“Well, since we are able to be here in this attractive little building on such a beautiful, sunny day, we should use our time wisely. We are shaded from the heat but we have this cozy candle lighting and such splendor coming from the harp and flutes. I propose that we speak of our thoughts and philosophies. Can anyone think of a topic better than art as we lounge here drinking our wine and feasting? Aristotle?”
“Horace, my friend, what a splendid topic and exquisite idea! There is nothing that should please our minds more than for all of us to unite in the glorious camaraderie that we are feeling today. To relish in the midst of such genius, such talent and such expertise is something I feel to be a privilege beyond reproach…”
“Before you go any further, Aristotle, would some one mind passing me some lime? There is nothing more refreshing then some lime on a sweltering day like today.”
“Certainly Longinus.” Aristotle beckons a young flute maiden to bring a sliced lime over to Longinus, who sits across from him alone. Longinus receives the fruit and starts to suck on it with contentment in his shadowy alcove.
“We are neither vegetative, no are we animal souls,” continues Aristotle. “We are humans who have a divine and righteous connection with God. Therefore, the astounding Plato should speak to the circle first on the matter of art and the morals and ethics it entails. After all, he has truly shaped the Western intellectualism of today and is the most pious of men.”
Unsure when Aristotle will finish, Plato stands-up to distinguish himself from the rest and to signal his turn. “My dear men, I think this flattery on your behalves is unnecessary but duly appreciated. I am sure you look at me and think that this old man is full of wisdom and eloquence. ‘He has written over 20 philosophical dialogues that are effecting the New World in which men live today. None other than the great Sophocles taught Plato.’” As he says this, Plato takes a few steps towards the center of the small circle the men have formed with their lounge chairs. “Yes, I know that is what you are thinking. However, as I look down from the clouds and onto the people of modern Earth, I see they do not value the wisdom that grows with age. You are all just humoring me, I am sure. No one listens to the matured and wise anymore.” With that, he sighs dramatically and walks slowly back to his seat, but does not sit down, waiting for the rebukes.
“Oh of course, not!” “Your words are like having Plato and Sophocles sharing precious knowledge that we could only dream of hearing.” “Tell us all you will and we will be so grateful to give you anything you oblige,” they all cry out.
“Since you insist, I will share with you good men my knowledge. But I insist on abstaining, at least from my own educated tongue, from glorifying politics, which are worthless policies instituted by unlearned men. For it is philosophy that truly anoints and conceives. Politics serve no purpose other than condemning one’s soul, as we witnessed with Sophocles.”
Sympathetic nods from each man and several murmurs of “True, very true indeed” while from Aristotle, “For you, my beloved Plato, anything. And I in no way intend to insult you with my own view of politics since my politics are supported with ethics.”
With that covered, they each choose a platter of fruit and a large goblet of wine. Pulling their chairs even closer to one another, except for Longinus who remained in the same dim spot, the men leaned onto each other. A stray hand brushing against a thigh, a foot rubbing another, except for Plato who stands with his goblet.
“I start in saying that art is a chance to teach ethics and morals. Coming from a prominent Athenian family, I have learned that ignorance is the cause of evil. The way to overcome it: education. If we view art as the significant tool of learning that it is, we will regulate and cultivate what we have. For instance, poetry needs not be cherish since it is not a refined skill. I banished it from my state when we were on Earth for that reason. Poetry is an uncensored tell-all, without temperament, courage or even justice.”
“I never understood how one so talented in the art of poetry could despise it the way you do. I must remark Plato dear, you are an eternal paradox.”
“Aristotle, my student and friend, I have a gift for writing poetry because it requires no talent. An imbecile could write poetry, as we see by the millions of amateur writers on whom we look down since we have passed on to this ecclesiastical place. These people have coined terms to make each other cry and laugh excessively, which is very unhealthy. The words are so poetic; the general public is likely to become so enraptured in the pleasures that people will succumb to its evil. Poetry with its passion and excitement could stir up insurrections and rebellions. My fine men, we have seen this. War after war, dispute after dispute, all because of some powerful words a man threw together. The only way to allow poetry as an art is to provide plenty of censorship and to understand that it is mimesis, not each writer’s individual expression. It must be used for divine and good purposes, for good is beautiful. Our point in art and life is to hear the music of the universe and to transcend through abstraction.”
