This essay on Salutati's defence of poetry lends weight to the assertion that ‘there must always be a considerable measure of doubt as to how far we can take humanists’ assertions on any subject as evidence of what they actually thought or felt'. Salutati's fullest treatment of this theme is to be found in the treatise on poetry of 1391 figuring as the first book of his De laboribus Herculis. It is a collage of ideas culled from various sources and marked by dissonances and inconsistencies, in fact by an apparent lack of concern for consistency. Salutati's ideas are examined in three groups or clusters: poetry and religion, poetry as praise and blame, and the placing of poetry among the intellectual disciplines. He was not producing a humanist poetic, but working within a genre where it mattered more to have a range of arguments than to develop a coherent position. He was also responding to specific challenges which coloured his arguments.