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Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

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Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 6:50 pm

Seneca2008 in another thread wrote:I recently bought Finglass and would be interested in joining a discussion on Ajax. I think I used Jebb when I first read this play so it will be fun to compare notes.


I started reading again and got back to where I left last time, to the end of the parodos at 200. I didn't re-read the comments by Finglass though, except here and there. From there on, I'll be paying more attention to Finglass's notes while reading.

The structure of tragedy is still more or less a mystery to me. I'd be grateful if someone can guide me to something that would explain things to me, like what exactly are "parodos" and "episode", "strophe", "antistrophe" and "epode", how they relate to each other and what their meaning is, etc. I'd like something short and simple, something I might actually read and not just add to my reading list (a web link would be best!). Something that would help me understand what the h*ll Finglass is talking about e.g. on p. 189!
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Wed Jun 01, 2016 7:03 pm

The chorus marches in during the parodos, usually singing or chanting anapests.

An episode is an exchange of speeches or dialogue between or among the characters in iambic trimeter, occurring between choral songs.

A choral song usually consists of groupings of three "stanzas": a strophe, an antistrophe and an epode. The strophe and antistrophe "respond", i.e., the metrical schemes are identical (allowing in some cases for anceps syllables and substitution of two shorts for a long, in accordance with the metrical scheme). The epode is metrically different from the strophe and antistrophe. The three-stanza pattern of strophe, antistrophe and epode can be repeated as many times as the poet wants, but generally (there are probably exceptions somewhere) all of the strophes and antistrophes are in "responsion" with one another, and all of the epodes are also in responsion with one another, but not with the strophes and antistrophes. (This is an important point for the textual criticism of the choral songs of Greek drama.) The metrical patterns of choral odes are very complex.

Generally, the choral odes of drama don't have more than two or three cycles of strophe, antistrophe and epode, but Pindar's choral songs can go on endlessly.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 7:10 pm

Thanks. That's about how much I knew, but actual commentaries make it seem a lot more complicated. Somehow the exact manner in which the writer deploys these seems to be very meaningful, and I always get immediately lost when I try to read those discussions.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Wed Jun 01, 2016 7:14 pm

I think you may find that the discussions of specific metrical patterns can be very difficult to follow. The patterns of choral odes aren't repetitive like iambic trimeter or dactylic hexameter.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:05 pm

Hmm. Maybe I'll just skip those then.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby seneca2008 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:15 pm

As Hylander says in the parodos the chorus usually enters chanting anapaests. In the Ajax the chorus sing lyric after the anapaests and Finglass observes that this is paralleled only in Aeschylus. He doesnt much care for the idea of "marching" as both lacking any evidence and implying a restrictive use of anapaests to the entrance. I think more important are his observations on the strophe antistrophe where he says that the metre is "of the Pindaric type" but that one should not take this as evidence that Sophocles is evoking Pindar. The rest of page 189 looks quite technical.

I must start on the text but it will take me sometime to reach where you are as I want to read the commentary and haven't actually got through the introduction yet.

I agree with Hylander that discussions of metre in lyric can be hard to follow especially if you dont know your glyconics from your iambics.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:31 pm

seneca2008 wrote:haven't actually got through the introduction yet.


I actually don't remember whether I read the introduction or not! Probably I read part of it. I decided for now to read the play first (or a large part of it at least) and only then come back to read the introduction, which assumes you already know what the play is about. I should actually do this more often – how often I feel I can't start reading a book before reading the introduction and force myself to read the intro without really understanding what it's talking about.

My experience is that French books are especially talented in making introductions that do very little in the way of introducing into anything... (This isn't meant to be a criticism of Finglass, which is clearly intended for a quite advanced audience.)

EDIT: If someone noticed, I first actually accidentally clicked "edit" instead of "quote" on Seneca's post, which with my moderator privileges made me destroy it. Luckily I was able to recover it. I've done this twice now... Hmm. Sorry.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:44 pm

You should be able to read trimeters metrically, either aloud or in your head. Try reading the choral songs metrically, giving effect to heavy and light syllables, even if you can't always recognize the patterns offhand.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:50 pm

I think I usually recognize iambic trimeter and anapests, but the more complicated rhythms are over my head. I could pay more attention to the rhythm though.

