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S all the Poems and Songs here are written in the
form of what is called Rbyme and Common Metre, so the reason thereof is to answer the design proposed to me, of making the Scripture Songs adapted to our common tunes, fo as it may be practicable to sing them, as we do the Psalms of David : and it is owned, that as to the rhyme here, it is not designedly neglected, but rather exactly studied, not withstanding that blank verse is now become very fashionable ; that is, where the measure is kept without rhyme.
The Author of the book, intitled, The Art of English Poetry, p. 35. says, “ Shakespear, to avoid the trou. " blesome constraint of rhyme, was the first that in« vented blank verse; that our poets, since him, have “ made use of it in many of their comedies and trage“ dies; but thåt the most celebrated poem of this kind “ of verse, is Milton's Paradise Lost.” In a short
preface to which book of Milton's, I see an encomium upon that kind of verse that is written without rhyme, as is that of Homer in Greek, and Virgil in Latin, &c.
* This Defence of Ruyme and Musical METRE, was first prefixed by our Author to his poems on the book of job; but in regard the most of his poetical compolitions are of this kind, it was judged proper now to make it front the whole of his Poetical Workis,
Rhyme, says that author, being no necessary adjunet, or true ornament of poems, or good verse, in longer “ works especially, but the invention of a barbarous
age, to set off wretched matter, and lame metre.” The same author goes on to disparage rhyme as “
thing in itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of “ no true musical delight; which consists only of apt “ numbers, fit quantity of syllables, &c. not of jingling “ founds of like endings, &c.; a fault avoided by the “ learned antients both in poetry and all good oratory.” Upon which he adds, in favour of that blank verse, " that the neglect of rhyme is so little to be taken “ for a defect, though it may seem so to vulgar “ readers, that it rather is to be esteemed an exam
ple fet (the first in English) of antient liberty re
covered to heroic poems, from the troublesome and “ modern advantage of rhyming."
It is necessary, in setting forth a book of Scriptural Songs, wherein so much rhyme is used, that we here vindicate the use thereof; which I am not to do, by saying any thing to the disparagement of blank verfé, wherein so many fine and excellent thoughts are now delivered, but by offering a just defence of rhyme against such mighty attacks, as tend to the utter disparagement thereof. Seeing, therefore, that such public advertisements of that kind, though they seem to make an exception of shorter poems, yet may tend to make any performance, coming forth in rhyme, to be the more despicable, and thereby the benefit that otherwise might be reaped by the following poenis, in a great measure, be marred to some readers, I shall here endeavour to roll that stumbling-block out of the way, by giving the judgment of fume of the most modern writers in favours of rhyme, who will be acknowledg. ed, by all the readers of poesy, to be very competent judges.
By the way, such as are ready to conceive prejudice at rhyine, in favours only of modish blank verfe, may remember, that rhyme, even as these who disparage do acknowledge, “ hath been graced by the use of our “ molt famous English poets, both old and late," with
out seeming, in the least, to be under any restraint or bondage thereby, any more than these that study blank verse are confined, by making them consist of apt numbers, and fit quantity of syllables, and the proper mea. fure : besides, that that kind of verse appears to very many to agree much better with the Greek and Latin dialects, than with the English ; and that the proper pause, at the end of Latin verses particularly, seems to be much more easy and natural, than it is in English blank verse; which, for the most part, seems to have such a blank, to their apprehension, that they are ready, either in humouring the measure, to lose the fense; or, in seeking the sense, to lose the measure; especially where the periods are long. This seems to be the sentiment even of a renowned poet, the famous and ingenious Dr. Watts, in his preface to his Lyric Poems; where, after his very high commendation of Milton's works, he hath these words; " Yet all that vast rever
" ence, with which I read his Paradise Loft, cannot
persuade me to be charmed with every page of it: “ the length of his periods, and sometimes of his pa" rentheses, run me out of breath; some of his numbers “ seem too barsh and uneasy. I could never believe that “ rougbness and obscurity added any thing to the true
grandeur of a poem ; nor will I ever affect a quaint
uncoutbness of speech, in order to become perfectly “ Miltonian, &c. The oddness of any antique found “ gives but a false pleasure to the ears, and abuse the “ true relish even where it works delight,” &c. These being the sentiments of such an eminent Poet, concerning the measure and model of some blank verse, I have thought the less strange, that fome very judicious perfons, of my acquaintance, have wished, that Milton's Paradise Lost, Young's Night Tbougbts, &c. had been written rather in poetic prole, such as Hervey's Meditations, and the like, that they might be the more easily and pleasantly read by them.
