Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.07.04

Ilya Leonard Pfeijffer, First Person Futures in Pindar. Hermes Einzelschriften 81.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 1999.  Pp. 105.  ISBN 3-515-07564-X.  DM 64.  



Reviewed by Douglas E. Gerber, University of Western Ontario (degerber@julian.uwo.ca)
Word count: 1070 words

In 1962 Elroy Bundy asserted the following: "The laudator's use of the future indicative in the first person (when the song, or another witness, is the subject, the third person is used) is, in fact, a conventional element of the enkomiastic style. It never points beyond the ode itself, and its promise is often fulfilled by the mere pronunciation of the word" (Studia Pindarica 21). This dictum has been endorsed for one passage or another by many Pindarists (myself included), often, I suspect, because it provided an easy solution to the problems presented by a large number of futures in instances where at first glance a present tense seemed more appropriate. Now, for the first time, we have a detailed treatment of these futures, a treatment which seeks to prove that Bundy's dictum is in fact untenable. "There is no such thing as an encomiastic future. There is no future in Pindar that merely expresses a present intention or that is performative to the extent that its promise is fulfilled by the mere pronunciation of the word. The reference to a future moment is relevant in every single instance of a future verb in Pindar. In no case can one convert the future into a present without any loss of meaning" (p. 67).

Pfeijffer breaks down these futures into two main categories, each with a sub-category. The first (I) consists of "futures with a text internal reference," either "referring to a later moment in the ode" (IA) or "announcing the ode as a whole" (IB), what he calls "'fictional' futures." The second (II) consists of "futures with a text external reference," either "generic futures" (IIA) or with reference to "a specific moment beyond the performance of the ode" (IIB). Perhaps the best way to illustrate his approach would be to give one example from each category.

Those in IA are the most straightforward. When Pindar proclaims in O. 13.52 "I shall not tell lies about Corinth," this promise is fulfilled in the following accounts of Sisyphus, Medea, Glaucus, and Bellerophon. 21 futures are assigned to this category. More significant are the examples under IB. These futures occur early in the ode and are characterized as "fictional" because their purpose is "to create the illusion that his odes take shape at the very spot, fictionally representing the process of composition rather than offering the ready products of that process. This fiction of spontaneity as such contributes to the encomiastic aims of the victory odes, to the extent that it camouflages the formality of the occasion and the coldness of the contractual relationship, and presents the praise the victor is getting as a voluntary outpouring of pure joy that is incited by nothing but his accomplishment" (p. 34). Such futures may be combined with imperatives which serve the same purpose, as in N. 3 where the Muse is invoked with three imperatives before the two futures of v. 12. This "triple entreaty to the Muse ... together with the picture of the chorus waiting for her to make her appearance in Aegina ... and the futures κοινώσομαι and ἕξει (12) create the illusion that the ode has not started yet." I might add that Pindar creates the same illusion in O. 1.17-18 with the command to himself to take the lyre from its peg. There can be no question of musical accompaniment beginning only at that point. 16 futures are placed in this category.

The examples under IIA consist of "futures imparting a generic sense, where the future tense of the verb is used to project a certain action, conduct or attitude into any moment to come," as in proverbial expressions like "boys will be boys." This is the type of future one finds, for example, in P. 3.107-9 where Pindar says: "I shall be small in small times, great in great ones: I shall honor with my mind whatever fortune attends me, by serving it with the means at my disposal" (Race's Loeb translation). Such generic futures have much in common with gnomic aorists. 17 futures are assigned to this category. The final category (IIB) is the smallest (11 examples) and also the most controversial. It consists of "futures referring to a specific moment (or specific moments) beyond the performance of the ode." A relatively straightforward example is O. 9.25, "I shall send this announcement everywhere." Here "πέμπω anticipates a number of more or less official reruns elsewhere in the Hellenic world that will follow the performance that is part of the official public tribute to the victor in his home city." On pp. 61-65 Pfeijffer concludes his analysis of first person futures with a separate treatment of O. 11, the ode which "led Bundy to launch his notion of the encomiastic future." The futures κελαδήσω and ἐγυυάσομαι "project the victor's praise to the moment that he will be honoured in his home town." The promise is fulfilled by O. 10, but we do not need O. 10 in order to understand O. 11 properly. "If we did not possess O. 10, we could appreciate O. 11 as a self-contained victory ode that entirely fulfills the aims of genre, thematizing χρῆσις, the need for song, by projecting the victor's praise into a future moment."

The book concludes with an appendix on Theocr. Idyll 2 in which he argues against Faraone's view that the futures in vv. 10, 11, 33 and 159 describe "ritual actions being performed at that very moment," a long bibliography (pp. 77-92), an index of first person futures, an index of passages discussed, an index of scholars mentioned, and a subject index. Although issue could be taken over some specific details, I do not think there is much doubt that he has proved his general thesis. We should no longer speak of encomiastic futures, and in fact when one stops to reflect on such a usage, it does seem highly improbable. Why should it have been so peculiar to epinician poetry?

There are quite a few misprints, but none is serious. The bibliography, however, borders on the bizarre. It contains a vast number of entries which are not referred to in the body of the book and which are not directly relevant to the subject matter. To give just one example, eight of my own works are listed, but only two are actually cited anywhere and several are irrelevant. There are also some errors in dates and volume numbers.

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