[Milton-L] light fantastic

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 18:35:33 EDT 2012


And I'm beginning to reconsider how to take "light" -- I'd always imagined
illumination, but is weight (if metaphorically) intended? I have to admit
that I've never understood what "tripped the light fantastic" means, though
I assumed it had something to do with dancing gracefully (despite
tripping!) . . .

Jeffery Hodges

On Sat, Oct 20, 2012 at 12:38 AM, Richard A. Strier
<rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

>  It's starting to sound like a stock phrase in a musical or dance
> context.  That would make perfect sense.
>
> RS
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Schwartz, Louis [
> lschwart at richmond.edu]
> *Sent:* Friday, October 19, 2012 8:41 AM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Milton and popular culture, a distant echo
>
>   I've been poking around a bit more about this and found another earlier
> instance in a stage direction from a masque by Thomas Middleton. It's *A
> Courtly Masque:  The Deuice called, The World tost at Tennis, *(London,
> 1620).  The stage direction reads:
>
>
>
> "Musicke striking up a light fanstasticke Ayre...."
>
>
>
> Don't know if Milton would have come across this, but Drayton might have.
>
>
>
> Does anyone know of any other earlier instances?
>
>
>
> Louis
>
>
>
> ======================
> Louis Schwartz
> Professor of English
> University of Richmond
> Richmond, VA  23173
> (804) 289-8315
> lschwart at richmond.edu
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of John Leonard [
> jleonard at uwo.ca]
> *Sent:* Friday, October 19, 2012 8:32 AM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Milton and popular culture, a distant echo
>
>   O darn, there goes another Milton 'first'.
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>
> *To:* 'John Milton Discussion List' <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent:* Thursday, October 18, 2012 7:49 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Milton and popular culture, a distant echo
>
>  John’s right, of course.  Milton echoes himself closely here.  It looks
> like he was fond of this (itself) fantastic bit of phrasing, but even
> though the OED cites the lines from "L'Allegro" as the first instance in
> the language, Milton might have gotten it from Michael Drayton's
> "Nimphidia, the Court of Fayrie," first published (I believe), along with
> *The Battaile of Agincourt*, in 1627, which puts it (I also believe)
> before the earliest estimates we’ve come up with for the date of the
> companion poems.
>
>
>
> Drayton’s poet/speaker uses the phrase, “pretty light fantastick mayde” to
> describe the fairy Nimphidia:
>
>
>
> And thou NIMPHIDIA gentle *Fay*,
>
> Which meeting me vpon the way,
>
> These secrets didst to me bewray,
>
>    Which now I am in telling.
> My pretty light fantastick mayde,
> I here invoke thee to my ayde,
>
> That I may speake what thou hast sayd,
>    In numbers smoothly swelling.
>
>
>
> That’s lines 25-32 of the poem (p. 118 of the 1627 volume).
>
>
>
> Milton’s lines, not Drayton’s, are the source of the later instances of
> the phrase, but it’s interesting that he himself might have been borrowing
> or echoing.
>
>
>
> I argue in chapter 5 of *Milton and Maternal Mortality* that Milton was
> interested in the Drayton volume for a couple of other reasons, but he
> might also have tripped over this phrase, and it stuck to his toe, although
> he did end up doing his own dance with it stuck there.  And that’s not the
> only bit he echoes, I think.  It’s a very “allegro” poem, and itself full
> of echoes (not suprisingly of *A Midsummer Night’s Dream*).  Native
> wood-notes wild all over the place.
>
>
>
> The “trip it…on” part is Milton’s, though.  But is it the best part of the
> trip?
>
>
>
> I wonder how the toe got cut off by the time it got to Mamie?
>
>
>
> Louis
>
>
>
> ===========================
>
> Louis Schwartz
>
> Professor of English
>
> English Department
>
> University of Richmond
>
> 28 Westhampton Way
>
> Richmond, VA  23173
>
> (804) 289-8315
>
> lschwart at richmond.edu
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of John Leonard
> Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:38 PM
> To: John Milton Discussion List
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton and popular culture, a distant echo
>
>
>
> The couplet Steve quoted is from "L'Allegro", but Michael is also right
>
> to hear an echo of the masque. Comus might not "trip" the light
>
> fantastic, but he does "beat the ground / In a light fantastic round"
> (144).
>
>
>
> On 18/10/2012 4:16 PM, Jameela Lares wrote:
>
> > The line is from "L'Allegro," of course, not the masque.
>
> >
>
> > Jameela Lares
>
> > Professor of English
>
> > The University of Southern Mississippi
>
> > 118 College Drive, #5037
>
> > Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
>
> > 601 266-4319 ofc
>
> > 601 266-5757 fax
>
> > ________________________________________
>
> > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Michael Gillum [
> mgillum at unca.edu]
>
> > Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2012 3:04 PM
>
> > To: John Milton Discussion List
>
> > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton and popular culture, a distant echo
>
> >
>
> > Then of course there's
>
> >
>
> > Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke
>
> > Tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York.
>
> >
>
> > I had no idea what that line meant until I read "Comus."
>
> >
>
> > Michael
>
> >
>
> > On Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 10:55 AM, Steve Fallon <
> sfallon at nd.edu<mailto:sfallon at nd.edu>> wrote:
>
> > Come, and trip it as ye go
>
> > On the light fantastic toe.
>
> >
>
> > http://bit.ly/3fqoy4
>
> >
>
> > Click play
>
> >
>
> > Steve Fallon
>
> >
>
> >
>
> >
>
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