[Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

Nancy Charlton charltonwordorder1 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 16 16:35:05 EDT 2013

If you stress "of" it might bring up a question Milton doesn't really get into except in passing. OF man's FIRST dis-o-BED-yence...  Implies that there are subsequent disobediences, any of which might merit epic treatment. To stress OF would tie the phrase more forcefully to "Sing", possibly at the expense of the other matters catalogued before the invocation is made. Possibly their inclusion at the very opening is a distancing on JM's part is an attempt to keep the focus on the divine rather than the human history. 

The Iliad's "Sing" is an imperative or vocative, whereas "of" is a lowly preposition which in classical languages would be part of a genitive noun and given little stress even as a long-syllabled diphthong. 

As to the pronunciation of the d-word, is it not possible that JM, fluent in Italian, might have read the ie as y? Or would this come out as in j or dg, as someone suggested yesterday?

Nancy Charlton

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 16, 2013, at 12:10 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> I initially brought up the possibility of a stress on "of" because, as Ben I think observed, I misread Richard's initial cap as indicating a stressed syllable. Yes, I agree, prepositions are normally unstressed both in everyday speech and in poetry. Yes, like all unstressed syllables, they can be take a stress under specific conditions. Having misread Richard's scansion, I considered the possibility of stressing the first word of an epic poem to be interesting -- like Sing at the beginning of the Iliad. However, I never would have considered the possibility of a stress on "of" had it not been for that misreading. 
> Many apologies for the confusion.
> Jim R
> On Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM, J. Michael Gillum <mgillum at ret.unca.edu> wrote:
>> These are good comments by Greg and Richard, but I am puzzled as to why people are saying that "of," the first syllable of PL, is stressed. Prepositions are unstressed unless for contrastive purposes in speech. There is nothing in the text to suggest  that such "rhetorical" stress is called for. And there is nothing in the structure of the line that suggests the first syllable realizes a beat (metrical accent). Quite the contrary.
>> Perhaps I should have said that prepositions are normally unstressed unless you are a local public radio announcer.
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