Bryn Mawr Classical Review 03.01.14


RESPONSE: Daitz on Wyatt on Daitz

Stephen G. Daitz
The City College, CUNY


I am delighted that Wyatt (see BMCR 2.7.9) has given me an opportunity to clarify my views on the question of pause in the oral rendition of Homeric verse. I hope to show that despite divergences in detail, our overall views are actually closer than might at first be apparent.

First our divergences, addressed in the order of Wyatt's "Response".

1. Wyatt quotes John Crowe Ransom's statement, "I do not myself know how poetry should be read". This statement is in a sense a truism, for obviously there is no one way that all poetry should be read. But could we not accept a partial converse to this statement: We do know how classical poetry (and most other poetry) should not be read, e.g. unrhythmically (assuming that our reading aims for some degree of poetic authenticity).

2. Wyatt posits a dilemma in reading a verse from Donne's tenth elegy: "So if I dream I have you, I have you", the dilemma being that a reading of the verse as five consecutive iambs would distort the meaning. True, but it is a common prosodic feature of English iambic poetry to substitute occasionally a choriamb for two iambs, e.g., "To bé or nót to bé, thát is the quéstion." And so forth, with a choriamb substitution in exactly the same position. Donne's verse can be satisfactorily rendered: "So íf I dréamed I háave you, I háve you."

3. Wyatt believes that line end of the hexameter is sufficiently marked without pause because only one syllable is permitted after the longum of the sixth measure and because the phenomena of liaison, elision, and correption are allowed within the line but not at line end. However, these phenomena, correctly noted by Wyatt, would be more of a compositional parameter for the poet in the act of composition than they would be a signal of line end for the listener. It seems to me that the normal rhythm of the