[Milton-L] awkwardness

Schwartz, Louis lschwart at richmond.edu
Thu Apr 14 21:48:25 EDT 2016


I hate to have to respond to this sort of assertion at all, but I'll simply say, with as much restraint as I can muster, that I do not perceive the line as a flaw (same with the choppiness that bothers you about "trust to have/ Full sight of her in heaven without restraint" or the whole syntactic movement from "Mine" to "mind").  If you would like to have an actual conversation about this, including my sense of the straining that is there in the lines, I'm happy to have it, but not if you're just going to suggest I'm deluded.


For what it's worth, I don't see the point of raising a little flag in chaos.


Louis Schwartz
Professor of English
Chair, Department of English
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu
From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2016 5:31 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] awkwardness

Responding to the bolded below.  So, yes, listen to the lovely delivery of Ian Richardson to which Hugh Richmond directed our attention


and tell me that you don't hear, amid all the beautifully conveyed rhythms of Richardson's performance, the arrhythmia in "Purification in the old law."  Then look at, for example, Louis Schwartz's scansion-- [/xx/xxx//x/]--and ask whether one would ever expect to hear rhythm in any line that could be so marked.  (There's a little choppiness too in "trust to have / Full sight of her in")

This arrythmia (and it's Milton's; Richardson has downplayed it in performance as far as it can be downplayed) matters because the proposed beauty of this section is the suspension established with "Mine" and only resolved with "came".  There's scarcely anything more satisfying in English literature than the moment one of Milton's well-constructed suspended sentences resolves itself:  "without thee is sweet."  But this is not one of those.  The verbal stuff over or through which a suspension moves has to be of a certain quality.  Here Milton does what in PL Marvell thinks he never does:  "flags," fails to keep "on wing."  The idea that stuff about the wife intervenes between "Mine" and "came," delaying the "came," would make for a good poem is correct; but that notion doesn't survive an actual listen.

There's more to be said about the content of "Purification in the old law did save," but for now I'll take Jim as saying that he heard awkwardness here.  Michael Gillum has called the line "ragged and unmusical".  Michael Bryson is open to the notion that this could be described as a poor poem.  No small number of embryon atoms are swarming populous around my flag (or Johnson's, however you regard it.)

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

-----milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu wrote: -----
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at richmond.edu>
From: James Rovira
Sent by: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu
Date: 04/14/2016 03:37PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] victory conditions

I think the discussion has been wonderfully instructive regardless of the conclusions reached... or not.

I think we need to use scansion as an explanatory device to explain why the poem may (or may not) sound awkward at points when read aloud rather than starting with scansion to evaluate the poem's use meter. Scanning the poem should provide the "why" for the "what." It's at that point that we begin to hear each other's reading of the poem.

Jim R

On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 2:29 PM, Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu<mailto:Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>> wrote:
For me to declare victory, I would have to convince a site full of Miltonists (all who weigh in; lurkers don't count one direction or the other) that "Methought I saw" is a poor sonnet.  I think I've made the stakes for myself sufficiently demanding.  Our era's tendency interpretively to recuperate poorly crafted verses is just a sub-issue of this larger challenge to which I've engaged myself.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

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