Sunday, October 03, 2004

the Catullan Galliambic

We're reading Catullus 63 this week and I've found no work very helpful on the meter.

So here is the schema, which is really much simpler than the commentaries and metrical treatises would have you believe:

And here is the most natural form of this ionic meter followed by Catullus' most common adaptation:

The places marked here by curly brackets allow the phenomenon called anaclasis, whereby two positions of different quantity may be switched. Put simply long-short become short-long, as the schema makes clear.

You'll notice that in the first half Catullus favors anaclasis in the bracketed portion, while he favors resolution in the second. I haven't bothered to calculate percentages but I'd bet he follows this as a rule 75% of the time.

Aside from resolution and contraction (which are pretty straightforward) the only seemingly tricky thing occurs between the curly brackets. But even that isn't so tricky. There are only three options:

Galliambic meter should never cause anyone headaches again.

Now who's a metrist of some repute?


The symbol showing two shorts below a long indicates 'contractible biceps,' i.e. a position which is properly filled by double breve (two shorts) but which may be contracted into a single longum.

The symbol showing two shorts above a long indicates 'resolvable long,' i.e. a position which is properly filled by a single longum but which may be resolved into double breve.

The basic Ionic metron is composed of two shorts followed by two longs. The Galliambic is properly an Ionic dimeter plus an Ionic dimeter catalectic (catalexis refers to suppression of the final element at line end -- note that the second dimeter is always short one syllable).


Anonymous said...

"Latin Metre", D.S. Raven has a very clear and concise staement of this metre's particulars (124). In it he touches on details such as word division and word accent vis a vis metrical units.


dennis said...

Actually Raven is not clear at all. He does what most people do when dealing with this meter, viz. he offers an elusive prose account of the features and lists a number of possibilities without adequately describing the schema.

The bit about accent at the end may be his only unique contribution, but I'm still on the fence about the importance of natural word accent in Roman poetry of this or later periods.

He's wrong on a few counts though when he suggests that Catullus' basic concept of the meter is built on two anacreontics. As I've shown the first ionic dimeter tends toward anaclasis and the ionic dimeter catalectic tends toward resolution in the bracketed position.

The only general reference that is helpful on the Galliambic is Halporn, Ostwald and Rosenmeyer, but even their description isn't as clear as mine.

And I don't say that to blow my own horn. It's just true. I arrived at this analysis by starting with the basic Greek schema outlined in West and then scanning all of Catullus 63.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Dennis wrote:

Actually Raven is not clear at all... He offers an elusive prose account... without adequately describing the schema.

Perhaps I am dense, but I see neither the thrust of your criticicism of Raven, nor the point of your distinction with regard to the anacreontic, nor the supposed difficulty of the meter, which alleged difficulty inheres, I think, not really in the meter itself, but rather in the reader's ability or inability to recognize quantity and rhythm in the absence of a reduced set of possibilities as is offered by the dactylic hexameter or the elegiac couplet (i.e., in those metres the simplicity of the available options 'aids', as it were, the scansion. A line allowing more frequent metrical variation (as in the galliambic or in some of Pindar's lyric metres, is more demanding of the reader, but should (s)he be able to recognize the quantities, I fail to see what the difficulty might be.

Anaclasis, while certainly part of the galliambic's brick and mortar, is not unique to it. It is found in the tragedians, in Pindar's epinikia, etc. Its prominence in the galliambic is noted at least as far back as the Peri ton metron of Hephaistion, and the scholiast on Hephaistion, c.12.p.67 (GALLIAMBIKON DE EKLH8H, EPEI LELUMENON ESTI TO METRON K.T.L.)
is unambiguous about the looseness of the meter as well as its perceived effect.

Regarding your assertion that Raven is wrong about the anacreontic base of the metre, I still fail to see the error. That you say so doesn't make it so. Perhaps I am enveloped in a cloud of unknowing so that the significance of your distinction eludes me: the anacreontic may be described fairly as arising out of anaclasis at the center of an ionic a minore. This is Raven's position, to which I subscribe, along with George Thomson and Paul Maas. Nonetheless, whether the ionic, on the one hand, or the anacreontic on the other, be deemed the proud parent of the galliambic hardly seems to carry the same weight as that of the world on Atlas' shoulders: the one unit is formed by anaclasis in the other, and is generally accorded status as a metron in itself. To set them in sharp opposition to one another is much like raving over naked eye distinctions among the generations of fruitflies in a bunch of overripe bananas.

Beyond that, the anacreontic variant on the ionic seems to be the statistically dominant form in Catullus 63, accounting for about 64 out of 93 lines. It corresponds to Raven's type (b). Type (a) is used twice, while I count about 6 occurrences for Raven's type (c) and 3 for type (d). Type (e) yields 7 instances, while type (f) shows itself in 3 lines. Types (g) and (h) are typical of single occurrence lines which account for about 8 lines (22, 54, 63, 73, 76, 77, 86, 91). While Raven does not enumerate each of the single occurrence variants, they are implicit in his presentation and are easily extrapolated from his remarks on metrical equivalence.

Hence I don't understand whatever may constitute the deficiency you seem to find in what seems to be an adequate presentation which very economically accounts for the principle line types in Catullus 63. Admittedly he doesn't provide a schematic such as yours, but, if one can identify longa and brevia at sight, such a schematic is really not needed, and, given the number of possible variations and metrical equivalences, constitutes one of those tools which, for pure functionality, looks better than it really proves to be in practical terms.

Finally, I don't object to your schematic. It's just that I find it neither necessary nor useful. Additionally, while my tone may have been facetious, I hope you take no offense. Also, since I'm not an accountant, my statistics are approximate and have not been double checked. I am impaired with respect to both typing and counting.

Off topic:

By the way, I see reference to an anonymous post which was removed by the administrator. I find this both puzzling and intriguing for a post on Latin metre. WHy was it removed?


dennis said...

We may have to agree to disagree because my classmates found my schema immensely useful where others (including Raven) were not.

I didn't say that raven wrong about the Anacreontic base. I said he's wrong in suggesting "that Catullus' basic concept of the meter is built on two anacreontics." That's because the Anacreontic is a variant of the Ionic and that only the first half of the asynarteton tends toward the Anacreontic. The second half is usually a simple Ionic dimeter catalectic, not an Anacreontic. I made no sharp distinction between the Ionic and the Anacreontic.

My argument is that Raven wasn't clear enough to help my classmates understand a rare meter.

Further, Raven's 'types' a through h are all accounted for by my single schema. How is it clearer or more helpful to give eight distinct variants leading toward a general impression rather than one concise plan of what's possible in a meter?

I congratulate you for being able to identify brevia and longa at sight and for finding no difficulty in scanning Pindaric odes. One would wonder then why you even need Raven.

As for the deleted post, that was my own. My first response didn't appear on the server for about an hour so I posted it again. After some delay both responses appeared, and the second was unnecessarily redundant, so I deleted it.