I recently read that there is a grammatical construct known as a Miltonic Structure, after John Milton. It said that the structure consists of an adjective + noun + adjective, like "human face divine" from Paradise Lost, book III:

"Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;"

I searched but found no singular construct such as this called Miltonic Structure. Are you familiar with this structure? Is it called this? Does it have another name?

  • Haven’t heard of it, but it sounds like Blake rather than Milton: 'Cruelty has a human heart / And jealousy a human face, / Terror the human form divine,/ And secrecy the human dress.' Oct 16, 2011 at 9:47
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    Paradise Lost, book III: "Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;"
    – Mark
    Oct 16, 2011 at 9:56
  • Thanks. Long time since I read it. Blake probably had that in the back of his mind as he was writing. Oct 16, 2011 at 10:01
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    I'm sure there are lots of adjective + noun + adjective forms around. It was no problem to find, for example, foreign minister designate without really thinking. But in Op's example, the two adjectives are by most interpretations mutually exclusive. I doubt there will be many of those unless they're being helped along by a bit of poetic licence. Oct 16, 2011 at 15:41
  • Irrelevant sidebar! adjective + pronoun + adjective occasionally occurs, because almost any adjective can occur quite naturally both before and after the pronouns something, someone, and somebody. Thus little something extra, elusive someone special, and so on. (Adjectives also occur after anything/one/body and everything/one/body, but apparently not before, except just anything —is just an adjective there? Adjectives can also occur after nobody and nothing but I couldn’t find an adjective + negapronoun + adjective triple. Oct 17, 2011 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


To me it looks like a combination of two modifiers: (adj noun) and (noun adj). Sometimes (for poetic reasons) adjectives are placed after the noun (this also happens with certain adjectives, such as elect in president elect). So here we have human face, which is further modified by a post-positioned adjective:

((human face) divine) => "divine human face"

I'm not very well-versed in either Blake or Milton, but from a linguistic point of view it does not look like a specific structure to me.

UPDATE: "Miltonic structure" seems to refer to the verse patterns, rather than grammar, see http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/s2/sonnet.html:

Hence this critic, like William Sharp, divides all English sonnets into four groups: (I) sonnets of Shakespearean structure; (2) sonnets of octave and sestet of Miltonic structure; (3) sonnets of contemporary structure, i.e. all sonnets on the Petrarchan model in which the metrical and intellectual "wave of flow and ebb" (as originally formulated by the present writer in a sonnet on the sonnet, which has appeared in most of the recent anthologies) is strictly observed, and in which, while the rhyme-arrangement of the octave is invariable, that of the sestet is free; (4) sonnets of miscellaneous structure.

(my emphasis)

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    +1 for being right even before your update. This comment is just because I'd have liked to give you another upvote for debunking the proposition that Miltonic structure has any commonly-accepted meaning relevant to the current issue in hand. Oct 16, 2011 at 15:45

Its not "Miltonic Structure." This is Milton using Latinate structure in the model of classical epic poetry. In Latin its not uncommon to sandwich a noun between two adjectives that describe it.

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