Homeric Rhythm: A Philosophical Study

Homeric Rhythm: A Philosophical Study

Homeric Rhythm: A Philosophical Study

Homeric Rhythm: A Philosophical Study


In a follow-up to his previous Homeric studies, noted classicist Paolo Vivante explores Homer's verse, highlighting rhythm rather than metre. Rhythmical qualities, he argues, constitute the force of the verse--for example, in the way the words take position and in the way each pause hints suspense, producing an immediate sense of time. Vivante's main concern is not with the techniques or rules of the verse-composition, but more philosophically with verse itself as a fundamental form of human expression. This study will be of interest to both students and scholars.


This book is much concerned with the concepts of time and existence, perception and expression. I interpret Homeric verse on these basic grounds. It is my object to find an inherent poetic reason or causa sui, without necessarily invoking tradition or epic convention.

With this intention, I show how the Homeric narrative breaks into single acts and states of being that pass before us in the field of vision while the upward and downward movement of the verse-rhythm renders them as rising and vanishing moments. There is always a sense of coming to be and passing away. Descriptive variety thus yields ground to the feeling of a perpetual time-beat, occurrence becomes recurrence, and the very tempo of the verse ensures the domain of form and typifies the momentary. Hence come the repeated phrases--the "formulas". They are indispensable in bringing out this aspect of time; they are ultimately due to a mode of perception and not to compositional technique.

Part of what I say in these pages (especially in chapter 4) I have already said in previous work; but now everything takes on a fresh significance in relation to rhythm. Thus I have often dwelt on Homer's sense of time; but now this sense is made palpable through its intimate connection with the inner timing of the verse. Similarly I have often explained how Homer focalizes the action; but now this focus is sharply evinced by the high-point of the central caesura. Or, again, I have written elsewhere about Homer's sympathetic insight into nature; but now this quality appears intrinsic to a verse that highlights kindred rhythms in all animate and natural movements.

Rhythm so conceived deeply affects the contents. Far from being a mere medium of composition, the verse becomes a form of thought that penetrates the material and conditions the subject-matter. the same . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.