Thursday, May 24, 2012


Attic Greek

H.W. Garrod (1878-1960), Scholarship: Its Meaning and Value (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1946), pp. 67-68:
About the Greek drama in itself, I will add, I feel still a fundamental disquiet. It seems to me a never properly adjusted fusion between two elements which, for convenience, I will call the Attic and the Doric. When I was a boy in one of the lower forms at school, we used to read the dialogue parts (for they were Attic) and leave out the choruses—they were too hard. Now I read the choruses and leave out the rest; and I await the day when somebody will have the courage to say that the Greek drama was spoiled by becoming Attic. People have complained of Gilbert Murray for rendering the non-choric portions of Greek tragedy by rhymed verse. But here, though not everywhere perhaps, he knew what he was doing. The rhymed decasyllabic couplets are wanted; for the original has the same jejunity as Pope.

I am going to let the flood of heretical opinion carry me yet further. For the purpose of composition, of the imitatio veterum, our reading in Greek—I speak of Oxford custom—is directed above all upon the Attic writers, prose and verse. When I taught Greek, I could not tell my pupils that these were the worst parts of Greek literature—that the fifth century B.C. marked (except for Plato) a progressive degeneration of language and style. I could not say that, but I believed it. Plato stands in his own circle of light; and the mystery of him—why he is not Attic—I have not the learning to penetrate. But when I read, first Homer, and then Pindar and the great lyrists, and then Herodotus (I think they are still my favourite Greek authors), when, after reading these, I turn to the Attics, I feel myself in a world comparatively mean and in parts of it dowdy. Atticism and the Attic— whether ancient or modern—I believe that in the heart of us we all hate it, or are all a little bored with it, and dare not say so.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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