[Milton-L] Metrics of "And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old."

Erick Ramalho ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Mar 16 13:49:47 EDT 2010


 'The 
point is not (of course not) that Milton uses the whole cumbersome 
apparatus of 
classical prosody, with quantitative feet (including amphibrachs and 
cretics 
rare), but that he makes expressive use of both accent and quantity, and
 can 
tell the difference between them'

indeed, but sometimes even Milton's Latin verse (as most of  best early modern Neo-Latin poetry) tends now and then to sway on the accentual rather than on the quantitative side, which, however, is most certainly a matter of choice, not one of confusion or deviation from Classical modes.

--- On Tue, 16/3/10, John Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

From: John Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Metrics of "And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old."
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, 16 March, 2010, 14:15



 
 


 
 
Michael Gillum asks:

  

  Did Milton make a clear distinction between quantity and stress-accent? 
  He writes of "fit quantity of syllables" in English verse. As Derek Attridge 
  shows in Well-Weigh'd Syllables, thinking about English versification 
  during the Renaissance was thoroughly muddled.
  

 
 
There certainly is evidence that such a muddle existed (it can still be found 
as late as Johnson's Rambler 1751 essays on Milton's prosody), but I would be 
cautious of leaping to the conclusion that everyone confused quantity with 
accent.  Dryden in Of Dramatick Poesie (1668) has this to say on the 
matter (he is relating how accentual-syllabic verse, with rhyme, supplanted 
classical quantitative verse when Germanic barbarians overran the Roman empire): 
"This new way consisted in measure or number of feet and rhyme. The sweetness of 
Rhyme, and observation of Accent, supplying the place of quantity in words, 
which could neither exactly be observ’d by those Barbarians who knew not 
the Rules of it, neither was it suitable to their tongues as it had been to the 
Greek and Latine" (63). That sounds well-informed to me (Dryden explicitly 
distinguished "Accent" from "quantity").  The date (1668) is the same year 
that Milton added the note about "fit quantity of syllables."  Almost all 
early editors took "fit quantity" to refer to length (as distinct from accent) 
of syllables and many gave convincing examples of Milton's use of syllabic 
length (as well as "apt Numbers") to make his sound "fit" the sense.  The 
point is not (of course not) that Milton uses the whole cumbersome apparatus of 
classical prosody, with quantitative feet (including amphibrachs and cretics 
rare), but that he makes expressive use of both accent and quantity, and can 
tell the difference between them.   (I am about to give a paper on 
this topic at RSA in Venice if anyone is interested.)  
 
John Creaser's scansion of the Teiresias line sounds plausible to 
me.  He is surely right to hear "Tir-E-sias" (though I am not so sure about 
that strong AND).  It matters, I think, that "Tiresias" and "Phineus" have 
different orthographic endings in the penultimate letter.  Some recent 
posts have misquoted the latter name as "Phineas."  "Phineus" more readily 
admits synalloepha ("Phin-yus") and so lends itself very easily to John 
Creaser's scansion.
 
John Leonard
 
 
 
 
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