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εἰ δοκεῖ, στείχωμεν. In a trochaic tetrameter the end of the fourth foot regularly coincides with the end of a word. This verse breaks the rule. The only other exception is Aesch. Pers. 165, “ταῦτά μοι διπλῆ μέριμν᾽ ἄφραστός ἐστιν ἐν φρεσίν”, where Porson wished to place “διπλῆ” after “φρεσίν”, and Hermann, to read “μέριμνα φραστός”. Hermann holds that the breach of rule here is excused by the pause after στείχωμεν. This I believe to be the true explanation. As “στείχωμεν” is the signal that the prayer of Ph. has at last been granted, it demands emphasis. The unusual rhythm—which would be too harsh in a continuous verse—here serves to accentuate the joyful surprise of Philoctetes.

A reference to the critical note will show how unsatisfactory have been the attempts to alter the words, γενναῖον εἰρηκὼς ἔπος. Porson's fine instinct refrained from any such attempt; he felt that, if the verse was to be amended, only one remedy was tolerable,—viz., to strike out εἰ δοκεῖ, and leave an iambic trimeter. In favour of this view, it might be said that a scribe, or an actor, who wished to make v. 1402 into a tetrameter, might have been led to “εἰ δοκεῖ” by a reminiscence of 526 and 645: though we cannot concede to Burges that the spuriousness of “εἰ δοκεῖ” is bewrayed by the lack of the usual “ἀλλά” before it. The absence of “ἀλλά” merely renders “εἰ δοκεῖ” a little more abrupt.

But the real difficulty in Porson's view arises from a consideration of the whole context. The transition from iambic to trochaic metre marks, as usual, a stirring moment,—here, the moment of setting out for the ship. I<*> seems clear, then, that the words which first announce the departure should open the trochaics, rather than close the iambics. So in Eur. Phoen. 588, after the iambic dialogue between Iocasta and Eteocles, the first trochaic verse spoken by the latter is the sign that his fatal resolve is taken,— “μῆτερ, οὐ λόγων ἔθ᾽ ἁγών κ.τ.λ.” Cp. also Soph. O. T. 1515 ff.

hide References (3 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Aeschylus, Persians, 165
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 588
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 1515
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