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INSTRUCTIONS FOR READING VERSE.
I. INFLECTIONS. In reading verse, the inflections should be nearly the same as in reading prose; the chief difference is, that in poetry, the monotone and rising inflection are more frequently used than in prose. The greatest difficulty in reading or declaiming this species of composition, consists in giving it that measured flow which distinguishes it from prose, without falling into a chanting pronounciation which makes it ridiculous. In order to surmount this difficulty, it will be well sometimes to pronounce the lesson exactly as if it were prose, before attempting to read it with poetical graces.
If, at any time, the reader is in doubt as to the proper inflection, let him reduce the passage to earnest conversation, and pronounce it in the most familiar and prosaic manner, and he will generally fall into the inflection which should be adopted.
EXERCISES IN INFLECTIONS.
1. Meanwhile the south wind rose', and with black wings
Wide hovering', all the clouds together drove
amain': and now, the thickened sky
Rode tilting o'er the waves'.
With grateful change of grave and merry speech
3. Here rests his head upon the lap of earth’,
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown';
And melancholy marked him for her own';
Heaven did a recompense as largely send.
He gained from Heaven', ('t was all he wished', ) a friend'. 5. No further seek his merits to disclose',
Or draw his frailties from their last abode',
II. ACCENT AND EMPHASIS. In reading verse, every syllable must have the same accent, and every word the same emphasis as in prose; and whenever the melody or music of the verse would lead to an incorrect accent or emphasis, this must be disregarded. If a poet has made his verse deficient in melody, this must not be remedied by the reader, at the expense of sense or the established rules of accent and quantity. Take the following example:
O'er shields, and helms, and helmed heads he rode,
Of thrones, and mighty Seraphim prostrate. According to the metrical accent, the last word must be pronounced“ prostrate." But according to the authorized pronunciation it is "prosstrate.” Which shall yield, the poet or established usage ? Certainly not the latter.
Some writers advise a compromise of the matter, and that the word should be pronounced without accenting either syllable. Sometimes this may be done, but where it is not practicable, the prosaic reading should be preserved.
In the following examples, the words and syllables which are improperly accented or emphasized in the poetry, are marked in italics. According to the principle stated above, the reader should avoid giving them that pronunciation which the correct reading of try would require, but should read them as prose, except
, where he can throw off all accent, and thus compromise the conflict between the poetic reading and the correct reading. That is, he must read the poetry wrong, in order to read the language right.
EXAMPLES. 1. Ask of thy mother earth why oaks are made
Taller and stronger than the weeds they shade.
2. Their praise is still, “the style is excellent,"
The sense they humbly take upon content. 3. False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its fairy colors spreads on every place. 4. To do aught good, never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight.
5. Of all the causes which combine to blind
Man's erring judgment, and mislead the mind,
6. Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,
And catch the manners living as they rise.
“ Is this thy love, is this the recompense
8. We may, with more successful hope, resolve
To wage, by force or guile, successful war,
Sole reigning, holds the tyranny of Heaven. 9. Yet there will still be bards ; though fame is smoke,
Its fumes are frankincense to human thought;
Or ai least was so, ere it grew a fashion. 10.
Oft on the bordering deep
Satan except, none higher sat,) with grave
A pillar of state.
Created thee, in the image of God
Male he created thee, but thy consort
Thus what thou desirest
14. Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,
All sorts are here, that all earth yields,
The frantic madman, too,
Note.—The principle which has been stated and exemplified in the preceding examples, admits of a few exceptions; but as they can not be classified in such a way as to furnish a safe guide to any but practiced readers, the rule has been laid down as one without exception. Those who are desirous of pursuing the examination of the subject further, and to see the exceptions reduced to the form of rules, may consult Walker's Rhetorical Grammar, pp. 164–5–6—7.
III. POETIC PAUSES. In order to make the measure of poetry perceptible to the ear, there should generally be a slight pause at the end of each line, even where the sense does not require it. But there is yreat danger of making the pause too long and distinct. Now the error of making no pause except where it is indicated by the punctuation, or required by the sense, is far less destructive to the beauty of delivery, than that of making too long a pause. Perhaps, therefore, it would be as well that very young pupils should be permitted to disregard this rhythmical pause. When they have been prepared, by faithful practice under the preceding rules, they can, with more safety, be brought to those exercises, which require a more cultivated ear, and a more refined taste.
There is, also, in almost every line of poetry, a pause at or near its middle, which is called the Cesura. *This must be carefully observed in reading verse, or much of the harmony will be lost. It should, however, never be so placed as to injure the sense of the passage.
It is indeed reckoned a great beauty, where it naturally coincides with the pause required by the sense. This cesura, though generally placed near the middle, may be placed at other intervals. There are sometimes also two additional pauses in each line, called demi-cesuras. The cesura is marked (II), and the demi-cesura thus (), in the examples given. There is also to be observed a marked accent upon the long syllable next preceding the cesura, and a slighter one upon that next before each of the demi-cesuras. These pauses and accents constitute chiefly the melody of poetry. When made too prominent, however, they lead to a sing-song style, which should be carefully avoided. See Lesson XXIX.
In the following examples the cesura is marked in each line, the dami-cesura in a few cases only.
1. Nature | to all things || fixed | the limits fit,
And wisely | curbed || proud man's | pretending wit. 2. As on the land || while here | the ocean gains,
In other | parts || it leaves | wide sandy plains.
3. So when an angel || by divine command,
With rising tempests || shakes a guilty land.
4. Then from his closing eyes || thy form shall part,
And the last pang || shall tear thee from his heart. 5. Know then thyself; || presume not God to scan ;
The proper study || of mankind is man.
Beloved by Heaven || o'er all the world beside,
That land-thy country || and that spot-thy home. 7. In slumbers of midnight || the sailor boy lay,
His hammock / swung loose || at the sport of the wind;
8. His falchion flashed || along the Nile;
His hosts he led || through Alpine snows,