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My friend is writing a poem and I am reviewing it. It is based on Greek Mythology and this is one stanza of the poem:

Upon Zeus the burden of the decision fell,
And he felt his lightning bolt quiver in his hands,
For he would not let the apple of Eris sell,
But give to the most deserved in all of heaven and lands.

My friend claims that the bold phrase (bold for reference here) is a typical Homer style and so should be allowed.

However, I am of the view that the phrase "let the apple ... sell" implies that the apple is selling something, which is contrary to the logical observation that only humans (or animals?) can sell/buy things. The correct phrase would be "let the apple ... be sold".

My question:

Which observation is correct? And why?

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    Note that in English, This car drives like no other or This app sells very well is possible and quite common (I think). – Damkerng T. Jun 1 '16 at 8:24
  • For information, what do you call "Homer-style" ? – Random Jun 1 '16 at 8:32
  • I have a problem more with the forth line. Anyway, all your friend has to do is show you some of these examples he refers to. – Alan Carmack Jun 1 '16 at 9:46
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    No your friend is perfectly correct. Zeus would not let the apple sell (he must have placed a reserve at the auction :-)). Nevertheless, the fourth line is horrendous. The apple should be given to the most deserving in "all the lands". – David Page Aug 17 '16 at 21:04
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From Merriam Webster:

sell
intransitive verb
2 : to achieve a sale
also : to achieve satisfactory sales
hoped that the new line would sell

So, “let the apple sell” is certainly valid.

More generally, when we use an inanimate object as the subject of an action verb, then it is essentially a shortcut for the passive voice: an apple obviously can’t sell (or “achieve a sale”) by itself; it is being sold.

On top of that, poetry frequently relaxes grammar rules as needed to fit meter and rhyme, so even if it weren’t valid in prose, it could still work in poetry.

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While it is possible that one can focus on the sentence to understand that the apple sells something, the obvious meaning is that the apple will be sold.

As pointed out in the comments, in line four, "deserved" should be replaced with "deserving".

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