Like one whom an odious plague or jaundice, fanatic phrensy or lunacy, distresses; those who are wise avoid a mad poet, and are afraid to touch him; the boys jostle him, and the incautious pursue him. If, like a fowler intent upon his game, he should fall into a well or a ditch while he belches out his fustian verses and roams about, though he should cry out for a long time, "Come to my assistance, 0 my countrymen;" not one would give himself the trouble of taking him up. Were any one to take pains to give him aid, and let down a rope; "How do you know, but he threw himself in hither on purpose?" I shall say: and will relate the death of the Sicilian poet. Empedocles, while he was ambitious of being esteemed an immortal god, in cold blood leaped into burning Aetna.1 Let poets have the privilege and license to die [as they please]. He who saves a man against his will, does the same with him who kills him [against his will]. Neither is it the first time that he has behaved in this manner; nor, were he to be forced from his purposes, would he now become a man, and lay aside his de sire of such a famous death. Neither does it appear sufficiently, why he makes verses: whether he has defiled his father's ashes, or sacrilegiously removed the sad enclosure2 of the vindictive thunder: it is evident that he is mad, and like a bear that has burst through the gates closing his den, this unmerciful rehearser chases the learned and unlearned. And whomsoever he seizes, he fastens on and assassinates with recitation: a leech that will not quit the skin, till satiated with blood.3

1Ardentem frigidus Aetnam insiluit.Hor. Ars 465 "In cold blood, deliberately." Horace, by playing on the words “ardentum frigidus”, would show that he did not believe the story, and told it as one of the traditions, which poets may use without being obliged to vouch the truth of them. The pleasantry continues, when he says, it is murder to hinder a poet from killing himself; a maxim, which could not be said seriously.

2An triste bidentalHor. Ars 471. What crime must that man have committed whom the gods in vengeance have possessed with a madness of writing verses? Bidental was a place struck with lightning, which the aruspices purified and consecrated with a sacrifice of a sheep, bidental. It was an act of sacrilege ever to remove the bounds of it, movere bidental.

3 In concluding the annotations on the Art of Poetry, I must beg to recommend to the reader's notice my translation of Aristotle's Poetics, with a collection of notes, as the two treatises contribute to each other's illustration in the fullest extent.

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 Latin (C. Smart, 1836)
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.
Aetna (Canada) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (8 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 44
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Aristotle, Poetics
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 465
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 471
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (4):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: