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the narrow limits of the Essay, the following were good rhymes when they were written :-Rome, doom,—thoughts, faults,—join, line,-take, speak,-desert, heart. But after we have made due allowance for these extenuating circumstances, bad rhymes remain, and too many of them. A poet's ear for rhyme must be easily gratified, if his requirements are fulfilled by such pairs of words as call, equivocal,-steer, character,-take, track,appear, regular,-still, suitable,-care, war.

And not only are many of the rhymes poor, but there is also dire poverty in the supply. In the course of the Essay twelve lines close with the word wit, accompanied by fit as its rhyme five times and by writ thrice. Ten lines end in sense, nine in mind, eight in art or arts with part or parts, impart or imparts for the attendant word in every case.

Double rhymes.

Double or feminine rhymes are not suited to the serious style of didactic poetry, though they have their place in amusing satire. Of such rhymes the Estay supplies only four examples, one of which is execrable,-safires, dedicators.


The least

If Pope shows to but little advantage in managing his rhymes, his alliterative touches reveal the hand of a master. No piece of poetic mechanism needs more tact for its successful use than alliteration. suggestion of painful effort destroys the effect. Pope abounds in alliteration, yet his art in employing it is so well concealed that it never raises in our minds a suspicion of artifice. Take the following couplet,—

In some fair body thus th' informing soul

With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,' (76—7)

or this line

'Which lives as long as fools are pleased to laugh,' (451) or this

'With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,' (355)

and mark its artistic superiority to such alliterative tricks as Mr Swinburne likes to play: e.g.


'Who are we that embalm and embrace thee
With spices and savours of song?'

The fair limbs of the Loves, the fair faces
Of gods that were goodly and glad.'

Versification of Dryden and Pope compared.

Pope followed Dryden as his master in the art of poetry. 'I learned versification,' he says, 'wholly from Dryden's works; who had improved it much beyond any of our former poets; and would probably have brought it to perfection had not he been unhappily obliged to write so often in haste1. A comparison between the work of the master and that of the pupil who surpassed him in technical skill results in the detection of the following points of difference2:

(1) Dryden has more pauseless lines than Pope, and employs the pause with less variety. Pope's style, effective though it is for didactic or satirical compositions, raises after a time a suspicion of artificiality. Dryden's style at his best, is more natural, and better suited for narrative; equally vigorous but less epigrammatic3.

(2) In the use of monosyllabic lines there is not much difference between the two. Probably Pope has quite as many as Dryden, perhaps more.


(3) Pope increased the importance of the couplet. As a rule with him the couplet rigorously completes the sense. Dryden's verse, on the contrary, the sense continually overflows beyond the confines of the couplet, and occasionally we find a rupture of the lines of a couplet, the first line standing in connexion with what has gone before and the second applying to what follows. Take for example the following passage from Absalom and Achitophel and observe that besides the enjambement or 'overflow' at 'means' there is also a divorce between the two lines of the middle couplet :

'But when to sin our biassed nature leans,

The careful Dev'l is still at hand with means

1 Spence, Anecdotes, p. 46.

2 See Courthope's Life of Pope, Vol. v. pp. 22-3.
3 Seeley and Abbott, English Lessons, p. 177.

And providently pimps for ill desires:
The good old cause, revived, a plot requires,
Plots true or false are necessary things,

To raise up commonwealths and ruin kings.' (79—84.) Again, in the following seven lines from the Hind and Panther (Part II. 681-7), we have illustrations, not only of this harsh separation between the lines of the same couplet and of the couplet enjambé, but also of the Triplet and the Alexandrine; This she desired her to accept, and stay

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For fear she might be wilder'd in her way,
Because she wanted an unerring guide;
And then the dew-drops on her silken hide
Her tender constitution did declare

Too lady-like a long fatigue to bear,

And rough inclemencies of raw nocturnal air.'

This dichotomy of the couplet is never to be met with in Pope, and the overflow occurs but seldom. With Dryden the dichotomy is rare1, but the overflow is habitual.

