[Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Tue Sep 17 17:16:11 EDT 2013


Nancy's post almost convinces me that a stress on "Of" might be viable,
especially since the scansion leads to a stress on "first." Of course there
are subsequent disobediences, but the stress could mean that he's focusing
on the first -- which theologically is the most problematic. As the first
word in an English sentence, stressing it might work in performance as an
attention-getting device.

I appreciate Michael Gillum's insistence on making a distinction between
stress and metrical accent. I think that helps avoid some confusion.

What I teach my students is that in most European languages stress is
registered by differences in musical pitch (pit vs. pot), vowel length (pit
vs. pot, or better, pit vs. loud), and volume (FALL-ing). Normal English
pronunciation varies all three, but most verse in English only observes
difference in volume, but pitch and especially vowel length can be varied
for effect.

When scanning a line, we tend to observe metrical requirements, the natural
pronunciation of the word in a prose sentence, and contextually required
emphases. Any single line might be scanned different ways depending upon
our reading of the text. Given the complexity of the task, I would say
which we emphasize when scanning a line is something of an art. We will
shift from contextually required emphases to metrically required emphases
to natural pronunciation and back again as it supports a reading.

However, while I think that means scansion is subjective, I don't think
it's arbitrary. I think we should be able to defend our scansion on some
reasonably objective grounds. The problem is that there isn't -one- way of
doing so, so multiple scansions are possible.

Jim R
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