Thursday, June 07, 2007

Poetics 1448a

2. But since those who imitate imitate those acting, and it is necessary that they be either serious or trivial[1] -- for the characters pretty much necessarily follow these alone, for everyone differs in character by vice or virtue[2] -- they imitate either those better than us or worse than us or those such as us, just as the painters. For the portrayals of Polygnotus are better, Pauson worse, and Dionysus similar (to us). And it's also clear that each of the imitations spoken of will have these differences and each will be different by imitating in this manner. For even in dance, aulos-playing, and cithara-playing these differences are possible, as well as in speeches and what is unmetered[3]: those of Homer are better, Cleophon worse, Hegemon the Thrasian, who first made parodies, and Nikochares, who made the Diliad, worse. And similarly also concerning dithyrambs and nomes[4], someone might likewise imitate as Timotheus and Philoxenus did the Cyclopes. And in this difference tragedy also stands apart from comedy: the former wants to imitate those worse, the latter those better, than those now.

3. And yet how someone might imitate each of these is a third difference of them. For even when the imitation is in the same things and of the same things, one might imitate[5] while reporting, either becoming someone different, as Homer does, or as the same person and not changing, or one might imitate as all those who imitate: acting and being at work. As we said at the beginning, imitation is in these three differences: in which, what, and how. So, in one way, as imitator Sophocles would be the same as Homer (for they both imitate serious things) but, in another way, as Aristophanes (for they both imitate those acting and doing). So some say the stage acts (dramata) are so called because they imitate doing (drwntas). Wherefore also the Dorians lay claim to tragedy and comedy -- for indeed the local Megarians lay claim to comedy as having come to be during their democracy, and the Sicilians lay claim for Epicharmus, the poet, was from there (much earlier than Chionides and Magnes), and some of the Peloponnesians lay claim to tragedy -- making names the sign. For the Dorians say they call the suburbs "komas" (though the Athenians call them "demes"), as if comedians were so called not from reveling (komazein) but from going komas to komas, driven in dishonor from the towns. And they name "doing," "dran," but the Athenians name it "prattein."

[1] spoudaious and phaulous
[2] arete and kakia
[3] Literally, "bare metered," which, I think, Thorgerson wants to call prose.
[4] From the OED: Nome: "In ancient Greece: a song or hymn sung in honour of the gods. Also: the genre to which such a song belongs."
[5] I supply the verb both here and below from the previous sentence.

General Note: I've always heard that the text of the Poetics is a mess, but after translating this section, I believe it on the basis of first-hand experience.


Burglar said...

Reading over my translation, there's an ambiguous part about the painters. I say, "For the portrayals of Polygnotus are better, Pauson worse, and Dionysius similar (to us)." But is that right? On reflection, I think it should be, "For Polygnotus portrayed those better, Pauson those worse, and Dionysius those similar (to us)." I totally screwed up the verb, eikazen.

Thorgersen said...

On note [3] - "psiloi logoi" ("bare words") can be understood as prose, but here where it is "psilo-metria" ("bare meter") he seems to mean the verse of Homer, etc., and not prose.