How do you figure out where the main caesura is in scansion?

By Phoebus Apollo, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Phoebus Apollo Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    This is for scanning the Aeneid (Dactylic hexameter)
    Thanks in advance
  2. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Location:
    England
    What reference source are you using for guidance on scansion in hexameters?
  3. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    I think that generally it is in the middle of the 3rd foot, but sometimes in the fourth or even second. Which one depends on where the main sense break is.
    eg.
    Arma vi|rumque ca|nó, ||Trói|ae quí |prímus a|b órís
    Ítali|am fá|tó profu|gus,||Lá|vínaque| vénit
    (3rd foot)
    lítora;| mult(um) il|l(e) et ter|rís|| iac|tátus et| altó
    (4th foot)
    ví supe|rum || sae|vae memo|rem Iú|nónis ob |íram
    (2nd foot)
    multa quo|qu(e) et bel|ló pas|sús, ||dum |condere|t urbem,
    infer|retque de|ós Lati|ó, ||genus| unde La|tínum,
    (4th foot)
    Albá|níque pa|trés, ||at|qu(e) altae| moenia| Rómae.
    (3rd foot)
    (Where | marks the feet and || the main caesura).
    I must admit I find eg. the third line a little bit troubling for this theory (where the main sense break seems to be at the end of the first foot), but it produces something satisfactory in most cases.
    Bitmap likes this.
  4. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    Hmm ... I actually never put the main caesura in the second foot ... the way I usually do it (in Latin, I have no idea about Greek) is to look for a sense break in the 3rd and assume a masculine caesura there, and if there is none, then I look for a sense break in the 4th. Caesurae in the 4th foot are usually accompanied by a secondary caesura (mostly in the 2nd, sometimes in the 3rd I suppose), so I put in a secondary one in brackets there. If there is no masculine caesura in both the 3rd and the 4th foot, I usually take the feminine caesura in the 3rd, but that happens rather rarely in Latin. However, I never assume the main caesura to be in the 2nd foot (I haven't heard of that practice before).
    I also give a bit of lee way to the term 'sense break' because it sometimes doesn't really coincide ... I'd more or less call it 'the most sensible point to make a short pause' – with that in mind, there are probably some cases that are debatable and where the main caesura is not really clear.


    The caesura after profugus is in the 4th foot in the 2nd line, so I would have given it a secondary caesura in the 2nd:
    Italiam (//) fato profugus // Laviniaque venit
    Btw. the main reading I know is Lavinia, although I know that Lavina also exists... I somehow can't really find a corresponding dictionary entry, though :puzzled:


    I usually pause after the first et in this one ... I suppose that's debtable. I know it breaks up the et ... et, but it pairs up terris and alto more strongly.

    (I also pause shortly after litora, but that's not a caesura, but a diaresis)


    As I mentioned above, I have the main caesura in the 4th here to go along with the secondary one in the 2nd. I'm fine with the break in the 4th here because it breaks up the synchysis symmetrically (ab // A ob B).

    I would have given secondary caesurae after et and deos here.
    I suppose you were only concerned with the main one, I'm just mentioning this.
  5. Gryllus Minor New Member

    So here's a question I've had for a while. When I learned to read dactylic hexameter, I learned by listening to professors who knew how to do it right. After a while it became natural. Their general wisdom was "don't worry about caesura, if you read with proper emphasis on the long and short syllables, it will come naturally." Fast forward, I use the same method with my students. I recently took a reading course in Lucretius, and the instructor affirmed "Yes, you have an excellent grasp of the meter and read extremely well." But when my students ask, how do you determine caesura, I don't really have an answer, just a description. Is there a more objective way of determining it, a formula?
  6. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena

    Caesurae were never much of a topic and most university teachers and even professors I know don't care too much about metre... which is a pity because the caesura can be of importance, e.g. stylistically. I also can't really remember reading anything much about it. The only wisdom I've been given was that it usually falls in the 3rd foot and sometimes in the 4th (often with a secondary one in the 2nd)... and that caesurae in Latin are usually masculine - but I think that's actually something that I found out on my own.

