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

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Fri Oct 18 13:14:17 EDT 2013

John, I saw a video of the virtuoso PL reciter at the work of memorizing,
and he was counting fives on his fingers. I also find that helpful in
memorizing or recalling passages of PL because there is such a strong
tension between the verse unit and the syntactic units, and also because
Milton uses a lot of parenthetical elements that I tend to drop without
noticing as the meter continues for a while without them. I don't have to
count on my fingers to assimilate a line of Pope's, although admittedly the
rhyme helps a lot. But beyond that, Pope's lines are distinct 5-beat units
reinforced by syntax.

I envy your facility, and clearly I should have said "hard *for me* to
memorize." May I ask, what role does visual memory play for you? I suspect
my visual memory is relatively weak. Something I do to cut down on the
dropped phrases is to try to fix a visual memory of the words at the
beginning or end of the line.


On Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM, John K Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

> 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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