previous next
[1459a] [1] All that sort of thing, not being in the ordinary form, gives distinction to the diction, which was what he failed to understand.

It is a great thing to make a proper use of each of the elements mentioned, and of double words and rare words too, but by far the greatest thing is the use of metaphor. That alone cannot be learnt; it is the token of genius. For the right use of metaphor means an eye for resemblances.1

Of the various kinds of words the double forms are most suited for dithyrambs, rare words for heroic verse and metaphors for iambics. And indeed in heroic verse they are all useful; but since iambic verse is largely an imitation of speech, only those nouns are suitable which might be used in talking. These are the ordinary word, metaphor, and "ornament."

Now concerning tragedy and the art of representing life in action, what we have said already must suffice.

We come now to the art of representation which is narrative and in metre.2 Clearly the story must be constructed as in tragedy, dramatically, round a single piece of action, whole and complete in itself, [20] with a beginning, middle and end, so that like a single living organism it may produce its own peculiar form of pleasure. It must not be such as we normally find in history, where what is required is an exposition not of a single piece of action but of a single period of time, showing all that within the period befell one or more persons, events that have a merely casual relation to each other. For just as the battle of Salamis occurred at the same time as the Carthaginian battle in Sicily, but they do not converge to the same result3; so, too, in any sequence of time one event may follow another and yet they may not issue in any one result. Yet most of the poets do this. So in this respect, too, compared with all other poets Homer may seem, as we have already said, divinely inspired, in that even with the Trojan war, which has a beginning and an end, he did not endeavor to dramatize it as a whole, since it would have been either too long to be taken in all at once or, if he had moderated the length, he would have complicated it by the variety of incident. As it is, he takes one part of the story only and uses many incidents from other parts, such as the Catalogue of Ships and other incidents with which he diversifies his poetry. The others, on the contrary, all write about a single hero or about a single period or about a single action with a great many parts, the authors,

1 i.e., the power of detecting "identity in difference" which distinguishes also both the philosopher and the scientist.

2 i.e., epic.

3 Gelo's defeat of the Carthaginians in Sicily in 480 B.C. took place, according to Herodotus, on the same day as the battle of Salamis.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1966)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Sicily (Italy) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
480 BC (1)
hide References (13 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: