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In the first place, I will except myself out of the number of those I would allow to be poets: for one must not call it sufficient to tag a verse: nor if any person, like me, writes in a style bordering on conversation, must you esteem him to be a poet. To him who has genius, who has a soul of a diviner cast, and a greatness of expression, give the honor of this appellation. On this acount some have raised the question, whether comedy be a poem or not; because an animated spirit and force is neither in the style, nor the subject-matter: bating that it differs from prose by a certain measure, it is mere prose. But [one may object to this, that even in comedy] an inflamed father rages, because his.dissolute son, mad after a prostitute mistress, refuses a wife with a large portion; and (what is an egregious scandal) rambles about drunk with flambeaux by day-light. Yet could Pomponius, were his father alive, hear less severe reproofs! Wherefore it is not sufficient to write verses merely in proper language; which, if you take to pieces, any person may storm in the same manner as the father in the play. If from these verses which I write at this present, or those that Lucilius did formerly, you take away certain pauses and measures, and make that word which was first in order hindermost, by placing the latter [words] before those that preceded [in the verse]; you will not discern the limbs of a poet, when pulled in pieces, in the same manner as you would were you to transpose ever so [these lines of Ennius]: “ When discord dreadful bursts the brazen bars,
And shatters iron locks to thunder forth her wars.
1 Literally, "After that dreadful discord burst asunder the iron bound doors and gates of war."
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