Poesy as construction

It is not enough to recall. The poem must be crafted. In many Indo-European traditions poetic composition is expressed by words meaning 'make', 'fashion', and the like, or by terms drawn from specific manufacturing crafts such as carpentry or weaving.

In Greece from the archaic period we find the most basic words for 'make', revx€iv and noieiv, used of poetic creation; noi^r^s became the ordinary word for 'poet'. revxeiv is a poetic vocable, in other words an archaism. Its application to 'making' poetry has been linked with the cognate Old Irish duan 'poem', from *dh(e)ughna-.31 In other languages too we find the plainest words for 'make' employed for poetic composition: in Latin facere (uersus, carmen, etc.), in India kr, as in RV 9. 114. 2 mantrakctam 'of song-makers'.

29 SCHS ii, nos. 1. 9, 4. 8; i. 360-4, lines 159-62.

30 Hymn. Hom. 3. 1; 7. 58 f.; cf. Pind. fr. 94b. 36; K. Meyer (1913), 16/18, 20; Y Gododdin 292, cf. 75.

31 Durante (1960), 234 ~ (1976), 170; Bader (1989), 24. revxeiv: Od. 24. 197, Pind. Isth. 1. 14, al.; Nunlist (1998), 86 f. noieiv: Solon 20. 3, Theognidea 771, etc. On the whole range of manufacturing imagery applied to poetic composition in Greek see Nunlist, 83-125.

This latter root also appears in Middle Irish creth 'poetry' (< *kwrto-) and Welsh prydydd 'poet'. It can have associations with sacral and magical activity, as in Vedic kartram 'spell, charm', Lithuanian kerai 'magic', kereti 'bewitch', and Church Slavonic caro-deji 'magician'.32

Not all making requires special skills, but composing poetry does. It is a craft, a job for professionals. As with other crafts, its practitioner is in a position to earn profits from his work. Early Welsh has a word cerdd meaning both generally 'craft, profession' and more specifically 'poetry, poem, music'. Its Old Irish equivalent cerd has similar meanings, and may also stand for 'craftsman' or 'poet'. These words have a Greek cognate in KepBos 'gain, profit'.33

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