[Milton-L] Paradise Lost

Peter C. Herman herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu
Mon Nov 28 11:44:47 EST 2005


Is it possible that in the seventeenth century, "eat" would have, or could 
have, been pronounced as "ate," depending on the speaker's meaning? In much 
the same way, for example, "read" could be construed as "reed," i.e., the 
present tense, or as "red," i.e., the past tense?

Peter C. Herman

At 11:17 AM 11/28/2005, you wrote:
>Wouldn't a present tense form here be "she eats"? Or are you asking
>whether it's a sort of grammatical catachresis, fusing a present form
>abusively with a past? But "she eat" as a past is a perfectly regular
>seventeenth century form, so it's hard to know how a contemporary
>reader would find it unusual. See OED under "eat" for examples.
>
>TB
>
>On Nov 28, 2005, at 12:38 PM, Beth Bradburn wrote:
>
>>Elsewhere in PL Milton shifts between past and present tense as a
>>way of shifting between points of view.  (In Book I, for example, a
>>change to present tense often accompanies an emphasis on Satan's
>>perceptual experience at the moment.)  Perhaps this passage uses
>>that technique, although in a way so highly compressed as to be
>>nearly invisible.
>>
>>Beth Bradburn
>>
>>Felicia Weston-davies wrote:
>>
>>
>>>I was wondering whether anyone has any thoughts on ll. 7801-1 in
>>>Book VIII of
>>>Paradise Lost: 'So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
>>>Forth reaching to the fruit, she plucked, she eat'
>>>To mix tenses at such a key point I think may be deliberate-
>>>however the
>>>notes in my copy suggest that 'eat' may be a Middle English ref.
>>>to 'et'. I
>>>would like to propose that it is instead a purposeful mixing of
>>>tenses, suggestive of the fact that the moment at which she first
>>>eats will
>>>reverberate throughout time, affecting all mankind. Any comments/ views 
>>>would be gratefully received.
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>>
>>
>>--
>>Dr. Elizabeth Bradburn
>>Department of English
>>Western Michigan University
>>Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331
>>phone: (269) 387-2620
>>
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>
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