Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


We may now consider the above points settled, and pass on to say something about the way to devise lively and taking sayings. Their actual invention can only come through natural talent or long practice; but this treatise may indicate the way it is done. We may deal with them by enumerating the different kinds of them. We will begin by remarking that we all naturally find it agreeable to get hold of new ideas easily: words express ideas, and therefore those words are the most agreeable that enable us to get hold of new ideas. Now strange words simply puzzle us; ordinary words convey only what we know already; it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh. When the poet calls ’old age a withered stalk’, he conveys a new idea, a new fact, to us by means of the general notion of bloom, which is common to both things. The similes of the poets do the same, and therefore, if they are good similes, give an effect of brilliance. The simile, as has been said before, is a metaphor, differing from it only in the way it is put; and just because it is longer it is less attractive. Besides, it does not say outright that ’this’ is ’that’, and therefore the hearer is less interested in the idea. We see, then, that both speech and reasoning are lively in proportion as they make us seize a new idea promptly. For this reason people are not much taken either by obvious arguments (using the word ’obvious’ to mean what is plain to everybody and needs no investigation), nor by those which puzzle us when we hear them stated, but only by those which convey their information to us as soon as we hear them, provided we had not the information already; or which the mind only just fails to keep up with. These two kinds do convey to us a sort of information: but the obvious and the obscure kinds convey nothing, either at once or later on. It is these qualities, then, that, so far as the meaning of what is said is concerned, make an argument acceptable. So far as the style is concerned, it is the antithetical form that appeals to us, e.g. ’judging that the peace common to all the rest was a war upon their own private interests’, where there is an antithesis between war and peace. It is also good to use metaphorical words; but the metaphors must not be far-fetched, or they will be difficult to grasp, nor obvious, or they will have no effect. The words, too, ought to set the scene before our eyes; for events ought to be seen in progress rather than in prospect. So we must aim at these three points: Antithesis, Metaphor, and Actuality.

Of the four kinds of Metaphor the most taking is the proportional kind. Thus Pericles, for instance, said that the vanishing from their country of the young men who had fallen in the war was ’as if the spring were taken out of the year’. Leptines, speaking of the Lacedaemonians, said that he would not have the Athenians let Greece ’lose one of her two eyes’. When Chares was pressing for leave to be examined upon his share in the Olynthiac war, Cephisodotus was indignant, saying that he wanted his examination to take place ’while he had his fingers upon the people’s throat’. The same speaker once urged the Athenians to march to Euboea, ’with Miltiades’ decree as their rations’. Iphicrates, indignant at the truce made by the Athenians with Epidaurus and the neighbouring sea-board, said that they had stripped themselves of their travelling money for the journey of war. Peitholaus called the state-galley ’the people’s big stick’, and Sestos ’the corn-bin of the Peiraeus’. Pericles bade his countrymen remove Aegina, ’that eyesore of the Peiraeus.’ And Moerocles said he was no more a rascal than was a certain respectable citizen he named, ’whose rascality was worth over thirty per cent per annum to him, instead of a mere ten like his own’.There is also the iambic line of Anaxandrides about the way his daughters put off marrying-

My daughters’ marriage-bonds are overdue.

Polyeuctus said of a paralytic man named Speusippus that he could not keep quiet, ’though fortune had fastened him in the pillory of disease’. Cephisodotus called warships ’painted millstones’. Diogenes the Dog called taverns ’the mess-rooms of Attica’. Aesion said that the Athenians had ’emptied’ their town into Sicily: this is a graphic metaphor. ’Till all Hellas shouted aloud’ may be regarded as a metaphor, and a graphic one again. Cephisodotus bade the Athenians take care not to hold too many ’parades’. Isocrates used the same word of those who ’parade at the national festivals.’ Another example occurs in the Funeral Speech: ’It is fitting that Greece should cut off her hair beside the tomb of those who fell at Salamis, since her freedom and their valour are buried in the same grave.’ Even if the speaker here had only said that it was right to weep when valour was being buried in their grave, it would have been a metaphor, and a graphic one; but the coupling of ’their valour’ and ’her freedom’ presents a kind of antithesis as well. ’The course of my words’, said Iphicrates, ’lies straight through the middle of Chares’ deeds’: this is a proportional metaphor, and the phrase ’straight through the middle’ makes it graphic. The expression ’to call in one danger to rescue us from another’ is a graphic metaphor. Lycoleon said, defending Chabrias, ’They did not respect even that bronze statue of his that intercedes for him yonder’.This was a metaphor for the moment, though it would not always apply; a vivid metaphor, however; Chabrias is in danger, and his statue intercedes for him-that lifeless yet living thing which records his services to his country. ’Practising in every way littleness of mind’ is metaphorical, for practising a quality implies increasing it. So is ’God kindled our reason to be a lamp within our soul’, for both reason and light reveal things. So is ’we are not putting an end to our wars, but only postponing them’, for both literal postponement and the making of such a peace as this apply to future action. So is such a saying as ’This treaty is a far nobler trophy than those we set up on fields of battle; they celebrate small gains and single successes; it celebrates our triumph in the war as a whole’; for both trophy and treaty are signs of victory. So is ’A country pays a heavy reckoning in being condemned by the judgement of mankind’, for a reckoning is damage deservedly incurred.

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Chicago: Aristotle, "10," Rhetoric, trans. W. Rhys Roberts Original Sources, accessed January 27, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FT2NWQG8XRTY13.

MLA: Aristotle. "10." Rhetoric, translted by W. Rhys Roberts, Original Sources. 27 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FT2NWQG8XRTY13.

Harvard: Aristotle, '10' in Rhetoric, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 27 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FT2NWQG8XRTY13.