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

Erick Ramalho ramalhoerick at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Mar 15 18:59:06 EDT 2010

There may
be some Greek behind it indeed, perhaps a choriambus: four verses, the first
and the last being long and the two between them short (conversely, in English
metre, one long, two short, and another long syllable). This very line was of
particular interest to Gilbert Cornway in his ‘Treatise on Versification’,
published in 1878. I quote his observations on it:

 ‘With reference to Milton's line, “And Tiresias and Phineas, prophets old”, Dr. Newton remarks, “Dr. Bentley is totally for rejecting this verse, and objects to the bad accent on “Tiresias”; but, as Dr. Pierce observes, the accent may be mended by supposing the interlined copy intended this order of the words: “And Phineas and Tiresias, prophets old.” But surely the original order is authentic. It seems strange that neither doctor, the first especially, perceived that Milton adhered to the Greek scansion of the name, making Teiresias a choriambus. Lay the stress on the first, not on the second syllable, and the line becomes perfectly harmonious. . .’ This explains the stress on the first syllable of ‘Tiresias’, but one could argue against Cornway for it might not explain the adding of ‘and’, which indeed makes of the line a hendecasyllabic one (for in that case, ‘Tiresias’ must necessarily count for four syllables). It
 would  be possible to think of ‘and’, however, anacrusis, I’d say, in the sense of an unstressed syllable prior to the Greek verse Milton wishes to makes particular and thereby emphatic use of, as if announcing it metrically, so to speak, by means of an unstressed syllable.  regards, Erick

--- On Mon, 15/3/10, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:

From: Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu>
Subject: [Milton-L] Metrics of "And Tiresias and Phineus Prophets old."
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Date: Monday, 15 March, 2010, 19:06

"Tiresias" seems to count as three syllables with the first stressed. Is there a basis in Greek for that stress pattern, which I have never heard? Milton seems to prefer it deliberately, as the line would be metrical and make sense without the "And." (3.36)
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