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It is only less difficult to write a popular book about the Poetics of Aristotle than to write one about the Elements of Euclid. Yet I trust the following pages give an intelligible account of what Aristotle tried to say in his book on poetry, and how writers in various ages have reacted to his thoughts.
In dealing with such a topic in limited space I could not avoid omissions. I am conscious that the expert reader will miss not a few names of scholars and poets who have studied the Poetics; and that in order to make clear the significance of Italian criticism, and to give at least reasonable attention to the Poetics in English literature, I have had to dispose of the French critics, an endless subject, in summary fashion.
From the nature of the series in which this volume appears, I can give nothing like a full account of my indebtedness for various items in my book. I owe a large debt to the works of Bywater and Spingarn, an appreciable debt to
those of Saintsbury and Gregory Smith, and something to the recent acute and stimulating researches of Gudeman and Gillet. Of materials not generally accessible I should especially mention the paper by Gudeman, The Influence of Aristotle's Poetics on Modern Literature, read by the Secretary at a meeting of the Classical Club, Philadelphia, Nov. 5, 1920; the Secretary was good enough to send me the minutes of that meeting, which contain an abstract of the paper. To Professor Gillet my thanks are due not only for copies of his published articles on topics related to the Poetics, and for information communicated in his letters, but also for his added kindness in reading and criticizing my manuscript before it was submitted to the editors of the series. I wish also to thank my friend and colleague Professor Joseph Q. Adams for his criticism of the manuscript.
THE POETICS OF
OF ARISTOTLE ITS MEANING AND INFLUENCE
I. CHARACTER, ANTECEDENTS, AND GENERAL SCOPE OF THE
POETICS THE Poetics of Aristotle is brief, at first sight hard and dry, and yet one of the most illuminating and influential books ever pro-,, duced by the sober human mind. After twentytwo centuries it remains the most stimulating and helpful of all analytical works dealing with poetry—and poetry is the most vital and lasting achievement of man. This pregnant treatise, dating from some time before the year 323 B. C., is indeed short and condensed. Castelvetro's famous 'exposition of it (Vienna, 1570) fills 768 pages, and runs to something like 384,000 words. The Poetics itself contains perhaps 10,000 words. In the great Berlin edition of Aristotle (1831) it takes up only 30 columns of print, or 15 pages; in the