Introduction to Latin poetry

Discuss meter, interpretation, and all things Latin Poetry
Post Reply
User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3193
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by jeidsath » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:39 am

The following questions that are probably basic enough to be annoying, so if anyone simply wants to point me to resources instead of typing out answers, I don't mind. However, I assume that most (all) textbooks are aimed at people with no knowledge of Greek poetry, and might be a little tedious for me. I hope to finish Ørberg pars I in the next 2-3 weeks, and noticed that it did have some introduction to meter in the last chapter, but I haven't quite gotten there yet.

What rules are there for scanning Latin syllables? What consonant combinations can be scanned light? What elides, etc.?

How does Latin iambic and hexameter differ from the Greek?

Is there a general outline of the classical Latin poets and their works?
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

mwh
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 3255
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:34 am

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by mwh » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:20 am

A few fundamentals.
1. Latin takes over the Greek stichic meters (dactylic hexameter, elegiac; iambic and trochaic in various lengths). Catullus and Horace introduce the Lesbian meters too.
2. Archaic Latin comedy (esp. Plautus) is very different from classical Latin, both in its patterns of stress and in its metrical behaviors.
3. If you can read Homer metrically you’ll be able to do the same with Vergil. The main difference is that classical Latin verse elides rather than correpts (e.g. odi et amo scans —uu—).
4. Latin verse tends to be more sensitive to sound than Greek, and accentual placement counts for more.

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:18 pm

The main difference is that classical Latin verse elides rather than correpts (e.g. odi et amo scans —uu—).
If I can clarify what I think mwh means, elision is not indicated in Latin orthography, as it usually is in Greek verse, so that you have to effect the elision yourself in reading metrically wherever a vowel ends a word and another follows at the beginning of the next word. Hiatus occurs in Latin verse, but it's always a special effect (such as imitation of Homeric license). The words o and a (the exclamations "o" and "ah") are not elided.

One other important point: when a vowel + m at word-end is followed by a vowel at the beginning of the next word, the first vowel is nasalized, so that the combination Vm# is treated as a vowel and elided with the following vowel. Example from the third line of the Aeneid: multum ille et terris scans as five long syllables, -um is elided with il-, -le is elided with et, and et is lengthened by the following ter-. mult' ill' et terris. (There are various theories about how the elisions would have been realized in reading aloud.) In all other environments, m is treated as a consonant.

As in Greek, pay attention to the caesura.

"Spondaic" lines, i.e., hexameters with a spondee in the fifth foot are less common in Latin than in Greek. When they occur, they are typically a special effect, usually an evocation of Greek or a deliberate weighting and slowing down of the rhythm as a sound-painting effect.

Beyond basic scansion --

Word-accent (stress) and ictus tend to conflict at the beginning of the hexameter and to eventually resolve into concord at the end, in the final adonic.

A warning: be prepared for hyperbaton that will at first appear insane, especially intertwining of adjectives and nouns: siluestrem [Adj. 1] tenui [Adj. 2] Musam [Noun 1] meditaris auena[Noun 2] "You are meditating your sylvan Muse with your watery oatmeal." (No, "slender oat reed.") After reading a certain amount of Latin verse (especially hexameter), you will find the patterns of hyperbaton follow a logic of their own and you will come to expect them and find them natural.

Hypallage is a pervasive figure: e.g., altae moenia Romae -- the walls, not Rome itself, are lofty, but the adjective is attached to Rome. This is not because Vergil couldn't think of different way to express the idea that would scan: it's a conscious effect. (Gian Biaggio Conte contends that in Vergil, many instances of hypallage have been smoothed out in the course of transmission.)

Particularly in Vergil, be attentive to complex and elaborate patterns of assonance: uere nouo gelidus canis cum montibus umor . . . Alliteration of m, s, u, um.

