1. The Problem Stated: A Look at Hesiod’s Feast and Beyond

In the Works and Days, occasional local details—trapped as it were amidst uniform details—mirror aptly the larger "panhellenic," or trans-national, orientation of the poem as a whole. [1] The composition of the WD could manage little more than occasionally to have disparate local details jostle one against another, often against other details that are certifiably "panhellenic." The language itself is a chronically stable Ionic Greek, held together by sheer will, by nothing more than the urgency of the poet's need to reach audiences outside his own polis. Not surprisingly, local details emerge that at first sight appear inappropriate and unexplainable. These belong to some different context altogether, which is difficult to identify. Many such elements—notably, the appearance of the tettix ('cicada') in v. 582—exist as it were disembodied from the rest of the poem and invite special consideration. In fact, as I hope to show, WD 582-588 encapsulates other non-epic traditions that were incorporated into the poem. Conceivably, the lines in question were a local sub-literary or even popular song that found its way into a literary composition of "panhellenic" scope.
It may be convenient here to quote the passage in full:
           ἧμος δὲ σκόλυμός τ’ἀνθεῖ καὶ ἠχέτα τέττιξ
          δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενος λιγυρήν καταχεύετ’ ἀοιδήν
          πυκνὸν ὑπὸ πτερύγων θέρεος καματώδεος ὥρῃ,
585    τῆμος πιόταταί τ’ αἶγες καὶ οἶνος ἄριστος,
          μαχλόταταί δὲ γυναῖκες, ἀφαυρότατοι δέ τοι ἄνδρες
          εἰσίν, ἐπεὶ κεφαλὴν καὶ γούνατα Σείριος ἄζει,
          αὐαλέος δέ τε χρὼς ὐπὸ καύματος· ἀλλὰ τότ’ ἤδη
          εἴη πετραίη τε σκιὴ καὶ Βίβλινος οἶνος
590    μᾶζα τ’ ἀμολγαίη γάλα τ’ αἰγῶν σβεννυμενάων
          καὶ βοὸς ὑλοφάγοιο κρέας μή πω τετοκυίης
          πρωτογόνων τ’ ἐρίφων· ἐπὶ δ’ αἴθοπα πινέμεν οἶνον
          ἐν σκιῇ ἑζόμενον, κεκορημένον ἦτορ ἐδωδῆς,
          ἀντίον ἀκρᾱέος Ζεφύρου τρέψαντα πρόσωπα·
595    κρήνης δ’ αἰενάου καὶ ἀπορρύτου, ἥ τ᾽ ἀθόλωτος,
          τρὶς ὕδατος προχέειν, τὸ δὲ τέτρατον ἱέμεν οἴνου.
WD 582-596 [2]
           When (ἦμος) the golden thistle flowers and the sonorous cicada,
          sitting in a tree, pours down its clear-sounding song without interruption from
          under its wings in the season of fatiguing summer,
585     at that time (τῆμος) goats are plumpest and wine is best,
          and women are wanton in the extreme (μαχλόταται) while men are feeble in the extreme (ἀφαυρότατοι)
          since the Dog Star dries out their head and knees
          and their skin is withered by the heat; but already at this time (τότ’ ἤδη)
          may you enjoy rocky shade and "Bibline" wine,
590    and barley-cake made with milk, and the milk of goats which are running dry,
          and the meat of a free-range cow which has not yet given birth,
          and that of firstborn kids; and afterwards drink [imperative] gleaming wine
          while sitting in the shade, your heart having had its fill of food,
          after turning your face to the brisk Zephyr-wind;
595    and from a perennially running spring, and an unmuddied one at that,
          first pour a measure of water three times and toss in a fourth ["measure"] of wine.
Poised in a shady tree, the tettix, WD tells us, emits a lovely "song," by virtue of which it may have struck Hesiod's audience almost as an honorary bird. [3] The reference to the tettix, complete with a description of its native locus amoenus (ἦμος δὲ σκόλυμός τ ᾽ ἀνθεῖ καὶ ἠχέτα τέττιξ / δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενος, 'when the golden thistle flowers and the sonorous cicada, / sitting in a tree, etc./) and his habit of chirruping (λιγυρὴν καταχεύετ ’ ἀοιδήν, 'pours down its clear-sounding song'), harks back to the comparable treatment of the song of the geranos ('crane') (448-451) and the kokkux ('cuckoo') (486-489), which we may now consider:
          φράζεσθαι δ’ εὖτ ᾽ ἂν γεράνου φωνὴν ἐπακούσεις
          ὑψόθεν ἐκ νεφέων ἐνιαύσια κεκληγυίης,
450    ἥ τ’ ἀρότοιό τε σῶμα φέρει καὶ χείματος ὥρην
          δεικνύει ὀμβρηροῦ· κραδίην δ’ ἔδακ’ ἀνδρὸς ἀβούτεω·
          δὴ τότε χορτάζειν ἕλικας βόας ἔνδον ἐόντας.
WD 448-452 [4]
          Heed the voice of the crane when (εὖτ ’ ἂν) you hear it,
          as it makes its annual cry (ἐνιαύσια κεκληγυίης) from clouds on high,
450    which [sc. the crane] brings the signal for taking to the plow and
          indicates the season (ὥρην) of rainy winter; so that the heart of the man without oxen is stung;
         at that time indeed (δὴ τότε) feed your twirling-homed oxen at home, etc.

          ἦμος κόκκυξ κοκκύζει δρυὸς ἐν πετάλοισιν
          τό πρῶτον, τέρπει δὲ βροτούς ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν,
          τῆμος Ζεὺς ὕοι τρίτῳ ἤματί μηδ’ ἀπολήγοι,
          μήτ’ ἄρ’ ὑπερβάλλων βοὸς ὁπλὴν μήτ’ ἀπολείπων
490     οὕτω κ’ ὀψαρότης πρωιηρότῃ ἰσοφαρίζοι.
WD 486-490 [5]
          When (ἦμος) the cuckoo first (τὸ πρῶτον) cries "cuckoo" among the leaves of the oak tree
          and pleases mortals throughout the earth,
          at that time (τῆμος) may Zeus send rain on the third day (τρίτῳ ἤματι) and not let up,
          as might be expected, neither covering the top of an ox's hoof nor falling short of it;
490     now (οὕτω) late (i.e. spring) plowing can rival early (i.e. autumn) plowing, etc.
In all three instances, the WD establishes the creature's element or habitat (ὑψόθεν ἐκ νεφέων, 449, 'from clouds on high,' of the crane; δρυὸς ἐν πετάλοισιν, 486, 'among the leaves of the oak tree,' of the cuckoo), and its characteristic activity conveyed as a snapshot incident: ἐνιαύσια κεκληγυίης, 449, 'as it makes its annual cry,' of the crane; κόκκυξ κοκκύζει…/τέρπει δὲ βροτοὺς ἐπ ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν, 'the cuckoo cries "cuckoo"…/and pleases mortals throughout the earth,' of the cuckoo. Finally, each creature operates as a temporal "signpost" for a given human activity: a midsummer fête champêtre and siesta (the cicada), autumn plowing (the crane), and spring plowing (the cuckoo). That these creatures have a distinct "signpost" function becomes explicit in the very prominence of temporal expressions used, particularly ἦμος ('when')—τῆμος ('at that time') τότ ’ ἤδη ('already at this time') (582-588); εὖτ ’ ἄν ('when')—ἐνιαύσια ('annually') —δή τότε ('at that time indeed') (448-452); ἦμος ('when')—τὸ πρῶτον ('first')—τῆμος ('at that time')—τρίτῳ ἤματι ('on the third day')—οὕτω ('now') (486-490), and in the emphasis on seasons: θέρεος καματώδεος ὥρῃ ('in the season of fatiguing summer/ 584), χείματος ὥρην … ὀμβρηροῦ ('the season of rainy winter,' 450- 451). Timing is clearly of utmost importance in these passages; nature provides seasonal "signposts" [6] or cues by way of certain creatures, and human beings are urged to synchronize punctiliously their actions, indeed even their entertainments, with these cues. The typological parallels in the demotic tradition that deal with animals and particularly birds may raise certain implications about the Hesiodic use of certain creatures as "time reckoners" or harbingers. Specific details of modern-day animal songs find parallels in the Hesiodic passages quoted, but in general it is the bird songs and the song of the cicada ( tzitzikas) which suggest a sufficient number of indisputably traditional features to establish that these songs have a long oral history of their own. At the same time, the features which they share with the Hesiodic passages cited previously indicate that, ultimately, they belong to a similarly determined tradition. We may remark in passing that this apparent affinity with the Hesiodic tradition, even in points of detail, probably reflects not so much faithful oral transmission as a continuity in the function and context of these songs. It is only natural that songs devoted to a seasonal harbinger and regarded as promoting or completing some practical or magical process should be handed on with minimal verbal change from generation to generation. An obvious, but hardly unique, example of a song connected with the passage to a new season and its attendant concerns is the 'swallow song,' or χελιδόνισμα (khelidonisma), as Greek folklorists have dubbed it:
1. Thessalian khelidonisma [7]
          Ἦρθεν, ἦρθε χελιδόνα,
          Ἦρθε κι’ ἄλλη μελιηδόνα,
          Κάθησε καὶ λάλησε,
          Καὶ γλυκὰ κελάδησε-
5        "Μάρτη, Μάρτη μου καλέ
          Καὶ Φλεβάρη φοβερέ,
          Κἄν φλεγίσῃς, κἄν τσικνίσῃς,
          Καλοκαίρι θὰ μυρίσῃς·
          Κἄν χωνίσῃς, κἄν κακίσῃς,
10      Πάλιν ἄνοιξιν θ’ ἀνθήςῃς.