But further, that I may vindicate rhyme from the forementioned tash; in case any thould think that I have studied too much exactness in humouring the found, I Mall, on this head, offer the judgment of some, whose
skill, in poetry, cannot well be questioned. One is Mr. Edward Basshe, the author of the foresaid book, intitled, The Art of English Poetry, who says, that "the “ office of RHYME is to content and please the ear; and
being designed for music, the found must be regarded, “ as well as the measure; and that if care be not taken " in the propriety of the rhyne, that the found of the “ last syllable be not too weak and languishing, the “ verses can never be graceful in the delivery, nor pleaf“ing to the ear.” And in his Preface to his Dictionary of Rbymes, he says, p. 7. that, “RIYME is by all allowed " to be the chief ornament of versification, in many of " the modern languages; and therefore the more exact " we are in the observation of it, the greater applause ** our productions of that nature will deservedly chal“ lenge and find.”
Another author I quote is the defervediy celebrated Mr. Pope, who, in our Scots Magazine, is designed the British Homer, and of whose death it is said, The power of Song, and force of Music died. In his Preface to his , Elfry on Man, he gives this as one of his reasons for writing it in rhyme : “ This, says he, might have been “ done in profe, but I choose verse, and even RHYME, “ for two reasons; the one will appear obvious, that
principles, maxims, and precepts, so written, both " Itrike the reader more strongly at first; and are more
easily retained by him afterward.”
By these instances given, from such as cannot but be reckoned amongst the best judges of poetry, the readers of the following Poems may be guarded against the temptations of vilifying and undervaluing the facred matter thereof, on account of the stric observance of the rhyme and metre, which, according to what is said above, ought rather to recommeud them; and which is here studied, not, I hope, for the sake of vain applause, such as Mr. Basshe seems to speak of, but ihac the divine truths may be delivered in a strain tending both to please the ear, and by that to strike the heart of the reader, and facilitate the retention or rememberance of the poems, which, in that form, as Mr. Pope observes, are more easily committed to the memory,
especially if the truths delivered therein be duly apprehended by the mind, and embraced in the heart : and, indeed, I cannot imagine that the verses need be the less agreeable to the judgment that they are not harth and ungrateful to the ear.
Though the verses in the book of Jne have rhyme, for the the most part, not only in the second and fourth, but even in the first and third lines of every flanza; for the neglect of which, Dr Watts hopes his reader will forgive him, in some of his hymns: yet I cannot say that I was thereby brought under much restriction and confinement; because, when the matter was once conceived, the similar endings, together with the pro. per quantity of syllables, natively enough occurred, without much ftudy: and if they be rendered thereby the more musical, I hope it shall not hence be the more exceptionable, at least to the ordinary seroius readers, for whose fake I have not industriously neglected it.
It is evident, indeed, from the examples we have in the Greek and Latin poets, and also the English, since Shakespear's time, that rhyme is not essential to poetical writings, and that there may be the music of poetry, without the ornament of rhyme; but yet it seems as evident, that this ornament is no novelty. Bailey's Dictionary informs, that Mr. Skinner is of opinion, that rhyme was first brought into Europe by the Arabians, bat that instances are given of rhymes in the Saxon poetry long before the Arabians made such a figure in the world. But if that be rekoned a barbarous age, it is of more consequence that is farther told us, that Jír Dryden says, Monseur le Clerc has made it out, that David's Psalms were written in as arrant (mere] rhyme as they are translated into. And if so, then this ornament has a very antient original, and is no modern invention.
Though I will never defend rhyme, without reason; or base jingling metre, without fulid matter, and some prightly metal (the great want whereof makes me far from commending my own :) nor would I ever.commend what is only musical in the ear, without being also in. fiructive to the mind; for, no doubt, right rhyme will