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Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

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Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby huilen » Sat Sep 16, 2017 2:58 pm

Reading Propertius' 4.4 elegy, I've noted there occurs an internal rhyme after the caesura of the pentameter in a significative number of verses. It does not occur always, but take a look to this example:

ignes castrorum et Tatiae praetoria turmae
et formosa oculis arma Sabina meis,
o utinam ad uestros sedeam captiua Penatis,
dum captiua mei conspicer ora Tati!
Romani montes, et montibus addita Roma,
et ualeat probro Vesta pudenda meo:
ille equus, ille meos in castra reponet amores,
cui Tatius dextras collocat ipse iubas!


I wonder if it is common to classic authors. I know homoeteleuton and internal rhyme were common used devices, but here it seems to occur systematically, as in rhymed poetry, which I always thought it was not introduced in Latin verse till the Middle Ages.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby Hylander » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:03 pm

Yes, this is a very common feature of Roman elegy, especially prominent in Ovid and later poets. It seems to have arisen from the tendency to place a noun immediately before the caesura and an adjective agreeing with the noun at the end of the pentameter (or vice versa), in hyperbaton, where the endings of the adjective and the noun are identical (homeoteleuton), but the rhyming effect began to be pursued for its own sake.

I believe there is (or was) a theory that rhyme as a formal feature of later Latin (and hence, European) poetry can be traced to this phenomenon in Roman elegy.

The same adjective/noun patterning occurs in hexameters with penthemimeral caesuras, but the final spondee doesn't match the accentual pattern of the pre-caesura word.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby huilen » Sat Sep 16, 2017 4:22 pm

before the caesura and a adjective agreeing with the noun at the end of the pentameter (or vice versa), where the endings of the adjective and the noun are identical, but the rhyming effect began to be pursued for its own sake.


Didn't know about that, but it makes much sense! I would like to read more on the topic.

Thanks for your explanation, I found it very interesting.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby mwh » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:09 pm

The favored order (not so evident in the lines you quote from Prop.4.4, but cf. e.g. the first four couplets of the poem) is adjective-noun, setting the scene before resolving it later in the line or at line end. That’s quite regular in Latin verse. Rhyming is secondary to syntactical agreement.

This pattern in the pentameter of elegiacs was a mannerism of some Hellenistic poets. An extreme example is this poem by Hermesianax (early 3rd cent. BCE):

Οἵην μὲν φίλος υἱὸς ἀνήγαγεν Οἰάγροιο
Ἀργιόπην Θρῇσσαν στειλάμενος κιθάρην
Ἁιδόθεν· ἔπλευσεν δὲ κακὸν καὶ ἀπειθέα χῶρον,
ἔνθα Χάρων κοινὴν ἕλκεται εἰς ἄκατον
ψυχὰς οἰχομένων, λίμνῃ δ’ ἐπὶ μακρὸν ἀϋτεῖ (5)
ῥεῦμα διὲκ μεγάλων ῥυομένῃ δονάκων.
Ἀλλ’ ἔτλη παρὰ κῦμα μονόζωστος κιθαρίζων
Ὀρφεύς, παντοίους δ’ ἐξανέπεισε θεούς,
Κωκυτόν τ’ ἀθέμιστον ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι μειδήσαντα·
ἠδὲ καὶ αἰνοτάτου βλέμμ’ ὑπέμεινε κυνός, (10)
ἐν πυρὶ μὲν φωνὴν τεθοωμένου, ἐν πυρὶ δ’ ὄμμα
σκληρόν, τριστοίχοις δεῖμα φέρον κεφαλαῖς.
Ἔνθεν ἀοιδιάων μεγάλους ἀνέπεισεν ἄνακτας
Ἀργιόπην μαλακοῦ πνεῦμα λαβεῖν βιότου.

Here every single one of the pentameters has an adjective at the mid-line caesura and its noun at line end. They don’t necessarily have to rhyme, it’s more a matter of the syntactical patterning.

Augustan poets found the arrangement aesthetically appealing and emulated it, but less monotonously.

Ovid has a nice little catalogue of contemporary women’s hairstyles in elegiacs (Ars Amatoria 3.135ff.):
longa probat facies capitis discrimina puri:
sic erat ornatis Laodamia comis. …
alterius crines umero iactentur utroque: (hex.)
talis es assumpta, Phoebe canore, lyra. (pent.)
altera succinctae religetur more Dianae,
ut solet, attonitas cum petit illa feras.
huic decet inflatos laxe iacuisse capillos,
illa est astrictis impedienda comis.
As if to say I can go on like this ad infinitum.

