Of the many excellences which I perceive in the order of our State, there is none which
upon reflection pleases me better than the rule about poetry.
To what do you refer?
To the rejection of imitative poetry, which certainly ought not to be received; as I see far
more clearly now that the parts of the soul have been distinguished.
What do you mean?
Speaking in confidence, for I should not like to have my words repeated to the tragedians
and the rest of the imitative tribe--but I do not mind saying to you, that all poetical
imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and that the knowledge of their
true nature is the only antidote to them.
Explain the purport of your remark.
Well, I will tell you, although I have always from my earliest youth had an awe and love
of Homer, which even now makes the words falter on my lips, for he is the great captain
and teacher of the whole of that charming tragic company; but a man is not to be
reverenced more than the truth, and therefore I will speak out.
Very good, he said.
Listen to me then, or rather, answer me.
Put your question.
Can you tell me what imitation is? for I really do not know.
A likely thing, then, that I should know.
Why not? for the duller eye may often see a thing sooner than the keener.
Very true, he said; but in your presence, even if I had any faint notion, I could not muster
courage to utter it. Will you enquire yourself?
Well then, shall we begin the enquiry in our usual manner: Whenever a number of
individuals have a common name, we assume them to have also a corresponding idea or
form:--do you understand me?