one-third of those effects in poetry which are due only
to the nature and relations of the sounds employed,
is produced by certain well-defined or easily definable
uses of the principle of parallelism, or repetition.
The most generally recognized of these effects is Rhyme;
and as the word rhyme, besides, had once a
wider significance than now (e.g., in the old
use of staff-rhyme for alliteration),
I have ventured to use it in the heading of this article,
rather than some more correct and general but less familiar
term. The effects of which I speak form a class of prosodical
phenomena, lying between the purely rhythmic group on
the one hand and the purely phonetic on the other, and
partaking to some extent of the nature of each. They
might be defined broadly as the use of phonetic means
for ends primarily rhythmical; and as they all have
in common the use of a recurrence of like vowels and
consonants, the word homœophony might
be used to connote them scientifically.
At first glance
it would perhaps seem that those recurrences of emphatic
pitch and force which we call accent should
be as properly classified here as are recurrences of
tone-color, i.e., vowels and consonant; for
accent also is phonetic in nature and rhythmical in
function. But accent is so fixed a quality of English
speech, and so universally present as the mark of all
English rhythm, that it gives rise to no effects distinguishable
from those which are appropriately considered under
the head of Rhythm pure and simple. With that re-enforcing,
blending or complicating of the rhythm, which comes
from recurrences of vowels and consonants, the case
is otherwise. Such use of vowels and consonants is not
universal in English speech, and its phonetic value
is not, as with accent, swallowed up in its rhythmical
function, but remains an equiponderant factor in the
total expression. It is thus quite clearly distinguished
from accent and from all forms of simple Rhythm.
of Homœophony might be classified with regard to
the nature of the sounds repeated, whether vowels, consonants
or glides, or whether whole syllables, half syllables
or single letters; or a classification might be based
on the position of the recurrent sounds, whether initial,
medial or final. But a broader and more fundamental
arrangement seems to be founded on distinction of function
rather than on distinction of nature, and for this reason
I am inclined to adopt the following division of the
on the accented places of lines or phrases, to re-enforce
and color the rhythmic beat; i.e., Alliteration.
that mark off groups of feet, usually lines. With a
slight widening of the ordinary acceptation of the word,
this may be described as Rhyme.
that fall indiscriminately on accented and unaccented
places in sufficient number to give unity to a passage
by subtly filling the ear with the insistence of a dominant
tone color. For this division Professor Sylvester, who
first noted its importance if not its very existence,
proposed the name syzygy, in the use of which
he was followed by Lanier; but the word is neither obvious
nor musical and, after twenty years, it has failed to
secure acceptance. Mr. Bliss Carman proposes Colliteration,
which I have adopted as more euphonious and as following
the analogy of alliteration, which is already
between alliteration and colliteration may be illustrated
by this passage from Browning, in which both effects
are made use of:
I know not any tone
fit as thine to falter forth a sorrow."
the repeated f's (fit, falter, forth)
are a true alliteration, falling on the beat of the
measure and emphasizing it; the t-class sounds (t
in but, not, tone, fit, to and -ter, and
th in thine and forth) are
scattered indiscriminately, three falling in unaccented
syllables, and two only (and those not exactly the same)
on the beginnings of the accented syllables. The result
of this scattering is that they do not catch the ear
as the alliterating f's do; but they do unconsciously
impress the mind with a sense of a prevailing color,
as of some other group, the k-group for instance.
Again, the n's (know, not, any, tone, thine)
form a colliterating group with a slight associated
alliteration (the final n's of tone and
thine, which strongly affect the beat). I am
aware that the pure Saxon understanding of "alliteration"
had reference to initial sounds only; but as the final
sounds are sometimes used in a manner similarly emphasizing
the beat of the measure, and as it would be awkward
and over-technical to use more new words than are absolutely
necessary, it seems to me that the word alliteration
may well bear this slight extension of meaning—more
especially as in current use it is by no means commonly
held to its strict original significance.
with colliteration and rhyme, alliteration is physical
in expression, appealing as it does to that instinct
for the rhythmic beat which is the most widely distributed
of the esthetic feelings. Thus alliteration may be properly
used for vigorous expression, for phrases intended to
stick in the memory or for a somewhat bold and dashing
beauty. Used out of place or without reference to the
expressive fitness of the sounds chosen for its service,
it becomes glaring and vulgar, and thus has fallen with
many into very bad odor. Some critics have been uncritical
enough to attack the gentle Spenser for its employment,
their own ears for its finer uses having perhaps been
blunted by some poetaster's blundering.
of the dubious use of alliteration is Poe's
up through the lair of the Lion,
love in her luminous eyes";
the unlikeness of the ideas suggested by the two lines,
which nevertheless alliterate on the same letter, makes
the alliteration seem forced for its own sake rather
than employed for purposes of expression. On the other
wailing, wailing, the wind over land and sea—
And my Willy's voice in the wind, 'O mother, come out
peculiarly felicitous, since the expression of w
as a tone-color, as we find by researches in another
branch of the subject, is weird and uncanny, easily
becoming either awesome or elfin according to the other
sounds with which it is associated.
is obvious. Colliteration is artful, unobtrusive and
subtle; it produces its effect without the reader's
perceiving how it is done. When very marked and associated
with some degree of alliteration, its beauty may be
consciously noted, as in Tennyson's
of doves in immemorial elms,
murmuring of innumerable bees."
in by far the greater number of cases (and the frequency
of colliteration in good verse can hardly be overestimated)
the ear has no consciousness of it whatever. This is
far from saying that it has no effect, for the ear unconsciously
co-ordinates many more phenomena than ever rise into
consciousness. When the attention however, is called
to any particular instance of colliteration, it is easy
to perceive that it is the cause of a continuity of
rhythm and a sweetness of expression, of which we were
before dimly aware altho not rationally cognizant. Again,
if we substitute in any given case a number of contrasting
sounds for the colliterating ones, the loss becomes
evident and sometimes grotesque.
the use of repetition to mark off groups of feet, may
be divided into—1. Complete Rhyme, where
the sounds repeated are entire syllables.
yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
from his figure, and no pace perceived;
your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
motion, and my eye may be deceived."
and strong and loud and light,
sound of very light,
from morning's rosiest hight,
the soul of all delight
a child's clear laughter."
Common rhyme, where the accented vowel and
all succeeding sounds are repeated, but the preceding
consonants vary. This is the ordinary English usage.
where the accented vowel is repeated, but the succeeding
sounds vary. If the consonant or consonants preceding
the vowel are also repeated, it may be distinguished
as a full assonance.
couldst thou know, poor wretch, what I have known,
what I saw upon that bank enshrinéd,
pity had not wholly left thy soul
tears had dimmed, thy hard eyes uninvited."
Sonnets of Proteus."
seems rather too weak to fulfill the function of rhyme,
unless it be either full assonance, or an assonance
of rich and sonorous vowel sounds, such as o,
aw and the like.
I propose this name to distinguish rhyming by repetition
of those sounds only which follow the accented vowels,
the accented vowels themselves varying:
pale, pale now those rosy lips
aft had kissed sae fondly!
closed for aye the sparkling glance
dwelt on me sae kindly!"—BURNS.
has always been used to some extent by English poets,
but has recently been brought somewhat prominently into
notice by the poems of Emily Dickinson, in which it
is used very frequently.
Rhyme in all
these forms is a more mentalizing use of repetition
than either alliteration with its appeal to the physical
instinct for the rhythmic beat, or colliteration with
its subtle, emotional suggestiveness. Its dominant function
is to define the architecture of the verse. It marks
off the line-group, a purely artificial kind of phrase,
for which the ear has no such physical instinct as for
the rhythmic beat, and which it is under no compulsion
to observe, as in the case of the true phrase. It also
enables the ear to follow and co-ordinate the still
more complex structure of the stanza; and, indeed, many
stanzas are such only by virtue of the order of rhymes.
The sonnet is a notable and highly organized example.
complete rhymes (the rimes parfaites of the
French author), assonances and half-rhymes are usually
used only in a sporadic manner, to prevent the typical
form, the common rhyme, from becoming monotonous. Their
own expression is partly subordinated to their use for
variety's sake. But even thus, they have an individuality
of expression, and this becomes even more distinct when
they are employed independently. Rhyme proper (especially
in the form of complete rhyme, but also in that of common
rhyme) is the most mental form, using the greatest amount
of parallelism, which is a mentalizing principle. (Vid.
"The Technic of Poetry," in THE INDEPENDENT,
April 7th and 21st, 1892.) In complete rhymes this goes
so far as to produce a precision and nicety much loved
by the French, who more than any other nation employ
this artifice, but easily passing over into affectation
and a kind of punning so that that English, who dislike
dandyism so much that they sometimes affect rudeness,
have refused to accept more than an infrequent use of
rhymes of this nature. Assonances produce the most imperceptible
effect of all, while half-rhymes add to the sense of
parallelism conveyed, a consciousness of the opposition
of the vowels used that makes their expression more
vital, careless and passionate. For the simple fulfillment
of the function of marking structure, the common rhyme
(mental, but not too mental) is the most fit, and the
instinct of the race has approved it.
forms, rhymes, half-rhymes and assonances, may involve
one syllable only, in which case they are called masculine
rhymes and express strength; or they may involve two
syllables (which nevertheless belong to one and the
same word), in which case they are called feminine and
are more emotional in expression. Triple rhymes differ
slightly, if at all, from feminine rhymes and may be
considered under the same head.
the sun grows cold,
the stars are old,
the leaves of the Judgment Book unfold!"
when sweet violets sicken
within the sense they quicken."—SHELLEY.
her up tenderly,
her with care;
and so fair!"—HOOD.
if the two (or more) syllables be from different words,
so long as the unaccented words remain the same throughout
and are enclitic, as in
know the change and feel it,
there is none to heal it
numbèd sense to steal it" (KEATS).
rhymes may be properly classed as feminine. But when
combinations of words (with this one apparent exception)
are used to produce double or triple rhymes, the result
is a third type, the forced rhyme, usually used for
purposes of comedy and always conveying a sense of mental
acrobatics or else of willfulness and whim.
the whole, then execute the parts—
ere you build, ere steel strike fire from quartz,
mortar dab brick!"—BROWNING.
oh, ye lords of ladies intellectual!
us truly, haven't they hen-pecked you all?"
forced rhymes may be used to express real beauty, but
always with an element of whimsicalness or willful exuberance
of frog and call of tree-toad,
my brothers, five—or three-toed,
their revel no more vetoed,
music in the rain."—BLISS CARMAN.
are rhymes that occur in the middle instead at
the end of lines. These may simply mark off phrases
instead of lines, as in
shadows lay along Broadway."—WILLIS.
they may be used to create a kind of artificial cesuralation,
in which case they might be said to bear a relation
to cesural pauses analogous to that which end-rhymes
bear to final pauses. In the example from Poe which
follows, the rhyme coincides with an actual cesural
pause; the two succeeding examples are entirely artificial.
me, filled me with fantastic terrors."—POE.
I may speak: You fool, for all
lore! Who made things plain in vain?
was the sea for?"—BROWNING.
of the murmuring courts
the shapes of sleep convene!
my spirit here exhorts
the powers of thy demesne
their aid to woo my queen.
thy jealous courts unseen?"—ROSSETTI.
however, no groupings whatever are marked, rhyme becomes
evening, and from the dark park, hark!
signal of the setting sun, one gun."—HOOD.
not absolutely to be condemned for this reason, Swinburne's
line on Villon comes perilously near it:
our sad, bad, glad, mad brother's name."
if the syllables thus treated have no final consonants,
this very same phenomenon may become surpassingly beautiful;
witness the last line of Verlaine's sonnet "Parsifal":
o ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la
this it is only a step to forms that are unquestionably
alliterative or colliterative—a step that may
be bridged by such a line as Byron's
we'll go no more a-roving."
of which goes to show that, useful as these classifications
are in analyzing the expression of verse, it must never
be forgotten that the divisions are not separated by
hard and fast lines, but pass over into one another
by almost imperceptible gradations. They must be apprehended
with as clear a sense of their fluidity as of their