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3. Frigidity of style arises from four causes: first, the use of compound words, as when Lycophron1 speaks of the “many-faced sky of the mighty-topped earth,” “narrow-passaged shore”; and Gorgias of “a begging-poet flatterer,”
“those who commit perjury and those who swear right solemnly.2” And as Alcidamas says, “the soul full of anger and the face fire-colored,” “he thought that their zeal would be end-accomplishing,” “he made persuasive words end-accomplishing,” and “the azure-colored floor of the sea,” for all these appear poetical because they are compound.

[2] This is one cause of frigidity; another is the use of strange words; as Lycophron calls Xerxes “a monster of a man,” Sciron “a human scourge3”; and Alcidamas says “plaything in poetry,” “the audaciousness of nature,” “whetted with unmitigated wrath of thought.”

[3] A third cause is the use of epithets that are either long or unseasonable or too crowded; thus, in poetry it is appropriate to speak of white milk, but in prose it is less so; and if epithets are employed to excess, they reveal the art and make it evident that it is poetry. And yet such may be used to a certain extent, since it removes the style from the ordinary and gives a “foreign” air. But one must aim at the mean, for neglect to do so does more harm than speaking at random; for a random style lacks merit, but excess is vicious. That is why the style of Alcidamas appears frigid; for he uses epithets not as a seasoning but as a regular dish, so crowded,
so long, and so glaring are they. For instance, he does not say “sweat” but “damp sweat”; not “to the Isthmian games” but “to the solemn assembly of the Isthmian games”; not “laws”, but “the laws, the rulers of states”; not “running”, but “with a race-like impulse of the soul”; not “museum”, but “having taken up the museum of nature”4; and “the scowling anxiety of the soul”; “creator”, not “of favor”, but “all-popular favor”; and “dispenser of the pleasure of the hearers”; “he hid,” not “with branches,” but “with the branches of the forest”; “he covered,” not “his body,” but “the nakedness of his body.” He also calls desire “counter-initiative of the soul”—an expression which is at once compound and an epithet, so that it becomes poetry—and “the excess of his depravity so beyond all bounds.” Hence those who employ poetic language by their lack of taste make the style ridiculous and frigid, and such idle chatter produces obscurity; for when words are piled upon one who already knows, it destroys perspicuity by a cloud of verbiage. People use compound words, when a thing has no name and the word is easy to combine, as χρονοτριβεῖν, to pass time; but if the practice is abused, the style becomes entirely poetical.
This is why compound words are especially employed by dithyrambic poets, who are full of noise; strange words by epic poets, for they imply dignity and self-assertion; metaphor to writers of iambics, who now employ them, as we have stated.

[4] The fourth cause of frigidity of style is to be found in metaphors; for metaphors also are inappropriate, some because they are ridiculous—for the comic poets also employ them—others because they are too dignified and somewhat tragic; and if they are farfetched, they are obscure, as when Gorgias says: “Affairs pale and bloodless”5; “you have sown shame and reaped misfortune”; for this is too much like poetry. And as Alcidamas calls philosophy “a bulwark of the laws,”6 and the Odyssey “a beautiful mirror of human life,” and “introducing no such plaything in poetry.” All these expressions fail to produce persuasion, for the reasons stated. As for what Gorgias said to the swallow which, flying over his head, let fall her droppings upon him, it was in the best tragic style. He exclaimed, “Fie, for shame, Philomela!”; for there would have been nothing in this act disgraceful for a bird, whereas it would have been for a young lady. The reproach therefore was appropriate, addressing her as she was, not as she is.

1 A sophist, not the poet (author of the obscure Alexander or Cassandra), who was later than Aristotle.

2 Lobeck conjectured κατεπιορκήσαντας, “who commit out-and-out perjury.”

3 Sciron and Sinnis were both robbers slain by Theseus, by Lycophron turns Sinnis into a γλῶττα, using it adjectivally = “destructive”; cf. σῖνος, “harm”; σίντης = σίννις.

4 The meaning of παραλαβών is quite obscure: various renderings are “having taken to himself,” “received,” “grasped,” “inherited.” The word μουσεῖον, originally a haunt of the Muses, came to mean a school of art or literature. The fault appears to consist in the addition of τῆς φύσεως, but it is difficult to see why. Cope confesses his inability to understand the passage. Jebb translates: “he does not say, ‘having taken to himself a school of the Muses,’ but ‘to Nature's school of the Muses.’”

5 On this passage Thompson (Gorgias, p. 179) says: “The metaphor of reaping and sowing is a mere commonplace . . . but ‘pallid and bloodless affairs’ is a phrase which would need apology even from a modern.” On the other hand, it is difficult to see what objection there is to calling the Odyssey “a beautiful mirror of human life.” Another reading is ἔναιμα, which Cope translates “events fresh with the blood in them.” If the two extracts are taken together, it is suggested (apparently by the editor of Cope's notes) that the sense may be: “things green and unripe (flushed with sap), and this was the crop which you . . .,” the adjectives referring to green and unripe stalks of corn.

6 Or, “a barrier against the laws.” This is the general meaning of ἐπιτείχισμα, a border fortress commanding an enemy's country.

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