[Milton-L] awkwardness

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Fri Apr 15 09:49:55 EDT 2016


Why does every line need to "sing"? Does the topic of ritual purification
call for flights of lyricism? I don't see why some irregularities of rhythm
turn a sonnet "poor." Richardson delivers the line in a conversational
rhythm that is not ugly, and that, I think, dimly reflects the metrical
scansions offered by Leonard and me. To me, the interesting point is the
way he suppresses the "as whom" that, being grammatically incoherent, is a
genuine fault in the poem.

The other thing I would fault is the diction in "my late espoused saint,"
which seems a chilly and pedantic way to characterize the lady. It put me
off when I first approached the poem. If I were forced to defend the
phrase, I would say that it does pack a lot of information into a few
syllables, and that this language, along with the bookishness of the
similes, might be seen to reflect a strategy of containing the powerful
emotion that breaks out in the last several lines.

On Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 9:48 PM, Schwartz, Louis <lschwart at richmond.edu>
wrote:

> Greg,
>
>
> 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
>
>
> ======================
> 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
>
>
> http://miltonrevealed.berkeley.edu/videos/john-miltons-sonnet-xxiii-his-dead-wife-1658-ian-richardson
>
> 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> 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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