Among the ancients, instruction in drama and letters - poetics - mixed craft, precept and criticism quite freely; in our time, pedagogy, aesthetics and critical theory are usually kept firmly apart. This collection of 'aphorisms, thoughts and maxims' repairs something of the split by organizing the precepts that stand behind the making and reception of the arts into a unified 'metapoetics'. The book reflects on its own lapidary manner, investigates three representative theatres of life (power, love and death), and asserts our continuing need for the Gods and magic. It then moves from life into art, explores art, artists and the ethics of art, argues for the continuing relevance of notions of beauty, truth and genius, ponders style, and probes music, song and opera. Finally it returns to 'life' with thoughts on criticism and its practise. An appendix addresses other arts, notably film. The main text, which is both serious and witty, is illuminated throughout with examples from writings and culture of all periods. The book is richly illustrated with a set of mythic Beasts by the celebrated Anglo-Brazilian artist, Ana Maria Pacheco.