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of a line, there is an Anapæstic or Dactylic character, or a greater deviation from the lambic than is normal; but the very rareness of such instances at a time when Milton was avowedly free from all law, save that of his own ear, proves how difficult it was for him to get away from his normal xa measure, with its customary ar variation. It is perhaps more remarkable that, while the verse of these choral and lyric passages of intermingled short and long lines is generally Blank, like that of the dialogue, and though Milton had publicly taken farewell of Rhyme some time before, yet now and then he here reverts to Rhyme for a subtle effect. On the whole, the verse of the choral and lyric parts of Samson Agonistes may be described as Blank Verse of various lengths of the Iambic metre, from 2 xa to 6 xa, with occasional touches of the Anapæstic and other metres, and with occasional rhymes.
From this survey the following facts appear :-I. Milton, from first to last, used all but exclusively the Iambic or xa metre, herein agreeing with the general body of English poets. Moreover, within the xa metre, his poetry, in conspicuously the largest proportion, keeps to the 5 xa line, whether blank, or in rhyming couplets, or distributed through rhyming stanzas or through free musical paragraphs. Next in frequency is the line of 4 xa or ordinary Octosyllabics; in his use of which he so frequently omits the initial unaccented syllable as to cause a Trochaic effect, and give us the option of scanning many of his lines either as acephalous lambic Dimeters, or as Trochaic Dimeters catalectic. For the rest, he ranges, as we have seen, from 2 xa to the Alexandrine or 6 xa. II. Milton began with Rhymed Verse, and with customary forms of such Verse,—viz. Heroics, and Octosyllabics; and his originality afterwards did not display itself so much in positive inventions of new metres as in certain extensions of metrical usage :-(1) Very early we see him extending his range in the Rhymed Stanza by the use of stanzas which may possibly be his own; and this freedom of stanza accompanies him into later life. (2) Very early he shows his fondness for the Sonnet, after the strict Italian model. To this model he adheres in later life; and his introduction, or reintroduction, of the Italian Sonnet is, as we have elsewhere explained (I. pp. 201206), a fact of note in the history of English Verse. (3) Very early we see a tendency in him to escape the bonds of the stanza altogether, and to indulge himself in free rhyming lyrics, conditioned, as to length of line, number and distance of rhymes, etc., purely by his own meaning, feeling, and musical tact at the moment. In this assertion of a liberty of rhyming lyrics beyond any bounds of stanza Milton had had English predecessors; but his example added importance to the practice. (4) His chief innovation in English Verse, as he himself most emphatically marked, was his disuse in his later life of Rhyme altogether for purposes to which it had been long consecrated, and his extension and adaptation to Epic Poetry of the Blank Verse which had till then, with few exceptions, been appropriated exclusively to the Drama. He had first used Blank Verse for the drama or
dialogue of his Comus, and in this had but followed custom ; but, when he put forth his Paradise Lost, in 1667, wholly in Blank Verse, he could proclaim it as “an example set, the first in English, of ancient liberty restored to Heroic Poem from the troublesome and modern bondage of riming." The innovation was confirmed by Paradise Regained. As Samson Agonistes was a drama, the use of Blank there for the dialogue could occasion no remark. (5) One other innovation of Milton was his deviation occasionally from the normal Blank of 5 xa or 5 xa + into a free irregular Blank of combined short and long lines of xa. His Translation of Horace, Ode 1.- V. is one specimen ; but the most interesting and abundant specimens are in the soliloquies and choruses of his Samson.
In Eckermann's Conversations of Goethe, under the date April 6, 1829, there is this story :-“We sat a while longer at table, taking
some glasses of old Rhenish wine, with some good biscuits. “Goethe hummed to himself unintelligibly. The poem of yesterday
[a poem of Goethe's in three stanzas, of the date January 1788, printed in the Zweiter Aufenthalt in Rom] came into my head again. ‘One peculiarity of this poem,' said I, “is that it has
upon me the effect of rhyme, and yet it is not in rhyme. How is “ this ?' 'That is the result of the rhythm,' he replied. "The lines
begin with a short syllable, and then proceed in trochees to the “ dactyl near the close, which has a peculiar effect, and gives a sad, “ bewailing character to the poem. He took a pencil
, and divided
' “ the line thus :
“Vòn | meinăm | brỡiten | Lagor | bin ích văn | triebến.” “We then talked of rhythm in general, and came to the conclusion " that no certain rules can be laid down in such matters. "The
measure,' said Goethe, 'flows, as it were, unconsciously from the “ mood of the poet.
If he thought about it while writing the poem, “ he would go mad, and produce nothing of value.”—-A subsequent
? conversation on Verse and its technicalities (Feb. 9, 1831) led to remarks from Goethe which are thus reported :—"Nowadays techni“ calities are everything, and critics begin to torment themselves “ whether in a rhyme an s should be followed by an s and not an s
by ss. If I were young and bold enough, I would purposely offend
against all these technical whims: I would employ alliteration, “assonance, false rhyme, and anything else that came into my head ;
! ; “ but I would keep the main point in view, and endeavour to say “ such good things that every one should be tempted to read them " and to learn them by heart.”- -These two anecdotes are a fit preface to what is here to follow. Milton, in the act of writing or mentally composing his poetry, did not generally think of the minutiæ of the verse-mechanism, but obeyed the mood of his thought, and the
instinct of a musical ear as perfect and fastidious as was ever given to man. There is no doubt, however, that, like Goethe, he could become the prosodian of his own verses when he chose, and was very learned and critical in all such matters. He would not have objected, therefore, to the most microscopic examination of his verse in search of the mechanical causes or accompaniments of the poetic effects. What of this kind can be given here may divide itself between two heads— I. Milton's Metrical Management, and II. Milton's Rhymes.
THE METRICAL MANAGEMENT.
It is by examining Milton's Blank Verse that we shall best learn his metrical art.
The formula of the normal line of Blank Verse is 5 xa: which means that each normal line consists of ten syllables, alternately weak and strong. Here are examples of such lines from Milton's poetry :
Åt last å soft and solemn-breathing sound.”—Comus, 555.
To highth of noblest temper heroes old.”—P. L., I. 551, 552.
Attest their joy, that hill and valley rings.”—P. L., II. 494, 495.
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades.”—P. R., I. 295, 296.
" And I shall shortly be with them that rest.”—S. A. 598. Such regular lines of five Iambi, however, are much less frequent than might be supposed, and very rarely are two or three of them found consecutively. The reason is that any considerable series of lines of this uniform construction would be unendurable.
The ear demands variety; and so, mutatis mutandis, that happens in English Blank Verse which happened in the various kinds of classic verse. The Heroic verse of Homer and Virgil is called Dactylic Hexameter, the formula of which, if we use our symbols for accent as symbols for quantity, would be 6 axx. In fact, however, no line of six Dactyls exists. Not only is the last or sixth foot invariably a Spondee (aa); but even the fifth, which generally must be a Dactyl, may now and then be a Spondee, and any of the preceding four may be either a Spondee or a Dactyl. Thus we may have lines occasionally with only one dactylic foot. The reason for the name of the verse, therefore, is that each line has a total effect equivalent to that of six Dactyls. So in the kind of verse called Iambic Trimeter or Iambic
Senarius; which was the verse of the Greek tragedians for the dialogue, and of their Latin followers. The norm of each line was six Iambi, or, in our notation, 6 xa, so that the verse may be taken as our Blank lengthened by a foot. Regular lines of the six lambi do occur; but a succession of such would have been thought monotonous. In the actual practice of the poets (Greek and Latin together) the ear therefore dictated varieties, which the prosodians, coming after them and watching what they had done, expressed in these rules,that any one of the first five feet might be a Tribrach (xxx); that any of the three odd feet (the ist, the 3rd, and the 5th) might perfectly well be a Spondee (aa); and that this Spondee might be resolved into a Dactyl (axx) or an Anapæst (xxa) in any of the three places, though in the third place the Anapæst, and in the 5th the Dactyl, ought to be very rare. The verse was called Iambic Senarius, in short, because each line was to consist of six Iambi, or what the cultured ear would accept as equivalent. Precisely so are we to be understood when we say that the formula of Milton's Blank Verse, or of English Blank Verse generally, is 5 xa. Lines may occur, frequently enough, that answer exactly to that formula; but the formula only means that each line delivers into the ear a general 5 xa effect, the ways of producing this effect being various. What the ways are can be ascertained only by carefully reading and scanning a sufficient number of specimens of approved Blank Verse.
