[Milton-L] Milton's blank verse: stresses and sources

Dario Rivarossa dario.rivarossa at gmail.com
Thu Oct 17 02:45:05 EDT 2013

Fellow Miltonist JCarl Bellinger, in a private message, asked for some
pieces of information about Milton's verses with reference to his
Tassean precedents. The topic may be of some interest here also, so
here it is. Best!

>Miltons blank verse (...)  is related somehow or other to Tasso's practise

Yes, I think Milton's verses were 'Italian' hendecasyllables. One may
reply: But verses in PL only have 10 syllables!
Of course. One of the rules with hendecasyllables is that the last
stress falls on the 10th syllable. So, if the last word (as it is
often the case in English) is a brief word, having its stress on the
first-and-last syllable, the verse stops there. But there are some
instances in PL where the last word is a longer one, and in that case
the verse regularly shows 11 syllables.

>Do whole sentences run thru the verse with little or no reference to the verse line

Tasso used the blank verse in his long poem "Il Mondo Creato" (The
Creation of the World). The language there is experimental, with many
expressions, phrases, etc., being taken from everyday talks, but he
anyway follows the rules of hendecasyllables, so stresses do fall on
certain syllables in each verse, even in this case.
19th century poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, who wrote poems in the
dialect of Rome, said that he tried to (and he did) make sentences
sound as 'natural' as possible, as if the rhymes were just coming out
by chance.

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