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[1448b] [1] Their word for action, they add, is δρᾶν, whereas the Athenian word is πράττειν. So much then for the differences, their number, and their nature.

Speaking generally, poetry seems to owe its origin to two particular causes, both natural. From childhood men have an instinct for representation, and in this respect, differs from the other animals that he is far more imitative and learns his first lessons by representing things. And then there is the enjoyment people always get from representations. What happens in actual experience proves this, for we enjoy looking at accurate likenesses of things which are themselves painful to see, obscene beasts, for instance, and corpses. The reason is this: Learning things gives great pleasure not only to philosophers but also in the same way to all other men, though they share this pleasure only to a small degree. The reason why we enjoy seeing likenesses is that, as we look, we learn and infer what each is, for instance, "that is so and so." If we have never happened to see the original, our pleasure is not due to the representation as such but to the technique or the color or some other such cause.

[20] We have, then, a natural instinct for representation and for tune and rhythm1—for the metres are obviously sections of rhythms2—and starting with these instincts men very gradually developed them until they produced poetry out of their improvisations. Poetry then split into two kinds according to the poet's nature. For the more serious poets represented fine doings and the doings of fine men, while those of a less exalted nature represented the actions of inferior men, at first writing satire just as the others at first wrote hymns and eulogies. Before Homer we cannot indeed name any such poem, though there were probably many satirical poets, but starting from Homer, there is, for instance, his Margites3 and other similar poems. For these the iambic metre was fittingly introduced and that is why it is still called iambic, because it was the metre in which they lampooned each other.4 Of the ancients some wrote heroic verse and some iambic. And just as Homer was a supreme poet in the serious style, since he alone made his representations not only good but also dramatic, so, too, he was the first to mark out the main lines of comedy, since he made his drama not out of personal satire but out of the laughable as such. His Margites indeed provides an analogy: as are the Iliad and Odyssey to our tragedies,

1 It is not clear wheter the "two general causes" are (1) the instinct for imitation, (2) the natural enjoyment of mimicry by others; or whether these two are combined into one and the second cause is the instinct for tune and rhythm. Obviously this last is an essential cause of poetry.

2 e.g., the rhythm of the blacksmith's hammer or of a trotting horse is dactylic, but the hexameter is a "section" or slice of that rhythm; it is cut up into sixes.

3 A famous burlesque which Aristotle attributes to Homer. "Other similar poems" must mean other early burlesques not necessarily attributed to Homer.

4 Since the iambic came to be the metre of invective, the verb ἰαμβίζειν acquired the meaning "to lampoon." There is probably implied a derivation from ἰάπτειν, " to assail."

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