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

John K Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Fri Oct 18 12:26:27 EDT 2013

On 10/18/13, "J. Michael Gillum" <mgillum at ret.unca.edu> wrote: 
>  Dario, 
> My question has to do with the relation between the line boundary (the space after the 10th or 11th syllable) and the syntactic boundaries (ends of phrases, clauses, or sentences)--do they tend to correspond (end-stopped line) or not (enjambed line)? With frequent and strong enjambment, we tend to lose track of the line as a five beat unit. That's why PL is so hard to memorize. 
Lord Monboddo (late eighteenth century) claimed that he could hear the line endings (albeit faintly) and praised Milton (as did Eliot in 1947) for playing the line against the verse paragraph. Lord Monboddo (but not Eliot) also found Milton easy to memorize (as did Tennyson and C. S. Lewis). For what it's worth, my own experience is much like Lord Monboddo's. I do not claim to hear all the line endings, but I do claim not to lose track of the line as a five beat unit (though it matters that the beats do not always come in the predictable places, despite Leavis's cheat shot about "the foreseen thud in the foreseen place.") I also find it easy to recall Milton's verse by memory. I hope that doesn't sound like a boast. I just find it comes to memory easily, more than any other poetry. Someone on this list (a couple of years ago) was giving performances reciting whole books by heart.
John Leonard
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