          Θάλασσαν ἐπέρασα,
          Τὴν στεριὰν δὲν ξέσχασα,
          Κύματα κἄν ἔσχισα,
          Ἔσπειρα, κονόμησα,
15      Ἔφυγα κι’ ἀφῆκα σῦκα,
          Καὶ σταυρὸν καὶ θημωνίτσαν,
          Κ’ ἦρθα τώρα κ’ ηὗρα φίτρα,
          Κ’ ηὗρα χόρτα, σπάρτα βλίτρα,
          Βλίτρα, βλίτρα, φίτρα, φίτρα."
20      Σὺ καλὴ οἰκοκυρά
          Ἔμπα στὸ κελλάρι σου,
          Φέρ’ αὐγὰ περδικωτά
          Καὶ πωλιὰ σαρακοστά,
          Δόσε καί μιάν όρνιθίτσαν,
25      Φέρε καὶ μιὰν κουλουρίτσαν.
          Ωρισεν ὁ δάσκαλος,
          Καὶ ὁ θιὸς ποὺ τἄδωκε,
          Ν’ ἀγοράσωμεν ὀχτώ,
          Νὰ πωλῶμεν δεκοχτώ,
30      Νά κερδαίνωμεν τριάντα,
          Διάφορα μεγάλα πάντα,
          Καὶ στὸ σπίτι καὶ στὴν χώρα
          Μέσα ’ δῶ ποὔρθαμεν τώρα,
          Μέσα γειά, μέσα χαρά,
35      Στὸν ἀφέντην, στὴν κυράν,
          Στὰ παιδιὰ καὶ στοὺς γονεῖς,
          Σ’ ὅλους τους τοὺς συγγενεῖς.
          Μέσα Μάρτης, ἔξω ψύλλοι,
          Ἔξ’ ὠχθροί, σᾶς τρῶν οἱ σκύλοι.
40      Μέσα φίλοι, μέσα’ υθηνιά
          Καὶ χαραῖς, χοροί, παιγνίδια
          Κ’ ἐφέτος καὶ τοῦ χρόνου
          Καὶ τοῦ χρόνου κι' ἄλλα χίλια.

          The swallow has come, the swallow has come,
          and another honey-sweet singer too,
          it sat and chirruped
          and sweetly warbled.
5        "March, my good March,
          and dread February,
          if you flame up and scorch,
          you'll smell of summer.
          And if you snow and act mean,
10      still you flower into spring.
          I crossed the sea and didn't forget land;
          no matter how many waves I skimmed through,
          I sowed and stored up savings.
15      I went away and left behind figs
          and crucifix and threshing heap;
          and now come back, I find shoots
          and weeds, sprouts and herbs,
          herbs, herbs, sprouts, sprouts."
20      And you, dear housewife,
          go to your pantry
          and fetch partridge eggs
          and Lenten fowl
          and give us a baby hen,
25      fetch a little cake, too.
          The teacher ordained it,
          and so did God,
          that we should buy eight
          in order to sell eighteen,
30      in order to win some thirty
          different things
          both at home and in town.
          Now that we're here,
          let's wish health and joy
35      to the master, his wife,
          children and parents,
          and all relations.
          In with March, out with fleas,
          out with enemies,—may dogs eat you.
40      Come in, friends, come in, cheap prices
          and pleasures, dances, games,
          both this year and next,
          and the year after and a thousand years after.
2. Thracian khelidonisma [8]
          Χελιδόνα πέρασε
          ἀπ’ τὴ Μαύρη Θάλασσα
          ἔκατσε καὶ λάλησε
          καὶ γλυκὰ κελάϊδισε.
5        Ποιόναν πρωτολάλησε;
          τὸν δάσκαλο κι’ ἐμᾶς.
          "— Μάρτη, Μάρτη μου καλέ
          καὶ ᾽Απρίλη μου χρυσέ,
          τὶ καλὰ μᾶς φέρνετε;
10      —Τὰ καλὰ καὶ τ’ ἀγαθά·
          ἔξω ψύλλοι καὶ ποντίκια,
          μέσα ἥλιος καὶ χαρά!"
          Σήκου, καλὴ νοικοκυρά,
          βάλε τὰ πατίκια σου,
15      ἔμπα στὸ κελλάρι σου,
          φέρ’ εἰκοσιοχὸ αὐγά
          γιὰ μᾶς τὰ τέσσερα
          τ’ ἄλλα γιὰ τὸν δάσκαλο.

          A swallow crossed
          the Black Sea
          and sat and chirupped
          and sweetly warbled.
5        To whom did she first sing?
          To the teacher and us.
          "March, my good March
          and my golden April,
          what good things do you bring us?
10      — Nice and good things:
          out with fleas and mice,
          come in, sun and joy!"
          Get up, good housewife,
          put on your woollen slippers,
15      go to your pantry,
          fetch twenty-eight eggs,
          four for us,
          the rest for the teacher.
3. Rhodian khelidonisma [9]
          Μάρτη, Μάρτη μου καλέ,
          καὶ ’Απρίλη θαμαστέ,
          ὅσοι μεῖς οἱ μαθηταί
          μαθημένοι εἴμαστε
5        ν’ ἀγοράζουμεν ἑφτά,
          νὰ ποῦλουμε δεκαεφτά.
          Τὸ ρακὶν εἰς τὸ ποτῆρι
          καὶ τὰ σῦκα στὸ μαντῆλι.
          Δῶστε μας τὴν ὄρνιθά μας,
10      μὴ μᾶς δέρῃ ὁ δάσκαλός μας
          κι ᾽ ἔχετε τὸ κρίμα μας
          καὶ τὴν ἁμαρτία μας.
          Χελιδόνιν πέμπομε,
          πάει πέρα κι᾽ ἔρχεται
15      καὶ φέρνει μας τὴν εἴδηση
          πὼς εἶναι καλοκαίρι.
          ’Ποὺ πάνω ᾽που τὸ σπίτι σας ἔχει μιὰν περιστέρα,
          κι ἀνοίξετε τὴν πόρτα σας νὰ ποῦμε καλησπέρα.

          March, my good March,
          and wondrous April,
          those of us pupils
          who have learned
5        to buy seven,
          to sell seventeen.
          Raki in our glass
          and figs in our handkerchief!
          Give us our hen,
10      lest our schoolmaster should beat us,
          and [sc. as a result] you should bear our guilt
          and our sin.
          We send a swallow,
          it goes yonder and comes back,
15      and brings us the news
          that it's summer.
          Above your house there's a dove,
          so open your door so that we might bid you good evening!
The commonest and best-documented of all bird songs, the khelidonisma, may be described superficially as a song of welcome addressed to the swallow and the spring itself. It is known, with few exceptions, to most parts of northern and north central Greece and the southern Aegean and is customarily sung on or around March 1, when the swallow is conventionally thought to arrive, by schoolboys sporting a representation of a swallow on a pole or in a basket. The boys go from house to house in their village and after performing the song collect eggs and sometimes money and other items. Athenaeus (c. A. D. 200), citing a Rhodian historian, attests that a similar ἀγερμός (agermos), or quête-song, was particular to Rhodes. The ascription of this 'swallow song' to Cleobulos of Lindos is almost certainly erroneous, mainly for two reasons: (i) Sappho fr. 135 (LP) τί με Πανδίονις, Ὤιρανα, χελίδω…; ('Irana [= proper feminine name], why does the swallow, the daughter of Pandion, [transitive verb] me …?') may be based on a popular song celebrating the arrival of the swallow; [10] and (ii) Aristophanes Knights 419 «σκέψασθε, παῖδες· οὐχ ὁρᾶθ ’ ; ὥρα νέα, χελιδών» ( Look, lads, don't you see? The new season a swallow!') sounds suspiciously close to the opening two lines of the ancient song, as does the choral welcome to the nightingale at Birds 680-681 ἦλθες, ἦλθες, ὤφθης, / ἡδὺν φθόγγον ἐμοὶ φέρουσ 11 ('you have come, you have come, you've been spotted,/bringing your sweet voice to me'). [11] Here is Athenaeus’ song:
          ἦλθ’ ἦλθε χελιδὼν
          καλὰς ὥρας ἄγουσα,
          καλοὺς ἐνιαυτούς,
          ἐπὶ γαστέρα λευκά,
5        ἐπὶ νῶτα μέλαινα.
          παλάθαν σὺ προκύκλει
          ἐκ πίονος οἴκου
          οἴνου τε δέπαστρον
          τυροῦ τε κάνυστρον
10      καὶ πύρνα χελιδὼν
          καὶ λεκιθίταν
          οὐκ ἀπωθεῖται· πότερ’ ἀπίωμες ἡ λαβώμεθα;
          εἰ μέν τι δώσεις· εἰ δὲ μή, οὐκ ἐάσομες·
          ἤ τὰν θύραν φέρωμες ἤ τὸ ὑπέρθυρον
15      ἤ τὰν γυναῖκα τὰν ἔσω καθημέναν·
          μικρὰ μέν ἐστι, ῥαιδίως νιν οἴσομες.
          ἄν δὴ +φέρηις τι, μέγα δή τι +φέροις·
          ἄνοιγ ἄνοιγε τὰν θύραν χελιδόνι·
          οὐ γὰρ γέροντές ἐσμεν, ἀλλὰ παιδία.
Athenaeus 8.360Β = carmen populare 848 (PMG) [12]
          The swallow has come, the swallow has come,
          bringing fair seasons,
          fair years,
          white on its [hungry] belly,
5        black on its back.
          You, roll out the round cake
          from the grand house
          and a little goblet of wine
          and a basket of cheese, too;
10      both wheat loaves
          and pulse bread the swallow
          does not reject [i.e., welcomes]; well, shall we depart or take them ourselves?
          If you give us something… ; if not, we shan't leave you alone:
          we shall carry away either your door or its lintel
15      or the lady sitting within;
          she's quite petite, so that we'll easily carry her away.
          If you do offer something, may you offer something big;
          open, open the door for the swallow,
          for we're not old men but little children!
The phrasing and content of the swallow song which Athenaeus quotes may put us in mind of certain demotic specimens. [13] We may consider the following, largely with respect to content: (i) the incipit of Athenaeus' song, ἦλθ ’ ἦλθε χελιδών ('the swallow has come, the swallow has come'), and song 1, w. 1-2: the incipit of the ancient song apparently survived metrical changes by being acceptable to both sets of rules; (ii) καλὰς ὥρας ἄγουσα, /καλοὺς ἐνιαυτούς ('bringing fair seasons,/fair years') (vv. 2-3 of Athenaeus' song) are formally and semantically close to Μάρτη μου καλέ ('my good March') (song 1, v. 5; cf. song 2, v. 7, song 3, v. 1); (iii) both types of song, ancient and modem, feature a blunt request in the imperative: cf. w. 6-13 and 18 of the ancient song (the litotes at vv. 10-13 and the optative at v. 17 are perhaps arch concessions to courtesy), and song 1, vv. 20-25, song 2, vv. 13-18, and song 3, vv. 7-9 (7-8 are formally comparable to vv. 8-9 of the ancient song); [14] (iv) the flippant threat of vv. 12-16 of the ancient song has a counterpart in certain Rhodian versions discussed by Herzfeld 1974. passim.
The precise ritual and symbolic context of Athenaeus' swallow song is obscure. Processions of disguised individuals who collected gifts were well known in Greek society, though perhaps they remained marginal, being limited to the setting of certain religious festivals and other observances. [15] In most cases the itinerant performers sang a song. Closely analogous to the swallow song was the song which children performed at the Thargelia and Pyanopsia while carrying the εἰρεσιώνη, an olive branch wreathed in woollen fillets:
Εἰρεσιώνη σῦκα φέρει καὶ πίονας ἄρτους
καὶ μέλι ἐν κοτύληι καὶ ἔλαιον ἀναφήσασθαι
καὶ κύλικ’ εὐζώροιο, ὅπως μεθύουσα καθεύδηι.
carmen populare 2 (Diehl ii) [16]
The eiresionê brings figs and fat bread,
honey in a pot, and oil to rub down,
and a cup of neat wine so that you [feminine] might go to bed drunk.
A fuller version of an eireisionê-song is also preserved: it was a Samian boys' song, remarkable for its tactful tone and its extravagant wishes for the prosperity of the householders whom the boys were importuning. The song's link to the Ionic-Athenian Thargelia in particular should not escape notice. The context for the εἰρεσιώνη (eiresionê) here would have been the offering of the θαλύσιος ἄρτος· ('harvest loaf') shortly after the cereal harvest. [17]
As for the swallow song, it seems quite likely that it served the two-fold function of ushering in the spring and memorializing its pertinent chores and activities: the χελιδών ('swallow') had at the very least distinct associations with spring. [18] In this sense the treatment of the swallow in Athenaeus' song may be parallel to that of the crane, the cuckoo, and the cicada in WD. At a profounder level, however, the swallow song probably aimed at facilitating the passage to a successful new farming season. A group of boys—by definition, an innately auspicious group [19] —uttering such favourable words as καλὰς ὥρας ἄγουσα, / καλοὺς ἐνιαυτούς ('bringing fair seasons,/ fair years'), were necessarily bound to confer felicity and fertility at a critical turning-point in the year; [20] and their anticipated recompense for doing so was food (including a share of the previous harvest) and, in keeping with their mockery of adult manners, [21] wine.
