(. . . continued from here . . .)
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 human 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