Thursday, March 29, 2007

Simonides, Hesiod, and Women

I came across this fragment (6) of Simonides in the Cambridge History of Greek Literature:
γυναικὸς οὐδὲν χρῆμ᾽ ἀνὴρ ληΐζεται
ἐσθλῆς ἄμεινον οὐδὲ ῥίγιον κακῆς

[A man gains nothing better than a good woman, nor worse than a bad one.]

The word ῥίγιον literally means more frosty, colder, but is used metaphorically in the sense of more horrible. The word ληίζομαι can mean generally to get or to gain, but the primary meaning is to seize as booty, to take by force. This reminded me of Fortson's discussion of marriage in Indo-European traditions, where the term for marriage is usually a verb meaning to take or to lead away, as λαμβάνειν or ἄγεσθαι in Greek, or the phrase uxorem ducere in Latin; he confidently projects this back to Proto-Indo-European. Fortson points out that these roots are also used of cattle and water (note the use of χρῆμα above, a thing that one uses or needs, in plural, goods, property). He writes: "their use here indicates exogamous and virilocal marriage where the bride was taken or led from her father's family to her husband's" (Indo-European Language and Culture, 18).

Notice the neat structure of the second line: the simple word οὐδὲ in the center, flanked by two antithetical comparatives, ἄμεινον and ῥίγιον, with the opposite values ἐσθλῆς and κακῆς in the genitive at the extremities of the verse (both of which agree with the very first word of the fragment, γυναικὸς).

This seems to be taken directly from Hesiod's Works and Days (702-703) and reworked from hexameters into iambics:
οὐ μὲν γάρ τι γυναικὸς ἀνὴρ ληΐζετ᾽ ἄμεινον
τῆς ἀγαθὴς, τῆς δ᾽ αὖτε κακῆς οὐ ῥίγιον ἄλλο

It is almost word for word, in fact, with the addition of χρῆμα, and the use of ἐσθλῆς for ἀγαθὴς. The next line in Hesiod, 704, begins with the enjambment of the interesting word δειπνολόχης, meaning fishing for invitations to dinner, parasitic.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

An evill imped wing to flie withall

In the section on Roger Ascham, in A History of Classical Scholarship, v.II, p. 235, J.E. Sandys relates Ascham's thoughts on the value of translations: In opposing the opinion of the bishop, who said, we have no nede now of the Greeke tong, when all things be translated into Latin, Ascham urges that, even the best translation is ... but an evill imped wing to flie withall, or a hevie stompe leg of wood to go withall.