previous next

ARTICLE. A and the omitted in archaic poetry

A and The omitted in archaic poetry. In the infancy of thought nouns are regarded as names, denoting not classes but individuals. Hence the absence of any article before nouns. Besides, as the articles interfere with the metre, and often supply what may be well left to the imagination, there was additional reason for omitting them. Hence Spenser, the archaic poet, writes “Fayre Una--whom salvage nation does adore.” F. Q. i. 6. Title. “And seizing cruell clawes on trembling brest.” Ib. i. 3. 19.Faire virgin, to redeem her deare, brings Arthure to the
fight.” Ib. i. 8. Title. “From raging spoil of lawlesse victors will.” Ib. i. 3. 43. “With thrilling point of deadly yron brand.” Ib. i. 3. 42.

Shakespeare rarely indulges in this archaism except to ridicule it:

“Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast;
And Thisby, tarrying in mulberry shade,
His dagger drew and died.

Somewhat similar is

“In glorious Christian field.

“When lion rough in wildest rage doth roar.

“Ah! Richard with the eyes of (my or the) heavy mind.

“So, longest way shall have the longest moans.” Ib. v. 1. 90.

In antitheses, as

“And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his son,

the omission of the is intelligible, since the whole class is expressed. But it appears not uncommon to omit the article before superlatives:

“Best safety lies in fear.

This is, perhaps, explained by the double meaning of the superlative, which means not only "the best of the class," but also "very good." See 8.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: