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The recurrence of similar sounds at the end of successive lines of verse was not formally recognized by the Greeks and Romans of classical times as a legitimate feature of poetical composition; and having a definite metrical system based upon the laws of syllabic quantity, the need was not especially felt of the added pleasure which the ear receives from rhyme. Nevertheless, rhyme is found in both Greek and Latin verse— in Greek probably as a sort of accident of composition which did, however, heighten the enjoyment of the listener, and in Latin sometimes as a consciously sought device. The two languages, therefore, stand on a different footing in this respect. (See Jahn's Jahrbuch for 1830, p. 256; Casaubon, ad Pers.i. 93, 94.) When the rhyme occurs in Homer, as in the following ( Il. i. 225 Il., 226),
Ἀτρείδην προσέειπε καὶ οὔπω λη_γε χόλοιο
Οἰνοβαρὲς, κυνὸς ὄμματ̓ ἔχων, κραδίην δ̓ ἐλάφοιο, it has no especial significance, and simply occurs with probably no design on the poet's part. In Latin the function of rhyme is more important. The early (native) verse being accented like our own and rough in its structure, did undoubtedly introduce the element of rhyme to please the ear, so that when Ennius transplanted the metrical system of the Greeks and forced the Latin language to conform to its general requirements, he still retained some of the native peculiarities in his lines—especially alliteration and rhyme. (See Alliteration.) The following is a striking example of the conscious use of the latter:
Haec omnia vidi inflammari,
Priamo vi vitam evitari,
Iovis aram sanguine turpari.

And so in another of the older poets quoted by Cicero ( Tusc. i. 28):
Caelum nitescere, arbores frondescere,
Vites laetificae pampinis pubescere,
Rami bacarum ubertate incurvescere.

As the system based on quantity became more and more definitely established, however, rhyme occurs less frequently, until in Vergil it appears to be almost studiously avoided except in rare instances where it heightens the effect by giving a sonorous swell to an impressive utterance, as is the case in the following ( Ecl. iv. 50-51):
Aspice convexo nutantem pondere mundum
Terrasque tractusque maris caelique profundum!

See also Georg. ii. 500, 501; Aen. i. 319, 320; iii. 656, 657; iv. 256, 257; v. 385, 386; viii. 620, 621.

Ovid, partly because of his indolence and partly because his less severe taste probably enjoyed the richness of the melodic effect, uses rhyme with much greater frequency than Vergil; and he also admits the so-called Leonine rhyme, as in the following:
Quem mare carpentem, substrictaque crura gerentem,

Quot caelum stellas, tot habet tua Roma puellas,

and in the pentameter intentionally frequent:
Quaerebant flavos per nemus omne favos.

These Leonine rhymes became more and more frequent in the Silver Age of the language, and render easy the transitional reversion from the classic system to the popular one, as men's knowledge of the laws of quantity grew uncertain owing to the influx of foreign writers and a less careful training in the schools. See Leonini Versus.

Ovid often uses the rhyme to point a climax precisely as Shakspeare does in many of the soliloquies and studied declamatory passages of his plays—e. g. at the end of Macbeth's famous soliloquy:
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell!

and in the spirited address of Henry V. to his troops:
Cheerly to sea; the signs of war advance!
No king in England if not king in France!

The summing up of the whole matter is briefly as follows: rhyme was a subordinate element in the early popular poetry; it was suppressed during the Golden Age of literature, but as learning waned it again came to the front and resumed its place in the compositions of poets, so that in the Christian hymns it has practically supplanted the quantitative system, and appears as fully as in modern poetry.

The toleration and even fondness of the Romans for assonances may be seen even in their prose, as when they bring together such similar words— e. g. florem et colorem (Cic. Brut. 87), veram et meram (Pliny ). For a full list of examples, see Näke in the Rheinisches Museum for 1829, pp. 392-401. When precisely the same syllables are repeated in successive words it is called Parechēsis (παρήχησις)— e. g. vi vitam (in the first passages given above); pleniore ore (De Offic. i. 18); pares res (Hor. Sat. i. 3, 121). When successive words have the same ending, it is called Homoeoteleuton (ὁμοιοτέλευτον).

See Bähr, Geschichte der röm. Lit. ii. p. 681; Schuch, De Poësis Latinae Rhythmis et Rimis (1856); Poggel, Grundzüge einer Theorie des Reims (1836); Grimm, Zur Geschichte des Reims (1855); two papers in Gebaveri Anthologia Dissertatiorum, pp. 265 foll. and 299 foll. (Leipzig, 1733); the introduction to Trench's Sacred Latin Poetry, 3d ed. (London, 1874); and the articles Hymnus; Leonini Versus.

hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Homer, Iliad, 1.225
    • Homer, Iliad, 1.226
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.319
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.656
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.256
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.385
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 8.620
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 4
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.500
    • Horace, Satires, 1.3
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.28
    • Persius, Saturae, 1
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