A parallel set of considerations may explain the series of δρώμενα (dromena, or 'actions and gestures') which make up the modern swallow song. [22] As Loukatos notes, the song not only announces the conceptual arrival of spring, it also fulfills a "magical-auspicious" function. March 1 was traditionally considered the beginning of the "new year" and summer alike. It is perhaps to be expected that this "liminal" period, astraddle the seasons of winter and summer, should be fraught with contradictions and some element of anxiety. It is neither winter nor summer; it can be sunny yet it often has more than a few cold spells; it augurs the rebirth of nature yet implicitly betokens the rejuvenation of snakes and vermin and other household parasites. These are dangerous days, especially the first or final three days of the month—even the first ten (or twelve) days—when female demons, the Δρίμες (Drimes), are believed to stalk throughout the world at night and affect human activities such as washing and wood-cutting. [23]
Like human harbingers of spring, schoolboys perform their begging-song, usually on March 1. They often carry a basket brimful of ivy leaves; a wooden swallow, bedecked with a necklace of tiny bells, lies on a bed of leaves. The children conventionally perform their song at a trochaic clip and sometimes with heavy doses of assonance and alliterative mimicry of the bird's chirruping (cf. song 1, vv. 17- 19). [24] Each housewife normally rewards them—in practical terms, purchases their crucial benevolence—with an egg or two, and takes some leaves of ivy which she promptly places in her chicken coop; it is believed that the leaves will enhance her hens' productivity.
In their song the children naturally express a series of wishes for well-being, but if refused their conventional reward they may convert these same wishes into mock-curses:
Ὄξω Μάρτης καὶ Λαμπρή,
μέσα ψύλλοι καὶ κοριοί. [25]

Out with March and Easter,
in with fleas and bed-bugs.
This rhyming "exorcism" correlates nicely with the very words intoned by some housewives at dawn on March 1. They scour the house and, tossing out a token of rubbish and dirt, they utter these lines:
’Όξω ψύλλοι καί κοργιοί,
μέσα Μάρτης καὶ χαρά
καὶ καλὴ νοικοκυρά. [26]

Out with fleas and bed-bugs,
in with March and joy
and good housewife.
Certain other details of the songs also make good sense if regarded in the light of the seasonal setting just outlined. The swallow's voyage across the sea—which may be the Black or (apotropaically) the White Sea in the songs—corresponds symbolically with the transition from winter to summer. This notional transition is reflected no doubt in the prominent verbs of motion (e.g., ἦλθεν, ἐπέρασεν, 'has come, has crossed [sc. the sea]'). Μάρτη μου καλὲ ('my good March') may well be another euphemism, comparable to vv. 2-3 of the ancient song, as has been remarked earlier.
The modem χελιδόνισμα (khelidonisma) and the Hesiodic references to bird harbingers exhibit a parallelism which is almost impressive: the demotic songs usually convey a brief locus amoenus, which is either the habitat of the swallow (cf. song 1, vv. 17-19) or its point of origin (ibid., vv. 15-16). In each song the swallow is used as a time marker (hence the conspicuous use of 'March, February, April,' and the remark in, e.g., song 3, vv. 15-16 καὶ φέρνει μας τὴν εἴδηςῃ /πὼς εἴναι καλοκαίρι, 'and brings us the news/that it's summer'). This time-consciousness in turn prompts a reminder of seasonal activities and concerns. The χελιδονίσματα also make an implicit call for renewed 'springtime' activity—i.e., house-cleaning and general merry-making. There is another (and surprising) similarity in the actions and poses of the modern Greek χελιδόνι (khelidoni) and the Hesiodic τέττιξ (tettix) in particular. In all three demotic songs the χελιδόνι (khelidoni), like the τέττιξ (tettix), is sweetly singing. And in both songs 1 and 2 the swallow, rather than fluttering, is sitting (ἔκατσε, κάθισε, 'sat'), much like Hesiod's cicada perched above a midsummer feast. Of the Hesiodic allusions to harbingers considered so far, the passage referring to the τέττιξ (tettix) (vv. 588-596) may perhaps be compared most plausibly to the modern swallow song. (As we shall later note, the cicada and the swallow are analogues of each other in modern Greek tradition.) It will be argued in the remainder of this chapter that Hesiod's allusion to the cicada may echo popular τέττιξ-songs like the swallow songs, for such songs exist in modem Greece.
