Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

vocabulary consists of but about 8000 words, it is evident that thousands of words, not only in our present English Dictionary, but even in the English Dictionary of his day, were never used by him even once, so it may be expected that, of the words which he did use, there were very many which he used only once. What are called the imag Reyoueva of any writer, indeed,—viz. the words used by him only once in the whole course of his writings,—will be found on examination greatly more numerous than might have been supposed beforehand. Mr. Marsh quotes the following as instances in Shakespeare:- abrupt, ambiguous, artless, congratulate, improbable, improper, improve, impure, inconvenient, incredible. But it is only necessary to run the finger down the columns of the Concordance to Shakespeare to add hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of other words to the list-of which scores at least would be as remarkable as any of the ten cited. Milton's årat deyoueva are probably even more numerous proportionally than Shakespeare's. Of the ten Shakespearian words mentioned, three are also drag leyoueva in Milton's poetry,—to wit abrupt, congratulate (in the form congratulant), and inconvenient ; four occur three or four times each,--to wit ambiguous, improve, impure, and incredible ; and three do not occur even once,-to wit artless, improbable, and improper. That, however, is but a slight observation, and hardly touches the real substance of the question. Under the single letter A I find, by the Concordances, at least 118 words that occur only once in all Milton's poems. Among these are the words ability, abrupt, absurd, accessible, activity, actual, advantageous, advocate, affection, afternoon, agent, agreeable, allow, American, applaud, appointment, artifice, astronomer, and avarice. There are places in the vocabulary where the proportion of such words is even greater. Thus, of about 375 words beginning with the letters Un which I find in Todd's Index, I have counted no fewer than 241 as occurring only once,—the reason being that so many of those words are negative adjectives. Unattempted, unbecoming, unbroken, unclouded, undesirable, uneven, ungraceful, unhurt, unkindness, unsafe, unsound, unsteady, unsuccessful, and unwilling, are a few of such negatives only once used in Milton's poems. Altogether, I should not be surprised if between 2000 and 3000 of the 8000 words of Milton's total poetical vocabulary were found to be άπαξ λεγομενα.

Passing from words used only once to those used twice, thrice, or seldom, we might have in this class also a list of hundreds. Hence, again, we might rise to the class of Occasionally-used words; hence again to words used pretty frequently; and hence again to those occurring very frequently. In this last class I have noted such words as these :--Adam, air, all, alone, age, angel, arms, battle, beam, beast, beauty, better, birth, black, bliss, bold, bright, bring, call, care, cause, celestial, change, cloud, come, command, create, darkness, day, death, deep, delight, divine, doubt, dread, earth, end, enemy, equal, eternal, eye, fair, faith, fall, false, far, fate, father, fear, field, fierce, find, fire, firm, first, flower, foe, force, foul, free, fruit, full, garden, gentle, zive, glory, glorious, go, God, gold, good, grace, great, green, grove, ground, hand, happy, hard, head, hate, heart, Heaven, Hell, help, high, hill, holy, honour, hope, host, hour, human, ill, immortal, joy, just, King, know, knowledge, land, large, last, law, lead, life, light, long, Lord, lost, loud, love, low, make, man, might, mild, mind, moon, morn, mortal, move, mount and mountain, name, nature, new, night, old, pain, Paradise, part, past, peace, place, power, praise, pride, pure, race, reason, reign, rest, right, rise, sacred, sad, Satan, say, sea, seat, see, seem, sense, serpent, serve, shame, side, sin, sing, sit, soft, son, song, sky, sleep, solemn, sorrou, soul, sound, speak, spirit, stand, star, state, strength, sun, sure, sweet, thing, think, thought, throne, time, tree, true, truth, vain, virtue, voice, walk, war, water, way, well, wide, wild, will, wind, wing, wise, woe, woman, wonder, wood, word, work, world. Not only some of the verbs but also some of the nouns and adjectives in this list occur so very often (Earth, Heaven, God, man, high, free, good, fair, glory, happy, large, love, hard, soft, new, old, thing, eye, and death, are examples) that they may be registered as next in frequency to those mere particles and auxiliariesand, the, but, not, to, for, from, we, our, their, that, which, could, did, will, is, are, were, though, on, ever, etc. etc.—which are scattered innumerably over the pages of every writer.

One question more respecting Milton's vocabulary in his poems. Is any proportion of it obsolete? On the whole, whether from the judiciousness with which Milton chose words that had a strong force of vitality in them, or from the power of such a writer to confer future popularity on the words adopted by him, the number of words in Milton's poems that are now obsolete, or even archaic, is singularly small. Mr. Marsh's estimate on this subject is that, while about five or six hundred of Shakespeare's words have gone out of currency or changed their meaning, there are not more than a hundred of Milton's words in his poetry which are not as familiar at this day as in that of the poet himself. This I believe to be a substantially correct estimate ; for, though I have noted upwards of 150 words in Milton's poems thæt are more or less out of common use now, a good many of these have been used by recent poets, and there is no poet of the present day who would not use some of the others if they occurred to him, or would not feel himself at liberty to invent similarly unusual words for himself. The indisputably obsolete words of the list are few; and of these some seem to have been inventions of Milton's ear for the moment, not intended to last.

II. SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION. Milton's spelling, whether by his own hand in his manuscripts, or through his printers in the original editions of his poems, was very much the spelling of his day. Accordingly, one of its most marked characteristics was variability or want of uniformity. There was no notion of a uniformity of English spelling in those days. Within a certain range, every author or printer might spell as he liked,—the choice between a longer and a shorter form of spelling often determined in the case of a printer by the number of types he could get in at the end of a line ; and so author differed from author, printer from printer, authors from printers, -nay, the same author or printer from himself yesterday or two minutes ago. Further (and this is especially important), it is found, on examination, that this variability or want of uniformity in the spelling of English manuscripts and books in Milton's time affects chiefly and precisely those spellings that differ from ours, and that, in almost every such case, our present spelling was actually used as one of the variations, and had its chance in the competition. A few examples will make this clearer :-(1) Faire, vaine, soone, urne, doe, keepe, tooke, crowne, deepe, ruine, forlorne, goddesse, with armes, aires, dayes, are a group of words illustrating the frequency of the silent e final in the original editions of Milton, as in other old English books, in cases where we have now dropt it. Well, without much search, I find, in the MSS. and printed editions of Milton, these alternatives,-fair, vain, soon, urn, do, keep, took, crown, deep, ruin, forlorn, goddess and goddes, arms, airs, days. The word urn occurs but once in Milton's poetry (Lycid. 20); and in the edition of 1645 it is printed urn, while Milton's MS. gives urne. (2) Take next a group of words exemplifying the omission of the final e where we insert it, viz. :-fals, vers, els, leavs, tast, hast. For these forms I find easily our present false, verse, else, leaves, taste, haste. The word taste may be prosecuted more particularly. In the original edition of Paradise Lost the second line of the poem is distinctly printed, “ Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast.” So in Sonnet XX., as first printed in 1673, “Of Attic tast, with wine.” So also twice in the plural; “ Of all tasts else to please thir appetite" P. L., VII. 49, and “ With Sion's songs, to all true tasts excelling.” -P. R., iv. 347. Hence some have argued that the word taste in Milton's time must have been pronounced tast, like last or past. But that the inference was hasty and illegitimate would have been seen if the word had been traced through other passages. Four times, as we have seen, it is tast or tasts; but it occurs sixty-two times in all in the poetry, as noun or verb, and in fifty-eight of these cases with our ordinary spelling taste. (3) In what may be called the y and ie group there is likewise instability; for I find starry as well as starrie, majesty as well as majestie, and our present forms guilty, happy, fly, cry, descry, as well as guiltie, happie, flie, crie, descrie. Thus, I have traced every occurrence of guilty in the poems, with this result : in the 1645 edition of the Minor Poems it occurs but once, and then in our present form guilty ; in Paradise Lost it occurs five times, and is always spelt guiltie in the first edition ; in the second or 1673 edition of the Minor Poems it occurs twice, and each time with a relapse into the form guilty. So, on the other hand, while we have ayr, voyce, tyme, tyger, lye, poyson, ycie, and jubily, these words come up also in their more familiar forms as air, voice, time, tiger, lie, poison, ice, and jubilee. The word jubilee occurs three times, once as jubily (Sol. Mus. 9), once as jubilee (P. L., III. 348), and once as jubilie (P. L., VI. 884). (4) In the first six occurrences of the conjunction lest in Paradise Lost, the spelling in the original edition is least (e.g. “least bad men should boast"); but in the next two occurrences of the word (v. 396 and 731) the spelling is lest, as now (“No fear lest Dinner coole," and “lest unawares we lose”); after which, in twenty-seven recurrences of the word in the rest of the poem, it is invariably again least. To make amends, however, the spelling is again lest in each of eleven occurrences of the word in Par. Reg. and Sams. Ag. Again, in forty-seven occurrences of the adjective least in the total body of the poems, the normal form least is kept forty-three times, while the form lest happens but four times. (5) One notes a general defect in Milton, as in other old printing, of our apostrophe marking the possessive case. He has mans where we should now write man's, fathers where we should now write father's or fathers', Joves court for Jove's court, and as far as Angels kenn, where it is doubtful whether the meaning is Angel's ken, Angels' ken, or Angels ken (the verb). Occasionally, however, in Milton's original editions we do have the apostrophe : e.g: P. L., I. 466 Gaza's frontier bounds,” Pens. 29 “Of woody Ida's inmost grove,” Com. 232 “ By slow Meander's margent green.” In the second (or 1673) edition of the Minor Poems I find man's work (Sonnet XIX. 10), Assembly's ears (Vac. Ex. 28), and other instances of our present form. (6) For a collection of old Miltonic spellings of vowel-sounds and diphthongs, take baume, spreds, sed and se'd (for said), seaven, freind, thir (their), ern, hearbs, raign, strein, neather, weild, feild, preist, dieties (deities), theefe, deceave, bin (been), heer, neer, sease, eev'n, beleive, extreams, dore, oke, woolf, ile, iland, spight, ny, wrauth, hew (hue), blew and blu (blue). For these we find in other places, and in some cases with greater frequency, our present forms balm, spreads, said, seven, friend, earn, herbs, reign, strain, neither, wield, field, priest, deities, thief, deceive, been, here, near, seize, even, believe, extremes, door, oak, wolf, isle, island, nigh, wrath, hue, blue; nor is it possible in almost any case to see any cause, other than mere caprice, why our present spelling was departed from. Once or twice bin might seem to have been chosen as less emphatic than been, and thir as less emphatic than their ; but that rule does not hold through many pages. Virtue and virtuous are, I think, nearly

« AnteriorContinuar »