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Works by Aristotle
Pages of Poetics

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rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift

developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude

improvisations gave birth to Poetry.

Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual

character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions,

and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the

actions of meaner persons, at first composing satires, as the former

did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. A poem of the

satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than

Homer; though many such writers probably there were. But from Homer

onward, instances can be cited- his own Margites, for example, and

other similar compositions. The appropriate meter was also here

introduced; hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning

measure, being that in which people lampooned one another. Thus the

older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning


As, in the serious style, Homer is pre-eminent among poets, for he

alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too

first laid down the main lines of comedy, by dramatizing the ludicrous

instead of writing personal satire. His Margites bears the same

relation to comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to tragedy. But

when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets

still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of

Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the

drama was a larger and higher form of art.

Whether Tragedy has as yet perfected its proper types or not; and

whether it is to be judged in itself, or in relation also to the

audience- this raises another question. Be that as it may, Tragedy- as

also Comedy- was at first mere improvisation. The one originated

with the authors of the Dithyramb, the other with those of the phallic

songs, which are still in use in many of our cities. Tragedy

advanced by slow degrees; each new element that showed itself was in

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