The modern song of the cicada is bound up with the cereal harvest and its conclusion, and it may originally have accompanied the customary offering of a cake to the cicada in late June. [27] The "cake" (actually a slender loaf) was made from flour from the first stalks of the harvest; in time it came to be offered to beggars and, it seems, children. Here is an example of such a song from western Macedonia, reportedly sung by children:
4. Song of the cicada [28]
Παιδιά μου, κολυμπήσετε,
θερίσετ', ἁλωνίσετε,
κ’ ἐμὲ κουκκὶ ἀφήσετε,
κι ἄν εἶν’ καὶ δὲ μ’ ἀφήσετε,
τοῦ χρόνου νὰ μὴ ζήσετε
τζιτζὶ βιτζί, τζιτζὶ-βιτζί.

My children, go swim,
harvest, thresh,
and leave me a kernel,
and if you don't leave me anything,
may you not live next year.
Tzitzi-vitzi, tzitzi-vitzi.
Moreover, the song of the cicada (above) recorded by Kyriakides preserves the features common both to the khelidonisma and the WD's treatment of the crane, cuckoo, and the cicada. By means of the twin brush strokes of θερίσετ', ἁλωνίσετε ('harvest, thresh' [imperative]) the cicada sets up a generalized locus amoenus for himself: he unselfconsciously portrays himself as presiding over the wheat harvest and threshing. These imperatives are implicit time-markers as well; the cicada identifies himself as the harbinger of the θερισμός ('harvest') and ἁλωνισμός ('threshing') at summer. More specifically, on pain of exacting retribution (his curse), he demands a share of the harvest—a morsel (koukki), as he calls it. The morsel in question is to be connected with the cicada cake which is offered as a gift of thanksgiving for a good harvest.
This song includes traditional themes that we have already encountered in the seasonal songs. It is, at least prima facie, a song of welcome addressed (albeit by the cicada himself) to a seasonal creature, and calls ultimately for a given ritualized activity, namely, the offering of the first bread baked of the crop. The song, moreover, is performed during a transitional period, i.e., from late June to early July, deemed summer proper. For both these reasons the cicada song may even be comparable to the ancient εἰρεσιώνη-song and should in any case be assigned to a genre parallel to that of the widespread khelidonismata. As has been remarked, these latter are themselves similar in general outline and use of specific motifs to the Hesiodic passages dealing with the animal harbingers of particular seasons. Furthermore, besides being parallel to these integrated Hesiodic "songs," the demotic swallow songs are also the earliest attested "modern" link to the conventions of bird song implicit in Hesiod. In both the WD and the demotic material cited, the theme of welcoming a season and its associated activities through a certain creature is central. And the creature's habitat or element and characteristic activity figure both in the Hesiodic and demotic conventions.
Of course an exact correspondence between the demotic songs and the WD is not to be expected; even between two contemporary versions of a song, say the swallow song, we must postulate a course of oral transmission of unknown extent in time and space, entailing an unknown number of intermediary versions and carried across a series of local boundaries. The analogous function of the "songs" incorporated in the WD and the demotic songs discussed above is even so evident. Both traditions celebrate a recurring occasion by way of evoking a certain creature's habitat and mimicry in song. That is, their content is determined largely by a ritual and, at the same time, seasonal function. The khelidonismata bear, in particular, signs of long and accurate transmission, and this should be put down to long stability in the seasonal rituals which they accompany. The other songs, e.g., the song of the cicada, could well show a similar continuity, reflecting a similar conservatism and may ultimately be assigned to the same tradition as the khelidonismata.
As a distinct tradition, these demotic songs, unless one is prepared to dismiss their seasonal/"magical" function, provide a helpful frame of reference for discussing the relation of WD 582-588 to later tradition. If such popular songs have always existed in Greek tradition, and if it is true that they have preserved certain parallel features of the ancient seasonal songs, then we should expect other ancient versions to bear some trace of their oral history.
Specifically, we might consider the relation of the Works and Days to Alcaeus fr. 347a (LP):
          τέγγε πλεύμονας οἴνωι, τὸ γὰρ ἄστρον περιτέλλεται,
2        ἀ δ’ ὤρα χαλέπα, πάντα δὲ δίψαισ’ ὐπὰ καύματος,
          ἄχει δ’ ἐκ πετάλων ἄδεα τέττιξ …
          ἄνθει δὲ σκόλυμος, νῦν δέ γυναῖκες μιαρώταται.
          λέπτοι δ’ ἄνδρες, ἐπεὶ < >κεφάλαν καὶ γόνα Σείριος
6        ἄσδει

          Soak your lungs in wine, for the Star is on the rise
2        and the season is harsh, everything is athirst because of the heat,
          and from the leaves the cicada echoes sweetly…
          the golden thistle is aflower and now women are lustful [or polluted] in the extreme
          while men are weak, since the Dog Star dries out their
          head and knees.
