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“those who commit perjury and those who swear right solemnly.1” 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.  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 scourge2”; and Alcidamas says “plaything in poetry,” “the audaciousness of nature,” “whetted with unmitigated wrath of thought.”  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”3; 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.
3 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.’”
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