a previous article in THE INDEPENDENT, entitled "Delsarte
and Poetry," I referred to the application, in
poetic technic, of the Delsartean principles of parallelism,
opposition and succession. A few words more on this
his subject experimentally. He took the most direct
and natural means by which man seeks to express himself,
the motions of his own body, subjected these motions
or gestures to a most minute and searching examination,
classified them, and arrived inductively at certain
of their laws. These laws, so far as we can ascertain
his methods, he assumed to be true for all expression
and hence for all the arts, due allowance being made
for the modifying influence of the special medium through
which each art is uttered. I am not quite sure that
he had a logical right to make this inference from his
premises; but he was not a man to be frightened by ratiocinative
leaps. He had, indeed, almost a contempt for logic,
and made his own discoveries by a kind of daring insight.
Indeed, I do not know that he ever deigned to prove
any of the principles he enounced. He contented himself
with the appeal to the instinctive perception of his
audience—an appeal that seldom failed of its response.
of the demonstrative element has been supplied in many
ways by many of his disciples. In respect to the principles
of opposition, parallelism and succession, with which
we have now immediately to do, Henrietta Russell, certainly
one of his most able and original followers, gives this
explanation, having, like Delsarte, gesture primarily
are physical. They are based upon the law of gravitation,
being always a balancing, actual or metaphorical. They
symbolize contrast, and are useful for dramatic effect.
They give strength and dignity in motion or attitude,
force in harmonies, self-assertion and hence vulgarity
if used out of place—that is, where strength is
also arise out of the relation of things to gravity,
but on the negative side. They are the absence of opposition
of movement, and lack balance or a harmonious relation
to the greatest physical force we deal with—gravitation.
Physically, of course, they express weakness.
is opposing gravitation by setting gravitation to opposing
itself. It therefore expresses dignity, as it obtains
force easily on the lines of least resistance. Parallelism
is weak, because it opposes human strength to the great
strength of Mother Earth. Delsarte described opposition
of movement as two organs moving in opposite directions
at the same time; parallelism as two organs moving in
the same direction at the same time.
show purpose, and are thus contrary to instinct; they
therefore express mentality. Oppositions are physically
instinctive, and remain always a physical language.
are the language of the emotions. Oppositions appear
in the earliest experience of the race, successions
in its highest development. Opposition and its negation,
parallelism, arise from man's economic relation to the
earth through gravitation, while successions arise from
man's economic relation to himself through the laws
of his own chemistry and the vibratory condition of
his nervous system."
Thus far Mrs.
Russell. It seems to me preferable to arrive at the
same conclusion by an à priori route,
and thus avoid the appeal to analogy, to which I have
already referred. Parallelism emphasizes the likeness
or generic quality in things, and ignores or slurs over
the unlikeness or specific quality. It affirms the universal
and denies the particular. Or, since particularity is
matter, and universality form or idea, we may say that
parallelism is strong in expressing the things of the
mind, and weak in expressing the things of the body.
Opposition is the negation of parallelism. It emphasizes
unlikeness and disregards likeness; it affirms the particular
and denies the universal. It is therefore the expression
of the physical, of strength, of Titanism.
is the synthesis or reconciliation of the two. It affirms
likeness and unlikeness at once, variety in unity,
change not as of a broken line but as of a curve, in
obedience to an unchanging law. It thus expresses the
union of universal and particular, which, as Hegel long
since showed, is the individual, who is particular in
that he has determinations, but universal in that he
is determined by himself. Here first we find will with
its motives and emotions, its loves and hates, its sympathy
and its conscience—in short, moral or spiritual
being. Thus parallelisms express pure thought, oppositions
its negation or matter, and successions concrete spirit;
oppositions are physical, parallelisms intellectual,
approach will not perhaps appeal to so many people as
the other; but it has the advantage that its results
are generalized and can be applied (without appeal to
metaphor or analogy) to all arts and all languages with
as little hesitancy as an algebraic formula is applied
to all possible numbers.
All this is
by way of preface to a few examples of the practical
applications that may be made of these principles in
the study of philology and poetics. Meter is, of course,
a parallelism, the continued repetition of the same
or equivalent feet, the recurrence of an accent at equal
intervals of time. It emphasizes the universal and is
the expression of regularity, the reign of law, and
necessity as opposed to mere subjective caprice or "doing
as you please." It tempers the audacities of poetry
with a sense of rationality and restraint which allows
verse to dare frequently what prose could not venture
without danger of the florid and bombastic. In the very
torrent and tempest of passion it makes us feel an underconsciousness
of the eternal calm. Carried too far, the parallelism
of meter, as in the versification of Racine and Pope,
becomes formalism—the mere empty nothing of pure
universality. Indeed, Pope is such an acknowledged sinner
in this direction that it is useless to quote examples
from him. In Emerson's "Brahma," on the contrary,
we have a justifiable use of a great deal of parallelism,
in phrase as well as verse, for this empty but all-embracing
absolute is exactly what he wishes to express:
reckon ill who leave me out;
me they fly, I am the wings;
am the doubter and the doubt,
I the hymn the Brahmin sings."
is as "regular" as anything in Pope; but no
one notices that it is, because its regularity is appropriate
in expression. Ars est celare artem. The best
technic effaces itself.
