23 October 2019
In connection with the publication of Milton’s Scriptural Theology. Confronting De Doctrina Christiana, I have been recording Milton’s opening address to readers (the “epistle”). It is heard in its Latin, so that as with Paradise Lost we can hear an approximation to Milton’s own voicing, as he dictated to a scribe and heard it read back.
The particular “connection” with my book is that its first chapter analyses the opening address to readers, for its style and tone of voice, which rise to vehemence and impassioned appeal for a hearing. You might not guess this from reading silently, still less from reading English translations! We hear patterning of alliterated plosive /p/, many stinging adjectives of critique of all other theologians, and there is much else about the original words of DDC which my study as a whole tries to bring to life.
Questions arise, however. The readers, myself and Robin Hanky, an Otago Classics colleague, have vociferated cautiously, perhaps too much so. For instance, we have not striven to emphasize incidence of the growling letter /r/, though the letter has plenty of it, and Milton is said to have pronounced it “very hard” like other persons of a satirical disposition.
Or again, given that Milton recommended the Italian pronunciation of Latin, would he have dictated viva voce (Oxford edn line 114) as “vee-vah voe-tche”? In our own reading we have said “wee-wah woe-ke,” simply because we learnt Latin in the “reformed” or reconstruction-of-Roman pronunciation. We stayed with the sounds we knew, for our own understanding, and so for momentum and general conviction. If this sound provokes our hearers, why not do it again differently and better, after more debate?
So! What does the Milton community think about these matters? Those of you who have some Latin are the fit audience though few. But whether or not you have Latin, “thought is free,” and the idea of putting Milton’s Latin on-line deserves comment. Is this a first, or am I behind the action?
By John Hale
See all the blogposts concerning Milton’s Scriptural Theology. Confronting De Doctrina Christiana: