Imaginary Conversations of Greeks and Romans/Diogenes and Plato
Stop! stop! come hither! Why lookest thou so scornfully and askance upon me?
Let me go! loose me! I am resolved to pass.
Nay, then, by Jupiter and this tub! thou leavest three good ells of Milesian cloth behind thee. Whither wouldst thou amble?
I am not obliged in courtesy to tell you.
Upon whose errand? Answer me directly.
Upon my own.
Oh, then, I will hold thee yet awhile. If it were upon another’s, it might be a hardship to a good citizen, though not to a good philosopher.
That can be no impediment to my release: you do not think me one.
No, by my Father Jove!
Why not? Thou shouldst be the last man to doubt it. Hast not thou declared it irrational to refuse our belief to those who assert that they are begotten by the gods, though the assertion (these are thy words) be unfounded on reason or probability? In me there is a chance of it: whereas in the generation of such people as thou art fondest of frequenting, who claim it loudly, there are always too many competitors to leave it probable.
Those who speak against the great do not usually speak from morality, but from envy.
Thou hast a glimpse of the truth in this place, but as thou hast already shown thy ignorance in attempting to prove to me what a man is, ill can I expect to learn from thee what is a great man.
No doubt your experience and intercourse will afford me the information.
Attend, and take it. The great man is he who hath nothing to fear and nothing to hope from another. It is he who, while he demonstrates the iniquity of the laws, and is able to correct them, obeys them peaceably. It is he who looks on the ambitious both as weak and fraudulent. It is he who hath no disposition or occasion for any kind of deceit, no reason for being or for appearing different from what he is. It is he who can call together the most select company when it pleases him.
Excuse my interruption. In the beginning of your definition I fancied that you were designating your own person, as most people do in describing what is admirable; now I find that you have some other in contemplation.
I thank thee for allowing me what perhaps I do possess, but what I was not then thinking of; as is often the case with rich possessors: in fact, the latter part of the description suits me as well as any portion of the former.
You may call together the best company, by using your hands in the call, as you did with me; otherwise I am not sure that you would succeed in it.
My thoughts are my company; I can bring them together, select them, detain them, dismiss them. Imbecile and vicious men cannot do any of these things. Their thoughts are scattered, vague, uncertain, cumbersome: and the worst stick to them the longest; many indeed by choice, the greater part by necessity, and accompanied, some by weak wishes, others by vain remorse.
Is there nothing of greatness, O Diogenes! in exhibiting how cities and communities may be governed best, how morals may be kept the purest, and power become the most stable?
Something of greatness does not constitute the great man. Let me, however, see him who hath done what thou sayest: he must be the most universal and the most indefatigable traveller, he must also be the oldest creature, upon earth.
Because he must know perfectly the climate, the soil, the situation, the peculiarities, of the races, of their allies, of their enemies; he must have sounded their harbours, he must have measured the quantity of their arable land and pasture, of their woods and mountains; he must have ascertained whether there are fisheries on their coasts, and even what winds are prevalent.* On these causes, with some others, depend the bodily strength, the numbers, the wealth, the wants, the capacities of the people.
Such are low thoughts.
The bird of wisdom flies low, and seeks her food under hedges: the eagle himself would be starved if he always soared aloft and against the sun. The sweetest fruit grows near the ground, and the plants that bear it require ventilation and lopping. Were this not to be done in thy garden, every walk and alley, every plot and border, would be covered with runners and roots, with boughs and suckers. We want no poets or logicians or metaphysicians to govern us: we want practical men, honest men, continent men, unambitious men, fearful to solicit a trust, slow to accept, and resolute never to betray one. Experimentalists may be the best philosophers: they are always the worst politicians. Teach people their duties, and they will know their interests. Change as little as possible, and correct as much.
Philosophers are absurd from many causes, but principally from laying out unthriftily their distinctions. They set up four virtues: fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice. Now a man may be a very bad one, and yet possess three out of the four. Every cut-throat must, if he has been a cut-throat on many occasions, have more fortitude and more prudence than the greater part of those whom we consider as the best men. And what cruel wretches, both executioners and judges, have been strictly just! how little have they cared what gentleness, what generosity, what genius, their sentence hath removed from the earth! Temperance and beneficence contain all other virtues. Take them home, Plato; split them, expound them; do what thou wilt with them, if thou but use them. Before I gave thee this lesson, which is a better than thou ever gavest any one, and easier to remember, thou wert accusing me of invidiousness and malice against those whom thou callest the great, meaning to say the powerful. Thy imagination, I am well aware, had taken its flight toward Sicily, where thou seekest thy great man, as earnestly and undoubtingly as Ceres sought her Persephone. Faith! honest Plato, I have no reason to envy thy worthy friend Dionysius. Look at my nose! A lad seven or eight years old threw an apple at me yesterday, while I was gazing at the clouds, and gave me nose enough for two moderate men. Instead of such a godsend, what should I have thought of my fortune, if, after living all my lifetime among golden vases, rougher than my hand with their emeralds and rubies, their engravings and embossments; among Parian caryatides and porphyry sphinxes; among philosophers with rings upon their fingers and linen next their skin; and among singing-boys and dancing-girls, to whom alone thou speakest intelligibly—I ask thee again, what should I in reason have thought of my fortune, if, after these facilities and superfluities, I had at last been pelted out of my house, not by one young rogue, but by thousands of all ages, and not with an apple (I wish I could say a rotten one), but with pebbles and broken pots; and, to crown my deserts, had been compelled to become the teacher of so promising a generation? Great men, forsooth! thou knowest at last who they are.
There are great men of various kinds.
No, by my beard, are there not!
What! are there not great captains, great geometricians, great dialectitians?
Who denied it? A great man was the postulate. Try thy hand now at the powerful one.
On seeing the exercise of power, a child cannot doubt who is powerful, more or less; for power is relative. All men are weak, not only if compared to the Demiurgos, but if compared to the sea or the earth, or certain things upon each of them, such as elephants and whales. So placid and tranquil is the scene around us, we can hardly bring to mind the images of strength and force, the precipices, the abysses——
Prithee hold thy loose tongue, twinkling and glittering like a serpent’s in the midst of luxuriance and rankness! Did never this reflection of thine warn thee that, in human life, the precipices and abysses would be much farther from our admiration if we were less inconsiderate, selfish, and vile? I will not however stop thee long, for thou wert going on quite consistently. As thy great men are fighters and wranglers, so thy mighty things upon the earth and sea are troublesome and intractable encumbrances. Thou perceivedst not what was greater in the former case, neither art thou aware what is greater in this. Didst thou feel the gentle air that passed us?
I did not, just then.
That air, so gentle, so imperceptible to thee, is more powerful not only than all the creatures that breathe and live by it; not only than all the oaks of the forest, which it rears in an age and shatters in a moment; not only than all the monsters of the sea, but than the sea itself, which it tosses up into foam, and breaks against every rock in its vast circumference; for it carries in its bosom, with perfect calm and composure, the incontrollable ocean and the peopled earth, like an atom of a feather.
