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Some of my favorite passages from books about creating art. 

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The weight of verses!
From "The Frogs"
A comedy by Aristophanes (Athens, Classical Period)
Written in 405 b.C.

http://perseus.csad.ox.ac.uk/

The god Dionysus is in the underworld and is judging Aeschylus and Euripides to find out which of the two is a better poet. He is not successful to this point. Aeschylus suggests to scale the verses so that he can prove that his are "heavier" in content and meaning than the ones of Euripdes.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

[1364]

Dionysus

Stop with the songs already.

Aeschylus

I've had enough, too.
For now I want to bring him to the scale
which alone will put our poetry to the test.
For it will prove the weight of our phrases.

Dionysus

Then come here, if I really have to do this,
to deal with poets just like selling cheese.

Chorus

Painstaking are the men of wit,
For once again here's another marvel,
brand new, full of the unusual,
who else could have thought it up?
Oh my, I'd never, not if anybody
I ran into told me,
have believed it, but I would have thought
he was talking nonsense

Dionysus

Come on and stand beside the balance pans.

Aeschylus and Euripides

Here we are!

Dionysus

Now, each of you grab hold and speak a verse,
and don't let go till I yell “Cuckoo!”

Euripides and Aeschylus

We holding on.

Dionysus

Now recite the line into the scales.

Euripides

“Would that the Argive bark had never winged...”

Aeschylus

“Stream of Spercheius, haunts of grazing kine...”

Dionysus

Cuckoo! It's released. And much further down
goes Aeschylus's side.

Euripides

Whatever is the reason?

Dionysus

Because he introduced a stream; like fabric salesmen
he made his verse wet just like the wool.
But you put in a winged word.

Euripides

Well, let him say something else and match me.

Dionysus

Grab hold again.

Aeschylus and Euripides

All set.

Dionysus

Speak!

Euripides

“Persuasion has no other shrine save speech.”

Aeschylus

“Death is the only God that loves not bribes...”

Dionysus

Let go, let go! Aeschylus's is tilting once again.
For he inserted Death, weightiest of ills.

Euripides

And I Persuasion, a saying beautifully expressed.

Dionysus

Persuasion is but light, and makes no sense.
But this time find some other ponderous line
that will pull down on your side, something high and mighty.

Euripides

Tell me, where oh where do I have something like that?

Dionysus

I'll tell you.

Dionysus

“Achilles threw snake eyes and a four”--

Please speak, since this is your last weigh-in.

Euripides

“Heavy with iron was the club his right hand seized.”

Aeschylus

“Chariot on chariot, corpse on corpse.”

Dionysus

He fooled you again this time.

Euripides

In what way?

Dionysus

Two chariots and two corpses he put in,
which not even a hundred Egyptians could ever lift.

Aeschylus

No more word by word for me; into the scales
himself, his kids, the wife, Cephisophon,
let him step in and sit down, taking all his books.
I'll only speak two verses of mine...

Dionysus

They are my friends, and I won't judge them.
For I will not be on hostile terms with either one.
One I consider clever, the other I enjoy.

Pluto

Then will you accomplish nothing of what you came for?

Dionysus

But if I choose the other one?

Pluto

Take whichever one you choose,
And go; so that you won't have come in vain.

Dionysus

Bless you! Come, listen to this.
I came down here for a poet. For what purpose?
So that the city might be saved to stage its Choruses.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

(Note: Aeschylus finally won the competition for writing "heavier" verses.)

 

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