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

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Fri Oct 18 12:23:34 EDT 2013


Professor Gillum,
Thanks for the clarification. But it seems to me that sometimes the rhymed iambic pentameter and blank verse (that of Milton, for instance) are discussed as if having come out of the same tradition, but one is English and the other is Italian.
Thanks again,
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 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Friday, October 18, 2013 9:47 AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton's blank verse: stresses and sources


  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 
      To: John Milton Discussion List 
      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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