[Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

John Hale john.hale at otago.ac.nz
Tue Jan 5 14:36:18 EST 2016


I'm again deeply grateful for the interest being shown by  colleagues who know Milton differently, and especially for suggestions about documentary evidence, this being what I know least well. So far, there seems to be more of it for Milton's earlier poems, (say) up to 1645, than for the period after the sonnets stop. This guess would change if Marvell is found exchanging mss or ideas with Milton, so I wait in hopes.

      As background to these musings, I should explain that I asked my original question from wondering whether in composing poems, when he did compose any after 1650, Milton became more self-sufficient? or settled down to his lifelong favourites, mainly Greek, with some Romans and some Italians.

         Hebrew too, because it's known he listened to the Bible aloud. In that case where would a competent Hebraist look, or listen, within the late poems?

         I say Romans, not Latin, because of another hunch, that he read more Roman poets than Neo-Latin ones. Hard to decide, since every Neo-Latin poetry is duty-bound to echo the Romans. This is why I like Hobbes's verse Vita so much: he goes his own way more.

         Any thoughts or tips on these related matters, perchance?

John Hale
________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 5 January 2016 9:10 p.m.
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

Dear John,
(queries following yours:)

–in his later years how much company did M keep I wonder with Hebrew lyric? Might it have pleased his ear more than the Greek?
<<
Or if I would delight my private hours
With Music or with Poem, where so soon
As in our native Language can I find
That solace? All our Law and Story strew'd
With Hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscrib'd, [ 335 ]
Our Hebrew Songs and Harps in Babylon,
That pleas'd so well our Victors ear, declare
That rather Greece from us these Arts deriv'd;
Ill imitated...>>

—I would want to see ALL the English poems&poets Henry Lawes set to music. Surely Milton could not have given such stunning, close to my heart, praise to Lawes he did in th sonnet had M not closely, measure by measure, studied the sense of the words the phrasal style and cadence of the music.
  Also,There are successive drafts of Lawes' settings of the songs in Comus which presumably are a record of Milton's own collaborative work with Lawes. The nature of the [Miltonic]changes made by Lawes in these successive drafts might shed some light on the question of Miltons opinions re the poetry at stake: he may not have liked it much. He didn't like "fixed feet and syllables" which is all you get in metrical numbers, "that cramped mode of speech" I suspect M may have had a distaste for th conventional sound of iambs in the iambic line east as strong as his distaste being served up a rhyme at every ending. "Committing short and long" is some kind of criminal activity.

///

Harry whose tuneful and well measur'd Song
First taught our English Musick how to span
Words with just note and accent, not to scan
With Midas Ears, committing short and long;

Thy worth and skill exempts thee from the throng, ///

-Carl

On –Monday, January 4, 2016, John Hale <john.hale at otago.ac.nz<mailto:john.hale at otago.ac.nz>> wrote:

Dear Colleagues who have replied so far to my question about Milton's reading of English poets: thank you! While your suggestions are just the sort of thing I was hoping for, like the evidence from Phillips, and the palpable early enjoyment of Spenser, I am hoping for further evidence and opinions. Please.

     For example, mentioning Spenser supports my hunch, that in his earlier and formative years Milton was reading around, whereas in later years there is less evidence, which makes me wonder whether he had made up his mind on these as on many other things. How much of Spenser is to be seen in his later sonnets and the Big Three poems? This is where the suggestion of Cowley interested me greatly.

       I don't mean to imply that his poetic arteries hardened, far from it obviously, but that he did keep company more and more in later years with his Greek poets. Euripides, for example.

       Similarly, his sonnets continue to show influence from Italian poets, but for whatever reason, he stopped writing sonnets. (Like other poets of the time?)?

       So thanks again everyone who has responded. May I hope for further enlightenment, on the assumption that those who aren't going to MLA may have time on their hands, and those who are going have just time before they set off (and shouldn't be writing their papers as late as this!)?




John Hale
________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Hannibal Hamlin <hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 5 January 2016 6:53 a.m.
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] The Metaphysicals

Phillips also singles out "for his Divine Poems, the admired Mr. George Herbert" at the beginning of his Life of Milton.

Hannibal


On Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 12:42 PM, Feisal Mohamed <f.mohamed00 at gmail.com> wrote:
Hello, all

There is a piece of circumstantial evidence note yet mentioned that can be used to answer John Hale's initial question: Edward Phillips' catalogues of poets ancient and modern, the _Theatrum Poetarum_ (1675; Wing P2075). Phillips is of course Milton's nephew and pupil, and it would be hard to imagine him having a more extensive knowledge of poetry than his uncle did. In the _Theatrum_ we find not only the "metaphysicals" but also many minor poets, women poets, and, as we would expect, French and Italian poets.

Happy 2016,
Feisal




On 01/02/16, John Hale <john.hale at otago.ac.nz> wrote:

Dear Colleagues:

What evidence is there that Milton had read the poems of Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan? Or those of Marvell?

Happy and productive 2016 to each and all.


John Hale
________________________________


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--
Hannibal Hamlin
Professor of English
The Ohio State University
Author of The Bible in Shakespeare, now available through all good bookshops, or direct from Oxford University Press at http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199677610.do
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