Let*The text here printed is based on Vahlen's third editionLeipzig, 1885, and the chief deviations from it are noted at the foot of each page. The prime source of all existing texts of the Poetics is the eleventh century Paris manuscript, No. 1741, designated as Ac. To the manuscripts of the Renaissance few, except Dr. Margoliouth, now assign any independent value, but they contain useful suggestions for the correction of obvious errors and defects in Ac. These are here designated copies.V. stands for Vahlen's third edition, and By. for the late Professor Ingram Bywater, who has earned the gratitude and admiration of all students of the Poetics by his services both to the text and to its interpretation. Then there is the Arabic transcript. Translated in the eleventh century from a Syriac translation made in the eighth century, it appears to make little sense, but sometimes gives dim visions of the readings of a manuscript three centuries older but not necessarily better than Ac, readings which confirm some of the improvements introduced into Renaissance texts. us here deal with Poetry, its essence and its several species, with the characteristic function of each species and the way in which plots must be constructed if the poem is to be a success; and also with the number and character of the constituent parts of a poem, and similarly with all other matters proper to this same inquiry; and let us, as nature directs, begin first with first principles.
Epic poetry, then, and the poetry of tragic drama, and, moreover, comedy and dithyrambic poetry, and most flute-playing and harp-playing, these, speaking generally, may all be said to be "representations of life."*The explanation of MI/MHSIS, as Aristotle uses the word, demands a treatise; all that a footnote can say is this:Life "presents" to the artist the phenomena of sense, which the artist "re-presents" in his own medium, giving coherence, designing a pattern. That this is true not only of drama and fiction but also of instrumental music ("most flute-playing and harp-playing") was more obvious to a Greek than to us, since Greek instrumental music was more definitely imitative. The technical display of the virtuoso Plato describes as "a beastly noise." Since MI/MHSIS in this sense and MIMHTH/S and the verb MIMEI=SQAI have a wider scope than any one English word, it is necessary to use more than one word in translation, e.g. MIMHTH/S is what we call an "artist"; and for MI/MHSIS where "representation" would be clumsy we may use the word "art"; the adjective must be "imitative," since "representative" has other meanings.
But they differ one from another in three ways: either in using means generically different*i.e., means that can be divided into separate categories. or in representing different objects or in representing objects not in the same way but in a different manner.
For just as by the use both of color and form people represent many objects, making likenesses of themsome having a knowledge of art and some working empiricallyand just as others use the human voice; so is it also in the arts which we have mentioned, they all make their representations in rhythm and language and tune, using these means either separately or in combination.
For tune and rhythm alone are employed in flute-playing and harp-playing and in any other arts which have a similar function, as, for example, pipe-playing.
Rhythm alone without tune is employed by dancers in their representations, for by means of rhythmical gestures they represent both character and experiences and actions.*PA/QH KAI\ PRA/CEIS cover the whole field of life, what men do (PRA/CEIS) and what men experience (PA/QH). Since PA/QH means also "emotions" and that sense may be present here, but as a technical term in this treatise PA/QOS is a calamity or tragic incident, something that happens to the hero.
But the art which employs words either in bare prose or in metres, either in one kind of metre or combining several, happens up to the present day to have no name.
For we can find no common term to apply to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus*Sophron and Xenarchus, said to he father and son, lived in Syracuse, the elder a contemporary of Euripides. They wrote "mimes," i.e., simple and usually farcical sketches of familiar incidents, similar to the mimes of Herondas and the fifteenth Idyll of Theocritus, but in prose. There was a tradition that their mimes suggested to Plato the use of dialogue. and to the Socratic dialogues:
nor again supposing a poet were to make his representation in iambics or elegiacs or any other such metreexcept that people attach the word poetmakerto the name of the metre and speak of elegiac poets and of others as epic poets.
Thus they do not call them poets in virtue of their representation but apply the name indiscriminately in virtue of the metre.
For if people publish medical or scientific treatises in metre the custom is to call them poets. But Homer and Empedocles*Empedocles (floruit 445 B.C.) expressed his philosophical and religious teaching in hexameter verse, to which Aristotle elsewhere attributes genuine value as poetry, but it is here excluded from the ranks of poetry because the object is definitely. have nothing in common except the metre, so that it would be proper to call the one a poet and the other not a poet but a scientist.
Similarly if a man makes his representation by combining all the metres, as Chaeremon did when he wrote his rhapsody The Centaur, a medley of all the metres, he too should be given the name of poet.*Chaeremon was a tragedian and rhapsodist. The Centaur was apparently an experiment which might be classed as either drama or epic. Cf. Aristot. Poet. 24.11. On this point the distinctions thus made may suffice.
There are certain arts which employ all the means which I have mentioned, such as rhythm and tune and metredithyrambic and "nomic" poetry,*The traditional definition is that the Dithyramb was sung to a flute accompaniment by a chorus in honor of Dionysus; and that the Nome was a solo sung to a harp accompaniment in honor of Apollo, but it is not clear that Aristotle regarded the Dithyramb as restricted to the worship of Dionysus. Timotheus's dithyramb mentioned in Aristot. Poet. 15.8 cannot have been Dionysiac. But there is good evidence to show that the dithyramb was primarily associated with Dionysus. for example, and tragedy too and comedy. The difference here is that some use all these at once, others use now one now another.
These differences then in the various arts I call the means of representation.