(4) Triplets and Alexandrines abound in Dryden, but are used sparingly by Pope. Thus Dryden's Hind and Panther, Part II., contains in its 722 lines 55 Triplets and 33 Alexandrines, whilst the Essay on Criticism contains in its 744 lines only eight Triplets and two Alexandrines In the Dedication to his Translation of the Eneid, Dryden describes the Triplet combined with the Alexandrine as 'the magna charta of heroic poetry,' and extols it not only for 'the majesty which it gives,' but also because it 'confines the sense within the barriers of three lines, which would languish if it were lengthened into four.' On the other hand Swift looked upon Alexandrines as 'a corruption,' and says that he prevailed 'with Pope, Gay, Young, and one or two more to reject them.’

(5) A constant blemish in Pope's metrical work is his change of the natural position of the words, seen especially in the inversion of the order of the verb and its object for the sake of obtaining a rhyme. The lines

'A work t'outlast immortal Rome design'd,' (l. 131)

If where the rules not far enough extend,' (1. 146)

1 There are examples of it again at lines 108-111 and 463-6 of the same poem.

exemplify Pope's habit of departing from the ordinary arrangement of prose. Dryden had a good reason for avoiding this licence. 'We were whipped at Westminster,' he says, ‘if we used it twice together. I should judge him to have little command of English whom the necessity of a rhyme should force upon this rock, though sometimes it cannot easily be avoided.'

(6) An unpleasant effect is produced when a word which begins with a vowel is preceded by a word which ends with a vowel and both vowels are pronounced. This juxtaposition of vowels is called Hiatus. Pope purposely exemplifies it in 1. 345

'Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire.'

Hiatus was sometimes avoided by elision:

'But when t' examine ev'ry part he came,' (1. 134)
'Th' intent propos'd, that license is a rule.' (1. 149)

Neither Pope nor Dryden is scrupulously careful to eschew hiatus.

(7) Another defect against which both Pope and Dryden protested is the introduction of Expletives,―small unnecessary words which are inserted merely to eke out the required number of syllables or to furnish a rhyme. This defect also Pope illustrates intentionally in l. 346

'While expletives their feeble aid do join,'

where 'do join' is used instead of 'join' because another syllable is needed,—and unintentionally when he writes-

"The following license of a foreign reign

Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain,' (544—5)

where 'did drain' means simply 'drained.' The words still in lines 318 and 502, and then in 1. 454 seem to be mere expletives.

In an interesting letter addressed to Henry Cromwell and dated Nov. 25, 1710, Pope expounds his views of versification as follows:

(1) As to the hiatus, it is certainly to be avoided as often as possible; but on the other hand, since the reason of it is only for the

sake of the numbers, so if, to avoid it, we incur another fault against their smoothness, methinks the very end of that nicety is destroyed; as when we say, for instance,

"But th' old have interest ever in their view,"

to avoid the hiatus,

"The old have interest."

Does not the ear in this place tell us that the hiatus is smoother, less constrained, and so preferable to the caesura? [i.e. the elision.]

(2) I would except against the use of all expletives in verse, as do before verbs plural, or even too frequent use of did or does to change the termination of the rhyme; all these being against the usual manner of speech, and mere fillers-up of unnecessary syllables.

(3) Monosyllable lines, unless very artfully managed, are stiff, languishing, and hard.

(4) The repeating the same rhymes within four or six lines of each other, which tire the ear with too much of the like sound.

(5) The too frequent use of Alexandrines, which are never graceful, but where there is some majesty added to the verse by them, or when there cannot be found a word in them but what is absolutely needful.

(6) Every nice ear must, I believe, have observed that in any smooth English verse of ten syllables, there is naturally a pause either at the fourth, fifth, or sixth syllables.... Now I fancy that to preserve an exact harmony and variety, none of these pauses should be continued above three lines together, without the interposition of another; else it will be apt to weary the ear with one continued tone-at least, it does mine.'

It is characteristic of Pope that, when he published his correspondence, this letter is addressed to Walsh and the date is put four years earlier, Oct. 22, 1706. Pope never let slip an opportunity of posing as a precocious genius, which indeed he was, and the chance of passing off the letter of a young man of twenty-two as the composition of a boy of eighteen was too tempting to be neglected. Unfortunately for Pope's reputation, posterity has so often found him out.

In the Appendix, pp. 162-5, the reader will find further details respecting the versification of the Essay on Criticism.

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