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[297]

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,

and

Carnation, purple, azure, or specked with gold,

to pronounce diffikty and purpa. Though Mr. Masson talks of ‘slurs and elisions,’ his ear would seem somewhat insensible to their exact nature or office. His diffikty 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.1 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's generation

1 Exactly analogous to that in treasurer when it is shortened to two syllables.

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