Poetry Critics are Too Critical

Lucian, A Conversation with Hesiod, 5 

[Hesiod speaks to his interlocutor in the following passage. We posted the opening of this dialogue a while back]

“Still, I will not avoid defending my poetry against you too. I believe that it is not right to expect precision from poems at the smallest level or to demand that each syllable spoken be perfect or, if any part should depart from the course of the composition, to focus on that bitterly. No, you must know what we include many things for the sake of the meter or euphony; and some things, which are smooth, the line itself admits (even though I am not sure how). But you would deprive us of one of the greatest advantages we have, by which I mean freedom and license in poetry—and you cannot see the other parts of a poem, how many are beautiful, when you pick out a few splinters and some thorns, and search for starting points for criticism. But you are not the only one to do these things and you don’t just do it to me—many others shred  my fellow-artisan Homer to pieces, pursuing such minor details, such especially small things.”

Odysseus and Sirens
Odysseus Declaims to Sirens?

῞Ομως δὲ οὐκ ἀπορήσω πρὸς σὲ καὶ ποιητικῆς ἀπολογίας. οὐ γάρ, οἶμαι, χρὴ παρὰ τῶν ποιητῶν ἐς τὸ λεπτότατον ἀκριβολογουμένους ἀπαιτεῖν κατὰ συλλαβὴν ἑκάστην ἐντελῆ πάντως τὰ εἰρημένα, κἂν εἴ τι ἐν τῷ τῆς ποιήσεως δρόμῳ παραρρυὲν λάθῃ, πικρῶς τοῦτο ἐξετάζειν, ἀλλ’ εἰδέναι ὅτι πολλὰ ἡμεῖς καὶ τῶν μέτρων ἕνεκα καὶ τῆς εὐφωνίας ἐπεμβάλλομεν· τὰ δὲ καὶ τὸ ἔπος αὐτὸ πολλάκις λεῖα ὄντα οὐκ οἶδ’ ὅπως παρεδέξατο. σὺ δὲ τὸ μέγιστον ὧν ἔχομεν ἀγαθῶν ἀφαιρῇ ἡμᾶς—λέγω δὲ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν καὶ τὴν ἐν τῷ ποιεῖν ἐξουσίαν, καὶ τὰ μὲν ἄλλα οὐχ ὁρᾷς ὅσα τῆς ποιήσεως καλά, σκινδαλάμους δὲ καὶ ἀκάνθας τινὰς ἐκλέγεις καὶ λαβὰς τῇ συκοφαντίᾳ ζητεῖς. ἀλλ’ οὐ μόνος ταῦτα σὺ οὐδὲ κατ’ ἐμοῦ μόνου, ἀλλὰ πολλοὶ καὶ ἄλλοι τὰ τοῦ ὁμοτέχνου τοῦ ἐμοῦ ῾Ομήρου κατακνίζουσι λεπτὰ οὕτω κομιδῇ καὶ μάλιστα μικρὰ ἄττα διεξιόντες.

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