Sadiqullah Khan


Aristotle and Sappho


The dialogue takes place between Aristotle, Homer and Sappho, based on Poetics of Aristotle.


Prelude to ‘Poetics’ of Aristotle

The apocalyptic maestro’s dialogue
Whatever he said, whether wrote or not
Of politics and philosophy
History’s scribbled pages, lost, found and lost
Again. Reason’s unblemished castle
The armies select, carrying banners of divinity
Feared not the death, nor a defeat but O ye!
May some one from a pouch, from a hidden hearth
Spell your name, or your master’s or the master’s master.

Macedonian, an Athenian, a Greek symbol
When the rest of the world painted their faces blue
Or were clinging to the trees, apelike, he was writing
And teaching philosophy. An ultimate touchstone
An ultimate reason, Pupil of the great Plato
Surpassed, toned him down –the radical transformer
Let there be a room for the common sense
Let emotion prevail; let intuition be not inimical to sense.

We undertake by a grace, human
An account into Poetics, of whatever might be understood
By a feeble mind, frail heart, unaccustomed
With wit, a study to what we call poetry
As embellished by him, as it came down to us, fragmented
For with all probabilities, he never wanted the work
To be published, handed down by himself, or by a pupil
One of the four hundred treatises written by him.

Thus we conclude, having written the above
That all word that uttered his mouth, which came on his tongue
Despite the written, was creativity, unique, unparalleled
A science, deductive, in logic and to the posterity
For all times to come, empirical, for generations.






Sappho the Poetess

Sappho the Poetess
Are you thrice removed from reality?
To him you happened to be the tenth muse
The nine being exhausted. A mimicry
As art and banished from the Republic.
Homer’s art is lies, what is yours?
Ai’nt not the poets bring down from
Heavens, life’s tender imagined impulses
Ai’nt not they ‘besides themselves’
The universe is an idea, and you make
A reflection, an imitation. Then what is that
Which can’t be reflected, an inspiration.
An action confined to ‘single circuit of the sun’
Complete, as far as possible, and something near that.
“A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious
And, also having magnitude, complete in itself; in language
Embellished with each kind of ornament, each kind
Brought in separately in parts of the work, in dramatic,
Not in narrative form; with incidents arousing pity
And fear, wherewith to accomplish it’s catharsis
Of such emotion” –Poetics of Aristotle
Sappho the Poetess
Are you thrice removed from reality?



Act I

Scene: School of Athens as painted by Raphael.


Imitation -Poetics I

Aristotle:

All art is imitation, be it
Poetry, dance and music, sculpture
Painting and flute-playing
Not mimicry thrice removed
From reality. The mime, Socratic Conversation,
Homeric Odyssey; the form of imitation
Without name. The arts differ in three modes
Merans of imitation, the medium and the object.
By language is literature, by color and sound
Music, painting and sculpture.
Rhythm, harmony and melody
In verse, one of the many kinds of meter
And without verse, even is poetry
Imitation is;
Of essence, of an object
It is the imitation of emotion, the inner reality
Or the soul of things.
Art seeks to imitate an inward process,
Or the outward manifestation of an inward will
Which show some activity of thought, of feeling.

Sappho:

Great master, for having removed thrice,
How I hold to reality
The rhapsodical thought, whether a feeling
How from a tender heart ariseth,
A tear dropped. A sigh. Ah! Such separation
From loved ones, is not the tragic heart?
Closer more to real than assigned?

Aristotle:

Having said this, there comes the object
What you may imitate.
There is no bigger reality than the human itself,
In the background is a landscape, a curtain
A choral beginning and human tragedy
A comic relief, unfolds.
In dramatic art, the mimesis is reproduction of life.

Sappho:

What do you say of Homer
The poet of the poets.

Aristotle:

Homer personages above all
Had dealt both tragedy and comedy
He is a superior, in Illiad and Odysee
And in Margites (since lost) in comedy
He was the frist to outline the dramatic
In ridiculous.

Sappho:

The understanding of the ridiculous
Is it the invective, a lampoon in imitation
An ignoble and trivial action?

Aristotle:

The manner of imitation may either
A narrative at a moment
In verse, or change dramatically
Heroic poetry and panegyrics born here.
Comedy is imitation of the men
Worse not as they are but in the sense
Ridiculous.

Sappho:

What is ugly then?

Aristotle:

Ridiculous is a species of the ugly
Not necessarily ugly (For Greeks ugly meant bad)
A defect or shortcoming which produces laughter
An instability, a deformity but not causing pain
Not productive enough to harm, a mask.


Tragedy –Poetics II

Aristotle:

A tragedy, then, is the imitation of an action that is serious
And, also having magnitude, complete in itself; in language
Embellished with each kind of ornament, each kind
Brought in separately in parts of the work, in dramatic,
Not in narrative form; with incidents arousing pity
And fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis
Of such emotion.

Sappho:

What do you mean by language embellished, master?

Aristotle:

With rhythm and harmony
With song superadded
And by the kinds separately
I mean,
Some portions worked out
In verse, others in song.

Sappho:

Homer is epic and tragic.
What differentiate an epic from a tragedy?

Aristotle:

Epic and tragedy have things in common
Of serious actions, serious characters
Characters better than average
The style of both
Grand and elevated
Their verse of lofty nature.
The difference is;
A uniform meter in epic, a changing
In tragic, variable.
Epic is narrative, tragic in verse
Dramatic. Indefinite length of epic
The tragedy is confined to ‘single circuit of the sun’

Sappho:

Do you mention the three unities of action, time and space?

Aristotle:

As far as possible
And something near that.

End of Act I

Sadiqullah Khan
Islamabad
September 12,2013.

Submitted: Saturday, October 05, 2013
Edited: Sunday, May 25, 2014

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Aristotle with a Bust of Homer,1653
Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch,1606–1669)
Oil on canvas @ Heilbrunn timeline of art history

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