[Milton-L] Selden on verse

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Oct 23 22:46:52 EDT 2013

OK;  I'll bite:  iambic.  (Obviously second foot could be a spondee, but why see an irregularity when you can see a regularity?)

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of JCarl Bellinger [dionhalic at gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 9:31 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Selden on verse

"Verse proves nothing but the quantity of syllables; they are not meant for logic."
   Perhaps (or by extension): What you discover when parsing a verse into the fixed feet & syllables proper to its meter, cannot be used to argue , to "prove," to determine, anything about the meaning of what's being expressed, the logic of it.

  "Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue...but if you mouth your words. ."

   "Speak what you feel not what you prosody."

    I believe it was either Addison or one of his contemporaries [ anybody have a multiple-commentary edition on the shelf?] who glossed Milton's "fit quantity of syllables" as the natural/normal/actual/"fit" length of time this or that syllable will occupy when this or that Englishman is saying whatever it might be he feels like saying on the occasion. Or something to that effect.

John Hale's observation,
"English *accent* may fall on a long or a short vowel, and a long vowel may be unaccented" is nicely illustrated in the last five syllables of
"...not like those steps/On Heaven's azure," where the second of "heaven's" and of "azure" is distinctly longer than the first yet the first takes the accent. Even the "On" is longer perhaps than the first in "Heaven's."
   But would it start a fight to ask how to scan the preceding four syllables : "not like those steps?"
Good luck with that!

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