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[133] Which of them, pray, is the better poet? Heraclitus 1 is very obscure; Democritus is not so in the least: then are they to be compared? But you give me advice and for my good in words that I cannot understand. Then why do you advise me at all? That's like a doctor ordering a patient to take
A bloodless, earth-engendered thing that crawls
And bears its habitation on its back,
instead of saying in common, every-day speech, 'a snail.' Amphion, in a play by Pacuvius,2 speaks to the Athenians of a creature as
Four-footed, of stature short; rough, shy, and slow;
Fierce-eyed, with tiny head and serpent's neck;
When disembowelled and deprived of life,
It lives for ever in melodious song.
His meaning being too obscure the Athenians replied: [p. 521]
Speak plainer, else we cannot understand.
Whereupon he described it in a single word—'a tortoise.' Couldn't you have said so at first, you cithara-player?

1 Heraclitus was called σκοτεινός, “The Obscure.” Cf. Cic. De fin. ii. 5. 15.

2 The lines are from his Antiope and occur in a discussion between Amphion and his brother Zethus.

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load focus Introduction (William Armistead Falconer, 1923)
load focus Latin (C. F. W. Müller, 1915)
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