I'd also like to know more about the structural units of the play, how that relates to performance etc.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby seneca2008 » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:52 pm

If someone noticed, I first actually accidentally clicked "edit" instead of "quote" on Seneca's post, which with my moderator privileges made me destroy it.


I am sure it would be no loss.

Following Hylander's advice on reading is a surer way to understand the rhythm rather than staring at the metrical patterns.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:57 pm

seneca2008 wrote:Following Hylander's advice on reading is a surer way to understand the rhythm rather than staring at the metrical patterns.

Certainly, but Finglass won't have it! :)
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Thu Jun 02, 2016 12:14 pm

I would suggest a little of both--reading aloud or silently trying to give effect to heavy/long and light/short syllables, and also looking at the metrical schemas provided by Finglass. Bear in mind that the analyses into various components symbolized by inscrutable little abbreviations, as opposed to the schemas showing the heavies and the lights, are a matter of judgment, and you may find different analyses in different commentaries. Even the division of stanzas into lines is sometimes controversial.

Two of the most common types of choral meters are Aeolic and "dactylo-epitritritic" (a term, like most of the metrical terminology, invented in the 19th century).

Aeolic patterns are at least somewhat familiar from Sappho and Alcaeus. These patterns are generally built around a nucleus of one or more choriambs: _ υ υ _ .

Dactylo-epitritic patterns are built largely from

(1) hemiepes: _ υ υ _ υ υ _ , familiar from elegy, a kind of expanded choriamb, which can be further expanded;

(2) cretics: _ υ _ , which can be expanded to _ υ _ υ _ υ _ ,

usually or at least often with an anceps syllable υ separating the hemiepes and cretic elements.

There is also a pattern known as the dochmiac, υ _ _ υ _ , with a possible resolution of each of the heavies/longs into two shorts, so that you can have a segment consisting of υ υ υ υ υ υ υ υ. As I recall, this occurs in Philoctetes. There are other patterns that don't fall into the aeolic or dactylo-epitritic categories, too, but the dochmiac is noteworthy because of its mnemonic, "the WISE KANGaROOS".
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Thu Jun 02, 2016 12:20 pm

If you try to read giving effect to heavies and lights, eventually the Aeolic and dactylo-epitritic patterns will emerge and even, maybe, come to seem somewhat familiar.

I've been trying to learn a little about meter in reading tragedy and Pindar. I invite mwh, who's an expert on meter (as on so many other subjects), to set me straight where I've gone astray.

There are two very useful books: West's Greek Metre, and A.M. Dale's The Lyric Metres of Greek Drama.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 2:15 pm

Would it be helpful if I posted on another thread lines from 1-200 which I had some trouble with and which havent been dealt with here? Or is that too confusing?
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Jun 02, 2016 4:36 pm

Thanks, Hylander. It helps to try to figure these meters out in their constituent parts. West's book has been on my reading list and my bookshelf for some time already... How about Dale's book – is it more or less advanced than West's? Is it long?

But what about their meaning? I'm not so much interested in analyzing the meters into detail as I'm interested about their codified meanings – each meter is used in specific contexts, they mean something. Or so I presume. What did ancient Athenians think (or feel) when they heard a dactylo-epitrite rhythm?

This doesn't mean I don't think it's a good idea to be able to recognize what basic sort of meter one is dealing with in each case.

Seneca: I think it's a good idea to start a new thread for specific passages. This thread is already hypertrophic and hard to follow for anyone catching up later.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Thu Jun 02, 2016 4:59 pm

I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone has been able to explain convincingly why a particular metrical pattern would have been chosen over a different one (leaving aside meters such as hexameter, elegy, and trimeter with genre-specific functions). The choice was more like the choice a composer of classical music might make in choosing rhythms for a composition, which would be inextricably linked with melodies.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:24 pm

To avoid hypertrophy, maybe start a new thread for each 200 lines, e.g., "Ajax 1-200."
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 5:42 pm

One of the great difficulties of imagining the performance of the choruses of Greek Tragedy is that they were sung and that the lyric sections may have been quite operatic. There would also have been dancing and elaborate costumes. In theatrical terms it would have been spectacular.

Attempts have been made at reconstruction. Musical Design in Sophoclean Theater by William C. Scott (1996) investigates the link between metrical patterns, music and meaning. He contends that music was a central feature which elucidated the meaning for the original audience.

The obstacles which have to be overcome are formidable. It looks as if there are cheap copies of Scott on amazon. There is also West's book on Ancient Greek music.

Less comprehensive there is some useful stuff in the Cambridge companion to Greek Tragedy which along with Simon Goldhill's "Reading Greek Tragedy" are excellent introductory texts.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby MarkAntony198337 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 6:52 pm

ἀπόλλυται
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby jeidsath » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:11 pm

Jebb's metrical analysis of Ajax is very complete, together with nice charts:

https://books.google.com/books?id=VXc0A ... &q&f=false

I found Maas' book on meter in a used bookstore the other month, and I think that he is my favorite discovery since Chandler.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:44 pm

Jebb's metrical analyses are out of date and need to be approached with caution. He was working under the theory, which was prevalent in the late 19th century, that Greek meters could be fitted to the Procrustean bed of the rhythmic regularities of 19th century European art music by stretching or lopping off a little bit of time here and there. I don't think anyone subscribes to those ideas today, especially after ethnomusicologists such as Bartok have shown the enormous rhythmic diversity prevalent in music cultures around the world.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby seneca2008 » Thu Jun 02, 2016 7:57 pm

West's "Greek Metre" started life as a revision and augmentation to Maas. He soon concluded that he thought about things in too different a way to make such a project feasible. I know some people find West daunting but it is thorough.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby jeidsath » Thu Jun 02, 2016 9:31 pm

I had heard the same about Maas from a review of West on JSTOR. But having now read both, I would say that West is very complete and good for looking things up. But he has highly technical terms coming in and out of the text without prior definition and without sufficient coverage in the glossary. I'm not sure that anyone would accuse the book of having a great deal of unity. I'm not even sure if it can be read straight through without autism. Maas's book is of almost the opposite character, with a fair amount of general good sense thrown in. For reference, though, I always go to West first.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby mwh » Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:35 am

Meter. Greek drama, comedy as well as tragedy, consists of spoken or recited parts, and sung parts, the “lyrics.” (The structural terms, “prologue,” “parodos,” “episode,” μέλη aka “lyrics,” etc., are Aristotle’s, in the Poetics.) Both modes are available to both chorus and characters, but when the “chorus” speaks in dialogue it was probably only the chorus leader who spoke, and only certain actors have singing roles. (Most if not all tragedies, including the Ajax, have only one actor who can sing. No doubt he was the highest paid.)

The difference between spoken and sung parts is reflected by the meters used. The normal meter for the spoken parts is the iambic trimeter, the closest to everyday speech, basically an alternation of light and heavy syllables but with a certain structural pattern effected by the caesura, word break within a metron. Trochaic tetrameter (properly troch.tet.catalectic) is also sometimes used, a longer line with the same basic rhythm. (Comedy uses a wider variety of meters too.) These are “stichic” meters, meaning that they proceed line by line, each line having the same basic structure. Each line is metrically self-contained, constituting a verse. This means that the final metrical slot is free to be occupied by a syllable that would be light if the meter ran continuously (in “synaphea”) on to the next line; but since it doesn’t, it scans as long. Stichic meters, spoken not sung, appear to have been without musical accompaniment.

An iambic “metron,” the repeated metrical unit, is basically x-u-, where
u = a metrical slot occupied by a light (aka short) syllable,
- = a metrical slot occupied by a heavy (aka long) syllable, and
x (“anceps”) = a metrical slot occupied by a syllable that does not have to be light but can be heavy instead (e.g. 2 πεῖράν τιν’ εχθρ-).
A trochaic metron is basically –u-x.
(A side-note on the anceps.The term was coined by Paul Maas and denotes a particular slot (metrical "element" or "position") in the metrical scheme. A syllable in an anceps slot is either light or heavy [short or long], not somewhere inbetween, despite what Maas himself thought. So it seems the rhythm is not entirely uniform from line to line.)

