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final 'e' was no longer commonly sounded, it was still known and accepted as an occasional adornment or help to the meter. It may be seen in the King's Quair of James I, (48, 120), in Dunbar less often (Terge 56). Schipper points out several instances in Surrey and Wyatt:
The sote season, that bud and bloom forth brings, which may be otherwise (and more plausibly) explained ; the use of Troy and Troye in the translation of the second book of the Aeneid, which can hardly be explained away
Troye was sometime
Of our mishaps, and Troyes last decay.
Troy yet had stand, and Priam's towers so hie. In Wyatt, also there are some cases Schipper suggests which we
By the divine science of Minerva
Thus hitherto have I my time passed,
Against the bulwark of the fleshe frail
Nor can the further instance Schipper indicates be otherwise construed. William Drummond of Hawthornden (Pt. I, Song XIV) has written a long poem which with absolute regularity alternates a couplet of masculine rime with one of feminine. This regularity is unbroken; yet, in a place where he could easily have found other words, Drummond uses as a feminine rime, enclose and repose.
Lounsbury, who maintains that the Elizabethans were ignorant of the valued final ‘e,' says that “Spenser's practice enables us to ascertain the nature and the degree of the knowledge that then prevailed upon the subject.” He then indicates certain qualities, as being not common in Elizabethan speech, but retained from Chaucer's day by Spenser. These are:
• If these sounds were unfamiliar. why do we hear of the courtier who talked 'pure Chaucer'!
1. the en of the infinitive and plural as a separate syllable.
2. the ed of the past and past participle as a separate syllable.
3. the es of the possessive singular and plural, as a separate syllable. 4. ion, and less often iage, as a dissyllable.
He notes also some variations in accent, as not understood by Spenser as used in Chaucer:
c) eth accented occasionally by Spenser, never by Chaucer.
Finale,' he goes on to say, is never used by Spenser; therefore the Elizabethan was ignorant of its valued use.
Examination shows, however, that the characteristics named, all dying out later than the final 'e,' still possessed poetic vitality.
1. The en of the infinitive and plural present exists not only in all the poetry of the time, but is found today as an alternate form in loose or loosen, wake or awaken, fright or frighten; and alone remains in such verbs as tighten, lighten, etc.
2. Ed as a separate syllable is not only a commonplace of poetic usage with the Elizabethans, but is today employed in much minor poetry, and remains in lifted, beloved, blessed, etc.
Es as a separate syllable is not so common, but is employed by Surrey (nightes, worldes, etc.). The language forces us even today to give separate sound to many plurals and possessives in es.
4. The ion was probably pronounced by the Elizabethan as a disyllable with the accent on the last syllable; it is used so consistently by Shakspere. The disyllabic use is still seen in contemporary verse.
Similarly the variations in accent are of frequent appearance: a) ion, as we have seen, is employed as in contemporary usage. b) most of the final ed's employed by Spenser are not accented. Such as are stressed (with one possible exception *) will be found
In fact, it is occasionally not so pronounced by Spenser: "Did stand astonisht at his curious skill."
Lounsbury may have had in mind the four lines in Colin Clout's Come Home Again:
He pip'd, I sang, and when he sung, I piped,
So piped we, until we both were weary.
to consist of more than two syllables, usually three, with the accent on the first, so that a secondary stress comes naturally on the final ed. Such words are wandered, suffered, etc. (a hasty glance showed me envenomed in Chaucer, Monkes Tale 134) with a like accentuation; Donne (Lines to a Mistress) rimes head and shivered; the use is a normal one."
c) Eth, employed rarely by Spenser, never by Chaucer, is a curiosity that Surrey seems to have introduced. His attention to foreign models makes it seem as likely that he acquired the strained stress abroad (from the classical rules for quantity?) as from any belief that it was used by Chaucer.
With the exception of this last freak we can tell, perhaps, from Spenser's practice what was the pronunciation of his day, but not so satisfactorily what he knew about that of Chaucer's. All the forms mentioned by Lounsbury were still alive enough-though obsolescent—to be accepted in poetry without a qualm. Spenser is more archaic than his contemporaries, not in the variety of his forms, but in the quantity in which he employs them; the final 'e' was probably too nearly extinct to be as freely used as the other forms mentioned. Ignorance of the fact that it once was employed does not seem to me to follow.
Furthermore, in accepting the duty of the poet, eclectically to enrich his tongue as in his power, from all sources present and past, Spenser would be guided first by his taste in retaining those archaisms that were worthy, secondly by his common sense and the necessity of being understood. Only a form with some vitality can be revived.
In addition to the rare use of the final 'e' itself, it might be expected that the habit of reading aloud would have preserved knowledge of the sound. That there was considerable oral reading we have no reason to doubt. Manuscript copies of new poems were read by authors to groups of friends; tutors read the 'classic' to their pupils; in printing, there was dictation to type setters, and finally, there was considerable memorizing and repeating of old
• Swinburne rimes satiated and dead (Anactoria), quickeneth and death .. (Ballad of Burdens).
• Indeed, it will smooth one of the very few rough lines in Spenser himself to read it, sounding a final 'e':
“And thru his hand must passe the flaunt.”
poems. The popular poetry was of course transmitted by word of mouth; but Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, were also frequently recited. We are told that Hawes could repeat by heart most of the English poets; a chapter of his Pastime of Pleasure is called "Memory, the V. part of Rethorike." Surely all this must have had some influence in preserving the traditions of English sound.
Reserving consideration of the couplet forms, we may here point out that the final 'e' occurs as frequently in all the other poetic forms, and yet the Elizabethan seems not to have misunderstood any one of them. The most common form after Chaucer, copied directly from him, is the rime royal, which he employs in Troilus, in three of the Canterbury Tales, and in four of his minor poems. Many lines would of course be marred were the 'e' considered silent: e. g.,
O moder mayde! O mayde moder free!
This form broke down in the prosodic decline of the century after Chaucer, and became unerring again with the study of form at the time of Wyatt. In the Mirror for Magistrates, all Part IV and most of Part III are correct rime royal, the exceptions being explicitly apologized for on the ground of decorum (a low or rough character should not speak in polished verses). Did the Elizabethan, reading this aright in contemporaries, think Chaucer a poor artist? How, indeed, did the Elizabethan learn what was right? Lowell says: "If the Italian were read with the same ignorance that has wreaked itself on Chaucer, the riding rime would be on its high horse in almost every line of Boccaccio's stanza." And yet the return to regularity in England was made by way of (the study of) the Italian, and the regular ottava rima of Boccaccio was regularly translated by Chaucer; why should not the Elizabethan have noticed this? If Spenser recognized the form of his March Eclogue as that of the Tale of Sir Thopas, he understood that meter, many lines of which fail, without the valued 'e,' e. g.:
He coulde hunt at wilde deer.
Nor was the quatrain, from which grew the octave, misunderstood. Two of Montgomerie's longest poems (The Elegie, A Cartell of Three Ventrous Knights) are in perfect interlinked quatrains;
other poets use a form equally correct. Moreover, the Elizabethan could read such things in Chaucer as (Monkes Tale 69) the phrase 'yeer by yere,' where the first is a monosyllable and the second rimes with nere'; in Gower he could see 'yere to yere,' with both cases of the final 'e' valued—and he could draw his own conclusions. Chaucer was the acknowledged model, not only for the couplet, but for all poetic forms, the manuscripts are as faulty and the breakdown of the fifteenth century as complete in all forms; why, then, if Chaucer were misunderstood, should only one Elizabethan form have been irregular?
Spenser's occcasional omission of a syllable at the caesura, breaking the verse, is said to be additional evidence of a misunder. standing of Chaucer, who often has a final 'e' at that point. But this break is most common in Lydgate, who of course uses the final 'e,' and it is copied from him by others than Spenser. Indeed, the breakdown of regular verse before the Elizabethans began with Lydgate, who assuredly did not misread Chaucer. The rime royal of this poet varies from seven to fourteen syllables, his couplets, even in the Story of Thebes (his most regular work), vary between 8 and 10 syllables, 4 and 5 feet. It was Spenser's
, task, not to continue any misunderstanding, but in the reaction to regularity that came with the study of poetic form, to achieve excellence while maintaining a proper degree of freedom.
For in this reaction toward order we find among Spenser's fellow writers a considerable body of correct heroic couplets, the form which Spenser 'misunderstood.' There are three examples in Tottel's Miscellany: a long poem (page 199) perfect in form, another (p. 241) of twenty-two lines, two of them irregular, and N. Grimald's Funeral Song to his Mother, which is again at pains to be correct. There are correct poems in the Paradyse of Daynty Devises (1578). Montgomerie's best poem, The Navigation, strains at times to maintain the regularity of its perfect decasyllables. The argument of every one of the ten tales in Part IV of the Mirror for Magistrates, as well as the long induction to Part V, is also heroic couplet, and also correct. All this in a form avowedly modeled on Chaucer. We must either maintain that these correct couplets were not modeled after Chaucer's form, and strained to be correct accidentally, or by imitation of some other (today unknown) model; or we must state that the minor writers