Echo Schematic

John Hollander

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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From The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After. © 1981 by the Regents of the University of California. University of California Press, 1981.

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John Milton's Paradise Lost
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • John Milton's Paradise Lost *
  • Contents v
  • Editor's Note vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Milton and Transumption 13
  • Echo Schematic 31
  • Eve, Evening, and the Labor of Reading in Paradise Lost 43
  • Ithuriel's Spear: History and the Language of Accommodation 65
  • One First Matter All: Spirit as Energy 91
  • The Gender of Milton's Muse and the Problem of the Fit Reader 125
  • Milton's Coy Eve: Paradise Lost and Renaissance Love Poetry 133
  • Chronology 157
  • Contributors 159
  • Bibliography 161
  • Acknowledgments 169
  • Index 171
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