« AnteriorContinuar »
the fact that his original texts give us nineteen times sovran, thrice sov'ran, and once soveran (Com. 41), while only once have we sov'raign (P. R., 1. 84). So we have sovrantie once and sov’ranty once. In the Minor Poems we have herald and heraldry as now (Lyc. 89, Od. Circ. 10); but, whenever the word occurs in Par. Lost, it is in the form harald, from the Italian haralda (1. 752, II. 518, XI. 660). In the single occurrence of the word after Par. Lost (Par. Reg., II. 279) there is a relapse into herald. Milton probably thought the sound harald more heroic, and therefore more suitable for Par. Lost.
Stupendious. --This word, though a solecism or vulgarism now, cannot always have been such, for Richardson gives instances of it from Howell, Henry More, and Barrow. Milton has the word but twice, and both times as stupendious (P. L., X. 351, S. A. 1627).
Voutsafe.---This is one of the quaintest peculiarities of Milton's spelling. Three times in the poetry we have our present spelling vouchsafe (P. R., II. 210, Ps. LXXX. 14 and 30); but the word occurs seventeen times besides, and always as voutsafe, voutsaf st, voutsafes, voutsaf't, voutsaf'd, or voutsaft. Now, as the word is compounded of vouch and safe, and as vouchsafe, vouchsave, or the like, with the vouch fully preserved, was the usual spelling of Milton's predecessors and contemporaries, he must have had a reason for the elliptical form voutsafe. I believe it was his dislike to the sound ch, or to that sound combined with s. Milton evidently made a study of that quality of style which Bentham called “pronunciability.” His fine ear taught him not only to seek for musical effects and cadences at large, but also to be fastidious as to syllables, and to avoid harsh or difficult conjunctions of consonants, except when there might be a musical reason for harshness or difficulty. In the management of the letter s, the frequency of which in English is one of the faults of the speech, he will be found, I believe, most careful and skilful. More rarely, I think, in Milton than in Shakespeare will one word ending in s be found followed immediately by another word beginning with the same letter ; or, if he does occasionally pen such a phrase as “ Moab's sons," it will be difficult to find in him, I believe, such a harsher example as earth's substance, of which many writers would think nothing. The same delicacy of ear is even more apparent in his management of the sh sound. He has it often, of course, because he could not avoid it ; but it may be noted that he rejects it in his verse when he can. He writes Basan for Bashan (P. L., 1. 398), Sittim for Shittim (P. L., 1. 413), Silo for Shiloh (S. A. 1674), Asdod for Ashdod (S. A. 981), etc. Still more, however, does he seem to have been wary of the compound sound ch as in church. Of his sensitiveness to this sound in excess there is a curious proof in his prose pamphlet entitled An Apology against a Pamphlet called A Modest Confutation, etc., where, having occasion to quote these lines from one of the Satires of his opponent, Bishop Hall,
“Teach each hollow grove to sound his love,
Wearying echo with one changeless word,” he adds, ironically, “ And so he well might, and all his auditory besides, with his teach each !” There can be little doubt, I think, that it was to avoid this teach each that he took the liberty of Miltonizing the good old English word vouchsafe into voutsafe.
There are some cases where, though there is no peculiarity in the spelling of Milton's texts, a difference of pronunciation is to be borne in mind. Such are his occasional differences from our present accentuation,--aspéct for áspect, surfáce for surface, infamous for infamous, blasphémous for blasphemous, brigad for brigáde ; and his occasional elongations of words, —as when he makes three syllables of conscience, five of contemplation, etc. The metre itself directs the reader in such cases.
III. PECULIARITIES OF GRAMMATICAL
Such of these as need be noticed here distribute themselves, of course, among the parts of speech subject to inflection. These we shall take in this order, - Noun, Adjective (with Adverb), Verb, Pronoun.
Noun. In modern English, practice varies as to the possessive singular of nouns already ending in s. We say the lass's beauty ; but we hear also Mars' hill (as in the English Bible, Acts xvii. 22), James' book, and still more certainly Dickens works, Lycurgus' laws, Socrates' disciples, Aristophanes' comedies. The better way would be the regular one, Mars's hill, James's book, Dickens's works, etc., though euphony in the case of words of more than two syllables might advise avoiding the inflection altogether by saying “the laws of Lycurgus,” etc. Milton has asses jaw (i.e., in our spelling, ass's jaw); but his general practice in such words is not to double the s; thus Nereus wrinkled look, Glaucus spell. The necessities of metre would naturally constrain to such forms.
ADJECTIVE. In Milton, as in other writers of his time, adjectives of two syllables and more, which we generally compare now by the expletives more and most, received sometimes the regular inflection for comparison : e.g. famousest (S. A. 982), virtuousest (P. L., VIII. 550), exquisitest (P. R., II. 346). The curious double comparisons found in Shakespeare and others (more braver, less happier, most unkindest, etc.) are strange to Milton, unless chiefest is taken into the category.
