Location: Sacramento, California

I am a retired lawyer and administrative law judge, aged but active, with a variety of interests.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Milton on Rhyme

The Verse

The measure is English heroic verse without rime, as
that of Homer in Greek, and Virgil in Latin – rime being
no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good
verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a
barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame meter;
graced indeed since by the use of some famous modern
poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own
vexation, hindrance and constraint to express many
things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else
they would have expressed them. Not without cause
therefore some, both Italian and Spanish poets of prime
note, have rejected rime both in longer and shorter works,
as have also long since our best English tragedies, as a
thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true
musical delight; which consists only in apt numbers, fit
quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out
from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of
like endings – a fault avoided by the learned ancients both
in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect then of
rime so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may
seem so perhaps to vulgar readers, that it rather is to be
esteemed an example set, the first in English, of ancient
liberty recovered to heroic poem from the troublesome
and modern bondage of riming.

John Milton, Preface to Paradise Lost


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