페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

original editions merely; where, in fact, the phenomenon eludes notice by its very diffusion. Then, that matter having been provided for, a collective edition of the poems for general use may fairly consist, like our copies of the authorized English Bible, or our standard editions of Bacon and Shakespeare, of the most authentic text from the original editions made to conform to our now authorized orthography, except in cases where an archaic form ought to be preserved for some etymological or phonetic significance which our present spelling would conceal. Should there be any doubt in the matter still, it will be removed, I think, by recollecting that it is more than mere variability of spelling that has been proved concerning the original editions. What has been proved is variability, at every point where we select a word and trace it, between two spellings, or among a certain number of competing spellings, of which our own present authorized spelling is generally one. Hardly a modern spelling of an English word but is an authorized spelling in Milton's original editions, if not in one passage, yet in another or others; and in most cases the most microscopic scrutiny can detect no reason why the spelling ever varies from this, except the fact that people did not then care for orthographic uniformity. Now, as we do care for it, we do no wrong to an author of that time by fixing him to one of his own spellings, or to a spelling to which we are sure, from strictly analogous instances in his own text, he would have had no objection. Because Milton's original editions give us flower, but also five variations from it, flowr, flowre, flour, floure, and flouer, did he mean to tie down his readers in all time coming to the sextuple spelling rather than the single? At the utmost, would he not have asked, in the interest of the history of English orthography, that the fact that the sextuple spelling was allowed in his day should be remembered in a footnote or the like, begging posterity at the same time to fix him to one of the spellings in the text if they found reason for it, on the single condition that they should not tamper at any point with sound or meaning, vocable or metre?

This brings us to another branch of our inquiry. Are there any peculiarities of Milton's spelling which are really significant, and ought therefore to be noted or preserved? There are, and we proceed now to take account of them :

:

I. PECULIARITIES WHICH MAY BE NOTED, BUT NEED NOT BE

PRESERVED.

Mee, hee, shee, wee, yee.-That Milton had an intention in spelling these pronouns sometimes with a single e and sometimes with a double may be inferred from the fact that, in the Errata prefixed to the First edition of Par. Lost, he directs the word we in Book II. 414 to be changed into w'ee. On turning to the passage, it is seen that the reason

was that the word we there has to be pronounced emphatically. In general, therefore, we may assume that he meant mee, hee, &c., to be the forms when the words were emphatic, and me, he, &c., when they were not. But, in fact, his own texts are not consistent to this practice (see note P. L., 160-165), and it is needless.

Then for than.-Though, as far as I have observed, the original texts keep to then, as writings of that date generally do, it seems unnecessary to recur to a spelling so strange to our present habits-the rather because our form than was used in Milton's time, and is a good old one in pre-Elizabethan English.—As to least for lest we need be in no doubt. Milton himself yields to lest, and may be fixed to it.

Hunderd and Childern.-Among the Errata prefixed to the First edition of Par. Lost is the direction "Lib. I. v. 760 for hundreds r. hunderds"; which may be taken as vouching that Milton's ear preferred the latter pronunciation. Perhaps one ought to have obliged him here, especially as in the only three other occurrences of the word in his poetry (Arcades 22, Sonnet XIII. and Par. Reg., III. 287) it is hunderd or hunder'd. Todd has, but Keightley has not; and the reasons seem to be that hundred or hundreth is the old English form, that Milton himself has hundreda in Latin, and that people who still pronounce hunderd are accustomed to the spelling hundred.-The form childern for children occurs four times in Par. Lost, and is worth noting; but, as we have childrens for children's in the same poem (I. 395), and children twice in Comus, once in Par. Reg., and once in Sams. Ag., there is no need to revive childern.

Ventrous and Adventrous.-The first occurs three times, spelt so or vent'rous; the second six times, spelt so or advent'rous. Now, as Milton once has the verb in the form venter (Comus, 228), and again in the form ventring, one might have kept these spellings, as perhaps significant of a neglect of the u in the pronunciation. But not only has Milton in other places venture and adventure (this uniformly) and adventurer; he has also the form venturing (S. A. 1373). Hence for ventrous and adventrous we may print venturous or adventurous without objection.

Furder and Fardest.-Milton, I think, never has the form farther in his poetry, and never the form furthest; but out of fifteen times in which he uses the word further he prints it three times furder, and in seven occurrences of farthest it is thrice fardest. No reason can be detected in the several cases for the change from the th to the d; and, as the th is most frequent with himself, that may be the rule.

[ocr errors]

Wardrope. The word wardrobe occurs twice (Lyc. 47, and Vac. Ex. 18). In the first case it is spelt wardrop in print, but wardrope in the Cambridge MS.; in the second wardrope. This may have been a pronunciation of the time; but it is erroneous, ungraceful, and not worth keeping.

Liveless for lifeless.-As the word occurs but three times, and always so, it might be kept, if only as a companion to our word livelong, which Milton also has twice; but it is hardly worth while.

Alablaster for alabaster.-The word occurs three times-twice with the I (Com. 660, and P.L., IV. 544), and once without it (P.R., IV. 548). As the proper word is alabaster, and is as old as Chaucer in that form, the insertion of the / was but a temporary freak.

Maister for master.-In the MS. of Milton's Sonnet II. in his own hand the last line runs thus “as ever in my great task-maisters eye;" whence, and also because in the First edition of Par. Lost we have the forms maistring and maistrie for mastering and mastery (IX. 125, II. 899, and IX. 29), it might be inferred that Milton meant to keep up the earlier form of spelling. But, as in the printed copy of Sonnet II. in the Edition of 1645 the spelling is task Masters, and we have the spelling master or masters, six times besides in the original printed texts (Od. Nat. 34; Com. 501, 725; P. L., VII. 505; S. A. 1215, 1404), Milton himself authorizes our

modern form.

Perfet and Imperfet: Verdit.-One of the most noticeable peculiarities of Milton's spelling is his oscillation between perfect and perfet, imperfect and imperfet:-The word perfect occurs thirty-one times in his poetry, thirty times as the adjective, and only once as the verb (P. L., XI. 36). In eleven occurrences of the adjective the spelling is perfect, as now; in the remaining nineteen occurrences of the adjective, and in the single occurrence of the verb, the spelling is perfet. The spelling perfect predominates in the Minor Poems, occurring five times, while perfet occurs but twice (Com. 203, Lyc. 82); in the first two occurrences of the word in Par. Lost it is perfect (I. 550, II. 764), but uniformly through the rest of the poem, or sixteen times, it is perfet; in Par. Reg. it occurs five times, with a relapse into perfect in the first four, but a return to perfet the last time (IV. 468); and in Sams. Ag. it occurs but once, and then in the form perfet.- -The negative adjective occurs four times in all-three times in Par. Lost, as imperfet (IX. 338, 345, and XII. 300), and once as imperfect (Vac. Ex. 3).—There seems not the least doubt, therefore, that Milton preferred, at least occasionally, the French form (parfait, imparfait) to the direct Latin (perfectus, imperfectus). The French form indeed seems to have been the older; for we have parfit, parfite, and parfitly in our texts of Chaucer. All in all, as Milton's oscillation between the two forms is curious, it might not have been amiss to have kept both in the text; but, if there was to be uniformity, the predominance of perfect in the Minor Poems, the setting out with it in Par. Lost, and the return to it in Par. Reg., co-operated in its favour with present custom.——There are no such reasons additional to present custom in the similar case of the French form verdit for verdict. Milton has the word twice only (S. A. 324, 1228); and in both cases the original gives verdit.

Show or shew.-At present either spelling of the word is legitimate, though show is the more common. There is little doubt, however, that shew is the more ancient spelling, that the word was pronounced correspondingly (like shoe), and that the spelling show came in with the fixing of pronunciation to our present practice. It is, accordingly, a very interesting word in Milton. If I am right in my counting, it occurs seventy-two times in all in his poetry-fourteen times as the noun, singular or plural, and fifty-eight times as the verb in various forms, including the past participle. Now, out of these seventy-two times, we have the ew spelling fifty-eight times, and the ow spelling fourteen times. In each of these cases of the ow spelling it may, of course, stand; and, indeed, in Sonnet XXI. 12, Arc. 79, Ps. CXIV. 5, it must stand, on account of the rhymes there (show—know; show-go; and shown-known). There is no doubt, therefore, that the pronunciation show was already familiar. There is room for doubt, however, whether it was yet universal. For, out of the fifty-eight instances of the ew spelling, there are five in which that spelling is essential for the rhyme : viz. Il Pens. 171 (shew rhyming to dew), Com. 51 (shew rhyming to true), Ps. LXXXV. 26 (shew rhyming to renew), Ps. LXXXVI. 54 (shew again rhyming to true), Sonnet II. 4 (shew'th rhyming to youth, truth, and indu'th). In these places, of course, the ew spelling ought to stand. The question is about the remaining fifty-three instances of the ew spelling. Are we to assume that the ew pronunciation was intended in all these, or that the ow pronunciation was intended, or is permissible, in them all, or in some of them? On the whole, I believe we should not err in using both the ow spelling and the ow pronunciation in all these fiftythree cases of ew in the originals. But, if once or twice in these cases the printer does slip into the ew spelling, the inconsistency will matter the less inasmuch as, though the ow pronunciation is now universal, the ew spelling is not obsolete.

