Shared meters and meanings: Delphic oracles and women’s lament
Introduction As Telemachus is bidding farewell to Menelaos and Helen in Homer’s Odyssey , an eagle fl ies overhead. Peisistratos, Telemachus’ companion, asks Menelaos if the eagle’s fl ight signals a message from the gods for them. Before Menelaos can answer, Helen responds, “Listen to me! I will prophesy how the gods put this in my spirit and how I think it will be accomplished” ( Odyssey 15.173-4). 1 Helen’s use of the future tense in “I will prophesy” ( manteusomai ) points to the prophecy that she is in the middle of articulating. The use of the future tense for verbs describing the actions or speech of a performer, such as singing, praising, cursing, dancing, supplicating, and binding, whether in paeans, hymns, tragic choral odes, parthenaea , curses, and charms, refers to the present performance, not a future one (Calame 1995; Faraone 1995). Such “performative futures” are often accompanied by the fi rst-person pronoun, the adverb nun , and/or deictic pronouns that emphasize the here and now of performance (Faraone 1995, 3). Helen’s use of the performative future, “I will prophesy,” fi ts this typology well: she uses the fi rst-person pronoun twice as she commands those around her to listen to her prophecy.