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26 October 2014

I was in a bookstore and decided that I'm going to buy and actually read Paradise Lost (abortive attempts for the last ~8 years or so). I realized it was very read-aloudable so I recorded some of its lines on my phone: (6 min): youtube link.
It's kinda interesting. I was reading the introductory text and it immediately gets into issues like Satan being the epic hero of the poem and that being kinda problematic given the religious frame of Milton's general perspective. I guess that's the most unavoidable theme in the work. I also realized it's very readable compared to a lot of other things---for example, even popular Shakespeare plays are sometimes more 'jarring' or awkward in their syntax sometimes compared to Paradise Lost which flows in more natural English.
posted by Firas 26 October | 19:17
Shakespeare reads a lot more smoothly if you ignore the line breaks. That's what he had in mind.
posted by Miko 26 October | 22:12
Hm. If you're reading Milton I guess I should be reading Vondels Lucifer. It was once said that influenced Milton. But to be honest the 17th century Dutch is a bit of a struggle....
posted by jouke 27 October | 00:12
Oddly, I have also been "reading" Paradise Lost as an audiobook.
posted by Obscure Reference 27 October | 06:40
Miko, that's a great point. I randomly looked up some Shakespeare passages, and you're correct that if one doesn't pause at the end of lines, the thrust of what people are saying becomes much clearer to follow.

That's definitely something I noticed with reading Paradise Lost aloud as well, that if you try stopping at the end of the (very short) lines it doesn't make sense. I also think Shakespeare wrote a little bit earlier (50 years or so) and that may affect language a little bit. Milton was a fan of the old bard and wrote a poem in his praise: "Thou in our wonder and astonishment / Hast built thyself a live-long monument."

Something related to the ends-of-lines issue is that Milton actually answered some questions about why Paradise Lost doesn't rhyme:

Rhime 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 Meeter; grac't indeed since by the use of some famous modern Poets, carried away by Custom, but much to thir own vexation, hindrance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse then else they would have exprest them. Not without cause therefore some both Italian, and Spanish Poets of prime note have rejected Rhime both in longer and shorter Works, as have also long since our best English Tragedies, as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, triveal, and of no true musical delight; which consists onely 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 avoyded by the learned Ancients both in Poetry and all good Oratory.

It's like a diss. "Your jingling sounds are used to set off wretched matter and lame meter"!
posted by Firas 27 October | 13:46
Obscure Reference, good timing! I tried looking up someone else reading Paradise Lost but it was too "dramatized" for my taste -- that is to say, making Satan sound like a booming devil sort of obscures the poetry. What version are you listening to?

One of the reasons I was interested enough in this clip to get it out of my phone and onto the computer is that it's kinda interesting to hear yourself, it's rare for me to actually hear a recording of myself. It's definitely a bit different than I hear myself while speaking.
posted by Firas 27 October | 13:50
Somewhat related? Shakespeare's Hokey Pokey.
posted by Miko 27 October | 22:38
Ralph Cosham is the reader.
posted by Obscure Reference 28 October | 07:24
And I'm also "reading" C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy (the second book, which I've almost finished) is about Satan's attempt to do what he did on earth (leading to the fall of man) on the planet Venus which starts off as a Venusian garden of Eden complete with and Adam & Eve.
posted by Obscure Reference 28 October | 11:16
I looked up that Ralph Cosham version it does sound good! As for CS Lewis, yeah that type of allegory sounds exactly up his alley.
posted by Firas 28 October | 23:27
Has anybody been watching the tv show Manhattan? || In 1938, L.A. woman went to jail for wearing slacks in courtroom