June 8, 2019

On April 10th, I challenged you to diagram a 153-word sentence from "Paradise Lost."

It all started with a weather report that used the word "haboob," which got me thinking about whether "haboob" is related to "hubbub." It's not. "Hubbub" comes (probably) from the ancient Irish war-cry "ub! ub! ubub!" Looking "hubbub" up in the OED, I came across a snippet from "Paradise Lost": "A universal hubbub wilde Of stunning sounds and voices all confus'd." I wanted the complete sentence and found what I thought was the whole thing, a passage 153 words long.

Today, I get an email from Clark who says, "I have been noodling your sentence from Paradise Lost. Here is my attempt." He informs me that the 153-word text in my post is not the full sentence. There's an opening clause, and it seems to have been harder to diagram the sentence without these additional 30 words. Here's the diagram Clark sent me (click and click again to enlarge and clarify):


Here's the full 183 word passage from John Milton's magnificent poem.

As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
Had from his wakeful custody purloind
The guarded Gold:
So eagerly the fiend
Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,
And swims or sinks or wades, or creeps, or flyes:
At length a universal hubbub wilde
Of stunning sounds and voices all confus'd
Born through the hollow dark assaults his eare
With loudest vehemence: thither he plyes,
Undaunted to meet there whatever power
Or spirit of the nethermost Abyss
Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask
Which way the nearest coast of darkness lyes
Bordering on light; when strait behold the Throne
Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread
Wide on the wasteful deep; with him Enthron'd
Sat Sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
The Consort of his Reign; and by them stood
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon; Rumor next and Chance,
And Tumult and Confusion all imbroil'd,
And Discord with a thousand various mouths.
Thanks SO much to Clark for taking on the challenge. He says he now wants to read "Paradise Lost," so I hope the experience of diagramming a sentence builds appreciation for the writing. It seems ridiculous to make sentences that long, but I want to believe all the parts hang together and to diagram the sentence is to demonstrate that they do. Nice!

UPDATE: Clark emails:
To answer your question, diagramming the sentence made me appreciate the poetry by letting me get to know the passage intimately. It was just a wall of words before, but now (I just reread the passage) it makes sense to me in every twist and turn. E.g., the phrase "And swims or sinks or wades, or creeps, or flyes" has a rhythm to it that is created by those two commas. Diagramming it brought that home to me in a way that I would have missed by just reading it. I am serious about now wanting to read the whole poem.


Ignorance is Bliss said...

Is this going to be on the test?

Ralph L said...

I think using colons is cheating: a Gryphon should eat Milton.

buwaya said...

Yes it will be on the test. It will get you into law school.

Stephanie Carnes said...

That is an EPIC simile!

Ken B said...

Paradise Lost was one of the great reading experiences of my life. It obsessed me for some while.
I gave up on Paradise Regained though.

buwaya said...

Paradise Lost does just as well describing ordinary reality as it does Hell.
Also remarkably influential re various strains of fantastic literature.
Not always the sentences though.

BamaBadgOR said...

Did you check his work?

rehajm said...

What Irish war was that? The Pointy Stick War?

robother said...

"...with him Enthron'd
Sat Sable-vested Night, eldest of things"

What a curious observation, that Night (according to the Bible) is the eldest of all things, pre-existing all creation. Insight of a blind poet, I suppose.

Karen of Texas said...

That is excellent. Kudos, Clark. The Sisters of Mercy at Sacred Heart Catholic School certainly invoked hellish feelings when they assigned certain sentences for 'deconstruction'.

rehajm said...

In seventh grade I entered a school district that didn’t want to pay the extra 20 cents a unit or whatever it was for the textbook with the copyright to the way normal people diagram sentences. Instead it was the cheapo book with their own method what wrecked me forever.

tim in vermont said...

I read that sentence and it just reminded me of the bit in Dude Where’s My Car where the lady at the drive up window at the burger joint keeps saying “And den???"

tim in vermont said...

"Paradise Lost does just as well describing ordinary reality as it does Hell.”

If you don’t read them that way, what’s the point? I have been trying to get through Faust but every time I read a speech or a poem in there, I have to just stop and think about it for a while.

Bay Area Guy said...

It all started with a weather report that used the word "haboob," which got me thinking about whether "haboob" is related to "hubbub."

Kamala Harris has a nice pair of haboobs.

Yancey Ward said...

Clark is obviously on the spectrum.

I once set out to memorize "Paradise Lost" (seriously), but gave up after about a week. I actually have prodigious memory capacity, but this work defeated me, and quickly.

Bay Area Guy said...

In Animal House, Professor Jennings (Donald Sutherland) does a riff on Milton's Paradise Lost in a classroom scene. Wasn't but a small golden nugget in a cinematic gold mine.

madAsHell said...

This has to be a cafe post cuz I always hated diagramming sentences in junior high.

Hillary's younger brother, Tony Rodham has died. I'm guessing that Hillary has already had a liver transplant for excessive Chardonnay?

ObamaCare wouldn't buy one for Tony.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Will this spark joy??

john said...

I gave up reading Chesterton on my Kindle beacause it was not possible to see a whole sentence at a font size I could read, or read a whole sentence at a font size I could see.

Karen said...

robother: eldest of “things”, not eldest over all. Things are created by the Creator.

In a grad school seminar on Paradise Lost, one of my classmates was a physics major and he was astonished by the many descriptions of the universe that seemed to come straight out of his quantum physics textbook.

Ralph L said...

john, what were you reading? I thought I'd lost both my Complete Father Brown and my Complete Saki (also recommended) for 2 decades until a couple of years ago.

Fernandinande said...

4th order Eddington monkey says:

As when strait behold the Thron'd
Sat Sable-vested to ask
Which way,
And Discord with him Enthrone
Of stunning on light, eldest of thithere whatever power
Or spirit of his way,
And swims or moarie Dale,
Pursues the wasteful custody purloind
The guarded name
Of stunning sounds and voices all imbroil'd.

Fernandinande said...

3rd order Eddington monkey says:

As wakeful dense on light, elderness
Might, rough the hollow dark assaults his eare
With head
With headed Night in thron'd
Sat noise reside, or flyes:
At length head
Wide or stood
Or stelth
Had from his what Sable-vest of that Sable-vest Abyss
Might in there Hill custood
Ore Hill imbroil'd.

Ann Althouse said...

"The Arimaspi (also Arimaspian, Arimaspos, Arimaspoi, Ancient Greek: Αριμασπός, Αριμασποί) were a legendary tribe of one-eyed people of northern Scythia who lived in the foothills of the Riphean Mountains, variously identified with the Ural Mountains or the Carpathians.[1] All tales of their struggles with the gold-guarding griffins in the Hyperborean lands near the cave of Boreas, the North Wind (Geskleithron), had their origin in a lost work by Aristeas, reported in Herodotus."

Fernandinande said...

2nd order Eddington monkey says:

Unds eldes and net bogon the fron thich haos,
rous whough lioneark a univestraress th the Aby sidersues
Migh le,
Wit and Consor pavild tody the Aby tod
The Ades
Might; wind th wit Sable-verne
Orcusallouthis on the next of through lowerim st behe whaos,
read Con toody ply thatefus whousaunningthemogonsort of dress.

john said...

This passage also has a Flesch reading score of zero.

Ralph, I somtimes still try to pick up Everlasting Man and A Short History of England, the latter being much more readable than the former. I would now rather read books about him than by him, with one by Ian Ker being my current favorite.

chuck said...

> Also remarkably influential re various strains of fantastic literature.

That was my thought on reading the passage. Urban fantasy came to mind.

rcocean said...

Damn. That's one run-on sentence. My 10th grade teacher would've spent a pen full of red ink on that.

If she'd thought I wrote it. Instead of Milton.

Joe said...

The best way to understand poetry is to diagram it.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

ok, "Clark"--

now do Guidocannonballs.

rcocean said...

Ades, Chaos, etc. Paradise Lost is a vocabulary builder.

jimbino said...

Great. Now diagram I Chron 26:18 of the KJV.

Richard Dillman said...

I believe Milton’s sentence is a periodic sentence, a staple of classical rhetoric and a major rhetorical pattern the the 17th and 18th
centuries. It is sometimes called the period. Modern English prose relies much more on the cumulative sentence, and the periodic sentence
has been de-emphasized. Sonorous periodic sentences are common in Milton’ prose.

rhhardin said...

