Friday, August 01, 2014


Paradise Lost 6.332

R.C. Jebb, Bentley (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889), p. 187:
The total number of emendations proposed by Bentley in Paradise Lost rather exceeds 800. Not a word of the received text is altered in his edition; but the parts believed to be corrupt are printed in italics, with the proposed remedy in the margin. Most of the new readings aim at stricter propriety in the use of language, better logic, or clearer syntax,—briefly, at 'correctness.' It is a significant fact that Pope liked many of them, and wrote 'pulchre,' 'bene,' 'recte' opposite them in his copy of Bentley's edition,—in spite of that line in the Dunciad which describes our critic as having 'humbled Milton's strains.' But even where we concede that the new reading is what Milton ought to have given, we can nearly always feel morally certain that he did not give it. I have found only one instance which strikes me as an exception. It is in that passage of Book vi. (332) which describes Satan wounded by the sword of the archangel Michael:—
                                          from the gash
A stream of nectarous humour issuing flowed
Sanguine, such as celestial Spirits may bleed.
'Nectar' is the wine of the gods; Homer has another name for the etherial juice which flows in their veins. Thus when Diomedes wounds the goddess Aphrodite:—'The immortal blood of the goddess flowed forth, even ichor, such as flows in the veins of blessed gods' (Iliad v.389). For 'nectarous' Bentley proposed 'ichorous.' The form of Milton's verse—'such as celestial Spirits may bleed'—indicates that he was thinking of the Iliad, and no poet was less likely than Milton to confuse 'nectar' with 'ichor.' Bentley's correction, if not true, deserves to be so.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?