Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce

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Scholiast

Senior Member
Greetings

In Milton's wonderful At a Solemn Music this line has always puzzled me.

Here's the context:

Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of heaven's joy,
Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
Wed your divine sounds and mixed power employ,
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce,

<< Excessive quotation deleted. >>

...&c.

Should we understand "able to pierce dead things [inanimate objects such as musical wind instruments] with sense [i.e. making a nice noise?]"

Or how? Suggestions would be welcome.
 
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  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I'd interpret pierce to mean imbue or inject, and sense to mean something like "the perceptive faculty of a conscious animate being" as in "Pictures [...] are but dead things, & in whom there is no sence or feeling" or as Milton himself used it in Paradise Lost (where sense is taken away rather than given): "There gentle sleep [...] with soft oppression seis'd My droused sense".
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Greetings all

    And sorry to resurrect an old thread. But when I first raised the question, I think the Moderator was a little unfair to delete part of the original quotation - this is rather a special case, as Milton composed such complex Latinate syntax, often travelling over much more than the WR limit of 4 lines for a quotation.

    Moderator/Moderatrix, please indulge this one for Christmas' sake:

    Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of heaven's joy,
    Sphere-born harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse,
    Wed your divine sounds and mixed power employ,
    Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce,
    And to our high-rais'd phantasy, present
    That undisturbed song of pure content,
    Ay sung before the saphire-colour'd throne
    To him that sits theron...

    The syntax of l. 3, "Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce", still puzzles me. Is it "voice and verse" that are "able to pierce dead things", i.e. inanimate objects such as musical instruments, with sense?

    Σ
     
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