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ELEMENTS OF VERSE. 19
in variety and number, are adequate to all our occasions.
All the elements enumerated above have their distinguishing qualities of smooth, rough, soft, strong, close, open, clear, obscure, and others, by which they give a corresponding character to the sound of a verse, and furnish opportunities of assimilating sound to sense of which our poets have freely availed themselves.* The comparison between the English tongue and others, as to metrical elements, given in the following passage, will, perhaps, entertain the reader. It is taken from Steele's "Prosodia Rationalis," page 168. "In English the proportion of monosyllables to polysyllables is more than as five to two; in French, something less than as three to two ; but in Italian, i
which, having more vowels, has less occasion for monosyllables, their proportion to polysyllables is not quite three to four, or one and a half to two. The superior melody of one language over another will be nearly in proportion as one exceeds the other in the number of vowel sounds. The number of vowel and consonantal sounds in Italian is nearly equal; in Latin, five consonants to four vowels; in French, supposing the orthography not as written, but as sounded in pronunciation, the consonantal to the vocal sounds are as four to three ; and in English, in the like manner, the proportion is three to two. Therefore, in this view, the French has an advantage over the English in the proportion of nine to eight; but this is overbalanced by the English
* Sea " Imitative Harmony," p. 369