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agree in fixing the cæsura in every line, with hardly any variation, at the same place. This is another evident mark of design, amounting to little less than proof that Chaucer not only meant his verses to be rhythmical, but did all he could to settle what their rhythm should be.” (Id., p. clxiii.) Finally, he remarks on the subject of the cæsura :-" Its use, and the object proposed by it, is confirmed by the appearance of the early printed editions of Chaucer's works. In the editions subsequent to 1532 the cæsura is almost entirely disused; if it was retained, it seems to have been retained by accident. The reason is obvious. Our English versification had then become metrical. The cæsura was, therefore, no longer wanted for general purposes; it was consequently omitted, though, strictly speaking, in some works it ought to have been retained. But in the editions previous to 1532 the case was different. The rhythmical cadence was then still in use, and therefore the division of the hemistich was still to be continued." (Id., p. clxix.) Surrey's Poems were first printed in 1557; but there were editions of Chaucer in 1542, 1546, and 1555, which must be understood according to this statement to be all without the cæsura. Would it not appear, then, that metrical verse, upon Dr. Nott's own showing, had been introduced from fifteen to twenty-five years before Surrey's poems were given to the world? It is true they were written some years before, for Surrey was put to death in January 1547; but they can hardly have been supposed to have been so widely diffused in manuscript as to have revolutionized the national versification. When the Chaucer of 1542, the first edition without the cæsura, was published, Surrey according to the common
account, was not more than twenty-three or twenty-four years old. Even Dr. Nott does not pretend that he was more than twenty-six.*
What Dr. Nott calls the pause at the end of the line seems to have nothing to do with the question he raises in regard to the nature of Chaucer's versification. Of course, it is admitted upon either, and must be admitted upon any, system that a line is such an integral part as may be properly separated by a point or other divisional mark if it be thought necessary. As poetry is now written, nothing of the kind is required; the limits of the line or verse cannot be more distinctly indicated than they are by each being kept standing by itself; and it is not easy to see what practical purpose could be contemplated by retaining the points at the end of the line after this method was introduced. Probably it was merely a retention from habit of a usage to which transcribers and readers had become accustomed, and which was no doubt very serviceable, while verse was written continuously like prose, as it always was during the Anglo-Saxon era. We may, therefore, put aside altogether so much of the above statement as refers to this final point or pause. Let us see, then, how the fact stands as to the other and only important mark, that of the cæsura, as Dr. Nott calls it, in the middle of each verse. He sets out by telling us that both the cæsura in the middle and the pause at the end of the line are always pointed out with perfect precision; but this broad assertion is very far from being adhered to when he comes to specify particulars. The next form in which we have the statement is, that, "when the mark of cæsura is omitted, an interval is * See Memoir, prefixed to Works, p. x.
generally left in the middle of the line." Then, in still more qualified phrase, we are informed that in the manuscripts of Chaucer's poetry "either the cæsura or the pause at the end of the line, and sometimes both, are almost always noted." He persists, however, in maintaining the careful manner in which this notation of the pause or pauses has been attended to in all good manuscripts, although he admits that the virgule or point may in some instances have been obliterated; and he affirms, as we have seen, (though not very consistently with his previous admission of its being only in some manuscripts that the cæsura is noted at all)" that all the manuscripts [of Chaucer] agree in fixing the cæsura, in every line, with hardly any variation, at the same place."
Let us now turn to his examples. One will suffice to show how far his statements are borne out, even in their most limited form. The first seven lines of the Canterbury Tales are professed to be given from three different manuscripts. Of one of these, the Lansdowne MS. 907, the account given is, that in this passage the cæsura or middle pause is not marked at all, either by point or virgule; but in another part of the work we have the lines cut, not uniformly into two portions by a single virgule, but sometimes into two, sometimes into three, sometimes into four portions by a succession of such strokes. This is a phenomenon of which Dr. Nott's theory seems to take no account. All he has to say in regard to it is, that the frequent recurrence of the virgule be suspected to be intended “to mark some rules in recitation, with which we now are unacquainted.” The two other manuscripts, Harl. MSS. 1758 and 7333, as here quoted, differ as to the place of the middle pause
in the very first line; and in three of the remaining six lines where the one has only a point the other has both a point and a virgule, in a fourth verse it has only a virgule, and in a fifth it has a point followed by a capital letter. But it is hard to say what dependence can be safely placed even upon this apparent amount of agreement. It so happens that the same passage has been more recently printed from the same two manuscripts by Mr. Guest in in his History of English Rhythms' (2 vols. 8vo. London, 1838, vol. i., p. 215), and the variations between his transcripts and those of Dr. Nott are not a little startling. Dr. Nott evidently did not intend to preserve the old spelling, although for the object he had here in view that would have been almost necessary; but some of the liberties he appears to have taken go far beyond the reformation of the antique verse in that particular. In his extract from the MS. 1758, which extends to eight verses, in the first line he might perhaps defend his change of wit into with, and of swote (for sweet) into soote; in the third line, vain instead of veyne (or vein) is probably a typographical erratum; in the fourth, the substitution of vertu for virtue, though not very intelligible, and indeed the very reverse of what might have been expected, is still not a very wide deviation; but the printing of had for hath in the second line is an instance of unpardonable inattention; and to transform the eighth line from
"Into the ram, his half cours ronne."
as it stands in Mr. Guest's transcript, into
"Hath in the Ram, his half course y-run."
is going so far in the way either of carelessness or daring
as to destroy all reliance upon such a mode of pretending to exhibit the testimony of ancient manuscripts, or upon any conclusions so supported. But the discrepancies between the two transcripts of the other MS. bear more upon the question of the middle pause or cæsura; for, according to Mr. Guest's exhibition of this text, there is in three of the seven lines, the first, second, and sixth, actually no mark of any such pause at all. Mr. Guest states that in this manuscript "the pause, when inserted, is often nothing more than a mere scratch of the pen;" and, so far from regarding either manuscript as a good one, or as carefully written in regard to the divisional point, he describes "the occasional omission or misplacing of the dot as perfectly in keeping with the general inaccuracy" of both. His extract extends to eighteen lines; and in regard to eight of the ten not already examined, we are enabled to compare the two Harleian MSS. with another then belonging to the Marquess of Stafford, of which a transcript to that extent is given by Dr. Nott. Passing over other differences, we find that in the Harl. MS. 7333, the middle pause is wanting altogether in the second, fourth, and eighth; that it is also wanting in the third of the Stafford MS.; and that in the fifth it is placed differently in all the three MSS. It is also wanting in the ninth line in the Harl. MS. 1758.
It seems plain that of such confusion and uncertainty as this little or nothing can be made, and that any attempt to exhibit, in printing Chaucer's poetry, the cæsura or middle pause in each verse as noted in the manuscripts would be impracticable, even if it were ever so important. But is this cæsural mark, in fact, of any