    Over here, people usually read hexameters rhythmically, so you actually need the caesura, especially when you try to read out an unknown text. So what I usually do is to quickly look at the 3rd foot to see if it can have a caesura, and if it doesn't, I look at the 4th foot to see if it has one, and if it doesn't, then usually there is a feminine one in the 3rd (so essentially what I described above). If by that approach, I take the caesura in the 3rd, I read the first 3 ictus and pause there, and then go on to read the rest, if it's in the 4th I read to the first secondary caesura, pause, read to the 4th foot caesura, pause and then read the rest.
    That approach disregards the meaning of the sentences a bit. If know what the lines mean (or if I manage to grasp it immediately), I try to align them with the sense of the sentence – although as I said, that's not always super clear, either.
  7. Gryllus Minor New Member

    I appreciate your entire response, but quote the above simply to say that my professors cared about meter, but simply assumed caesura would take care of itself. I was looking for something a bit more concrete, even though they appear to have been right... o_O
  8. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    Well, I didn't say they didn't care at all ... By 'they didn't care too much', I simply mean that hardly anyone bothered to devote a session to metre or discuss it to an extent that I would have wished. I suppose somebody telling me 'it just takes care of itself' would fall under the same category for me.


    What are you looking for? Some kind of mathmatical equation?
    I'd say the flexibility of the caesura corresponds to the flexibility of the metre. In lyrical metres, the place of the caesura is rather fixed within the metre, but there is also little variation regarding the syllables/lengths of individual feet. In hexameters, you can replace any dactyle with a spondee ... how do you find out whether a foot is a dactyle or a spondee? You look at the lengths of the syllables. How do you find out where the caesura is? You look at the 3rd and 4th foot and try to see where the caesura would make the most sense.
    In arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris it makes the most sense to put it in the third foot.
    In insignem pietate virum tot adire labores it makes the most sense to put it in the 4th because the 3rd foot can't even have a masculine caesura.
    In a line like multa quoque et bello passus dum conderet urbem I think it's not 100% clear. Grammatically, it would logical come after passus, but I think you can also a case for a (main) caesura after bello (because it would emphasise the theme of the second half of the Aeneid)... possibly all of it might play a role.
  9. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    In Homeric metre at any rate there is a controversy over quite what the relationship is between sense breaks, metrical breaks, and actual phonetic pauses. I haven't looked at scholarship on the matter in Latin metre, but I suspect it will be equally convoluted.

    When I wrote that I was probably working on the assumption that caesura simply refers to the strongest sense break in the line. To me, it seems ridiculous that there would be a stronger break after memorem than after superum, since vī superum and saevae...īram are the two different phrases, and the ablative seems more closely connected with the verb than the causal prepositional phrase. Thus articulating a break after memorem seems to conflict with the sense, especially as it isolates saevae memorem from the words on which they depend grammatically.

    But Bitmap is right - in the grammatical tradition caesura usually refers to a word break in the third or fourth foot. One can argue about whether anyone would have pronounced the line in this way, whether this corresponds to sense pauses, or whatever, but this is technically irrelevant. I think so, anyway - I'll have to look at the grammarians at some stage.
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  10. Issacus Divus Sunu Reordcyningas

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Gæmleflodland
    Right, I understand it now.
  11. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    Yes, the strongest sense break is after vi superum.
    My point was that a caesura after memorem makes some sense to me because it doesn't seem unusual for caesurae to split up hyperbata in order to give them more emphasis and it would split up that synchysis symmetrically. So the objection you have to a caesura after memorem is essentially my reasoning for it ...
    That's just my anecdotal reading experience of course, I don't have any empirical numbers on that.

    As you said, sense breaks can also occur elsewhere in a line. I think sense breaks in diaereses after the first foot (as in litora) or after the fourth foot (especially in bucolic poetry) are found rather often as well ... along with other places where you wouldn't find a caesura :p
    Therefore, I'm not entirely sure if the main caesura has to coincide with the strongest sense break ... I actually don't think it has to, but that's just me trying to make sense of the lines I come across. In pentameters, where the place of the caesura is clear, you also find stronger sense breaks before or after the caesura, e.g. Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis from somewhere in tris. 2 – although, on the other hand, caesura and sense break very often fall together.

    What I've noticed (again, this is based on my anecdotal evidence from my reading experience) is that – leaving sense completely aside – Augustean poets usually obey one of these three rules:
    a) (most often) masculine word break [to use your term] in the 3rd foot
    b) (if a doesn't apply or in addition to a) masculine word break in the 4th foot, usually accompanied by a masculine word break in the second
    c) (if neither a nor b apply) feminine word break in the 3rd foot
    exceptions to this pattern, e.g. where you only have a masculine word break in the 2nd foot and nothing else, seem extremely rare to me. So for arguments sake, an hexameter like *"Anna, precor, // mihi perpetu(o) oscula dulcia fige!" would sound extremely strange to me ... [you could save if though by writing 'perpetuo, Anna, mihi, precor, oscula dulcia fige!']

    That's what made me think it's a technical phenomenon in the first place rather than a sense-based one, but that poets usually tried to align the sense breaks with the word breaks they put in -- but that that's not a must. I'm only talking about Latin here, btw., I don't know about Greek.
    Iáson likes this.
  12. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena

    Good!
    This is Aen. 2,40-49: Can you identify the main caesurae?

    Primus ibi ante omnis magna comitante caterva
    Laocoon ardens summa decurrit ab arce,
    et procul 'o miseri, quae tanta insania, cives?
    creditis avectos hostis? aut ulla putatis
    dona carere dolis Danaum? sic notus Ulixes?
    aut hoc inclusi ligno occultantur Achivi,
    aut haec in nostros fabricata est machina muros,
    inspectura domos venturaque desuper urbi,
    aut aliquis latet error; equo ne credite, Teucri.
    quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis.'
  13. Issacus Divus Sunu Reordcyningas

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Gæmleflodland
    I can’t.
  14. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Scansion was basically completely absent from our teaching, so I need a lot of practice. Can I have a go with just reading it?

    Primus ibi ante omnis | magna comitante caterva
    Laocoon ardens summa | decurrit ab arce,
    et procul 'o miseri,| quae tanta insania, cives?
    creditis avectos |hostis? aut ulla putatis
    dona carere dolis Danaum? | sic notus Ulixes?
    aut hoc inclusi | ligno occultantur Achivi,
    aut haec in nostros | fabricata est machina muros,
    inspectura domos | venturaque desuper urbi,
    aut aliquis latet error;| equo ne credite, Teucri.

    quidquid id est, timeo |Danaos et dona ferentis.'
  15. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena

    I would have tried to align the caesurae with the content/sense here. This is where I would expect the main caesurae:

    Primus ibi ante omnis // magna comitante caterva (3rd)
    Laocoon ardens // summa decurrit ab arce, (3rd)
    et procul 'o miseri, // quae tanta insania, cives? (3rd -- but main sense break is in the 1st diaeresis after procul)
    creditis avectos (//) hostis? // aut ulla putatis (4th with word break in 3rd)
    dona carere dolis (//) Danaum? // sic notus Ulixes? (4th with word break in 3rd)
    aut hoc inclusi // ligno occultantur Achivi, (3rd)
    aut haec in nostros // fabricata est machina muros, (3rd)
    inspectura domos // venturaque desuper urbi, (3rd)
    aut aliquis latet error; // equo ne credite, Teucri. (3rd, feminine)*
    quidquid id est, (//) timeo Danaos // et dona ferentis.' (4th)

    * This line is very interesting because it theoretically has a masculine word break in foot 2 and 4 ... but it goes so strongly against the sense that I think the caesura has to be a feminine one in foot 3 ... It seems to me that it draws extra attention to 'error'.
    In the last line, there is a word break in the 3rd foot ... but also a sense break in foot 2, so I would put the caesurae in 2 and 4.
    Iáson likes this.
  16. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Thanks :) Are the (//) are weak caesurae or alternative positions?

    I feel less covered in shame than I thought I would be...
  17. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena

    Yes ... since I argued above that caesurae in the 4th are usually accompanied by a secondary one in the 2nd (or sometimes 3rd) foot, I put them in there ... though it's more or less just a 'word break' after dolis and avectos.

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