"Seize the day, whatever's in it to seize, before something comes along and seizes you."
"Fronto, tell me. How did you get to be a poet?"
"I haven't the least notion," replied Fronto. "I didn't get to be; I always was. As I wrote in one of my elegies: 'Poets are born, not made.' It isn't something you acquire like a skin rash."
"That's all there is to it?"
"Certainly not. One should learn the natures of odes, anthems, apostrophes, and so on. And, of course, the proper use of metaphor, simile, metathesis, just to begin.
"Then, epithets, your nice little ready-made phrases: rosy-fingered dawn, sandy shores, wine-dark seas. They have been stock-in-trade for time out of mind."
"You don't have to think them up?"
"Originality?" Fronto shuddered. "Heavens, no. Why risk upsetting anyone? These are tried and true, sure to please. You can cobble up whole epics from them."
"Tales, anecdotes, narratives. All quite simple. Any fool can tell a story. Take a few odds and ends of things that happen to you, dress them up, shuffle them about, add a dash of excitement, a little color, and there you have it."
"Here's a good idea for you," said Lucian. "How I found a mistake in my inventories and had to run off before Calchas and Phobos got hold of me."
"Boring," said Fronto. "Forgive me, I'm yawning already. Conflict, struggle suspense—that's what's needed to make a tale move along. You don't just run off. They seize you. You fight them with all your strength, almost win; but they bind you hand and foot, get ready to chop you up with meat cleavers. You escape in the nick of time. I don't know how. That's a technical detail."
"It didn't happen that way," Lucian protested.
"My point exactly," said Fronto. "All the more reason to spice it up. The meat cleavers are an especially nice touch."
"But it wouldn't be true."
"Not important," said Fronto. "If a storyteller worried about the facts—my dear Lucian, how could he ever get at the truth?"
Lucian turned to stare into the gray eyes of a slender, long-legged girl, her braided hair the color of ripe wheat. She stood, hands on hips, observing him with concern, curiosity, and a little glint of wry amusement. At sight of her, Lucian felt some difficulty catching his breath. Despite a sudden giddiness, he straightened up, squared his shoulders, and hoped to give the impression that he was sitting on the turf only because he wanted to.
"Are you a healer?"
"That depends on what needs healing. In your case, not much. I'm called Joy-in-the-Dance. And you?"
"Aiee! Ouch!" cried Lucian as her fingers probed a tender spot behind his ear.
"Odd name." The girl gave him a teasing grin.
Joy-in-the-Dance said nothing for a few moments, then stretched out a finger to prod Lucian's chest. "Listen to me, Aiee-Ouch—"
"My name's Lucian."
"Yes. Well, listen to me Aiee-Ouch."
"I've been observing. I do believe that our admirable pythoness has a bit of a soft spot for you. I'm a poet, I detect such things."
Lucian snorted. "Well, I'm not a poet, but what I detect is: Half the time, she doesn't make sense; the other half, she makes me feel like an idiot."
"Precisely," said Fronto. "That's another of those women's mysteries."
The man began climbing down with surprising agility. Following his example, Lucian discovered it to be as difficult as climbing up, and far more unnerving. By accident, he adopted a quick method of reaching the ground: sliding, tumbling, bouncing off one branch after another to land sprawled in what he hoped was a triumphant posture.
"That was wonderful, Aiee-Ouch," the girl said. "I take it all back. You did perfectly, except for the one little moment when your skull hit the ground."
"You have yet to learn the ways of women." See-Far-Ahead smiled at him. "It is an endless study."