Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 454

ate gift for language. Even in approaching the poetry of our own
language, we may find the classification of metres, of lines with
different numbers of syllables and stresses in different places,
useful at a preliminary stage, as a simplified map of a compli·
cated territory: but it is only the study, not of poetry but of
poems, that can train our ear. It is not from rules, or by cold·
blooded imitation indeed, but by a deeper imitation that is achieved
by analysis of style. When we imitated Shelley, it was not so
much from a desire to write as he did, as from an invasion of the
adolescent self by Shelley, which made Shelley's way, for the
time, the only way in which to write.
The practice of English versification has, no doubt, been
affected by awareness of the rules of prosody: it is a matter for
the historical scholar to determine the influence of Latin upon
those great innovators Wyatt and Surrey. The great grammarian
Otto Jespersen has maintained that the structure of English gram·
mar has been misunderstood in our attempts to make it conform
to the categories of Latin-· -as in the supposed 'subjunctive'. In
the history of versification, the question. whether poets have mis–
understood the rhythms of the language in imitating foreign
models does not arise: we must accept the practices of great poets
of the past, because they are practices upon which our ear has
been trained and must be trained. I believe that a number of
foreign influences have gone to enrich the range and variety of
English verse. Some classical scholars hold the view-this is a
matter beyond my competence--that the native measure of Latin
poetry was accentual rather than syllabic, that it was overlaid
the influence of a very different language--Greek-and that it
reverted to something approximating to its early form, in poems
such as the
Pervigilium Veneris
and the Christian hymns.
I cannot help suspecting that to the cultivated audience of the age
of Virgil, part of the pleasure in the poetry arose from the pres–
ence in it of two metrical schemes in a kind of counterpoint: even
though the audience may not necessarily have been able to analyse
the experience. Similarly, it may be possible that the beauty of
some English poetry is due to the presence of more than one
metrical structure in it. Deliberate attempts to devise English
metres on Latin models are usually very frigid. Among the most
successful are a few exercises by Campion, in his brief but too
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