I-I metrics (was SV: method of dating RV, III)

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Mon Nov 2 02:12:03 UTC 1998

In response to Jacob Baltuch's questions:
>Closely related and identical is not the same. How do you and others
>explain the differences? You call the Av. system "more primitive". Does
>that mean the Ved. system is derived and innovated from a system identical
>to the Av. one? If yes, how did that innovation come about? Did the Ved.
>poets one day think: "Why don't we start worrying also about cadential
>quantitative rhythm"? Wasn't there any problem fitting the old supposedly
>shared formulas into the new metrical constraints? I'm used to thinking of
>a poetic tradition as something that closely associates various aspects of
>the poetic technique. Since in this case this small (but real) difference
>exists I was interested to hear the most common (even conjectural) account.

Meillet's comparison of early Vedic and early Greek meters makes it
tempting to assume that the Vedic metrical system is rather close to an
early IE metrical system [which might be reflected also in early Slavic and
Irish metrics].

It is hard to determine the exact relationship between old Vedic and old
Avestan metrics for the simple reason that we do not have a very big sample
of old Avestan. Besides the Gathas attributed to Zarathustra, there is only
the collection called the Yasna Haptanhaiti, which is in 'rhythmic prose',
or strophic structures [cf. Watkins, *How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of
Indo-European Poetics*]. That being the case, it is hard to tell whether
Zarathustra's metrics is typical or atypical of old Iranian poetics.

It is also hard to tell whether Z's 'primitive' syllable-counting metrics
represents an older, conservative stage of IE metrics, or whether it is
itself an innovative development from an older metrical system represented
by old Vedic.

The questions that you ask are interesting, but I for one am unable to see
how one can legitimately answer them.

Perhaps the list's ziSTas can.

Of course, one can see that there is a great deal of interest in metrical
issues in Vedic, starting from RV speculations [very interesting in
themselves] about meter. There is good evidence in Vedic of a metrical
mysticism that attributes great spiritual significance to meter. As far as
I can tell, there is not very much of this in Avestan. But I don't claim to
know whether the one or the other is a truer illustration of the IE state
of metrical affairs.

Nevertheless, the close relationship between Avestan and Vedic metrics, it
seems to me, is beyond dispute, even if not entirely clear.

My guess is that the Vedic situation is more conservative in this regard,
but that's just a guess.



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