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11. We have said that smart sayings are derived from proportional metaphor and expressions which set things before the eyes. We must now explain the meaning of “before the eyes,” and what must be done to produce this. [2] I mean that things are set before the eyes by words that signify actuality. For instance, to say that a good man is “four-square”1 is a metaphor, for both these are complete, but the phrase does not express actuality, whereas “of one having the prime of his life in full bloom”2 does; similarly, “thee, like a sacred animal ranging at will”3 expresses actuality, and in “ Thereupon the Greeks shooting forward with their feet4

” the word “shooting” contains both actuality and metaphor. [3] And as Homer often, by making use of metaphor, speaks of inanimate things as if they were animate; and it is to creating actuality in all such cases that his popularity is due, as in the following examples: “ Again the ruthless stone rolled down to the plain.5

” “ The arrow flew.6

” “ [The arrow] eager to fly [towards the crowd].7

“ [The spears] were buried in the ground, longing to take their fill of flesh.8

” “ The spear-point sped eagerly through his breast.9

”. For in all these examples there is appearance of actuality, since the objects are represented as animate: “the shameless stone,” “the eager spear-point,” and the rest express actuality. Homer has attached these attributes by the employment of the proportional metaphor; for as the stone is to Sisyphus, so is the shameless one to the one who is shamelessly treated. [4] In his popular similes also he proceeds in the same manner with inanimate things: “ Arched, foam-crested, some in front, others behind;10

” for he gives movement and life to all, and actuality is movement.

[5] As we have said before, metaphors should be drawn from objects which are proper to the object, but not too obvious; just as, for instance, in philosophy it needs sagacity to grasp the similarity in things that are apart. Thus Archytas said that there was no difference between an arbitrator and an altar, for the wronged betakes itself to one or the other. Similarly, if one were to say that an anchor and a pot-hook hung up were identical; for both are the same sort of thing, but they differ in this—that one is hung up above and the other below.11 And if one were to say “the cities have been reduced to the same level,” this amounts to the same in the case of things far apart—the equality of “levelling” in regard to superficies and resources.12

[6] Most smart sayings are derived from metaphor,
and also from misleading the hearer beforehand.13 For it becomes more evident to him that he has learnt something, when the conclusion turns out contrary to his expectation, and the mind seems to say, “How true it is! but I missed it.” And smart apophthegms arise from not meaning what one says, as in the apophthegm of Stesichorus, that “the grasshoppers will sing to themselves from the ground.”14 And clever riddles are agreeable for the same reason; for something is learnt, and the expression is also metaphorical. And what Theodorus calls “novel expressions” arise when what follows is paradoxical, and, as he puts it, not in accordance with our previous expectation; just as humorists make use of slight changes in words. The same effect is produced by jokes that turn on a change of letter; for they are deceptive. These novelties occur in poetry as well as in prose; for instance, the following verse does not finish as the hearer expected: “ And he strode on, under his feet—chilblains,

” whereas the hearer thought he was going to say “sandals.” This kind of joke must be clear from the moment of utterance. Jokes that turn on the word are produced, not by giving it the proper meaning, but by perverting it; for instance, when Theodorus said to Nicon, the player on the cithara, “you are troubled” ( θράττει); for while pretending to say “something troubles you,” he deceives us; for he means something else.15
Therefore the joke is only agreeable to one who understands the point; for if one does not know that Nicon is a Thracian, he will not see any joke in it. [7] Similarly, “you wish to destroy him ( πέρσαι).”16 Jokes of both these kinds17 must be suitably expressed. Similar instances are such witticisms as saying that “the empire of the sea” was not “the beginning of misfortunes” for the Athenians, for they benefited by it; or, with Isocrates,18 that “empire” was “the beginning of misfortunes for the city”; in both cases that which one would not have expected to be said is said, and recognized as true. For, in the second example, to say that “empire is empire” shows no cleverness, but this is not what he means, but something else; in the first, the ἀρχή which is negatived is used in a different sense. [8] In all these cases, success is attained when a word is appropriately applied, either by homonym or by metaphor. For example, in the phrase Anaschetos (Bearable) is Unbearable,19 there is a contradiction of the homonym, which is only appropriate, if Anaschetus is an unbearable person. And, “Thou shalt not be more of a stranger than a stranger,” or “not more than you should be,” which is the same thing. And again, “ The stranger must not always be a stranger,

