previous next

κατ᾽ αὖἀμᾷ, = καταμᾷ αὖ, ‘mows down in its turn’ (not, ‘otherwise than we hoped’). In my first edition I adopted the conjecture κοπίς. Prof. Tyrrell's able defence of the MS. κόνις (Classical Review, vol. 11. p. 139), though it has not removed all my difficulties, has led me to feel that more can be said for that reading than I had recognised. I now prefer, therefore, to leave κόνις in the text, and to re-state here the arguments for and against it.

(1) If κόνις be right, “κόνις θεῶν τῶν νερτέρων” is the dust, belonging (due) to the gods infernal, which Antigone strewed on her brother's corpse; it is “φοινία”, because the corpse was gory. The strongest point in favour of “κόνις” is that it is in harmony with the following words, “λόγου τ᾽ ἄνοια καὶ φρενῶν ἐρινύς”. The whole sense then is: ‘She, too—the last hope of the race—is now to die,—for a handful of blood-stained dust (i.e., for a slight, yet obligatory, act of piety towards her slain brother)—and for those rash words to Creon,—the expression of her frenzied resolve.’ On the other hand, the objection to “κόνις” is the verb καταμᾷ, which implies the metaphor of reaping. (See Appendix.) The proposed version, ‘covers,’ is impossible, and, if possible, would be unsuitable. What we want is a verb meaning simply ‘destroys,’ or ‘dooms to death.’ Now it is true that Greek lyric poetry often tolerates some confusion of metaphor (see on v. 117, and cp. O. T. p. lviii): the question is whether this example of it be tolerable. Prof. Tyrrell holds that it is excused by the tumult of feeling in the mind of the Chorus. That is, the metaphor of a young life ‘mowed down’ is not completed by a mention of the agent, the Destroyer: it is swiftly succeeded in the speaker's thought by a dramatic image of the cause, Antigone sprinkling the dust, and defying Creon. This is conceivable; but it is at least extremely bold.

(2) If we read κοπίς, then “καταμᾷ” is appropriate, and “φοινία” also has a more evident fitness. The great objection is the want of unison with “λόγου τ᾽ ἄνοια καὶ φρενῶν ἐρινύς”. If the “τ᾽” after “λόγου” means ‘both,’ the “κοπὶς νερτέρων” is the deadly agency as seen in the girl's rash speech and resolve: if the “τ᾽” means ‘and,’ it is an agency to which these things are superadded. On either view the language is awkward. This must be set against the gain in unity of metaphor.

It has further been urged against “κοπίς” that the word is too homely. This may be so; but we lack proof. “κοπίς” seems to have been a large curved knife, known to the Greeks chiefly as (a) a butcher's or cook's implement, (b) an oriental military weapon. It does not follow, however, that the effect here would be like that of ‘chopper,’ or of ‘scimitar,’ in English. The dignity of a word may be protected by its simplicity; and “κοπίς” is merely ‘that which cuts.’ Pindar was not afraid of homeliness when he described a chorus-master as a “κρατήρ”, or an inspiring thought as an “ἀκόνα” (cp. O. C. 1052 n.). Nicander could say, of the scorpion, “τοίη οἱ κέντροιο κοπίς” (Ther. 780). If “κοπίς” be right, the change to “κόνις” may have been caused, not by a misreading of letters, but by mere inadvertence,—the copyist having the word “κόνις” in his thoughts at the moment: it has already occurred frequently (247, 256, 409, 429).—See Appendix.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (6 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (6):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: