previous next
[719a]

“The first ascent; but when the crest is won,
'Tis easy travelling, albeit 'twas hard.

Hes. WD 287 ff.

Clinias
The poet speaks nobly, I should say.

Athenian
He certainly does. Now I wish to put before you what I take to be the result of the foregoing argument.

Clinias
Do so.

Athenian
Let us address the lawgiver and say: “Tell us, O lawgiver: if you knew what we ought [719b] to do and say, is it not obvious that you would state it?”

Clinias
Inevitably.

Athenian
“Now did not we hear you saying a little while ago1 that the lawgiver should not permit the poets to compose just as they please? For they would not be likely to know what saying of theirs might be contrary to the laws and injurious to the State.”

Clinias
That is quite true.

Athenian
Would our address be reasonable, if we were to address him on behalf of the poets2 in these terms?—

Clinias
What terms? [719c]

Athenian
These:—“There is, O lawgiver, an ancient saying—constantly repeated by ourselves and endorsed by everyone else—that whenever a poet is seated on the Muses' tripod, he is not in his senses, but resembles a fountain, which gives free course to the upward rush of water and, since his art consists in imitation, he is compelled often to contradict himself, when he creates characters of contradictory moods; and he knows not which of these contradictory utterances is true. But it is not possible for the lawgiver in his law [719d] thus to compose two statements about a single matter; but he must always publish one single statement about one matter. Take an example from one of your own recent statements.3 A funeral may be either excessive or defective or moderate: of these three alternatives you chose one, the moderate, and this you prescribe, after praising it unconditionally. I, on the other hand, if (in my poem) I had a wife of surpassing wealth, and she were to bid me bury her, [719e] would extol the tomb of excessive grandeur; while a poor and stingy man would praise the defective tomb, and the person of moderate means, if a moderate man himself, would praise the same one as you. But you should not merely speak of a thing as moderate, in the way you have now done, but you should explain what 'the moderate' is, and what is its size; otherwise it is too soon for you to propose that such a statement should be made law.”

Clinias
Exceedingly true.

Athenian
Should, then, our appointed president of the laws commence his laws with no such prefatory statement,

Creative Commons License
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.

load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: