Thursday, September 11, 2014


Euripides, Bacchae 188-189, and John Milton

Euripides, Bacchae 188-189 (tr. F.A. Paley in his omnibus commentary on Euripides, Vol. II, p. 409):
We gladly forget that we are old.
The Greek, with slightly truncated apparatus, from John Edwin Sandys, ed., The Bacchae of Euripides, with Critical and Explanatory Notes, and with Numerous Illustrations from Works of Ancient Art (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1880), p. 12:
                        ἐπιλελήσμεθ' ἡδέως
γέροντες ὄντες.

188. ἡδέων PC: ἡδέως (1) Miltonus, (2) Barnesius, (3) Brunckius: Miltoni nostri coniecturam omnes editores in textum receperunt.
Miltonus noster is of course the English poet John Milton. Sandys comments (id., pp. 124-125):
The manuscript reading is ἡδέων, and the sense thus given, 'we in our old age have forgotten our pleasures,' 'are not alive to the pleasures still open to us,' does not tally with the reply of Teiresias, 'Then you feel as I do, I too feel young again and shall essay the dance.' Hence all editors now accept the emendation ἡδέως, due in the first instance to Milton. The same easy alteration afterwards occurred, possibly independently, to Barnes (ed. Cambridge, 1694) and to Brunck (ed. Strasburg, 1780). The former says 'mendam hic nemo ante est suspicatus'; the latter 'mirum est id non adsecutos fuisse viros doctissimos...nostra emendatione nihil certius.' But Dobree is perhaps not entirely justified in his severe epigram: 'palmariam emendationem ἡδέως Miltono surripuit Barnesius, Barnesio Brunckius' (Kidd's Miscellaneous tracts p. 224). Milton's emendations were known to Dr Joddrell whose 'illustrations of the Ion and Bacchae' appeared in 1781 (II p. 335n and 572) and all of them were printed in the Museum Criticum in 1814. They were written in the margin of his copy of the edition of Euripides printed by Paul Stephens at Geneva in 1602, 2 vols. 4to. now in the possession of William Wyman Vaughan, Esq., of Upton Castle, Pembroke. Milton bought it in 1634, the very year in which he wrote the Comus, which was acted at Michaelmas of that year, and shews in several points special familiarity with this and other plays of Euripides (cf. esp. Comus 297—301 with Iph. T. 264—274, and notes on 235 and 317 infra).
On Milton's copy of Euripides (now in the Bodleian Library, pressmarks Don. d. 27 and 28) see:
I don't know if anyone else has ever noticed an interesting feature of this emendation, namely that Milton hereby restored an idiomatic Greek grammatical construction, the nominative participle with a verb of perception (or, as here, lack of perception). On this construction see Raphael Kühner and Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, 3. Aufl., Teil 2, Bd. 2 (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 1890), p. 70 (§ 484, A. 1, No. 11), and Guy L. Cooper, III (after K.W. Krüger), Attic Greek Prose Syntax, Vol. I (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), pp. 825-826 (§ 56.7.5). Pindar, Olympian Odes 10.3, has the same construction with the same main verb: ὀφείλων ἐπιλέλαθα = I forgot that I owed.

Milton famously attempted to introduce this typically Greek construction into English, at Paradise Lost 9.791-794:
Greedily she ingorg'd without restraint,
And knew not eating Death: Satiate at length,
And hight'nd as with Wine, jocond and boon,
Thus to her self she pleasingly began.
At line 792 "knew not eating Death" means "knew not that she ate Death" (of Eve eating the apple).

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