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Horace--Ars Poetica

        Horace is a conservative, traditional literary critic. His Ars Poetica, which takes the form of advice given to a young man named Piso on the writing of poetry, breaks no new ground in relation to the ideas of Plato and Aristotle. His advice centers on sticking to traditional forms (Greek forms of the 5th/4th centuries BCE):

1) It is better to follow a traditional story than to invent a new one.

2) The attention of the audience is best kept by character traits fitted to the age (a youth should not be given the traits appropriate to age, and a mature man should not be given the traits appropriate to youth). This is straight out of Aristotle.

3) Lurid scenes--such as Medea slaying her boys, or Atreus cooking human flesh--should not be performed but rather saved for narration.

4) A play should be no longer or shorter than five acts.

5) The chorus--a device of the Greek drama--should side with that which is good and right.

6) Gods and heroes should not be presented in satyr plays as fallen to the common talk of "some dingy tavern." A modified Plato anyone?

7) Good writing reflects good thinking. This is currently considered heresy by the Comp-Rhet powers-that-be in academia. He's right. They're wrong.

8) A poet's aim may be amusement, instruction, or both; however, the best work will combine both aims in an advantageous proportion.

9) Instruction should be brief: "Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of the brimming mind."

10) Fictions need to keep as near as possible to real life. This reflects the Aristotelian emphasis on the necessity of probability in the incidents of plot. Science Fiction is out for Horace.

11) The best poet "has mingled profit with pleasure by delighting the reader at once and instructing him." This idea is still with us, and likely always will be.

12) The poet (in this case Piso) should submit his new verses to a trusted critic, not a flatterer, and never publish verses hastily. Once they are out there, there is no taking them back. Essentially this boils down to a sensible admonition to not leave your poetic ass hanging out in the breeze of the town square. Good idea.

13) The hasty, unskilled, "rapt" poet is the "terror of all sensible people: they fly at his approach." This section is hilarious: a bad poet will be left in the hole into which he has fallen, and people run from him in fear lest he read them some of his doggerel. "Run for your lives! It's POETBOY!!!!!!!"