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[393a] failing of his request, imprecated curses on the Achaeans in his prayers to the god?” “I do.” “You know then that as far as these verses,“ And prayed unto all the Achaeans,
Chiefly to Atreus' sons, twin leaders who marshalled the people,
Hom. Il. 1.15the poet himself is the speaker and does not even attempt to suggest to us that anyone but himself is speaking. [393b] But what follows he delivers as if he were himself Chryses and tries as far as may be to make us feel that not Homer is the speaker, but the priest, an old man. And in this manner he has carried in nearly all the rest of his narration about affairs in Ilion, all that happened in Ithaca, and the entire Odyssey.” “Quite so,” he said. “Now, it is narration, is it not, both when he presents the several speeches and the matter between the speeches?” “Of course.” “But when he delivers a speech [393c] as if he were someone else, shall we not say that he then assimilates thereby his own diction is far as possible to that of the person whom he announces as about to speak?” “We shall obviously.” “And is not likening one's self to another speech or bodily bearing an imitation of him to whom one likens one's self?” “Surely.” “In such case then it appears he and the other poets effect their narration through imitation.” “Certainly.” “But if the poet should conceal himself nowhere, then his entire poetizing and narration would have been accomplished without imitation.1 [393d] And lest you may say again that you don't understand, I will explain to you how this would be done. If Homer, after telling us that Chryses came with the ransom of his daughter and as a suppliant of the Achaeans but chiefly of the kings, had gone on speaking not as if made or being Chryses2 but still as Homer, you are aware that it would not be imitation but narration, pure and simple. It would have been somewhat in this wise. I will state it without meter for I am not a poet:3 [393e] the priest came and prayed that to them the gods should grant to take Troy and come safely home, but that they should accept the ransom and release his daughter, out of reverence for the god, and when he had thus spoken the others were of reverent mind and approved, but Agamemnon was angry and bade him depart and not come again lest the scepter and the fillets of the god should not avail him. And ere his daughter should be released, he said, she would grow old in Argos with himself, and he ordered him to be off and not vex him if he wished to get home safe.

1 In the narrower sense.

2 Cf. Hazlitt, Antony and Cleopatra: “Shakespeare does not stand reasoning on what his characters would do or say, but at once becomes them and speaks and acts for them.”

3 From here to 394 B, Plato gives a prose paraphrase of Iliad i. 12-42. Roger Ascham in his Schoolmaster quotes it as a perfect example of the best form of exercise for learning a language.

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    • Walter Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad (1900), 1.18
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