposed that the accent of “table” is removed from the first to the second syllable as in the example (25); but whereas “pipèr” and “aspèct” are pronunciations not improbable, “tablè” seems almost impossible. Such apparently impossible accent, however, seems intended when the word occurs in old ballads, as in “Burd Ellen”—

(58a.) Burd Èllen was àt the byè-tablè
Amang the pages set

—unless here, too, a pause is intended to separate “bye” and “table.” It must be admitted that as different readers will give different readings to a certain passage, so different prosodists will give different divisions or scansions. On general laws all are agreed; differences arise with the variations of the laws; and it is wished here to suggest theories, not to formulate dogmas.

21. Supposing that in examples (51) a, b, and c, for the words “mind,” “restraint,” and “low,” the words “reason,” “restriction,” and “lowly” are substituted,—

(59.) a. A reason not to be chang'd by place or time,
b. For one restriction, lord of the world besides?
c. Illumin; what is lowly raise and support;

– 505 –

The verses are now composed of ordinary duple units with one triple unit present in each. This triple unit is temporally equal to the duple units, a fact self-evident when the verse is read aloud even without beating time. In the unit preceding the triple unit the pause has been filled with an extra syllable, and the fact that such syllable can be inserted without change of the rhythm is proof of its existence in the verses quoted in (51). In fact, the following pairs of verses—

(60.) a A mind/ nòt/to be chàng'd/by plàce/or tìme/
Pour fòrth/their pò/pulous yoùth/abòut/the hìve/ (P.L. i, 1. 770)
b. For òne/restràint/ lòrd/of the wòrld/besides?/
To sèt/himsèlf/in glò/ry abòve/his pèers/, P.L., i, 1. 39.)
c. Illù/min; whàt/is lòw/ ràise/and support/;
In wòrst/ extrèmes/and òn/ the pèr/ilous èdge/ (P.L., i, 1. 276.)

—differ only in one unit: the second in a, the third in b, and the fourth in c, The one unit is composed of a pause and a stressed syllable; the other of two syllables, the second stressed. Rhythmically, then, the pairs are exactly alike; the only difference is syllabic.

22. The same is true when the choriamb composes a whole stanza, as in Thackeray's “Mahogany Tree”:—

(61.) Christmas is here:
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we:
Little we fear
Weather without,
Sheltered about
The Mahogany Tree

Every line is composed of a choriamb, with the exception of the last in each stanza. But is the pause dividing the lines to be disregarded? This pause is absent after the seventh line, and its place is taken by the two syllables opening the eighth. The eighth line is composed of two triple units; and the inference is that every line of the stanza is likewise composed of two triple units, though, in seven out of eight, pauses take the place of syllables. This conclusion also applies to Shakspeare's verses quoted in (44): each verse is preceded by a pause, and the choriambs are broken into two units, the first paused, the second triple. The following verses from “Paradise Lost” are distinctive:—

(62.) Abolish his own works. This would surpass (ii, 1. 370)
Common revenge, and interrupt his joy

Are not the pauses here unmistakable?—

(62a.) Abòl/ish hìs/own wòrks/. This/would surpàss/
Còm/mon revènge/, and in/terrùpt/his jòy/

The pause is by no means so decided as in Thackeray's lines, for in Milton the construction does not often come in repeated succession, and the pause in a verse consisting mainly of duple units is not so marked as a pause where the units are mainly triple—in one instance it represents one syllable, in the other two. In the verses,—

(63) But hè/once pàst/, soon àf/ter when/màn fèll/,
Strànge/alterà/tion! Sin/and Dèath/ amàm/
Fòl/lowing his track/, sùch/was the will/ of Heav'n/,
Pàved/ after hìm/a bròad/and bèa/ten wày/
Ò/ver the dàrk/ abỳss/, whose boìl/ing gùlf/
Tàme/ly endùred/ a brìdge/of wòn/d'rous length/, (P.L., ii, 1. 1023, &c.)

– 506 –

the effect is not altogether displeasing; not more than two choriambs can come together in the five-stressed verse, so that the triple effect cannot be so obtrusively accumulated as in Thackeray's “Mahogany Tree.”

23. The construction is slightly varied when the triple unit does not immediately follow the paused unit:—

(64.) a. Soon had his crew
Ò/pen'd ìn/to the hìll/a spà/cious wòund/,
And digg'd out ribs of gold. (P.L., i, 689.)

b. Let us not then pursue
By force impossible, by leave obtain'd
Ùn/accèp/table, thòugh/in Heàv'n/, our stàte/
Of splendid vassalage; (P.L., ii, 251.)

c. Which would be all his solace and revenge,
Às/a despìte/ dòne/agaìnst/ the Mòst High//,
Thee once to gain companion of his woe. (P.L., vi, 906.)

In example c the paused and triple units are most unmistakable, owing to the former coming within the verse; both exist as certainly in a and b. The content of a is quoted:—

(64a.) Rifled the bowels of their mother earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Ò/pen'd ìn/to the hìll/a spà/cious wòund/, (P.L., i, 1. 68, &c.)

The pause before “open'd” would have disappeared had the preceding verse been given a feminine ending, as,—

(65) but who here
Will envy whom the highest place exposes
Foremost to stand against the Thunderer's aim, (P.L., ii, 1. 26, &c.)

In the examples quoted in (64) one unit separates the paused and triple units. In the following, from Shelley's “Epipsychidion,” they are separated by two units—

(66.) until thought's melody
Become too sweet for utterance, and it die
In words, to live again in looks, which dart
With thrilling tones into the voiceless heart,
Hàr/monì/sing sì/lence withòut/a sound/ (Ep., 564.)

—and were “despite” accented on the first syllable, as it is not inconceivable Milton intended it to be accented in example (64) c, the paused and triple units would be separated by three units—

(67.) Às/a dès/pite dòne/agàinst/ the Mòst Hìgh/.

The accent would not be “wrenched” were “an insult” substituted for “a despite,” and the rhythm is neither awkward nor unnatural. Again, were “Highest” substituted for “Most High” in (67), a verse trochaic in effect throughout would result:—

(67a.) Às a dèspite dòne agàinst the Hìghest.

That such a verse is not repugnant to a poet's ear is certain; for in “Hyperion” Keats introduces one exactly similar, and in “Macbeth” Shakspeare introduces one almost similar:—

(68.) a. and there shall be
Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
Of the sky-children; I will give command:
Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?
(Hyp., Book i, 1. 131.)

b. As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness. (Macb., IV, iii, 93.)

– 507 –

Though broken, Shakspeare's verse from “Antony and Cleopatra” may also be quoted:—

(69.) Cœs. With most gladness;
And do invite you to my sister's view,
Whi/ther straìght/I'll lèad/ you.
Ant. Lèt/us, Lè/pidus,
Not lack your company. (Ant. & Cleo., II, ii, 171.)

Did the verses in (68) begin “But Thea! Thea!” and “And thither straight I'll,” they would be similar in construction to the middle verse of (65). A parallel cònstruction in ballad verse has already been quoted—No. (13) of this section. Without the feminine ending they would result in verses containing the regular number of stresses—five—but only nine syllables; as,—

(70.) thrice from the banks of Wye
And sandy-bottom'd Severn have I sent him
Bòot/less h'mè/and wèa/ther bèa/ten bàck/.

Here the missing first syllable is found in the feminine ending of the preceding verse. Milton allowed no nine-syllabled verse of any kind in “Paradise Lost” or “Paradise Regained.” Bohn's 1852 edition has a verse—

Indeed? hath God then said, of the fruit
of all these garden trees

But reference to Newton's edition of 1773 shows that it should be—

Indeed ? hath God then said that of the fruit

And so of other verses of nine syllables: they prove misprints. Even Milton, then, bowed to the tyranny of “numbers” in so far that he never permitted less than ten syllables to a verse; Dryden and Pope were bowed yet lower—not only did they never permit less than ten, but they attempted to permit no more.

24. “Wrenched accent” has been spoken of in connection with quotation (66). The term has been applied to cases where words naturally accented, say, on the second syllable are apparently by the metre required to be accented on the first. Paragraphs 9 and 10 of this section have in part considered this subject. It has been pointed out that many words to which an apparently “wrenched accent” must be given are more naturally treated by a spreading of the accent over both syllables. Thus Shelley's verse in “Epipsychidion,”

(71.) Scarce visible from extreme loveliness, (1. 104.)

should perhaps receive neither of the following renderings—

(71a.) a. Scarce vi/sible/from èx/treme lovè/liness/
b. Scarce vì/sible/from extrème/ lovè/linèss/

—where in the first instance the rhythmic stress is on the first syllable and the natural syntactic accent entirely removed from the second syllable, and in the second instance the rhythmic stress and syntactic accent both fall on the second syllable, producing a triple unit followed by a paused unit. The most natural reading is—

(71b.) Scarce vi/sible/from èx/trème lòve/linèss/

where both stress and accent are present. There are instances, however, where this construction is impracticable. In the verse,

(72.) With breasts palpitating and wings refurled,

the use of a vocal pause seems obligatory: the reading,

(72a.) With brèasts/ pàl/pità/ting and wìngs/refùrled/

– 508 –

seems infinitely superior to either of the two—

(72b.) a. With brèasts/palpìt/atìng/and wings/ refurled/,
b. With brèasts/pàlpìt/àtìng/and wìngs/refurled/.

These seem intolerable. The pause in (72a) is hardly perceptible, it is so well filled with the consonantal termination of “breasts,” and the word “palpitating” receives its natural accents. It has been held that poets have intentionally set words into places in the rhythm where the stress and accent will come into conflict, with the object of overriding the prose accent. This has palpably been done by Shelley in “The Sensitive Plant” and “Epipsychidion”:—

(73.) a. For each òne was ìnterpènetratèd (S.P., Pt. i, 1. 66.)
With the light and the òdour its nèighbour shèd,
b. By Lòve, of lìght and mòtion: òne intènse
Diffùsion, òne sèrene Omnìprèsence, (Ep., 94, 95.)