It is especially significant to note how little divergence there is between the texts, despite what must be a long-standing difference in the poetic traditions which motivated these two versions. To understand these similarities in content, we need not confine ourselves to the conventional classification of original poem and subsequent imitation: [29] we should examine the general traditions surrounding the context of the harvest and threshing.


[ back ] 1. For a justification of the term “panhellenic" as a hermeneutic principle applied to Hesiodic poetics, see Nagy 1990b [1982]. 36-82, especially 37-38.
[ back ] 2. A commentary on this passage is provided in Appendix 1.
[ back ] 3. See on 582 λιγυρήν … ἀοιδήν. Appendix 1.
[ back ] 4. A commentary on this passage is provided in Appendix 4.
[ back ] 5. A commentary on this passage is provided in Appendix 5.
[ back ] 6. On seasonal “signposts,” see Nagy 1985. 64-68 and Nagy 1990b [1983], 213.
[ back ] 7. Passow 1860. 227-228.
[ back ] 8. Voyazles 1956. 190.
[ back ] 9. Recorded in 1972 in the village of Monolithos and published by Herzfeld 1974. 10.
[ back ] 10. Page 1955. 145 f. notes that the fr. was “probably a complaint that dawn has come too soon.” On this topos cf. Fordyce 1961. 258 on Catullus 62.35; also Meleager xxvii. 4136 f. (HE) (= A.P. 5. 172), w. note. Another possible echo of the swallow-song (cited by Thompson, p. 319) is carmen populare 1.11 (Diehl ii), to be quoted below.
[ back ] 11. Also noted by Kakrides 1974.135 ad loc.
[ back ] 12. A commentary on this passage is provided in Appendix 6.
[ back ] 13. A medieval version recorded in the twelfth century is discussed by, inter alios, Beaton 1980. 138.
[ back ] 14. As Herzfeld 1974. 5 remarks, both versions feature the name of an edible product and that of its container. Also cf. carmen populare 2 (Diehl ii), quoted below.
[ back ] 15. Burkert 1977 [1985]. 101-102.
[ back ] 16. Further testimonia in Burkert 1977 [1985]. 388 n. 26.
[ back ] 17. Cf. Burkert 1977 [1985], 83; Gow 1952. 132 on Theocritus 7.3.
[ back ] 18. Cf. Appendix 6, on carmen populare 848.2 (PMG).
[ back ] 19. Consider the symbolic use of the παῖς ἀμφιθαλής- in the ancient wedding and in cults generally: Redfield 1982. 193 with n. 13. Also compare the use of the ἄφθαρτος κοῦρος (‘uncorrupted youth’) as a medium in magic: Graf. 1991. 193 with n. 41.
[ back ] 20. Sec discussion below of the modem swallow song.
[ back ] 21. Cf. the punch line οὐ γὰρ γέροντές ἐσμεν, ἀλλὰ παιδία (ν. 19) (‘for we’re not old men but little children’).
[ back ] 22. The discussion which follows is based largely on the information and the insights gleaned from Loukatos 1988. especially 24-28 and the bibliography cited, ibid., 21 nn. 2-9.
[ back ] 23. On MG demons, consult Stewart 1990.
[ back ] 24. Compare, e.g., song 1, vv. 1-2, 3-4, etc., 15, etc. (terminal and internal rhyme), 19, etc. (alliteration). See Appendix 6, on carmen populare 848 (PMG). The khelidonisma often exemplifies the playful extension of sound which may characterize the song-language of “primitive” cultures: cf. Dover 1987. 1-15, especially 3,11-12. It may, however, be the case that words like βλίτρα (vlitra) and φίτρα (fitra cf. song 1, vv. 17 f.) are dialectal terms now incomprehensible to us.
[ back ] 25. Rhodes; recorded by Herzfeld 1974. 17.
[ back ] 26. Sparta, 1939; recorded by G. K. Spyridakis, 17, in Loukatos 1988. 27 n. 2.
[ back ] 27. See ch. 5.
[ back ] 28. Kyriakides 1965. 64.
[ back ] 29. For a recent defense of the communis opinio, see Kassel 1981. 11-20, especially 12-13. For the contrary argument that the compositions of Hesiod WD 582-593 and Alcaeus fr. 347a (LP) are independently drawing upon cognate traditions, consult Nagy 1990a. 462-463, especially n. 121 (with further bibliography). (“#915” in Nagy, op. cit. 463 n. 124 should read “p. 462.”)