Chris Mad Dog Russo, a sports guy on NY's WFAN at the time, was mocked for using the word "hubadoo." People love him for not knowing quite the right word.

Molly said...


Is this the greatest line in Paradise Lost? Or is it too hackneyed?

The elephant writhed his lithe proboscis

Clark said...

It was the Sisters of St. Agnes at St. Ignatius Loyola School that tricked me into enjoying the diagramming of sentences. It definitely helped me when I took up the study of other languages.

While working on this, I discovered an amazing website on the diagramming of sentences. This guy is the Yoda of sentence diagramming. If you are interested in language, and feel the need to do some serious procrastinating, his website for you.

Yancey Ward said...

I don't think I diagrammed a single sentence after 3rd grade.

robother said...

Karen: "eldest of “things”, not eldest over all. Things are created by the Creator.

But primordial night, absolute darkness, is not a thing, it is literally nothing. Once light is created, you could say relative darkness, (night in the ordinary sense) becomes a thing. That's the edge Milton is dancing on.

Jack Klompus said...

"Don't write this down, but I find Milton probably as boring as you find Milton. Mrs. Milton found him boring too. He's a little bit long-winded, he doesn't translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible."
- Professor Jennings, Animal House

William said...

That sample doesn't whet the appetite for more Milton. He was Cromwell's flack. He and Neruda can roast in Hell. No paradise for flacks.

Krumhorn said...

I’ll bet Clark wasn’t eating fish and chips on Aliso Beach like I was.

- Krumhorn

rhhardin said...

Diagramming doesn't work. It produces a faulty analysis.

"For him to diagram is useless."

"For" marks the subject of a to-infinitive.
"Him" is objective case because it's the subject of a non-finite verb (a verb not carrying tense).

- are the forces at work.

Kevin said...

This should be the final Jeopardy question when Ken Jennings meets James Holzhauer.

Alex Trebek voice: "Oh, I'm sorry... What was your wager?"

Narayanan said...

Looking for diagram of the oath of John Galt!

Please assist.

rcocean said...

"While working on this, I discovered an amazing website on the diagramming of sentences. This guy is the Yoda of sentence diagramming. If you are interested in language, and feel the need to do some serious procrastinating, his website for you."

Thanks. Its been bookmarked.

tim in vermont said...

Upana is one helluva wordsmith!

buwaya said...

Re diagramming John Galt or anything related -
Don't bother, Rand was on a roll.
Stream of consciousness, of a sort.
Treat as something out of W. Burroughs.

Clark said...

"Diagramming doesn't work. It produces a faulty analysis."

It doesn't work if you do it mindlessly. You laid out the analysis yourself. "For him to diagram" [in the sentence "For him to diagram is useless"] is a non-finite verb clause. The subject of the clause is "him" (which is in the objective case). "For" is performing a signaling function. The non-finite verb clause is the subject of the sentence. You can diagram it to show all this—if you want. Where is the faulty analysis? You may not be interested in diagramming. That's another matter.

rhhardin said...

I haven't seen a diagram that doesn't take "him" as the object of "for," and hence objective case. Nothing about non-finite verbs and signalling in school when diagramming came up.

Fernandinande said...

I believe Milton’s sentence is a periodic sentence,

I copy/pasted the text into a grammar analyzer, which said it was seven sentences despite one period. But trivia and nonsnse presented with bad spelling and weird grammar are still just trivia and nonsense - "The Throne Of Chaos" = a video game.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

john, I know what you mean about Chesterton. I love GKC to death, but occasionally even I get a mite, well, fed up at his "heavenly lengths" (a phrase used, IIRC of Schubert by Schumann). They tend to be worst, not in the large and famous books, but in things like the weekly "Illustrated London News" columns (yep, barring a couple of absences due to illness, he wrote one of those from 1906 into the 30s!), or the astonishing volume of Great War propaganda.

Still, there are large purple passages even in "Father Brown"; you tend to overlook them if you're reading them as mysteries, but there's hardly a tale amongst them that isn't full of detailed and striking description. I've reread "Father Brown" so many times that I can now force myself to read every word carefully; it's worth it.