He has put his intention beyond doubt by riming with the misaccented words: but such instances are rare, and in the majority of cases where the words occur within the verse it is certainly preferable to suppose the poet intended to vary the metre rather than the pronunciation of the word. As has been seen, two-syllabled words accented on the second syllable, which appear to be in a state of accent-fluctuation, will allow accent on the first syllable instead of on the second, and consequently on both syllables. Such words are at times found in apposition, as in Milton's verses—

(74.) and from despair
Thus high uplifted beyond hope, aspires
Beyond thus high, insatiate to pursue (P.L, ii, 7, 8.)

And even here it will be found that the first “beyond” retains somewhat of its syntactic accent on the second syllable whilst the first bears the rhythmic stress. The following is perhaps doubtful:—

(74a.) O Goodness infinite, Goodness lmmense! (P.L, xii, 469)

25. In the great majority of cases where paused and triple units come together, the former precedes the latter: the apparently reverse construction was considered in paragraph 20. In the following verse the triple unit precedes:—

(75.) a. and some I see
That twofold balls and treble sceptres carry:
Hòr/rible sìght!/ Nòw/I sèe/'tis trùe/;
For the blood-bolter'd Banquo smiles upon me,
(Macb., IV, i, 122.)

b. Rail thou in Fulvia's phrase, and taunt my faults
With sùch/full lì/cense as bòth/ trùth/and mà/lice
Have power to utter. (Ant. & Cleo., I, ii, 113.)

In a, a doubt can hardly enter that a paused unit succeeds a triple; many may prefer to scan b

(75a.) b. With sùch/full li/cense as/ bòth trùth/ and mà/lice

—suppressing the stress on “as” and giving “both” its syntactic accent and “truth” its stress. Even with this scansion I think it will be found, in reading aloud, that a vocal pause will be made between “both” and “truth.”

26. The question is, seeing that triple units are ineradicable from what is called “two-syllabled” verse—that the two-syllabled units in such verse are constantly replaced by units of three syllables—are these three-syllabled units intrusions? Are they not rather incontrovertible assertions that

– 509 –

all duple units are potentially triple—if, indeed, duple metre (by which is meant the “two-syllabled”) be not only potentially but fundamentally triple? There can be no doubt that in many, if not most, of the old ballads—our most virile form of poetry—two-syllabled and three-syllabled units are mixed so indiscriminately that it is impossible to class those ballads either as duple or triple. The fact is that, mixed as the metre is, it is yet homogeneous; so that either it is duple metre with protean units capable of assuming a disguise in triple form, or vice versa. The various combinations in which it is possible for triple units to appear in duple verse have been listed: as, duple verses with one unit triple, in any unit from the first to the seventh; with two units triple—the first and second, first and third to first and seventh, second and third to second and seventh, and so on; with three units triple—the first second and third, first second and fourth to first second and seventh, second third and fourth, and so on; with four, five, six, and seven units triple, in all the various combinations. In a range restricted to Ritson's collection of “Robin Hood” ballads and Allingham's “Ballad Book” every combination but four was found, the four being verses with triple units in units

  • 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7;

  • 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6;

  • 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7; and

  • 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7:

and without doubt if more extensive search were made these too could be found. They could, of course, easily be invented; but actual specimens that have survived the struggle for existence are necessary as types of vital forms.

27. The conclusion is that absolutely no line of demarcation can be made between duple and triple. When an isolated triple unit appears in duple verse it is often explained as a “triplet”—three syllables occupying the “time” of two. This is nomenclature only, not explanation. An isolated duple unit in the midst of triple verse is called a defective triple unit. It is admitted by all that in these isolated cases the “time” of the intruding unit is neither more nor less than that of the surrounding units: the rhythmic time is constant, and each rhythmic unit may carry one, two, three, and, as will be seen in the following section, four or more syllables. Purists have endeavoured to separate the inseparable: they have held that duple verse should contain no triple units, and that triple verse should contain no duple units; but the latter rule at least they have been obliged to relax with licenses. Ever and again the Muses have scorned their futile endeavours, so that whom the Muses loved the purists chastised. Coleridge's “Christabel,” Shelley's “Sensitive Plant”—what are these but triumphant assertions of the oneness of the duple and triple measures?

Section IV.

1. A most indubitable pause divides the duple unit in verses such as,—

(1.) a. Ò, yèt// I do repent me of my fury,
That I did kill them. (Macb. II, iii, 112)

b. Wèll, lèt's// away and say how much is done. (Macb. III, iii, 22.)

c. So Satan spake, and him Beelzebub
Thus àn/swer'd. Lèa/der of those armies bright. (P.L., i, 272.)

– 510 –

d. for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Tormènts/him; roùnd/he thròws/his bàle/ful èyes/, (P.L., i, 56.)

e. And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nà/ture? Prè/sent fèars/
Are less than horrible imaginings. (Macb.I, iii, 137.)

f. rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immòr/tal: But/ his doom//
Preserv'd him to more wrath. (P.L., i, 53.)

These may be called divided duple units. As noted in paragraph 17 of Section III, such pauses dividing triple units caused the name “hypermetrical” o1 “supernumerary” to be given to one of the syllables of the unit. In the following verses the pause falls after the first, or so-called “hypermetrical” syllable:—

(2) a. are you aught
That man may quès/tion? You sèem/ to understand me,
(Macb., I, iii, 43.)
b. The rest is là/bour, which is/not used for you:
(Macb., I, iv, 44.)

In the following verses, however, the pause falls after the second syllable:—

(3.) a. from his sight receiv'd
Beatitude past ù/tterance; òn/his right/
The radiant image of his glory sat. (P.L., iii, 62.)

b. our graver business
Frowns at this lè/vity. Gèn/tle lords, let's part;
(Ant. & Cleo., II, vii, 128.)

In these it would be difficult to say which is the hypermetrical syllable, though an indication is afforded by a verse in Newton's Milton:—

(3.) b. The good befall'n him, author unsuspect, (P.L, ix, 771.)

The dropping of the “e” in “befallen” removes the unit from the category of those exampled in (3) a, and suggests that vowels in the other words might also be dropped, making “utterance” “utt'rance.” Is such barbarity preferable before the divided triple unit? Again it is a question of individual taste in reading; and if some, even a few, readers prefer to consider the words unmutilated, then the divided triple unit, as well as the divided duple, must be admitted by prosodists. A divided triple means a triple unit whose syllables are separated by a pause, and so with a divided duple: a paused duple unit is one composed of a pause and a syllable; a paused triple would simply be duple.

2. The question that arises is, seeing that the pause in the duple unit is an indication of potentiality towards a triple unit, is the pause in the triple unit an indication of potentiality towards a quadruple unit? The logical answer must be in the affirmative. There is no doubt that quadruple or four-syllabled units do occur not only in the unpolished yet invaluable ballads, but in the perfect and exalted verse of Shakspeare and Milton. Again examples are best evidence:—

(4.) a. abash'd the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Vir/tue in her shàpe/how lovely; saw, and pin'd
His loss; (P.L., iv, 847.)

and Antony,
Enthron'd i' the market-place, did sit alone,
Whis/tling to the aìr/, which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, (Ant. & Cleo., II, ii, 221.)

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It may perhaps be admitted that such units do occur in isolation, whilst it is at the same time contended that for these to be other than exceptions it must be proved that the quadruple unit forms a basic unit in metrical schemes.

3. The proof is not, I think, impossible, and Australian poetry especially furnishes evidence. The more popular poetry of Australia is here referred to—poetry that sells in editions of tens of thousands. In spirit, as in popularity, it more nearly approaches the old English ballad—the ballad of humour, however, not of tragedy. Even in the best of the old ballads triple units constantly occur, and where the blending of duple and triple is artistic the effect is most pleasing. The triple units impart a “rapid” movement to the metre; and as the themes become more humorous, treating of the lighter rather than the more serious side of life, as in the Robin Hood ballads, this rapidity of movement becomes more and more marked, until many of the ballads are entirely triple. It was probably of the shallow jigging ballads that Shakspeare spoke through Hotspur in Henry IV:—

(5.) I had rather be a kitten and cry mew,
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers.

Quadruple units also occur in the old ballads, but not in very great abundance; their effect is proportionately more rapid than that given by triple units. The Australians, lovers of the horse and outdoor sport, loved and do love rapidity of motion; and it is natural that they should choose a metre that will give to their verse the exuberance of motion which they feel in daily life: triple metre was favoured, until supplanted by the even more rapid quadruple.

4. Lindsay Gordon stands father of the popular Australian poetry. Out of his sixty-seven collected poems, forty-five are triple, whilst only eighteen are duple. In four poems can be traced the germ of what was to become a dominant metre in Australian poetry: these four are “Unshriven,” “Whisperings in Wattle-boughs,” “A Hunting Song,” and his well-known and well-loved “Sick Stockrider.” The metre has been more developed by later writers, among them the favourites Paterson and Lawson. Paterson's first book opens with and takes its name from a piece in this very measure, “The Man from Snowy River.” Here the beat is much more distinct than in Gordon:—

(6.) There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush-horses—he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

The usual reading of this stanza would require a stress on the first, third, and every odd syllable; but if it be so read it is instinctively felt to be quite wrongly read—the lilt is broken, the life is lost. Drop the first stress, however, the third, fifth, and every odd stress, and the dry bones of metre are vivified by the flowing life of verse:—

(7.) There was movè/ment at the stà/tion, for the wòrd/had passed aròund/
That the còlt/from old Regrèt/ had got awày/

There is a slight stress on “passed,” “old,” and “got,” but quite a subordinary stress; in fact, the stress has become a mere accent, and we have an expansion of the unit “old Night” in quotation (56) of Section III. The rhythm would be the same did we write,

(7a.) There was mòve/ment at the stà/tion, for the wòrd/pàssed ròund/,

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this being the metre of Gilbert's

(8.) From a chèap/ and chippy chò/pper on a bg/, blàck blòck/.

Here “passed round” and “black block” are almost identical with “old Night.”

5. The following is half of the second stanza of “The Sick Stockrider”:—

(9.) Now westward winds the bridle-path that leads to Lindisfarm,
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.

In this stanza, as has been noted above, the dropping of stresses is not so pronounced as in Paterson's stanza (6), but no reader would give the even stresses the same value as the odd ones, and in parts of the stanza every reader would suppress certain of them—

(9a.) From the fàr side of the first hill, when the skìes are clèar and càlm,

Furthermore, the dropping of the even stresses in Gordon's stanza gives us lines of four and three stresses alternately; giving every stress full value, the lines are of seven and five stresses alternately—a very rare combination. By dropping the alternate stresses, however, a pure ballad stanza results; a most unusual metre is changed to one most familiar, its only strangeness on first reading being its quadruple units. The Australian has, indeed, adopted the favourite measure of his ancestors, changing its externals, but not its essentials, in the process of acclimatisation.

6. In Paterson's stanza the odd stresses, but in Gordon's the even stresses, are suppressed. Given its full tale of stresses, Paterson's stanza wou'd be trochaic; Gordon's, iambic. Of Gordon's four quadruple pieces, two are in apparent iambs, one in trochees, whilst one is mixed; of Paterson's and Lawson's forty quadruple pieces, three only are in iambs, thirty-four in trochees, and three are mixed. Gordon has therefore been departed from so far as the original metre is concerned; the trochaic measure resolved itself into the quadruple much more frequently than the iambic. The reason probably is that in choosing the former, where the suppression of the first stress gave an initial unit of three syllables, an easier transition to the four-syllabled unit was obtained. The popularity of the quadruple metre may be seen from the fact that in Paterson's two volumes of verse, “The Man from Snowy River” and “Rio Grande's Last Ride,” in eighty-one pieces twelve are quadruple; in Lawson's two volumes, “In the Days when the World was Wide” and “Verses Popular and Humorous,” in one hundred and fourteen pieces twenty-eight are quadruple; Ogilvie, in “Fair Girls and Grey Horses,” has eleven in a hundred; Boake, in “Where the Dead Men Lie,” has four in thirty-two; Brunton Stephens, in “Poetical Works,” has the high average of twelve in fifty-seven.

7. Two quotations may be taken as contrasts of the original metre and its Australian development. In Kendall's imaginative and musical poem “Hy-Brasil” occur the lines,—

(10.) There indeed was singing Eden, where the great gold river runs
Past the porch and gates of crystal, ringed by strong and shining ones!
There indeed was God's own garden, sailing down the sapphire sea—
Lawny dells and slopes of summer, dazzling stream and radiant tree

Here it is impossible, except in perhaps two instances, to slur or suppress the odd stresses; but read in the same full-stressed way the following from

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Lawson's “Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers,” and instead of humorous they are ridiculous:—

(11.) If you sing of waving grasses where the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there's only mud and sticks;
If you picture “mighty forests” where the mulga spoils the view—
You're superior to kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.

8. There are, of course, many English poems with suggestions of the quadruple metre, and it is these suggestions that the Australian has taken, forming from them a basic quadruple unit. The loose lilt is evident in the Hon. Mrs. Norton's “Bingen on the Rhine,” and it gives charming effects to S. Ferguson's delightful Irish ballad “The Fairy Thorn”:—

(12.) They're glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve,
Away in milky wavings of neck and ankle bare;
The heavy-sliding stream in its sleepy song they leave,
And the crags in the ghostly air.

Christina Rossetti's “Amor Mundi,” too, is on the verge of the quadruple metre; parts, indeed, have crossed the border-line:—

(13.) “O where are you going with your love-locks flowing,
On the west wind blowing along this valley track?”
“The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.”

9. When the quadruple unit makes its appearance in triple metre, as in Scott's stanza,—

(14.) He is gone on the mountain,
He is lost to the forest,
Lake a summer dried fountain,
When our need was the sorest.

—it is evident that it is caused only by the feminine rimes, which add a syllable to the following triple unit. In Scott's stanza this occurs in the middle of the verse as well as at the end:—

(14a.) He is gone on the mountain, he is lost to the forest,
Like a summer dried fountain, when our need was the sorest.

The quadruple unit is twice avoided in the above stanza by taking one of the syllables from the three-syllabled unit following the feminine rime. These avoidances come as reliefs in reading: the stanza has certainly a not altogether unpleasing strangeness; but its very rarity shows that it is an unnatural form.

10. It is admitted that when the quadruple unit is most apparent in Australian poetry that poetry is not the highest. It is, however, the form that is under consideration rather than the spirit; and for laws of form a nursery-rime is as valuable as play of Shakspeare, an Australian ballad as an epic of Milton. In verse like “Constable M'Carty's Investigations,” by Lawson, there is absolutely no room for doubt of the existence of the quadruple unit:—

(15.) Most unpleasantly adjacent to the haunts of lower orders
Stood a “terrace” in the city when the current year began,
And a notice indicated there were vacancies for boarders
In the middle house, and lodgings for a single gentleman.

It may be objected that when the unit is thus proved to exist the poetry is at the same time proved not to exist; but the triple unit was once in like manner considered incapable of being made the vehicle of elevated poetry, and was banished. Keats, a poet of keenest vision in duple metre, was a poetaster in triple; but from the days of Cowper the triple metre

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has been endowed more and more with the highest spirit of poetry. Does it not receive the perfect spirit of life at the hands of Swinburne in “Itylus,” and are not the duple and triple measures perfectly blended by him in “An Interlude”? Nor is the quadruple metre without indications of what it may throb to under master hands. The following lines are from Paterson's “Clancy of the Overflow”:—

(16.) And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

The majestic sweep of this unit is here filling with melody: another stop has, without doubt, been added to the organ of poesy.

11. In the same way as the duple and triple units, the quadruple may contain one syllable accented and one stressed, as in (16):—

(16a.) And the bùsh/hath frìends to mèet// him, and their kìn/dly vòices grèet/ him
In the mùr/mur of the brèe/zes and the rì/ver on its bàrs/,
And he sèes/the vìsion splèn// did of the sùn/lit plàins extèn//ded,
And at nìght/the wìndrous glò//ry of the è/verlasting stàrs/.

This alternation of light and heavy units gives a most pleasing effect. In the heavy units the unaccented syllables may be dropped, when a unit of two syllables, one accented and one stressed, results, differing from the ordinary heavy duple unit in the words being somewhat more separated with pauses. Such unit was exemplified in (7a and (8) of this section. The following stanza shows it in its Australian form:—

(17.) When you're lỳ/ing in your hàm/mock, slèeping sòft//and slèeping sòund//,
Withoùt/ a càre or troù//ble on your mìnd/,
And there's nò/thing to distùrb/you but the èn/gines gòing roùnd//,
And you're drèam/ing of the gìrl/you lèft behind//,
In the mì/ddle of your jòys/you'll be wà/kened by a noìse/,
And the clà/tter on the dèck/abòve your cròwn//,
And you'll hèar/ the còrporal shòut//as he tùrns/ the pìcket oùt/,
“There's anò/ther blèssed hòrse//fèll dòwn//.”
(Paterson, “There's another blessed Horse fell down.”)

Units such as the third and fourth in the fourth in the first line may be called “heavy quadruple units”; those like the last unit of the last line, “paused heavy quadruple units.”

12. Is a unit possible that shall contain more than four syllables? Isolated examples do occur. These again are found in the lightest and leastelevated forms of verse; but, as they are found, they must be noted. An example at the division of the verse may be found in Canning and Frere's “Ballynahinch,” stanza 2:—

(18.) The great stàte/sman, it seèm/, has perùsed/ all their fà/ces,
And being mì/ghtily strùck/ with their lòy/al grimà/ces;

and in Dibdin's “The Showman's Catalogue of Living Animals,” stanza 2:—

(19.) Here's brù/in, the beàr/, not fà/mous for grà/ces, O!
And his hùg's/like Mounsèer's/fratèr/nal embrà/ces, O!

In stanza 1 of Dibdin's poem such a unit occurs within the line,—

(20.) We've rare spècies of mònkeys, of sòrts nearly twènty;
Though a mòn/key's no rà/rity, for in t wn/ there are plèn/ ty;

Dibdin's stanzas are in the “Museum of Mirth,” and are presumably still sung, so these units cannot be considered as having been perpetuated merely through having been printed. They will be seen to be quite different from the units where a stress has been suppressed between a duple and triple

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unit; and so crude are they generally that it is thought to be sufficient to note their existence.

Section V.

1. The units hitherto considered have mainly been those containing one stressed syllable. Units containing two syllables neither stressed nor accented are, however, of frequent occurrence. These, in classic nomenclature, are “pyrhies,” but may be better named “light duple.” In the following examples a stress has been suppressed in each verse, so that each contains a light duple unit:—

(1.) a. Man hath h.s daily work of body or mind
Appointed, which declares his dignity,
And the/regàrd/ of Hèav'n/ on àll/ his wàys/; (P.L., iv, 620.)

b. Ó faìr/est of/creà/tion, làst/ and bèst/
Of all God's works, (P.L., ix, 896)

c. 'Tis goòd/ you knòw/not that/ you àre/ his heirs/;
(Jul. Caes., III, ii, 150.)

d. Hè/ shall but bèar/ them as/ the àss/ bears gòld/,
(Jul. Caes., IV, i, 21.)

In the following examples two stresses are suppressed in each verse:—

(2.) a. It is/ a crèa/ ture that/ I tèach/ to fight/.
(Jul. Caes., IV, i, 31.)

b. And, being men, hearing the will of Caesar,
It will/ inflàme/ you, it/ will màke/ you màd/:
(Jul. Caes., III, ii, 149.)

c. To-mòr/ row, and/ to-mòr/ row, and/ to-mòr/ row,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the/ làst sỳl//lable of/ recòr/ ded time/;
(Macb., V, v, –21.)

d. They did/so, to/ the amà/ zement of/mìne èyes//
That look'd upon't. (Macb., II, iv, 19.)

A unit of four or five syllables might be inferred, were it not for the fact that the verses would then lack their normal five units. It is questionable, however, if there is any great material difference between these apparently quadruple and the actual quadruple units. The fourth unit in

(3.) Our àr/my lìes/ rèa/ dy to give ùp/ the ghòst/.

seems temporally almost equal to units three and four in

(3a.) Of dìre/ combùs/ tion and/confùsed/ evènts/

If it be equal, then (3a) and verses like it must be regarded as verses of only four stresses, when, also, blank verse must be regarded as not uniformly composed of verses of five stresses. A four-stressed line and a verse from “Paradise Lost” may be juxtaposed:—

(4.) And the rose like a nymph to the bath addrest,
O fairest of creation, last and best

Here, however, the latter appears to be too much hurried, so that it is presumable that the time taken from the second unit is divided amongst the others, leaving the verse of comparatively the same temporal length as those of five normal stresses. Example (3) will more readily transform to a four-stressed line—

(3b.) Our àr/ my lies rèa/ dy to give/ up the ghòst/

—since the loss of a pause is not so noticeable in this instance as the cramping of syllables in (4) The whole question of the relationship between

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the italicised units in (3) and (3a) is very debatable; but it will, I think, be agreed that the units with suppressed stress give part of their time to the other units, adding emphasis. This is especially noticeable in verses like (2) c—

To the/làst sỳl//lable of/ recò/ded time/;

which one is almost inclined to read,

(5.) To the làst/ sỳ/lable of/ recòr/ded time/,

making a long vocal pause on “last,” and resolving the unstressed and double stressed units into triple and paused units, similar to those discussed in paragraph 20 of Section III.

2. This possible reading with the vocal pause presents itself when the unstressed unit is followed by a unit containing both accented and stressed syllables, as,—

(6.) a. a noble stroke he lifted high,
Which hung not, but so swift with tempest fell
On the/ pròud crèst// of Sà/ tan, that/ nò sìght//,
Nor mò/tion of/ swìft thòught//, lèss/ could his shìeld/
Such ruin intercept: (P.L., vi, –2.

b. Now I see ‘tis true
For the/ bloòd-bòl// ter'd Bàn/ quo smiles/ upòn/ me,
And points at them for his. (Macb., IV, i, 123.)

c. Amongst innumerable stars, that shone
Stàrs dìs//tant, but/ nìgh hànd// seem'd ò/ ther wòrlds/;
(P.L., iii, 566.)

d. the will
And hìh/ permìs/sion of/ àll-rù//ling Hèaven/
Left him at large to his own dark designs, (P.L., i, 213.)

e. Nor did they not perceive the evil plight
In whìch/ they wère/, or the/ fièrce paìns// not fèel/; (P.L., i, 336.)

f. You làck/ the seà/son of/ àll nà// tures, slèep/. (Macb., III, iv, 141.)

g. What concern they?
The gèn/eral cause?/ or ìs/ it a/ feè-grìef//
Due to some single breast? (Macb., IV, iii, 196.)

h. Frìgh/ted the rèign/ of Chà/os and/ òld Nìght//. (P.L, i, 543.)

These verses admit of various readings, nor can one be said to correct and another incorrect. Few, probably, would read them in the child's singsong,

(6a.) a. On thè/ proud crèst/ of Sà/tan, thàt/ no sìght/,

though this would at one time have received the sanction of prosodists. Some would read with a vocal pause on “proud,” and another, perhaps, on “no”:—

(6b.) a. On the pròud/ crèst/ of Sà/tan, that nò/ sìght/,

These pauses need be but very slight to give distinctive character to the verse. Others, again, would ignore the pauses, and give “proud” and “no” their syntactic accents, the stresses being given to the following words, “crest” and “sight”:—

(6c.) a. On the/ proùd crèst// of Sà/tan, that/ nò sìght//,

The scansions for these three readings would be,—

(7.) a. On thè/ proud crèst/ of Sà/tan, thàt/ no sìght/,
b. On the proùd/ crèst/ of Sà/tan, that nò/ sìght/,
c. On the/ pròud crèst// of Sà/tan, that/ nò sight//,

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It is immaterial for the purposes of the analysis here attempted which reading be adopted: it is only desired to show that the various units of the three scansions are possible—that is, units with two syllables, the first unaccented, the second bearing a stress; units with three syllables, the third bearing the stress; units of a pause and a single stressed syllable; units of two syllables, neither accented nor stressed; units of two syllables, the first accented, the second stressed. The last-named may be called “heavy duple units.”

3. There is a variation of the triple unit when, as in the duple unit, an accented syllable precedes the stressed syllable:—

(8.) a. Shòw/ you swèet Càe//sar's woùnds/, pòor pòor// dùmb mòuths//. (Jul. Caes., III, ii, 229.)
b. Whò/ you àll knòw// are hòn/ oura/ ble mèn/: (Jul. Caes., III, ii, 129).
c. Lìs/ten grèat thìngs//: Brù/tus and Càs/sius/ (Jul. Caes., IV, i, 41.)

This form of the unit is mostly found in triple units following broken units: it may be called, as suggested, the “heavy triple unit.” In the following example an alternative scansion presents itself—

(8a.) Òne/ do I pèr/sonate of/ Lòrd Ti//mon's fràme/,

where a triple unit with suppressed stress is followed by a heavy duple unit. This scansion, however, creates a new form of unit, the light or unaccented and unstressed triple; and as this form is exceedingly uncommon, and when found can as easily be resolved into two other common units—the light duple and heavy triple—there is no necessity for such scansion as is presented in (8a).

4. The heavy duple unit, or duple unit in which the first syllable is accented and the second stressed, occurs with great frequency, not only following light units, or units with suppressed stress, as in examples (6) in paragraph 2 above, but following ordinary or other heavy units. These in classic nomenclature are known as “spondees.” The following are examples:—

(9.) a. Ùp/ then crèw/ the rèd/ rèd cìck//, (“Wife of Usher's Well,” st. 8.)

b. The gòod/ whỳte brède,// the gòod/ rèd wỳne//,
And theretò/ the fỳne/ àle bròwn//.
(“A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode,” fytte 7, st. 40.)

c. Him the almighty Power
Hùrl'd hèad//long flà/ming from/ th' ethè/real skỳ, (P.L., i, 45.)

d. I knòw/ yòung blòods// lòok/ for a time/ of rèst/. (Macb., IV, iii, 262).

e. Yet he loves Antony:
Hò! hèarts,// tòngues, fi//gures, scrìbes/, bàrds, pò//ets, càn/not
Thìnk, spèak//, càst, wrìte//, sìng, nùm//ber—hò !/
His love to Antony. (Ant. & Cleo., III, ii, 16.)

f. No mòre/ lifes, dèaths//, lòves, hà//treds, pèa/ ces, wàrs!/ (Browning, “Sórdello,” iii, 140.)

As these examples show, the heavy units are the result of the juxtaposition of words bearing comparative equal syntactic accent, such as nouns and their qualifying adjectives, duplicated or intensified monosyllabic adjectives, and so on. Incidentally, it may be noted that when a monosyllabic adjective precedes a two-syllabled noun accented on the first syllable a false

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accent, generally implying a heavy unit, results, as in example (25) of Section III. This is often avoided by a transposition of the two words—the qualifying word, instead of being given its natural place before the word qualified, is placed after it; so, instead of saying,

(10.) They've casten him in a deep dungeon,

the ballad of “Young Beichan” says,

(10a.) They've casten him in a dungeon deep,

This transposition has been called poetic license; and it probably arose not so much through a desire to differentiate the language of prose and poetry as through an instinctive obedience to rhythmic stress-grouping. In the days when the old ballads were struck to life, word-accent was not so definitely fixed as now, so that many cases of apparently false accent may appear so only by reason of the then indefinite having now become definite. In “Sir Patrick Spens,” for instance, the word “sailor” was indifferently accented either on the first or second syllables, or the ballad-maker wilfully contrasted the accent in stanzas 13 and 14 (Allingham):—

(11.) O whare will I get a gude sailor


(11a.) O here am I, a sailor gude

In “Etin the Forester,” stanza 16 (Allingham), we have,—

(12.) I'd ask ye something, mither,
An ye wadna angry be.

And in the following stanza,—

(13.) Your cheeks are afttimes weet, mither;
You're weeping, as I can see.

In (12) “mither” receives the usual accent on the first syllable; in (13), the unusual accent on the second, unless the pause indicated by the comma be regarded, when the usual accent is restored. Similarly in stanza 18:—

(14.) For I was ance an earl's daughter,
Of noble birth and fame;

An English reading would give “daughter” the unusual accent on the second syllable; a Scottish reading—and the ballad as found is Scottish—would give it the usual accent on the first syllable, the burr in “earl's” filling the place of the pause which would otherwise separate “earl's” and “daughter.” This fascinating subject lies beyond the sphere of prosody, whose duty it is to note the variation of units, not necessarily of words.

5. There is one duple unit, of comparatively rare occurrence, which bears an accent on the first syllable, but neither accent nor stress on the second. There are perhaps four such units in the whole of “Macbeth”:—

(15.) a. I hèard/ the owl/ scrèam and / the crì/ckets crỳ/. (Macb. II, ii, 16.)

b. An/ gels are brìght/ still, though / the brì/ghtest fell/: (Macb. IV, iii, 22.)

c. The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
To hèar/a nìght-/shrìek, and / my fèll/ of hàir/
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
As life were in't: (Macb., V, v, 11.)

d. by the clock ‘tis day,
And yèt/ dàrk nìght// stràngles / the trà/ velling làmp/: (Macb. II, iv, 7.)

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In the case of a, b, and d most readers would probably make a vocal pause on the vowel preceding the unit in question, when a paused and triple unit would result:—

(15a.) a. I hèard/ the owl/ scrèam/ and the crì/chets crý/.
b. Àn/gels are brìght/ still/, though the brì/ghtest fèll/:
d. And yèt/ dàrk nìght// stràn/gles the trà/velling làmp/:

The vocal pause need be but slight to make the scansion that of (15a). In example c above, “shriek” cannot receive an accent equal to that on “night,” or “shriek” would be taken for the verb and not the nóun: “night-shriek” is a compound word like “manhood” or “housetop”; and it may perhaps be found that “shriek” would in reading receive no more accent than “and,” so that the unit would be an ordinary unstressed unit—

(15a.) c. To hèar/ a nìght-/shriek, and / my fèll/ of hàir/

It may be, therefore, that there is no need for supposing an accented unstressed unit to exist. It is, however, noted as a possible form. In the following verse it is avoided by an alternative scansion:—

(16.) For the most part, too, they are foolish that are so. (Ant. & Cleo., III, iii, 34.)

This might be scanned,—

(16a.) For the/ mòst pàrt//, tòo, they/ are fòol/ish that/ àre sò//.

But this gives six units, including the doubtful one; and a better scansion is,—

(16b.) For the mòst/ pàrt, tòo//, they are fòol/ish that/ àre sò//.

Section VI.

1. Units composed of a single syllable augmented by a pause are now to be considered—that is, “paused units.” The paused unit followed by a triple unit has already been dealt with (paragraph 17 et seq. of Section III), and the same preceded by a triple unit (paragraphs 20 and 25 of Section III). To the latter class belong constructions in the old ballads such as the following:—

(1.) a. And it hath stricken the Earl Douglas
Ìn/ at the brèast/ bane/. (“The Hunting of the Cheviot,” fytte ii, st. 12.)

b. And first/ he has hàr/pit a gràve/ tùne/,
And syne he has harpit a gay; (“Glasgerion,” st. 7.)

c. She's tà'en/ a càke/ o' the bèst/ brèad/,
A stoùp/ o' the bèst/ wìne/, (“Fair Annie,” st. 13.)

d. O gìve/ me a shive/ o' your brèad/, lòve/,
O give me a cup o' your wine! (“The Jolly Goshawk,” st. 32.)

Here it may, of course, be held that the scansion should be not a triple unit followed by a paused duple, but two duple units, the first ordinary, the second heavy:—

(1a.) c. She's tà'en/ a càke/ o' thè/ bèst brèad//.
d. O gìve/ me a shìve/ o' yoùr/ brèad, lòve//.

Compare these, however, with lines where such scansion is the natural one, and the difference will be seen:—

(2.) Enèugh/ ye hàe/ o' gùde/ whèat brèad//,
And enèugh/ o' the blùde-/rèd wìne//; (“Johnnie of Braidislee,” st. 3.)

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Moreover, in (1) b and d the lilt calls for the construction suggested in (1)—the “harpit a grave” is echoed in “harpit a gay,” and “o' your bread” is echoed in “o' your wine”; though here again it may be held that a contrast is better than an echo. So long as it is conceded that the scansion in (1) is possible—that is, that the triple unit followed by a paused unit is possible—the point sought by this treatise is gained; individual taste is immaterial. Take the following example:—

(3.) Give me leave to set my horne to my mouth,
And to blòw/ blàsts/ thrèe/, (“Robin Hood and the Curtall Fryer,” line 116.)

If it be held the scansion should be,

(3a.) And tò/ blòw blàsts/ thrèe/,

the last unit is still a paused unit. Nor is it otherwise should the first unit be considered light and the second heavy—

(3b.) And to/ blòw blàsts// thrèe/.

Very few would, I think, read the line in this way. (See also example (6) c following, and remarks thereon.)

2. A unit composed of a pause and a stressed syllable may be found, however, between two ordinary units, all suggestion of the triple construction being absent:—

(4.) a. Sè/ven shìps/ lòa/ded weel/,
Came o'er the sea wi' me; (“Fair Annie,” st. 31.)

b. The first/ stèp/ the là/dy stèpped/,
She stepped on a stane; (“Lamkin,” st. 18.)

c. O whà's/ blùde/ is thìs/, he sàys/,
That lieth in my ha'? (“Lamkin,” st. 26.)

One source, already referred to, from which constructions may have sprung is the change of two-syllabled to one-syllabled words: many old words took their plural in “es,” and were two-syllabled. Terminal “e,” too, was once sounded: when the “e” became mute it was in most cases dropped or transformed, and the words originally containing it were robbed of a syllable. In prose this would not be so noticeable; in poetry it was most marked. There is still option in some words, as in those ending in “ed”: Keats always gave the “ed” its own syllabic value. Editors—such, for instance, as Newton—clipped words in “ed” where the last syllable was not to receive its full value:—

(5.) Nathless, he so indur'd, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea he stood, and call'd
His legions, Angel forms, who lay intranc'd
Thick as autumpal leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa; where th' Etrurian shades
High over-arch'd imbow'r; or scatter'd sedge
Aflote, when with fierce winds Orion arm'd
Hath vex'd the Red Sea coast, whose waves o'er-threw
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursued
The sojourners of Goshen. (P.L., i, 299 et seq.)

Here, in eleven verses, there are eight words in “ed” clipped of a syllable, and in the tenth verse is one which, following the usual rule, should be clipped; one word—“inflamed”—in the second verse receives its full three

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syllables. Turning to the ballads, the following examples are taken from “A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode”:—

(6.) a. Or gỳve/ me wòun/ des dèep/ and wỳde/.
So to leve me dede. (fytte v, st. 25.)

b. And they beset the knyght's castèll,
The wàl/les àll/ abòut/. (fytte vi, st. 2.)

c. Upon àll/ the lòn/des thàt/ I hàve/,
As I/ am a trè/ we knỳght/. (fytte vi, st. 4.)

It is clearly seen how, when “woundes” and “walles” lost their second syllables, the paused units were produced; and in the second line of example c the paused unit is preceded by a triple unit.

3. The unpaused and paused units are contrasted in—

(7.) a. Give me leave to set my fist to my mouth,
And to whù/te whù/es thrèe/. (“Robin Hood and the Curtall Fryer,” line 116.)

b. Give me leave to set my horne to my mouth,
And to blòw/ blàsts/ thrèe/. (Ibid., line 100.)

The construction of b is again seen in—

(8.) a. It's up, it's up the Couden bank,
It's doun the Couden brae;
And aye they made the trumpet sound,
It's à'/ fàir/ plày !/ (“Katherine Janfarie,” st. 15.)

Such units are plentiful enough in modern poetry, and a few examples were given in paragraph 15 of Section III. They may occur at the opening as readily as at the close:—

(9.) a. Hère/ grèat/ soàls/, / in a plè/nitùde/ of vi/sion,
Plànned/ hìgh/ dèeds/ / as immòr/tal as/ the sùn/; (Lord Bowen, “Shadow Land.”)

b. Sà/vage Ì/ was sì/tting ìn/ my hòuse/, làte/, lòne/:
Drèa/ry, / wèa/ry with/ the lòng/ dày's/ work/:
Hèad/ of mè/, hèart/ of mè/, stù/pid as/ a stòne/:
Tòngue-/ tìed/ nòw/, nòw/ blasphèm/ing like/ a Tùrk/; (Browning, “Epilogue: The Householder,” opening.)

4. In blank verse this unit rarely occurs unless preceded or succeeded by a triple unit, as discussed in paragraph 20 et seq. of Section III. Did it occur between normal units, the verse would lose a syllable. There would, of course, still be the compensation of the pause, but the pause was disregarded in the poetry of numbers, so that in “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained” the paused unit in normal surroundings is practically non-existent. It may, however, be frequently found in Shakspeare:—

(10) a. My plenteous joys,
Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves
In dròps/ of sòr/row. Sòns/, kìns/men, thànes/,
And you whose places are the nearest, (Macb., I, iv, 35.)

b. Whàt/ should be spò/ken hère/, whère/ our fàte/,
Hid in an auger-hole, may rush, and seize us? (Macb., II, iii, 127.)

This unit may be called the “heavy paused unit.”

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5. Much more common is the unit composed of an unaccented syllable followed by a pause. It is the normal fourth unit of verse of the Nibelungen type, as in—

(11.) The lòve/ that Ì/ hae chò/ sen, /
I'll thère/with bè/ contènt/;
The sàut/ sea sàll/ be frò/ zen /
Befòre/ that Ì/ repènt/.
Rèpent/ it sàll/ I nè/ver /
Until/ the dày/I dèe/;
But the Làw/lands /o' Hòl/land /
Hae twìnn'd/ my lòve/ and mè/. (“The Lowlands o' Holland,” st. 1.)

The pause is perfectly evident to the ear when reading aloud, more especially when a verse containing the pause is followed by one from which it is absent, as in Macaulay's “Horatius”:—

(12.) Then òut/ spake bràve/ Horà/tius, /
The càp/tain of/ the gàte/:
To è/very màn/ upòn/ this èarth/
Death còm/eth sòon/ or làte/.

The great German epic poem “Die Nibelungen Noth” is composed almost entirely of verses containing this paused unit at each half-line end; but its double occurrence as in the last verse of (11) is rare. Burns is the only modern poet who has used it at all consistently, and then only as the conclusion of a particular stanza:—

(13.) While winds frae aff Ben-Lomond blaw,
And bar the doors wi' drivin' snaw,
And hing us owre the ingle,
I set me down to pass the time,
And spin a verse or twa o' rhyme,
In hamely, westlin jingle:
While frosty winds blaw in the drift,
Ben to the chimla lug,
I grudge a wee the great folks' gift,
That live sae bien an' snug:
I tènt/ less, /and wànt/ less /
Their ròo/ my fì/re side/;
But hàn/ker, /and càn/ker, /
To sèe/ their cùr/sed prìde/. (“Epistle to Davie.”)

This stanza form is thought to have been invented by the Scottish poet Alexander Montgomerie, born about 1540.

6. The peculiarity of this unit is that it is the stressed syllable has been dropped, the unstressed syllable remaining; so that this unit might almost be regarded as a still lighter form of the one discussed in paragraph 5 of Section V. The actuality of the latter, however, is dubitable; whereas the existence of the former is quite beyond doubt. It may be called the “light paused unit.”

7. The light paused unit may be found at the verse-end of blank verse, but this is unusual:—

(14.) Up, up, and see
The grèat/ doom's ì/mage! Màl/colm! Bàn/quo/
As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
To countenance this horror. (Macb., II, iii, 83.)

