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Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

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Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

Postby Cheiromancer » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:21 pm

I ran across the pdf version of Rouse's "Chanties in Greek and Latin" (I'm not sure if I can post the link, but it is easily found on the internet). The problem I'm having with it is that even when I can read or translate one of its songs, I'm not quite sure what it means. Here's an example:

εἷς δύο τρεῖς μέγαλοι κροκόδειλοι
ἐν ποταμῷ τρίβουσι χρόνον.
εἷς κροκόδειλος,
δύο κροκοδείλω,
τρεῖς κροκόδειλοι σύμφωνοι.

εἷς δύο τρεῖς μεγάλοι κιθαρισταί
ἐν ποταμῷ μελετῶσι τὸ νεῖν.
εἷς κιθαριστής,
δύο κιθαριστά,
τρεῖς κιθαρισταὶ σύμφωνοι.

εἷς κροκόδειλος δάκρυα λείβει,
δύο κροκοδείλω τἀυτὸν δή.
τρεῖς κροκοδείλοι
τρεῖς κιθαριστὰς
πάντας ὁμοῦ καταπίνουσιν.
(tune: Languedoc)

Now I take it that τρίβουσι χρόνον means "passing time", but I am not sure what σύμφωνοι is about. Are the crocodiles singing? The harpists I could see being in harmony, although why they wanted to swim in a river infested by crocodiles I don't know. (And what does μελετάω mean? When I look it up it seems to mean "to care for, to attend to" but here it seems to be the same as μέλλω - "to intend to".) Oh, and μεγάλοι - obviously the crocodiles are huge, but does μεγάλοι κιθαρισταί mean "great harpists"? I.e. can it refer to quality as well as physical size?

This is supposed to be an easy one, but for me there are several areas of puzzlement. I expect the others to be worse. I wish there were a translation so that I would know what the songs are supposed to say! (Likewise for Rouse's Greek Boy at Home).
Last edited by Cheiromancer on Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

Postby Scribo » Mon Mar 17, 2014 11:48 pm

"Now I take it that τρίβουσι χρόνον means "passing time", but I am not sure what σύμφωνοι is about."


Break it down etymologically, as in voices together. So the crocodiles will be..erm singing? whereas the kitharistai (not harpists!) let their kitharai do the singing for them. In a metaphorical sense. If you're willing to be gracious to the author you can assume he knew the technical/idiomatic sense of kitharizein to mean "accompany oneself on the kithara" and that he transposed that meaning to mean they're playing and singing.

You've got to be looser in your translating.

(And what does μελετάω mean? When I look it up it seems to mean "to care for, to attend to" but here it seems to be the same as μέλλω - "to intend to".)


I think here it basically means prepare/about/intend to. This seems to be the case elsewhere for the verb too, in Xen's memorabilia I believe.

"Oh, and μεγάλοι - obviously the crocodiles are huge, but does μεγάλοι κιθαρισταί mean "great harpists"? I.e. can it refer to quality as well as physical size?"


Yes, regnal coinage/titles etc seems to take it in terms of quality. See also Megas Alexandros a.k.a Alexander the great.
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Re: Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

Postby Cheiromancer » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:39 am

Thank you, Scribo! It has a catchy rhythm to it. When I sing it to myself the tune is reminiscent of the refrain of "Six White Boomers". I have no idea if that is what it is supposed to sound like, but I'm happy with it.
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Re: Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

Postby ailuros » Tue Mar 18, 2014 10:48 am

I, too, found them charming, but rather inscrutable.
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Re: Chanties in Greek and Latin - Rouse

Postby Cheiromancer » Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:27 pm

Another one!

βοῦς κατ' ἐμοῦ μάλα μυκᾶται... [τρίς]
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, μῦ μῦ.

πᾶν πρόβατον μάλα μηκᾶται...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, μῆ μῆ.

πᾶς δέ μ'ἰδὼν ὄνος ὀγκᾶται...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, ὄγκ ὄγκ.

ἵππος ἄπας χρεμετίζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, τερετίξ.

χοῖρος ἄπας δὲ κοΐζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, κοΐ κοΐ.

πᾶς βάτραχος δὲ κοάζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, κοάξ κοάξ.

νῆττα δ'ἄπασα κοάζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, κοάξ κοάξ.

πᾶς δὲ κύων γε βαΰζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, βαῦ βαῦ.

πᾶν βρέφος ἐξελελίζει μοι...
ὄταν ἐξέλθω, ἐλελεῦ.
(Tune: Green Grow the Leaves)

Which raises the question: τί λέγει ὁ ἀλώπηξ;

Also note that a duck νῆττα and a frog βάτραχος both make the same sound: κοάξ κοάξ. Is a βρέφος a baby? My dictionary says that it is "an unborn young" which I wouldn't think would make any noise.
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