To the world’s turmoils and pageantries is attracted, not only the admiration of the populace, but the zeal of the orator, the enthusiasm of the poet, the investigation of the historian, and the contemplation of the philosopher: yet how silent and invisible are they in the depths of air! Do I say in those depths and deserts? No; I say in the distance of a swallow’s flight—at the distance she rises above us, ere a sentence brief as this could be uttered. What are its mines and mountains? Fragments welded up and dislocated by the expansion of water from below; the most part reduced to mud, the rest to splinters. Afterwards sprang up fire in many places, and again tore and mangled the mutilated carcass, and still growls over it. What are its cities and ramparts, and moles and monuments? Segments of a fragment, which one man puts together and another throws down. Here we stumble upon thy great ones at their work. Show me now, if thou canst, in history, three great warriors, or three great statesmen, who have acted otherwise than spiteful children.
I will begin to look for them in history when I have discovered the same number in the philosophers or the poets. A prudent man searches in his own garden after the plant he wants, before he casts his eyes over the stalls in Kenkrea or Keramicos.
Returning to your observation on the potency of the air, I am not ignorant or unmindful of it. May I venture to express my opinion to you, Diogenes, that the earlier discoverers and distributors of wisdom (which wisdom lies among us in ruins and remnants, partly distorted and partly concealed by theological allegory) meant by Jupiter the air in its agitated state; by Juno the air in its quiescent. These are the great agents, and therefore called the king and queen of the gods. Jupiter is denominated by Homer the compeller of clouds: Juno receives them, and remits them in showers to plants and animals. I may trust you, I hope, O Diogenes?
Thou mayest lower the gods in my presence, as safely as men in the presence of Timon.
I would not lower them: I would exalt them.
More foolish and presumptuous still!
Fair words, O Sinopean! I protest to you my aim is truth.
I cannot lead thee where of a certainty thou mayest always find it; but I will tell thee what it is. Truth is a point; the subtilest and finest; harder than adamant; never to be broken, worn away, or blunted. Its only bad quality is, that it is sure to hurt those who touch it; and likely to draw blood, perhaps the life-blood, of those who press earnestly upon it. Let us away from this narrow lane skirted with hemlock, and pursue our road again through the wind and dust toward the great man and the powerful. Him I would call the powerful one who controls the storms of his mind, and turns to good account the worst accidents of his fortune. The great man, I was going on to demonstrate, is somewhat more. He must be able to do this, and he must have an intellect which puts into motion the intellect of others.
Socrates, then, was your great man.
He was indeed; nor can all thou hast attributed to him ever make me think the contrary. I wish he could have kept a little more at home, and have thought it as well worth his while to converse with his own children as with others.
He knew himself born for the benefit of the human race.
Those who are born for the benefit of the human race go but little into it: those who are born for its curse are crowded.
It was requisite to dispel the mists of ignorance and error.
Has he done it? What doubt has he elucidated, or what fact has he established? Although I was but twelve years old and resident in another city when he died, I have taken some pains in my inquiries about him from persons of less vanity and less perverseness than his disciples. He did not leave behind him any true philosopher among them; any who followed his mode of argumentation, his subjects of disquisition, or his course of life; any who would subdue the malignant passions or coerce the looser; any who would abstain from calumny or from cavil; any who would devote his days to the glory of his country, or, what is easier and perhaps wiser, to his own well-founded contentment and well-merited repose. Xenophon, the best of them, offered up sacrifices, believed in oracles, consulted soothsayers, turned pale at a jay, and was dysenteric at a magpie.
He had courage at least.
His courage was of so strange a quality, that he was ready, if jay or magpie did not cross him, to fight for Spartan or Persian. Plato, whom thou esteemest much, and knowest somewhat less, careth as little for portent and omen as doth Diogenes. What he would have done for a Persian I cannot say; certain I am that he would have no more fought for a Spartan than he would for his own father: yet he mortally hates the man who hath a kinder muse or a better milliner, or a seat nearer the minion of a king. So much for the two disciples of Socrates who have acquired the greatest celebrity!
Diogenes! if you must argue or discourse with me, I will endure your asperity for the sake of your acuteness; but it appears to me a more philosophical thing to avoid what is insulting and vexatious, than to breast and brave it.
Thou hast spoken well.
It belongs to the vulgar, not to us, to fly from a man’s opinions to his actions, and to stab him in his own house for having received no wound in the school. One merit you will allow me: I always keep my temper; which you seldom do.
Is mine a good or a bad one?
Now, must I speak sincerely?
Dost thou, a philosopher, ask such a question of me, a philosopher? Ay, sincerely or not at all.
Sincerely as you could wish, I must declare, then, your temper is the worst in the world.
I am much in the right, therefore, not to keep it. Embrace me: I have spoken now in thy own manner. Because thou sayest the most malicious things the most placidly, thou thinkest or pretendest thou art sincere.
Certainly those who are most the masters of their resentments are likely to speak less erroneously than the passionate and morose.
If they would, they might; but the moderate are not usually the most sincere, for the same circumspection which makes them moderate makes them likewise retentive of what could give offence: they are also timid in regard to fortune and favour, and hazard little. There is no mass of sincerity in any place. What there is must be picked up patiently, a grain or two at a time; and the season for it is after a storm, after the overflowing of banks, and bursting of mounds, and sweeping away of landmarks. Men will always hold something back; they must be shaken and loosened a little, to make them let go what is deepest in them, and weightiest and purest.
Shaking and loosening as much about you as was requisite for the occasion, it became you to demonstrate where and in what manner I had made Socrates appear less sagacious and less eloquent than he was; it became you likewise to consider the great difficulty of finding new thoughts and new expressions for those who had more of them than any other men, and to represent them in all the brilliancy of their wit and in all the majesty of their genius. I do not assert that I have done it; but if I have not, what man has? what man has come so nigh to it? He who could bring Socrates, or Solon, or Diogenes through a dialogue, without disparagement, is much nearer in his intellectual powers to them, than any other is near to him.
Let Diogenes alone, and Socrates, and Solon. None of the three ever occupied his hours in tingeing and curling the tarnished plumes of prostitute Philosophy, or deemed anything worth his attention, care, or notice, that did not make men brave and independent. As thou callest on me to show thee where and in what manner thou hast misrepresented thy teacher, and as thou seemest to set an equal value on eloquence and on reasoning, I shall attend to thee awhile on each of these matters, first inquiring of thee whether the axiom is Socratic, that it is never becoming to get drunk,* unless in the solemnities of Bacchus?
This god was the discoverer of the vine and of its uses.
Is drunkenness one of its uses, or the discovery of a god? If Pallas or Jupiter hath given us reason, we should sacrifice our reason with more propriety to Jupiter or Pallas. To Bacchus is due a libation of wine; the same being his gift, as thou preachest.
Another and a graver question.
Did Socrates teach thee that ‘slaves are to be scourged, and by no means admonished as though they were the children of the master’?
He did not argue upon government.
He argued upon humanity, whereon all government is founded: whatever is beside it is usurpation.
Are slaves then never to be scourged, whatever be their transgressions and enormities?
Whatever they be, they are less than his who reduced them to this condition.
What! though they murder his whole family?
Ay, and poison the public fountain of the city.
What am I saying? and to whom? Horrible as is this crime, and next in atrocity to parricide, thou deemest it a lighter one than stealing a fig or grape. The stealer of these is scourged by thee; the sentence on the poisoner is to cleanse out the receptacle.* There is, however, a kind of poisoning which, to do thee justice, comes before thee with all its horrors, and which thou wouldst punish capitally, even in such a sacred personage as an aruspex or diviner: I mean the poisoning by incantation. I, and my whole family, my whole race, my whole city, may bite the dust in agony from a truss of henbane in the well; and little harm done forsooth! Let an idle fool set an image of me in wax before the fire, and whistle and caper to it, and purr and pray, and chant a hymn to Hecate while it melts, entreating and imploring her that I may melt as easily—and thou wouldst, in thy equity and holiness, strangle him at the first stave of his psalmody.
If this is an absurdity, can you find another?
Truly, in reading thy book, I doubted at first, and for a long continuance, whether thou couldst have been serious; and whether it were not rather a satire on those busy-bodies who are incessantly intermeddling in other people’s affairs. It was only on the protestation of thy intimate friends that I believed thee to have written it in earnest. As for thy question, it is idle to stoop and pick out absurdities from a mass of inconsistency and injustice; but another and another I could throw in, and another and another afterward, from any page in the volume. Two bare, staring falsehoods lift their beaks one upon the other, like spring frogs. Thou sayest that no punishment decreed by the laws tendeth to evil. What! not if immoderate? not if partial? Why then repeal any penal statute while the subject of its animadversion exists? In prisons the less criminal are placed among the more criminal, the inexperienced in vice together with the hardened in it. This is part of the punishment, though it precedes the sentence; nay, it is often inflicted on those whom the judges acquit: the law, by allowing it, does it.
The next is, that he who is punished by the laws is the better for it, however the less depraved. What! if anteriorly to the sentence he lives and converses with worse men, some of whom console him by deadening the sense of shame, others by removing the apprehension of punishment? Many laws as certainly make men bad, as bad men make many laws; yet under thy regimen they take us from the bosom of the nurse, turn the meat about upon the platter, pull the bed-clothes off, make us sleep when we would wake, and wake when we would sleep, and never cease to rummage and twitch us, until they see us safe landed at the grave. We can do nothing (but be poisoned) with impunity. What is worst of all, we must marry certain relatives and connexions, be they distorted, blear-eyed, toothless, carbuncled, with hair (if any) eclipsing the reddest torch of Hymen, and with a hide outrivalling in colour and plaits his trimmest saffron robe. At the mention of this indeed, friend Plato, even thou, although resolved to stand out of harm’s way, beginnest to make a wry mouth, and findest it difficult to pucker and purse it up again, without an astringent store of moral sentences. Hymen is truly no acquaintance of thine. We know the delicacies of love which thou wouldst reserve for the gluttony of heroes and the fastidiousness of philosophers. Heroes, like gods, must have their own way; but against thee and thy confraternity of elders I would turn the closet-key, and your mouths might water over, but your tongues should never enter those little pots of comfiture. Seriously, you who wear embroidered slippers ought to be very cautious of treading in the mire. Philosophers should not only live the simplest lives, but should also use the plainest language. Poets, in employing magnificent and sonorous words, teach philosophy the better by thus disarming suspicion that the finest poetry contains and conveys the finest philosophy. You will never let any man hold his right station: you would rank Solon with Homer for poetry. This is absurd. The only resemblance is in both being eminently wise. Pindar, too, makes even the cadences of his dithyrambics keep time to the flute of Reason. My tub, which holds fifty-fold thy wisdom, would crack at the reverberation of thy voice.
Not quite yet. I must physic thee a little with law again before we part ; answer me one more question. In punishing a robbery, wonldst thou punish him who steals everything from one who wants everything, less severely than him who steals little from one who wants nothing ?
No : in this place the iniquity is manifest: not a problem in geometry is plainer.
Thou liedst then . . in thy sleep perhaps . . but thou liedst. Differing in one page from what was laid down by thee in another,* thou wouldst punish what is called sacrilege with death. The magistrates ought to provide that the temples be watched so well, and guarded so effectually, as never to be liable to thefts. The gods, we must suppose, can not do it by themselves; for, to admit the contrary, we must admit their indifference to the possession of goods and chattels : aa impiety so great, that sacrilege itself drops into atoms under it. He, however, who robs from the gods, be the amount what it may, robs from the rich; robs from thosewho can want nothing, although, like the other rich, they are mightily vindictive against petty plunderers. But he who steals from a poor widow a loaf of bread, may deprive her of everything she has in the world; perhaps, if she be bedridden or paralytic, of life itself.
I am weary of this digression on the inequality of punishments ; let us come up to the object of them. It is not, 0 Plato ! an absurdity of thine alone, but of all who write and of all who converse on them, to assert that they both are and onght to be inflicted publicly, for the sake of deterring from offence. The only effect of public punishment is to show the rabble how bravely it can be borne, and that everyone who hath lost a toe-nail hath suffered worse. The virtuous man, as a reward and a privilege, should be permitted to see how calm and satisfied a virtuous man departs. The criminal should be kept in the dark about the departure of his fellows, which is oftentimes as unreluctaut; for to him, if indeed no reward or privilege, it would be a corroborative and a cordial. Such things ought to be taken from him, no less carefully than the instruments of destruction or evasion. Secrecy and mystery should be the attendants of punishment, and the sole persons present should be the injured, or two of his relatives, and a functionary delegated by each tribe, to witness and register the execution of justice.
Trials, on the contrary, should be public in every case. It being presumable that the sense of shame and honour is not hitherto quite extinguished in the defendant, this, if he be guilty, is the worst part of his punishment: if innocent, the best of his release. From the hour of trial until the hour of return to society (or the dust) there should be privacy, there should be solitude.
It occurs to me, O Diogenes, that you agree with Aristoteles on the doctrine of necessity.
How then can you punish, by any heavier chastisement than coercion, the heaviest offences? Everything being brought about, as you hold, by fate and predestination . .
Stay! Those terms are puerile, and imply a petition of a principle: keep to the term necessity. Thou art silent. Here then, O Plato, will I acknowledge to thee, I wonder it should have escaped thy perspicacity that free-will itself is nothing else than a part and effluence of necessity. If everything proceeds from some other thing, every impulse from some other impulse, that which impels to choice or will must act among the rest.
Every impulse from some other (I must so take it) under God, or the first cause.
Be it so : I meddle not at present with infinity or eternity : when I can comprehend them I will talk about them. You metaphysicians kill the flower-bearing and fruit-bearing glebe with delving and turning over and sifting, and never bring up any solid and malleable mass from the dark profundity in which you labor. The intellectual world, like the physical, is inapplicable to profit and incapable of cultivation a little way below the surface . . of which there is more to manage, and more to know, than any of you will undertake.
It happens that we do not see the stars at even-tide, sometimes because there are clouds intervening, but oftener because there are glimmerings of light: thus many truths escape us from the obscurity we stand in; and many more from that crepuscular state of mind, which induceth us to sit down satisfied with our imaginations and unsuspicious of our knowledge.
Keep always to the point, or with an eye upon it, and instead of saying things to make people stare and wonder, say what will withhold them hereafter from wondering and staring. This is philosophy; to make remote things tangible, common things extensively useful, useful things extensively common, and to leave the least necessary for the last. I have always a suspicion of sonorous sentences. The full shell sounds little, but shows by that little what is within. A bladder swells out more with wind than with oil.
I would not neglect politics nor morals, nor indeed even manners: these however are mutable and evanescent: the human understanding is immovable and for ever the same in its principles and its constitution, and no study is so important or so inviting.
Your sect hath done little in it. You are singularly fond of those disquisitions in which few can detect your failures and your fallacies, and in which, if you stumble or err, you may find some countenance in those who lost their way before you.
Is not this school-room of mine, which holdeth but one scholar, preferable to that out of which have proceeded so many impetuous in passion, refractory in discipline, unprincipled in adventure, and (worst of all) proud in slavery ? Poor creatures who run after a jaded mule or palfrey, to pick up what he drops along the road, may be certain of a cabbage the larger and the sooner for it; while those who are equally assiduous at the heel of kings and princes, hunger and thirst for more, and usually gather less. Their attendance is neither so certain of reward nor so honest; their patience is scantier, their industry weaker, their complaints louder. What shall we say of their philosophy? what of their virtue? What shall we say of the greatness whereon their feeders plume themselves ? not caring they indeed for the humbler character of virtue or philosophy. We never call children the greater or the better for wanting others to support them: why then do we call men so for it ? I would be servant of any helpless man for hours together : but sooner shall a king be the slave of Diogenes than Diogenes a king's.
Companionship, O Sinopean, is not slavery.
Are the best of them worthy to be my companions ? Have they ever made you wiser ? have you ever made them so ? Prythee, what is companionship where nothing that improves the intellect is communicated, and where the larger heart contracts itself to the model and dimension of the smaller ? 'Tis a dire calamity to have a slave; 'tis an inexpiable curse to be one. When it befalls a man through violence he must be pitied: but where is pity, where is pardon, for the wretch who solicits it, or bends his head under it through invitation ? Thy hardness of heart toward slaves, O Plato, is just as unnatural as hardness of heart toward dogs would be in me.
You would have none perhaps in that condition.
None should be made slaves, excepting those who have attempted to make others so, or who spontaneously have become the instruments of unjust and unruly men. Even these ought not to be scourged every day perhaps: for their skin is the only sensitive part of them, and such castigation might shorten their lives.
Which, in your tenderness and mercy, you would not do.
Longevity is desirable in them; that they may be exposed in coops to the derision of the populace on holidays; and that few may serve the purpose.
We will pass over this wild and thorny theory, into the field of civilization in which we live; and here I must remark the evil consequences that would ensue, if our domestics could listen to you about the hardships they are enduring.
And is it no evil that truth and beneficence should be shut out at once from so large a portion of mankind ? Is it none when things are so perverted, that an act of beneficence might lead to a thousand acts of cruelty, and that one accent of truth should be more pernicious than all the falsehoods that have been accumulated, since the formation of language, since the gift of speech! I have taken thy view of the matter; take thou mine. Hercules was called just and glorious, and worshiped as a deity, because he redressed the grievances of others: is it unjust, is it inglorious, to redress one's own ? If that man rises high in the favour of the people, high in the estimation of the valiant and the wise, high before God, by the assertion and vindication of his holiest law, who punishes with death such as would reduce him or his fellow citizens to slavery, how much higher rises he, who, being a slave, springs up indignantly from his low estate, and thrusts away the living load that intercepts from him, what eren the reptiles and insects, what eveu the bushes and brambles of the roadside, enjoy!
We began with definitions : I rejoice, O Diogenes, that you are warmed into rhetoric, in which you will find me a most filling auditor: for I am curious to collect a specimen of vour prowess, where you have not yet established any part of Tout celebrity.
I am idle enough for it: but I have other things yet for thj curiosity, other things yet for thy castigation.
Thou wouldst separate the military from the citizens, from artizans and from agriculturists. A small body of soldiers, *ho never could be anything else, would in a short time subdue and subjugate the industrious and the wealthy. They »ould begin by demanding an increase of pay; then they *ould insist on admission to magistracies; and presently their general would assume the sovranty, and create new offices of trust and profit for the strength and security of his usurpation. Soldiers, in a free state, should be enrolled from those principally who are most interested in the conservation of order and property; chiefly the sons of tradesmen in towns: first, because there is the less detriment done to agriculture; the main thing to be considered in all countries: secondly, because such people are pronest to sedition, from the two opposite sides of enrichment and poverty: and lastly, because their families are always at hand, responsible for their fidelity, and where shame would befall them thickly in case of cowardice, or any misconduct. Those governments are the most flourishing and stabile, which have the fewest idle youths about the streets and theatres : it is only with the sword that they can cut the halter.
Thy faults arise from two causes principally: first, a fondness for playing tricks with argument and with fancy: secondly, swallowing from others what thou hast not taken time enough nor exercise enough to digest.
Lay before me the particular things you accuse me of drawing from others.
Thy opinions on numbers are distorted from those of the Chaldeans, Babylonians, and Syrians; who believe that numbers, and letters too, have peculiar powers, independent of what is represented by them on the surface.
I have said more, and often differently.
Thou hast indeed. Neither they nor Pythagoras ever taught, as thou hast done, that the basis of the earth is an equilateral triangle, and the basis of water a rectangular. We are then informed by thy sagacity, that" the world has no need of eyes, because nothing is left to be looked at out of it; nor of ears, because nothing can be heard beyond it; nor of any parts for the reception, concoction, and voidance, of nutriment; because there can be no secretion nor accretion."*
This indeed is very providential. If things were otherwise, foul might befall your genii, who are always on active service: a world would not bespatter them so lightly as we mortals are bespattered by a swallow. Whatever is assarted on things tangible, should be asserted from experiment only. Thou shouldst have defended better that which thou hast stolen: a thief should not only have impudence, but courage.
What do you mean ?
I mean that every one of thy whimsies hath been picked up somewhere by thee in thy travels; and each of them hath been rendered more weak and puny by its place of concealment in thy closet. What thou hast written on the immortality of the soul goes rather to prove the immortality of the body; and applies as well to the body of a weasel or an eel as to the fairer one of Agathon or of Aster. Why not at once introduce a new religion?* since religions keep and are relished in proportion as they are salted with absurdity, inside and out? and all of them must have one great crystal of it for the centre; but Philosophy pines and dies unless she drinks limpid water. When Pherecydes and Pythagoras felt in themselves the majesty of contemplation, they spurned the idea that flesh and bones and arteries should confer it: and that what comprehends the past and the future should sink in a moment and be annihilated for ever. ‘No,’ cried they, ‘the power of thinking is no more in the brain than in the hair, although the brain may be the instrument on which it plays. It is not corporeal, it is not of this world; its existence is eternity, its residence is infinity.’ I forbear to discuss the rationality of their belief, and pass on straightway to thine; if, indeed, I am to consider as one, belief and doctrine.
As you will.
I should rather, then, regard these things as mere ornaments; just as many decorate their apartments with lyres and harps, which they themselves look at from the couch, supinely complacent, and leave for visitors to admire and play on.
I foresee not how you can disprove my argument on the immortality of the soul, which, being contained in the best of my dialogues, and being often asked for among my friends, I carry with me.
At this time?
Give me then a certain part of it for my perusal.
Hermes and Pallas! I wanted but a cubit of it, or at most a fathom, and thou art pulling it out by the plethron.
This is the place in question.
"Sayest thou not that death is the opposite of life, and that they spring the one from the other?" "Yes." "What springs then from the living?" "The dead." "And what from the dead?" "The living." "Then all things alive spring from the dead."
Why the repetition? but go on.
"Souls therefore exist after death in the infernal regions."
Where is the therefore? where is it even as to existence? As to the infernal regions, there is nothing that points toward a proof, or promises an indication. Death neither springs from life, nor life from death. Although death is the inevitable consequence of life, if the observation and experience of ages go for anything, yet nothing shows us, or ever hath signified, that life comes from death. Thou mightest as well say that a barley-corn dies before the germ of another barley-corn grows up from it, than which nothing is more untrue; for it is only the protecting part of the germ that perishes, when its protection is no longer necessary. The consequence, that souls exist after death, cannot be drawn from the corruption of the body, even if it were demonstrable that out of this corruption a live one could rise up. Thou hast not said that the soul is among those dead things which living things must spring from; thou hast not said that a living soul produces a dead soul, or that a dead soul produces a living one.
On my faith, thou hast said, however, things no less inconsiderate, no less inconsequent, no less unwise; and this very thing must be said and proved, to make thy argument of any value. Do dead men beget children?
I have not said it.
Thy argument implies it.
These are high mysteries, and to be approached with reverence.
Whatever we cannot account for is in the same predicament. We may be gainers by being ignorant if we can be thought mysterious. It is better to shake our heads and to let nothing out of them, than to be plain and explicit in matters of difficulty. I do not mean in confessing our ignorance or our imperfect knowledge of them, but in clearing them up perspicuously: for, if we answer with ease, we may haply be thought good-natured, quick, communicative; never deep, never sagacious; not very defective possibly in our intellectual faculties, yet unequal and chinky, and liable to the probation of every clown’s knuckle.
The brightest of stars appear the most unsteady and tremulous in their light; not from any quality inherent in themselves, but from the vapours that float below, and from the imperfection of vision in the surveyor.
To the stars again ! Draw thy robe round thee; let the folds fall gracefully, and look majestic. That sentence is an admirable one; but not for me. I want sense, not stars. What then? Do no vapours float below the others? and is there no imperfection in the vision of those who look at them, if they are the same men, and look the next moment? We must move on: I shall follow the dead bodies, and the benighted driver of their fantastic bier, close and keen as any hyena.
Certainly, O Diogenes, you excel me in elucidations and similes: mine was less obvious. Lycaon became against his will, what you become from pure humanity.
When Humanity is averse to Truth, a fig for her.
Many, who profess themselves her votaries, have made her a less costly offering.
Thou hast said well, and I will treat thee gently for it.
I may venture then in defence of my compositions, to argue that neither simple metaphysics nor strict logic would be endured long together in a dialogue.
Few people can endure them anywhere: but whatever is contradictory to either is intolerable. The business of a good writer is to make them pervade his works, without obstruction to his force or impediment to his facility ; to divest them of their forms, and to mingle their potency in every particle. I must acknowledge that, in matters of love, thy knowledge is twice as extensive as mine is: yet nothing I ever heard is so whimsical and silly as thy description of its effects upon the soul, under the influence of beauty. The wings of the soul, thou tellest us, are bedewed; and certain germs of theirs expand from every part of it.
The only thing I know about the soul is, that it makes the ground slippery under us when we discourse on it, by virtue (I presume) of this bedewing; and beauty does not assist us materially in rendering our steps the steddier.
Diogenes! you are the only man that admires not the dignity and stateliness of my expressions.
Thou hast many admirers; but either they never have read thee, or do not understand thee, or are fond of fallacies, or are incapable of detecting them. I would rather hear the murmur of insects in the grass than the clatter and trilling of cymbals and timbrels over-head. The tiny animals I watch with composure, and guess their business: the brass awakes me only to weary me: I wish it under-ground again, and the parchment on the sheep's back.
My sentences, it is acknowledged by all good judges, are well constructed and harmonious.
I admit it: I have also heard it said that thou art eloquent.
If style, without elocution, can be.
Neither without nor with elocution is there eloquence, where there is no ardour, no impulse, no energy, no concentration. Eloquence raises the whole man: thou raisest our eyebrows only. We wonder, we applaud, we walk away, and we forget. Thy eggs are very prettily speckled; but those which men use for their sustenance are plain white ones. People do not every day put on their smartest dresses; they are not always in trim for dancing, nor are they practising their steps in all places. I profess to be no weaver of fine words, no dealer in the plumes of phraseology, yet every man and every woman I speak to understands me.
Which would not always be the case if the occulter operations of the human mind were the subject.
If what is occult must be occult for ever, why throw away words about it ? Employ on every occasion the simplest and easiest, and range them in the most natural order. Thus they will serve thee faithfully, bringing thee many hearers and readers from the intellectual and uncorrupted. All popular orators, victorious commanders, crowned historians, and poets above crowning, have done it. Homer, for the glory of whose birthplace none but the greatest cities dared contend, is alike the highest and the easiest in poetry. Herodotus, who brought into Greece more knowledge of distant countries than any or indeed than all before him, is the plainest and gracefulest in prose. Aristoteles, thy scholar, is possessor of a long and lofty treasury, with many windings and many vaults at the sides of them, abstruse and dark. He is unambitious of displaying his wealth; and few are strong-wristed enough to turn the key of his iron chests. Whenever he presents to his reader one full-blown thought, there are several buds about it which are to open in the cool of the study; and he makes you learn more than he teaches.
I can never say that I admire his language.
Thou wilt never say it; but thou dost. His language, where he wishes it to be harmonious, is highly so : and there are many figures of speech exquisitely beautiful, but simple and unobtrusive. You see what a fine head of hair he might have if he would not cut it so short. Is there as much true poetry in all thy works, prose and verse, as in that Scolion of his on Virtue ?
I am less invidious than he is.
He may indeed have caught the infection of malignity, which all who live in the crowd, whether of a court or a school, are liable to contract. We had dismissed that question: we had buried the mortal and corruptible part of him, and were looking into the litter which contains his true and everlasting effigy : and tliis effigy the strongest and noblest minds will carry by relays to interminable generations. We were speaking of his thoughts and what conveys them. His language then, in good truth, differs as much from that which we find in thy dialogues, as wine in the goblet differs from wine spilt upon the table. With thy leave, I would rather drink than lap.
Methinks such preference is contrary to your nature.
Ah Plato! I ought to be jealous of thee, finding that two in this audience can smile at thy wit, and not one at mine.
I would rather be serious, but that my seriousness is provocative of your moroseness. Detract from me as much as can be detracted by the most hostile to my philosophy, stil it is beyond the power of any man to suppress or to conceal from the admiration of the world the amplitude and grandour of my language.
Thou remindest me of a cavern I once entered. The mouth was spacious; and many dangling weeds and rampant briers caught me by the hair above, and by the beard below, and flapped my face on each side. I found it in some places flat and sandy; in some rather miry; in others I bruised my shins against little pointed pinnacles, or larger and smoother round stones. Many were the windings, and deep the darkness. Several men came forward with long poles and lighted torches on them, promising to show innumerable gems, on the roof and along the sides, to some ingenuous youths whom they conducted. I thought I was lucky, and went on among them. Most of the gems turned out to be drops of water; bnt some were a little more solid. These however in general gave way and crumbled under the touch; and most of the remainder lost all their brightness by the smoke of the torches underneath. The farther I went in, the fouler grew the air and the dimmer the torchlight. Leaving it, and the youths, and the guides and the long poles, I stood a moment in wonder at the vast number of names and verses graven at the opening, and forbore to insert the ignoble one of Diogenes.
The vulgar indeed and the fashionable do call such language as thine the noblest and most magnificent: the scholastic bend over it in paleness, and with the right hand upon the breast, at its unfathomable depth: but what would a man of plain simple sound understanding say upon it ? what would a metaphysician ? what would a logician ? what would Pericles ? Truly, he had taken thee by the arm, and kissed that broad well- perfumed forehead, for filling up with light (as thou wouldst say) the dimple in the cheek of Aspasia, and for throwing such a gadfly in the current of her conversation. She was of a different sect from thee both in religion and in love, and both her language and her dress were plainer.
She, like yourself, worshiped no deity in public: and probably both she and Aristoteles find the more favour with you from the laxity of their opinions in regard to the Powers above. The indifference of Aristoteles to religion may perhaps be the reason why King Philip bespoke him so early for the tuition of his successor; on whom, destined as he is to pursue the conquests of the father, moral and religious obligations might be incommodious.
Kings who kiss the toes of the most gods, and the most zealously, never find any such incommodiousness. In courts, religious ceremonies cover with their embroidery moral obligations ; and the most dishonest and the most libidinous and the most sanguinary kings (to say nothing of private men) have usually been the most punctual worshipers.
There may be truth in these words. We however know your contempt for religious acts and ceremonies, which, if you do not comply with them, you should at least respect, by way of an example.
What! if a man lies to me, should I respect the lie for the sake of an example ! Should I be guilty of duplicity for the sake of an example! Did I ever omit to attend the Thesmophoria ? the only religious rite worthy of a wise man's attendance. It displays the union of industry and law. Here is no fraud, no fallacy, no filching: the gods are worshipt for their best gifts, and do not stand with open palms for ours. I neither laugh nor wonder at anyone's folly. To laugh at it, is childish or inhumane, according to its nature; and to wonder at it, would be a greater folly than itself, whatever it may be.
Must I go on with incoherencies and inconsistences ?
I am not urgent with you.
Then I will reward thee the rather.
Thou makest poor Socrates tell us that a beautiful vase is inferior to a beautiful horse; and as a beautiful horse is inferior to a beautiful maiden, in like manner a beautiful maiden is inferior in beauty to the immortal gods.
No doubt, O Diogenes !
Thou hast whimsical ideas of beauty : but, understanding the word as all Athenians and all inhabitants of Hellas understand it, there is no analogy between a horse and a vase. Understanding it as thou perhaps mayest choose to do on the occasion, understanding it as applicable to the service and utility of man and gods, the vase may be applied to more frequent and more noble purposes than the horse. It may delight men in health; it may administer to them in sickness; it may pour out before the protectors of families and of cities the wine of sacrifice. But if it is the quality and essence of beauty to gratify the sight, there are certainly more persons who can receive gratification from the appearance of a beautiful vase than of a beautiful horse. Xerxes brought into Hellas with him thousands of beautiful horses and many beautiful vases. Supposing now that all the horses which were beautiful seemed so to all good judges of their symmetry, it is probable that scarcely one man in fifty would fix his eyes attentively on one horse in fifty; but undoubtedly there were vases in the tents of Xerxes which would have attracted all the eyes in the army and have filled them with admiration. I say nothing of the women, who in Asiatic armies are as numerous as the men, and who would every one admire the vases, while few admired the horses. Yet women are as good judges of what is beautiful as thou art, and for the most part on the same principles. But, repeating that there is no analogy between the two objects, I must insist that there can be no just comparison: and I trust 1 have clearly demonstrated that the postulate is not to be conceded. We will nevertheless carry on the argument and examination : for " the beautiful virgin is inferior in beauty to the immortal gods." Is not Vulcan an immortal god ? are not the Furies and Discord immortal goddesses? Ay, by my troth are they; and there never was any city and scarcely any family on earth to which they were long invisible. Wouldst thou prefer them to a golden cup, or even to a cup from the potter's ? Would it require one with a dance of Bacchanals under the pouting rim ? would it require one foretasted by Agathon? Let us descend from the deities to the horses. Thy dress is as well adapted to horsemanship as thy words are in general to discourse. Such as thou art would run out of the horse's way; and such as know thee best would put the vase out of thme.
So then, I am a thief, it appears, not only of men's notions, but of their vases !
Nay, nay, my good Plato ! Thou hast however the frailty of concupiscence for things tangible and intangible, and thou likest well-turned vases no less than well-turned sentences: therefor they who know thee would leave no temptation in thy way, to the disturbance and detriment of thy soul. Away with the horse and vase! we will come together to the quarters of the virgin. Faith ! my friend, if we find her only just as beautiful as some of the goddesses we were naming, her virginity will be as immortal as their divinity.
I have given a reason for my supposition.
What is it ?
Because there is a beauty incorruptible, and for ever the same.
Visible beauty ? beauty cognisable in the same sense as of vases and of horses ? beauty that in degree and in quality can be compared with theirs ? Is there any positive proof that the gods possess it ? and all of them ? and all equally ? Are there any points of resemblance between Jupiter and the daughter of Acrisius ? any between Hate and Hebe ? whose sex being the same brings them somewhat nearer. In like manner thou confoundest the harmony of music with symmetry in what is visible and tangible: and thou teachest the stars how to dance to their own compositions, enlivened by fugues and variations from thy master-hand. This, in the opinion of thy boy scholars, is sublimity! Truly it is the sublimity which he attains who is hurled into the air ftom a ballista. Changing my ground, and perhaps to thy advantage, in the name of Socrates I come forth against thee; not for using him as a wide-mouthed mask, stuffed with gibes and quibbles; not for making him the most sophistical of sophists, or (as thou hast done frequently) the most improvident of statesmen and the worst of citizens; my accusation and indictment is, for representing him, who had distinguisht himself on the field of battle above the bravest and most experienced of the Athenian leaders (particularly at Delion and Potidea), as more ignorant of warfare than the worst-fledged crane that fought against the Pygmies.
I am not conscious of having done it.