” for here too the word repeated is taken in a different sense.20 It is the same with the celebrated verse of Anaxandrides, “ It is noble to die before doing anything that deserves death;21

” for this is the same as saying that “it is worthy to die when one does not
deserve to die,” or, that “it is worthy to die when one is not worthy of death,” or, “when one does nothing that is worthy of death.” [9] Now the form of expression of these sayings is the same; but the more concisely and antithetically they are expressed, the greater is their popularity. The reason is that antithesis is more instructive and conciseness gives knowledge more rapidly. [10] Further, in order that what is said may be true and not superficial, it must always either apply to a particular person or be suitably expressed; for it is possible for it to have one quality and not the other. For instance, “One ought to die guiltless of any offence,” “The worthy man should take a worthy woman to wife.” There is no smartness in either of these expressions, but there will be if both conditions are fulfilled: “It is worthy for a man to die, when he is not worthy of death.” The more special qualities the expression possesses, the smarter it appears; for instance, if the words contain a metaphor, and a metaphor of a special kind, antithesis, and equality of clauses, and actuality.

[11] Similes also, as said above, are always in a manner approved metaphors;22 since they always consist of two terms, like the proportional metaphor, as when we say, for instance, that the shield is the goblet of Ares, and the bow a lyre without strings.
But such an expression is not simple, but when we call the bow a lyre, or the shield a goblet, it is.23 [12] And similes may be formed as follows: a flute-player resembles an ape,24 a short-sighted man a spluttering lamp; for in both cases there is contraction.25 [13] But they are excellent when there is a proportional metaphor; for it is possible to liken a shield to the goblet of Ares and a ruin to the rag of a house; to say that Niceratus is a Philoctetes bitten by Pratys, to use the simile of Thrasymachus, when he saw Niceratus, defeated by Pratys in a rhapsodic competition, still dirty with his hair uncut.26 It is herein that poets are especially condemned if they fail, but applauded if they succeed. I mean, for instance, when they introduce an answering clause:27 “ He carries his legs twisted like parsley,

” or again, “ Like Philammon punching the leather sack.

” All such expressions are similes, and similes, as has been often said, are metaphors of a kind.

[14] Proverbs also are metaphors from species to species. If a man, for instance, introduces into his house something from which he expects to benefit, but afterwards finds himself injured instead, it is as the Carpathian28 says of the hare; for both have
experienced the same misfortunes. This is nearly all that can be said of the sources of smart sayings and the reasons which make them so.

[15] Approved hyperboles are also metaphors. For instance, one may say of a man whose eye is all black and blue, “you would have thought he was a basket of mulberries,” because the black eye is something purple, but the great quantity constitutes the hyperbole. Again, when one says “like this or that” there is a hyperbole differing only in the wording: “ Like Philammon punching the leather sack,

” or, “you would have thought that he was Philammon fighting the sack”; “ Carrying his legs twisted like parsley,

” or, “you would have thought that he had no legs, but parsley, they being so twisted.” There is something youthful about hyperboles; [16] for they show vehemence. Wherefore those who are in a passion most frequently make use of them: “ Not even were he to offer me gifts as many in number as the sand and dust. . . but a daughter of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, I will not wed, not even if she rivalled golden Aphrodite in beauty, or Athene in accomplishments.29

(Attic orators are especially fond of hyperbole.30) Wherefore31 it is unbecoming for elderly people to make use of them.

1 Simonides, frag. 5 (P.L.G. 2.). Both a good man and a square are complete as far as they go, but they do not express actuality.

2 Isoc. 5.10.

3 Isoc. 5.127. This speech is an appeal to Philip to lead the Greeks against Persia. As a sacred animal could roam where it pleased within the precincts of its temple, so Philip could claim the whole of Greece as his fatherland, while other descendants of Heracles (whom Isocrates calls the author of Philip's line) were tied down and their outlook narrowed by the laws and constitution of the city in which they dwelt.

4 Eur. IA 80, with δορί for ποσίν.

5 Hom. Od. 11.598, with ἔπειτα πέδονδε for ἐπὶ δάπεδόνδε.

6 Hom. Il. 13.587.

7 Hom. Il. 4.126.

8 Hom. Il. 11.574.

9 Hom. Il. 15.541.

10 Hom. Il. 13.799. The reference is to the “boiling waves of the loud-roaring sea.”

11 The anchor keeps a ship steady below, the pot hook is above, and the pot hangs down from it.

12 Cope, retaining ἀνωμαλίσθαι (as if from ἀνομαλίζειν, aequalitatem restituere Bonitz, cf. ἀνομάλωσις) says: “the widely dissimilar things here compared are the areas of properties and the state offices and privileges, which are to be alike equalized,” translating: “And the re-equalization of cities, when the same principle is applied to things standing wide apart, viz. to surface (area) and powers (functions, offices).” ( ἀν- is not negative, but = re.) But the passage quoted by Victorius from Isoc. 5.40: “for I know that all the cities of Greece have been placed on the same level ( ὡμαλίσθαι) by misfortunes” suggests this as a preferable reading here, ὡμαλίσθαι meaning (1) have been levelled to the ground (although the Lexica give no instance of this use), (2) reduced to the same level of weakness.

13 προεξαπατᾶν. Or, reading προσεξαπατᾶν, “by adding deception.”

14 See 2.21.8.

15 According to Cope, Θρᾷττ᾽ εἶ, “you are no better than a Thracian slave-girl.”

16 There is obviously a play on πέρσαι (aor. 1 infin. of πέρθω) and Πέρσαι (Persians), but no satisfactory interpretation of the joke has been suggested.

17 The paradoxical and verbal. “Suitably” may refer to the manner of delivery; to being used at the proper time; or to taking care that the word is one that may be used in the two senses.

18 Isoc. 5.61; Isoc. 8.101. The point in the illustrations lies in the use of ἀρχή, first in the sense of “empire,” then in that of “beginning.” It could be said that the “empire” of the sea was or was not “the beginning of misfortunes” for Athens; for at first it was highly beneficial to them, but in the end brought disaster, and thus was the “beginning” of evil.

19 Usually translated, “There is no bearing Baring.”

20 Kock, C.A.F. 3.209, p. 448. In the two first examples “stranger” refers to a distant and reserved manner, as we say “don't make yourself a stranger”; in the third ξένος is apparently to be taken in the sense of “alien.” Cope translates: “for that too is of a different kind” (foreign, alien to the two others; ἀλλότριον, belonging to something or somebody else, opposed to οἰκεῖον). But the whole passage is obscure.

21 Kock, C.A.F. 2. Frag. 64, p. 163.

22 Or, reading αἱ for ἀεὶ, “approved similes are . . .”

23 In the simple metaphor “goblet” is substituted for “shield,” but sometimes additions are made to the word as differently applied, such as “of Ares” and “without strings.” These additions, besides involving greater detail (a characteristic of the simile), distinctly bring out the contrast of the two terms and make a simile, whereas the metaphor simply transfers the meaning.

24 In posture.

25 Contraction of eyelids and flame.

26 Like Philoctetes on Lemnos after he had been bitten by the snake.

27 When the concluding corresponds with the introductory expression. This “answering clause” is called apodosis (5.2), not restricted, as in modern usage, to the conclusion of a conditional sentence.

28 Or, “he says it is a case of the Carpathian and the hare.” An inhabitant of the island of Carpathus introduced a brace of hares, which so multiplied that they devoured all the crops and ruined the farmers (like the rabbits in Australia).

29 Hom. Il. 9.385.

30 This must be taken as a parenthetical remark, if it is Aristotle's at all.

31 Because they are boyish.

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  • Commentary references to this page (4):
    • Thomas W. Allen, E. E. Sikes, Commentary on the Homeric Hymns, HYMN TO DEMETER
    • W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, Commentary on the Odyssey (1886), 11.597
    • Walter Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad (1900), 13.799
    • Walter Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad (1900), 4.521
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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (6):
    • Isocrates, To Philip, 10
    • Isocrates, To Philip, 127
    • Isocrates, To Philip, 40
    • Isocrates, To Philip, 61
    • Isocrates, On the Peace, 101
    • Homer, Iliad, 9.385
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