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THE NATURE OF THE ENGLISH VERSE,
DIRECTIONS FOR READING POETRY,
BY THE AUTHOR
O F THE
ESSAY ON PUNCTUATION,
MUSAS NONNULLI SACRO VENERANTUR AMORE;
PRINTED FOR J. WALTER, CHARING-CROSS,
By LUKE HANGARD,
No. 6, Great Turnstile, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields,
N eafy and familiar treatise on the Nature of the English verfe, with practical directions for reading poetry, has been long wanted for the ufe of fchools, and those, who have formed no regular ideas on the fubject.
Some learned writers would perfuade us, that our verses are composed of iambics, trochees, fpondees, pyrrhics, dactyls, &c. or a mechanical arrangement of long and short fyllables. This notion has involved the subject in darkness and perplexity. In the following Effay, the author has rejected all thofe fcholaftic terms, which have been used in Greek and Latin profody, and confidered the English verfification as founded, not on Greek and Roman feet; but on a certain or
* Foster on Accent and Quantity, ch. iii. &c.
der and fucceffion of accented and unaccented yllables. This order depends on the nature of the poem; and wherever it is violated, he does not attempt to vindicate fuch an irregularity by claffical authority, or the principles of a foreign language, with which it has no concern; but, though he allows, that fuch a violation of an established rule may fometimes be admitted, with a design to make the found an echo to the fenfe, he prefumes, that it is more frequently owing to the negligence of the poet, and fometimes to his want of tafte for the harmony of numbers.
A fmall lift of poetical names of gods, goddeffes, heroes, cities, &c. is fubjoined, in order to give young students some idea of the accuracy and uniformity, with which the Greek and Latin poets have ascertained the quantity of their fyllables; and to enable them to avoid those grofs
It is very remarkable that the ancient Greek and Roman poets fhould agree in fixing the quantity of almost every syllable, } in their refpe&ive languages, .even in cafes where no modern
grofs and vulgar errors in pronunciation, which betray the ignorance of the fpeaker.
It is to be lamented, that many of our English poets have run into needlefs deviations from the legitimate pronunciation of ancient names, merely because the accentuation they chofe to adopt, was more eafily accommodated to the measure of their verfe.
We smile at the foppery of the French for ufing fuch finical appellations, as Herodote, Ariftote, Polybe, Denys d'Halicarnaffe, Etienne de
reader can poffibly afcertain the length of a fyllable by any reafons, à priori. The Greeks paid the moft fcrupulous attention to their numbers. And Cicero informs us, that if a
Roman actor made the smallest mistake in the measure of à verfe, or the quantity of a syllable, he was hiffed off the ftage. Hiftrio, fi panlum fe movit extra numerum, aut verfus pronuntiatus eft fyllablâ unâ brevior aut longior, exfibilatur, et exploditur, Cic. Parad. iii. To an Englishman, who pretends to claffical learning, it is a difgrace to violate the rules of profody, and to have less taste and discernment, than the common auditors of a Roman theatre.