Od. 5.90

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Paul Derouda
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Od. 5.90

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 27, 2015 10:42 am

Calypso to Hermes, ε 87 ff.:
τίπτε μοι, Ἑρμεία χρυσόρραπι, εἰλήλουθας,
αἰδοῖός τε φίλος τε; πάρος γε μὲν οὔ τι θαμίζεις.
αὔδα ὅ τι φρονέεις· τελέσαι δέ με θυμὸς ἄνωγεν,
εἰ δύναμαι τελέσαι γε καὶ εἰ τετελεσμένον ἐστίν.

Hainsworth, the Oxford commentary to the Odyssey:
τετελεσμένον: a nuance of meaning must be added to the pf. ptcp. similar to that conveyed by the adjectival formant -τός: "something that must come to pass".
Other commentaries interpret this a bit differently, e.g. Merry-Riddell:
εἰ τετελεσμένον ἐστίν, "if it is a thing that ever hath been done", which would imply the possibility of its being done again. Nitzsch compares τἁ γενόμενα φανερὸν ὅτι δuνατά Arist. Poet. 9.6. The same transition in meaning is seen in the verbal adjective in -τος. Compare also τετελεσμένον ἔσται Il. 1.212, etc.
Other commentaries, Ameis-Hentze-Cauer and Stanford, interpret this similarly, i.e. that τετελεσμένον expresses the possibility of the thing happening, not a certitude or a predestination à la Rutherford. Translators take it various ways, but Martin Hammond apparently follows Rutherford with "my heart prompts me to do it, if I can and it is to be". For me, this seems wrong, but what do you think?

ὧδε γὰρ ἐξερέω, τὸ δὲ καὶ τετελεσμένον ἔσται Il. 1.212 is different because of the future tense ἔσται.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by Qimmik » Sat Jun 27, 2015 2:25 pm

The same two lines occur at Il. 14.195-6, where Aphrodite is responding to Here's request for sexy underwear in the "seduction of Zeus" sequence. You'll want to take a look at Janko's note in the Cambridge commentary, which is similar to Hainsworth's explanation of the passage in the Odyssey: perfect passive participle replacing verbal adjective in -τός, but he translates the force of the verb form as possibility: "if it can be accomplished." He cites parallels (which I haven't looked at). Possibility fits the Iliad passage better than contingency.

West would probably say that the two lines in the Odyssey are ineptly borrowed from the Iliad, although perhaps they're formular.

Frankly, the Merry-Riddell explanation, "if it has ever been done" equivalent to "if it is possible" seems strained but they arrive at the same result as Janko.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by mwh » Sat Jun 27, 2015 5:04 pm

It doesn’t say quite what it wants to say. It’s the listener/reader who imports the required sense, it’s not inherent in the participle, that was just the closest available equivalent to what was actually meant. Quasi-formulaic, if you like. That’s my take on it anyway.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:15 pm

My quibble is not with Hainsworth's grammatical explanation but with his translation, the added nuance "something that must come to pass". All the other commentaries, including Janko on the similar expression in the Iliad, would rather have it "something that may be accomplished". I agree that Merry-Riddell explanation is forced (it's similar to Stanford's "if there is a precedent for it"), but prefer their and Janko's conclusion to Hainsworth's.

(Although Merry-Riddell-Stanford's explanation might be the ultimate, etymological reason for the existence of this idiom, for how the expression originally evolved.)

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 27, 2015 6:22 pm

Anyway, the contra-Hainsworth explanation also gives perfect sense:

εἰ δύναμαι τελέσαι γε καὶ εἰ τετελεσμένον ἐστίν
If I'm capable of accomplishing it and if it's something that may be accomplished.

The two halves of the verse would then be vaguely synonymous, as often in Homer, with the nuance that that first half is about the speaker's abilities and the second about gods' and people's in general.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by mwh » Sat Jun 27, 2015 9:03 pm

I agree that "something that may be accomplished" will be closer to what’s intended than "something that must come to pass.” But I’d insist that neither translates what it says, which is simply “accomplished,” just as in τετελεσμένον ἔσται (which could well be responsible for the locution here, a modification that doesn’t quite fit the context). “If you can accomplish/fulfill it and if it’s been accomplished/fulfilled” (without any ellipticality such as “if it’s [ever] been accomplished [in the past and accordingly can be accomplished again in the future]”—that’s a sophistic interpretation). We shouldn’t confuse what it says with what we can bend it to mean. It’s the reader, not the Greek, that has to endow it with a sense that it doesn’t express.
[EDIT: What I meant by this but didn't actually say :), is: It's the reader who has to endow it with a sense that the Greek doesn't express.]

As to Hainsorth’s note, he appears to confuse –τος with –τεος. –τος is perhaps what he meant (as other commentators), but he translated as if it were –τεος. People often make the same mistake with Sappho’s παν δε τολματον in the “That man seems to me equal to the gods” poem (Sappho 31), which does not mean "everything must be endured."
Last edited by mwh on Sun Jun 28, 2015 1:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jun 27, 2015 9:43 pm

Thanks. I that's about the way I felt about the verse, although I didn't verbalize it that way. That's is nice, because this increases my self-confidence as a reader of Homer. :) It's a good remainder also about -tos/-teos, I knew that one actually, I believe I've read about it precisely in the context of that Sappho verse ("everything is endurable"), though it didn't occur to me as the probable source of this confusion.

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by Outis » Fri Dec 04, 2015 8:40 pm

I reached this part last night, and I was a bit unsatisfied with the Hainsworth explanation. Now, I'm not in the slightest bit qualified to comment on it, but could it mean "if it is the done thing" - in other words, if it's appropriate? I realize that is a figure of speech in English, but it seems like a very natural one. It's not much of a stretch to get from "usually done/done by other people before me" to "appropriate".

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Re: Od. 5.90

Post by a reader of Homer » Sat Dec 05, 2015 11:17 pm

Perhaps it means 'if it is accomplished' in the sense of it being pre-determined by the fates, or gods, or both.

But I agree with 'if it can be accomplished', in the sense that it is in accord with the fates, gods, or both.

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