Much of what Mr. Masson
says in his Introduction of the way in which the verses of Milton
should be read is judicious enough, though some of the examples he gives, of the ‘comicality’ which would ensue from compressing every verse into an exact measure of ten syllables, are based on a surprising ignorance of the laws which guided our poets just before and during Milton
's time in the structure of their verses.
Thus he seems to think that a strict scansion would require us in the verses
So he with difficulty and labor hard,
Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,
to pronounce diffikty
. Though Mr. Masson
talks of ‘slurs and elisions,’ his ear would seem somewhat insensible to their exact nature or office.
supposes a hiatus where none is intended, and his making purple
of one syllable wrecks the whole verse, the real slur in the latter case being on azure or
When he asks whether Milton
required ‘these pronunciations in his verse,’ no positive answer can be given, but I very much doubt whether he would have thought that some of the lines Mr. Masson
cites ‘remain perfectly good Blank Verse even with the most leisurely natural enunciation of the spare syllable,’ and I am sure he would have stared if told that ‘the number of accents’ in a pentameter verse was ‘variable.’
It may be doubted whether elisions and compressions which would be thought in bad taste or even vulgar now were more abhorrent to the ears of Milton