In this instance perhaps a better scansion might be,—

(14a.) The grèat/ doom's ì/mage! / Màl/colm! Bàn/(quo!)

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where a pause theoretically taking the second half of the third and the former first half of the fourth units divides the metaphorical speech from the call. It is reasonable to suppose such a division: it would argue the taking of a deep breath to make the calls the louder. The result of the scansion (14a) is to make the light paused unit the third unit instead of the fifth, to make the fourth a heavy paused unit, and to give the fifth a feminine ending; yet perhaps the extraordinary occurrence described in the verse warrants the extraordinary variety in the metre. The pause will probably not be equal to a full unit in reading; there is nothing tangible to enforce such full value being given, but, as in a physical organ, the fundamental structure is the same if the unit be vigorous or in a state of atrophy. Another instance of a silent unit may be cited:—

(15.) went it not so ?
To the sèlf-/sàme tùne// and wòrds/. /Whò's hère ?// (Macb., I, iii, 88.)

Again the pause after “words” seems logical. Banquo makes a slight pause before accosting Ross and Angus, who enter at that moment with the King's message to Macbeth. Of course, these silent units cannot be proven in the rugged metre of dramatic verse: it is enough to suggest their possibility. Their probability may be surmised when it is known that primarily all Alexandrine verse was divided into two halves by a silent unit this will be dealt with in the chapter on verse-lengths.

8. Within the verse the light paused unit is not so unusual as at the verse-end:—

(16.) a. The raven himself is hoarse
That cròaks/ the fà/tal èn/trance / of Dùn/(can)
Under my battlements. (Macb., I, v, 40.)

b. Haply you shall not see me more; or if,
A màn/gled shà/dow: / perchànce/ to-mòr/(row)
You'll serve another master. (Ant. & Cleo., IV, ii, 27.)

The construction is quite different in versed like—

(17.) a. Yet here, Laer tes! Aboard, aboard, for shame! (Hamlet, I, iii, 55.)

b. Two nights together had these gentlemen …
Been thus encounter'd. A figure like your father (Hamlet, I, ii, 199.)

Here triple units are divided by pauses, the scansion being—

(17a.) a. Yet hère/, Laèr/tes! Abòard/, abòard/, for shàme!/
b. Been thùs/ encòun/ter'd. A fì/ gure lìke/ your fà/(ther).

Were a paused light unit supposed, the scansion would be—

(17b.) a. Yet hère/, Laèr/tes ! / Abòard/, abòard/, for shàme!/
b. Been thùs/ encòun/ter'd. / A fi/gure like your fà/(ther)

—when the verses would contain six units instead of the normal five. The same applies to ballad-measures. For instance,

(18.) I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden,

differs from

(18a.) Then out spake bold Horatius,

in this: the former contains not only the full four units of the ballad half-line, but an additional syllable also; the latter contains a syllable less than the full four units:—

(18b.) I fèar/ thy kìs/ses, gèn/tle maì/(den,)
Then oùt/ spake bòld/ Horà/tius, /

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The result is that whereas in the full verse of (18a) a paused light unit will be found, a triple unit will be found in the full verse of (18):—

(19.) a. I fèar/ thy kìs/ses gèn/tle maì/den, thou nèe/dest nòt/ fear mìne/;
b. Then òut/ spake bòld Horà/tius, /the càp/tain of/ the gàte/:

9. This extra syllable, like the “den” of “maiden” in (18), may occur at the end of heroic and blank verses, or at the end of ballad verses, when such verses are said to have a feminine or weak ending. It is owing to the great preponderance of words of one syllable in the English language that feminine-ended verses are not the normal ones, since words of more than one syllable tend to take the accent on the last syllable but one. With the view to ascertaining approximately the proportion of one-syllabled words to words of more than one syllable occurring at the ends of verses, the first five hundred verses of various poems have been taken, and their endings tabulated. Thus, of “Paradise Lost” the first five hundred verses of Book I have been analysed, the end words only being taken; the first five hundred of Act III, scene i, of Swinburne's “Chastelard”; of “Endymion,” &c., as follows:—

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

Table I.
End-words containing Femmine Ends.
1 Syll. 2 Syll 3 Syll. 4 Syll. 5 Syll. Single. Double.
“Paradise Lost” 378 79 24 7 12 500
“Chastelard,” III, i 444 23 18 1 14 500
“Endymion” 378 42 36 9 1 34 500
“Hyperion” 414 33 34 7 1 11 500
“Two Gent. Ver.,” II, iv 299 55 44 10 3 87 2 500
“Sonnets” of Shakspeare 348 65 26 5 56 500
Totals 2,261 297 182 39 5 214 2 3,000

Again the same poems have been taken and the first five hundred words analysed, including all words in the body as well as at the end of the verses, with the following result:—

[The section below cannot be correctly rendered as it contains complex formatting. See the image of the page for a more accurate rendering.]

Table II.
Words containing Total.
1 Syll. 2 Syll. 3 Syll. 4 Syll. 5 Syll.
“Paradise Lost” 365 97 30 8 500
“Chastelard,” III, i 453 42 5 500
“Endymion” 363 115 19 3 500
“Hyperion” 387 92 20 1 500
“Two Gent. Ver.” II, iv 389 82 23 4 2 500
“Sonnets” 382 94 20 4 500
Totals 2,339 522 117 20 2 3,000

These tables show decisively the great preponderance of one-syllabled words not only at the line-ends, but also in the body of the verse. The great disparity between the number of two-syllabled words at the verse-ends and in the body of the verse is easily accounted for when it is remembered that by far the greater number of such words is accented on the first syllable,

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and their use at the line-ends would make feminine endings, of which there are in the above examples only 216 in 3,000 verses.

10. Most one-syllabled words may be accented or not, according to context. This means that when two such words come together, one, both, either, or neither may bear the accent. In two-syllabled words, however, it is usual that either the first or the second syllable bears the accent: the words “heavy,” “open,” “settle,” are always accented on the first syllable; the words “amiss,” “repeal,” “betake,” usually on the second syllable. These words with fixed accent, then, cannot in poetry naturally be used in a place where the stress would fall on the unaccented syllable, without either the stress being suppressed, or the word receiving both natural accent and rhythmic stress (see paragraph 24 of Section III). It is different with the one-syllabled words: no two of these come together invariably in any certain sequence, for which reason the stress may fall on either or neither—as “I àm the màn,” or “I am hè,” or “I am nòt of the clàn.”

11. Before deciding on the classification of feminine endings it will be as well to examine them a little more closely. As stress is a result of breath-action, the stress of any syllable must be on the vowel—the breath-letter. Where the syllable does not end with a vowel, then, it is evident the sound of it is prolonged beyond the vowel, and in scansion by stress Units, where the stress is the bound of the unit, that part of the syllable following the vowel occupies part of the time of the following unit. In the following passage the ordinary scansion is denoted:—

(20.) Stop ùp/ the accèss/ and pàs/ sage to/ remòrse/,
That nò/ compùnc/ tious v/ sitings/ of nà/(ture)
Shàke/ my fèll pùr// pose, nor/ kèep pèace// betwèen/
The effèct/ and ìt !/ Còme/ to my wò/ man's brèasts/,
And tàke/ my mìlk/ for gàll/, you mùr/ dering min/ (isters,)
Wherèv/ er in/ your sìght/ less sùb/ stances/
You waìt/on nàture's mis/ chief! Come/, thìck nìght//,
And pàll/ thee in/ the dùn/ nest smòke/ of hèll/,
That mỳ/ kèen knìfe// sèe/ not the wòund/ it màkes/,
Nor hèaven/ pèep thròugh// the blàn/ ket of/ the dàrk/,
To crỳ/ “Hold, hòld!”// (Macb., I, v, 45.)

Now, a syllable is composed of one sound when its vowel is followed by an open consonant, but of two sounds if followed by a closed consonant. These two kinds of consonants are classified as under:—

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Table III.
Open Consonants. Closed Consonants.
Breathed. Sonant Dulled. Explosive.
f v b p
l c
m j ch
n g k
r d t
s z h
sb q(kw)
th (think) th (thine) x(ks)
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Thus, the word “ruff” is all spoken on the breath; it is one sound: but “rut” has two distinct sounds; there is a pause between the completion of the vowel sound and the completion of the consonantal sound—that is, there is a stoppage of breath in the midst of the syllable. In the open consonants there is a free and uninterrupted passage of breath; in the closed consonants there is a momentary stoppage. Thus it is that two parts of one word may be more widely separated than two distinct words. In the word “obey,” for instance, there is a greater pause between the “o” and the “bey” than between the “I” and “am” of “I am”; hence the common colloquial corruption of the latter to “I'm.” This easy gliding from vowel to vowel was doubtless also the reason for the prosodic colloquialism of “clipping” referred to in paragraph 17 of Section III. In scansion by stress-units, then, any closed consonant following a stress will naturally fall into the following unit. It must be remembered, at the same time, that a doubled consonant like the “bb.” in “rubbing” does not indicate a doubled consonantal sound, but a shortened vowel; and the word should not, therefore, be divided “rùb/bing,” but “rù/bbing.” Doubled open consonants may be thus divided if desired, as their sound is continous, though it receives no stress. The better scansion of (20) would therefore be,—

(21.) Stop ù/p the accè/ss and pà/ssage to/ remò/(rse,) 1
That nò/ compù/nctious vì/ sitings/ of nà/ (ture) 2
Shà/ ke my fèll pù//rpose, nor/ kèep pèace// betwèe/(n) 3
The effè/ct and ì/ t! Cò/ me to my wò/ man's brèa/ (sts,) 4
And tà/ke my mì/lk for gà/ ll, you mù/rdering mì/(nisters,) 5
Wherè/ver in/ your sìgh/tless sù/bstances/ 6
You wà/it on nà/ture's mì/schief! Có/me, thìck nìgh//(t,) 7
And pà/ll thee in/the dù/nnest smò/ke of hè/(ll,) 8
That mỳ/kèen knì//fe sèe/not the woù/nd it mà/(kes,) 9
Nor hèa/ven pèep throùgh//the blà/nket of/the dà/(rk,) 10
To crỳ/“Hold, hò//ld!”

Naturally, odd consonants may as readily fall beyond the last unit as outside the first or any other, and it appears to be only a matter of degree how many consonants thus fall beyond the unit. There may even be one or two vowels amongst those consonants, making one or two syllables. When such vowels occur, the feminine and double feminine endings result; and it was seen by Table I above that in 3,000 verses there were only 214 feminine and 2 double feminine endings. In the above quotation from “Machbeth,” in verses 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 there is only breathed or hissed sound falling beyond the last unit; in verses 3 and 8 there is the sustained sound of liquid consonants; in verse 2 there is a vocal vowel, “u,” making another syllable, “ture,” resulting in a feminine ending; and in verse 5 there are two vocal vowels, “i” and “e,” making two syllables, resulting in a double feminine ending. The difference between these various verse-endings is largely one of degree only: as regards duration of sound, it will probably be admitted readily that the word “nature” ending verse 2, occupies less time in utterance than the word “breasts,” ending verse 4; and of the parts falling beyound the unit it will as probably be admitted that “ture” occupies less time than “sts,” for in the former there is but one continuous sound, whereas in the latter there are two. Whilst, therefore, “true” is syntactically a syllable in itself, and “sts” is only part of a syllable, prosodically each occupies part of a time-space lying beyond the last unit of the verse. Again, were the word ending verse 5 “ministers” instead of “ministers,” the time-value of “sters” would be little more than that of

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“sts,” and “min” being of less time-value than “brea” the total time-value of the two words would practically be equal. Indeed, repeating the two words “breasts” and “ministers,” their difference, whilst appreciable, is very inconsiderable; and the insertion of the short “i,” making “minsters” “ministers,” lengthens the word very little indeed, whilst it makes the articulation easier. The whole contention is this: that the extra syllables of feminine and double feminine endings are often of very little more time-value than the consonantal endings of one-syllabled end words. Two examples of double feminine endings follow:—

(22.) a. he fishes, drinks and wastes
The làmp/of nìght/in rè/vel: is nòt/more màn/(like)
Than Clè/opà/tra, nor/the quèen/of Ptò/(lemy)
More womanly than he. (Ant. & Cleo., I, iv, 6.)

b. For sò/litùde/sometìmes/is bèst/socì/(ety,)
And short retirement urges sweet return. (P.L., ix, 249.)

Words with light endings, like “society,” &c., are usually given a fictitious stress—that is, they occupy the position where a stress would fall were it not suppressed:—

(23.) a. They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel
Divì/nity/ withìn/ them brèe/ ding wìngs/,
Wherewith to scorn the earth; (P.L., ix,1010.)

b. Sin/ and her shà/ dow Dèath/, and Mì/sery/
Death's harbinger. (P.L., ix, 12.)

In the following, “misery” appears as a three-syllabled word accented in the usual way on the first syllable:—

(24.) Yet well, if here would end
The mì/sery; Ì/ desèrv'd/ it, and/ would bèar/
My own deservings; (P.L., x, 726.)

A comparison of “society” in two different positions is of interest: first as quoted in (22) b, where it occupies the last unit and and forms a double feminine; then where it occupies two full units, no feminine resulting:—

(25.) a. For sò/litùde/ sometìmes/ is bèst/ socì/(ety,)

b. Amòng/ unè/ quals, whàt/ socì/ ety/
Can sort, what harmony or true delight? (P.L., viii, 383.)

It will be noted that the double feminines all contain very short vowels; this, too, obtains, as a rule, in the single feminines, examples like the following being comparatively uncommon:—

(26) a. You may
Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty,
And yèt/ seem còld/, the tìme/ you mày/ so hòod/(wink:) (Macb, IV, iii, 72.)

b. Now mì/nutely/ revòlts/ upbraìd/ his faìth-/(breach;)

12. The question now is, in what way do these feminine endings fall within the metrical scheme? It is commonly held that they occupy part of the rhythmic pause that usually divides the verses of blank verse one from another. It is admitted that metrical pauses are of almost universal occurrence in heroic, or five-stressed rimed verse, but it is probable that the rime augmented the pause, if it did not create it; and hence it is that much heroic verse—Pope's, for example—is a series of epigrammatic couplets. It is, however, contended that the discarding of the rime in blank verse was not only a rejection of the “jingling sound of like endings,” or an emancipation from restriction, since to no true poet is rime a restriction, but also a step towards the rejection of rhythmic pause in favour of the

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syntactic pause: it was felt the natural expression of thought demanded the overflow—that is, the running-on of the thought from one verse into another, and the rejection of the coterminousness of the thought with the verse. There are many who still maintain that there should be at least a slight pause after every verse, even of blank verse, to insure the preservation of the rhythm; but surely the poets themselves deny this in a most emphatic manner by creating such verses as,—

(27.) a. as that sole bird,
When to inshrine his reliques in the sun's
Bright temple, to Egyptian Thebes he flies. (P.L., v, 273.)

b. Mark Antony is every hour in Rome Expected: since he went from Egypt ‘tis
A space for farther travel. (Ant. & Cleo., II, i, 29, 30.)

Blank verse may, indeed, be considered as the link between prose and lyric rimed poetry. It is not to be considered as composed of so-many distinct five-stressed verses, but of groups of verses. A most casual reading of Shakspeare or Milton, or indeed any poet, will show this at once. In Pope, couplets whose thought is complete—even single verses—may be detached by the score; in blank verse the jewels of thought will often include many verses, beginning and ending at any point within the verse.

13. Considering blank verse as a composite whole, then, and not as a collection of individual and self-sufficient veses, the place of the feminine endings is shown more clearly—they from part of the first unit of the verse following. This is often self-evident in the case of single feminine endings:—

(28.) but who here
Will envy whom the highest plàce/expò/(ses)
Forè/most to stànd/ against the Thunderer's aim
(P L., ii, 27.)

It is evident in such examples that the feminine ending completes the first unit of the following verse, taking the place of the pause which would have divided the two verses had the first ended with a stress. In the following examples the verse after the feminine ending opens with an already complete unit:—

(29.) a. by command
Of sovran pow'r, with àw/ful cè/remò/(ny)
And trùm/pet's sòund/, (P.L., i, 753.)

b. since fàte/inè/vita/(ble)
Subdues/ us, and/ omnipotent decree, (P.L., ii, 197.)

No pause, or a very slight pause only, separates the feminine ending from the following verse. The result is, the first unit of the verse following the feminine ending is triple. Example (29) a could as well be written,

(29a.) With àw/ful cè/remò/ny and trùm/pet's sòund/,

when an ordinary verse results. It may be conceded that this may be the case with a single feminine ending, but not with a double feminine. Example (22) a may be written,

(30.) Is nòt/ more màn/like than Clè/opà/tra, nor/
The quèen/ of Ptò/lemy more wò/ manly/ than hè/.

when both single and double feminine endings by being incorporated in the verse produce triple and quadruple units. The resulting quadruple unit as above does not in any way differ from the undoubted quadruple units exampled in (4) of Section IV, and there would, therefore, appear to be no objection to the suggestion that a feminine ending is in reality part of the following unit, lying within, and not without, the metrical scheme of units.

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14. In ballad or lyric poetry there is less difficulty in showing that the feminine ending forms part of a unit; for the full verse, containing six, seven, or eight stresses, is usually divided into two parts; and it is at the point of division, after the first half-verse, that the feminine ending most frequently appears. One example was quoted at the end of paragraph 8 of this section:—

(31.) I fèar/thy kìs/ses gèn/tle mài/(den,)
Thou nèe/dest nòt/fear mìne/;

It is evident, when this verse is printed at length, that the feminine does no more than form a triple unit:—

(31a.) I fèar/thy kìs/ses gèn/tle mài/den, thou nèe/dest nòt/fear mìne/;

The second line often begins abruptly, or with a stressed syllable, when there is not the slightest doubt that the feminine forms part of a unit:—

(32.) a. “Nòw/and thou lèse/thy lònde”/, sayd Rò/(byn,)
“Whàt/shall fàll/of thèe ?”/
(“A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode,” fytte i, st. 55.)

b. Fair Màr/garet sàt/in her bò/wer wìn-/(dow)
Còm/bing her yèl/low hair/;
(“Fair Margaret's Misfortunes,” st. 2.)

Printing these lines as their full verses, we have,—

(32a.) a. “Nòw/and thou lèse/ thy lònde”/, sayd Rò/byn, “whàt/shall fàll/of thèe ?”/
b. Fair Màr/garet sàt/in her bò/wer wìn/dow còm/bing her yèl/low hàir/;

Can there be the least doubt that the italicised units are ordinary duple units? Nor is there more doubt when the unit appears as triple instead of duple, especially when another triple unit occurs in the verse:—

(33.) a. They làn/ded nèar/the Eàrl/Màr's càs//(tle,)
Took shèl/ter in èv/ery trèe/.
(“Earl Mar's Daughter,” st. 30.)

b. “O whàre/will I gèt/a skèe/ly skì/(pper)
To sàil/this new shìp/o' mine?”/
(“Sir Patrick Spens,” st. 1.)