I believe thee: but done it thou hast. The language of Socrates was attic and simple: he hated the verbosity and refinement of wranglers and rhetoricians; and never would he have attributed to Aspasia, who thought and spoke like Pericles, and whose elegance and judgment thou thyself hast commended, the chaff and litter thou hast tossed about with so much wind and wantonness, in thy dialogue of Menexenw. Now, to omit the other fooleries in it, Aspasia would have laught to scorn the most ignorant of her tire-women, who should have related to her the story thou tellest in her name, about the march of the Persians round the territory of Eretria. This narrative seems to thee so happy an attempt at history, that thou betrayest no small fear lest the reader should take thee at thy word, and lest Aspasia should in reality rob thee or Socrates of the glory due for it.
Where lies the fault ?
If the Persians had marched, as thou describest them, forming a circle, and from sea to sea, with their hands joined together; fourscore shepherds with their dogs, their rams, and their bell-wethers, might have killed them all, coming against them from points well-chosen. As, however, great part of the Persians were horsemen, which thou appearest to have quite forgotten, how could they go in single line with their hands joined, unless they lay flat upon their backs along the backs of their horses, and unless the horses themselves went tail to tail, one pulling on the other ? Even then the line would be interrupted, and only two could join hands. A pretty piece of net-work is here! and the only defect I can find in it is, that it would help the fish to catch the fisherman.
This is an abuse of wit, if there be any wit in it.
I doubt whether there is any; for the only man that hears it does not smile. We will be serious then. Such nonsense, delivered in a school of philosophy, might be the less derided; but it is given us as an oration, held before an Athenian army, to the honour of those who fell in battle. The beginning of the speech is cold and languid : the remainder is worse; it is learned and scholastic.
Is learning worse in oratory than languor ?
Incomparably, in the praises of the dead who died bravely, played off before those who had just been fighting in the same ranks. What we most want in this business is sincerity; what we want least are things remote from the action. Men may be cold by nature, and languid from exhaustion, from grief itself, from watchfulness, from pity; but they can not be idling and wandering about other times and nations, when their brothers and sons and bosom-friends are brought lifeless into the city, and the least inquisitive, the least sensitive, are hanging immovably over their recent wounds. Then burst forth their names from the full heart; their fathers' names come next, hallowed with lauds and benedictions that flow over upon their whole tribe; then are lifted their helmets and turned round to the spectators; for the grass is fastened to them by their blood, and it is befitting to show the people how they must have struggled to rise up, and to fight afresh for their country. Without the virtues of courage and patriotism, the seeds of such morality as is fruitful and substantial spring up thinly, languidly, and ineffectually. The images of great men should be stationed throughout the works of great historians.
According to your numeration, the great men are scanty: and pray, O Diogenes ! are they always at hand ?
Prominent men always are. Catch them and hold them fast, when thou canst find none better. Whoever hath influenced the downfall or decline of a commonwealth, whoever hath altered in any degree its social state, should be brought before the high tribunal of History.
Very mean intellects have accomplished these things. Not only battering-rams have loosened the walls of cities, but foxes and rabbits have done the same. Vulgar and vile men have been elevated to power by circumstances: would you introduce the vnlgar and vile into the pages you expect to be immortal ?
They never can blow out immortality. Criminals do not deform by their presence the strong and stately edifices in which they are incarcerated. I look above them and see the image of Justice: I rest my arm against the plinth where the protectress of cities raises her spear by the judgment-seat. Thou art not silent on the vile; but delightest in bringing them out before us, and in reducing their betters to the same condition.
I am no writer of history.
Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost what subject he may. He carries with him for thousands of years a portion of his times: and indeed if only his own effigy were there, it would be greatly more than a fragment of his country.
In all thy writings I can discover no mention of Epaminondas, who vanquished thy enslavers the Lacedaemonians; nor of Thrasybulus, who expelled the murderers of thy preceptor. Whenever thou again displayest a specimen of thy historical researches, do not utterly overlook the fact that these excellent men were living in thy days; that they fought against thy enemies; that they rescued thee from slavery; that thou art indebted to them for the whole estate of this interminable robe, with its valleys and hills and wastes; for these perfumes that overpower all mine; and moreover for thy house, thy grove, thy auditors, thy admirers and thy admired.
Thrasybulus, with many noble qualities, had great faults.
Great men too often have greater faults than little men can find room for.
Epaminondas was undoubtedly a momentous man, and formidable to Lacedaemon, but Pelopidas shared his glory.
How ready we all are with our praises when a cake is to be divided; if it is not ours !
I acknowledge his magnanimity, his integrity, his political skill, his military services, and, above all, his philosophical turn of mind: but since his countrymen, who knew him best, have until recently been silent on the transcendency of his merits, I think I may escape from obloquy in leaving them unnoticed. His glorious death appears to have excited more enthusiastic acclamation than his patriotic heroism.
The sun colors the sky most deeply and most diffusely when he hath sunk below the horizon; and they who never said " How beneficently he shines!" say at last, " How brightly he set!" They who believe that their praise gives immortality, and who know that it gives celebrity and distinction, are iniquitous and flagitious in withdrawing it from such exemplary men, such self-devoted citizens, as Epaminondas and Thrasybulus.
Great writers are gifted with that golden wand which neither ages can corrode nor violence rend asunder, and are commanded to point with it toward the head (be it lofty or low) which nations are to contemplate and to revere.
I should rather have conceived from you that the wand ought to designate those who merit the hatred of their species.
This too is another of its offices, no less obligatory and sacred.
Not only have I particularised such faults as I could investigate and detect, but in that historical fragment, which I acknowledge to be mine (although I left it in abeyance between Socrates and Aspasia), I have lauded the courage aud conduct of our people.
Thou recountest the glorious deeds of the Athenians by sea and land, staidly and circumstantially, as if the Athenians themselves, or any nation of the universe, could doubt them. Let orators do this when some other shall have rivalled them, which, as it never hath happened in the myriads of generations that have passed away, is never likely to happen in the myriads that will follow. From Asia, from Africa, fifty nations came forward in a body, and assailed the citizens of one scanty city: fifty nations fled from before them. All the wealth and power of the world, all the civilisation, all the barbarism, were leagued against Athens; the ocean was covered with their pride and spoils; the earth trembled; mountains were severed, distant coasts united: Athens gave to Nature her own again: and equal laws were the unalienable dowry brought by Liberty, to the only men capable of her defence or her enjoyment. Did Pericles, did Aspasia, did Socrates foresee, that the descendents of those, whose heroes and gods were at best but like them, should enter into the service of Persian satraps, and become the parasites of Sicilian kings ?
Pythagoras, the most temperate and retired of mortals, entered the courts of princes.
True; he entered them and cleansed them: his breath was lustration; his touch purified. He persuaded the princes of Italv to renounce their self-constituted and unlawful authority : in effecting which purpose, thou must acknowledge, O Plato, that either he was more eloquent than thou art, or that he was juster. If, being in the confidence of a usurper, which in itself is among the most hainous of crimes, since they virtually are outlaws, thou never gavest him such counsel at thy ease and leisure as Pythagoras gave at the peril of his life, thou in this likewise wert wanting to thy duty as an Athenian, a republican, a philosopher. If thou offeredst it, and it was rejected, and after the rejection them yet tarriedst with him, then wert thou, friend Plato, an importunate sycophant and self-bound slave.
