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

Joshua Scodel joshscodel at gmail.com
Wed Mar 28 01:06:32 EDT 2018

Dear Miltonians,

I have a very dull technical question.  I'm teaching the "Nativity Ode" and
am bothered yet once more by l. 116 as printed in the 1645 and 1653
editions:  "With unexpressive notes to Heav'ns new-born Heir."  It'd be a
perfectly good alexandrine with a disyllabic "Heaven's," but the elision to
a monosyllabic 'Heav'n's" makes it eleven syllables and the concluding
three syllables hard to scan.  Is it plausible that this is just a repeated
printer's error based on the fact that all the other instances of "heaven"
in the poem are elided to "heav'n"?

Attridge briefly remarks on Milton's use of both contracted and
uncontracted "heav(e)n" in *Paradise Lost*, but has anybody done a
systematic study of Miltonic metrical contraction?

Josh Scodel

On Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 7:18 AM, John Leonard <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

> 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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Joshua Scodel
Helen A. Regenstein Professor in English, Comparative Literature, and the
University of Chicago
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