[Milton-L] Pepys and Recitativo, a response to Feisal Mohamed

Alan Rudrum rudrum at sfu.ca
Tue Mar 2 14:07:56 EST 2004

Prof. Mohamed writes:

It is worth noting, however, that Pepys's insight came while he was
_listening_ to Italian well performed, not while he was making his own
attempt at "proper accent."  If undergraduates come as far as Pepys
did--recognizing in a "foreign" language that the sense, and excellence, of
poetry comes fully to life in its "native" sound--and are able to speak
intelligently about the relationship between sound and meaning, then this
instructor is more than pleased.

I believe that in the foregoing Prof. Mohamed misunderstands the point of
my citation from Pepys, which is that Pepys acknowledges that he did not
feel able to judge accurately because he had no Italian.  And for that
reason also he was not so "smitten" as he might have been had he been
listening to English.  That was his "insight."  The point of  narrating my
experience as a student of German was twofold:  (1) that  by  speaking the
verse aloud after a conscious attempt to learn it by heart I experienced as
I would not have done otherwise the relation between  diction and  metre
and (2) that early modern verse and prose is (for many people, I notice,
not all of them undergraduates) something like a foreign language and  the
experience I found valuable as a student of German is likely to be valuable
to students of early modern literature.


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