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Appendix 6. Commentary on Athenaeus 8.360B = carmen populare 848 (PMG)
Cf. Campbell, pp. 446-448 ad loc. The song as preserved in Athenaeus exhibits an uncouth admixture of “highbrow” literary elements (cf. below) and traits that stem from popular, or oral, tradition, namely rhyme and assonance, repetition and anaphora (on which cf. Campbell, p. 447; on repetition, usually symmetrical, in ancient folksong, cf. Dover 1971. xlix f., lxii). In addition to Campbell consider:
1-3. cf. carmen populare 1.11 (Diehl ii) νεῦμαί τοι, νεῦμαι ἐνιαύσιος, ὥστε χελιδών.
2. ὥρας: poetic plural in the sense of singular (cf. v. 2 ἐνιαυτοὺς and v. 5 νῶτα); cf. Euripides Cyclops ἦρος ὥραις. The season intended here is of course spring (cf. immediately below); for the number of seasons see Calame, p. 374 on Aleman fr. 12.1. The swallow was the (proverbial) harbinger of spring: possibly Odyssey 21.411 (on which see Losada, op. cit.), WD 569, with West’s note (p. 301); for the proverb μία χελιδὼν ἔαρ οὐ ποιεῖ, cf. Cratinus fr. 35 (PCG iv [K.-A.]), with the editors’ note (p. 138).
4. ἐπὶ γαστέρα λευκά: the bird’s under-parts are creamy white. Aristotle History of animals 508a8 describes its belly (κοιλία, which is another mot juste) as long. The proper sense of γαστήρ is (human) ‘belly, as craving food’: LSJ, s.v. 2; perhaps γ here is a pointed reminder—which may have been reinforced by a gesture—of the boys’ imaginary hunger.
5. ἐπὶ νῶτα μέλαινα: actually the bird’s upper-parts are a dark metallic blue. Cf. Simonides fr. 597.3 (PMG) κυανέα χελιδοῖ.
8. δέσπαστρον: diminutive of the Homeric δέπας.
12. πότερ’ ἀπίωμες ἡ λαβώμεθα: deliberative subjunctive.
14. φέρωμες: the subjunctive in a purely future sense is a poetic (Homeric) feature, according to Campbell.
16. μικρά μέν: emphatic μέν with an adjective (Denniston, p. 361).
ῥαιδίως νιν οἴσομες: asyndeton with consecutive force: cf. Verdenius, p. 19 on WD 15.
17. The boys might have used the beggar’s imperative (cf. carmen populare 1.12 [Diehl ii] ἀλλὰ φέρ’ αἶψα, Aristophanes Peace 771 φέρε τῷ φαλακρῷ, Herodas 7.47 φέρ’ εἰ φέρεις τι, also a syntactical parallel), but now prefer the optative. The import of the request is: ‘if any thing, please offer us something big.’
18. cf. carmen populare 1.3 (Diehl ii) αὐταὶ ἀνακλίνεσθαι, θύραι.