We might dwell for a moment on one of the most famous fragments of broken refrain in our literature, the nonce burden in Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" following the mention of the "perilous seas in faery lands forlorn" (line 70). The next strophe begins "Forlorn! the very word is like a bell / To toll me back from thee to my sole self!" (lines 71-72). The echoing repetition returns, as has often been observed, another sense of the word forlorn, as if some of the perils of the seas lay in the fragility of the vision which they helped compose. The word is, even here, Miltonic, with its resounding of a literal and a figurative meaning. It recalls Adam's sense of life without Eve in Paradise: "To live again in these wild Woods forlorn" ( Paradise Lost 9.910), where the last word trails away in a cloud of sad prophetic irony: "these wild Woods forlorn" are not the wilderness of fallen nature. Adam thinks he means Eden figuratively, but he is, alas, literally invoking both the fallen world and the lost unfallen one: his trope of the place of loss is an unwittingly literal designation of the loss of place. Keats's "forlorn" is like a very echo from within his text, but it reaches back to another voice behind it.
The scheme of refrain is likewise linked to the echo of affirmation and acknowledgment that we have [elsewhere] already remarked in Hesiod, pastoral tradition, and so forth, in the mythopoeic account of its origination in Paradise Lost. The First Hymn (5.153-208) invokes heavenly powers for aid in amplification of its praising voice, even as the Lady invokes Echo's amplification in Comus. But the unfallen____________________
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Publication information: Book title: John Milton's Paradise Lost. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 31.
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