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

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Fri Oct 18 10:47:29 EDT 2013


Salwa,

I was referring to iambic pentameter, which Chaucer was the first to write
in a sustained and deliberate manner, rather than blank verse. Yes, Surrey
was the first to publish blank verse. Before that, Wyatt was writing
decasyllables, many of which are iambic pentameters.I don't know whether
Wyatt clearly grasped the five-beat rhythm. In some poems he produces it
fairly consistently. In translations from the Italian, he does not. We
cannot be sure of his metrical intentions, except that he was looking to
Italy for an alternative to the doggerel rhythms of 15th century English
verse.


On Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 2:03 AM, Salwa Khoddam <skhoddam at cox.net> wrote:

> **
> "Chaucer invented English iambic pentameter (and Wyatt revived it, sort of)
> with reference to the Italian hendecasyllabo."
>
>   I have some questions regarding this statement: Although there is some
> unrymed verse that can be scanned as iambic pentameter lines in Chaucer's
> **Tale of Melibeus* *and **The Parson's Tale*,* which are predominantly
> in prose,* *does that justify the statement that "Chaucer invented
> English iambic pentameter." As C. S. Lewis states, "The suggestion that he
> [Earl of Surrey] found blank verse in the **Tale of Melibeus** does not
> seem to me worth considering" (**English Literature** 233).  Also, wasn't
> it Surrey who brought it to England from Italy (possibly Molza’s
> translation of Virgil) and who was the first to publish in Modern English
> blank verse translations from the **Aeneid** (written ca.1540 and
> published in **Tottel's Micsellany** in 1557 [**Princeton Encylopedia of
> Poetry and Poetics*,* 1974 ed., 78])? Did Wyatt also compose in blank
> verse?
> Thanks for the clarification.
> Salwa
>
> Salwa Khoddam PhD
> Professor of English Emerita
> Oklahoma City University
> Author of *Mythopoeic Narnia:
> Memory, Metaphor, and Metamorphoses
> in The Chronicles of Narnia*
> skhoddam at cox.net
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* J. Michael Gillum <mgillum at ret.unca.edu>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> *Sent:* Thursday, October 17, 2013 11:44 AM
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] Milton's blank verse: stresses and sources
>
> 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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