previous next
[296] the other in his poems. The unmanageable verses in Milton are very few, and all of them occur in works printed after his blindness had lessened the chances of supervision and increased those of error. There are only two, indeed, which seem to me wholly indigestible as they stand. These are,

Burnt after them to the bottomless pit,

and

With them from bliss to the bottomless deep.

This certainly looks like a case where a word had dropped out or had been stricken out by some proof-reader who limited the number of syllables in a pentameter verse by that of his finger-ends. Mr. Masson notices only the first of these lines, and says that to make it regular by accenting the word bottomless on the second syllable would be ‘too horrible.’ Certainly not, if Milton so accented it, any more than blasphemous and twenty more which sound oddly to us now. However that may be, Milton could not have intended to close not only a period, but a paragraph also, with an unmusical verse, and in the only other passage where the word occurs it is accented as now on the first syllable:

With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell.

As bottom is a word which, like bosom and besom, may be monosyllabic or dissyllabic according to circumstances, I am persuaded that the last passage quoted (and all three refer to the same event) gives us the word wanting in the two others, and that Milton wrote, or meant to write,—

Burnt after them down to the bottomless pit,

which leaves in the verse precisely the kind of ripple that Milton liked best.1

1 Milton, however, would not have balked at th' bottomess any more than Drayton at tha rejected or Donne at tha sea. Mr. Masson does not seem to understand this elision, for he corrects ia tha midst to ia the midst, and takes pains to mention it in a note. He might better have restored the n in ia, where it is no contraction, but merely indicates the pronunciation, as oa for of and on.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Milton (Canada) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
John Milton (5)
David Masson (2)
Drayton (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: