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[62a] anything definite about it.”

“You must have courage,” said he, “and perhaps you might hear something. But perhaps it will seem strange to you that this alone of all laws is without exception, and it never happens to mankind, as in other matters, that only at some times and for some persons it is better to die than to live; and it will perhaps seem strange to you that these human beings for whom it is better to die cannot without impiety do good to themselves, but must wait for some other benefactor.”

And Cebes, smiling gently, said, “Gawd knows it doos,” speaking in his own dialect.

“It would seem unreasonable, if put in this way,” said Socrates, [62b] “but perhaps there is some reason in it. Now the doctrine that is taught in secret about this matter, that we men are in a kind of prison and must not set ourselves free or run away, seems to me to be weighty and not easy to understand. But this at least, Cebes, I do believe is sound, that the gods are our guardians and that we men are one of the chattels of the gods. Do you not believe this?”

“Yes,” said Cebes, [62c] “I do.”

“Well then,” said he, “if one of your chattels should kill itself when you had not indicated that you wished it to die, would you be angry with it and punish it if you could?”

“Certainly,” he replied.

“Then perhaps from this point of view it is not unreasonable to say that a man must not kill himself until god sends some necessity upon him, such as has now come upon me.”

“That,” said Cebes, “seems sensible. But what you said just now, Socrates, that philosophers ought to be ready and willing to die, that seems [62d] strange if we were right just now in saying that god is our guardian and we are his possessions. For it is not reasonable that the wisest men should not be troubled when they leave that service in which the gods, who are the best overseers in the world, are watching over them. A wise man certainly does not think that when he is free he can take better care of himself than they do. A foolish man might perhaps think so, that he ought to run away from his master, [62e] and he would not consider that he must not run away from a good master, but ought to stay with him as long as possible; and so he might thoughtlessly run away; but a man of sense would wish to be always with one who is better than himself. And yet, Socrates, if we look at it in this way, the contrary of what we just said seems natural; for the wise ought to be troubled at dying and the foolish to rejoice.”

When Socrates heard this

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