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From what point-of his com'pass to beware'
PARADISE LOST, b. iv.
A fine rhythm, though inferior to Milton's, marks the verse also of Thomson and Cowper. It is less perceptible in Young, who was occupied more with a pointed and epigrammatic expression than with harmony; and often in Wordsworth, much of whose verse is mere prose compressed into lines of ten syllables, scarce a trace of it exists. It is eminently characteristic of Pope's versification, and constitutes one of its most exquisite charms. Thus in his Messiah:
"Ye nymphs' of Solyma,-begin' the song!-
Whose sa'cred flower-with fra'grance fills the skies;—
And in soft silence-shed the kind'ly shower ;-
Peace' o'er the world-her olive wand' extend,—
And white-robed In'nocence-from heaven' descend."—
Much of the subtle grace of Bryant's blank verse lies in the skill of the rhythm, the frequency of the transition from one foot to another, and at such points in the line as to produce a marked cæsura, and give at once great boldness and delicacy to the modulation:
"Yet not to thine eternal rest'ing-place
Shalt' thou return alone,-nor' couldst thou wish
That make' the mea'dows green ;-and poured' round' all'
Are' but the sol'emn dec'orations all'
Of' the great tomb' of man."
Another means of varying and heightening the melody, is the cadence in which the verse is made to terminate at a full pause. In blank verse, the pause or full stop may take place on the first or any of the following syllables of the line. Of these, the most pleasing begin with a trochee; and of those, the most graceful terminate on the third, the fifth, or the seventh syllable. As Milton's:
"Sing", heavenly muse,-that on the se'cret top-
That shepherd who-first taught' the chosen seed-
There is a similar cadence in the following passages:
"Whom he drew'
God's al'tar to disparage-and displace'-
"Advise if this be worth'
Attemp'ting, or to sit in dark'ness here
Hatch'ing vain em'pires."
Many of Milton's cadences commencing with a trochee, and terminating on the fourth syllable, are fine:
"The tow'ers of heaven are filled'—
With arm'ed watch,—that render all access'-
"Thrones' and imperial powers,-off'spring of heaven,— Ethe'rial virtues ;-or those ti'tles now
Must' we renounce, and, chang'ing style, be calledPrin'ces of hell."
Those commencing with a trochee, and terminating on the sixth syllable, have a similar charm:
"Intermit' no watch
Against' a wakeful foe;-while' I abroad,
Through' all the coasts-of dark' destruc'tion seek-
None' shall partake with me.
"As' when heav'en's fire
Hath sca'thed the forest oaks-or moun'tain pines
With sing'ed top,-their stately growth, though bare',Stands' on the blast'ed heath."
Those opening with a trochee, and closing on the seventh syllable, have still greater beauty:
"For this infer'nal pit-shall never hold— Celes'tial spir'its in bondage,―nor' the abyss— Long' under dark'ness cover."
"He' above' the rest,
In shape' and gesture-proudly emʼinent,—
"Mil'lions of spiri'tual creatures-walk' the earth—
Sole', or respon'sive,—each' to other's note’—
Sing'ing their great' Creator!"
There is a beautiful example of this cadence in
the passage from Homer:
"So' was the coun'cil sha'ken."