09 October 2008

Greek prose has meter, too: Clausulae

Since I may be auditing a Greek class next semester on Plutarch, I decided to do a little background digging early. My primary reading in Greek is still usually verse, though I have slowly been working my way out into prose authors. When searching on Plutarch's prose style I ran across a few references to clausulae, a habit of prose rhythm — meter, really — at the end of sentences or major clauses. I already knew some Latin authors did this. Cicero, for example, was evidently fond of a double cretic, -u--u- (I'll always notate the final common syllable as long). It would not naturally have occurred to me that Greek prose authors before the Hellenistic period used clausulae, but it turns out it was fairly common after Thrasymachus, whom Greek tradition says invented these metrical touches in prose.

The first systematic study of these I can find reference to is by A.W. de Groot, who has an entire book of tables, Handbook of Greek Prose Rhythm (our library has a German edition, but I will have to delve into the oft-pillaged Cutter stacks to find it). By comparing frequencies of metrical patterns within a sentence to their frequency at the end you can see which patterns were preferred for the end of a line. It also turns out certain patterns were scrupulously avoided. For example, a hemiepies (-uu-uu-, a fundamental unit of Epic meter) occurs naturally in Plutarch's Lives 2.5% of the time, but only 0.8% finally. Other obviously Epic metrical patterns are avoided some authors, though Plutarch makes no special efforts to control the oft-avoided adonic end, -uu--.

Certain clausulae are common, regardless of author or genre: -u-- is very popular, and in the Moralia Plutarch uses it a whopping 29.1% of the time:

ὥστε καθίσας περὶ τὸν νεὼν τὰ μὲν αὐτὸς ἠρξάμην ζητεῖν, τὰ δ’ ἐκείνους ἐρωτᾶν [-u--], ὑπὸ τοῦ τόπου καὶ τῶν λόγων αὐτῶν ἀνεμνήσθην ἃ πάλαι ποτὲ καθ’ ὃν καιρὸν ἐπεδήμει Νέρων ἠκούσαμεν Ἀμμωνίου καί τινων ἄλλων διεξιόντων [-u--], ἐνταῦθα τῆς αὐτῆς ἀπορίας ὁμοίως ἐμπεσούσης [-u--].

The E at Delphi, 385B

-u-- is also used by Xenophon, Lysias, Isocrates, Demosthenes (this is the only clausula he obviously favors), Plato, Aristotle and sometimes Lucian (sometimes he avoids it).

Other common clausulae:

  • -u--- : Isocrates, Isaeus, Plato (in some works; avoided in the Laws), Plutarch

  • -u--u- : (Cicero's double cretic again) Aeschines, Aristotle, Lysias, Lucian; avoided by Isocrates

  • ----u- : Lysias, Isaeus, Aeschines, Plato, Aristotle, Lucian; avoided by Plutarch

  • -uu-u- : Lysias, Isocrates, Xenophon, Aeschines, Plato, Lucian

Thucydides is fairly restrained, obviously preferring only -uu--- and avoiding -u-u- (a shape favored, on the other hand, by Xenophon).

Here's a selection of Xenophon's Cyropaedia (1.2.1 - 1.2.2) with some clausula noted:

Πατρὸς μὲν δὴ ὁ Κῦρος λέγεται γενέσθαι Καμβύσου Περσῶν βασιλέως [uuu-]· ὁ δὲ Καμβύσης οὗτος τοῦ Περσειδῶν γένους ἦν [-u--]· οἱ δὲ Περσεῖδαι ἀπὸ Περσέως κλήιζονται· μητρὸς δὲ ὁμολογεῖται Μανδάνης γενέσθαι [-u--]· ἡ δὲ Μανδάνη αὕτη Ἀστυάγους ἦν θυγάτηρ τοῦ Μήδων γενομένου βασιλέως [uuu-]. φῦναι δὲ ὁ Κῦρος λέγεται καὶ ἄιδεται ἔτι καὶ νῦν ὑπὸ τῶν βαρβάρων εἶδος μὲν κάλλιστος, ψυχὴν δὲ φιλανθρωπότατος καὶ φιλομαθέστατος καὶ φιλοτιμότατος, ὥστε πάντα μὲν πόνον ἀνατλῆναι, πάντα δὲ κίνδυνον ὑπομεῖναι τοῦ ἐπαινεῖσθαι ἕνεκα. φύσιν μὲν δὴ τῆς μορφῆς καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς τοιαύτην ἔχων διαμνημονεύεται [-u-u-]· ἐπαιδεύθη γε μὴν ἐν Περσῶν νόμοις· οὗτοι δὲ δοκοῦσιν οἱ νόμοι ἄρχεσθαι τοῦ κοινοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἐπιμελούμενοι οὐκ ἔνθενπερ ἐν ταῖς πλείσταις πόλεσιν ἄρχονται. αἱ μὲν γὰρ πλεῖσται πόλεις ἀφεῖσαι παιδεύειν ὅπως τις ἐθέλει τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ παῖδας, καὶ αὐτοὺς τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους ὅπως ἐθέλουσι διάγειν, ἔπειτα προστάττουσιν αὐτοῖς μὴ κλέπτειν μηδὲ ἁρπάζειν, μὴ βίαι εἰς οἰκίαν παριέναι [uuu-], μὴ παίειν ὃν μὴ δίκαιον [-u--], μὴ μοιχεύειν, μὴ ἀπειθεῖν ἄρχοντι, καὶ τἆλλα τὰ τοιαῦτα ὡσαύτως· ἢν δέ τις τούτων τι παραβαίνηι, ζημίαν αὐτοῖς ἐπέθεσαν [uuu-].

Until now I've been telling people on Textkit asking about Greek pronunciation that vowel quantities probably didn't matter to appreciate prose. I guess I'll have to stop saying that.

I've grabbed the data for this post from W.H. Shewring's Prose-rhythm and the Comparative Method, CQ v.25 no.1 pp. 12-22. He has a lot more on the Greek authors, as well as all the Latin authors I've skipped here. And F.H. Sandbach's Rhythm and Authenticity in Plutarch's Moralia, CQ v.33 no.3/4 pp.194-203. I still have to track down de Groot.