[Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 14 02:12:30 EDT 2008


Erick, thanks. That is helpful. From what you and others have said, Milton would appear to have had no difficulty with Middle English . . . but as for Old English, little concensus.
 
Jeffery Hodges
 


--- On Wed, 8/13/08, Erick Ramalho <ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

From: Erick Ramalho <ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 6:35 PM







Yes, the circulation of Old English material, such as Chaucer’s work and Caxton’s edition of Malory’s Arthur, favoured the reading of Middle English in early modern England (whereas Old English manuscripts, in turn, would be mostly restricted to the eyes of the Antiquarians who held them). Besides, while most of Old English poetry is written in the West Saxon dialect, Middle English literary language springs from the Midland dialect, which would at a later phase turn itself into early modern English and, of course, into contemporary English, which  (so to speak) speaks volumes  about the proximity between Middle and early modern English. This makes more  practical for Spenser, for instance, to coin medieval-like words based on Middle English as well as for his readers to spot his device and get through its meanings. The hardest thing about Middle English, which is arguably its lack of a spelling system, would not have caused much trouble
 to early modern poets; indeed, a glance at a Middle English dictionary suffices to give you over 13 spelling variants to one word, which makes them hard to pronounce, given also the different stages of the Great Vowel Shift, but  less hard for the contextualised meaning to get spotted.  I hope this brief answer, however short and narrow, mainly due to the pressing schedule I´m dealing with right now, might have partially answered your question. 
  
Regards, 
  
Erick Ramalho

--- On Wed, 13/8/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 5:03 PM







Dear Erick Ramalho,
 
Thank you. That was very comprehensive on Old English. I look forward to reading the online paper by Hong Sehn -- as well as whatever I can find of the other articles that you mention.
 
Just a further query on Middle English, if I may. Growing up as I did in the Ozarks with its old-fashioned use of words (e.g., stout = strong, not fat) and using the King James Bible in church (older people even prayed in King James English), I found Chaucer more 'readable' than did many of my university classmates. Would someone of Milton's generation have found Middle English fairly easily readable?
 
Jeffery Hodges
 


--- On Wed, 8/13/08, Erick Ramalho <ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

From: Erick Ramalho <ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 9:15 AM







Dear Jeffery Hodges, 
  
There have been three main theoretical viewpoints (none of which either fully proved or dismissed) as for Milton ’s possible reading knowledge of Old English, which are supported 1) by those who claim that knowledge didn’t exist at all (e.g. W. F. Bolton’s stark observation in ‘A Further Echo of the Old English Genesis in Milton 's Paradise Lost’. The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 25, No. 97 (Feb., 1974), pp. 58-61); 2) by those who argue that it not only existed, but also allowed Milton’s borrowing from Caedmon in writing PL; or 3) by those who assume that the Old English echoes we believe to hear in Miltonic poetry actually originate in secondary sources which are not in Old English, but more or less directly related to (sometimes translated from) Anglo-Saxon sources. For the latter as well a recent discussion on the topic you may like to refer to Hong Sehn’s paper ‘Milton and Old English’ at
 http://www.sisins.zju.edu.cn/sh/doc/Milton%20and%20Old%20English.doc. Although inconclusive, Sehn’s paper is quite useful in quoting former approaches to the topic. Curiously, in listing the languages Milton knew at different abilities, Professor J. K. Hale ( Milton as Multilingual), after naming Latin, Greek, Italian…, considers that Milton might have been able to read in Old English, although not dismissing the possibility that he couldn’t. In other words, the matter stands inconclusive and sadly we are short of evidence for proving any of these points. 
  
Hope this might be of any help. 
  
Best of luck, 
  
Erick Ramalho 
  
 

--- On Wed, 13/8/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
Subject: [Milton-L] Milton's 'English' Skills
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 6:50 AM







Did Milton know Old English and/or Middle English? Can anyone supply a citation or an online source that I might be able to access?
 
How well might he have known these languages?
 
Jeffery Hodges_______________________________________________
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at
http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com _______________________________________________
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at
http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l_______________________________________________
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at
http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com _______________________________________________
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at
http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20080813/03cff7b0/attachment-0001.html


More information about the Milton-L mailing list