Poetry as recall

More universal among Indo-European peoples than any of the above designations is the use, in relation to poetic activity, of words based on the root *men 'think (of), call to mind'.26 In composing a new poem or reciting an old one, the poet must call to mind things that he knows. When someone who is speaking or singing calls something to mind, it is at once expressed in words, so that *men may also refer to utterance, as in Vedic mányate 'think; mention', Lithuanian menu, miñti, or Latin mentionem facere.

The Vedic verb is used of composing a hymn, as in RV 5. 13. 2 Agné stómam manamahe, 'we think out a laudation for Agni'; 5. 35. 8, 48. 1; 8. 29. 10, 90. 3. The mánas- or manísá- (mind, intellect) is engaged in the process (RV 1. 171.

23 Cato, Origines (fr. 118 Peter) ap. Cic. Tusc. 1. 3; 4. 3; Brutus 75; Varro, De vita populi Romani (fr. 394 Salvadore) ap. Non. Marc. p. 77. 2 M. carmina antiqua in quibus laudes erant maiorum.

24 Mayrhofer (1953-80), ii. 452-6; id. (1986-2001), ii. 236-8; contra, P. Thieme, ZDMG 102 (1952), 126; cf. Schmitt (1967), 305; Bader (1989), 52-5.

25 A. L. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin (New York-Oxford 1995), 86; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 822; EIEC 449a.

26 Watkins (1995), 68 f., 72, 73; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 393 f., 713, 734 n. 3; B. W. Fortson IV in Mír Curad, 138; EIEC 575.

2; 5. 81. 1; 9. 100. 3, al.). The song or formula is a manman- or a mantra-(Avestan mqdra-). It can also be referred to as a sumati- or sumnam, both meaning literally 'good thought, good disposition'. It has been proposed to derive the Greek v^vos from the same elements, *su-mn-o-;27 this has its attractions, though it is hard to account for v- instead of the normal Greek ev- unless on the assumption (historically conceivable—see pp. 21 f.) that the word came into Mycenaean from an Iranian source.

The poets of the Homeric Hymns often conclude with the formula 'I will bethink me (^v^ao^at) both of you (the god addressed) and of other singing'. Similarly the Maidens of Delos are described as first hymning Apollo, Leto, and Artemis and then, 'bethinking themselves (^vyaa^evai) of the men and women of old, they sing a song (v^vos) that charms the peoples' (Hymn. Ap. 160 f.). The Muses can assist by putting the poet in mind of the relevant material (Il. 2. 492 ¡ivnaaiaro; Pind. Pae. 14. 35). This is why they are called the daughters of Memory, Mnemosyne. The word Muse itself is derived from the *men root: Movaa < *mon-t-ih2 or *mon-tuh.28

When Livius Andronicus translated Homer's Mova' eSiSa^e as Diua Monetas filia docuit (fr. 21 Blansdorf), he was adopting the Greek filiation of the Muse to Mnemosyne. But Moneta does not mean 'memory'; it signifies the goddess who monet, who puts in mind, moneo being a causative formation from *men-. Virgil employs it in asking for the Muse's help at Aeneid 7. 41: tu uatem, tu diua mone (cf. Ovid, Fasti 5. 447). This usage cannot be accounted for from the Greek models, but must come from native Italic tradition.

Old English and Norse poetry provides further evidence. After Beowulf has killed Grendel, a poem about the exploit is composed by one of Hrothgar's thanes, a man with a memory for tales (gidda gemyndig), who recalled (gemunde) a multitude of old legends (Beowulf 868-70). In Widsith (54 f.) the poet says 'I can sing, therefore, and tell a tale, and recall (mcOnan) before the crowd in the mead-hall .. .', while The Whale begins 'Now will I once more in a song . . . make known in words, with poetic craft, by mental recall (purh modgemynd) . ..'. The Eddic Sibyl of Vgluspa begins her prophecy with a general call to attention: Odin has asked her to recount the ancient histories, 'those earliest that I recall' (um man). 'I recall (ec man) the giants . .. I recall nine worlds . ..'. Odin himself, as a god of poetic inspiration, is attended by two ravens called Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Recall (Gylf. 38).

27 A. Kuhn, ZVS 2 (1853), 131; 4 (1855), 25; Durante (1976), 155-60; cautious approval in Euler (1979), 66 f. See above for an alternative etymology.

28 Watkins (1995), 73, 110. Cf. also Tyrt. 12. 1; Sappho fr. 55; Pind. Ol. 8. 74, Nem. 1. 12, 7. 15, 9. 10, Isth. 8. 62; fr. 341 ^.va<^.o>v6oi Moiaai; Theoc. 16. 42-5. According to Plutarch, Quaest. conv. 743d, the Muses were in some places called the Mneiai.

In Slavonic tradition too poetry is concerned with the renewal of memory. In the Lay of Igor (4) we read how the great poet Boyan 'used to recall (pomnyaseti) the words and the dissensions of the early times'. Salih Ugljanin in two of his oral epics, The Song of Baghdad and The Captivity of Dulic Ibrahim, used the formulaic line davno bilo, sada pominjemo, 'long ago it was, and now we remember it'. In a Bosnian version of an Albanian song about Marko and Musa, he sang:

This will ever be remembered (s'pominje) to the end of time, as long as mankind and time endure, and as long as these endure, Marko will be remembered, Marko Kraljevic will be remembered.29

By an inversion of the standard notion of being mindful, the poet may instead speak of not being unmindful. One of the Homeric Hymns begins 'I will bethink me, and not be unmindful, of Apollo the far-shooter'. Another concludes, 'there is no way to adorn sweet singing while heedless of you'. Similarly there are early Irish poems beginning 'It is not fitting to forget . . .', and the British praise-poem for Gwenabwy mab Gwen begins 'It would be wrong to leave unremembered him of the far-reaching feats'.30 If this is not itself an Indo-European formula, it could readily have developed independently in Greece and the Celtic area from the primary one.

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