"Poetic License"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Cicero, through a mouthpiece, takes the point of view in this book outlining oratorical principles that oratory calls for great knowledge, command of language, an exact memory, good delivery, wit, and insight. With numerous objections from among the orators young and old, the view is brought forth that the orator must be well versed in political and moral science, but especially in delivery he must borrow the methods of the poet with a power of expression and range of subject matter. The argument then turns on eloquence, which one disclaims as beyond mortal scope. Later, in Book II, the need for a liberal education is argued, again with the assumption that every good orator will not only quote poetry to his point but will also practice the writing of it. Although "poetic license" has come to mean doing whatever one wishes with the subject matter in order to elevate the art, such is not the intention in this oration:

. . . The truth is that the poet is a very near kinsman of the orator, rather more heavily fettered as regards rhythm, but with ampler freedom in his choice of words, while in the use of many sorts of ornament he is his ally, and almost his counterpart; in one respect at all events something like identity exists, since he sets no boundaries or limits to his claims, such as would prevent him from ranging whither he will with the same freedom and license as the other. . . .