previous next
2. Let this suffice for the consideration of these points. In regard to style, one of its chief merits may be defined as perspicuity. This is shown by the fact that the speech, if it does not make the meaning clear, will not perform its proper function; neither must it be mean, nor above the dignity of the subject, but appropriate to it; for the poetic style may be is not mean, but it is not appropriate to prose. [2] Of nouns and verbs it is the proper ones that make style perspicuous1; all the others which have been spoken of in the Poetics2 elevate and make it ornate; for departure from the ordinary makes it appear more dignified. In this respect men feel the same in regard to style as in regard to foreigners and fellow-citizens. [3] Wherefore we should give our language a “foreign3 air”; for men admire what is remote, and that which excites admiration is pleasant. In poetry many things conduce to this and there it is appropriate; for the subjects and persons spoken of are more out of the common. But in prose such methods are appropriate in much fewer instances, for the subject is less elevated; and even in poetry, if fine language were used by a slave or a very young man, or about quite unimportant matters, it would be hardly becoming; for even here due proportion consists in contraction and amplification as the subject requires. [4] Wherefore those who practise this artifice must conceal it and avoid the appearance of speaking artificially instead of naturally; for that which is natural persuades,
but the artificial does not. For men become suspicious of one whom they think to be laying a trap for them, as they are of mixed wines. Such was the case with the voice of Theodorus as contrasted with that of the rest of the actors; for his seemed to be the voice of the speaker, that of the others the voice of someone else. [5] Art is cleverly concealed when the speaker chooses his words from ordinary language4 and puts them together like Euripides, who was the first to show the way.

Nouns and verbs being the components of speech, and nouns being of the different kinds which have been considered in the Poetics, of these we should use strange, compound, or coined words only rarely and in few places. We will state later5 in what places they should be used; [6] the reason for this has already been mentioned, namely, that it involves too great a departure from suitable language. Proper and appropriate words and metaphors are alone to be employed in the style of prose; this is shown by the fact that no one employs anything but these. For all use metaphors in conversation, as well as proper and appropriate words; wherefore it is clear that, if a speaker manages well, there will be some thing “foreign” about his speech, while possibly the art may not be detected, and his meaning will be clear. And this, as we have said, is the chief merit of rhetorical language. [7] (In regard to nouns, homonyms are most useful to the sophist, for it is by their aid that he employs captious arguments, and synonyms to the poet.
Instances of words that are both proper and synonymous are “going” and “walking”: for these two words are proper and have the same meaning.)6

It has already been stated, as we have said, in the Poetics,7 what each of these things8 is, how many kinds of metaphor there are, and that it is most important both in poetry and in prose. [8] But the orator must devote the greater attention to them in prose, since the latter has fewer resources than verse. It is metaphor above all that gives perspicuity, pleasure, and a foreign air, and it cannot be learnt from anyone else;9 [9] but we must make use of metaphors and epithets that are appropriate. This will be secured by observing due proportion; otherwise there will be a lack of propriety, because it is when placed in juxtaposition that contraries are most evident. We must consider, as a red cloak suits a young man, what suits an old one; [10] for the same garment is not suitable for both. And if we wish to ornament our subject, we must derive our metaphor from the better species under the same genus; if to depreciate it, from the worse. Thus, to say (for you have two opposites belonging to the same genus) that the man who begs prays, or that the man who prays begs (for both are forms of asking)10 is an instance of doing this; as, when Iphicrates11 called Callias12
a mendicant priest instead of a torch-bearer, Callias replied that Iphicrates himself could not be initiated, otherwise he would not have called him mendicant priest but torch-bearer13; both titles indeed have to do with a divinity, but the one is honorable, the other dishonorable. And some call actors flatterers of Dionysus, whereas they call themselves “artists.” Both these names are metaphors, but the one is a term of abuse, the other the contrary. Similarly, pirates now call themselves purveyors14; and so it is allowable to say that the man who has committed a crime has “made a mistake,” that the man who has “made a mistake” is “guilty of crime”, and that one who has committed a theft has either “taken” or “ravaged.” The saying in the Telephus of Euripides, “ Ruling over the oar and having landed in Mysia,

” is inappropriate, because the word ruling exceeds the dignity of the subject, and so the artifice can be seen. [11] Forms of words also are faulty, if they do not express an agreeable sound; for instance, Dionysius the Brazen15 in his elegiacs speaks of poetry as “ the scream of Calliope;

” both are sounds, but the metaphor is bad, because the sounds have no meaning.16

[12] Further, metaphors must not be far-fetched, but we must give names to things that have none by deriving the metaphor from what is akin and of the same kind, so that, as soon as it is uttered, it is clearly seen to be akin,
as in the famous enigma, “ I saw a man who glued bronze with fire upon another.

” There was no name for what took place, but as in both cases there is a kind of application, he called the application of the cupping-glass gluing.17 And, generally speaking, clever enigmas furnish good metaphors; for metaphor is a kind of enigma, so that it is clear that the transference is clever. [13] Metaphors should also be derived from things that are beautiful, the beauty of a word consisting, as Licymnius says, in its sound or sense, and its ugliness in the same. There is a third condition, which refutes the sophistical argument; for it is not the case, as Bryson18 said, that no one ever uses foul language, if the meaning is the same whether this or that word is used; this is false; for one word is more proper than another, more of a likeness, and better suited to putting the matter before the eyes. Further, this word or that does not signify a thing under the same conditions; thus for this reason also it must be admitted that one word is fairer or fouler than the other. Both, indeed, signify what is fair or foul, but not qua fair or foul; or if they do, it is in a greater or less degree. Metaphors therefore should be derived from what is beautiful either in sound, or in signification, or to sight, or to some other sense. For it does make a difference, for instance, whether one says “rosy-fingered morn,” rather than “purple-fingered,”
or, what is still worse, “red-fingered.”

[14] As for epithets, they may be applied from what is vile or disgraceful, for instance, “the matricide,” or from what is more honorable, for instance, “the avenger of his father.”19 When the winner in a mule-race offered Simonides a small sum, he refused to write an ode, as if he thought it beneath him to write on half-asses; but when he gave him a sufficient amount, he wrote, “ Hail, daughters of storm-footed steeds!20

” and yet they were also the daughters of asses. Further, the use of diminutives amounts to the same. [15] It is the diminutive which makes the good and the bad appear less, as Aristophanes in the Babylonians jestingly uses “goldlet, cloaklet, affrontlet, diseaselet” instead of “gold, cloak, affront, disease.” But one must be careful to observe the due mean in their use as well as in that of epithets.

1 “Nouns and verbs” is a conventional expression for all the parts of speech. Cp. Hor. AP 240 “non ego inornata et dominantia nomina solum verbaque,” where dominantia is a literal adaptation of κύρια, the usual Latin equivalent for which is propria.

2 Aristot. Poet. 21.

3 It is impossible to find a satisfactory English equivalent for the terms ξένος, ξενικός, τὸ ξενίζον, as applied to style. “Foreign” does not really convey the idea, which is rather that of something opposed to “home-like,”—out-of-the-way, as if from “abroad.” Jebb suggests “distinctive.”

4 Cp. Hor. AP. 46, where it is said that the choice and use of words requires subtlety and care, skill in making an old word new by clever combination (callida iunctura) being especially praised.

5 Chaps. 3 and 7.

6 This is a parenthetical note.

7 Aristot. Poet. 21, 22.

8 The different kinds of words.

9 Aristot. Poet. 22.9: “for this alone cannot be borrowed from another.”

10 Begging (as a beggar does) and praying (as a priest might) are both forms of asking, and by substituting one for the other, you can amplify or depreciate.

11 See 1.7.32.

12 Head of a distinguished Athenian family which held the office of torch-bearer at the Eleusinian mysteries. A man of notoriously dissipated character, he took some part in politics.

13 The δᾳδοῦχος or hereditary torch-bearer ranked next to the hierophant or chief priest. In addition to holding the torch during the sacrifices, he took part in the recitation of the ritual and certain purificatory ceremonies. The μητραγύρται or mendicant priests collected alms on behalf of various deities, especially the great Mother Cybele (whence their name). They included both men and women of profligate character, addicted to every kind of lewdness.

14 Cf. “‘convey’ the wise it call” (Merry Wives, I. iii.). Either the euphemistic or unfavorable application of the term may be adopted.

15 According to Athenaeus, p. 669, he was a poet and rhetorician who recommended the Athenians to use bronze money.

16 A scream is neither articulate nor agreeable, like the sound of poetry, although both are voices or sound, and to that extent the metaphor is correct.

17 Athenaeus, p. 452.

18 Rhetorician and sophist of Heraclea in Pontus.

19 Eur. Orest. 1588. In the preceding line Menelaus accuses Orestes as a matricide and ready to heap murder on murder, to which Orestes replies, you should rather call me the avenger of my father Agamemnon, who had been murdered by his wife Clytaemnestra, the mother of Orestes. “Matricide” and “avenger of his father” show the good and bad sides of the deed of Orestes.

20 Frag. 7 (P.L.G. 3, p. 39O). The winner of the mule race was Anaxilaus of Rhegium.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (E. M. Cope, 1877)
load focus Greek (W. D. Ross, 1959)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Rhegium (Italy) (1)
Pontus (1)
Mysia (Turkey) (1)
Heraclea (Italy) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (8 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 341
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (5):
    • Aristotle, Poetics, 1457a
    • Aristotle, Poetics, 1458b
    • Euripides, Orestes, 1588
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 240
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 46
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: