Paul Derouda wrote:What is the cue to take the first negative with the whole μὲν . . δέ phrase and not just the first element?
Its position, relative to the μεν. Preceding the μεν … δε pair as it does, the initial negative extends up to the completion of the δε half. We had something analogous to this in some earlier thread, don’t remember just what.
To overtranslate: “It’s not the case that I said these things but failed to write them,
nor (ουδε) is it the case that …,
εἶπον μὲν ταῦτα, οὐκ ἔγραψα δέ is a selfcontained unit, the μεν indicating that it starts with ειπον and that a δε clause is to follow; the whole thing is negatived by the ουκ up front. Similarly with the following two ουδε parts (the ουδε’s continuing the opening ουκ—not A, nor B, nor C), to give a tripartite κλιμαξ. He could have quit at any of the three steps, but didn’t.
Since it’s completely logical it may actually be helpful to think of it in mathematical or boolean terms:
Not (A and not B), and not (B and not C), and not (C and not D).
The meaning is clear from the outset, just by the word order. It doesn’t depend on vocal inflection, and you don't have to suspend understanding until you get to the end. It simply follows the logic of the syntax.
It’s strong rhetoric, a prime example of Demosthenes’ famed δεινότης. Inevitably the negatived trio is followed by αλλα, for the sentence is basically just an amplified version of the familiar ουκ … αλλα structure (I didn’t go just part way, no, I went the whole way).