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Besides, the questions should be easy, the problems known, the interrogations plain and familiar, not intricate and dark, that they might neither vex the unlearned, nor fright them from the disquisition. For—as it is allowable to dissolve our entertainment into a dance, but if we force our guests to pitch quoits or play at cudgels, we shall not only make our feast unpleasant, but hurtful and unnatural—thus light and easy disquisitions do pleasantly and profitably excite us, but we must forbear all contentious [p. 202] and (to use Democritus's word) wrangling disputes, which perplex the proposers with intricate and inexplicable doubts, and trouble all the others that are present. Our discourse should be like our wine, common to all, and of which every one may equally partake; and they that propose hard problems seem no better fitted for society than Aesop's fox and crane. For the fox vexed the crane with thin broth poured out upon a flat stone, and laughed at her when he saw her, by reason of the narrowness of her bill and the thinness of the broth, incapable of partaking what he had prepared; and the crane, in requital, inviting the fox to supper, brought forth her dainties in a pot with a long and narrow neck, which she could conveniently thrust her bill into, whilst the fox could not reach one bit. Just so, when philosophers midst their cups dive into minute and logical disputes, they are very troublesome to those that cannot follow them through the same depths; and those that bring in idle songs, trifling disquisitions, common talk, and mechanical discourse destroy the very end of conversation and merry entertainments, and abuse Bacchus. Therefore, as when Phrynichus and Aeschylus brought tragedy to discourse of fables and misfortunes, it was asked, What is this to Bacchus?—so methinks, when I hear some pedantically drawing a syllogism into table-talk, I have reason to cry out, Sir, what is this to Bacchus? Perchance one, the great bowl standing in the midst, and the chaplets given round, which the God in token of the liberty he bestows sets on every head, sings one of those songs called σκολιά (crooked or obscure); this is not fit nor agreeable to a feast. Though some say these σκολιά were not dark and intricate composures; but that the guests sang the first song all together, praising Bacchus and describing the power of the God; and the second each man sang singly in his turn, a myrtle bough being delivered to every one in order, which they call an αἴσακον because he [p. 203] that received it was obliged to sing (ᾁδειν); and after this a harp being carried round the company, the skilful took it, and fitted the music to the song; this when the unskilful could not perform, the song was called σκολιόν, because it was hard to them, and one in which they could not bear a part. Others say this myrtle bough was not delivered in order, but from bed to bed; and when the uppermost of the first table had sung, he sent it to the uppermost of the second, and he to the uppermost of the third; and so the second in like manner to the second; and from these many windings and this circuit it was called σκολιόν, crooked.
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