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[118] “Yes, my young friends,” said Eumolpus, "poetry has led many astray. As soon as a man has shaped his verse in feet and woven into it a more delicate meaning with an ingenious circumlocution, he thinks that forthwith he has scaled Helicon. In this fashion people who are tired out with forensic oratory often take refuge in the calm of poetry as in some happier haven, supposing that a poem is easier to construct than a declamation adorned with quivering epigrams. But nobler souls do not love such coxcombry, and the mind cannot conceive or bring forth its fruit unless it is steeped in the vast flood of literature. One must flee away from all diction that is, so to speak, cheap, and choose words divorced from popular use, putting into practice, “I hate the common herd and hold it afar.”1 Besides, one must take care that the epigrams do not stand out from the body of the speech: they must shine with a brilliancy that is woven into the material. Homer proves this, and the lyric poets, and Roman Virgil, and the studied felicity of Horace. The others either did not see the path that leads to poetry, or saw it and were afraid to walk in it For instance, anyone who attempts the vast theme of the Civil War2 will sink under the burden[p. 253] unless he is full of literature. It is not a question of recording -real events in verse; historians can do that far better. The free spirit of genius must plunge headlong into allusions and divine interpositions, and rack itself for epigrams coloured by mythology, so that what results seems rather the prophecies of an inspired seer than the exactitude of a statement made on oath before witnesses: the following effusion will show what I mean, if it take your fancy, though it has not yet received my final touches. . . .

1 Horace, Odes iii, 1.

2 The theme of the Pharsalia of Lucan, against whom Eumolpus's criticisms seem to be directed.

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