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and simple pleasures; and true genius will only be concerned in administering such is
Lastly, on the same principle on which we have decided on these questions concerning the absolute merits of poems in prose, in all languages, we may, also, determine another, which has been put concerning the comparative merits of RHYMED, and what is called BLANK verse, in our own, and the other modern languages.
Critics and antiquaries have been sollicitous to find out who were the inventors of rhyme, which some fetch from the Monks, some from the Goths, and others from the Arabians; whereas, the truth seems to be, that rhyme, or the consonance of final syllables, occurring at stated intervals, is the dictate of nature, or, as we may say, an appeal to the ear, in all languages, and in some degree pleasing in all. The difference is, that, in some languages, these consonances are apt of themselves to occur so often that they rather nauseate, than please, and so, instead of being affected, are studiously avoided by good writers; while in others, as in all the modern ones, where these consonances are less frequent, and where the quantity of syllables is not so distinctly marked as, of itself, to afford an harmonious measure and musical variety, there it is of necessity that poets have had recourse to Rhyme; or to some other expedient of the like nature, such as the Alliteration, for instance, which is only another way of delighting the ear by iterated sound, and may be defined, the consonance of initial letters, as rhyme is, the consonance of final syllables. All this, I say, is of necessity, be
cause what we call verses in such languages · will be otherwise untuneful, and will not strike
the ear with that vivacity, which is requisite to put a sensible difference between poetic numbers and measured prose.
In short, no method of gratifying the ear by measured sound, which experience has found pleasing, is to be neglected by the poet: and although, from the different structure and genius of languages, these methods will be different, the studious application of such methods, as each particular language allows, becomes a necessary part of his office. He will only cultivate those methods most, which tend to produce, in a given language, the most harmonious structure or measure, of which it is capable
Hence it comes to pass, that the poetry of some modern languages cannot so much as subsist, without rhyme: In others, it is only embellished by it. Of the former sort is the French, which therefore adopts, and with good reason, rhymed verse, not in tragedy only, but in comedy: Ard though foreigners, who have a language differently constructed, are apt to treat this observance of rhyme as an idle affectation, yet it is but just to allow that the French themselves are the most competent judges of the natural defect of their own tongue, and the likeliest to perceive by what management such defect is best remedied or concealed.
In the latter class of languages, whose poetry is only embellished by the use of rhyme, we may reckon the Italian and the English: which being naturally more tuneful and harmonious than the French, may afford all the melody of sound which is expected in some sorts of poetry, by its varied pause, and quantity only; while in other sorts, which are more sollicitous to please the ear, and where such sollicitude, if taken notice of by the reader or hearer, is not resented, it may be proper, or rather it becomes a law of the English and Italian poetry, to adopt rhyme. Thus,
our tragedies are usually composed in blank verse: but our epic and Lyric compositions are found most pleasing, when cloathed in rhyme. Milton, I know, it will be said, is an exception: But, if we set aside some learned persons, who have suffered themselves to be too easily prejudiced by their admiration of the Greek and Latin languages, and still more, perhaps, by the prevailing notion of the monkish or gothic original of rhymed verse, all other readers, if left to themselves, would, I dare say, be more delighted with this poet, if, besides his various pause, and measured quantity, he had enriched his numbers, with rhyme. So that his love of liberty, the ruling passion of his heart, perhaps transported him too far, when he chose to follow the example. set him by one or two writers of prime note (to use his own eulogium), rather than comply with the regular and prevailing practice of his favoured Italy, which first and principally, as our best rhymist sings, With pauses, cadence, and well-vowelld
words, And all the graces a good ear affords, MADE RHYME AN ART-,
Our comedy, indeed, is generally written in prose; but through the idleness, or ill taste,
of our writers, rather than from any other just cause. For, though rhyme be not necessary, or rather would be improper, in the comedy of our language, which can support itself in poetic numbers, without the diligence of rhyme; yet some sort of metre is requisite in. this humbler species of poem ; otherwise, it will not contribute all that is within its power and province, to please. And the particular metre, proper for this species, is not far to seek. For it can plainly be no other than a careless and looser lambic, such as our language naturally runs into, even in conversation, and of which we are not without examples, in our old and best writers for the comic stage. But it is not wonderful that those critics, who take offence at English epic poems in rhyme, because the Greek and Latin only observed quantity, should require English comedies to be written in prose, though the Greek and Latin comedies were composed in verse. For the ill application of examples, and the neglect of them, may be well enough expected from the same men, since it does not appear that their judgment was employed, or the reason of the thing attended to, in either instance.
And thus much for the idea of UNIVERSAL Poetry. It is the art of treating any subject