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SOME young students, that had not gone far in the learning of the ancients, inveighed against Epicurus for bringing [p. 275] in, in his Symposium, an impertinent and unseemly discourse, about what time was best to lie with a woman; for (they said) for an old man at supper in the company of youths to talk of such a subject, and dispute whether after or before supper was the most convenient time, argued him to be a very loose and debauched man. To this some said that Xenophon, after his entertainment was ended, sent all his guests home on horseback, to lie with their wives. But Zopyrus the physician, a man very well read in Epicurus, said, that they had not duly weighed that piece; for he did not propose that question at first, and then discourse of that matter on purpose; but after supper he desired the young men to take a walk, and then discoursed upon it, that he might induce them to continence, and persuade them to abate their desires and restrain their appetites; showing them that it was very dangerous at all times, but especially after they had been eating or making merry. But suppose he had proposed this as the chief topic for discourse, doth it never become a philosopher to enquire which is the convenient and proper time? Ought we not to time it well, and direct our embrace by reason? Or may such discourses be otherwise allowed, and must they be thought unseemly problems to be proposed at table? Indeed I am of another mind. It is true, I should blame a philosopher that in the middle of the day, in the schools, before all sorts of men, should discourse of such a subject; but over a glass of wine between friends and acquaintance, when it is necessary to propose something beside dull serious discourse, why should it be a fault to hear or speak any thing that may inform our judgments or direct our practice in such matters? And I protest I had rather that Zeno had inserted his loose topics in some merry discourses and agreeable table-talk, than in such a grave, serious piece as his politics.
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