[Milton-L] Let me not

Carl Bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Fri Mar 19 13:23:49 EDT 2010

Thanks Richard Strier: this is extremely helpful. I'll go back through your 
previous posts to find "seeing as."

I would like to know the provenance of this understanding of meter.



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "richard strier" <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2010 12:47 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Let me not

> Again, I think Gillum is right.  # 1 is certainly the version that makes 
> most
> metrical sense.
> I'm not sure that I understand what meter producing "a patently 
> wrong-headed
> or spurious meaning" means.  Meter, as I understand it, should NOT be
> determined by meaning.  The fact that a word is semantically important 
> does
> not mean that it should necessarily be considered a metrically stressed 
> syllable.
> Meter is an abstract system, a way, as I said, of "seeing as."  The way 
> that it is
> most useful in relation to meaning is as an INDEPENDENT variable. That 
> way, it
> might show us new ways of reading lines.  If it depends on meaning, it is: 
> 1) not
> a system; and 2) just enforcing things that we think we already know.
> To push the point a little further:  1) I think that the metrical 
> ambiguity in the
> second foot of the first line of PL (either an iamb or a spondee, 
> depending on
> how one treats "first") has nothing at all to do us "enacting" 
> disobedience or
> anything of the sort (both readings are metrically acceptable, 
> "obedient").  The
> rest of the line seems perfectly iambic to me (treating "disobedience" as 
> 4 syll's
> ["ience" as 1]).  To illustrate in a small way the advantage of the 
> independent
> variable view, I would say that to treat this line as perfectly iambic 
> throughout
> allows for the first syllable of "disobedience" really to come into 
> prominence -- 
> not a bad result, though not, certainly, conclusive.
> 2) I think that Vendler's treatment of the 1st line of 116 is driven by 
> her general
> view of Sh's sonnets and her general theory of poetry rather than by 
> metrical
> considerations.
> ---- Original message ----
>>Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2010 10:32:34 -0400
>>From: Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu>
>>Subject: Re: [Milton-L] performance, meter, and open choices
>>To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>   1. LET me NOT to the MARriage (unorthodox double
>>   trochee or 1-3-6)
>>   2. Let ME NOT to the MARriage (unorthodox
>>   2nd-position trochee & something else is wrong)
>>   3. Let me NOT to the MARriage (nursery-rhyme
>>   4-beat, unmetrical in IP)
>>   4. Let ME not TO the MARriage (not English)
>>   Carl, Vendler is correct that attributing
>>   metrical/rhetorical stress to "me" changes the
>>   meaning of the poem, but there is something wrong
>>   with the second option linguistically in that it
>>   somehow detaches "not" from "let" and
>>   inappropriately connects "not" with the following
>>   prepositional phrase. I guess metrically it is
>>   caused by the felt need to get some space between
>>   adjacent beat-realizing syllables--what Attridge
>>   calls an "implied offbeat." So to me #1 seems the
>>   best metrical scansion or performance.
>>   I'm really enjoying this discussion too. Thanks to
>>   all.
>>   Michael
>>   On Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 5:54 AM, Carl Bellinger
>>   <bcarlb at comcast.net> wrote:
>>     Sincere thanks to all contributors across this
>>     rich discussion. I'm grateful and humbled. And
>>     can't keep up. What a generous, learned, careful,
>>     acute, comprehensive, honest, patient, cordial,
>>     jolly good show!
>>     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
>>     "Meter CAN be a guide to performance, but
>>     needn't be" says Prof. Strier.
>>     I think I must be misunderstanding this
>>     and other opinions which seem to hold that we may
>>     treat certain, not unimportant functions of
>>     prosody & performance 'any which way' we wish
>>     to treat them --we may scan them, interpret them,
>>     perform them, as we like. I'm a bit confused,
>>     and uneasy...
>>     In the case of this particular
>>     can-be-but-needn't-be opinion, wouldn't Prof.
>>     Strier and others want to exclude instances
>>     where using meter to determine performance would
>>     produce a patently wrong-headed or spurious
>>     meaning?
>>     "Let me not to the marriage of true minds /
>>     Admit impediments" is the opening of what is
>>     usually understood as a definitional poem, but
>>     Helen Vendler points out (though I always
>>     misremember and over simplify) that if you allow
>>     the iambic prosody to do its proper work you have,
>>     "Let ME not to the marriage of true minds admit
>>     impediments," and the poem is no longer an
>>     instance of the genre of definition, but rather of
>>     the genre of dramatic refutation or rebuttal. I'm
>>     not sure Vendlers reading is the better than the
>>     usual one, but it obviously is not a patently
>>     wrong-headed or spurious one so it doesn't
>>     perfectly suit my query ; I hope it might
>>     nevertheless help the discussion.
>>     Cheers. Jolly good cheers,
>>     Carl
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> Richard Strier
> Frank L. Sulzberger Distinguished Service Professor
> Department of English
> University of Chicago
> 1115 East 58th Street
> Chicago, IL 60637
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