[Milton-L] "knew not eating metrical death"

Carl Bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Tue Aug 3 01:11:06 EDT 2010

In the bibliography itself, Brogan is not at all as sour as his final 
summation might by itself suggest. Here for instance is his comment on 
Bridges' Milton's Prosody, which by the way is the metrical treatment of PL 
that I would recommend to Jeffery Hodges:

     Bridges' eventual and shocking conclusion, by the way, that Milton came 
to scan his verses one way but read them another has not sometimes in 
Milton-l discussions been fully/properly understood in my opinion.  Bridges 
came to this, not in response to one or two now famous lines which he chose 
because they presented, so he perhaps mistakenly thought, particularly 
obvious examples of his conclusion on the essential nature of the prosody of 
PL. He came to it quite reluctantly as it appears, and only as a cummulative 
realization developed in the process of his ground-breaking approach which 
was to scan and mark every one of the poem's 10,565 lines _before_ making 
larger judgements. Nor, as he himself complains, did he have any idea why 
Milton should have invented an abstract prosody so absolutely "divorced" 
from the spoken rhythms it made possible.

Here, anyway, is Brogan on Bridges, which I think might persuade Jeffery to 
begin here in studying the metrics of  PL.

Even though Bridges' work on the versification of Milton may soon be
superceded by Weismiller (E1342), his final edition of Milton's Prosody will
nonetheless remain a classic. In fact, it may be said that the 
approach to metrics so extensively pursued in the twentieth century
received its impetus chiefly from Bridges. His principles throughout 
Prosody are three: (1) his method is Inductive; (2) he conceives of the 
as consisting of a Norm and its Variations; and (3) he considers the verse
of Milton to be essentially syllabic, and only secondarily accentual. 
repeatedly evidences his firm grasp of historical phonology, his keen 
to Milton's technic, and his wide reading in the history of classical
Part I, "On the Prosody of Paradise Lost," treats the counting of syllables
and accents as the fundamental principles of Miltonic meter; Bridges' view 
Miltonic elision is that syllables are to be fully realized in pronunciation 
elided in scansion. The number and placement of accents belongs to the
rhythm but not to the meter, since for Bridges the accentual structure of
Milton's verse is only accessory, "like the flesh on a skeleton." He cites 
with three, four, and five accents, with inverted feet in each of the five
positions, and with line-breaks (he eschews the term "caesura") in each of 
nine possible positions. Part II, on PR and SA, cites instances of Milton's
steady relaxation of the rules he followed for PL. Part III, "Obsolete
Mannerisms," discusses the old conventions for "recession of accent," 
and pronunciation.
This account will suggest that Bridges' mind always remained a little
swayed by classical versification, and his typology sometimes looks a bit
eccentric to us. Yet he insisted on accurate phonetics, his ear was good, 
his conception of Rules and Norms has had illustrious adherents later in 
century. And at least one part of Milton's Prosody is entirely beyond 
Preface: delightful wit.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Monday, August 02, 2010 9:49 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "knew not eating metrical death"

> You could probably add, Carl, that Brogan and others believe that the
> problems all began when we started applying the rules of Greek meter
> to poetry in English.  That should have some bearing upon our
> discussion of Milton's meter as well.
> Brogan does make one odd claim in the NPEPP, though -- he seems to
> speak of the poem as an abstract entity that exists separately from
> the spoken or written version of the poem.  That is the only instance
> in which Brogan has ever sounded to me like he lost his mind.
> Jim R
>> That's the bad news. Here's the worse. This is in the intro. to T. V. F.
>> Brogan's magisterial annotated bibliography referencing essentially all
>> published discussions on Eng prosody (over four centuries worth) among 
>> them
>> roughly one hundred twenty on Milton's metrics. From
>> _English Versification, 1570-1980, A Reference Guide_:
>> "The study of versification is "... a field which in historical terms has
>> been (it is not too extreme to say) a great mass of ignorance, confusion,
>> superficial thinking, category mistakes, argument by spurious analogy,
>> persuasive definitions, and gross abuses of both concepts and terms...
>> [I]n studies of the structure of verse the use of terms such as poetry,
>> verse, accent, quantity, Numbers, Measure, rhythm, meter, prosody,
>> versification, onomatopoeia, and rhyme/rime/ryme, historically and
>> consistently has been nothing short of Pandemonium. It was so in 1580 and 
>> it
>> remains so in 1980."
>> And still in 2010? -Carl
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