CONJUGATION OR INFLECTION FOR TENSE. -Seven times in the poetry we have the word wept as now ; but once, whether intentionally or not, the form is weept (Ep. March. Winch. 56). The præterite of the verb eat occurs but four times (L'All. 102 ; P. L., ix. 781; P. R., I. 352 and 11. 274), never as ate, but each time in the form eat. In the past participles of those peculiar verbs which are themselves derived from Latin past participles Milton, like Shakespeare and others, sometimes prefers the original Latin form to the elongated form with the ed suffix : e.g.
“Who ever by consulting at thy shrine
Return'd the wiser, or the more instruct?"-P. R., 1. 439
“But to destruction sacred and devote."--P. L., 111. 208.
“Bright effluence of bright essence increate.”—P. L., 111. 6. We also find uplift for uplifted (P. L., I. 193), yield standing probably for the past indicative yielded (S, A. 259), and (Od. Nat. 64) the Shakespearian whist for whisted :
“The windes with wonder whist
Smoothly the waters kist.” The following are some other peculiarities in the conjugation of strong verbs:-Sung for sang; sprung for sprang ; sunk for sank; and frore for frozen (P. L., II. 595); shaked for she aken (Od. F. Inf. 44); shook for shaken (P. L., IV. 219); sto le for stolen (P. L., IV. 719); took for taken (Com. 558); mistook for mistaken (Arc. 4); strook for struck (P. L., II. 165, and other places). The Miltonic conjugations of sing and strike are especially interesting. See notes to P. L., 111. 383; and Od. Nat. 95. The old participial prefix y (standing for the German ge) is found only two or three times in Shakespeare, as in yclept, yclad, yslaked. In Spenser, with his studied archaism, it is frequent. Milton has it but rarely,—ychained (Od. Nat. 155), yclept (L'All. 12), See notes on these passages : also on rushy-fringed (Com. 890), and star-ypointing (On Shak. 4).
INFLECTION FOR PERSON AND Mood.—Once (P. L., XI. 369) we have slepst for sleptst; where, if it is not a misprint, the t is omitted for ease of sound. Milton had learnt to prefer the s inflection, originally Northern English, to the th inflection, more South-English, for the third person singular indicative. Thus he has loves, rather than loveth ; brings, for bringeth ; sees, for seeth ; seems, for seemeth. Occasionally, however, he has the th form : e.g. singeth (L'All. 65), saith (Ps. II. 11), lieth (Ep. Hobs. II. I), shewth and indu'th (Sonnet II.) He has quoth twice (Lyc. 107 and Ep. Hobs. II. 17). Hath is incessant with him, and doth is frequent. He uses the verb be indicatively (e.g. Com. 12, “ Yet some there be ”).
Like Shakespeare and others of our older writers, Milton employs the nominative plural form ye occasionally for the
objective you : e.g. Com. 216, “I see ye visibly," and 1020, “She can teach ye how to climb.” By far the most important inquiry, however, under the present head, relates to Milton's use of the possessive singular of the third personal pronoun in its three gender forms, his, her, its. The brunt of the inquiry falls on the form its. This word, it is well known, is one of the greatest curiosities in the English language, not being a genuine old English word at all, but an upstart of the latter part of Elizabeth's reign, seldom used even then, or for a good while afterwards, and not fully admitted till the reign of Charles II. It may be well here to give its history a little more in detail.
In the old Englisc, called Anglo-Saxon, the third personal pronoun was declined thus :
hira Dat, and Abl. him hire him him Acc.
hine hí hit hi The neuter nominative and accusative, it will be seen, was hit, and the neuter possessive, as well as the masculine possessive, was his. But “neuter" in Anglo-Saxon did not mean precisely what it does in modern English. We have no proper grammatical recognition of gender in modern English nouns, but make all names for male living beings masculine, all names for females feminine, and all names for lifeless things neuter, except when we personify them. In old English or Anglo-Saxon, however, just as in Greek and Latin, and modern German, there was a true grammatical distinction of gender, and the names of lifeless things were distributed into the three genders-masculine, feminine, and neuter. Thus, gást (breath or wina) is masculine in Anglo-Saxon; and so, in John iii. 8, where our present version has, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof,” the A.-S has “Gást oréthath thar he wile, and thú gehýrst his stefne.” Again, Judea, the name of the country, is feminine; and so, in Luke xxi. 21, where our version has “ Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains ; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out,” the A.-S. has “ Thonne fleoth on múntas
sion of In
This is fem. sing.
definite : wpriated by wellth cent TRO, SCO, sca of the plu atrative i
with the * cashiered