Wednesday, April 03, 2024


Hesiod's Worst Hexameter

Hesiod, Theogony 319 (tr. M.L. West):
But she bore Chimaera, who breathed invincible fire...

ἣ δὲ Χίμαιραν ἔτικτε πνέουσαν ἀμαιμάκετον πῦρ...
West in his commentary ad loc.:
This peculiarly ungainly verse is the result of determination to combine the Chimaera's epithets πῦρ πνείουσα (fr. 43 (a) 87, cf. Il. 6.182, Pi. O. 13.90) and ἀμαιμάκετος (Il. 6.179, 16.329), which has become transferred to πῦρ in the process. Wilamdwitz is justified in calling it Hesiod's worst hexameter (Gr. Verskunst, p. 8, n. 1: it violates Hermann's Bridge, and it is the only line in early epic to combine such a violation with a final monosyllable; it also violates Meyer's First Law (p. 95); and it has an un-Homeric correption before a mute and nasal combination (p. 98).
West, Introduction to Greek Metre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 21:
A 'bridge' is the converse of a caesura: a place where word-end is avoided. Gottfried Hermann observed in 1805 that it is avoided between the two shorts of the fourth biceps.
West in Ian Morris and Barry Powell, edd., A New Companion to Homer (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. 225:
Meyer's First Law states that words which begin in the first foot do not end between the shorts of the second foot, or at the end of that foot.
See Jon Solomon, "In Defense of Hesiod's 'Schlechtestem Hexameter'," Hermes 113.1 (1985) 21-30.

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