(33a.) a. They làn/ded nèar/the Eàrl/Màr's càs//tle, took shèl/ter in èv/ery trèe/.
b. O whàre/will I gèt/a skèe/ly skì/pper to sàil/this new shìp/o'mìne?”/

It may, of course, be objected that the word causing the feminine should be pronounced with the second syllable accented—“castèl,” “skippèr.” The same objection may be urged against each of the examples in (32); but, granting this fictitious accentuation in (32), the resulting pause between the two lines will at once indicate where a syllable has been dropped—

(34.) Fair Màr/garèt sàt/in her bò/wer windòw/ còm/bing her yèl/low hàir/;

—and is it not evident beyond all doubt that the syllable has been dropped from the fifth unit? Where two lines, as in these examples, form one unbroken verse, it is surely immaterial, the rhythm being continous, whether the first syllable of the fifth unit be attached to the end of the first line or the beginning of the second. It is merely a matter of printing: read the full verse aloud, and all anomaly disappears. So, too, with the examples in (33), where triple units are produced. Here no pause breaks the rhythm if the fictitious accentuation be adopted, but a most noticeable difference in rhythm is produced. The two readings may be contrasted:—

(35) a. O whàre/will I gèt/ a skèe/ly skì/pper to sàil/ this new shìp/ o' mine?/
b. O whàre/will I gèt/ a skèe/ly skipper/ to sàil/ this new ship/ o'mine?/

It is self-evident that by the transference of a syllable from the fifth to the fourth unit a difference has been made in those units. In b, the unit

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“/ly skippèr/,” containing three syllables, is uttered in the same time as the unit in a, “/ly ski/,” containing only two syllables; and similarly the unit “/pper to sàil/” in a occupies no more time in utterance than “/to sàil/” in b. The time-value of no unit is altered, merely the syllabic value; and again, in reading aloud, it is immaterial whether the fourth or the fifth unit be the one of three syllables.

15. When the feminine ending follows the second line, or the verseend, there is no question, so far as six-and seven-stressed verse is concerned, that it occupies the “silent unit”—the unit in which the breath is usually taken:—

(36.) “O fàre/ye wèel/, my là/dy dèar!/
And pùt/asìde/your sòr/(row;)
For if/I gàe/, I'll sùne/retùrn/
Frae the bòn/ny bànks/o'Yàr/(row.”) /
(“The Banks o' Yarrow,” st. 4.)

There is a peculiar custom, most common in Scottish ballads, of affixing an “O” to the end of a ballad verse; and it is often doubtful whether a feminine ending only is intended, or it is wished to prolong the ballad verse of seven stresses to a romance verse of eight stresses. In the following a feminine ending is doubtless intended:—

(37.) She kìss'd/his chèek/, she kaìm'd/his hàir/,
As òft/she'd dòne/befòre/, (O;) /
She bèl/ted hìm/ wi' hìs/gùde brànd//,
And hè's/awà'/ to Yàr/(row.) /
(“the Banks o' Yarrow,” st. 4.)

In the following, however, it would seem that it was intended to eke out the ballad verse, dwelling on the “scheel” and “weel,” and so filling the eight unit with a vocal pause and “O “:—

(38.) My dòch/ter can nàe/ther reàd/ nor wrìte/,
She nè'er/ was brocht ùp/ at schèel/, Ò/;
But wèel/can she mìlk/ baith còw/ and èwe/,
And màk/ a kè/bbuck wèel/, Ò/.
(“The Laird o' Drum,” st. 7.)

In all examples such as (36) the syllable of the feminine ending is usually very short, and might be regarded as mere prolongation of sound after the last stressed vowel. A theoretically perfectly ending unit should end with the stress, as in—

(39.) O mickle was the gude red wine
In silver cups/did flòw/;
But aye she drank to Lamington,
And fain with him/would /.
(“Katherine Janfarie,” st. 11.)

Almost as perfect is the unit ending in an open consonant, as in—

(40.) There was a may, a weel-far'd may,
Lived high up in/yon glèn/:
Her name was Katherine Janfarie,
She was courted by mon/y mèn/.
(“Katherine Janfarie,” st. 1.)

A theoretically imperfect unit is one whose stressed syllable ends with a closed consonant—that is, a syllable requiring at least two distinct sounds for its utterance—as in—

(41.) They turned him in fair Janet's arms
Like ice on fro/zen lake/;
They turned him into a burning fire,
An adder, and /a snàke/. (“Tamlane,” st. 35.)

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In “Katherine Janfarie,” out of twenty-two stanzas, seven stanzas have verse-endings in vowels, seven have verse-endings in open consonants, eight in closed consonants, and one in a feminine. The following table will give an approximate idea of the proportion of these verse-endings:—

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Table IV.
Stanzas whose Verses end in Total.
vowel. Open Consonant. Closed Consonant. Feminine.
“Earl Mar's Daughter” 26 7 3 36
“Edom o' Gordon” 18 10 5 33
“Sir Patrick Spens” 6 10 6 22
“Fair Annie” 9 14 6 2 31
“Childe Maurice” 10 14 2 26
“The Jolly Goshawk” 14 16 5 35
“Katherine Janfarie” 7 6 3 1 17
“Fair Annie of Lochroyan” 10 15 11 36
“Etin the Forester” 28 15 2 45
“May Colvin” 12 2 2 16
“The Ship o' the Fiend” 14 6 4 24
“Lamkin” 8 18 3 29
“Burd Ellen” 14 10 4 1 29
“Glasgerion” 8 15 3 26
“Tamlane” 17 17 7 41
Totals 201 175 66 4 446

This gives the high average of 376 units ending with a vowel or open consonant, as against 70 units ending with a closed consonant or a feminine, in 446 units. The tendency appears in favour of units ending on the stressed vowel, but a much more extended table would have to be prepared before an absolutely definite statement could be made. It has already been noted that the time-duration of most feminine endings is less than the mere consonantal ending of many syllables, as in example (21) of this section, where it is contended that the two-syllabled word “nature” takes less time in enunciation than the one-syllabled word “breasts,” yet the former is said to make a feminine, the latter an ordinary ending.

16. Bearing in mind the last statement of the preceding section, it may perhaps be less difficult to account for the apparent anomaly of a feminine ending following the last unit of a romance verse—that is, a ballad verse of eight stresses. The following is an example:—

(42) Go fètch/to mè/ a pìnt/o' wìne/,
And fìll/it ìn/ a sìl/ver tàs/(sie,)
That Ì/may drìnk/befòre/ I gò/
A sèr/vice to/ my bòn/nie làs/(sie!)
(Burns, “The Silver Tassie,” part st. 1.)

In each verse but the last it may, of course, be held that a triple unit is produced, as in the middle of the verses quoted in (33a) above; but in this instance it means, not that a triple unit occurs in the middle of a verse, but at the beginning of the following verse. Considering that the rhythmic pause at the end of romance verse may be taken as part of the first unit, that first unit may well be held to be equal to a triple unit, easily capable of containing the small feminine syllable. In the last verse, however, there

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is no spare unit for the feminine ending. In ballad verse of seven stresses there is the silent unit; in romance of eight stresses there is no such unit, and the feminine ending must be held, prosodically, to be the mere continuation of sound from the last unit.

17. The distinct pause often discernible after a feminine ending need be no objection to its forming part of a triple unit, as triple units are often divided by a pause (see paragraph 1 of Section IV).

Section VII.

1. It remains only to summarise and tabulate the various kinds of units. A unit, or stress-unit, is the interval of time elapsing between two wave-beats of rhythm. It is in itself inaudible, and its presence is manifested by stressed sound floating upon its waves. Such sound may be inarticulate, or articulate but not understood, yet it is rhythmic. Poetry is emotional speech floating upon a regular rhythm—tangible syllabic utterance floating upon intangible rhythmic waves or pulsations: the natural accents of speech coinciding with the pulsations of the rhythm give the stresses, or beats. These stresses are divided by approximately equal periods of time, and the time-period from stress to stress constitutes the stress-unit. The variation in units is caused by their syllabic burden; the units themselves vary only in their “tempo.” A unit may be altogether silent, or may contain from one to five syllables; the number is not arbitrary, nor fixed. The unit, which is taken as ending with its stress, may have that stress suppressed, or may have an accented syllable preceding it in addition to the accented syllable coinciding with the stress. The syllables in a unit may lie together, or may be divided by a pause. The following are the units found in British verse, with names proposed for them, old names rejected being given in brackets:—

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Table V.
Ordinary duple unit ⌣—/ (Iamb.)
Light " ⌣ ⌣ / (Pyrrhic.)
Heavy " ——// (Spondee.)
Divided ordinary duple unit ⌣—/
" light " ⌣ ⌣ /
" heavy " ——//
Paused light " ⌣ / or Nibelungen.
" heavy " —/ orAbrupt.
Ordinary triple unit ⌣ ⌣—/ (Anapest.)
Heavy " ⌣——// (Bacchius.)
Divided " ⌣ ⌣—/
⌣ ⌣—/
Ordinary quadruple unit ⌣ ⌣ ⌣—/ (Fourth paeon.)
Heavy " ⌣—⌣—// ( [ unclear: Diamb ] .)
Divided heavy quadruple unit ——//
Quintuple unit ⌣ ⌣ ⌣ ⌣—/ (Fourth parapaeon.)
Feminine ending / (-)
Double feminine ending. / (- -)
[Doubtful unit, reversed duple, —⌣ /]
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Whilst this is a full table of observed unit-variation, such a large number of units is quite unnecessary except for prosodic demands. For ordinary purposes the following are ample:—


Ordinary duple unit.


Light duple unit.


Heavy duple unit.


Paused light duple unit.


" heavy duple unit.


Ordinary triple unit.


" quadruple unit.

Units 4 and 5 most commonly occur at the end and beginning of lines respectively : 4 is the unaccented last syllable of the Nibelungen half-verse; 5 is the opening syllable of trochaic or dactylic measures, which, from opening on a stressed syllable, may be called “abrupt.” Different readers will give different values to pauses, accents, and stresses; nor can it be said of any particular reading that it is right, nor of another that it is wrong—the one may have been generally accepted five years ago, the other may be accepted five years hence. Poetry, as a living growth, constantly changes—discarding some variations, adopting others, but always showing obedience to fundamental laws. The task of the prosodist is to define the fundamental laws, noting variations of structure as a guide to the discernment of these laws.

2. The law of verse-length will be discussed in a separate chapter. The chief law of the “stress-unit” appears to be comparative temporal uniformity, with almost infinite syllabic variation. the temporal division of verse is of the first importance; stresses are of second importance, as indicators of the division; syllables are of third importance; thought is of fourth importance. This is from a prosodic point of view; from an æsthetic standpoint the order must be exactly reversed.

3. A possible origin of the stress-unit was suggested in a paper on “Metre.” printed in vol. xl of the Transactions.