Aristotle, Poetics (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Arist. Poet.].
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1461a.1 In another case, perhaps, there is no advantage but "such was the fact," e.g. the case of the arms, "Their spears erect on butt-spikes stood," [Note] for that was then the custom, as it still is in Illyria.

As to the question whether anything that has been said or done is morally good or bad, this must be answered not merely by seeing whether what has actually been done or said is noble or base, but by taking into consideration also the man who did or said it, and seeing to whom he did or said it, and when and for whom and for what reason; for example, to secure a greater good or to avoid a greater evil.

Some objections may be met by reference to the diction, for example, by pleading "rare word," e.g. οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον, for perhaps he means not mules but sentinels. [Note] And Dolon, "One that was verily evil of form," it may be not his deformed body but his ugly face, for the Cretans use "fair-formed" for "fair-featured." [Note] And again "Livelier mix it" may mean not undiluted as for drunkards but quicker. [Note] Other expressions are metaphorical, for example: Then all the other immortals and men lay all night in slumber," while yet he says: "Yea, when indeed he gazed at the Trojan plain Agamemnon Marvelled at voices of flutes . . ." 1461a.20"All" is used instead of "many" metaphorically, "all" being a species of "many." [Note] And again, "Alone unsharing " [Note] is metaphorical; the best known is called the only one.

By intonation also; for example, the solutions of Hippias of Thasos, his " δίδομεν δέ οἱ" [Note] and τὸ μὲν οὗ καταπύθεται ὄμβρῳ [Note]; and by punctuation; for example, the lines of Empedocles: Soon mortal grow they that aforetime learnt Immortal ways, and pure erstwhile commingled. [Note] Or again by ambiguity, e.g. παρῴχηκεν δὲ πλέω νύξ, where πλείω is ambiguous. [Note] Others according to the habitual use of the phrase, e.g. wine and water is called "wine" so you get the phrase "greaves of new-wrought tin"; [Note] or workers in iron are called "braziers," and so Ganymede is said to pour wine for Zeus, though they do not drink wine. This last might however be metaphorical. [Note]

Whenever a word seems to involve a contradiction, one should consider how many different meanings it might bear in the passage, e.g. in "There the bronzen shaft was stayed," [Note] we should ask in how many ways "being stayed" might be taken, interpreting the passage in this sense or in that, and keeping as far as possible from the attitude which Glaucon [Note] describes



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