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[1460a] [1] Still more unsuitable is it to use several metres as Chaeremon did. So no one has composed a long poem in any metre other than the heroic hexameter. As we said above, Nature shows that this is the right metre to choose.

Homer deserves praise for many things and especially for this, that alone of all poets he does not fail to understand what he ought to do himself. The poet should speak as seldom as possible in his own character, since he is not "representing" the story in that sense.1 Now the other poets play a part themselves throughout the poem and only occasionally "represent" a few things dramatically, but Homer after a brief prelude at once brings in a man or a woman or some other character, never without character, but all having character of their own.

Now the marvellous should certainly be portrayed in tragedy, but epic affords greater scope for the inexplicable(which is the chief element in what is marvellous), because we do not actually see the persons of the story. The incident of Hector's pursuit2 would look ridiculous on the stage, the people standing still and not pursuing and Achilles waving them back, but in epic that is not noticed. But that the marvellous causes pleasure is shown by the fact that people always tell a piece of news with additions by way of being agreeable.

Above all, Homer has taught the others the proper way of telling lies, [20] that is, by using a fallacy. When B is true if A is true, or B happens if A happens, people think that if B is true A must be true or happen. But that is false. Consequently if A be untrue but there be something else, B, which is necessarily true or happens if A is true, the proper thing to do is to posit B, for, knowing B to be true, our mind falsely infers that A is true also. This is an example from the Washing.3

What is convincing though impossible should always be preferred to what is possible and unconvincing. Stories should not be made up of inexplicable details; so far as possible there should be nothing inexplicable, or, if there is, it should lie outside the story—as, for instance, Oedipus not knowing how Laius died—and not in the play; for example, in the Electra the news of the Pythian games,4 or in the Mysians the man who came from Tegea to Mysia without speaking.5 To say that the plot would otherwise have been ruined is ridiculous. One should not in the first instance construct such a plot, and if a poet does write thus, and there seems to be a more reasonable way of treating the incident, then it is positively absurd. Even in the Odyssey the inexplicable elements in the story of his landing6 would obviously have been intolerable, had they been written by an inferior poet.

1 This takes us back to the beginning of chapter 3, where the various "manners" of representation are distinguished. Homer represents life partly by narration, partly by assuming a character other than his own. Both these "manners" come under the head of "Imitation." When Aristotle says "the poet speaks himself" and "plays a part himself" he refers not to narrative, of which there is a great deal in Homer, but to the "preludes" (cf. φροιμιασάμενος below) in which the poet, invoking the Muse, speaks in his own person. Ridgeway points out that in the whole of the Iliad and Odyssey Homer thus "speaks himself" only 24 lines.

2 “Entertainment” must mean a festival. At the City Dionysia three poets competed, each with three tragedies. By the end of the fifth century only one Satyr play was performed at each festival. But the tragedies were longer than those we possess. It is therefore likely that the nine tragedies together with one Satyr play amounted to about 15,000 lines. The Iliad contains between 16,000 and 17,000 lines.

3 Odyssey 19. Odysseus tells Penelope that he is a Cretan from Gnossus, who once entertained O. on his voyage to Troy. As evidence, he describes O.'s dress and his companions (Hom. Od. 19.164-260). P. commits the fallacy of inferring the truth of the antecedent from the truth of the consequent: “If his story were true, he would know these details; But he does know them; Therefore his story is true.” The artist in fiction uses the same fallacy, e.g.: “If chessmen could come to life the white knight would be a duffer; But he is a most awful duffer (look at him!); Therefore chessmen can come to life.” He makes his deductions so convincing that we falsely infer the truth of his hypothesis.

4 In Sophocles'Electrathe plot hinges on a false story of Orestes' death by an accident at the Pythian games. Presumably the anachronism shocked Aristotle.

5 Telephus.

6 Hom. Od. 13.116ff. It seemed to the critics inexplicable that Odysseus should not awake when his ship ran aground at the harbour of Phorcys in Ithaca and the Phaeacian sailors carried him ashore.

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