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are those connected with the other Fine Arts, and especially with
, especially with Music and Dancing, or Pantomime: the first principle, which is enunciated in the next sentence, is that of Imitation.
How is this undertaking fulfilled in the book before us? Partially, it must be answered, and too shortly. Of one of the species, Tragedy, we have a full examination.
There is a carefully drawn definition of Tragedy, which tells us what it is and what it does; it is analysed into six constituent parts or elements, which aré considered in order ; and practical rules are laid down for the management of Plot, to which special prominence had been already given in the opening sentence. Yet even here we shall see that there are gaps in important parts of the argument; as is clear, not only to the sense of the reader, but also from the terms in which the Author refers to the Poetics in his other works; there some
times seems to have been misplacement of material; on the other hand some chapters have appeared to scholars to be the work of a later hand, of a grammarian rather than a philosopher. Epic poetry is treated far more shortly, yet perhaps not inadequately, when it is remembered that Aristotle considered Tragedy to have in a sense superseded Epic, as the more complex and manifold organism supersedes that which is simpler; so that the results obtained for Tragedy are up to a certain point capable of being transferred to Epic; and the inquiry need not begin over again, or be conducted independently. The notice of Comedy is extremely slight; of Lyric there is hardly a word. About Poetry itself, the whole Art as contrasted with its own species, there is little except what arises incidentally in the discussion of Tragedy. One chapter, indeed, of great interest and value, traces the Art from its earliest beginnings, and its development under its several heads, until its full and final proportions were reached in the forms of Tragedy and Comedy. But we have no definition of the nature and office of Poetry; little about poets and their claims upon our hearing.
After making allowance for the supreme importance attached to Tragedy, and the probability that the treatment of the other species would be slighter, and that Poetry itself would be approached through Tragedy and not independently, we cannot fail to conclude that the work as we have it is fragmentary. And, in fact, external evidence bears out this presumption. In the lists of Aristotle's works framed in the second century A.D.® we find mention made of a work entitled Enquiry into Poetic Art in two books, of another concerning Poets in three books; another is called Didascaliæ, another Difficulties in Homer. It seems reasonable to suppose that the first of these works is represented to us by the
Poetics : the existence of the others, now lost, not only testifies to the interest taken by Aristotle in literature and its problems, but also explains why we ought not to look for much statement of facts in the extant book. Just as Bacon placed his Historia Naturalis before his theoretic work; just as Aristotle himself collected accounts of the constitutions of a hundred and fifty-eight states before he wrote the Politics ; so in the case of Poetry the book Concerning Poets and the others contained the historical material : that which is in part preserved to us embodies his philosophical judgments upon the facts so brought together.
Happily, in spite of such gaps as I have indicated, and although we do not know how the work was put into its present form, the general argument is clear and satisfactory. I take up the account of its contents from the opening sentence.
The C. 1. general principle that all Poetry rests on
Imitation having been laid down, the various kinds of Poetry, with the arts most nearly akin to it, are next compared with one another in respect of this principle. This is done under three heads, treated in three successive chapters; the instruments or means of the imitation, its object, and its manner being taken separately. The process of comparison may appear some
what mechanical ; it is supplemented by C. 4. the historical chapter, to which I have
already referred, one very weighty and luminous, and by one on the special history
of Comedy; and the results are then stated C. 6. for Tragedy in the famous Definition :
Tragedy is an imitation of some action that is important, entire, and of a proper magnitude, by-language embellished and rendered pleasurable—the different kinds of embellishment being kept sepa· rate in the different parts--in the way, not of narrative, but of action ; effecting through Pity and Terror the purgation of