Taking a few large gulps from his wine, Plato shifts his weight as he sees a cross in the room. “With this congregated here, in this heavenly parlor, we must especially stay true to what is good. In older times I spoke of monotheism as being accurate because God is perfect and if one god is perfect than why would we need more than one? I supposed this if the reason for which even the most pious men make the mistake of poetry. Wanting to become more like Him, men try to create their own Heaven with several genres of poetry, not realizing that one cannot imitate multiple tasks. If he does, he will fail miserably. Therefore, if one who has skill as a writer and skill of imitation insists on writing, his art must have ethos (the appearance of good), pathos (show sympathy to receive it), and logos (having well-constructed logic that makes a point).”
“Here, here!” cry all the men.
Longinus raises his glass and says, “A great structure from the great Plato. Let us all raise our glasses to him.” As they do, Plato takes it upon himself to give the toast.
“As I wrote in ‘Phaedrus,’ the soul is constantly struggling between rational and irrational. Yet, those enlightened will embrace the rational and good. Here is to changing the content of poetry, the most significant part, to one with increasing morality.”
As he reclines near Horace, Plato modestly accepts the praises of how wonderful a speaker he is and the plea to “Move closer to me so that in the touching of our skin, your wisdom may rub into my body,” from Horace. Wanting some private time with Plato, Horace encourages Aristotle to speak next.
“Who better to speak after Plato than his student?”
“I will consider it an honor to speak after Plato. I adore him more than any other creature- even more than Homer and his epics.” Aristotle chuckles and the men laugh with him, knowing of his love for the Homeric epics.
“I must say, poetry is a living paradox, just as Plato has pointed out. But he too is a paradox! Ah, but poetry is my catharsis,” he says as he starts pacing back and forth. “I am no poet. Many have said I possess a ‘scientific detachment’ from theories, but that is not so. I simply look for the beautiful truth of which Plato speaks.”
Plato smiles at Aristotle and with the hand farthest from Horace, the only free hand, he touches his heart to show his appreciation.
“Furthermore, investigations are needed to determine what purposes and what functions are in arts, such as poetry. It is a necessity to know about an object so utilized to use that object effectively.
Unlike Plato, I do not say that poetry is something irrational. On the contrary, I see my dear Plato’s poems as I see the epics of Homer. Literature and poetry both require skill and the grace of art, which may only be derived from rationality. Therefore, arts like poetry and drama are intellectually challenging skills. A great benefit from the two is that they produce emotions.”
He glances at Plato, looking for a face of disagreement but finds one of intrigue. Plato and Horace listen but are too preoccupied to rebuttal.
Aristotle continues his speech, as he extends his pacing to walking about the room. In and out, in and out, in and out of the circle. “Metaphysics and subject matter pertaining to it, are the most significant questions one can ask of art. It includes what is moral and what makes us transcend, like using mimesis. Mimesis is the truth of art and uses a different type of media to represent something, represent different object or represent something in a completely different light. People love mimesis because we learn best from it. However, it is not to be confused with stealing or plagiarizing. It is re-creating and evolving ideas then presenting what has been remade in their new light.
So I stress the importance of knowing what to use and how to use it. I too have a structure that artists should follow. Poetry is split into two channels: those who are of a serious mind write of noble and morally sound actions while those who are of a trivial mind write of inferior and nether actions. Therefore, one must know which they are. When we are writing, we must consider content, for content simplified and rushed is like our bodies with only stumps for limbs and no facial features. Both content and prose need attention. There may be other ways of speech without using meter. We can change numerous aspects of art.
For instance, drama needs only a maximum of three characters on stage since the focus should be on art, not those reciting. For this reason, a grotesque scene should be described, not acted out to mortify the audience.”
The men utter agreements with food stuffed in their mouths. Plato mutters with his mouth stuffed too. Meanwhile, Aristotle continues circling the room.
“Words are powerful enough to build tension and create a situation or character. Rhetoric is marvelous for this. It persuades and beautifies art and people love attractive art. In my time, I argued that beautiful art is that which may be seen completely; pattern and size together. Once the art is begun, one must focus mainly on the plot- the soul of art. Once mythos has been thoroughly created and repetitiously edited, characters are developed. Following mythos and ethos is logos because they provide the framework for the diction, eloquence and philosophies. If we are to write plays, for instance, we must fantasize it. Pity, which will bring forth sympathy for the main character, and fear will impose on the audience the reality of an art’s situation and plot, while catharsis will release the audience from fear. The medium must learn to wield these triplets as well as the others at the right time. The purpose of art is to follow a logical sequence, starting with an introduction, following with a body, and ending with a conclusion. But what will make art so precious and identifiable is staying on the path of truth. If mimesis is not plausible, no one will feel emotions or relate to it.”
“I must agree with some of your ideas on language and how one is affected by it.”
Aristotle looks up in surprise. “Beg my pardon Dante! In my pacing I did not notice you standing in the doorway. Well come and join us. It is not often we have the pleasure of Dante Alighieri, language expert and nobleman.”
As the men greet him, Dante fills the gap between Longinus and Plato.
“Your jesting tells me, Aristotle, that I have just missed a great lecture.”
Horace, finished with his dessert, jumps in; “He has concluded. I think it best for the next speaker to jump in.”
“He is right. I am satisfied with my speech, but I could further state…”
“You could further state that you are a truly glorious speaker,” interrupts Horace. “Thank you for imparting your wisdom on us.”
“Horace, would you like to speak?”
“Thank you Aristotle, I would love to do so.” He remains on his chaise lounge, eating with one hand gesturing with the other as he speaks.
“There are many similarities and differences between the way we all think. We are men with great minds, but we observe people differently and have contrasting opinions. I think writing must flow and have unity. I have said before, ‘lack of unity is like the body of a fish on a beautiful maiden-absurd.’ I know we also believe that one should choose a subject within his capabilities. This is so important because the experience will captivate. Show feeling and those watching will feel it too; masquerade and you will be unmasked. There are forgivable deeds, but it is not impossible to practice something until you understand how it works. It is then that you may start thinking about sharing it with others. An artist needs natural talent, undoubtedly. But one must still exercise that talent so it remains properly trained. In doing this, we will sort out those whom are ‘inspired’ from those who are actually talented. A poet needs to have enough sense to not mix genres. One truly must comprehend Greek literature, its beauty and skill to express it. One of the best ways to learn something is to imitate those of the past. Mimesis could also take from life whatever pertains to that which is the most moral and effective.”
Horace stands with a cluster of grapes in his hands and walks slowly circles the room, stopping near a window.
“Satire is my personal favorite element to add to art but rhetoric adds great effect and I find that a true artist may subtly create a new word to get their point across. I find it best to borrow from Greek words. However, this may be used only sparingly to keep order and comprehension. Have consistency without monotony. Write about something familiar, but add some exotic elements to give it a refreshing thrill. One may write of something different, but he needs many familiar elements to make his work an art to which the audience can relate.
To please the audience, a play needs no more than five acts. Five is a good number because it is not too long or too short. The audience cannot relate to extravagance. You must take into account every age group, too. Unlike Aristotle, I have noted that the visual is more pleasurable than the oral.”
A group of cherubims runs past the large window shrieking and laughing. Horace, thinking of their similarity to young boys, pauses from his speech. Having eaten all but two plump grapes, he cradles the two in his hand and returns to his seat near Plato.
“Poetry should be sweet and tender to be useful. Even if a play only has good ethics and logos, it may still draw the audience and tempt them with the most sinful of pleasures.
My words are simply advice on how to make good art that people want to experience.”
“And it is very good advice that you give, Horace. You are truly an effective art critic.”
“Thank you Longinus. I am grateful for your support, but I hardly know a thing about you. So please, give us the privilege of a few words.”
“I too wish to hear from you,” speaks Dante. “In taking such a long stroll, I missed so much of what you fine men have said.”