So the metrical scheme of the iambic trimeter (notated “ia trim” or “3 ia”) is basically x-u-x-u-x-u-, but with a major or minor word break after x-u-x (i.e. within the 3rd foot, but the metron, not the foot, is the unit of analysis), or failing that two syllables later, after x-u-x-u. So as a rule the line does not fall into two metrical halves but into two not-quite-halves, with the two near-halves kicking off from anceps and long respectively. These internal dynamics are important. In reading trimeters, always aim for the caesura.
Example: 1-3
ἀεὶ μέν ὦ παῖ | Λαρτίου δέδορκά σε
πεῖράν τιν’ ἐχθρῶν | ἁρπάσαι θηρώμενον·
καὶ νῦν ἐπὶ σκηναῖς σε | ναυτικαῖς ὁρῶ ...
Note enclitic σε in line 3, saving the line from breaking at the midway point and carrying it over to a 4th-foot caesura.
The break between ω παι and Λαρτιου in 1 is minimal, but enough to effect the structural caesura.

Various micro-level structural variations are permitted, e.g. “resolution,” where a double short (uu) substitutes for a long (-). (That’s why I keep saying “basically.”) But there are certain restrictions on these. In tragedy, unlike comedy, there aren’t terribly many of them, but they may throw you if you don’t know about them. (It’s a rather severe genre; Euripides loosens it up to some extent, and the New Comedy of Menander et al. follows the Euripidean trimeter, not the much freer form used in Old Comedy, Aristophanes etc.)
The first resolution I see is in verse 6,
ἴχνη τὰ κείνου νεοχάραχθ’ ὅπως ἴδῃς
where νεο- (uu) fills the long slot that starts the second part of the verse.
I see no other until 30
πηδῶντα πεδία σὺν νεορράντῳ ξίφει.
There’s often no special significance to resolutions, but a succession of light syllables (as here in 30, -τα πεδια) often gives an impression of rapidity, enhancing the image of Ajax “leaping the plains.”
The license provides poets with more flexibility than if the scheme had to be rigidly adhered to, but the tragedians, like earlier iambic poets but unlike the comic poets, don't much avail themselves of it. The later plays of Euripides have the most, in conformity with his relaxation of the austerity of the genre.

[The Greek iambic trimeter corresponds to the Latin iambic senarius, where the foot is the unit of analysis: the metron has become the foot. The misleadingly named trochaic “septenarius” of Latin is basically the same as the Greek trochaic tetrameter.]

The trochaic tetrameter (“tr tetr” or “4 tr cat” or the like) is –u-x repeated 3 times for a total of 4, except that the final metron is not –u-x but just –u-. (The verse is “catalectic,” stopping short). And unlike the iambic trimeter it breaks not within the metron but after the second metron (“diaeresis” as distinct from “caesura” in the traditional terminology.). So the scheme is
-u-x-u-x|-u-x-u-. Viewed structurally, it’s an iambic trimeter with –u- in front of it. The two meters share the same patterns of internal articulation, so “iambo-trochaic” forms a single class of stichic meters.
—Now that I look, I don’t actually see any use of troch.tet. in the Ajax. So never mind. But in tragedies where it does occur it seems to convey a sense of quickened pace (hence “trochaic”, “running,” not that anybody actually runs to it) or slightly greater urgency or excitement. The default spoken meter is the iambic trimeter, and that’s the only(?) spoken meter used in the Ajax.

Both the iambic trimeter and the trochaic tetrameter have a fairly long antecedent history in the Ionic-Attic tradition. The sung parts, on the other hand, introduce choral lyric into Attic. Tragedy, and comedy in turn, are Attic genres, but are a melting-pot of originally discrete metrical traditions.

It’s not really known how closely the style of delivery approximated ordinary everyday speech, but I imagine that (at least in tragedy) it was to some extent stylized, especially in the earlier period (Aeschylus more than Euripides), to match the elevation of the language; certainly the articulation must have been clear. But it’s already “marked” speech simply by virtue of its being metrically regulated.

Iambic trimeter can cover a fairly wide range of affect, both in solo-speech and especially in dialogue, but if the emotional level gets too high there’s a shift to lyric. The meter of greatest emotional intensity is the dochmiac, resorted to at a tragedy’s emotive climax. A character who starts in iambics may get so worked up that (s)he has to shift gear, or you might have one character sticking to the restraint of iambics while the other is so impassioned (s)he can only break out into dochmiacs; so as a tragedy heats up you can get sung and spoken within a single scene.

— I was really meaning to discuss the lyric meters in this post, but that will have to be another post. This one’s already somehow become preposterously long. Some of it may be too cryptic, even so. The main point to note is that tragedy is very sensitive to form, and to the affective proprieties of the various meters. And if we don’t read metrically, we’re missing a helluva lot.

Lyrics in a follow-up post, then.

P.S. Avoid Jebb’s metrical analyses. They’re not to be approached “with caution,” they’re not to be approached at all. West is what we should all be using, in preference to Maas, whom West totally supersedes. I don’t agree with jeidsath’s criticism. There’s a shorter version of his Greek Metre called (I think) An Introduction to Greek Metre. I haven’t used it but it may be better for, well, introductory purposes.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby anphph » Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:39 am

A typo here, mwh:

u = a metrical slot occupied by a heavy (aka long) syllable,
- = a metrical slot occupied by a heavy (aka long) syllable,

feel free to delete this after it's been corrected.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby mwh » Fri Jun 03, 2016 5:50 am

Thanks anphph. I've corrected it. But I don't have the authority to delete posts!
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:34 am

Thanks, mwh. This is very informative. I'm looking forward to your post on lyric. Maybe this and the post on lyric should be put in a separate thread and pinned to the top.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:46 pm

Thanks a lot! I've read what mwh wrote as well as what has been written by others attentively. I'm waiting for the sequel on lyrics with impatience.

If haven't been too active on this thread, it's because I have very limited time and I've been plodding along with Ajax instead of displaying my ignorance here. Next I'm going to go back to the text and see what I can make out of the meter.

By the way, are anapests counted as a lyric meter?
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby mwh » Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:53 pm

By the way, are anapests counted as a lyric meter?

Yes and no. There are two types: one chanted or recited (“marching anapests”), the other sung (“melic” or “lyric”).

The chorus enter in marching anapests (134-171), as is fairly conventional (though not for Sophocles?). They may not have actually marched, but they are military men, and more important the meter has a marching rhythm, in 2/2 time.

An anapestic metron is
uu—uu—
(you never get single feet),
and anapestic “systems” go
uu—uu—|uu—uu—|… (| = word-end)
but for the two shorts of any foot a long may be substituted (cf. spondaic substitution in the dactylic hexameter)
and occasionally in the first half of a metron the elements are inverted (—uu instead of uu—; but this will not be followed by a regular anapest, uu—, which would result in four successive shorts).

Τελαμωνιε παι | της αμφιρυτου | Σαλαμῖνος εχων | βαθρον αγχιαλου | …
The only substitution here is at the beginning of the second metron, της αμφιρυτου (τῆς instead of uu). Otherwise we have pure anapests. Occasionally you get a wholly spondaic metron or even two successive metra (152 του λεξαντος | χαιρει μαλλον), but the shorts predominate, and even when you have a lengthy string of heavy syllables (I count 11 in 151-3), what keeps the rhythm crystal-clear is the astonishing fact that:

Word-end separates the metra! So the meter has great clarity, consisting as it does of successive |uu—uu—| chunks (with or without spondaic substitutions). The effect is often intensified by corresponding syntax (Τελαμωνιε-παι, της-αμφιρυτου).

Given such articulation, anapests are easy to read.

It's by editorial convention that the meter is laid out as dimeters (two metra to a line). Some maintain this corresponds to some reality, but in actuality the metra just run on continuously (in “synaphaea”), one after the other, until such time as the set is brought to a close.

The close is marked by allowing the penultimate metron to run on into the final one instead of being separated from it by word-end, and then, definitively, by having the final metron appearing to stop short of its full length (“catalexis”).
E.g. 137-140 is a string of anapests terminated by (140) | πτηνης ως ομμα πελειας,
where ομμα bridges the otherwise invariable word-break between metra, and the final metron takes the form –μα πελειας, uu—— instead of uu—uu—.
This closing catalectic dimeter (uu—uu—uu——) is known as a “paroemiac” (a term of somewhat variable signification, however, as if often the way with technical terms).
Presumably the time was made up to regular length either by prolonging one of the two last syllables or (less likely in my view) by empty time; it’s commonly referred to as “pause” (so Maas).

137-40 constitute a “period,” as do 134-136, 141-147, etc. (In the OCT 145 appears as a isolated metron, but that’s only because the period has an odd number of metra, 13 in total—confirmation that layout of anapests as dimeters is artificial. I don’t know why 145 in particular is singled out; the colometrization will be traditional, quite possibly ancient.)
Period end can be indicated by a double bar-line, ||.
It usually coincides with a major syntactical break, sentence-end or the like. So here, strong punctuation in all instances. In anapests meter and syntax tend to go in step.

134-171 is an anapestic “system” consisting of (unless I’m miscounting) six periods.

We can assume that these “marching” anapests were chanted, in unison, in a style of delivery more uniform than the iambic trimeter. More than likely they were accompanied, probably by a wind instrument (an aulos) rather than string or percussion.

After the anapests the chorus break into song, which turns out to be in the elaborate “triadic” form inherited from Stesichorus and succeeding lyric poets: strophe, antistrophe, and epode. More on this later. For now, note that the antistrophe replicates the entire metrical structure of the strophe! The words are different but the metrical pattern is identical.

When Tecmessa enters after this choral ode at 201 she too speaks in anapests, not in iambic trimeters as might have been expected. This initiates dialogue with the chorus, so it makes sense that she picks up the meter they had been using: it establishes a kind of bond between them. And for her to use not iambics but the more unusual anapests is well suited to conveying her agitated state of mind. She thumbnails the situation in a single sweeping period of 13 metra (201-7). There’s a relentess metronomic unstoppability about anapests, and anapestic dialogue is inherently animated. The dialogue will not settle down into iambics till 263, in the lead-in to Tecmessa’s quasi-messenger speech at 284ff.

So here (201-220) we have this exchange in anapests between Tecmessa and the chorus (perhaps the chorus is now represented by the chorus-leader, the coryphaeus, as in regular iambic dialogue). But on hearing of Ajax’ lamentable condition the chorus react with lyrics (221-232), shifting into the higher register of song. Tecmessa continues in anapests (234-244, a whopping 23 metra to period end); the chorus repeat the metrical structure of their song (so it’s a strophic pair, strophe and antistrophe, Tecmessa intervening), reminding us how formal a genre tragedy is even or especially when at its most impassioned. Then Tecmessa again, announcing Ajax’s return to sanity and fresh agony (257-62). To which the chorus respond with characteristically misguided relief (263f.), and shift the dialogue into regular iambic trimeter.

A point to note is that in this final bunch of anapests from Tecmessa (257-62), the OCT prints στεροπᾶς (257), with “doric” alpha, not the ionic-attic στεροπῆς. That carries a significant implication: it implies that Tecmessa has switched mode from recited anapests to lyric ones. Lyric (more properly “melic”) anapests have a looser form than recited ones, and the metra often lack the individual integrity so characteristic of the recited type. But when it comes to “doric alpha,” manuscripts habitually vacillate, and it's sometimes difficult to decide whether a given set of anapests was recited or sung, or indeed how firm the dividing line between them really was. Here (as in other places in Tecmessa’s anapests) the manuscripts give alpha, but I think Lloyd-Jones is wrong to retain it. 257-62 show no other signs of being “lyric” rather than “recited” (all the metra are discrete, and the whole passage reads as regular recited anapests) and it would seem to me very strange for Tecmessa to shift into song at this juncture. But I don’t know what if anything Lloyd-Jones says in defence of it, and the points to register are how uncertain so much is, and how much can hang from a tiny detail.

—So now I’ve spent all this time writing about anapests instead of writing about lyric meters as promised. So again that will have to deferred. I have quite a lot on my plate at the moment, but I’ll do what I can when I can. But don't expect too much.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Hylander » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:22 am

I hope you'll continue this discussion. I've found this very, very helpful, invaluable. Thank you for taking the trouble and sharing your knowledge with us.

Bill
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby anphph » Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:31 am

I second Bill's praise and thanks, as well as his previous suggestion that the posts be copied onto a new pinned thread.
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:24 am

I now consider myself an expert on anapests! :)

I split the topic into two so we can pin this one, as suggested.

One little thing, mwh: in your last post, the symbol you use for short syllables doesn't show at all on my iPhone. Perhaps we should simply use "u"?
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby Timothée » Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:15 am

Now that is strange. Chrome won't show those marks of syllabae breves, but my Nokia phone will. For over ten years I have been searching for the symbol of short syllable on computers and word processors—to be used for metrical patterns—to no avail. The capital letter U is much uglier than this symbol, but unfortunately most often one has to resort to U.
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:22 pm

I took the liberty of changing the marks to "u" in mwh's excellent post, which is ugly but at least displays on all systems. If someone has a more elegant suggestion, please tell!

I would sticky this topic but I don't know how.
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:30 pm

mwh wrote:Lyric (more properly “melic”) anapests have a looser form than recited ones, and the metra often lack the individual integrity so characteristic of the recited type.

Sorry, this is a bit unclear to me. Can you explain?
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby mwh » Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:12 pm

Sorry about the problem with the metrical symbols display on iPhone, and thanks for making the “u” replacement Paul. In my earlier post I just used u (the letter, lower-case) and – (hyphen) and x (the letter) on the English keyboard for short, long, and anceps, but since that made u look bigger than – I thought for the anapest post I should use the proper metrical symbols. I use Greekkeys, now deprecated I know, but I stick with what I have on my old computer, all of it out of date though it is, partly out of laziness and partly out of technical ignorance which I don’t care to remedy. If one day I disappear it may be because my computer has finally died on me.

From now on, unless anyone has a better idea, I’ll go back to doing what I did in the earlier post, which saves me the trouble of switching to another font or platform. (I can toggle easily to and from Greek, and that seems to display ok on textkit, including diacritics, which however I usually don’t bother with because it slows me down.) But instead of plain hyphen I’ll try using shift-option hyphen, to make the long look longer than the short. The trouble with that is that successive longs almost merge (——).
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Re: Let's Read: AJAX

Postby mwh » Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:56 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
mwh wrote:Lyric (more properly “melic”) anapests have a looser form than recited ones, and the metra often lack the individual integrity so characteristic of the recited type.

Sorry, this is a bit unclear to me. Can you explain?

Sorry to be so opaque. I was referring to the fact that in recited anaps each metron is discrete, separated from its neighbors by word division (except in the clausula), so each metron is a metrically-lexically independent entity. You could shuffle the metra around and you’d still have anapests. (Try της αμφιρυτου | βαθρον αγχιαλου | Σαλαμινος εχων | Τελαμωνιε παι ?!) No other meter works like that except dochmiacs, another story. That makes anapestic verse quite different from dactylic, even though both meters are based on double-short/long alternation. In melic anapests that kind of metron integrity doesn’t apply, or much less stringently.

I know you're not asking about the lyric/melic distinction, but let me just clarify that “lyric” is misleading inasmuch as not all “lyric” verse was accompanied by the lyre, while much that we don’t call lyric was (e.g. Homer originally, probably). Our terminology comes from the Alexandrian scholars who organized the inherited literary corpus and classified some poets as λυρικοί, our “lyric poets” (exclusive of e.g. elegiac, and exclusive of drama: dramatists were tragic or comic or satyric poets.) They were more interested in questions of genre and text than of performance (so extratextual aspects of performance such as music are impossible to recover, though see West’s Anc.Gk.Music); it was all just text and books to them, just as in consequence it is to us. Pfeiffer’s History of Classical Scholarship is good on them. Those interested in music tended to be theorists. The great name here for me is Aristoxenus.
“Melic” is a better term, more accurately reflective of performance. μέλος of course is much more than simply song.
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby mwh » Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:12 pm

Choral odes. At particular junctures throughout a play the chorus take over and sing, and all other action is suspended. What they sing has bearing on the action of the play under way but tends to be somewhat distanced from it. They’re not dispassionate observers, but rarely do they participate in the action or affect it in any way. It’s the audience they affect, by their reactions to the action (and “words are actions”, J.L.Austin—but that’s enough of that) and by their operating on a different plane from the characters in the “episodes” (Aristotle’s term) that surround them. In the Ajax the chorus are men loyal to their lord Ajax (they sailed to Troy with him from Salamis), and they largely react to what’s going on with him.

The choral odes are not mere interludes. They make a huge difference to the play.

Structure of odes. Many are “triadic”: they consist of stophe, antistrophe, and epode, as defined already by Hylander. The first example in the Ajax—in fact I think the only one?—is 172-200, following their entrance anapests.
The strophe has an elaborate metrical structure of the poet’s own devising.
The antistrophe repeats this entire structure!! The words are different but the metrical pattern is identical.
The epode completes the set. Its meter is different but usually related to that of the strophe/antistrophe.

