10. “Now when I heard that his wife had given him this answer, I exclaimed; ‘Upon my word, Ischomachus, your wife has a truly masculine mind by your showing!'“‘Yes,’ said Ischomachus, ‘and I am prepared to give you other examples of high-mindedness on her part, when a word from me was enough to secure her instant obedience.’“‘Tell me what they are,’ I cried; ‘for if Zeuxis showed me a fair woman's portrait painted by his own hand, it would not give me half the pleasure I derive from the contemplation of a living woman's virtues.’  “Thereupon Ischomachus took up his parable. ‘Well, one day, Socrates, I noticed that her face was made up: she had rubbed in white lead in order to look even whiter than she is, and alkanet juice to heighten the rosy colour of her cheeks; and she was wearing boots with thick soles to increase her height.  So I said to her, “Tell me, my dear, how should I appear more worthy of your love as a partner in our goods, by disclosing to you our belongings just as they are, without boasting of imaginary possessions or concealing any part of what we have, or by trying to trick you with an exaggerated account, showing you bad money and gilt necklaces and describing clothes that will fade as real purple?”  ““‘Hush!” she broke in immediately, “pray don't be like that—I could not love you with all my heart if you were like that!”““‘Then, are we not joined together by another bond of union, dear, to be partners in our bodies?”  ““‘The world says so, at any rate.”““‘How then should I seem more worthy of your love in this partnership of the body—by striving to have my body hale and strong when I present it to you, and so literally to be of a good countenance in your sight, or by smearing my cheeks with red lead and painting myself under the eyes with rouge before I show myself to you and clasp you in my arms, cheating you and offering to your eyes and hands red lead instead of my real flesh?”  ““‘Oh,” she cried, “I would sooner touch you than red lead, would sooner see your own colour than rouge, would sooner see your eyes bright than smeared with grease.”  ““‘Then please assume, my dear, that I do not prefer white paint and dye of alkanet to your real colour; but just as the gods have made horses to delight in horses, cattle in cattle, sheep in sheep, so human beings find the human body undisguised most delightful.  Tricks like these may serve to gull outsiders, but people who live together are bound to be found out, if they try to deceive one another. For they are found out while they are dressing in the morning; they perspire and are lost; a tear convicts them; the bath reveals them as they are!’”“‘And, pray, what did she say to that?’  I asked.“‘Nothing,’ he said, ‘only she gave up such practices from that day forward, and tried to let me se her undisguised and as she should be. Still, she did ask whether I could advise her on one point: how she might make herself really beautiful, instead of merely seeming to be so.  And this was my advice, Socrates: “Don't sit about for ever like a slave, but try, God helping you, to behave as a mistress: stand before the loom and be ready to instruct those who know less than you, and to learn from those who know more: look after the bakingmaid: stand by the housekeeper when she is serving out stores: go round and see whether everything is in its place.” For I thought that would give her a walk as well as occupation.  I also said it was excellent exercise to mix flour and knead dough; and to shake and fold cloaks and bedclothes; such excercise would give her a better appetite, improve her health, and add natural colour to her cheeks.  Besides, when a wife's looks outshine a maid's and she is fresher and more becomingly dressed, they're a ravishing sight, especially when the wife is also willing to oblige, whereas the girl's services are compulsory.  But wives who sit about like fine ladies, expose themselves to comparison with painted and fraudulent hussies. And now, Socrates, you may be sure, my wife's dress and appearance are in accord with my instructions and with my present description.’”
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
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.