Unfortunately, the process of scanning Milton's Blank Verse, or any other English Verse, is not so certain as that of scanning Greek or Latin verse. All depends on the reading; and the reading depends on the taste and habits of the reader. It would be easy to read Milton's Blank Verse so that all the lines, or most of them, should be redacted by force into the normal 5 xa. Thus, the first line of Paradise Lost might be read :
• Öt mán’s | first dís | bbed | iễnce and | the fruit or the very abnormal line, P. L., VI. 866, might be read thus :
“Burnt af | tên thẻm | tỏ thé | bbtóm | lễss pit.” This, of course, is too horrible; and such barbarous readers are imaginary. I am not sure, however, but that, in the reading of Milton or of Shakespeare, even by persons of education and taste, especially if they are punctilious about Prosody, there is a minor form of the same fault. It consists in reading so as to regularise the metre wherever it is possible to do so,-in reading the xa tune into the lines through and through, wherever, by a little persuasion, they will yield to it. This, I think, is wrong. The proper way is not to impose the music
upon the lines, but to let the music of each line arise out of it as it is read naturally. Only in this way can we know what metrical effect Shakespeare or Milton anywhere intended. Perhaps the elision
marks and other such devices in the old printed texts, though wellintentioned, help to mislead here. When, in the original edition of Paradise Lost, I find flamed spelt flam’d, or Heaven spelt Heav'n, or Thebes spelt Theb's, I take the apostrophe as an express direction to omit the e sound and pronounce the words as monosyllables; but I cannot accept the apostrophe as an elision-mark of precisely the same significance in the lines “Above th Aonian Mount, while it pursues" (P. L., I. 15), and "That led th' imbattelld Seraphim to warr” (P. L., I.1 29),—for these reasons: (1) Because the strict utterances thAonian and thimbattelld are comicalities now, which I cannot conceive ever to have been serious; (2) because such contracted utterances are quite unnecessary for the metre, inasmuch as the lines are perfectly good to the ear even if the word the is fully, but softly, uttered, according to prose custom ; and (3) because I find the same elisionmark used in the old texts in cases where it is utterly impossible that the total suppression of the e can have been meant. No doubt the reading of English poetry in Milton's time or Shakespeare's differed in some respects from ours. The differences, however, must have been in details of pronunciation rather than in metrical instinct. The habits of pronunciation did, of course, affect the metre. If there was an option between inflam'd and inflamèd, the metre was influenced by that; the frequent shifting of the accent in such words as infamous, blasphemous, triúmphs, also influenced the metre; and, not seldom, to make out the metre, we have to remember the old liberty of lengthening words by resolution of single syllables of custom into two at will : e.g. oceán (Od. Nat. 66), contemplatiön (Il. Pens. 54). In fact, however, the metre itself generally reveals such peculiarities at the instant of their occurrence and prevents them from being obsolete. On the whole, then, it is best to assume that strictly metrical effects are pretty permanent, that what was agreeable to the English metrical sense in former generations is agreeable now, and that, even in verse so old as Chaucer's, one of the tests of the right metrical reading of any line is that it shall satisfy the present
For this reason, and also because Milton's poetry is a property which, by his own express intention, we may use and enjoy after our own habits and methods, the right way of scanning his verse is to read it freely and naturally as we should read verse of our own day, subject only to a few transmitted directions, and to register the actual results as well as we can in metrical formulæ.
On this principle (which still, of course, leaves room for difference, as no two readers will read alike 1) I would offer the following
1 For anything like delicate scanning, as Mr. A. J. Ellis has pointed out, the mere distinction of syllables into strong and weak, or accented and unaccented, is insufficient. There are degrees of stress in good reading even on the syllables called strong or accented, some a syllables being twice or even thrice as emphatic