Many odes don’t have an epode, but consist only of the strophic pair (i.e. strophe and antistrophe). So e.g. Aj.220-232 (strophe) and 245-256 (antistrophe), in this case interrupted by anapests from Tecmessa. Sometimes an ode will consist of two (or more) strophic pairs, e.g. 596-645, str.1 ant.1, str.2 ant.2. Similarly 1185-1222.
Editors usually flag these structures with a marginal στρ. and ἀντ. or the like (plus ἐπ. for the epode, ἐπ-ῳδή.)

These relatively large-scale metrical repetitions are a standing feature of choral odes. Presumably the repetition implies corresponding movement by the chorus members, and perhaps corresponding musical accompaniment. Unfortunately the choreographing is can only be gussed at (though vase painting help at bit). Same with the music, except insofar as it will have respected the metrical patterning of shorts and longs. In ancient metrics shorts and longs have a 1:2 time ratio: a short takes up one χρόνος (Lat. mora) and a long two. A complication is the phenomenon known as “syncopation,” apparent suppression of a short or an anceps, which may have been actualized as a prolongation of one of the adjacent longs to three χρονοι (so West, but controversial) but I won’t go into that here. The melody too is beyond reach. But it’s notable that the accentual pattern of the words of the strophe, unlike the metrical pattern, is not repeated in the antistrophe. Apparently (there’s some evidence for this) the tonal contours of the antistrophe were distorted, i.e. the meter counted for more than the pitch accents.

Triadic structure (str. ant. ep.) was inherited from lyric poets in the Dorian tradition: Stesichorus composed very long poems in a succession of repeated triads (the str.ant.ep. unit—itself consisting of dozens of lines—metrically repeated ad infinitum, an astonishingly complex structure), each triad within a poem metrically replicating the first, but each poem with a metrical structure of its own. Pindar and Bacchylides followed in Stesichorus’ footsteps (but their poems were shorter and more complex), and some of their odes (epinicians, dithyrambs, and others) were performed at Athens.

This inheritance is reflected not only in the highflown vocabulary and style of choral odes and of all song in tragedy, but also in their dialectal features. The most noticable is the retention of “doric” long alpha where Ionic-Attic has eta. In tragedy it’s only a superficial veneer, but can throw you if you’re not prepared for it. Examples: 172 Ταυροπόλα, μεγάλα, μᾶτηρ, etc. etc.

That’s more than enough for one post! But there’s much I haven’t touched on.
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby jeidsath » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:05 pm

A complication is the phenomenon known as “syncopation,” apparent suppression of a short or an anceps, which may have been actualized as a prolongation of one of the adjacent longs to three χρονοι (so West, but controversial) but I won’t go into that here


I thought that the Seiklos epitaph was a clear example of this, described in West and elsewhere. Is it controversial that syncopation happened, or controversial that it happened in the choral odes?

The dactylo-epitritic sections in Maas versus West were primarily what I was thinking of when I wrote the above comparing the two authors. Since we're on to 172-200 now, I'll post some excerpts late tonight or tomorrow if no one objects.

*****

My personal belief is that the 19th century wasn't too far wrong on this. Syncopation to even beats would have made it possible for musicians of non-godlike ability to play accompaniment. But I am a believer in that great pre-historic Procrustean bed of rhythm regularities. Note last year's PNAS article, Statistical universals reveal the structures and functions of human music. Japanese meter does exactly this, syncopating their quantitive meter to 8 beat lines, despite being entirely an entirely non-Western tradition.
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Re: Meter in Tragedy (Split from topic "Let's Read: AJAX")

Postby mwh » Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:56 pm

@jeidsath
The trouble with the Seikilos inscription, as with all the other musical documents (including the early Ptolemaic Orestes and IA scraps) is that they’re later, and musical/metrical practice did not stand still. Assuming as I do that syncopation does imply extra length, I believe it was always assigned to the preceding (long) syllable rather than to the following one, at least down to the end of 5th cent. This runs counter to the Seikilos inscription (and other equally late documents), but how else to account for the inhibition against resolution preceding?

As to syncopation in general in the 5th cent., the notion that the “missing” quantity was in fact supplied is conventional enough, but West himself rejects it for ionic and Kannicht has queried it even for iambo-trochaic.

I was avoiding cross-cultural comparisons, though undoubtedly they can be valuable if broad enough. I can’t control the Japanese that you constantly adduce.
Last edited by mwh on Fri Jun 10, 2016 4:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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