I never heard that you blamed Euripides in this manner for frequenting the court of Archelaüs.
I have heard thee blame him for it; and this brings down on thee my indignation. Poets, by the constitution of their minds, are neither acute reasoners nor firmly-minded. Their vocation was allied to sycophancy from the beginning: they sang at the tables of the rich : and he who could not make a hero could not make a dinner. Those who are possest of enthusiasm are fond of everything that excites it; hence poets are fond of festivals, of wine, of beauty, and of glory. They can not always make their selection; and generally they are little disposed to make it, from indolence of character. Theirs partakes less than others of the philosophical and the heroic. What wonder if Euripides hated those who deprived him of his right, in adjudging the prize of tragedy to his competitor ? From hating the arbitrators who committed the injustice, he proceded to hate the people who countenanced it. The whole frame of government is bad to those who have suffered under any part. Archelaus praised Euripides's poetry: he therefor liked Archelaüs: the Athenians bantered his poetry: therefor he disliked the Athenians. Beside, he could not love those who killed his friend and teacher : if thou canst, I hope thy love may be for ever without a rival.
He might surely have found, in some republic of Greece, the friend who would have sympathized with him.
He might: nor have I any more inclination to commend his choice than thou hast right to condemn it. Terpander and Thales and Pherecydes were at Sparta with Lycurgus: and thou too, Plato, mightest have found in Greece a wealthy wise man ready to receive thee, or (where words are more acceptable) an unwise wealthy one. Why dost thou redden and bite thy lip ? Wouldst thou rather give instruction, or not give it ?
I would rather give it, where I could.
Wouldst thou rather give it to those who have it already, and do not need it, or to those who have it not, and do need it?
To these latter.
Impart it then to the unwise; and to those who are wealthy in preference to the rest, as they require it most, and can do most good with it.
Is not this a contradiction to your own precepts, O Diogenes ? Have you not been censuring me, I need not say how severely, for my intercourse with Dionysius? and yet surely he was wealthy, surely he required the advice of a philosopher, surely he could have done much good with it.
An Athenian is more degraded by becoming the counsellor of a king, than a king is degraded by becoming the schoolmaster of paupers in a free city. Such people as Dionysius are to be approached by the brave and honest from two motives only: to convince them of their inutility, or to slay them for their iniquity. Our fathers and ourselves have witnessed in more than one country the curses of kingly power. All nations, all cities, all communities, should enter into one great hunt, like that of the Scythians at the approach of winter, and should follow it up unrelentingly to its perdition. The diadem should designate the victim: all who wear it, all who offer it, all who bow to it, should perish. The smallest, the poorest, the least accessible village, whose cottages are indistinguishable from the rocks around, should offer a reward for the heads of these monsters, as for the wolf's, the kite's, and the viper's.
Thou tellest us, in thy fourth book on Polity, that it matters but little whether a state be governed by many or one, if the one is obedient to the laws. Why hast not thou likewise told us, that it little matters whether the sun bring us heat or cold, if he ripens the fruits of the earth by cold as perfectly as by heat ? Demonstrate that he does it, and I subscribe to the proposition. Demonstrate that kings, by their nature and education, are obedient to the laws; bear them patiently; deem them no impediment to their wishes, designs, lusts, violences; that a whole series of monarchs hath been of this character and condition, wherever a whole series hath been permitted to continue; that under them independence of spirit, dignity of mind, rectitude of conduct, energy of character, truth of expression, and even lower and lighter things, eloquence, poetry, sculpture, painting, have flourished more exuberantly than among the free. On the contrary, some of the best princes have rescinded the laws they themselves introduced and sanctioned. Impatient of restraint and order are even the quiet and inert of the species.
There is a restlessness in inactivity: we must find occupation for kings.
Open the fold to them and they will find it themselves: there will be plenty of heads and shanks on the morrow. I do not see why those who, directly or indirectly, would promote a kingly government, should escape the penalty of death, whenever it can be inflicted, any more than those who decoy men into slave-ships.
Supposing me to have done it, I have used no deception.
What! it is no deception to call people out of their homes, to offer them a good supper and good beds if they will go along with thee; to take the key out of the house-door, that they may not have the trouble of bearing the weight of it; to show them plainly through the window the hot supper and comfortable bed, to which indeed the cook and chamberlain do beckon and invite them, but inform them however on.entering, it is only on condition that they never stir a foot beyond the supper-room and bed-room; to be conscious, as thou must be, when they desire to have rather their own key again, eat their own lentils, sleep on their own pallet, that thy friends the cook and chamberlain have forged the title-deeds, mortgaged the house and homestead, given the lentils to the groom, made a horse-cloth of the coverlet and a manger of the pallet; that, on the first complaint against such an apparent injury (for at present they think and call it one), the said cook and chamberlain seize them by the hair, strip, scourge, imprison, and gag them, showing them through the grating what capital dishes are on the table for the more deserving, what an appetite the fames stir up, and how sensible men fold their arms upon the breast contentedly, and slumber soundly after the carousal.
People may exercise their judgment.
People may spend their money. All people have not much money; all people have not much judgment. It is cruel to prey or impose on those who have little of either. There is nothing so absurd that the ignorant have not believed: they have believed, and will believe for ever, what thou wouldst teach : namely, that others who never saw them, never are likely to see them, will care more about them than they should care about themselves. This pernicious fraud begins with perverting the intellect, and proceeds with seducing and corrupting the affections, which it transfers from the nearest to the most remote, from the dearest to the most indifferent. It enthrals the freedom both of mind and body; it annihilates not only political and moral, but, what nothing else however monstrous can do, even arithmetical proportions, making a unit more than a million. Odious is it in a parent to murder or sell a child, even in time of famine: but to sell him in the midst of plenty, to lay his throat at the mercy of a wild and riotous despot, to whet and kiss and present the knife that immolates him, and to ask the same favour of being immolated for the whole family in perpetuity, is not this an abomination ten thousand times more execrable ?
Let Falsehood be eternally the enemy of Truth, but not eternally her mistress: let Power be eternally the despiser of Weakness, but not eternally her oppressor: let Genius be eternally in the train or in the trammels of Wealth, but not eternally his sycophant and his pander.
What a land is Attica! in which the kings themselves were the mildest and best citizens, and resigned the sceptre; deeming none other worthy of supremacy than the wisest and most warlike of the immortal Gods. In Attica the olive and corn were first cultivated.
Like other Athenians, thou art idly fond of dwelling on the antiquity of the people, and wouldst fain persuade thyself, not only that the first corn and olive, but even that the first man, sprang from Attica. I rather think that what historians call the emigration of the Pelasgians under Danaiis, was the emigration of those ‘shepherds,’ as they continued to be denominated, who, having long kept possession of Egypt, were besieged in the city of Aoudris, by Thoutmosis, and retired by capitulation. These probably were of Chaldaic origin. Danaus, like every wise legislator, introduced such religious rites as were adapted to the country in which he settled. The ancient being once relaxed, admission was made gradually for honoring the brave and beneficent, who in successive generations extended the boundary of the colonists, and defended them against the resentment and reprisal of the native chieftains.
This may be; but evidence is wanting.