λύουσ᾽ … ἢ 'φάπτουσα, ‘by seeking to loose or to tighten the knot,’—a phrase, perhaps proverbial, for ‘meddling in any way.’ She can do no good by touching the tangled skein. The Greek love of antithesis naturally tended to expressions like our ‘by hook or by crook,’ ‘by fair means or foul,’ ‘for love or money,’ ‘good or bad,’ etc. Cp. 1109 “οἵ τ᾽ ὄντες οἵ τ᾽ ἀπόντες” (n.): Eur. Bacch. 800 “ἀπόρῳ γε τῷδε συμπεπλέγμεθα ξένῳ, ι ὃς οὔτε πάσχων οὔτε δρῶν σιγήσεται”, which is plainly colloquial,—meaning ‘who will not hold his peace on any terms’; for though “πάσχων” suits the recent imprisonment of Dionysus, “δρῶν” could not mean definitely, ‘as a free agent.’ Similarly we may suppose that some such phrase as “οὔτε λύων οὔτε ἅπτων” ( Plat. Crat. 417E “τὸ δὲ ἅπτειν καὶ δεῖν ταὐτόν ἐστι”) was familiar as=‘by no possible means.’ If “ἐφάπτουσα” is sound, the poet has refined a colloquialism by modifying “ἅπτουσα” into “ἐφάπτουσα”, just as “τί δρῶν ἢ τί λέγων” (cp. Aesch. PV 660) appears in O. T. 71 as “ὅ τι ι δρῶν ἢ τί φωνῶν”. Some find a reference to weaving;—‘by loosening the web, or fastening a new thread’; but, though the phrase may have been first suggested by the loom, it was probably used without any such conscious allusion. Quite different from our passage is Ai. 1317 “εἰ μὴ ξυνάψων ἀλλὰ συλλύσων πάρει”, ‘not to embroil the feud, but to help in solving it’: cp. Eur. Hipp. 670 “τίνας νῦν τέχνας ἔχομεν ἢλόγους ι σφαλεῖσαι κάθαμμα λύειν λόγου”; ‘to loose the knot of controversy.’ —Another view makes the phrase refer to Creon's edict: ‘seeking to undo it, or to tighten it,’—i.e. to break it, or to make it more stringent than it already is (schol. “λύουσα τὸν νόμον, ἢ βεβαιοῦσα αὐτόν”). But, though Antigone has not yet revealed her purpose, too great callousness is ascribed to Ismene if she is supposed to doubt whether her sympathy is invited against or for such an edict.—The act. “ἐφάπτειν” is rare: Tr. 933 “τοὔργον ὡς ἐφάψειεν”, that he had imposed the deed on her (by his fierce reproaches): Pind. O. 9. 60“μὴ καθέλοι νιν αἰὼν πότμον ἐφάψαις ι ὀρφανὸν γενεᾶς”. Was Porson right in conjecturing εἵθ᾽ ἅπτουσα? For it, we may observe:—(1) An opposition of the simple “λύειν” and “ἅπτειν” suits a proverbial phrase: (2) “ἤ” and “εἰ” are elsewhere confused, as O. C. 80 (n.): (3) the single “εἴτε” is found in O. T. 517 “λόγοισιν εἴτ᾽ ἔργοισιν”, Tr. 236 “πατρῴας εἴτε βαρβάρου”; Against the conjecture is the fact that “εἴθ᾽ ἅπτουσα” would have been much less likely to generate the “ἢ θάπτουσα” of our MSS., since the intermediate “εἰ θάπτουσα”, being obviously unmeaning, would have been likely to cure itself. προσθείμην: cp. O. C. 767 “προσθέσθαι χάριν”, n. πλέον, ‘for thine advantage’: O. T. 37 “οὐδὲν ἐξειδὼς πλέον”, n.
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