Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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1458b.1

A considerable aid to clarity and distinction are the lengthening and abbreviation and alteration of words. Being otherwise than in the ordinary form and thus unusual, these will produce the effect of distinction, and clarity will be preserved by retaining part of the usual form. Those critics are therefore wrong who censure this manner of idiom and poke fun at the poet, as did the elder Eucleides [Note] who said it was easy to write poetry, granted the right to lengthen syllables at will. He had made a burlesque in this very style: Ἐπιχάρην εἶδον Μαραθῶνάδε βαδίζοντα and οὐκ ἄν γ' ἐράμενος τὸν ἐκείνου ἐλλέβορον. [Note]

Now to make an obtrusive use of this licence is ridiculous; but moderation is a requisite common to all kinds of writing. The same effect could be got by using metaphors and rare words and the rest unsuitably for the express purpose of raising a laugh.

What a difference is made by the proper use of such licence may be seen in epic poetry, if you substitute in the verse the ordinary forms. Take a rare word or metaphor or any of the others and substitute the ordinary word; the truth of our contention will then be obvious. 1458b.20For instance, Aeschylus and Euripides wrote the same iambic line with the change of one word only, a rare word in place of one made ordinary by custom, yet the one line seems beautiful and the other trivial. Aeschylus in the Philoctetes wrote, "The ulcer eats the flesh of this my foot," and Euripides instead of "eats" put "feasts upon." Or take "I that am small, of no account nor goodly;" suppose one were to read the line substituting the ordinary words, "I that am little and weak and ugly." Or compare "He set a stool unseemly and a table small." with "He set a shabby stool and a little table," or "the sea-shore is roaring" with "the sea-shore is shrieking." [Note]

Ariphrades [Note] again made fun of the tragedians because they employ phrases which no one would use in conversation, like " δωμάτων ἄπο" instead of ἀπὸ δωμάτων and their " σέθεν"and " ἐγὼ δέ νιν"and " Ἀχιλλέως πέρι" for περὶ Ἀχιλλέως, and so on.



Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
<<Arist. Poet. 1458a Arist. Poet. 1458b (Greek) >>Arist. Poet. 1459a

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