Mark Janse

Archaism and innovation in the (colometry of the) Homeric hexameter

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Archaism and innovation in the (colometry of the) Homeric hexameter

This part of the program focuses on archaic and innovative aspects of the colometry of the Homeric hexameter on the basis of modern cognitive-linguistic approaches (Bakker 1990, 1997a, 1997b, 2005; Janse 1991, 1998, 2003, 2014). It challenges traditional metrical theory which defines caesura as ‘regular word-end’, independently of ‘sense-pauses’ (West 1982, 1997). The hexameter has only one caesura, either at 3a (pent­hemi­meral), 3b (trochaeic) or at 4a (hephthemimeral), if the others are not available (for notation see Janse 2003):

Archaism and innovation in the (colometry of the) Homeric hexameter

The cola demarcated by the caesura are defined as ‘metrical phrases’. Consequently, it is assumed that ‘[s]entence- and phrase-structure is not closely tied to the verse-structure, but not altogether independent of it. The strongest sense-pauses […] occur at the end of a verse […] After that, the commonest places for a sense-pause are at the caesura or at the end of the fourth foot. For the rest, sense-pauses are practically confined to the beginning of the line, in the first foot or at latest after the first syllable of the second’ (West 1997: 224).

The alternative approach assumes that the ‘strong tendency to avoid serious clashes between verbal and metrical phrasing’ (West 1982: 25) is due to the fact that cola are not merely ‘metrical phrases’ but also intonation/information units (IUs) in Homeric discourse. This subproject acknowledges the importance of the caesura at 4c (‘bucolic dieresis’) as a major ‘sense-pause’ represented in more than 60% of all Homeric lines, as observed by Witte (1913). It will focus on the nature of the syntactic break at the bucolic dieresis and the different types of IU that occupy the last two feet in the hexameter, e.g. appositional noun phrases (formulaic noun-epithet formulae), coordinated verb phrases, subordinate clauses, main clauses introduced coordinating conjunctions, etc.

Particular attention will be paid to the co-occurrence of the bucolic dieresis with early caesurae in the first or second foot, either in the same verse or in combination with enjambement, e.g. Odyssey 9.364-5:

Kuklôps |1ceirôtais m’ onoma kluton |4cautar egô toi

exereô |2asu de moi dos xeinion |4chôs per hupestês

Cyclops, you ask my glorious name, and I will

tell you, but you give me a present, as you promised

Such ‘three-folders’ (Kirk 1985:20) are common in the Homeric hexameter, in combination with either bucolic dieresis or hephthemimeral caesura (the second-most important caesura according to Witte), e.g. Iliad 1.7:

Atreidês te |2banaks andrôn |4akai dios Akhilleus

Atreus' son, king of men, and noble Achilles

Witte used his observations to reconstruct the proto-hexameter as a combination of a dactylic tetrameter and a catalectic dactylic dimeter (‘adonean’), which explains the high frequency of the bucolic dieresis. He argued that the hephthemimeral caesura was created as an alternative to the bucolic dieresis by the addition of two light syllables, resulting in a metrical colon called ‘pherecratean’. Because of their antiquity, the adonean and the pherecratean were the loci of both archaisms and innovations, as Witte amply demonstrated. With respect to the case studies by the two postdocs, one could mention the infinitive emmen, which occurs exclusively after the bucolic dieresis, or the occurrence of tmesis after the hephthemimeral caesura. Witte’s reconstruction of the proto-hexameter is at variance with recent approaches initiated by Berg (1978; cf. Berg & Haug 2000; Haug & Weilo 2001; Haug 2002) and Tichy (1981), who argue that the proto-hexameter consisted of a ‘glyconic’ and a pherecretean colon, both of which could begin with two syllables of undetermined weight (xx). This would explain a number of metrical irregularities in the first and fourth foot. However, the paucity of the evidence does not seem to lend much credence to these hypotheses, especially the cases of syllabic r in the fourth foot, which have been explained as an inner-epic development by van Beek (2013; see project 2a). In Berg’s view, the adonic close would be a recent development, which seems unlikely in light of its extremely high incidence (Miller 2013: 86).

A second objective of this subproject is therefore to investigate the theory of the proto-hexameter from Witte’s perspective, taking the bucolic dieresis as its starting point. Special attention will be given to the coocurrence of caesurae in or after the fourth foot with caesurae in the first or second foot (cf. supra). It is surely no coincidence that the latter are the loci of archaisms as well, e.g. unaugmented verbs and apocopated adverbs in tmesis. A study of the IUs which make up these verse-initial cola will undoubtedly shed new light on the colometry of the dactylic tetrameter as reconstructed by Witte. A final hypothesis to be tested is whether the traditional caesurae at 3b and, ultimately, 3a are innovations, as Witte suggested.