Then much revolving, thus in sighs began.The original 1674 text of course has no such marks, but looks a lot more like what Roy Flannagan gives us in the Riverside Milton:
"O thou that with surpassing glory crowned,
Look'st from thy sole dominion like the God
Of this new world...
Then much revolving, thus in sighs began.All decisions on punctuating Milton, and for that matter on spelling, are pretty much up to the editor, since it's generally assumed that JM, who dictated his poem when he was blind, left his amanuenses responsible for those "accidentals." Flannagan sticks pretty closely to the early printed editions for punctuation, as do most editors (one exception is Gordon Teskey's excellent Norton Critical edition, which opts to punctuate as lightly as possible). Flannagan is notable for presenting something close to an "original-spelling" edition, while most editors have tended to modernize the spellings of the poem (except for such items as "thir" for "their," which might reflect Milton's pronunciation).
O thou that with surpassing Glory crownd,
Look'st from thy sole Dominion like the God
Of this new World...
But none of the editions I have lying around at the moment – Flannagan, Hughes, Teskey, Shawcross – I can't be bothered at the moment to pull down Fowler – insert quotation marks, as Kerrigan et al. do in the Modern Library edition. It's part of the overall modernizing push of the ML edition, an attempt (I take it) to make the book as user-friendly as possible for students. They've ironed out most of the early editions' italics, done away with the Germanic capitalizations (see the Flannagan quotation), and tried to make the punctuation as helpful as possible. I have no problem with any of this: if I want to see what Milton's amanuenses & printers made of his script, I can easily open up Flannagan or check out the early editions on EEBO; my students are going to have trouble enough with Milton's syntax and referentiality without having to also struggle with early modern orthography. (One of J.'s students once wrote in an essay that Shakespeare was difficult because he wrote in "old broken English.")
But what about those quotation marks? They're definitely a modern intrusion. Quotation marks, as I understand it, didn't become standard equipment for the English writer until sometime in the 18th century. Milton himself never used them, even when he had the use of his eyes to write and read proof. What you get over & over again in Paradise Lost (& this reflects the fact that he had early on conceived of the project in dramatic terms) is large block speeches, introduced by speech tags ("To whom thus Adam."), and marked by slight indentation of the first line. (Milton doesn't do short speeches in PL – none of that Senecan backing-&-forthing – which is part of what makes Eve's humble one-liner at 10.162 so wonderful: "The Serpent me beguiled and I did eat.")
But I've decided I don't mind the quotation marks in the Modern Library edition. Even if they're a modern intrusion, they don't change the overall texture of the text, and they'll probably be a bit of an aid to my students (and for that matter to me) in keeping straight when someone's talking. Of course, if this had been an 18th- or 19th-century edition, those quotation marks on lines of poetry would look rather different:
Then much revolving, thus in sighs began.Orthographical standards in the 18th and 19th centuries specified that each line of direct speech in verse should be preceded with its own quotation mark. That's the convention at work in The Cantos, as for instance in Canto V:
'O thou that with surpassing glory crowned,
'Look'st from thy sole dominion like the God
'Of this new world...
"Yet feared this might not end him," or lest Alessandro(Is Pound being intentionally archaic here? I don't think so – the replacement of the every-line quotation marks with quotation marks only at the beginning & end of a quoted passage in the later Cantos, my sense is, reflects a shift in general printing standards rather than a shift in Pound's orthographical aesthetic.)
Know not by whom death came, O se credesse
"If when the foot slipped, when death came upon him,
"Lest cousin Duke Alessandro think he had fallen alone,
"No friend to aid him in falling."
It's pretty obvious that those every-line quotation marks wouldn't work for Milton, would end up being unbelievably fussy & intrusive decorating his 40- or 50-line speeches. So the opening & closing quotes – double in the American convention & all – make sense to me.
Of course, trust Lisa Robertson to do something new & eye-opening with orthography. Among a number of arresting moments in Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip (Coach House, 2009) is this, in "About 1836," in which the speaker asks "the dog of Latinity" to tell her about boredom.
The dog replied:Did you catch that? First of all, note the effect of this archaic orthographical device, when applied to heavily enjambed, short-lined free verse – I can only call it "weird, in a cool way." (Note how I'm slipping into my highly-theoretical professorial voice.) But truly strange is its fracturing – the fact that there is no closing quotation mark after "that." The quotation ends without a mark of ending. It's not a typo; she does it again, several times, over the course of the poem.
'At the edges of the villages of Europe
'there is boredom.
'The villages of Europe
'don't want your thinking.
'not a world.
'In these villages
'one rereads the soiled timetables
'of minor trains
'and finds therein
'Grace. This is called
'an environment. Now
'you weep its surplus.
'Nowhere is like that.
And the dog said
'I am going to call it hegemony when [....]
The effect is odd, at least for this reader. Just as I was beginning to "naturalize" the every-line quotes, suddenly I was jerked into awareness of them by Robertson's very violation of their conventions. And I remained hyper-aware of the quotation marks for the whole of the poem. They became a repeatedly meaningful punctuation, rather than a default indicator of speech.
I want to relate this to the pervasive quotation marks in Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette, but it's something I want to think about more.