Left to my own devices pt. 2

(. . . continued from here . . .)

poetrymusic

As asserted previously, poetic devices — such as alliteration and assonance or rhyme — may come into play in a limited cross-section of scripture passages, as well as in songs and prayers.

These things even show up in sports writing.  Check out this quotation, from a Sports Illustrated  article about a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the designated hitter in baseball’s American League.

And then the first DH will exchange a handshake and a bro-hug with the reigning god of that position, bridging 40 years, Boomer and Papi, kielbasa meets que pasa.

With that last phrase, the very first DH was linked with a current star DH.  Back in 1969 and the early 70s, Yankee Ron Blomberg had apparently made a habit of eating a lot of kielbasa between at-bats when he wasn’t a fielder and had time to kill.  David Ortiz, a current Red Sox player known as “Big Papi,” is hispanic; thus the que pasa.  The point?  The link between the two is more emphatic and three times as memorable because of the linking of sounds — in this case, rhyme.  I was interested in the article enough to read it while walking a treadmill; the identities of these key players will stick with me because of the rhyme.

The apparent dearth of material from ancient Greek rhetoricians on homonyms and rhymes and assonances as communicative/literary devices is curious, but perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.  My acquaintance with rhetoric training is passing at best, but what I do know suggests that there was a plethora of more weighty concerns for the likes of Isocrates and Aristotle to have treated.  Assonance might not have been all that significant in the scheme of things, but I wonder whether whatever impact these types of literary devices enjoyed might have been assumed.

It seems ​​logical​, ​given huma​n nature​,​ that ​at least some human ears​ — those attached to the heads of “aural learners,” maybe? — would respond to rhyming or assonant syllables in some way.  In the previous post, I used a couplet from the familiar song (not a hymn, really) “The Old Rugged Cross,” showing the power of the poetic element of rhyme.  It seems that, at least for a segment of the reading/hearing public through the ages, that such devices as assonance and rhyme could be used similarly for extra emphasis — even in ancient Greek.

Recently, in practicing my Greek oral reading, I came across nine words within two “verses” (Mark 10:33-34) that ended with the letters sigma-iota-nu (-sin).  Following the ninth such word lay the expression “and after three days will rise (be resurrected).”  This sequence occurred in an already emphatic, thrice-stated passage, and I keep wondering whether the assonance or “rhyme” might have had a minor mesmerizing effect on the hearer . . . who was then dominated by the appearance of a completely different sounding word for resurrection.

Here’s a transliteration of this passage into English, with emphases added:

hoti idou anabainomen eis ierosoluma, kai ho huios tou anthropou
paradothesetai tois arxiereusin
kai tois grammateusin,
kai katakrinousin auton thanato
kai pardosousin auton tois ethnesin
kai empaixousin auto kai emptusousin auto kai mastigosousin auton kai apoktenousin,
kai meta treis hemeras anastesetai

“Kai” is the conjunction “and.”  “Auton” and “auto” are personal pronoun forms.  The last two lines of the passage above go something like this:  ” . . . and will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill . . . and after three days he will rise.”

It seems extra-emphatic to my ears — not only because this is the most specific of the three successive passion predictions (chapters 8, 9, and 10), but also because of the sound of the words.

I can’t ditch this interest in how words sound to human ears just yet.

So, I contacted Patrick, a linguist friend I hadn’t seen in a couple years.  Pat has studied Chinese, French, Spanish, and Greek, along with general linguistics studies.  He seemed surprised at the question about whether assonance has to do with impact in poetry.  I took from our conversation that Pat has found the influence of such devices to be pretty much ubiquitous.  To be fair, Pat doesn’t claim expertise in ancient biblical languages but has spent a couple years with Koiné.  Pat also happens to be a musician.  I wonder if rhyme and assonance and some other word-sound devices are apprehended more by musicians and others trained in sounds.

To be continued . . .

Next in series:  Jesus, food, and work:  assonance from the lips of the Lord

Some time after that:  the impact of literary devices in Romans 1 and 1 Thessalonians 5

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8 thoughts on “Left to my own devices pt. 2

  1. Gary D. Collier 06/23/2014 / 11:52 pm

    I’m a little confused, and am probably missing your point. I don’t know of anybody who would deny that ancient Greek and Hebrew were written in and for ancient oral/aural societies and that they regularly employ such things as alliteration and assonance (and other things). But you appear to be talking of assonance an rhyme together. It is generally felt that rhyme, although it may occur, is not that common or significant. That is also my experience. All you have to do show that this is wrong is to produce texts that rhyme.

    However, Mark 10:33-34 doesn’t rhyme does it? …sin…sin…sin…sin…sin…sin is not rhyme; that would be …sin…bin…din…kin…Flyn…or even Jen.

    I’m not trying to be picky here. So to try to make a contribution, I suggest reading your Mk text aloud as follows:

    hoti idou
    anabainomen eis ierosoluma,
    kai ho huios tou anthropou (rhyme’s with L1)

    paradothesetai tois arxiereusin
    kai tois grammateusin,
    kai katakrinousin
    auton thanato
    kai pardosousin
    auton tois ethnesin
    kai empaixousin
    auto kai emptusousin
    auto kai mastigosousin
    auton kai apoktenousin,
    kai meta treis
    hemeras anastesetai

    I think that will give you what you are looking for, but it is not rhyme in this case. This is more accidental rhyming because of inflected endings. Still, it is beautiful to read this way.

    It reminds me something of this recording that everyone knows (so this is not meant as revelatory). I don’t speak like this, but I really like hearing it.

    That’s My King Dr. S.M. Lockridge

    Thanks, Brian, for your interest in such things.

    Gary

    Like

    • Brian Casey 06/24/2014 / 9:06 am

      Gary, I really appreciate your interest in my interests along these lines. Thanks for the dialogue. If you don’t have time for all the verbiage here, your responses to the bolded/emphasized questions would be of particular interest to me.

      I read back over the last two blog entries and found a case or two where I wasn’t as careful as I should have been with the labels “rhyme” and “assonance.” Truth be told, “assonance” is not a word I’ve used much until the last 2-3 weeks, and I may be using it imprecisely. I’m sort of using it as an umbrella term for links between sounds of word endings, including rhyme. I suspect that real literophiles would use it differently, and more specifically.

      (BTW, “Jen” is — as you suggest by the word “even” — as improper a rhyme as some in modern songs. Many writers these days include such quasi-rhymes because they don’t have the skill to rhyme better! But this pickiness doesn’t negate that someone who knows “Jen” might be highly impacted by a line that doesn’t quite rhyme but uses her name.)

      Thanks for your layout(s) of the Mark text. I had played with that a bit and decided on a less broken layout in my post, but I was getting at something like what you have laid out. The successive “-sin” endings, as you point out, do not constitute rhyme. 1) What do you think, though, of the suggestion that those endings could have had a “mesmerizing effect” that set up the hearer/reader for the culmination of the text — “and after three days will rise”?

      I noticed your term “accidental rhyming” and wonder about that. In the back of my mind, I was considering this “-sin” stuff to have been less consequential, less intentional than the choice of words, of course; but I don’t know that I would have said “accidental.” Do you think that other devices (alliteration, chiastic structures and inclusios, other) can be accidentally infused by biblical authors sometimes? I mean “accidental” in the sense of occurring naturally, without intent. (I’m unintentionally getting into divine dictation theory vs. human elements here.) 2) Some devices and features can appear out of the subconscious, right?

      Overall, I don’t mean to be suggesting that rhyme as we think of it in current English was a factor in Greek. (I did start some searches, including the ones you suggested, but didn’t get too far yet, and got sidetracked.) I am, as you know, not nearly schooled enough even to suggest rhyme was or was not anything. My main thrust is to suggest that the sounds of words are important — but subservient to, and less so than, the syntax and literary context. As I become more familiar with the structures and components of Greek, I suspect I may over-theorize, and I hope you’ll continue to shape my thought-trains as you have opportunity.

      Yes, I’d heard the Lockridge sermon excerpt before, and thanks for the refresh. Now I have a new theory, realizing that I had recalled the sound of his voice and certain inflections but had no recollection of any specific words other than “my king”:

    • a) Homiletics-based preachers and analysts and other left-brain-dominant folks may tend toward, e.g., alliteration for emphasis, while
    • b) most musicians and some others who tend toward so-called “right brain” dominance don’t hang on the starts of sounds (e.g., alliteration) as much as on the more durational elements of sounds such as assonance.
    • Oh, boy. Too many theories, I know.​ But I love this stuff!

      Any reasonable intelligent reader of Mark 8-10 would notice the repetition of the three passion predictions (emphatic level #1).

      A somewhat more attentive and/or inquisitive reader might pick up on the greater specificity, the twofold mention of Jerusalem, and other minutiae ((emphatic level #2).

      And one can certainly get the sense of things with either or both of those “levels.”

