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Poetics   


be satisfied by poems on a smaller scale than the old epics, and

answering in length to the group of tragedies presented at a single

sitting.

Epic poetry has, however, a great- a special- capacity for enlarging

its dimensions, and we can see the reason. In Tragedy we cannot

imitate several lines of actions carried on at one and the same

time; we must confine ourselves to the action on the stage and the

part taken by the players. But in Epic poetry, owing to the

narrative form, many events simultaneously transacted can be

presented; and these, if relevant to the subject, add mass and dignity

to the poem. The Epic has here an advantage, and one that conduces

to grandeur of effect, to diverting the mind of the hearer, and

relieving the story with varying episodes. For sameness of incident

soon produces satiety, and makes tragedies fail on the stage.

As for the meter, the heroic measure has proved its fitness by

hexameter test of experience. If a narrative poem in any other meter

or in many meters were now composed, it would be found incongruous.

For of all measures the heroic is the stateliest and the most massive;

and hence it most readily admits rare words and metaphors, which is

another point in which the narrative form of imitation stands alone.

On the other hand, the iambic and the trochaic tetrameter are stirring

measures, the latter being akin to dancing, the former expressive of

action. Still more absurd would it be to mix together different

meters, as was done by Chaeremon. Hence no one has ever composed a

poem on a great scale in any other than heroic verse. Nature herself,

as we have said, teaches the choice of the proper measure.

Homer, admirable in all respects, has the special merit of being the

only poet who rightly appreciates the part he should take himself. The

poet should speak as little as possible in his own person, for it is

not this that makes him an imitator. Other poets appear themselves

upon the scene throughout, and imitate but little and rarely. Homer,

after a few prefatory words, at once brings in a man, or woman, or

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