[Milton-L] Tiresias

John Hale john.hale at stonebow.otago.ac.nz
Wed Mar 17 04:04:43 EDT 2010

Like others, I'm enthralled by this discussion, because it raises  
wider questions, about how Milton heard then sounded his lines, but  
tackles it by a new route ? how he heard and thought about his Greek.
    So here goes with interim thoughts, and eagerest expectation:
1. Milton liked Latin to be pronounced in an Italian way, but did he  
ever comment ? in similar terms, or any terms ? about the pronouncing  
of Greek? If he didn't, can we infer that he didn't care, or even  
hadn't thought about it?
2. We need to line up all his English verses which include  
four-syllable Greek names, of the same vowel-patterning as "Tiresias."
3. He writes "Tiresian" in Latin, at Elegia VI. 68, which has to sound  
as a choriamb, but only by vowel-length, quantitatively. Still, Romans  
and Milton had heard the second syllable as a short vowel. (Gk epsilon)
4. What exactly is the force of arguments from how *other* poets  
sounded the name in English? If Milton wanted to sound more Greek than  
they, or to play off a more informed sounding (based on Sophocles,  
perhaps) against the standard English one, I for one wouldn't put that  
past him.
5. "Tongue-twisters" were mentioned ... At the present point in the  
discussion, I am finding it as awkward as ever I did (at marathons) to  
say the line with stress on the *second* syllable of "Tiresias."
6. Does the Waste Land line 208 shed any light? "I Tiresias ..." The  
long vowel of "Tir-" remains insistent.

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