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Pages of Poetics

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It is a great matter to observe propriety in these several modes

of expression, as also in compound words, strange (or rare) words, and

so forth. But the greatest thing by far is to have a command of

metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark

of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

Of the various kinds of words, the compound are best adapted to

dithyrambs, rare words to heroic poetry, metaphors to iambic. In

heroic poetry, indeed, all these varieties are serviceable. But in

iambic verse, which reproduces, as far as may be, familiar speech, the

most appropriate words are those which are found even in prose.

These are the current or proper, the metaphorical, the ornamental.

Concerning Tragedy and imitation by means of action this may




As to that poetic imitation which is narrative in form and employs a

single meter, the plot manifestly ought, as in a tragedy, to be

constructed on dramatic principles. It should have for its subject a

single action, whole and complete, with a beginning, a middle, and

an end. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity,

and produce the pleasure proper to it. It will differ in structure

from historical compositions, which of necessity present not a

single action, but a single period, and all that happened within

that period to one person or to many, little connected together as the

events may be. For as the sea-fight at Salamis and the battle with the

Carthaginians in Sicily took place at the same time, but did not

tend to any one result, so in the sequence of events, one thing

sometimes follows another, and yet no single result is thereby

produced. Such is the practice, we may say, of most poets. Here again,

then, as has been already observed, the transcendent excellence of

Homer is manifest. He never attempts to make the whole war of Troy the

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