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[41] But its decorative effect is greatest when it is metaphorical, as in the phrases “unbridled greed”1 or “those mad piles of masonry.”2 The epithet is generally made into a trope by the addition of something to it, as when Virgil speaks of “disgraceful poverty” or “sad old age.”3 But the nature of this form of embellishment is such that, while style is bare and inelegant without any epithets at all, it is overloaded when a large number are employed.

1 Cic. in Cat. I. x. 25.

2 Pro Mil. xx. 53.

3 Aen. vi. 276 and 275. Here the addition is metonymy, turpis and tristis both substituting effect in place of cause: cp. § 27.

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