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Pages of Poetics

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with usage will give perspicuity. The critics, therefore, are in error

who censure these licenses of speech, and hold the author up to

ridicule. Thus Eucleides, the elder, declared that it would be an easy

matter to be a poet if you might lengthen syllables at will. He

caricatured the practice in the very form of his diction, as in the


Epicharen eidon Marathonade badizonta,

I saw Epichares walking to Marathon,


ouk an g'eramenos ton ekeinou elleboron.

Not if you desire his hellebore.

To employ such license at all obtrusively is, no doubt, grotesque; but

in any mode of poetic diction there must be moderation. Even

metaphors, strange (or rare) words, or any similar forms of speech,

would produce the like effect if used without propriety and with the

express purpose of being ludicrous. How great a difference is made

by the appropriate use of lengthening, may be seen in Epic poetry by

the insertion of ordinary forms in the verse. So, again, if we take

a strange (or rare) word, a metaphor, or any similar mode of

expression, and replace it by the current or proper term, the truth of

our observation will be manifest. For example, Aeschylus and Euripides

each composed the same iambic line. But the alteration of a single

word by Euripides, who employed the rarer term instead of the ordinary

one, makes one verse appear beautiful and the other trivial. Aeschylus

in his Philoctetes says:

phagedaina d'he mou sarkas esthiei podos.

The tumor which is eating the flesh of my foot.

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