Polar expressions merisms

Especially characteristic is the use of polar expressions, that is, pairings of contrasted terms, as an emphatic expression of the totality that they make

81 Acallam na Senorach 3733-6 Stokes, trs. Dooley-Roe (1999), 113.

82 Sappho fr. 30. 7-9; Grottasçngr 7. 3-4; Gylf. 27, cf. Lorenz (1984), 374.

up.83 One may say that bipolarity (not trifunctionality) is the fundamental structuring principle of Indo-European thought.

For example, the concept of 'all intelligent beings' is expressed by 'gods and men' or 'immortals and mortals': RV 1. 35. 2 amstam martiyam ca; 6. 15. 8 devasas ca martiyasas ca; Y. 29. 4 = 48. 1 daevaisca masyaisca; II. 2. 1 deoi re Kal avepes; 20. 64 dvrjroioi Kal adavcLroioi; Lokasenna 45. 3, 55. 6 god gll ok gumar; Gylf. 21 gudanna ok manna.84

Where the focus is not on the gods but on the animal world, the phrase is 'creatures two-footed and four-footed': RV 4. 51. 5 (and often) dvipac catuspat; Y. 9. 18 bizangrancim.. . cad arozangrancim, cf. 19. 8, Yt. 1. 10; Vd. 15. 19 bipaitistanaca cad aropaitistanaca; on the Iguvine tablets, VIb. 10 dupursus peturpursus; Cicero, De domo 48 ministro omnium non bipedum solum sed etiam quadrupedum impurissimo.85 The same classification is implicit in the Hittite tale of the cow that gives birth to a human child after being impregnated by the Sun-god. She remonstrates: 'Now I ask you please: [a calf] should have four legs. Why have I borne this two-legged thing?'86 It also underlies Aeschylus' kenning-like expressions Sinovs o^is and Sinovs Xeaiva, 'two-legged snake', 'two-legged lioness' (Supp. 895, Ag. 1258): in each case the beast is a metaphor, and the epithet identifies its reference as a human one.87

It may be noted that in some of these examples there is no 'and' joining the words for four-footed and two-footed. Further instances of such asyndeton will appear in the following paragraphs. It is no doubt an ancient traditional feature of these pairings.88

The estate-owner's livestock is summed up as 'herds and men' (i.e. slaves): RV 5. 20. 4 gobhih . .. viraih; Y. 31. 15 pasOus viraatca, 45. 9 pasus virong, cf. Yt. 10. 112; Tat). Iguv. VIa. 32 (and often) ueiro pequo; Ovid, Met. 1. 286 pecudesque uirosque.89 In most of these the original words *pe£u- and *wiro have survived, and in that order; the Umbrian ueiro pequo, though it has the inverse order, seems to be a dual dvandva, a remarkable archaism of a type known from the Rigveda, by which two terms forming a pair are both

83 Gonda (1959), 337-47; Campanile (1977), 98-104; Watkins (1995), 44-7, 250 ('merisms').

84 Many other passages could be quoted, and some will be in the next chapter.

85 Further material in Schmitt (1967), 210-13; cf. R. Lazzeroni, SSL 15 (1975), 1-19; Watkins (1994), 650; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 394 f., 398.

87 Campanile (1990b), 29, refers to Y. 9. 18 and Vd. 18. 38, where he says that the four-legged wolf is distinguished from the two-legged wolf; but no two-legged wolf appears in those texts.

88 Cf. P. Chantraine, Revue de philologie 27 (1953), 16-20; B. K. Braswell, A Commentary on the Fourth Pythian Ode of Pindar (Berlin-New York 1988), 300.

89 More in J. Wackernagel, ZVS 43 (1910), 295-8 (= Kl. Schr. 280-3; Schmitt (1968), 30-3); cf. Schmitt (1967), 16 f., 213-16; E. Benveniste in Cardona et al. (1970), 308 f.; Watkins (1994), 649 f.

put in the dual number. In Greek both words have been replaced by younger synonyms: Hes. Op. 558 npo drois . .. avdpwnois, cf. Hdt. 1. 203. 2; Hippocr. De carnibus 6.

