[Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sun Sep 15 17:47:36 EDT 2013


Well, we are basically in agreement, and I don't want to quibble, but it seems to me that even though it is true that the primary stress in "disobedience" is on the third syllable, no native English speaker can say (or could have said) the word without some sort of stress on "dis," so that there is a contrast between the level of stress on this syllable versus the next one -- which is all that is needed, from my point of view, to establish a pattern.  ANY difference in level of stress will do.  I take it to be metrically relevant that it is impossible to stress the second syllable of this word (without sounding ridiculous; "putting the emPHASis on the wrong sylLABLE" is, I think, a very useful joke -- shows what inherent stress means).  Level of stress, as I said earlier, seems to me irrelevant (and so all those systems that measure comparative level of stress in meter [Trager and Smith, for instance] seem to me misguided; they are about rhythm, not meter).  All that is needed, as I said, is ANY degree of (agreed upon) contrast (less-MORE is always, in my view, an iamb, regardless of the "levels").  My favorite metrical analyst is not Attridge but the poet Tim Steele (and the late and very much lamented John Hollander).  The "sing-song" does help in recognizing the basic iambic pattern, but it is, in my view, irrelevant to performance.  It seems to me deeply mistaken to think that a metrically regular iambic line, even one with no caesuras, is necessarily to be performed in a sing-song way.

RS
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of J. Michael Gillum [mgillum at ret.unca.edu]
Sent: Sunday, September 15, 2013 4:16 PM
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Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

The primary stress in "disobedience" is on the 3rd syllable. "Dis" is a secondary stress that can come out in speech, but doesn't need to.

But if it does come out in your reading, a different way to talk about the "spondee" is to say that "first" is a stressed offbeat. Even though stressed (a linguistic characteristic), it avoids being a beat or metric accent (a metric function) because it is between two other stressed and beat-realizing syllables--that is, assuming you want "dis" to be fully stressed. So if you say the line in a sing-song way and tap your foot, you would tap on "man's" and "dis" but not on "first." Still you would stress "first" and probably raise the pitch. So that section of the line would be weighty.


On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 4:51 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>> wrote:
In my old-fashioned terminology, to see a stress on "first" would make the second metrical unit a spondee, not a trochee, since the first syllable of "disobedience" involves what I would call dictionary or inherent stress (non-negotiable, in other words).

RS
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] on behalf of J. Michael Gillum [mgillum at ret.unca.edu<mailto:mgillum at ret.unca.edu>]
Sent: Sunday, September 15, 2013 3:30 PM

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Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

Richard--those are good comments. If you meant "seeing-as" to be directed by metrical understanding, then that's pretty much what I meant by "counting-as." However, I'd emphasize that we don't need to say or hear "heav'n" as a monosyllable. We register that it counts as one syllable to satisfy the metrical scheme.

In my understanding of the i.p. line, which is about the same as Attridge's, readers and performers should register five beats arranged in a limited range of patterns such as x/x/ , xx//, and /xx/. All of these count as satisfying iambicity (the mature convention) but they are not all seen or heard as alternating in the primitive iambic pattern. So a metrically-savvy reader could interpret passages like "man's first dis-" in more than one way, owing to the limited stress contrasts. One could further ask whether a particular poet's metrical set allows a particular feature such as "second position trochee." For Pope, no; for Milton, yes. So I am free to interpret the rhythm as x//xx/x/x/, and to me it sounds better, makes more sense than the other way. I also like that it is an unusual rhythm, a bold move.

I agree that "meter is an independent variable" and scansion should not merely reflect a first impression of how we would say it. Meter suggests one or more ways that the poet may have wanted it to be said. You are emphasizing the "one," while I am emphasizing the "or more."




On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 2:59 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>> wrote:
Michael-- "seeing as" and "counting as" seem to me to be identical in this context.  To see something in a particular way in the metrical context is to count it in that way.

I see the point you are making about the second foot in line 1 (I am not convinced that we should not speak of metrical feet), but I am not so sure about "sense-required" accents.  Seems to me that that way madness lies, since there are all sorts of arguments why almost any particular word is semantically/conceptually important, and so to take such arguments into account, in doing scansion, would yield no metrical system.  In my view, part of the point of meter in poetry is to be (largely) independent of semantics.  If the two always overlap, one could never learn anything about a line from the meter, since you would only be reading for sense.  Whereas it seems to me that reading line one as regular gives an interesting emphasis on DIS, one that does make one think of the line somewhat differently.  I hope that I am making myself clear (i.e. meter is most important in poetry as an independent variable).

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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] on behalf of J. Michael Gillum [mgillum at ret.unca.edu<mailto:mgillum at ret.unca.edu>]
Sent: Sunday, September 15, 2013 1:44 PM
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Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "then" not "[then]"

James Rovira: It doesn't matter whether anyone pronounced "society" as a trisyllable, though I guess some did. It's a matter of counting-as, which may be slightly distinct from Richard's "seeing-as" or even hearing-as. Long established in the code of accentual-syllabic versification was the rule (or liberty) that adjacent vowel sounds or those separated by W, V, etc. can count as either two syllables or (by elision) one, according to what the meter wants. This rule may be rooted in variances in actual pronunciation (violet or vy-let), but it is a metric rather than linguistic rule.  I suspect no English speakers have actually pronounced a monosyllabic "heav'n."

Richard Strier: I agree that line 1 of PL can be seen as a regular alternating line, but I wouldn't be so sure that Milton said it that way. As you know, there are inversions of the expected stress profile every few lines, usually following rules / liberties established in the iambic tradition since Spenser. I know of no evidence as to how people of Milton's time pronounced these, but I suspect they respected natural stress contours within a chant-like performance that registered five beats to the line.

The big metrical issue about line 1 is the apparent "second-position trochee" (x//xx/x/x/ with the sense-required emphasis on "first"). These are unusual in the metrical tradition. Attridge, the leading metrical theorist whom Creaser generally follows, takes this feature as a sort of declaration of outlawry. That's  a view I find attractive.

One of the Elizabethan metric theorists seems to have believed that stress inversions in the alternating line required the performer to mispronounce words to preserve the alternating meter. But those guys were used to very strict and regular iambic lines.



On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>> wrote:
I think Michael Gillum's post, building on John Leonard's, settles the matter.  BUT I do think that sophisticated poets (Jonson, Herbert, Milton, etc, etc) had a clear sense of the placement of accents as well as of numbers of syllables.

Meter is a matter of what Wittgenstein would call "seeing as."  If one could/can find a way of seeing a line as (regular) iambic pentameter then it was/is iambic pentameter.

Take the first line of PL.  It can be made into metrical heavy weather, but it can also easily be seen as perfectly regular iambic pentameter:

Of MANS first DISobeDIENCE [one syllable -- "dgence"], AND the FRUIT.

The caesura before "and," as well as its metrical position allows for the stress (eliminating punctuation, à la Teskey us a giant mistake).  I have no doubt that Milton wanted us to see the line as presented above, and to do the same sorts of operations with many others.  Empirical linguistics (i.e. variations of stress/loudness) has virtually nothing to do with the matter of meter.  Rhythm is another matter.  And performance, of course, is yet another (meter is not meant as a guide to this, though it can, at times, be so).  In line 1, for instance, I like the fact that "and" and "fruit" are, so to speak, left hanging in the line.  But whether the line needs to be performed that way is an open question.  It doesn't need to be, though it certainly can be.

RS
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From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu<mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu>] on behalf of J. Michael Gillum [mgillum at ret.unca.edu<mailto:mgillum at ret.unca.edu>]
Sent: Sunday, September 15, 2013 10:39 AM

To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] "then" not "[then]"

Syllable count is the most salient feature in early modern English metric theory. Sidney names the meters as "our line of ten syllables," "our line of eleven syllables" etc. Many writers did not have a clear conceptual grasp (as opposed to a functional grasp) of metrical accent, but anybody can count syllables, as Pope complains. It is overwhelmingly probable that the printer dropped a word when setting the "they then" line first edition and that Milton would have chosen to correct it in an epic (as opposed to dramatic) text. So I agree with John that we should not consider this to be an emendation.

As to the supposed twelve-syllable lines-- "Ta dum ta dum ta dum ta dum society" would be a hexameter in a hexameter context, or a pentameter in a pentameter context. The last syllable would be (or count as) a weak sixth beat in the hexameter, or a doesn't-count extra offbeat (feminine ending) in the pentameter. "Society" would count as four syllables in the hexameter and three syllables in the pentameter, by actual or theoretical elision of I and E. In the context of PL, the line is a pentameter. Obviously, the "satiety" line is the same case.


On Sun, Sep 15, 2013 at 10:57 AM, Nancy Charlton <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com<mailto:charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com>> wrote:
Yes, that is certainly possible. I have no access to the 1667, so assumed that [then] in brackets was an emendation. If it looks like a duck...

Nancy Charlton

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 15, 2013, at 6:37 AM, John K Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca<mailto:jleonard at uwo.ca>> wrote:

Emendation? It is true that "then" in 10.827 does not appear in the first edition (1667), but it does appear in the second (1674), so a case can be made for seeing it as Milton's correction of a printer's error rather than a Bentleyan emendation of an expressive omission.

John Leonard

On 09/15/13, Nancy Charlton <charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com<mailto:charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com>> wrote:

I was thinking the same thing, except I would liken it to a quarter-rest in music, with perhaps a fermata on "me". This to me has better rhetorical logic, particularly if the line is left stark without the emendation "then."

Nancy Charlton

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 14, 2013, at 8:32 PM, "Salwa Khoddam" <skhoddam at cox.net<mailto:skhoddam at cox.net>> wrote:

But how can these nine-syllable lines be scanned as unmetrical?? If we include pauses when they are spoken, it seems to me they scan quite regularly. For instance, a pause after the question mark in this line (10.827).
Salwa
Salwa Khoddam PhD
Professor of English Emerita
Oklahoma City University
skhoddam at cox.net<mailto:skhoddam at cox.net>
----- Original Message -----
From: Gregory Machacek<mailto:Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
To: John Milton Discussion List<mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 14, 2013 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Query on scansion

With me? How can they [then] acquitted stand (10.827)



Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College


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From: JCarl Bellinger
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Date: 09/14/2013 04:12PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Query on scansion


I don't recall who made the observation but a line of just nine syllables, a truncated line, appears just where Eve suggests to Adam they might choose to remain childless in order to limit to their own persons the Woe otherwise destined now for all generations of their progeny.

Perhaps someone could locate the line (I'm away from my desk at the moment)...
I think that not a few editions of PL have rejected the nine syllable line as unmetrical, which it most certainly is, and have replaced it with a line that will scan.
-Carl

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