      But I am interested in going further and working with the possible “extra” emphasis level based on the sounds of the words as heard in at least some human brains. For me, and maybe for a few dozen others, the passage is even more emphatically alive now that I’ve heard the sounds. I think that I would even read the English differently in public now, and it might give my oral interpretation an extra edge, but I may be exaggerating. And I suppose any half-baked theory or illegitimately conceived question could have gotten me into this text equally enough to remember it more. Whatever the case, I’m glad I’m into this text more!

      Like

  2. Gary D. Collier 06/24/2014 / 8:18 am

    Or maybe

    paradothesetai tois arxiereusin
    kai tois grammateusin,
    kai katakrinousin
    auton thanato kai pardosousin
    auton tois ethnesin kai empaixousin
    auto kai emptusousin
    auto kai mastigosousin
    auton kai apoktenousin,
    kai meta treis hemeras anastesetai

    Like

  3. Gary D. Collier 06/24/2014 / 8:49 am

    Or one could go wild with this, note the first and last lines, plus all the o sounds at the end in the central sections:

    paradothesetai
    —–tois arxiereusin
    ———-kai tois grammateusin,
    —————kai katakrinousin auton thanato
    ——————–kai pardosousin auton
    ————————-tois ethnesin kai empaixousin auto
    ——————–kai emptusousin auto
    —————kai mastigosousin auton
    ———-kai apoktenousin,
    —–kai meta treis hemeras
    anastesetai

    To be honest, I’m not real crazy about this, since one might rightly question whether the author had any such intention for this, especially since there are different ways of doing it. Our imagination can get the best of us. And different readers might have read it in different ways. However, the sounds don’t have to match the meaning, necessarily; and not all legs of such things must match exactly.

    Maybe you’ll uncover something here for all of us.

    Gary

    Like

    • Brian Casey 06/24/2014 / 9:15 am

      Oh, shoot. I was getting into this, and then you said you weren’t really crazy about it. I like the two future passive/middle tenses on the outer edges, but I don’t see the “o” sound emphasis as much. The question of author intention is a significant one. Is it too hard to imagine that Mark would have done that, given the generally less educated Greek in his gospel?

      I’m very intrigued by the idea that “different readers might have read it in different ways.”

      Like

    • Brian Casey 06/24/2014 / 5:18 pm

      I’m energized by the thoughts and workings-with-text here, Gary. I’ll save these and work with them more later!

      On Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 8:49 AM, NT Christianity wrote:

      >

      Like

  4. Gary D. Collier 06/24/2014 / 3:43 pm

    Well, what I’m not crazy about is forcing a chiastic structure, like many do. And I fear this one is forced.

    By “accidental rhyme” I mean that Greek is highly inflected, so if all of the endings are referring to “them” you might end up with a lot of similar endings, whereas in English would not be so prone to this.

    However, your idea is very perceptive of sounds leading to climactic proclamation. And by the possibility of individual readers being different, that’s true even in English. Through such readings, rife with rapidly repeated rhapsodies, one rarely realizes such apogees elsewhere. (With apologies.)

    But notice this. Forgetting the “chiasm”, whether one reads it this way

    —-with more emphasis on the “o” sound at the end——-

    paradothesetai

    tois arxiereusin
    kai tois grammateusin,
    kai katakrinousin auton thanato
    kai pardosousin auton
    ——tois ethnesin kai empaixousin auto
    kai emptusousin auto
    kai mastigosousin auton
    kai apoktenousin,
    kai meta treis hemeras

    anastesetai

    —–or the next way, with the ousin sound at the end———–

    paradothesetai

    tois arxiereusin
    kai tois grammateusin,
    kai katakrinousin
    auton thanato kai pardosousin
    —–auton tois ethnesin kai empaixousin
    auto kai emptusousin
    auto kai mastigosousin
    auton kai apoktenousin,
    kai meta treis hemeras

    anastesetai

    ———-in either case . . . .

    you start with “shall be handed over”
    you end with “shall be raised up”
    and there is a central breath at “him to the gentiles and mocked!” … which sets in motion the last series.

    Very, very cool, Brian!
    Gary

    PS: Where do you get Jerusalem twice?

    Like

    • Brian Casey 06/24/2014 / 5:57 pm

      Gary,

      Jerusalem occurs just prior, in v. 32, as well as in v. 33. “On the way/road” is also a thematically significant here, as I’m sure you know, and I’m drawn by how the disciples are “on the road to Jerusalem” and then the 2nd healed blind man (10:46-52) ends the pericope *on the road,* as well.

      More later, I’m sure, on the textual layout.

      On Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 3:43 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

      >

      Like

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