Versification

Scholars have long looked for genetic relationships between the metrical systems used by different ancient Indo-European peoples. Rudolf Westphal made the first such attempt in 1860, and a meritorious effort it was.60 He compared Vedic and Avestan metres with some of the standard Greek ones, and fastened on to a number of important points. Others in the nineteenth century tried to reconstruct an Urvers from which the Latin Saturnian and Germanic alliterative verse could also be derived by postulating developments ad hoc, but they failed to add much of significance to what Westphal had achieved.61

56 Pratinas, PMG 708. 5; Pind. Pyth. 8. 34, Nem. 7. 22, Isth. 5. 63; Anon. PMG 954b.

57 Theognis 237 f.; Pind. Pyth. 5. 114, Isth. 1. 64; cf. Ennius' claim in his epitaph, uolito uiuus per ora uirum, 'I fly living across the mouths of men'.

58 See Durante (1958), 7 f. ~ (1976), 128; Nünlist (1998), 145-8.

59 Ol. 2. 83-90; see also Ol. 1. 112, 9. 5-12, Nem. 6. 28, Isth. 2. 3, 5. 46 f., fr. 6a (g).

60 'Zur vergleichenden Metrik der indogermanischen Völker', ZVS 9 (1860), 437-58.

61 K. Bartsch, Der saturnische Vers und die altdeutsche Langzeile (Leipzig 1867); F. Allen, 'Ueber den Ursprung des homerischen Versmasses', ZVS 24 (1879), 556-92; H. Seiling, Ursprung und Messung des homerischen Verses (Progr. Münster, Nördlingen 1887); Hermann Usener, Altgriechischer Versbau (Bonn 1887). Cf. Schmitt (1967), 7 f.

A real advance was made by Antoine Meillet, who based his conclusions mainly on a careful comparison of Vedic with Greek metres.62 Without mentioning Westphal, he made many of the same points; but whereas Westphal's eye had focused, for the Greek side, on the hexameter and the iambic dimeter and trimeter, Meillet found better comparanda in the metres of the Lesbian lyricists. And whereas Westphal (and the other Germans) could not comprehend any metre except in terms of a regular beat, the Francophone Meillet, writing at a time when music was coming to be written more often without bar lines, understood that quantitatively patterned verses may be taken at face value and need not be divisible into feet of equal duration.

While there have been a few sceptics, most investigators since Meillet have accepted that his conclusions form a sound basis for further work. The two major extensions to his edifice have been the analyses of Slavonic metre by Roman Jakobson and of Old Irish metre by Calvert Watkins.63 Continuing efforts have been made to bring Italic and Germanic verse under the same umbrella, and there have been various claims for the recognition of Indo-European elements in specimens of Hittite, Luwian, Lycian, Lydian, Sidetic, Phrygian, Gaulish, Celtiberian, Welsh, and Tocharian verse. The following survey must necessarily be succinct, concentrating on the main facts and leaving aside much subsidiary detail.64

0 0

Post a comment