of the meter by breaks, dislocations of the accent and
the like are oppositions, and express physical power,
as where Lear's speech echoes the tumult of the storm:
wìnd and cràck your cheèks! ràge,
and hùrricànoes, spoùt
Till you have
drènched the steèples, dròwned
and thoùght-èxecuting fires,
to òak-cleàving thùnderbòlts,
my whìte heàd, and thoù, àll-shàking
flàt the thìck rotùndity o' the
there is an opposition of adjacent syllables, caused
by the unexpected juxtaposition of accent, and also
an opposition between the expected accent and the real
accent; for repetition, the mother of habit, has caused
the ear to expect a certain beat of the measure to hear
the stress of the voice.
between end-stopped and run-on lines has acquired special
importance in recent studies of Shakespeare's artistic
development. An end-stopped line is one which ends with
the end of a phrase or sentence; that is, to the parallelism
of meter it adds parallelism of phrasing and parallelism
between the phrasing and the meter—too much parallelism
for steady use. Run-on lines create a pleasing contrast
between meter and phrasing, and make the harmonies of
verse richer and more complex. It may be observed here
that the line-group is never obliterated; tho even so
acute an observer as Lanier seems to think that it sometimes
might be, and tho there is always some theorist without
ear (?) ready to rise and demand that we dispense with
the fiction of lines in blank verse, and write it in
irregular groups according to its phrasing. This would
absolutely destroy the purpose of run-on lines, which
is to diversify the meter; for there would no longer
be any meter to diversify, but only (God save the mark!)
rhythmic prose. Now, rhythmic prose, or prose which
preserves a fixed type of quantity and masquerades in
the habits of verse, is, as every tyro in literature
knows, about as bad prose as can be written. Nevertheless,
people will still go on making alleged translations
of Homer into this bastard form. Good prose has its
own rhythms, to be sure, but they are constructed in
quite a different manner.
of the relations of the line and the phrase is due to
two causes, a failure to properly distinguish between
the two subjects of meter and phrasing, and an insufficient
understanding of the importance of what may be called
the expectation of the ear. To be sure, in weak-ending,
unrhymed lines, the line-group is marked off for the
ear neither by recurrence of tone-color, nor pause,
nor inflection—at least without an affectation
in the reading. But the type of the versification being
once fixed by sufficient repetition, the habit of noting
all its regular phenomena, including the line-group,
makes the ear expect a pause; and this expectation,
tho no pause actually occur, is quite sufficient to
preserve the effect of the line. It is strange that
Lanier should not have seen this, who saw so clearly
the application of the same principle in the treatment
of accent and Shakespeare's use of the rest.
comprises not only rhythmic but phonetic phenomena,
and in these, too, the same principles are operant.
Bearing in mind what has been said of the significance
of parallelism, we begin to see why its emphatic form
in alliteration so easily becomes self-conscious, while,
on the contrary, its all-pervading syzygies, like Tennyson's
of doves in immemorial elms,
murmur of of innumerable bees,"
us into an atmosphere of dignity and calm.
The word "syzygy"
was applied by Professor Sylvester to all repetitions
of consonants not alliterative; i.e., not beginning
accented syllables, and adopted after him by Lanier.
Sylvester saw clearly the importance of such repetitions
in giving unity to the measure. It is to this, he says,
"that we must attend in order to secure that coherence,
compactness and ring of true metal, without which no
versification deserves the name of poetry." Vowels,
of course, may be treated in like manner, as in Shakespeare's
masons building hives of gold,"
which short i is repeated four times. It is true that
there is an old rule in the books that the same vowel
must not be repeated in the same line; but this rule
has been honored in the breach by every one of the great
English poets from Chaucer to Tennyson, and may as well
be cast into the literary ragbag along with the notion
that what are "perfect rhymes" in French are
no rhymes at all in English, as if tones were not tones
and rhymes rhymes whether spoken in Choctaw, Chinese
On the other
hand, contrast of vowel-sounds, of which Milton is so
great a master, gives, as we should expect from our
premises, great largeness of utterance, majestic, mouth-filling
expressions, as in the opposing o'es and i's in
Isis, Orus and their train,"
the fine oppositions in the lines
Vallombross, where the Etrurian shades
as another example Keats's
upon a peak in Darien,"
which the long i of "silent" juts out among
the other vowels of the line as if it were itself the
peak of the poet's vision.
principle of succession comes all modulation of vowels
and consonants. Such lines as Byron's
song and oar of Adria's gondolier,"
a lapsing cadence like the plash and ripple of Adria's
waters, and leave a lingering sweetness in the memory,
due almost entirely to the subtle transitions by which
the ear is carried without perceiving it from "song"
to "lier"; that is, from one extreme to the
other of the whole range of English vowel sounds.
In the most
beautiful versification the three modes are used together.
This may have been observed in some of the quotations
already given, and will be continually in all fine verse
In that splendid
and sonorous line in "Paradise Lost,"
and his Memphian chivalry,"
as parallelism, the congruence of "ris" and
"ry," and also that of "ris" and
"his," and of "phi" and "iv";
likewise the syzygy of the two s's in "Busiris"
and the z-sound in "his," and the i-syzygy
in ris-his-phi-chiv-ry. See how the first three
i's, unapparent and unaccented, seem to exercise a certain
attraction that draws the melody from the strong opposition
of "Bu" and "si" in the first foot,
through the gradation a-e-a into the parallelism of
the last two accented i's. All this may seem over-refinement
to some, but not to those who by study and practice
have become familiar with the mystery of sound. Indeed,
it is by these very niceties that the true craftsmaster
may always be known. They cannot be well done of malice
prepense, but conscious, prentice work will nevertheless
lead toward an unconscious habit that increases the
skill of the poet. "The habit of noting such sequences,"
says Lanier, "will presently breed in the mind
that unconscious care of them which will guide the thought,
in its working, toward the proper combinations."