[Milton-L] "Millions of spirits for his fault amerced Of Heaven."

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Wed Dec 6 08:18:58 EST 2017

The legal sense "fine" was noted by "P.H." in 1695. He added the interesting detail that the word "bears an affinity" with a like-sounding Greek word used by Homer, meaning "deprive." The Greek pun then slipped out of the editorial canon until Stella Revard rediscovered it in (I think) MQ. It is likely that Milton is using both the Greek and the French senses (including "at the mercy of").

From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of Horace Jeffery Hodges <horacejeffery at gmail.com>
Sent: December 6, 2017 7:32:49 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] "Millions of spirits for his fault amerced Of Heaven."

I had thought that "amerced" meant the withdrawal of mercy, but I happened upon some interesting  meanings of amerced [as payment of a fine, and a noun form  contrasted with a penalty predetermined by statute]. Probably this is all common knowledge among Miltonists, just in case:

In 1365, Henry Galeys, designated guardian for Joan, filed suit against Thomas Mott, charging that he "took, carried away, and abducted" (cepit, asportavit, et aduxit) her with her goods and chattel valued at 20 pounds "with force and arms" and "against the peace" (et contra pacem). The jurors found Thomas not guilty because he abducted Joan with her assent, but he was amerced because Joan had been taken against the will of Henry.

a·merce  (ə-mûrs′) tr.v. a·merced, a·merc·ing, a·merc·es Law To punish by fine or other penalty. [Middle English amercen, from Anglo-Norman amercier, from à merci, at the mercy of : à, to (from Latin ad; see ad-) + merci, mercy (from Latin mercēs, wages).] a·merce′a·ble adj. a·merce′ment n. American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. amercement, amerciament 1. punishment or penalty applied at the discretion of a court or other authority, as contrasted with a penalty predetermined by statute. 2. the imposing of such a penalty. — amercer, n.

Best Regards

Jeffery Hodges
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