τί δ᾽ ἔστιν. In order to form a judgment on this difficult verse, a careful scrutiny of Sophoclean usage is required. (1) The reading closest to the MSS. would be, “τί δ᾽ ἔστιν αὖ; κάκιον ἦ κακῶν ἔτι”; This involves merely a change of punctuation, and of accent (“ἦ” for “ἤ”). But it suggests these difficulties. (a) The interrogative ἦ occurs about 50 times in Soph. : and in every instance it is the first word of the interrogative clause. Only a vocative sometimes precedes it, as O. C. 1102 “ὦ τέκνον, ἦ πάρεστον”; so ib. 863, Ph. 369.Eur. , indeed, does not always observe this rule: El. 967 “τί δῆτα δρῶμεν; μητέρ᾽ ἦ φονεύσομεν”; In Eur. Hec. 1013 I should point thus, “ποῦ δῆτα; πέπλων ἐντὸς ἦ κρύψασ᾽ ἔχεις”; (“ἦ” Valckenaer for “ἢ”). But, if we read “κάκιον ἦ κακῶν ἔτι” here, it would be a solitary departure from the practice of Soph. , as seen in fifty other examples. (b) The formula “τί δ᾽ ἔστι” (cp. on v. 20) occurs 21 times in Soph. (including Soph. Ph. 733, where the MSS. give “τί ἔστι” without “δ᾽”) as a question complete in itself. But there is not one instance of “τί δ᾽ ἔστιν αὖ”; which is, indeed, illsuited to the rhythm of the tragic senarius. (2) Transposing αὖ and ἤ, we could read, “τί δ᾽ ἔστιν; ἢ” [or better, ἦ] “κάκιον αὖ κακῶν ἔτι”; But: (a) if this had been the original order, it is most improbable that “ἤ” and “αὖ” would have changed places. The sense would have been perfectly clear, whereas with “αὖ...ἤ” (the order in the MSS.) it is obscure. (b) The prominent place of “αὖ” in the MSS. is confirmed by many like instances: e.g. 1172: O. C. 1500 “τίς αὖ παρ᾽ ὑμῶν κοινὸς ἠχεῖται χτύπος”; Ph. 1089“τίπτ᾽ αὖ μοι τὸ κατ᾽ ἆμαρ ι ἔσται;” ib. 1263 “τίς αὖ παρ᾽ ἄντροις θόρυβος ἵσταται βοῆς;” (3) Canter gave, “τί δ᾽ ἔστιν αὖ κάκιον ἐκ κακῶν ἔτι”; The change of “ἐκ” to “ἢ” would have been peculiarly easy before initial “κ” (KAKIONEKAKON for KAKIONEKKAKON). For ἐκ, cp. Tr. 28 “ἀεί τιν᾽ ἐκ φόβου φόβον τρέφω”. Il. 19.290 “ὤς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί”. Eur. Phoen. 371 “ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ γἀρ ἄλγους ἄλγος αὖ σέ δέρκομαι ι ...ἔχουσαν”. On the grounds stated above, I prefer this reading. The comparat. κάκιον means merely that the sum of his misery will be greater: not that he can conceive a calamity sorer than his son's death. Cp. O. T. 1364 f. “εἰ δέ τι πρεσβύτερον ἔτι κακοῦ κακόν, ι τοῦτ᾽ ἔλαχ᾽ Οἰδίπους”.
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