previous next
[396a] and in other ways sinning against themselves and others in word and deed after the fashion of such men. And I take it they must not form the habit of likening themselves to madmen either in words nor yet in deeds. For while knowledge they must have1 both of mad and bad men and women, they must do and imitate nothing of this kind.” “Most true,” he said. “What of this?” I said, “—are they to imitate smiths and other craftsmen or the rowers of triremes and those who call the time to them or other things [396b] connected therewith?” “How could they,” he said, “since it will be forbidden them even to pay any attention to such things?” “Well, then, neighing horses2 and lowing bulls, and the noise of rivers and the roar of the sea and the thunder and everything of that kind—will they imitate these?” “Nay, they have been forbidden,” he said, “to be mad or liken themselves to madmen.” “If, then, I understand your meaning,” said I, “there is a form of diction and narrative in which [396c] the really good and true man would narrate anything that he had to say, and another form unlike this to which the man of the opposite birth and breeding would cleave and which he would tell his story.” “What are these forms?” he said. “A man of the right sort, I think, when he comes in the course of his narrative to some word or act of a good man will be willing to impersonate the other in reporting it, and will feel no shame at that kind of mimicry, by preference imitating the good man [396d] when he acts steadfastly and sensibly, and less and more reluctantly when he is upset by sickness or love or drunkenness or any other mishap. But when he comes to someone unworthy of himself, he will not wish to liken himself in earnest to one who is inferior,3 except in the few cases where he is doing something good, but will be embarrassed both because he is unpractised in the mimicry of such characters, and also because he shrinks in distaste from molding and fitting himself the types of baser things. [396e] His mind disdains them, unless it be for jest.4” “Naturally,” he said.

“Then the narrative that he will employ will be the kind that we just now illustrated by the verses of Homer, and his diction will be one that partakes of both, of imitation and simple narration, but there will be a small portion of imitation in a long discourse—or is there nothing in what I say?” “Yes, indeed,5” he said, that is the type and pattern of such a speaker.” “Then,” said I,

1 Cf. Laws 816 D-E.

2 For this rejection of violent realism Cf. Laws 669 C-D. Plato describes exactly what Verhaeren's admirers approve: “often in his rhythm can be heard the beat of hammers, the hard, edged, regular whizzing of wheels, the whirring of looms, the hissing of locomotives; often the wild, restless tumult of the streets, the humming and rumbling of dense masses of people.” (Stefan Zweig). So another modern critic celebrates “the cry of a baby in a Strauss symphony, the sneers and snarls of his critics in his Helden Leben, the contortions of the Dragon in Wagner's Siegfried .”

3 Chaucer drew from a misapplication of Timaeus 29 B or Boethius the opposite moral: “Who shall telle a tale after a man,/ He most reherse, as neighe as ever he can,/ Everich word, if it be in his charge,/ All speke he never so rudely and so large;/ . . . Eke Plato sayeth, who so can him rede,/ The words most ben cosin to the dede./”

4 Plato, like Howells and some other modern novelists, would have thought somewhat gross comedy less harmful than the tragedy or romance that insidiously instils false ideals.

5 The respondent plays on the double meaning of οὐδὲν λέγεις and replies, “Yes indeed you do say something, namely the type and pattern,” etc.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: