I. THE NATURE OF GREEK METRE

A. ORIGINS

GREEK is a member of the Indo-European family of languages, descended from a prehistoric parent language of which more than one stage of evolution and more than one dialect can be distinguished. The IE peoples appear to have spread in the fourth and third millennia BC from an original homeland in the south Russian steppes, north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Comparisons with other languages allow us to determine what elements of Greek vocabulary and grammar are inherited from IE, and in how changed a form. In the same way, comparisons with the metrical systems of certain other IE peoples show fairly clearly that Greek metre has IE origins. At least the basic principles of prosody seem to be IE, while some of the simpler lyric verse-forms seem to have developed in a straightforward way from even simpler IE prototypes. Simple stanza-forms too appear to be inherited.

It is not surprising that such relationships should exist. All peoples at all times have poetry and song, no less than they have language. Therefore, although there may be much change and innovation in the course of a thousand or two thousand years of a people's history, there can be no discontinuity in the history of their speech or poetic traditions. A new tradition, perhaps imported from a neighbouring or a subject people, may oust an older one, but only after a period of concurrence, in which something of the old may be absorbed in the new.

Certainly things may change out of recognition within a few centuries. In most branches of the IE tradition the original principles of metrical composition have disappeared from view or left only dim traces. It is really only the comparison of the Greek and Indian evidence that brings them out at all clearly. Once they are perceived, one can see that other traditions such as the Slavic and Celtic fit into the pattern, but it would not be possible to deduce a common origin for these without the

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Introduction to Greek Metre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Metrical Symbols ix
  • Abbreviations for Text Collections xi
  • I. the Nature of Greek Metre 1
  • Ii. Prosody 10
  • Iii. the Standard Stichic Metres 19
  • Iv. the Lyric Poets 31
  • V. the Lyric Metres of Drama 48
  • Vi. the Later Centuries 68
  • Glossary-Index 85
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