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And Homer teaches us that those who have been invited to a feast, ought to ask leave of their entertainers before they rise up to depart. And so Telemachus does to Menelaus—
But now let sleep the painful waste repair,
Of sad reflection and corroding care.1
And Minerva, when pretending to be Mentor, says to Nestor—
Now immolate the tongues and mix the wine,
Sacred to Neptune and the pow'rs divine:
The lamp of day is quench'd beneath the deep,
And soft approach the balmy hours of sleep;
Nor fits it to prolong the heav'nly feast,
Timeless, indecent; but retire to rest.2
And in the feasts of the gods it does not appear to have been considered proper to remain too long at the table. Accordingly, Minerva says, very sententiously, in Homer—
For now has darkness quench'd the solar light,
And it becomes not gods to feast by night.
And now there is a law in existence that there are some sacrificial feasts from which men must depart before sunset. And among the Egyptians formerly every kind of banquet was conducted with great moderation; as Apollonis has said, who wrote a treatise on the feasts of the Egyptian; for [p. 306] they ate in a sitting posture, using the very simplest and most wholesome food; and only just as much wine as was calculated to put them in cheerful spirits, which is what Pindar entreats of Jupiter—
Oh mighty thund'ring Jove!
Great Saturn's son, lord of the realms above,
That I may be to thee and the nine Muses dear,
That joy my heart may cheer;
This is my prayer, my only prayer to thee.
But the banquet of Plato is not an assembly of grave men, nor a conversazione of philosophers. For Socrates does not choose to depart from the banquet, although Eryximachus, and Phædrus, and some others, have already left it; but he stays till a late hour with Agathon and Aristophanes, and drinks from the silver well; for fairly has some one given this name to large cups. And he drinks out of the bowl cleverly, like a man who is used to it. And Plato says, that after this those two others began to nod, and that first of all Aristophanes fell asleep, and when day began to break so did Agathon; and that Socrates, after he had sent them both to sleep, rose up from table himself and went away to the Lyceum, when he might, says Herodicus, have gone to Homer's Læstrygones—
Where he who scorns the chains of sleep to wear,
And adds the herdsman's to the shepherd's care,
His double toils may claim a double pay,
And join the labours of the night and day.3

1 Odyss. iv. 294.

2 lb. iii 332.

3 Odyss. x. 84.

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