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HesperosStudies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday$
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P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, and N. J. Richardson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199285686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.001.0001

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Dionysius’ Ear

Dionysius’ Ear

(p.297) 20 Dionysius’ Ear

L. P. E. Parker

Oxford University Press

The formulaic language of the early hexameter poets grew up over time designed to produce good hexameters, verses that sounded agreeable. A poet composing with these preformed blocks would be unlikely to strive after special effects. Yet the temptation to detect deliberate onomatopoeia in 598 is strong. Dionysius subjects the verse to close scrutiny in order to define how the rhythmic effect that he feels has been produced. He observes that there are no monosyllables and only two disyllables. No long vowel or diphthong is followed by more than one consonant, and pairs of consonants appear only where needed to ‘make position’ following a short vowel. In fact, to his way of thinking, all the syllables are as short as possible. Then, the words are nowhere ‘forced apart’ by (apparent) hiatus, or final semivowel meeting initial semivowel. But finally, and ‘most surprising of all’, all the ‘feet’, except the last, are dactylic. This chapter argues that unlike most ancient theorists, Dionysius shows himself genuinely interested in the sound of verse, but his surprise here does no credit to the sensitivity of his ear. Nearly one fifth of Homeric hexameters are holodactylic. Moreover, he failed to notice one really remarkable fact about the verse in question: all the bicipitia except one are split by word-end.

Keywords:   hexameter poets, Dionysius, verse, holodactylic, bicipitia

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