These several metrical forms should be explored and the characters of each measure in the series quantitatively determined. Such an investigation would include an ascertainment of the proportional time-value of each successive measure, its average force, and its sensitiveness to variations, temporal and intensive. It should include an examination of the configuration of the single measure and the changes in distribution of accents and intervals which it undergoes as the rhythmical series advances. For the rhythm group must not be conceived as a simple unchanging form; both intensively and temporally it is moulded by its function in the whole sequence, the earlier iambic of a heroic measure being unlike the later, the dactyl which precedes a measure of finality different from that which introduces the series. Such a set of determinations will give the pure characteristic curves of our common poetical meters.
But these meters are no more simple forms than are their constituent measures. At every point their structure is subject to modification by factors which appear in the rhythmic utterance in virtue of its use as a medium for the free expression of thought and emotion; and the manner in which the characteristic form is altered by these factors of variation must be studied. Of these variations the more important are the effects of the introduction of variants—of spondees among dactyls, of anapaests among iambics, and the like—and the occurrence of points of origin, emphasis, interruption, and finality in special accentuations, syncopated measures, caesural pauses and elisions. These factors influence the structure both of those measures within which they appear and of those adjacent to them. The nature and extent of this wave of disturbance and its relation to the configuration of the whole sequence call for examination.
Finally, this process of investigation should be applied to the larger structures of the couplet and stanza, that the characteristic differences in the pair or series of verses involved may be determined. These characters include the whole time occupied by each verse of the stanza, the relative values of acatalectic and catalectic verses occurring within the same stanza structure, differences in rhythmical melody between the latter forms, the variations of average intensity in the accentual elements of such lines, and a determination of the values of rests of higher and lower degrees—mid-line, verse, and couplet pauses—which appear in the various stanza forms, and their relation to other structural elements.
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BY R.H. STETSON.