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fourteenth century, and after a lapse of almost two hundred years observe the placing of the word in the rhythm of Chaucer, every one who has an ear will be satisfied. In the line (Prologue to Canterbury Tales, 1.46)—
the second syllable of honour is in the stroke or stress of the iambus. Although honour is quite emancipated from its hereditary traces of foreign origin, as far as pronunciation goes, it is still written with a half-French spelling. The adjective honourable is anglicised in the titular use of the word, when it is written Honorable : and there are some authors who now omit the u in the substantive and adjective alike, and upon all occasions. The American writers are conspicuous for their disposition to reject these traces of early French influence.
Thus much has been said about this one word, because it is the type of a large class to which the same remarks apply. And in reading early English poets, if we care to catch the music as well as the sense, we must bear in mind the difference of pronunciation. That difference is not in all cases easy to seize and define, but the case of words from the French is exceedingly clear.
The tendency of that nation is the reverse of ours in the matter of accentuation. They throw the accent often on the close of a word, we always try to get it as near the beginning as possible. There is a large body of French words in our language which have at length yielded to the influences by which they are surrounded, and have come to be pronounced as English-born words. The same words were for centuries accented in the French manner, and these are especially the ones we ought to be familiar with, if we would wish not to stumble at the rhythm of our early poets.
Long after Chaucer did this French influence continue to be felt in our language. Even so late as Milton considerable traces of it are found in his rhythms. For example, he accents aspect on the last syllable, as in Paradise Lost,
And in vi. 81 :— ‘In battailous aspéct, and nearer view.’ The word contest is accentuated by Milton as contest. Paradise Lost, iv. 872 — “Not likely to part hence without contést.’ Again, in the last line of the Ninth Book:— . “And of their vain contést appeared no end.' This subject is ably treated by Mr. Hiram Corson, an American scholar, in his Introduction to a Student’s Edition of Chaucer's Legende of Goode Women. The case of the word contrary (cited by that writer) is interesting, especially as we are told in Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary, that ‘the accent of this word is invariably placed on the first syllable by all correct speakers, and as constantly removed to the second by the illiterate and vulgar.’ These seem rather hard terms to apply to the really time-honoured and classical pronunciation of contráry; but yet Walker doubtless expressed the current judgment of the polite society of his and of our day. We find it in Shakspeare, Romeo and Juliet, i. 5:—
And Spenser, Faery Queene, ii. 2. 24, where I will quote the whole stave for the sake of its beauty:—
‘As a tall ship tossed in troublous seas
(Whom raging windes, threatning to make the pray
Does ride on both their backs, and faire herself doth save."
And Milton in Samson Agonistes, 97.2:—
‘Fame, if not double-fac'd, is double-mouth'd, And with contráry blast proclaims most deeds.' It was not only in our French borrowings that the accent had a place which now appears strange. There are words of home growth which are found accented on the last, where we now accent them on the first. Example: alsóe, in the Faery Queene, ii. 5. 15:— * Losse is no shame, nor to bee less then foe; But to be lesser then himselfe doth marre Both loosers lott and victours prayse alsóe; Vaine others overthrowes who selfe doth overthrow.' We now say also and not also : and the principle of the transfer is here exactly the same as in the French instances above; viz. the prevailing tendency to throw the accent back on the beginning of words. That which originally gave also the disposition to be accented on the last, was this: It consisted of two words eal (all) and swa (so), of which swa was the leading word, and eal was a subordinate and modifying prefix; and so long as this continued to be remembered, the stress was naturally on swa or so, even after they ceased to be separate words, and had passed into the compound state. It is the same principle that causes us, when we say, very much or quite well to lay the stress on much and well, because these are the leading words, to which very and quite are subordinate as qualifying adverbs. The same reasoning applies to other home-bred compounds, which were once accented on their last syllable, but are now altered. It will be found that when they existed as separate words and were in grammatical relations to each other, the latter word was the more substantial, and the prior word was the satellite, whether as adverb or adjective. Such is the case of the word álway or àlways, which figures as alway in the close of the following beautiful stave from the Faery Queene, i. I. 34:— “A litle lowly hermitage it was, Downe in a dale, hard by a forest side, Far from resort of people that did pas In traveill to and froe: a litle wyde There was an holy chappell edifyde, Wherein the Hermite dewly wont to say His holy things each morne and eventyde: Thereby a cristall streame did gently play, Which from a sacred fountain welled forth alwāy.” In like manner Spenser has the accentuations blacksmith, Faery Queene, iv. 5. 33; bloodshed, ii. 6. 34; brimstone, ii. Io. 26; earthquake, iii. 12. 2; offspring, iii. 9. 44 (also Milton in Paradise Lost, ii. 31o; iii. 1); upright, in MotherHubberd 728; all which cases might be grammatically justified. But the grammatical relations are only part cause; to them has to be added the consideration that final accents were then more familiar than now, and moreover, that the language was in that fluid transitional state in which the poet has a much larger field of discretion than in later times. Accordingly we find many words diversely accented by the same poet. Hence there is need of caution in using a poetical accentuation as an absolute criterion of the old pronunciation. Some examples are purely arbitrary for the immediate needs of the rhythm. Such are endless, Faery Queene, iii. 5. 42; further, vi. Io. 37; but many might appear arbitrary which can be accounted for on independent grounds: as lightning, Faery Queene, iii. 12. 2; nightly, vi. 12. I4; therefore, iii. 5.46. We must not proceed further with the poetical illustrations in this place, lest we should seem to trend on the subject of accent in its modulatory relations, which will have to be treated separately. Although the disposition of our language is to throw the accent back, yet we are far from having divested ourselves of words accented on the last syllable. There are a certain number of cases in which this constitutes a useful distinction, when the same word acts two parts. Such is the case of humdine and húman ; of augēst and the month of Atigust, which is in fact the selfsame word. Sometimes the accent marks the distinction between the verb and the noun : thus we say to rebel, to record; but a rebel, a record. When the lawyers speak of a recórd (substantively), they merely preserve the original French pronunciation, and thereby remind us that the distinction last indicated is a pure English invention. We have many borrowed words to which we have given a domestic character by setting them to our own music. But independently of this set of words in which the accent on the last syllable is of manifest utility, there are others naturally accented in the same manner in which there seems to be no disposition to introduce a change. Examples: polite, urbane, jocose, divine, complete. To these Romance examples may be added some of pure