The word "Roll" and its symphonies:-As I have already noted (antè, p. xxxii.) the word roll occurs thirty-eight times in the poetry, our present spelling appearing only once among them, in the form roll'd, while all the other thirty-seven times we have rowl, rowle, roul, or roule, with rowl'd, rould, rowling, rouling, &c. Now, there can be no doubt that Milton knew and used our present pronunciation of the words roll, rolled. The single occurrence of the spelling roll'd in the Piedmontese Sonnet would prove this, even if the word did not rhyme there with cold, old, and fold, spelt so. Besides which, we have the word enroll five times in the poetry-twice, it is true, as enrowle and inrould (Ps. LXXXVII. 23, and P. L., XII. 523), but three times in the unmistakeable forms of enroll'd (S. A. 653, 1736) and enrol'd (S. A. 1224). The question is, however, whether, when the word occurs with the ow or ou spelling, it is always or ever to be pronounced as that spelling would now suggest. In many cases, I can vouch, a reader of the original editions, coming on the spellings rowle, rowl, roul, rowl'd,

rowling, &c., is tempted, partly by the sight of such spellings, partly by a sense of the fitness of the sound they suggest at the places where they occur, to wish the spellings kept, and our pronunciation adjusted to them; e.g.

66

Reignd where these Heavn's now rowl.”—P. L., V. 578.

66 on each hand the flames

Drivn backward slope their pointing spires, and rowld

In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid Vale."-P. L., I. 222–224. "Rowld inward, and a spacious Gap disclos'd."-P. L., VI. 861.

Lay vanquisht, rowling in the fiery Gulfe.”—P. L., I. 52.

"And towards the Gate rouling her bestial train."—P. L., II. 873.

Did Milton, in all these cases, or in any of them, intend the sound which the spelling suggests to us? The following might seem to decide the matter :

"When at the brook of Kishon old

They were repulst and slain,

At Endor quite cut off, and rowl'd

As dung upon the plain.”—Ps. LXXXIII. 37–40.

Here rowl'd rhymes to old. But take another passage :—

"Let th' enemy pursue my soul

And overtake it, let him tread

My life down to the earth and roul

In the dust my glory dead,

In the dust and there out spread

Lodge it with dishonour foul.”—Ps. VII. 13—18.

What are we to do here? Either, keeping our modern pronunciations of the three rhyming words, soul, roll, and foul, we must accept the imperfect rhyme; or, as there is no doubt that our pronunciation of foul was also the old one, we must make the other two words conform in sound to it, and so read soul, rowl, foul. It may seem even comic to think of the second alternative, and suppose that the pronunciations sowl, ould, &c., which we hear occasionally from the lips of old Irish pensioners and the like, were accepted pronunciations in Milton's days. But really the inquiry must take that range. It includes such words as old, bold, cold, fold, told, control, scroll, &c. Old is one of Milton's most frequent words; and, though I cannot certify that I have examined every occurrence of it, I have examined a great many without once finding the spelling ould. But I have found bould once (P. L., XI. 642) in twenty-seven occurrences of the word bold, and tould once (P. L., XI. 298) in nineteen occurrences of told. In twenty occurrences of the word fold, as noun or verb, I have found exactly one half with our present spelling, but the other half as fould, foulds, foulded. Controule (P. L., V. 803) and controul (Od. Nat. 228) are the only occurrences of that word; and we have never scroll, but only scrowle twice (P. L., XII.

[blocks in formation]
« 이전계속 »