Although superficially the prosodic rules of Latin verse are almost identical to those of Greek, the internal dynamics of Latin verse are very different from those of Greek, and the music of Latin verse is unique, and, in my view, unequalled by Greek verse. Wilkinson's Golden Latin Artistry addresses this at an advanced level. It's out of print but available used.
Last edited by Hylander on Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3193
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by jeidsath » Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:12 pm

Thank you both. After mwh's post, I had taken a look at Aeneid 1-11, and was actually just going to ask about line 3, and also about how the word stress works with the verse.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:56 pm

There is some disagreement as to whether you should emphasize the ictus (in hexameter, the first long syllable in the foot) or the Latin stress accent in reading. Purists will probably say stress, but I got into the habit of following ictus early on and I've never been able to shake it.

mwh
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 3255
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:34 am

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by mwh » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:41 pm

What I actually meant about elision as opposed to correption was not orthographical practice with regard to elision (that’s merely superficial) but the fact that word-final long vowels in classical Latin verse, when followed by a word beginning with a vowel, are normally fully elided (that is, they leave no trace in the scansion) rather than being shortened (“correpted”) as they routinely are in the Greek hexameter (e.g. Il.1.17, 57, 65). Sorry not to have expressed myself more clearly. It’s an indication of how artificial the prosody of the Latin hexameter is.
I called it the main difference between the Latin hexameter and the Greek. There are of course other differences, as Hylander mentions, most obviously perhaps the treatment of word-final -m in Latin (in stark contrast with Greek -ον, where the -ν is always consonantal). But that is a function of ordinary Latin phonology, however stylized, unlike the unnatural avoidance of correption in the hexameter.

All this emphatically does NOT apply to the iambo-trochaic versification of Plautus and Terence, which gives a much better idea of how ordinary Latin actually behaved. There you have all sorts of shortenings and other intriguing prosodical phenomena (brevis brevians in particular) reflective of regular Latin, showing the great importance of accent(=stress) rather than quantity in Latin, unlike in Greek. A very worthwhile enterprise would be develop the ability to read Plautus metrically without thinking about all the implied rules and complications. It takes practice, since there’s so much more involved than there is with the dactylic hexameter (simplicity itself), but it’s fun and enlightening, best done fast.

That reminds me of something I ought to have added to my list of fundamentals. Most stichic Greek verse counts metra rather than feet—the iambic trimeter, for example, where the unit of metrical recurrence is not the foot but the metron (x—u—; in the dactylic hexameter, exceptionally, the foot is the metron). Not so in Latin, where the distinction between short and anceps within the metron is erased and verses are accordingly not trimeters or tetrameters but senarii, septenarii, octonarii.

Textbooks tend not to be “aimed at people with no knowledge of Greek poetry.” Avoid any that are. Latin meter (the Saturnian apart) is best viewed against the Greek that engendered it and in terms of historical development, and I’d recommend against a blinkered fixation on the Vergilian hexameter, wonderful though that is.

As to Hylander’s latest, call me a purist. I’m quite shocked that anyone but an outright beginner would wreck the dynamics by stressing the so-called ictus. altae moenia Romae (Aen.1.7, cited by Hylander), with its natural word accent coinciding with ictus in the 4th foot as well as in the final two, is a typically clausular pattern reserved for this imposing sentence-end (and avoided in the first verse).

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:59 pm

I admit my practice is wrong, but I haven’t been able to get away from it without focusing too much on the stress patterns at the expense of the poetry.

mwh
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 3255
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:34 am

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by mwh » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:30 pm

Sorry Hylander, that won't wash. The stress patterns are a port of the poetry, a highly significant part, as you must be aware. Features that are killed stone dead by bashing the beat come to life when so-called ictus ("ictus fictus," as I think you once quipped) is simply ignored. Ictus inheres in the metrical pattern itself, and there's no need to give it prominence beyond that.

But I hope this thread will not degenerate into a debate over how to render the dactylic hexameter, when there's so much more to Latin poetry than the hexameter, much of it more revealing. I'll try not to intervene further.

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:51 am

I'll try harder.

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3193
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by jeidsath » Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:11 pm

Looking for information about Plautus specifically, I found a helpful database marking the type of meter for each line:

http://romancomedy.wulib.wustl.edu/index.html

There are apparently several types of iambics?

senarii:
| x – x – | x – x – | x – u – |

septenarii:
| x – x – | x – u – || x – x – | x – – |

octonarii:
| x – x – | x – x – | x – x – | x – u – |

Is there anywhere that I can find a vowel-marked text of Plautus? It might be difficult to internalize the stress and vowel lengths otherwise, though I've been very careful about them so far in Ørberg.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

RandyGibbons
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 383
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:10 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by RandyGibbons » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:43 pm

DESIDERATUM: Michael and Hylander, it would be awesome for one of you or someone with equivalently deep knowledge to create a Latin poetry instructional video illustrating all these (excellent) points.

mwh
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 3255
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:34 am

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by mwh » Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:19 am

jeidsath, Two things on these early Latin iambic meters (and analogously on the trochaic ones).
# These three verse forms, corresponding respectively to the Greek iambic trimeter and the catalectic and acatalectic iambic tetrameter, show only the basic structure, which admits of multiple variations—as in Greek only more so. The anceps may be actualized by two shorts, for example, and the longum similarly; and more.
# And be aware that in certain circumstances, and quite frequently, properly long vowels become short and heavy syllables light, in accordance with phonological principles unique to Latin. This doesn’t apply to the more stringently regulated classical meters, but it gives great insight into live Latin.

You might want to work your way through a random passage in one of these meters and see (or rather hear) how it fits the scheme. (Prologues are easier than dialogue, and the senarius is more common than the others.) Coming from Ørberg you’re in for some surprises, but once you get the basic rhythm down you’ll find that it all works out. A practical tip: always aim for the principal longa (or the first syllable of their resolved forms), where the natural stress falls.

You should probably learn Latin first, complete with proper quantities, and only then experience the prosodic behavior of the language in Plautus.

Randy, Sorry, I have other fish to fry.

User avatar
Barry Hofstetter
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1049
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed Apr 24, 2019 9:27 pm

One of the best threads (for me anyway) in a while. Joel, just an affirmation of MWH's last point about learning Latin well before embarking on the finer details of metrical schemata (though I think you are better prepared to grasp what's being said due to your experience in Greek). Usually this is covered in course material devoted to particular authors, so you cover hexameter when reading Vergil or senarii, et al., when reading Plautus, and so forth. In other words, you've got a way to go, but it's worth the journey.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

RandyGibbons
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 383
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:10 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by RandyGibbons » Thu Apr 25, 2019 1:45 pm

Michael/mwh wrote
Randy, Sorry, I have other fish to fry.
Alright Hylander, that leaves you. Are you feeling the pressure?!

Seriously, though, from my perspective, as one who would benefit greatly from it, I think this would be awesome for someone to do. Any ideas, anyone, about any other candidates?

User avatar
bedwere
Global Moderator
Posts: 3826
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:23 pm
Location: Didacopoli in California
Contact:

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by bedwere » Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:01 pm

Randy, should you be able to convince an expert, I suggest you make a video call to him with Skype or Google Hangouts and record the session. Then you can edit the video and upload it to your YouTube channel.

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Thu Apr 25, 2019 3:31 pm

That would be a very big task that would require a lot of time and energy to prepare and do right, and I'm not sure a video would be that useful,

You can find the essential information about prosody, scansion and meter in any number of books (provided they were published after about 1920 or so -- if they use musical notes to explain meter, find something else).

Wilkinson's Golden Latin Artistry goes into the dynamics of Latin verse in depth.

Besides, I'm not completely familiar with the entire range of Latin meter, particularly Plautus and Terence, and as mwh noted, I don't read Latin verse aloud the right way.

So I'm sorry, but this is not something I would feel comfortable undertaking.

RandyGibbons
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 383
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:10 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by RandyGibbons » Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:56 pm

Understood, of course. But for myself I believe a well-done oral presentation with examples (distributed as a video) would greatly complement if not almost substitute for the tedium of the gobs of written introductions that exist. Hearing versus reading information about.

(Roberto/Bedwere - As Michael says, I've also got other fish to fry. But if I could find a willing expert(s), I'd seriously consider it. I know some professors who could definitely do it, but I wouldn't presume to ask them.)

User avatar
bedwere
Global Moderator
Posts: 3826
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:23 pm
Location: Didacopoli in California
Contact:

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by bedwere » Thu Apr 25, 2019 5:16 pm

RandyGibbons wrote:
Thu Apr 25, 2019 4:56 pm


(Roberto/Bedwere - As Michael says, I've also got other fish to fry. But if I could find a willing expert(s), I'd seriously consider it. I know some professors who could definitely do it, but I wouldn't presume to ask them.)
I won't comment about your fish, but I do think you should presume. What use are university professors if they just stay in their ivory tower and speak only among themselves? Are all those words they are so fond of about giving back to the community just words? Besides, who pays at least part of their salary? You and I. If a school or a group of amateurs asks one of my peers to come for a lesson, we are willing to oblige. Why shouldn't Latin professors do the same at a convenient time? And you can make their task much lighter, since you know well how to engage a professor with focused and intelligent questions in the form of an interview.

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3193
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by jeidsath » Fri Apr 26, 2019 4:18 pm

Some questions about elision and stress:

1. Does "h" prevent elision in Latin? I've seen some indications that it wasn't actually pronounced.

2. Are long vowels fully elided?

3. I assume that enclitics like "-ne" or "-que", written with the preceding word, move word stress. Is there anything similar that isn't written together with the preceding word?
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

Hylander
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:16 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Hylander » Fri Apr 26, 2019 5:22 pm

1. No, h does not block elision. See Allen for a discussion of /h/ in colloquial speech. There's a famous epigram of Catullus about someone who put initial /h/ in the wrong words as an ignorant hypercorrection. Catullus 84.

2. Yes, and as mwh noted, if the following syllable is short, it stays short even though the preceding long vowel has been elided. I don't know how this works in Plautus and Terrence, though.

3. No, but check Allen.

Callisper
Textkit Member
Posts: 142
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:21 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Callisper » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:09 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:11 pm
Looking for information about Plautus specifically, I found a helpful database marking the type of meter for each line:

http://romancomedy.wulib.wustl.edu/index.html
Such findings are immensely helpful, to everyone apart from yourself, who should focus on 1) PROSE, 2) vowel lengths and hexameter/elegy (pace mwh), 3) other meters, with hugely diminishing attention going down that list.

You started learning Latin 17 days ago. Why are people explaining ictus to you? I'd wager that at this point neither the accent nor quantities of the words you know are sufficiently ingrained to be of any use reading poetry. Your only chance will be to have a mentally-inbuilt idea of the rhythm of the line and then force-fit every line to that. (This is actually a good way to start. Personally I didn't bother learning vowel lengths and just fudged it like this until they finally started to sink in after some tens of thousands of hexameters. Not that I recommend that if you have the fortitude to learn every vowel length as you go, but consider what your challenges as a Latin really are/should be at this stage.)

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3193
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by jeidsath » Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:09 pm

I have already read tens of thousands of hexameters. Just not in Latin.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
Barry Hofstetter
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1049
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: Introduction to Latin poetry

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Sun Apr 28, 2019 3:40 am

jeidsath wrote:
Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:09 pm
I have already read tens of thousands of hexameters. Just not in Latin.
After years of reading hexameter in Latin, I had to retrain myself to read it correctly in Greek. It's quite similar, of course, but just different enough to be jarring, like twins who are almost identical.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Post Reply