Page:Aristotle s Poetics Butcher.djvu/133

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true to fact, the poet may perhaps reply, 'But the objects are as they ought to be'; just as Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are. In this way the objection may be met. If, however, the representation be of neither kind, the poet may answer, 'This is how men say the thing is.' applies to tales about the gods. It may well be that these stories are not higher than fact nor yet true to fact: they are, very possibly, what Xenophanes says of them. But anyhow, 'this is what is said.' Again, a description may be no better than the fact: 'Still, it was the fact'; as in the passage about the arms: 'Upright upon their butt-ends stood the spears.' This was the custom then, as it now is among the Illyrians.

Again, in examining whether what has been said or done by some one is poetically right or not, we must not look merely to the particular act or saying, and ask whether it is poetically good or bad. We must also consider by whom it is said or done, to whom, when, by what means, or for what end; whether, for instance, it be to secure a greater good, or avert a greater evil.

Other difficulties may be resolved by due regard to the usage of language. We may note a rare word, as in οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον (oureas men proton), 'the mules first [he killed],' where the poet perhaps employs οὐρῆας (oureas) not in the sense of mules, but of sentinels. So, again, of Dolon: 'ill-favored indeed he was to look upon.' It is not meant that his body was ill-shaped but that his face was ugly; for the Cretans use the word εὐειδὲς (eueides), 'well-flavored' to denote a fair face. Again, ‘ζωρότερον δὲ κέραιε (zoroteron de keraie), 'mix the drink livelier' does not mean 'mix it stronger' as for hard drinkers, but 'mix it quicker.'