Part of my unorthodox background in literary study means that sometimes cool stuff — even the occasional craftsman’s touch — slips by me. I got another example of that in my Brit Survey class today. We wrapped up Paradise Lost, looking chiefly at Books 9 and 10, with a quick overview of the remainder.
As the lecture/discussion wrapped, a student raised his hand. “Dr. Mondo, have you ever noticed the acrostic in Book 9, lines 510-14?”
“Huh?” I riposted, flipping pages, where I saw that the acrostic actually extends to line 516, as Satan approaches Eve:
Scipio, the highth of Rome. With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but feared
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a ship, by skilful steersmen wrought
Nigh river’s mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail:
So varied he, and of his tortuous train […]
I had never known that — my student said he had run across it while reading a review of Milton’s masterpiece.
Well played, both to Mr. Milton and my student. Useful folks, students.