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

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Thu Oct 17 12:44:24 EDT 2013


Chaucer invented English iambic pentameter (and Wyatt revived it, sort of)
with reference to the Italian hendecasyllabo. But Milton simply writes
English iambic pentameter as it had existed since Spenser (that is, the
same variations in stress contour are found in Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson
etc) except that Milton exploits enjambment and non-medial cesura to a
degree unprecedented in English versification. So Carl's second question is
an interesting one--does Tasso or any other Italian poet known to Milton
treat the line-boundary in such a cavalier manner?

In "My Last Duchess," Browning breaks up the iambic line in PL fashion,
which has the effect of burying the couplet rhymes in enjambments.  I don't
know if that is what Belli was talking about in his comment on
"natural-seeming" rhyme.


On Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 2:45 AM, Dario Rivarossa
<dario.rivarossa at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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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