« PreviousContinue »
From The Saturday Review. the melody of language, using assonance in ALLITERATION AND ASSONANCE. its widest sense as the repetition of similar To trace the history of alliteration and as- vowel sounds, and alliteration as the sesonance would here be out of place. It will quence of similar initial consonants. It need be enough to remark that both have been not be remarked that, in such an analysis, made the basis of poetical melody in lieu of we must be careful to avoid any forced and
We mu rhymė. For every one who is at all ac- fanciful application of a theory. quainted with Spanish literature has heard not, for instance, deny that rhyme and rythm, of the assonant rhymes which consist in the and all that belongs to the concatenation of recurrence of like vowel sounds at the end words differing in length and quality, play a of lines, without the addition of any conso- most important part in the harmony of lannantal similarity. And it is notorious that guage. It will be enough to establish the alliteration has a peculiar charm for versifi- comparatively neglected claim of assonance ers in all languages the literature of which and alliteration as tending, together with is as yet undeveloped. Thus we remember other elements of melody, to make up the the line of Ennius :
music of both poetry and prose.
Nor can it 0 Tite tute Tati tibi tan tiranne tulisti.
be denied that, à priori, there is a strong
presumption in their favor. For all words And it is well known that some of the ear
are composed of sounds, and the harmony of liest English metres presented almost as monotonous a sequence of letters for many lines language must be found in those sounds ; and together. It was these that Shakspeare pa- ilar forms is one source of beauty in the plas
as the regular sequence or repetition of simrodied in Love's Labor Lost, when he made tic arts, so it is not unreasonable to conjecMaster Holofernes say:
ture that the recognition of repeated sounds I will something affect the letter, for it argues in language may lie at the root of the pleasfacility.
ure which we take in rythmical declamation. The preyful princess pierced and pricked a pretty The metre of poetry and the cadences of pleasing pricket.
prose would correspond to the time and In Icelandic and Gothic poetry this allitera- rythm and phrase in music ; while assonance tion was reduced to a regular system, which and alliteration must pervade the whole, like soon passed into our literature, and became harmony and melody, which subtly interthe rythm of the Vision of Piers Ploughman. change and link their varying expressions, The following two lines, or rather, pair of while the frame-work of the music continues couplets, will illustrate the position of the unalterably the same. It cannot, however, alliterative consonants in this measure : - be maintained that the melody of language
In habit as a harmot- unholy of werkes is reducible to as strict rules as that of mu
Went wide in the world-wonders to heare. sic. Words must ever remain the common It is manifest from this example that the te- instrument of communication between man dious vulgarity of sound noticeable in the and man, nor is it possible that what we use lines of Ennius and Master Holofernes, has so variously should be capable of the same been exchanged for an agreeable repetition subtle application as the organ of one of the of the same initial letter at the most em- fine arts. Yet it may be demonstrated by phatic pauses of the verse. Three such let- analysis that, when we wish to exalt lanters were allowed in every couplet ; but it guage from its trivial office and to make it was necessary to separate them, and this was the exponent of graceful sentiments or lofty generally effected by placing two in the first thought, we unconsciously call in the aid of member of the distich, and the other in alliteration and assonance to change our talkprominent part of the second. Thus the ing into a singing voice. attention was arrested, and the structure of We have seen already that there are two the verse was indicated by the dominant let- kinds of alliteration. The one we may call ter, which ruled like the keynote of a chant. Vulgar, as it only affords a jingling and mo
Having seen how assonance and allitera- notonous effect, such as is produced by tion are severally used in the structure of strongly marked and common tunes in music. certain poetical systems, we may endeavor to The other may be termed Subtle, for, when show that they really lie at the root of all used by the most perfect artists, it hardly
strikes the ear, but connects the members of Spenser. Who, for instance, can admire the a verse or period insensibly, and is such that trotting movement of we rather miss its absence than observe its
Do we indeed desire the dead presence. Common poets who desire to give where there are six d’s in eight syllables? a glibness to their verse constantly make use We may here observe that some letters seem of vulgar alliteration. They place their al- to have a peculiar tendency to reproduce literative words together in pairs, instead of themselves, and of these d is the most remarkinterlinking them like the rhymes of an
able. It is extremely common to find ten Italian sonnet ; or else they string them one
syllable lines which begin with a d terminated after another, as in the following example by a word with the same initial. This is a from Tannhäuser :
fact soon discovered in capping verses, when Creeps through a throbbing light that grows and lines beginning with D are difficult to find. glows
Thus it happens that out of nine verses in From glare to greater glare, until it gluts
Shelley's Adonais which begin with this letAnd gulfs him in.
ter, seven exhibit the peculiarity we have It is not yet the place to speak of assonance ;
mentioned. This rule is more certain in but we may remark that the vulgarity of rhymed and long-lined measures than in these lines depends not only on the vicious blank verse or short metres ; for in blank repetition of the same initial consonants, but verse the sense is often carried from line to also on the monotony of the vowel sounds, line, and alliterative repetition is more which come together in pairs, and in one in- needed in the middle of the verse than at stance produce a rhyme. On the other hand, its termination ; while short lines become a real poet will place his alliterative words sharp and tripping if their beginning and endat some distance, making them answer to one ing be too definitely marked, and, therefore, another at the beginning and the end of a poets of good ear place their alliterative period, or so arranging them that they will echo in the middle of the succeeding line inmark the metre and become the key-words of stead of at the end of the same verse. Of the line. Thus :
this the following stanza from In Memoriam
affords a good specimen :Heard ye the arrow hurtle in the sky ?
· Dip down upon the Northern shore is obviously superior to
Oh sweet new year delaying long ; Heard ye the hurtling arrow in the sky ?
Thou dost expectant Nature wrong
Delaying long, delay no more.” For in the former and true reading of the It would require a tedious analysis to indiverse the ear is satisfied by a repetition of the cate all the alliterative beauty of this passage h sound which it has just begun to lose, in which the sounds of d and n and lare wonwhereas in the latter it is rather annoyed by drously interlinked.
et we think it inconthe quick succession of another aspirate. Yet
trovertible that the alliterative structure of it often happens that even the greatest poets the first couplet is more harmonious than that make a too plentiful use of such alliteration of the second, owing to its greater subtlety. Spenser's languor and extreme sweetness arise
One more point in the use of alliteration in a great measure from this easy flow of self
must be mentioned, which is, the effect of repeating consonants. We glide from word
consonants at the end of words. When they to word, half conscious of their présence, and lulled even to forgetfulness by their placid for then they have nearly the same sound as
occur before vowels, their power is increased, beauty. For Spenser is too great an artist if they stood at the beginning of the word even to offend our cars by vulgar sequences which follows. A single instance will illussuch as we have quoted from Tannhäuser. He is always on the verge of this defect, but
trate our meaning better than much explana
tion. In the line his better judgment holds him back. We may remark that Coleridge, in his notes on
“ Come into the garden, Maud,” the Elizabethan poets, ascribes much of Spen- there is no direct alliteration. Its fluency ser's melody to his use of alternate allitera- depends upon its open vowels, in a great tions. Yet the most skilful versifiers are not measure ; but the final m of come is echoed in always able to exercise the self-restraint of Maud, and these two sounds seem to bind the
whole verse into unity. It is impossible here and in like manner nothing resembling the to do more than indicate the value of liquids, vulgar alliteration can be endured. It is only whether alliterative or not, in giving ease the more subtle kind which yields any pleasand swiftness to the flow of words; or to ure in the mouth of an orator or a philosdwell upon the curious affinity which some opher. The following sentence from Sir letters manifest for one another and whence Thomas Browne, who is confessedly one of are derived the semi-alterations of b and pand our most musical prose writers, will prove to of t and d, etc.
what extent the harmonies of assonance and It remains to speak of what we termed as- alliteration may be employed upon the grav
This chiefly consists in the use of est subjects : open vowels, and for this reason all the most
“ Even that vulgarand tavern music which harmonious passages of prose or verse abound makes one man merry, another mad, strikes in o’s and a's. On this depend the full-voice in me a deep fit of devotion, and a profound and flowing harmonies of the Dorian Hexam- contemplation of the first composer. eter; and this gives more grace to the open- We have marked some of the consonants in ing of Coleridge's Kubla Khan than even its italics to show how complex and interwoven profuse alliteration. When the successions is the alliterative structure of this passage. of similar consonants and vowels are propealy The sentence falls naturally into two sections. interwoven, we derive the most exquisite In the first the assonance of a is predomipleasure that the sound of language can nant, in the second the assonance of 0. convey. This charm, for instance, pervades
In these remarks we have done no more such lines as
than vaguely indicate two elements in the “ Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore.” music of language. It is clear that they
by no means constitute all or the greater part and that passage of the Paradise Lostwhich of this music, wbich, like that of sound, is a begins.
perfect and organic whole, incapable of dis“ Anon they move integration into harmony, melody, time, In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
phrase, and rhythm, except for the purpose Of flutes and soft recorders"
of analysis. Indeed, too great dependence where sound succeeds to sound in mazes like on their aid, as we have seen, will lead a poet the labyrinthine rhymes of Dante's Comedy; into fantastic and tedious extravagance. He nor is the voice or ear fatigued by quick and should not think of them in the process of clipping repetitions.
composition, but trust to his ear; for if he Hitherto, we have drawn our illustrations can beat out any music at all, he may be only from verse. But the same analysis may sure that none will come without a certain be applied to all prose writing of the higher proportion of both assonance and alliteration. sort which pretends to any rhythmic move- To know how to use them justly, and how to ment and melodivus sound. As the structure help a halting sentence by their aid during of prose, however, is far less regular, though the process of correction, is almost as imporoften more complex, than that of verse, 80 tant to good writing as an ear for the proper also the alliteration and assonance which may collocation of short and long sentences in a infallibly be detected in its periods as soon as paragraph, or of short and long words in a they become harmonious are sometimes more sentence, or for the avoidance of disagreeable difficult to trace. A rhyme or a jingling ca- sibilations and teeth-breaking knots of condence is instantly perceived in prose writing, sonantal sounds.
THE SOUTH NOT ABLE TO STAND. strike any longer; in fact, something is to [From the Army and Navy Gazette, the accepted take place, which has certainly not yet taken
British military organ, of the 15th of August, place, and which is to undo the knot of facts chiefly conducted by W. H. Russell, the former accomplished which is just now pressing uncorrespondent of the Times.)
der the Southern ear. What use, then, is there in prophesying
Let us continue-let us stick now to our or speculating, in view of the facts before our bard facts. In July, 1861, after the battle ryes? These facts are, the retreat of Lee to of Bull Run, the boundary of the Southern the neighborhood of Richmond, after a disas- Confederacy, as drawn by their bayonets in trous attempt on Pennsylvania, founded, it actual line, ran through the line of the appears, on a miscalculation of the resources Potomac, the center of Kentucky, and the of the Confederate Government in men, and center of Missouri. The Confederates held the consequent re-occupation by the Federals the Green river, had camps at Columbus, from of the Shenandoah Valley and of the line of which they threatened Cairo, and encamped the Rappahannock; the complete possession higher up in Missouri, held St. Louis itself of the Mississippi by the Federals, so that, in alarm; they had possession of every sea port contrary to our expectations, trade has com- south of Baltimore; they had a blockade of menced between St. Louis and New Orleans; the Potomac. Fort Pickens was the solitary their solid establishment in Tennessee, and standpost for the Federal ilag in Southern their less tranquil, but not less secure, sway
The line has now receded far indeed, over Kentucky; their undisputed dominancy and to it have marched up the advancing in the State of Mississippi itself, their ap- Federals. This has been accomplished, we proach to the frontiers of Georgia and Ala- are told at the cost of an actual debt, on the bama ; their grip of the seaboard tightening 1st of July, 1863, of $1,097,274,356, or in gradually; their strongholds established along round numbers, of £219,600,000. Gold the coast of North Carolina and South Caro- stands at 24 premium in New York; in Richlina and Florida ; their effectual severance of mond it is 1100 premium. the States of Texas and Arkansas from the rest of the Confederacy, and their undisturbed hold of Missouri. Add to this catalogue the dan
COMPENSATIONS OF THE WAR. ger, very imminent, to Charleston, Savannah, One of the compensations of the war, if prosand Mobile, of destruction or capture by the ecuted to righteous conclusions, may be a more Federal forces, and the increasing stringency universal and deeperand truer sentimentof naof the Federal blockade—the vast losses of tionality. This sentiment has been to a large men not to be replaced on the part of the extent wanting heretofore. Almost from the Confederacy, and the constant spread of Fed- formation of the Union, sectionalism has preeral conquest, and it requires philosophy, vented us from being one people., Maltitudes metaphysics, historical parallels, and im- at the North have really known but little of mense faith to believe that the South can the South ; whilst the immense majority at the continue her resistance to the North in the South have been grossly deceived and sadly field, or preserve her States from the sway of ignorant in regard to the North. Trade and Washington pro-consuls. On the other hand, commerce and social intercommunion have there is said to be dissension in the North ; not prevented this unfortunate alienation from there certainly have been riots in some North- being carried so far as to make portions of ern cities ; the people will not enlist, and will the country respectively as almost foreign not suffer conscription to be enforced. They lands. The causes of this putting and keepwill all be ruined by a financial crisis. The ing asunder have been obvious enough. The war is only carried on by “ shoddy contract- interests of ambitious politicians and aristoors”--very gallant must they be-and politi- cratic slaveholders explain it. These parties cians and clergy — very numerous and very understood whence their whole strength and valiant must they be, too. The country is so influence was obtained. Accordingly they vast that it cannot be conquered or held. The fostered a vicious, exclusive local pride, urged North is not in carnest, or is tired of the war, the doctrine that allegiance was first due to a or is corrupt or cowardly, and only fights single State, instead of the United States ; with Irish and German hands, which wont and claimed a virtual independence of the
Federal Government, whenever it interfered | vile lies of arch-conspirators, aided by the with their arrogant pretensions.
equally vile misrepresentations of Northern They were able to do this by acting to- demagogues. Thousands at the South will gether as an oligarchy, by keeping up a sys- soon come to understand that the North is tem of misrepresentation, by appealing to the contending for nationality, the Union, and refears of those harassed with the system of publican freedom, and that slavery is the only slavery, and by making bargains and com- antagonist to these, as it is used by ambitious promises with mere partisans, who were kin- politicians. dred spirits, in the Free States. Working Thousands at the South are beginning to these appliances, they succeeded in produc- comprehend what the one obstacle is to their ing an isolation which separated their terri- amicably rivalling the Free States in populatory from the rest of the country by a sort of tion, prosperity, and all that ennobles compolitico-moral Chinese wall. At last they monwealths. They are studying contrasts overdid their work. They ventured upon an and instituting comparisons. The result of attempt to split the Republic, and on one of this will be a greater devotion to the unity of its fragments to set up a dominion of their the republic and a conviction that in that own. The question was thus sed ther unity they are to be themselves strong. Slavthe nation should allow itself to be destroyed, ery is not only on trial,-it is already doomed. to be shorn of its strength, glory, and fame, With the passing away of that, the partition and have the fundamental principles of its or- wall falls ; and concord and harmony are sure ganization repudiated on its own soil. Those to come sooner or later. All fear of the perwho brought up the fearful issue recklessly manence of bitter hatred is absurd. Annihiappealed for its settlement to the sword. late the despotism of the slave power, and
Notwithstanding the fearful instrumentali- those whom it 'has kept under its iron rule ties to which they have resorted, they bid fair. will speedily read its real character, and learn to build rather than destroy—to cement rather that the war it began to wage to increase its than to disintegrate. They have invited the dominion was-overruled to be a war for their North down into the South. They have deliverance. brought those together, who otherwise might Add to these considerations, that the Eastnever have met, for a mutual understanding. ern, Western, and Middle States have been True, the meeting is at first in fierce conflict struggling side by side, that the Pacific shore and as foes. But this is not to be the end of has sentimen to stand shoulder to shoulder it. Only a small minority-a minority that with the men of the Atlantic coast, for one amounts only to a fortieth part of the popula- flag, one country, and one equal, just, and tion--in the Slave States, have a strong per- free Government, and it requires no gift of sonal interest in this contest. The majority prophesy to foretell how much stronger and are betrayed into it by their own prejudices purer than ever before will be the sentiment and passions, and deluded through these by of nationality. The war-path will thus prove unprincipled and despotic leaders. As after to be the way of wisdom and the road to an a fight the opposing combatants often lose an- honorable peace. Nothing to-day postpones imosity and fraternize in reciprocal helpful- the grandest concord except the autocracy of ness, so will it be with this collision of sec- the slave power, and the selfish, sordid partytions that have been forced into false relations. spirit, that is ready to sacrifice everything to Thousands at the South will soon find out that mere party ascendency.-Boston Transcript, the usual charges against the North are the 22. Sept.