The so-called “golden” form of the hexameter is comparable: adj.1 adj.2 verb noun1 noun2, e.g. Prop.4.1.15 nec sinuosa cavo pendebant vela theatro (followed by pent. pulpita sollemnis non oluere crocos). Catullus started the fashion (e.g. 64.59 irrita ventosae linquens promissa procellae, of Theseus deserting Ariadne on the shore of Naxos), and the Augustan poets embraced it, Virgil among them but taking care not to overdo it. “Golden” or not, the adjectives regularly precede the nouns, which complete the picture. (E.g. Ars Am. 3.395 spectentur tepido maculosae sanguine harenae, of the gladiatorial arena as a good place for women to find men.)

A good book is L.P. Wilkinson’s Golden Latin Artistry.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby Hylander » Sun Sep 17, 2017 12:26 pm

Another feature of Latin elegiacs is the tendency to end the pentameter with a two-syllable word. You can see this by comparing both the Latin elegiacs in this thread (Ovid and Propertius) with the Hermesianax poem quoted by mwh.

In appropriating the hexameter and elegiac couplet, the Roman poets didn't just copy the Greeks--they really made a new kind of distinctly Latin poetry that was different from the Greek "models." My impression is that the interlocking noun-adjective pairs that the Roman poets cultivated wouldn't have worked as well in Greek because articles and particles would get in the way.

Without being able to cite statistics, it's my impression that Vergil used these effects more sparingly in the Aeneid than in the Eclogues and Georgics. Ovid is completely unrestrained.

Wilkinson seems to be out of print but available used in paperback at reasonable (and unreasonable) prices.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby huilen » Sun Sep 17, 2017 3:51 pm

Thanks mhw and Hylander :D I will look for Wilkinson's book.

So I see that internal rhyme is just an accident depending on this pattern of word arragement. I wonder if the Greeks were influenced in anyway by possible rhyme to choose this syntactical pattern (reading aloud some parts and marking well the caesura, the rhyme seemed so notorious to me), or if it was just more convenient for composition, or a mere mannerism.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby Hylander » Sun Sep 17, 2017 4:36 pm

In Latin elegiacs, I don't think the rhyme is just an accident -- it's intentional, but it arises out of and in conjunction with the patterning of adjective/noun pairs at the caesura and at the end of the pentameter. Syntax does take precedence, to be sure, but that doesn't mean the rhyme isn't a deliberate effect.

You'll notice that in the Greek poem quoted by mwh, the rhyming pentameter is less frequent than in both the Latin passages.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby huilen » Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:06 pm

I have to read more elegies :P, but I was considering that with this syntactical arrangement it is very likely that the agreeing noun and adjective will form sometimes an internal rhyme. (Though it is true that in mhw Greek example it occurs less often only with some of the genitives and accusatives.)
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby mwh » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:33 pm

I think I have to correct myself slightly over the Hermesianax. In the first pentameter, Ἀργιόπην Θρῇσσαν στειλάμενος κιθάρην, I implied that Θρῇσσαν applied to κιθαρην in conformity with the common pattern (and Orpheus was Thracian, after all) but in fact I think it has to be taken as belonging with Αργιοπην. (She’s a mythological doublet of Eurydice.)

It’s certainly true that you get more rhyme in Latin pentameter adjective-noun midline-lineend pairs than in Greek but I don’t think the article can have anything to do with it, given that Greek verse routinely dispenses with such clutter; and particles don’t much come into it either. I’d rather attribute the difference to aesthetics, to Latin poetry’s greater sensitivity to sound and patterning (along with accent, of course). Not that we should downplay the importance of sound in Greek poetry. The treatises of Philodemus, much damaged but increasingly intelligible, coupled with Dionysius of Halicarnassus, show how large a part sound played in contemporary poetics.

The rhyming was secondary to the syntax, as I said, but that’s not to say it wasn’t cultivated for its own sake in the Augustan (~ Hellenistic) era and subsequently. Mind you, the over-the-top passage from the Ars Amatoria that I quoted is far from typical. Ovid is having fun. There are many different hairstyles for women to choose from, but in a sense they’re all the same, in that they all demonstrate the superiority of art over nature—just like Ovid’s own versifying. (He then moves on to the fake natural look, where art imitates nature.)

huilen, yes do read more elegy. But Ovid would make a better starting point than Propertius, who is difficult and his text corrupt.
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Re: Internal rhyme in elegiac couplet

Postby huilen » Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:44 am

huilen, yes do read more elegy. But Ovid would make a better starting point than Propertius, who is difficult and his text corrupt.


You are totally right in that it wasn't a good starting point, especially Book 4! But note that I always hear you, and you inspired me to create this thread :wink::
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=67651
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