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greek verse composition

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greek verse composition

Postby chad » Fri Jan 23, 2004 6:16 am

hi all, i thought i'd post a different type of composition exercise while we wait for some more questions in the Greek Prose Composition forum.

The sentence is Catullus 1.1

To whom do I give (this) charming new booklet?

In latin:

cui dono lepidum novum libellum


The trick is to try to do it in Catullus' metre: the hendecasyllable. This means that the line has to have 11 syllables, in this pattern:

long-long-long-short-short-long-short-long-short-long-short

the first 2 syllables can also be, if you want,

long-short or
short-long

the last syllable can also be long.

you can just treat it as a prose composition exercise if you don't want to bother with getting the metre right as well.

it's be quite interesting to see what we come up with. :)

cheers, chad. :)
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Postby auctor » Fri Jan 23, 2004 11:53 am

I am hardly a poet in English, however going through mechanics I've come up with...

[face=SPIonic]
th\n bi/blon xari/essan tw(| di/dwmi;[/face]


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Postby Emma_85 » Sat Jan 24, 2004 10:24 pm

[face=spionic]poi~ to\n bibli/on a(stei~on propi/nw [/face] ;
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Postby Skylax » Sun Jan 25, 2004 4:38 pm

[face=SPIonic]Bibli/on ti/ni h(du\ dw= ne/on te[/face]
Last edited by Skylax on Tue Jan 27, 2004 8:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby chad » Tue Jan 27, 2004 2:48 am

cool, such different examples. one way i put it was

[face=SPIonic]kaino\n nu=n ti/ni bibli/on di/dwmi[/face]

i tried to get an iota assonance sequence in the second half of the line, where catullus puts a nasal sequence... if you can't read latin, it sounds like this... where the ~ symbol means the previous syllable is long, and the capitals mean the word accent which is stressed or raised in pitch (or both):

cui dono lepidum nouum libellum

kwee ~ DOH ~ noh ~ LEH pee doong ~ NOH woong ~ lee BEH ~ loong ~

does anyone else want to suggest another composition exercise? :)
Last edited by chad on Thu Jan 29, 2004 1:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Emma_85 » Wed Jan 28, 2004 9:29 pm

I like my version :P , sort of fun and is personal (it's the question I've been asking myself when translating this poem).
(Where do I throw this fine little book? Either out of the window, into the fireplace or... :wink: )
Actually Catullus wasn't that bad...
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Postby chad » Thu Jan 29, 2004 5:03 am

hi em, yeah i like your translation too... the adjective is a good fit, i hadn't heard of it before, although it throws out the meter a bit... do you want to suggest another composition exercise for us to try? :)
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Postby Emma_85 » Thu Jan 29, 2004 10:32 pm

Ok, I'll think of something... watch this space :P
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Re: greek verse composition

Postby annis » Thu Jan 29, 2004 11:03 pm

chad wrote:The trick is to try to do it in Catullus' metre: the hendecasyllable.


There are other hendecasyllabic meters, and the Lesbians did them first!

(Syllable notation: - is long, u is short, x is anceps - short or long as you see fit).

Sapphic hendecasyllable: - u - x - u u - u - x
Alcaic hendecasyllable: x - u - x - u u - u x

The most common meter I've seen in Greek verse composition books is the iambic trimeter, which is pretty flexible, but has sneaky parts of its own. I cannot give all the rules of that now (that's a full essay), but a few notes might be interesting to people.

One iambic metron actually has two iambs, the first syllable of which group is anceps, so not just u-u-, but x-u-. Trimeter means three, so these are strung together. The last syllable of most verse forms is generally free, even when marked long. For the early iambographers, this is sufficient.

HOWEVER, as used in Attic drama, in certain positions a long syllable may resolve (break apart into two short syllables). One of those short syllables may combine with the neighbor short and contract into a long, switching your iamb around in funny ways. Here's a schematic layout of the possibilities (in Tragedy; Comedy is even freer):

Code: Select all
x -    u -   | x -    u -   | u -   u -
u u u  u u u | u u u  u u u | u u u
- u u        | - u u        |
u u -        |              |


Now, this diagram indicates what can happen in each iamb position. I don't want to suggest that once you start with a tribrach (u u u) you're stuck with that for the rest of the line. But the last iamb is pretty sturdy, within the rule that the final syllable can be short but count as long by position (while you breathe in before starting the next line is the idea, apparently).

FINALLY, you have to put a caesura (a word end, often a break in sense or small, logical unit of phrasing) in one of two places. The caesura is marked with ||:

Code: Select all
x - u - | x || - u - | x - u -
or
Code: Select all
x - u - | x - u || - | x - u -


The caesura really does have to be a break. A prepositional phrase or an article shouldn't cross your caesura, nor should an enclitic be leaning on a word across the caesura.

That might have been more than people wanted to know. :) But I find this all interesting.
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Postby annis » Fri Jan 30, 2004 3:42 am

Emma_85 wrote:Ok, I'll think of something... watch this space :P


Or post to the Greek composition board... it's not just for the exercises Jeff picks out.

My problem with these is that I always think of interesting (that is, difficult) examples of song lyrics. For example, using a little Bowie as an example, how do you put into Greek "Ashes to ashes, funk to funky // we know Major Tom's a junkie" ? It's not clear to me that's even possible.
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