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ELEMENTS OF VERSE.                        23
The ancients, by whose authority we are guided in this arrangement of syllables, allowed a short vowel before a mute and liquid, to make the syllable either short or long : in that point, therefore, they fixed the boundary between them. The reason why such a syllable might be accounted short, was beĀ­cause the mute and liquid could be pronounced more readily than two other consonants in their place. It follows then that the same vowel before two other consonants would make a syllable requiring more time in the utterance ; which, of course, must be ranked together with the long. When it is recollected that every letter is formed by a particular position of the organs of speech, and each different letter by a different position, it is certain that some time is employed in passing from one to another.
The rhythm of English verse, as has been already pointed out, is based upon accent, the measured unĀ­dulation of accented and unaccented syllables being its essential feature, without which it becomes mere prose. On the other hand the rhythm of classical verse is based upon quantity, which in Latin and Greek poetry is governed by much more rigid laws than the metrical rules of English verse. Much learned nonsense has been written upon this subject, and many attempts have been made to show that quantity and not accent is of the essence of English verse, but all recent scholarship and taste concur in the view stated above; and we may regard the controversy as finally settled. It would be almost equally wrong, however, to hoid the opposite view, and regard quantity as having