[Milton-L] Scansion and line 1

J. Michael Gillum mgillum at ret.unca.edu
Wed Sep 18 11:22:29 EDT 2013

Jim, I would add that there are a limited number of abstract line patterns
that count as iambic (including one tetrameter pattern that includes no
"iambs"). When a line can satisfy more than one of the patterns, I feel
around and choose the one that sounds (to me) more like natural English and
brings out (to me) the richer sense. The subjective element is in that
choice. So Richard prefers to hear the alternating pattern in line 1, while
I prefer the pattern with an inversion on syllables 3 and 4.

In the case of

That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed

one could hear the alternating pattern, or one could hear an inversion on
syllables 4 and 5, so that "who" does not realize a beat or require
artificial stressing (x/xx//x/x/). However, according to Wimsatt's theory,
such inversions are illegal if not impossible, harrumph!

On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 5:16 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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