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"Full many"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Eerie, Jan 13, 2008.

  1. Eerie Junior Member

    Chinese
    "Full many" is sometimes used in poems.
    What does "full many" mean, when used at the beginning of a sentence?
    How can we use it in a sentence?

    Examples:
    "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" (Shakespeare)
    "Full many a gem of purest ray serene" (Thomas Gray)
    "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen" (Thomas Gray)

    Why does Shakespeare say "have I seen" instead of "I've seen"?
     
  2. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    Hi eerie,

    Generally, "full" in Middle English and in older Modern English means "very." (Sometimes it is spelled "ful.")

    I suspect Shakespeare would have used what ever he needed to keep the syllable count right for his iambic pentameter lines!
     
  3. Eerie Junior Member

    Chinese
    "Very many"? Does that phrase make sense? I still don't understand what "Very many" or "Full many" means.

    I meant to ask why Shakespeare said "have" before "I", it doesn't sound right to me. If it were for syllables, it would still be the same if he didn't use apostrophe:

    "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" (Shakespeare)
    "Full many a glorious morning I have seen" (Shakespeare)
     
  4. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    Hi Eerie,

    You have to recall that Shakespeare lived from 1564-1616 and Gray lived from 1716-71--a long time ago. Language has changed over the centuries.

    They wrote these lines:
    "Full many a glorious morning have I seen" (Shakespeare)
    "Full many a gem of purest ray serene" (Thomas Gray)
    "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen" (Thomas Gray)

    Today, we might write the following, but the lines certainly don't sound as good!
    I have seen very many glorious mornings.
    Very many gems of purest ray unseen.
    Very many flowers are born to blush unseen.

    As to your question about word order ("Full many a glorious morning have I seen"), this too was and is a common practice in poetry. Often, we still make the stylistic choice to use inversion today both in poetry and in everyday speech:
    Not until I got home did I realize that my shoes were untied.
    Into the room ran the lady.
    First comes love, then comes marriage.
    Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
    Should you need a hand, I will be more than happy to help you.
    Boy am I hungry!
     
  5. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    I found this quote on line :
    OE [the Old English] of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle developed a topic-verb-complement pattern.
    I am not an expert in Anglo-Saxon, but I suspect that in some kinds of older English, as is modern German, the rule was that the verb must go second element in the sentence. In modern German it can be preceded by any other element of the sentence - often the subject, but often also, for emphasis, the object (like full many a glorious morning), or a prepositional phrase etc. I wonder whether Shakespeare is following in this tradition.
     
  6. Eerie Junior Member

    Chinese
    Thank you both! I understand it now, thank you!
     
  7. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    I agree se16teddy. I'm sure this is a characteristic of all Germanic languages (to at least some degree).

    You're welcome, Eerie.
     

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