as laid down both by law and by argument. Now as to what are called our “serious” poets, the tragedians,—suppose that some of them were to approach us and put some such question as this,—“O Strangers, are we, or are we not, to pay visits to your city and country, and traffic in poetry? Or what have you decided to do about this?” What would be the right answer to make to these inspired persons regarding the matter? In my judgment, this should be the answer,1
—“Most excellent of Strangers,
we ourselves, to the best of our ability, are the authors of a tragedy at once superlatively fair and good; at least, all our polity is framed as a representation of the fairest and best life, which is in reality, as we assert, the truest tragedy. Thus we are composers of the same things as yourselves, rivals of yours as artists and actors of the fairest drama, which, as our hope is, true law, and it alone, is by nature competent to complete.
Do not imagine, then, that we will ever thus lightly allow you to set up your stage beside us in the marketplace, and give permission to those imported actors of yours, with their dulcet tones and their voices louder than ours, to harangue women and children and the whole populace, and to say not the same things as we say about the same institutions, but, on the contrary, things that are, for the most part, just the opposite. In truth, both we ourselves and the whole State
would be absolutely mad, were it to allow you to do as I have said, before the magistrates had decided whether or not your compositions are deserving of utterance and suited for publication. So now, ye children and offspring of Muses mild, do ye first display your chants side by side with ours before the rulers; and if your utterances seem to be the same as ours or better, then we will grant you a chorus,2
but if not, my friends, we can never do so.”
Let such, then, be the customs ordained to go with the laws regarding all choristry and the learning thereof—keeping distinct those for slaves and those for masters,—if you agree.Clinias
Of course we now agree to it.Athenian
There still remain, for the freeborn, three branches of learning: of these the first is reckoning and arithmetic; the second is the art of measuring length and surface and solid; the third deals with the course of the stars, and how they naturally travel in relation to one another.