Some mighty fish draws panting to the shore

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nkaper

Senior Member
russian
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Iliad of Homer by Homer

As on a rock that overhangs the main, An angler, studious of the line and cane,
Some mighty fish draws panting to the shore:
Not with less ease the barbed javelin bore
The gaping dastard; as the spear was shook,

Who is panting, the fisher or the fish? Since there are constructions like "I laid my enemy dead" (my enemy is dead, not I) I may suppose that in the cited passage it is the fish who is panting (moreover it is a parallel for "gaping dastard", which is close to "panting", and moreover the javelin bears him with ease, which means it was easy to Patroclus. This all makes me think it is the fish who is panting).
Or when there is an adjective (as in "I laid my enemy dead") it is one case and when there is a gerund (panting) it is another case? I mean, if there is the gerund, then it refers to the subject, the fisher, and if there was some adjective instead, like "An angler.........Some mighty fish draws dead to the shore" then it could only mean the fish who is dead, not the fisher. Or there is no rule and the context determines whom the adjective/adverb in this position refers to?

thanks in advance
 
  • nkaper

    Senior Member
    russian
    I saw the fish swimming in the sea.
    I draw the fish panting to the shore.

    These two are parallel.
    As I understand in your both examples it is the fish to whom the gerunds refers. But in the passage from Iliad there is the inversion: Subject(an angler)-object(the fish)-verb(draws.) And only after all this stands the gerund. So how to understand whom in such a case the gerund refers to?
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In modern English I would add commas or parentheses, to show that "panting" was a parenthetical:

    An angler, studious of the line and cane, some mighty fish draws, panting, to the shore.
    An angler, studious of the line and cane, some mighty fish draws (panting) to the shore.

    However, that doesn't answer the question. Parentheticals often describe the noun directly preceding them, but (as OP points out) in this SOV sentence, there is a verb preceding it. So "panting" could refer to either the angler or the fish.

    I was curious about the ancient Greek word order, and found this quote: "Taylor argues that the dominant constituent order was verb-final (SOV) in Homer, but changed to verb-medial (SVO) by the Hellenistic period." The Change from SOV to SVO in Ancient Greek

    I wonder if Pope was trying to imitate, in English, the SOV word order of Homer?
     

    nkaper

    Senior Member
    russian
    I wonder if Pope was trying to imitate, in English, the SOV word order of Homer?
    This seems likely, seeing that SOV is even more frequent in the poem(Pope's version) than the more familiar OSV-inversion.
     
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