The biosphere as a whole is covered in Vedic idiom by the merism jagatas tasthusah (1. 89. 5, cf. 1. 115. 1, 4. 53. 6, etc.), 'what moves or stands still', that is, animals and plants. A trace of this categorization appears in the Greek word npo ara 'sheep, livestock', literally 'what moves forward' as opposed to the stockholder's stationary property.90 The - a- is the etymological equivalent of the -ga- in jagatah. But the opposition 'walking: stationary' was more widely applicable. Indra is king of 'the one travelling and the one at ease (yato avasitasya), of the domesticated (animal) and the horned' (RV 1. 32. 15).91 The seer Theoclymenus declares to Penelope that Odysseus is already back in his native land, tf^evos rf epnwv, 'sitting (still) or walking' (Od. 17. 158). The two original verbal roots reappear in tandem in the tragedians: Soph. Aj. 1237 nov dvros rf nov ordvros ovnep ovk eyw; 'where did he step, where stand, that I did not?'; Phil. 833 opa nov oraoyi, noi Se aoyi, 'consider where you will stand, where step'; Eur. Alc. 863 noi w; noi orw; Hec. 1057 mh w; nai orw; A more comprehensive formula appears in the Mahabharata, 12. 161. 21 asanas ca sayanas ca vicarann api ca sthitah, 'sitting and lying, walking and standing'. The phrase in Y. 68. 6 vispdsca apo yazamaide yd zoma, armaBstd fratat.caratasca, 'and all the waters of the earth we worship, the stagnant and the forward-moving', may be regarded as a variation on the basic idea.

The Indo-European ability to create negative compounds with the prefix *n- made it easy to form polar expressions of the type 'X and non-X': amstam martiyam ca 'immortal and mortal' (RV 1. 35. 2); y^mann ayaman 'whether moving or not' (RV 1. 181. 7); dana adnna.. . sistan asistan 'burnt or unburnt . .. left or not left' (AV 2. 31. 3); dasyann adasyann uta 'whether he is going to give or not' (AV 6. 71. 3); akamo va sakamo va 'willy nilly' (MBh. 3. 289. 18), which corresponds in sense to Avestan yezi zaosa yezi azaos'a (Y. 1. 21), Greek deAeos adeAeos (Aesch. Supp. 862), Latin uolens nolens; ye ca iha pitaro ye ca neha 'both those fathers who are here and those who are not here' (RV 10. 15. 13), corresponding to Greek o'i t ovres o" t anovres (Soph. Ant. 1109), cf. Latin quod fuit quod non fuit (Plaut. Trin. 360); yadaca anyadaca 'here and not here' (Y. 35. 2); srunvatasca asrunvatasca xsayantasca axsayantasca 'hearers and non-hearers, rulers and non-rulers' (Y. 35. 4); sponca aepoma 'fortune and misfortune' (Y. 45. 9); d^aroi re j>aroi re p^roi r dpprjroe re

90 On this term cf. Benveniste (1973), 32-9, 49-51; R. Lazzeroni, SSL 15 (1975), 20-35.

91 With this latter merism compare Hes. Op. 529 Kepaoi Kai vyKepoi vAyKoirai, 'the horned and hornless forest-couchers', though the reference is not quite the same.

'unmentioned and mentioned, spoken and unspoken of' (Hes. Op. 3-4); Kai SiKaia KaSiKa 'through right or wrong' (Solon fr. 30 and related texts), paralleled in Latin by per omne fas ac nefas secuturi (Livy 6. 14. 10), honesta atque inhonesta (Tac. Ann. 2. 38); pennatas inpennatasque agnas 'bearded and beardless ears of corn' (Carmen Saliare ap. Fest. p. 211 M.); nerf sihitu ansihitu, iouie hostatu anhostatu 'principes cinctos incinctos, iuuenes hastatos inhasta-tos' (Tab. Iguv. VIb. 59, cf. VIIa. 13 f., 28, al.); snata asnata 'umecta non umecta' IIa.19, cf. 34; bennacht de 7 ande fort 'the blessing of gods and non-gods on you' (Tain (I) 2043), which recalls RV 6. 22. 11 na ytl adevo ... na devah, 'neither a non-god nor a god'.

An( especially widespread and long-lasting formula is 'seen and unseen'. It occurs in several incantations of the Atharvaveda, as for example in 2. 31. 2 drstam adfstam atrham, 'the seen, the unseen one [worm] I have crushed' (cf. 5. 23. 6-7; 8. 8. 15); the intention was to leave no loophole by which an undetected worm might escape. So in the Roman prayer given by Cato (De agricultura 141. 2), uti tu morbos uisos inuisosque .. . prohibessis defendas auerruncesque, 'that thou mayest ward off, repel, and avert distempers seen and unseen'. In the Umbrian ritual regulations expiation is offered to Jupiter Grabovius persei .. . tuer perscler uirseto auirseto uas est 'if in your sacrifice there is any seen or unseen imperfection' (Tab. Iguv. VIa. 28, 38, 48, al.). We read of an Irish oath sworn 'by all elements visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth'.92

Such apparently catch-all formulae were especially suited to legal or other prescriptive language where the intention was to exclude any transgression or oversight. It is in this spirit that Hesiod enjoins that we should not urinate while walking, 'neither on the road nor off the road' (Op. 729). Sometimes it is deemed advisable to provide for both male and female. The Hittites make a practice of invoking 'all gods and goddesses'; in the great prayer of Muwatalli, after a lengthy list of deities, the Storm-god is addressed, and then 'gods and goddesses of the king and queen, those named and those not named, those in whose temples the king and queen officiate and those in whose temples they do not officiate'.93 In RV 6. 68. 4 the phrase 'all the gods' is reinforced by gnaf ca naraf ca, 'females and males'. Zeus in the Iliad calls on 'all gods and all goddesses' to hear him, and a similar phrase was traditional in Greek prayers and treaties.94 In another of Cato's prayers for farmers (De agric. 139) the

92 Fled Duin na nGed p. 1. 5 Lehmann: ratha na n-uile dul aicsige 7 nemaicsigi 7 nach duil fil a nim 7 a talmain.

93 CTH381 rev. iii 5-8; Lebrun (1980), 265/280. Further examples in Beckman (1999), 40, 47, 52, 58, 63, 68, 82, 86, 92, 112, 121. For a seventh-century Assyrian example see West (1997), 222.

94 Il. 8. 5 = 19. 101; Ar. Av. 866 f. with Nan Dunbar's commentary. In two Eddic poems (PrymskviBa 14. 1-4 = Baldrs draumar 1. 1-4) we find the couplet 'All the gods were together at assembly, and all the goddesses at the debate'.

man thinning out a clump of trees is directed to say si deus si dea es quoium illud sacrum sit, 'be you god or goddess to whom this place is sacred'.95 In a Vedic spell we read salabhasya salabhiyas .. . api nahyama asyam 'of the he-locust, of the she-locust ... we tie up the mouth' (AV Paipp. 5. 20. 5).96

Sometimes the effort is made to stop a possible loophole by adding the middle term to the pair of opposites; the opposites are regularly placed first, with the intermediate term following. So in RV 4. 25. 8 pdre dvare madhyamisah 'the higher, the lower, the middle-ranking';97 Theognis 3, 'I will always sing of thee first and last and in the middle'; [Aeschylus], Prom. 115, 'what sound, what invisible fragrance floats upon me—godsent, or mortal, or a blend of the two?' Aeschylus' Eteocles demands obedience from every citizen of Thebes, avyp yw- Te x^ti twv peTaixpiov, 'man and woman and whatever is in the area between' (Sept. 197); and similarly in the Mahabharata (12. 250. 30), 'among men you will become a man in form, among women a female, among the third class a neuter' (napumsakam, literally 'a non-male, an unmannikin').

In another idiom universality is expressed as the sum of past and future, or of past, present, and future, or rather 'what has been, what is, and what is to be'.98 'Purusha is this universe, ydd bhutdm ydc ca bhdviyam, the one that has been and the one that is to be' (RV 10. 90. 2, cf. AV 10. 7. 22, 8. 1); bhutasyesana bhuvanasya devi 'goddess who has power over what has been (and) what is' (AV Paipp. 11. 1. 5); vispas ta hujitayo ya za agharo yasca honti I yasca, Mazda, buvainta 'all those good lives that have been and those that are and those, Wise One, that shall be' (Y. 33. 10, cf. 45. 7, 51. 22); navd' oaa t rjv oaa t iaTi Kal eaTai 'everything that was and that is and will be' (Empedocles B 21. 9).

These expressions appear particularly in connection with divine or vatic knowledge. Varuna in RV 1. 25. 11 sees krtani ya ca kdrtuva, 'things done and yet to be done'. The sage Markandeya knows past, present, and future (MBh. 3. 186. 85; cf. 9. 62. 38; 12. 47. 65, 50. 18, 82. 30, 275). The wise queen Vidura is bhavisyad-bhuta-darsim, a 'future-and-past-beholder' (MBh. 5. 134. 12). Calchas knew Ta t iovTa Ta t iaaopeva npo t iovTa, 'what is and what will be and what was before' (Il. 1. 70). Hesiod uses the same words of the songs that the Muses sing on Olympus, and claims a similar power for himself

95 Cf. also CIL i.2 801 sei deo sei deiuae sacrum; 1485 sei deus sei dea; 2644 sei deo sei deae, and the early evocatio reported by Furius Philus ap. Macr. Sat. 3. 9. 7.

96 Cf. also AV 1. 8. 1 ya idam stri pümän akar iha, 'whoever—woman, man—has done this here'; Od. 4. 142; Gonda (1959), 342.

97 Similarly in RV 10. 81. 5; AV 1. 17. 2; 6. 103. 2; 7. 83. 3; 10. 7. 8; 18. 4. 69.

98 Cf. Schmitt (1967), 252-4; Schlerath (1968), ii. 159.

thanks to the wondrous voice that they have breathed into him (Th. 32, 38). The Nart hero Syrdon 'could not only relate what had already happened, but also predict the future'.99 In a fifteenth-century Polish sermon the Christian is admonished that he will have no need of dream-interpreters, astrologers, incantation-mongers, or 'divinatores badaczye, qui futura ac eventus fortuitos et preterita occulta et presencia suis supersticionibus prenosticant':100 the Slavonic seers of the time evidently still canvassed the old formula.

Past and future are also brought together in expressions of uniqueness: RV 1. 81. 5 na tvilvarh Indra kas cana I na jato na janisyate, 'none like thee, Indra, has ever been born nor ever will be' (cf. 7. 32. 23, 99. 2); MBh. 10. 5. 26 'that man has not been born, nor will be, who .. .'; Sappho fr. 56, '[...,] nor do I think that there will ever (again) be any girl of such musical skill born to the light of day'; in Armenian, Sassountsy David 303 'David, in all the world there has never been one as brave as you, and there never will be one as brave as you'; in Welsh, 'of all who were and will be, there is not your equal'; 'there does not come and will not come anything more grievous';101 in Norse, Gylf. 47 engi hefir sa orbit ok engi mun verba ... at eigi komi ellin tgllum til falls, 'no such man has existed and none will exist, that old age will not bring them all down'.

The unique weapon or piece of armour is the subject of an interesting little group of parallels. Heracles appears to Odysseus in the underworld wearing an elaborately ornamented sword-belt, of which the poet exclaims, almost untranslatably (Od. 11. 613 f.),

IV Texynoa^evos mS' o-XAo n rexvrfoairo, os Kelvov reAai&va ¿nl iyK^rdero rexvni.

He need have crafted nothing else before or since, the man who compassed that sword-belt in his craft.

There is nothing else like this in Homer. But in a little-known Norse saga the dying Hildibrand sings of his sword, now broken, which 'dwarfs now dead had forged, such as no one (else) can, before or hereafter'. And in a Serbo-Croat heroic song Marko Kraljevic, after establishing that the craftsman of his sword has never made a better one, cuts off his right arm to ensure that he never will.102

101 Uryen Erechwydd 42 f. (Book of Taliesin 57), trs. Koch-Carey (2000), 344; Y Gododdin 1119.

102 Edd. min. 53, 2. 5-8, from Asmundarsaga Kappabana; SCHS ii, no. 7. 71-83.

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