Short summary - Ars Poetica or The Art of Poetry - Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Ars Poetica or The Art of Poetry
Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

Very short content

Nicolas Boileau wrote a four-song literary treatise for poets and writers, and in each song he gave instructions, rules, and principles for the creation of high literature.

Nicolas Boileau - French poet and critic of the aesthetics of classicism in literature, who lived in the 17th century, court histiographer of the French king.

The classicist devoted the first canto to the general theory of verse. Boileau believed that high poetry was created in close interaction of rhyme and meaning, while rhyme was in the subordination of reason. The poet also introduced the rule of caesura, which separates the verbal flow, and rhythm, which helps to keep the poetic meter. Boileau gave a clear presentation of the correct verse without the slowness of the narrative, but with the simplicity and sophistication of the form.

The second canto was devoted to a detailed analysis of poetic genres. The poet attributed the absence of arrogance to the idyll. The noble eclogue should have learned from ancient poets. The elegy had to be written with true feelings, since the genre assumed depth. The ode was directed upward in the tone of the narration. The most serious in terms of form and content was the sonnet, which does not allow deviation from the form.

In the third canto, Boileau analyzed tragedy, epic and comedy. The tragedy that came from Antiquity carried the intensity of feelings, the hero in it acquired serious character traits. Separately paid attention to the stages of development of the tragic plot. The epic, as a genre that came from myths, revived fictions in the text, gave life to heroes and gods, while not being overloaded with a plot. Comedy, born out of the success of tragedy, was not written in bilious language, putting nature itself as its mentor. In comedy, traits of different characters were especially played. A comedic poet should be witty, not flattering.

In the final fourth song, Boileau summed up the role of the word and poetry in the development of civilization. The word gave birth to laws, and verses adorned speech. The poet noted that in verse one should first teach wisdom, because the voice of wisdom sounded from ancient authors. Boileau himself recognized himself as the creator of satire, but he was going to burn a fire in the hearts of people in the field of poetry further.

Detailed retelling of the songs

Song titles are arbitrary.

Song 1. How to write poetry with meaning

Nicolas Boileau turned to the writers who aspired to Parnassus - the famous mythological place where the Muses and Apollo lived. The poet emphasized that the sun god favored those in whom true talent was based.

Apollo - the ancient Greek and Roman god of light, the patron of the arts, the leader and patron of the muses, lived on Parnassus.

Boileau noticed that if the ambition and thirst for fame are higher in the writer, then poetry has not reached its height. Boileau's talent was tested "soberly and severely".

Boileau paid great attention to rhyme, which went hand in hand with the meaning in his presentation. Rhyme came to the call of reason. Meaning was more important than rhyme.

So let the meaning be dearer to you,

Let only he give brilliance and beauty to poetry!

Boileau noted that if the author was greatly admired by the object of description and supplied the verse with empty enumerations, then this work wanted to be closed faster. The poet advised to beware of empty excess.

In order to love to read poetry, the poet eschewed monotony and sluggish lines, catching up boredom and sleep. True poets wrote lively and flexible verses.

Boileau stressed that for a while high poetry was overwhelmed by the revivalist poetry of burlesque, where serious things were portrayed in an inappropriate comic light. Poetry was stained with burlesque, which should have been avoided.

Boileau gave a special place to the caesura that separates the verse. True professionals used it to avoid the flow of poetry. Boileau referred Malherba to such professionals, who filled the verse with simplicity, harmony and grace.

François Malherbe - French poet of the 17th century, the founder of classicism in French literature.

In Malherbe, elegant simplicity accompanied the storytelling, so his poems were an example for Boileau.

The critic was mindful of the rhythm he adhered to, did not go astray, used more vowels, and avoided consonants.

When writing poetry, Boileau pondered the thought, thereby not obscuring the idea. A real poet wrote slowly and polished the verse, crossing out the excess.

Boileau advised turning to friends for an assessment of what was written, so that they, in turn, would evaluate strictly and impartially, and the truth in their assessment would be "calm and modest."

Song 2. What are the verses

Boileau dismantled poetic genres.

The first genre was the idyll, known since antiquity, which was alien to "arrogant arrogance". There was always simplicity in it and there was no grandiloquence.

Further, a noble eclogue was described, which inept writers sullied with vulgar language. Boileau advised learning to write eclogues from ancient poets who correctly sang the beauties of nature, because "the muses prompted them to verse."

The next genre was the elegy, traditionally created from mournful experiences. A real elegy was written by a poet who "experienced the power of love." Boileau was disgusted by cold-hearted poets who portrayed love superficially. The elegy itself, according to the critic, was strong when it depicted true feeling.

Further, an ode was considered, created to speak with the gods on an equal footing. The genre has always been on the rise. Ode was characterized by a bizarre train of thought, passion and a phlegmatic tone of narration.

The laws of the sonnet were invented by the strict and treacherous Apollo, who was angry with the poets. The form of the sonnet was subject to the strict form of two quatrains and two tercetes. The syllables and size were also dictated by the sun god. Due to the severity of the form, the sonnet overshadowed "hundreds of lines". Although many sonnets were written, Boileau understood that "only a few captivated the reader."

The verse of the epigram was concise but light, and came from Italian literature. Boileau left the ambiguity and wordplay to the epigram and excluded it from other genres.

Boileau liked the ballad for its intricate rhyme, and the rondo for its "naivete and simplicity of mode." The madrigal fascinated by the loftiness of the feelings depicted.

A special attitude was expressed by Boileau to satire.

Not malice, but good, trying to sow in the world,

Truth reveals its pure face in Satire.

Satire appeared in Roman poetry. With the help of satire, the poets of the Roman era told the truth to fellow citizens, tempered "anger with a cheerful laugh." Roman poets scourged, scourged and burned satyrs.

In Latin satirical verse, obscene liberties were noticed, therefore Boileau advised to avoid a vulgar and cynical style if the vices and debauchery of society were exposed.

Since satire was a priori full of witticisms, the French could easily create a vaudeville out of it - "a lively swarm of couplets." Vaudeville verses were easily born and passed from mouth to mouth, teasing without malice.

Boileau instructed any rhymer to beware of witticisms against the Almighty, because such blasphemy ended in execution in the Place de Greve. The critic found the measure of everything in the elegance of taste and mind.

Canto 3. What is tragedy, epic and comedy

In this song Boileau analyzed tragedy, epic and comedy.

The tragedy captivated Boileau with gloominess and tears. If the poet wanted to create a "high work" that would have been staged in the theater for years, then he should have created "line filled with passions fire." Reasonable verses were the enemy of this dramatic genre, and the viewer should be carried away by "excited verse."

Boileau analyzed the stages of plot development in the tragedy.

The tie should be smooth. It was necessary to observe the unity of place and time, fitting the action into one day. The tragedy was written believably, because the incredible events could not touch the viewer. The tension in the tragedy reached the limit and was easily resolved, and the denouement quickly changed plot moves.

In ancient times, the tragedy was a folk festival in honor of the god of winemaking, and the goat was a reward, so the tragedy was translated as “goat song”. Ancient Greek tragedians brought the genre from folk art to the theater stage. One tragedian began to arrange tours with a troupe of actors, another added actors to the choir.

The genius of Sophocles increased the "brilliance and splendor of the performances" and involved the choir of the ancient theater in action.

Sophocles is an ancient Greek tragedian from Athens, who lived in the 5th century BC.

The merit of Sophocles also consisted in polishing the deep style and exalting the greatness of the theater.

French preachers at first condemned the theatre, but then reason triumphed, and on the theatrical stage "the heroes of ancient times came to life." In the French theater, the "powerful choir of ancient tragedy" was replaced by the melodiousness of the violin.

Boileau believed that the hero of the dramatic genre should burn with "love fire", be brave and noble, but with his own weaknesses. Therefore, the hero had character traits. The poet noted that historical characters must be preserved in their characteristic historical era. The theater, which was dominated by "the law, exacting and harsh", expected strict logic from the writer, therefore, the hero was thought out very carefully.

Boileau summed up: composing for the stage is a "thankless job", and gave advice to poets.

To please connoisseurs haughty,

The poet must be both proud and humble,

High thoughts show the flight,

Depict love, hope, sorrow oppression,

Write sharply, gracefully, with inspiration...

Boileau next considered the sublime epic. This genre originated in myth. The epic poet must weave a thread of fiction and bring these fictions to life in the text. Boileau advised not to drive mythological gods and heroes out of poetry, because this is "prudence, empty and absurd nonsense" that damages poetry. Boileau punished the hero of the epic to be free from unworthy feelings and noble in weaknesses. The epic should not be overloaded with a plot - after all, "excess only impoverishes the topic."

Boileau had a separate attitude to the style of the epic, which should be "compressed, lush and rich." The epic itself should be harmonious and elegant with a wealth of images.

Boileau noted the work of Homer, which taught him "priceless lessons."

Homer is an ancient Greek poet, lyricist, creator of the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, who lived in the 8th century BC. e.

Animation lived in Homer's verses, he charmed everyone with his style, delighted and delighted. The plot of his legendary epic poems developed "naturally and smoothly", and the strict order was alien to the chanter. Boileau believed that an epic poem should be written all his life and diligently.

After the epic, Boileau considered the comedy genre. Comedy was born out of the success of tragedy. The Greeks fought their enemies with comedy. Comedy poets have earned themselves honor by blackening dignity with witticisms. Boileau noted that the comedy should have been written "without bile and without poison."

On the advice of Boileau, if the poet wanted to become famous in the comedy genre, then nature itself should be chosen as a mentor. Also, the poet must understand different characters (sloth, eccentric, spendthrift) in order to better and more reliably portray the characters on stage. Only a true poet managed to note special character traits, and “nature ... distributes special traits to all people” by its generosity.

Boileau compared two typical characters: an old man and a youth. The youth is indomitable, reckless and passionate, and the old man is a flatterer, cunning and looked ahead to avoid problems. Characters Boileau advised to look between the townspeople and the courtiers.

In general, the poet gave valuable advice on writing comedies. The first - "unbridled jokes" should not be. Secondly, one should not confuse intrigue and be distracted from the idea. Third, the language of comedy was both simple and sublime, depending on the situation. Fourth, the parts had to be interconnected and intertwined into a ball of passion.

The comic poet, according to Boileau, should be guided by reason, and not be a flat wit whose jokes are obscene.

Song 4. Virtue in verse is dearest of all

Boileau spoke of an incompetent doctor who lived in Florence. He found non-existent diseases in patients, turned migraine "into madness and epilepsy attacks." The doctor left the city and joined the abbot, immediately changing the direction of his activity and hitting the architecture. He criticized facades and planned rebuildings, becoming an excellent architect.

By this example, Boileau urged to understand the true talent in everyone. And when necessary, it was necessary to bake rolls, and not compose poetry.

The poet advised to collect other people's opinions based on the reasonableness of criticism. Boileau understood the image of the critic as a noble and reasonable person, deeply knowledgeable and free from envy.

One of the advice of the classicist was that wisdom should be taught in "living" verse. Boileau condemned immoral poets.

It was necessary to write about love “highly and purely”, remembering moral purity.

So let virtue be your sweetest!

After all, even if the mind is clear and deep,

The corruption of the soul is always visible between the lines.

Boileau advocated that the talented poet should not envy, because envy is a feature of mediocre minds, which equates the brilliant with the ordinary. Boileau advised all poets to give up profit. If poems were written for a long time and hard, then they paid for them adequately.

Boileau attached great importance to words and poems in terms of the development of civilization. It was the word that laid the foundation for laws, and the verse skillfully adorned speech.

“The voice of wisdom sounded” among ancient poets, and people heeded their advice. In Antiquity, temples of the arts were built so that it flourished. But the century changed, and they began to compose selfish poems for the sake of profit - "self-interest ... traded in words."

Boileau believed that poets needed pay, but it was not worth making a cult out of it. Even "the muse needs lunch." Therefore, a well-fed poet is more useful in writing, because "Horace was full and drunk."

Boileau completed his instructions with words about the especially careful writing of poetry by poets. This feature should be present in all real poets. Boileau himself, as an adherent of satire, was going to stay on the valiant field of writing poetry, to kindle "the fire in everyone's chest."