“I will speak now and you will speak directly after me. How does that sound?”
“It sounds like a well thought plan. I am anxious for you to proceed.”
With a “Very well,” Longinus stands and steps out of his alcove. But throughout his speech, he only moves a few steps. Each is still in a shadow.
“I will start in saying that I do agree that what is natural is the most significant, but we still need to refine our natural gifts and our minds to keep optimal. One can spend his of her whole life studying and planting noble thoughts, but one ultimately needs to be born with ability. To have noble emotions at the right time and in the right setting is the most beautiful transcendence in Heaven or on Earth. Plato, you express a dislike for aesthetic experiences and feeling rational and irrational emotions because you say they are a hindrance. But I do not find this. They assist us in honing our talents.
However, I do not really agree with subtly using new word, be they based on the Greek language or not. We should use words that pertain to the subject unless it is absolutely necessary to do otherwise, otherwise the whole passage will be ruined. Following the subject of what is written will keep the reader from getting bored. A common phrase that everyone will recognize is better than one that is descriptive and longwinded. Therefore, you will have good fortune, which is the best gift, if you get straight to the point without amplifying every detail, but also without being too concise. I reiterate; this is why even a person given the best skills must practice. One needs incites like this: A hyperbole will convey exactly what the writer wants and snap to reader’s perception into place and amplification will collect numerous small points and turn them into clairvoyance. But an unskilled writer will not know this and easily be excessive causing the reader to think the piece frivolous.”
“If I may interrupt Longinus?” asks Dante.
“Yes of course.”
“I simply must agree with your views. I find it best to use hyperbolas and metaphors etc. But they are often overdone in such a disgraceful manner.”
Longinus agrees and continues, “This is exactly why I bring this problem to the surface. Excessiveness is so rampant, especially in poets and amateurs. They try too hard to please and a large number of writers think they can surpass the sublime There is, as Horace said, a desire to publish absolutely anything simply for notoriety. Jumping from one subject to the next with no transitions whatsoever. If you are not skilled enough and you publish something, it will be open to criticism for all ages. I once spoke of what I call pseudo-bacchanalian, which is writing empty emotions when they are not needed or when passion is misplaced. If one is going to have an outburst of emotion, he or she needs to at least smooth the jump and provide transitions. We must understand that it is far better to have a masterpiece with mistakes then to have unworthy art that is flawless.
I also, unlike Horace, think giving poetry a rhythm is a superb action. It seduces even the most unmusical individual until he or she adapts to the beat. But you good men are right when you say that the visual is effective. Not just visualizing but also mimesis of the past and all types of knowledge make the sublime. Fantasize every aspect and let your mind paint ever picture until the colors blend and swirl. I personally have noticed that rhetorical objects naturally support sublimity and vice versa. Let us refer to the past and to the great artists from that time: imitate and we will learn from them.”
Longinus turns to Plato, “I am sure you agree with me here?”
“Without a doubt! I am modest, but I do enjoy thinking you have all imitated from me and, thus, learned how to create what you have based on my teachings.”
“There must, besides your mentor Socrates, be someone whom you mimicked and admired?” he asks.
“Oh yes, Longinus! My mentor Socrates; I admired him dearly and still do. I sup with him at least twice a week even on the holiest of occasions. But, I have always loved, as any man possessing my intelligence and appreciation would, Homer. His epics are amazing and teach young and old. He is sublime to me and countless others.”
Longinus starts speaking to all the men again, still remaining in the shade. “Homer is a perfect example of the sublime. You know you have reached sublimity when you and all those around you read and hear your art repetitiously but each of you still feels the same ecstasy as at the first hearing. Sublimity will stay in your mind forever. Conjuring illustrious ideas, arousing stalwart emotions, piously stimulating figures of thought and speech (creating elaborate imagery), and stately word structures are the sources of sublimity that I insist one follow…”
Aristotle cuts him off, noticing that “It appears that we all have guidelines to successful are whether it be that which is orated or poetry.”
Unfinished, Longinus walks back to his alcove. Knowing that the people on Earth never had the chance to read his works, just bits and pieces of his manuscript. He sits down again and quietly recites the poems of Sappho to himself, knowing that she too was largely lost to Earth.
“Well then I will lay out a few opinions of my own, if I may? I will be brief since my body is anxious to walk again on the streets of gold before the sun cools. I must say I enjoy the seething heat. If I had not read the works of Saint Augustine, I may not have realized that Heaven is perfection and I fear I would have, in my ignorance, chosen a different fate for my soul. But then my theory of the Inferno would no longer be theory.”
“Yes Dante. Please do give us a short guideline, as we have been here so long and have not had the chance to really frolic with one another in the spongy grass,” says Horace drinking his fourth glass of wine and observing how thin the clothing of the men in the room.
“Well, as all of you I imagine have mentioned, I find it best to recount my own experiences and I think others will find that my suggestions are notable and worthy.
I have ascertained that the languages in secular literature are the most significant. We need grammar to instill form and to unify, but extensively, the language is significant. Languages are beautiful and their sounds and meaning reveal what people are truly wellborn. For this, a language must have a rational and literal sense for we are rational and literal people, as we are enlightened. We read from the surface to the center of art, starting with the introduction, learning the most worthwhile information in the middle, then concluding to the end. This is rational and logical, which make it the most appropriate way.
We, unlike animals and angels, are born with speech, therefore we should utilize it as an honorable gift. It is important to exercise speech, but many people are nonplussed.
It is extremely important for one to come from a noble and worthy lineage, since that will teach them the significant facts and elements in life. Certain people are not worthy of secular literature or speech because they do not possess nobility. I must say with the utmost respect that the men here are truly exceptional men, wise and more noble than most others I have met.”
The men smile and blush at the already known compliment.
“However, it is well know that the ostentatious language and pronunciations of the uneducated,” Dante emphasizes this particular word so as not to offend the room full of men. “Roman is the most unattractive of all Italian dialects. For the uneducated speak it as insects buzzing and mumbling instead of living and using speech the way it should be properly used. The Sardinians and Apulians are also uneducated because they speak so harshly like primates. We must understand that language and literature are to have natural boundaries as well as man-made restrictions to prevent these unnecessary monstrosities. Worth too can be restricted. For example, by restricting one’s value, we will find who is the worthiest. Vernacular languages are to be the worthiest since they are what is holy and familiar to educated peoples.
I must apologize to you Plato since I have admired your wit and ethics since I was a small boy. It is a shame I missed your speech earlier. Maybe we can adjourn this meeting and you will give me the honor of an oration?”
Plato, loving the idea of attention and another chance to speak exclaims, “I would be delighted. But only if you do not mind my obsolete ways of thinking.”
“Not at all! There is no way you could ever be obsolete. Here, let me help you outside.” Dante and Plato conclude with the other philosophers and promise to meet again within the next month for another “divine encounter with such splendid and enlightened minds.”
Aristotle, studying the remains of eaten food and the emptied goblets, decides that it is his time to depart. Rising form his seat, he heads towards the door, but is intercepted by Horace, who is determined not to be left alone when there is a firm, breathing body alone and in need of his touch.
“Dear Aristotle. I would hate for you to be alone on such a beautiful day like today. Here let me accompany you and we can compare scrolls.”
“I am afraid, kind Horace, that I have none of my scrolls with me at this hour.”
Horace laughs sinfully, “Aristotle you are as innocent as a young boy.” Hooking arms with Aristotle, the two walk out the door, but Horace can be heard outside before they round the corner insisting, “I will be your private teacher.”
With the men gone, the harpist and the flute maidens gather their instruments and leave. Except for the maiden who must throw away the leftover food and collect the goblets to be cleaned. As she realigns the chairs she stops at the alcove, from which Longinus just appeared to vanish. Unlike the others, who had countless glasses of barely diluted wine, his goblet remains unfinished. His platter of food remains untouched, except for a small cluster of grapes missing, a bite from an apple and a pile of some seeds from an unknown fruit laying on the side.
The maiden wonders, To what fruit do these seeds belong?