4 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 43

Miltonic metre

From Mr Philip Hensher Sir: I don't know why Michael Horovitz finds it necessary to resort to name-calling and giving vent to his stupid, suburban big- otry (Letters, 28 October). But as far as his accusations go, I freely admit that he is right in saying that I am not a poet, and not as famous as Maya Angelou. On the other hand, my answering-machine message runs `Please leave a message after the tone', and I am not the product of a public school.

What any of this has to do with anything, God alone knows. If he is suggesting that only famous, heterosexual, state-school- educated poets could possibly understand anything about poetry, and he wants every- one else to be reduced to cringeing obei- sance before the surgeon-like expertise of Mr Michael Horovitz, let him say so. It is unlikely that anyone will take him seriously, however, if he goes on insisting that 'only a fraction of Milton's verse is strictly metri- cal'. The last time I looked, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and vast paragraphs of Samson Agonistes were in perfectly regular iambic pentameters. He hasn't understood what Milton meant, which is that he didn't like (1) rhyme and (2) the end-stopped line. Nothing at all to do with 'abjuring the strictly metrical'.

Philip Hensher

London SW8