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Quote: The Extremely Obscure Palinode

A fascinating little footnote from a recent read:

‘Western culture has another mechanism for admitting mistakes, but its extreme obscurity only underscores the point that such devices are woefully rare. In poetry, there is an entire form, the palinode, dedicated to retracting the sentiments of an earlier poem. (In Greek, palin means “again,” and ōdē means “song,” make a palinode linguistically identical to a recantation: to “recant” means to sing again. We invoke this same idea when we say that someone who has shifted positions on an issue is “singing a different tune.”) The most famous palinode – which isn’t saying much – was written by the seventh-century poet Stesichorus and serves to retract his earlier claim that Helen of Troy was solely responsible for the carnage of the Trojan War.’

(Kathryn Schulz (2010) Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, London, Portobello Books, pp. 7-8)


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