Thursday, 18 November 2010

Why are line references in poetry to the nearest factor of five?

William Empson (1961) answers:
Line references are to the nearest factor of five, because factor of ten are usually given in the margin of the text, and the eye can then find the place without further calculation. The show of scientific accuracy about literary quotations has reached a point which feels odd to anyone who knows how numbers are really used in the sciences. (vii)


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