Of accent and quantity :-
" The classic poets are careful to keep up an interchange between accent and quantity, an approach and recession, just as is the case with the great English poets. Yet with all the lover-like coquetry between the two elements, they are careful that they shall never wed-again as with the great English poets. But (and here lies the difference) the position of the two elements is exactly reversed. It is quantity which gives the law-is the masculine element-in classic verse ; it is accent in English. In English, quantity takes the feminine or subordinate place, as accent does in classic verse. In both it is bad metre definitely to unite the two."
Sending poetry from Pantasaph, October 1894, he writes to A. M.:-
" My dear lady, ... the long poem, (' The Anthem of Earth') was written only as an exercise in blank verse ; indeed, as you will see, I have transferred to it whole passages from my prose articles. So it is solely for your judgment on the metre that I send it. It is my first serious attempt to handle that form, and it is not likely that I have succeeded all at once; especially as I have not confined myself to the strict limits of the metre, but have laid my hand at one clash among all the licences with which the Elizabethans build up their harmonies. The question is whether individual passages succeed sufficiently to justify the belief that I might reach mastery with practice, or whether I fail in such a fashion as to suggest native inaptitude for the metre. Mthinks the poem a failure. Being a mistress of numerous metre, she counts all her feet; though her chosen method is the dactylic, since she uses her fingers for the purpose. It is well known that by this profound and exhaustive method of practical study, you may qualify yourself to sit in judgment on Shakespeare's metre, if he should submit his MS. to you from the Shades. I confess my practice is so slovenly that if anyone should assure me that my lines had eleven syllables apiece, I should be obliged to allow I had never counted them. We poor devils who write by ear have a long way to go before we attain to the scientific company of poets like M-, who has her verses at her fingers' ends.-F. T."
To the same purpose are notes on Henley's " Voluntaries " :-
" They are in so-called ' irregular' lyric metre, ebbing and flowing with the motion itself. Irregular it is not, though the law is concealed. Only a most delicate response to the behests of inspiration can make such 177 m
Of Words; Of Origins; Of Metre verse successful. As some persons have an instinctive sense of orientation by which they know the quarter of the East, so the poet with this gift has a subtle sense of hidden metrical law, and in his most seeming-vagrant metres revolves always (so to speak) round a felt though invisible centre of obedience."
The immethodical exactitude of his method is further suggested in his note-book :-
"Temporal variations of metre responsive to the emotions, like the fluctuations of human respiration, which also varies indefinitely, under the passage of changeful emotions, and yet keeps an approximate temporal uniformity."
Here he evidently alludes particularly to the ode metre of " The Unknown Eros," for which Patmore claimed that the length of line was controlled by its emotional significance. On this subject another note must directly bear. It is to the effect that the matter forces the metre; that the poet is the servant, not master, of his theme, and that he must write in such metre as it dictates.
Again he writes :-
" Every great poet makes accepted metre a quite new metre, imparts to it a totally new movement, impresses his own individuality upon it."
And again :-
" All verse is rhythmic; but in the graver and more subtle forms the rhythm is veiled and claustral; it not only avoids obtruding itself, but seeks to withdraw itself from notice."
And again :-
" Metrically Poe is the lineal projector of Swinburne, and hence of modern metre at large-an influence most disastrous and decadent, like nearly all his influence on letters."1
His own choice among his metrical exercises was " The Making of Viola," of which a critic has said (the Nation, November 23,1907) " that the words seem never to alight, they so bound and rebound, and are so agile with life."
In an early Merry England article he writes of Crashaw:-
" His employment (in the ' Hymn to St. Teresa' and its companion 'The Bleeding Heart') of those mixed four-foot Iambics and Trochaics so often favoured by modern poets, marks an era in the metre. Coleridge (in the Biographia Literaria) adopts an excellent expression to distinguish measures which follow the changes of the sense from those which are regulated by a pendulumlike beat or tune-however new the tune-overpowering all intrinsic variety. The former he styles numerous versification. Crashaw is beautifully numerous, attaining the most delicate music by veering pause and modulation-
Miser of sound and syllable, no less Than Midas of his coinage. '
We have said advisedly that the ' St. Teresa' marks an era in metre. For Coleridge was largely indebted to it and acknowledged his debt."
1 To this he recurs in a note on Tennyson :-" Tennyson too pictorial. Picture verges on marches of sister-art, painting. Feminine ; only not so entirely so as Swinburne;-still has remnants of statelier mood and time. Metre- beginning of degeneration completed in and by Swinburne."