Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter

6. Formula and Meter: A Summary

The comparative evidence of the Indic expression śráva(s) ákṣitam shows that the formula κλέοc ἄφθιτον can be retrojected to a period so remote that it antedates the very existence of Glyconics, which I have argued to be a distinctly Hellenic development. It follows that we must seriously question any assumption that the Glyconic meter had somehow predetermined any formula such as κλέοc ἄφθιτον. The order of predetermination should be reversed. In a prehistoric period, archetypes of such expressions as κλέοc ἄφθιτον and κλέοc ἐcθλόν may have created the very precedent for the rhythms … ⏓ and … – ⏓ respectively.

Pursuing this hypothesis, I have examined in detail the interactions between Rig-Vedic meter and the Indic cognate of κλέοc, śrávas (Part II). I found that the positional and associative behavior of Rig-Vedic phraseology involving śrávas is highly regular even when the meter in {142|143} which it is embedded is irregular or flexible. Furthermore, the attested interchange of metrical segments from one related meter to another is matched by an interchange of traditional phraseology embedded in these segments. Although meter cannot be regular without regular traditional phraseology, traditional phraseology can be regular even without regular meter. This Rig-Vedic relationship between meter and phraseology supports my theory that traditional phraseology generated meter rather than vice versa.

Let me recapitulate the specifics. The Indic evidence, where traditional phraseology can be regular even without regular meter, supports my theory that traditional phraseology had generated meter rather than vice versa. I also apply the Greek evidence to this theory. In prehistoric stages of Greek Lyric, the reasoning goes, meter was simply the built-in rhythm of the formula. From a genetic standpoint, metrical regularity stemmed from formulaic regularity. In a prehistoric period, archetypes of such formulas as κλέοc ἄφθιτον and κλέοc ἐcθλόν had created a {145|146} precedent for the rhythms … ⏓ and … – ⏓ respectively. Much later, these rhythms became generalized for the closing of specific meters, namely the Glyconic and Pherecratic respectively. What had once been a phraseological truncation of one syllable, such as

κλέοc ἄφθιτον to κλέοc ἐcθλόν

could have become the formal prototype of metrical catalexis:

⏓ to … – ⏓

In other words, I am arguing that expressions like κλέοc ἄφθιτον and κλέοc ἐcθλόν had once set the rhythmical mold for the meters in which they survive. These meters, however, have become viable entities unto themselves. As a result, the Glyconic and Pherecratic rhythms become regulators of any incoming phraseology. In comparison with Indic dimeter, the rhythmical patterns of these Greek dimeters are far more rigid and consequently more dependent on traditional phraseology.

Besides catalexis, other metrical phenomena may likewise be traced back to phraseological behavior. For example, I have argued that the system of caesuras, diaereses, and bridges in Greek epic hexameter is a reflex of the junctures where formulas start and end. The argument can be extended to the Indic meters as well, where caesuras mark the beginning or end of traditional phrases. [10] The caesura is a {146|147} synchronic metrical constant generated by a diachronic phraseological trend. For yet another example of a metrical phenomenon which can be traced back to phraseological behavior, I have adduced evidence from Homeric diction to show that the process of internal expansion originally involved the insertion of words, not of metrical units which only then had to be filled in with words. An expression with the rhythm pher could give rise to an expanded expression with the rhythm pherd by way of inserting a word or phrase shaped – . Of course, by the time that internal expansion survives in Greek Lyric, it has the appearance of a purely metrical process. Formations like pher2d and pher3d may well have resulted simply from the reapplication of such a metrical process:

⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓                    →          ⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓                  (pherd)
⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓            →          ⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓          (pher2d)
⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓    →          ⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓  (pher3d)

The number of syllables in pher3d connotes traditional epic genre, [
11] and I have proposed that it was this meter which became the well-tempered instrument of Greek epic diction, the dactylic hexameter. The pher3d could readily accommodate a (^)pherd formula in the closing, preceded by more flexible phraseology in the {147|148} opening. The shorter opening and the longer closing could achieve the asymmetrical effect desired in the inherited tradition of epic composition. [12]

I cannot guess how it was that some early εὑρετήc might have hit upon the pher3d meter as a suitable vehicle for epic diction. Nor does it matter so much, perhaps. All we need remember is that the pher3d is a distinctly Hellenic development, even if its basic elements are Indo-European in both phraseology and meter. When the dactylic hexameter finally surfaces after what must have been a considerable period of evolution, we are fortunate to find it attested in the sublime art-form of the Iliad and Odyssey. In a sense, however, we would be more fortunate if we also had attestations of earlier and more primitive epic material. I suspect that the primitive epic verses were not much different in meter from the lyric verses which we recognize as pher3d. I also suspect that a poet like Alkaios had access to some local form of such a primitive tradition when he composed his verses in pher3d. In any case, we may infer from the facts of Homeric diction that an immense stretch of time had already elapsed in the evolution of the hexameter. Let me recall how thoroughly the formulaic system of attested Greek Epic is pervaded by what I consider to be the following two innovations: (1) replacement {148|149} of ⏓ ⏓ by – – in the first foot, with optional substitution of – ; (2) optional replacement of – by – – in feet 2, 3, 4, 5. All the same, archaic elements stubbornly persist alongside the new. They abide for any analyst to see, and

… κλέοc ἄφθιτον ἔcται.


[ back ] 1. Parry 1928a.

[ back ] 2. The pher shapes are in any case subordinate to the (^)pherd shapes.

[ back ] 3. See pp. 104-109.

[ back ] 4. Chapters 4-5.

[ back ] 5. Chapters 7-9.

[ back ] 6. See again the Introduction, pp. 1f, 18f.

[ back ] 7. See p. 285.

[ back ] 8. See Renou 1952:334 on the subject of the Rig-Vedic pāda ‘verse’: “D’une manière générale le pāda prévaut sur la phrase, en ce sens que l’ordre des mots s’établit en fonction du pāda: l’enjambement d’un pāda à l’autre, tout en étant possible et dans certaines conditions même fréquent, ne prévaut pas contre le fait que les relations syntaxiques sont à établir d’abord dans les limites du pāda.” See also p. 87: “Tout début de pāda (impair) compte pour début de phrase, sans que toute fin du pāda precedent vaille comme finale absolue.” Note that this elegant formulation accounts for the option of enjambment.

[ back ] 9. Cf. Householder and Nagy 1972:738-740 (= 1973:19f).

[ back ] 10. See Chapter 9.

[ back ] 11. See p. 49 above.

[ back ] 12. See pp. 99-101; also pp. 183-189.