February 08, 2004


Anonymous 4 last night were as pitch-perfect as usual¹, making a mockery of professional singers with electronic tuners. My ears ached slightly at the end, as though the music had been making the small bones resonate directly. (They must have destructive resonant frequencies, yes, the malleus, the incus, the stapes? Or is that a fiction I inherit from Gödel, Escher, Bach?)

Milton mocks rhyming verse so: rime being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age - and I had lazily assumed that no verse in Latin rhymed, that rhyme was a barbarous² invention literally. But the thirteenth-century Latin conductus use a lot of rhyme:

Ave nobilis
comes utilis
in via
mentes erige
cursum dirige
per hec invia.

Milton specifically says Virgil's verse didn't rhyme, and I am left lazily wondering if any classical Greek or Roman verse did, and then whether there are any living languages whose speakers don't enjoy rhyme.

If you want a non-lazy answer, attend languagehat.

¹ I heard them once when one of them was clearly sick. Their technique was, if anything, more impressive without perfect production.

² Although that's "not speaking Greek" to the Greeks, and "not Greek or Roman" to the Romans. Can't think of a precise word; 'modern' is too loose.

So wrote clew in Music. | TrackBack
And thus wrote others:

Actually, I think your example would be more properly termed a case of homoioptoton, and not rhyme -- because in a declined language like Latin, rhyme is a natural by-product of consistency in verb tenses and noun and adjective cases. Latin poets centered their aesthetic technique around meter, and I'd wager that poets in many other declined languages do the same. But Languagehat could probably offer a far more authoritative understanding.

yclept: Mike at February 14, 2004 03:36 PM

But if two words match from the last syllable not determined by the declension to the end, don't they also rhyme? Which may not describe any of the songs I heard, of course, but I thought feminine rhyme in English was often an imitation of this effect in declined languages.

Some of what they sang seemed to use this, some not; and it was medieval, not antique, so might have been decadent as well as declined. But! I will go see what languagehat thinks.

And thanks for a new word!

yclept: clew at February 17, 2004 11:04 AM

From the Columbia Encyclopedia entry on Medieval Latin Literature:

Notable poets wrote Christian hymns, which, when joined to music and shaped to new poetry with accentual rhythm and rhyme unknown to the classics, became one of the glories of medieval literature.

Milton is of a plausible date to have especially scorned something found only in medieval, not in classical, Latin. (To look up.)

My tyro inquiry into Wheelock's Latin is not very useful on rhyme vs. homoioptoton, because I'm a little foggy on where the stems stop. I picked "sonority" for the title because it's the antepenultimate vowels that got the emphasis when being sung; "puerpera/ubera/munera", for instance.

yclept: clew at February 17, 2004 11:12 PM
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