« AnteriorContinuar »
treat of war and social intercourse, and of the distinct functions and characters of the brave man and the coward, the professional and private person, the mutual relations which subsist between the Gods and men ; together with the modes of their intercourse, the pheenomena of Heaven, the secrets of Hades, and the origin of Gods and heroes 1 Are not these the materials from which Homer wrought his poem!
Ion.—Assuredly, 0 Socrates.
Socrates.—And the other poets, do they not treat of the same matter!
Ion.—Certainly: but not like Homer.
Ion.—Oh! far worse.
Socrates.—Then Homer treats of them better than they?
Ion.—Oh! Jupiter !—how much better!'
Socrates.—Amongst a number of persons employed in solving a problem of arithmetic, might not a person know, my dear Ion, which had given the right answer?
Socrates.—The same person who had been aware of the false one, or some other?
Ion.—The same, clearly.
Socrates.—That is, some one who understood arithmetic t
Socrates.—Among a number of persons giving their opinions on the wholesomencss of different foods, whether would one person be capable to pronounce upon the rectitude of the opinions of those who judged rightly, and another on the erroneousness of those which were incorrect, or would the same person be competent to decide respecting them both!
Ion.—The same, evidently.
Socrates.—What would you call that person t
Socrates—We may assert then, universally, that the same person who is competent to determine the truth, is competent also to determine the falsehood of whatever assertion is advanced on the same subject; and, it is manifest, that he who cannot judge respecting the falsehood, or unfitness of what is said upon a given subject, is equally incompetent to determine upon its truth or beauty!
Socrates.—The same person would then be competent or incompetent for both 1
Socrates.—Do you not say that Homer and the other poets, and among them Hesiod and Archilochus, speak of the same things, but unequally; one better and the other worse 1
Ion.—And I speak truth.
Socrates.—But if you can judge of what is well said by the one, you must also be able to judge of what is ill said by another, inasmuch as it expresses less correctly.
Ion.—It should seem so.
Socrates.—Then, my dear friend, we should wit err if we asserted that Ion possessed a like power of illustration respecting Homer and all other poets ; especially since he confesses that the same person must be esteemed a competent judge of all those who speak on the same subjects; inasmuch as those subjects are understood by him when spoken of by one, and the subject-matter of almost all the poets is the same.
Ion.—What can be the reason then, O Socrates, that when any other poet is the subject of conversation I cannot compel my attention, and I feel utterly unable to declaim anything worth talking of, and positively go to sleep! But when any one makes mention of Homer, my mind applies itself without effort to the subject; I awaken as if it were from a trance, and a profusion of eloquent expressions suggest themselves involuntarily <
Socrates It is not difficult to suggest the cans*
of this, my dear friend. You are evidently unable to declaim on Homer according to art and knowledge; for did your art endow you with this faculty, you would be equally capable of exerting it with regard to any other of the poets. Is not poetry, as an art or a faculty, a thing entire and one!
Socrates.— The same mode of consideratwa must be admitted with respect to all arts which are severally one and entire. Do you desire to bear what I understand by this, 0 Ion!
Ion.—Yes, by Jupiter, Socrates, I am delighted with listening to you wise men.
Socrates.—It is you who are wise, my dear Ion ; you rhapsodists, actors, and the authors of the poems you recite. I, like an unprofessional and private man, can only speak the truth. <~tt>serve how common, vulgar, and level to the comprehension of any one, is the question which I now ask relative to the same consideration belonging to one entire art. Is not painting an art whole and entire t
Socrates.—Did you ever know a person competent to judge of the paintings of Polygnotu.*, the son of Aglaophon, and incompetent to judge of the production of any other painter ; who, on the supposition of the works of other painters being exhibited to him, was wholly at a loss, and very nrorh inclined to go to sleep, and lost all faculty of reasoning on the subject; but when his opinion was required of Polygnotus, or any one single painter yon please, awoke, paid attention to the subject, and discoursed on it with great eloquence and sagacity 1
Ion.—Never, by Jupiter!
Socrates.—Did you ever know any one very skilful in determining the merits of Dtedalus, the son of Metion, Epius, the son of Panopus, Theodoras die Samian, or any other great sculptor, who was immediately at a loss, and felt sleepy the moment any other sculptor was mentioned!
Ion.—I never met with Buch a person certainly.
Socrates.—Nor, do I think, that you ever met with a man professing himself a judge of poetry and rhapsody, and competent to criticise either Olympus, Thamyris, Orpheus, or Phemius of Ithaca, the rhapsodist, who, the moment he came to Ion the Ephesian, felt himself quite at a loss, utterly incompetent to judge whether he rhapsodised well or ill.
Ion.—I cannot refute you, Socrates, but of this I am conscious to myself: that I excel all men in the copiousness and beauty of my illustrations of Homer, as all who have heard me will confess,and with respect to other poets, I am deserted of this power. It is for you to consider what may be the cause of this distinction.
Socrates.—I will tell you, 0 Ion, what appears to me to be the cause of this inequality of power. It is that you are not master of any art for the illustration of Homer, but it is a divine influence which moves you, like that which resides in the stone called Magnet by Euripides, and Heraclea by the people. For not only does this stone possess the power of attracting iron rings, but it can communicate to them the power of attracting other rings ; so that you may see sometimes a long chain of rings, and other iron substances, attached and suspended one to the other by this influence. And as the power of the stone circulates through all the links of this series, and attaches each to each, so the Muse, communicating through those whom she has first inspired, to all others capable of sharing in the inspiration, the influence of that first enthusiasm, creates a chain and a succession. For the authors of those great poems which we admire, do not attain to excellence through the rules of any art, but they utter their beautiful melodies of verse in a state of inspiration, and, as it were, possessed by a spirit not their own. Thus the composers of lyrical poetry create those admired songs of theirs in a state of divine insanity, like the Corybantes, who lose all control over their reason in the enthusiasm of the sacred dance ; and, during this supernatural possession, are excited to the rhythm and harmony which they communicate to men. Like
the Bacchantes, who, when possessed by the God draw honey and milk from the rivers, in which, when they come to their senses, they find nothing but simple water. For the souls of the poets, as poets tell us, have this peculiar ministration in the world. They tell us that these souls, flying like bees from flower to flower, and wandering over the gardens and the meadows and the honey-flowing fountains of the Muses, return to us laden with the sweetness of melody; and arrayed as they are in the plumes of rapid imagination, they speak truth. For a poet is indeed a thing ethereally light, winged, and sacred, nor can he compose anything worth calling poetry until he becomes inspired, and, as it were, mad, or whilst any reason remains in him. For whilst a man retains any portion of the tiling called reason, he is utterly incompetent to produce poetry or to vaticinate. Thus, those who declaim various and beautiful poetry upon any subject, as for instance upon Homer, are not enabled to do so by art or study; but every rhapsodist or poet, whether dithyrambic, encomiastic, choral, epic, or iambic, is excellent in proportion to the extent of his participation in the divine influence, and the degree in which the Muse itself lias descended on him. In other respects, poets may be sufficiently ignorant and incapable. For they do not compose according to any art which they have acquired, but from the impulse of the divinity within them ; for did they know any rules of criticism according to which they could compose beautiful verses upon one subject, they would be able to exert the same faculty with respect to all or any other. The God seems purposely to have deprived all poets, prophets, and soothsayers of every particle of reason and understanding, the better to adapt them to their employment as his ministers and interpreters; and that we, their auditors, may acknowledge that those who write so beautifully, are possessed, and address us, inspired by the God. [Tynnicus the Chalcidean, is a manifest prodf of this, for he never before composed any poem worthy to be remembered; and yet, was the author of that Ptean which everybody sings, and which excels almost every other hymn, and which he, himself, acknowledges to havo been inspired by the Muse. And, thus, it appears to me, that the God proves beyond a doubt, that these transcendant poems are not human as the work of men, but divine as coming from the God. Poets then are the interpreters of the divinities— each being possessed by some one deity ; and to make this apparent, the God designedly inspires the worst poets with the sublimest verse. Does it seem to you that I am in the right, O Ion 1
Ion.—Yes, by Jupiter! My mind is enlightened by your words, 0 Socrates, and it appears to me that great poets interpret to us through some divine election of the God.
Socrates.—And do not you rhapsodists interpret poets I
Socrates.-—Thus you interpret the interpreters!
Socrates.—Remember this, and tell me ; and do not conceal that which I ask. When you declaim well, and strike your audience with admiration ; whether you sing of Ulysses rushing upon the threshold of his palace, discovering himself to the suitors, and pouring his shafts out at his feet; or of Achilles assailing Hector; or those affecting passages concerning Andromache, or Hecuba, or Priam, are you then self-possessed! or, rather, are you not rapt and filled with such enthusiasm by the deeds you recite, that you fancy yourself in Ithaca or Troy, or wherever else the poem transports you!
Ion.—You speak most truly, Socrates, nor will I deny it; for, when I recite of sorrow, my eyes fill with tears ; and when of fearful or terrible deeds, my hair stands on end, and my heart beats fast.
Socrates.—Tell me, Ion, can we call him in bis senses, who weeps while dressed in splendid garments, and crowned with a golden coronal, not losing any of these things ? and is filled with fear when surrounded by ten thousand friendly persons, not one among whom desires to despoil or injure him!
Ion.—To say the truth, we could not.
Socrates.—Do you often perceive your audience moved also 1
Ion.—Many among them, and frequently. I, standing on the rostrum, see them weeping, with eyes fixed earnestly on me, and overcome by my declamation. I have need so to agitate them ; for if they weep, I laugh, taking their money ; if they should laugh, I must weep, going without it.
Socrates.—Do you not perceive that your auditor is the last link of that chain which I have described as held together through the power of the magnet t You rhapsodists and actors are the middle links, of which the poet is the first—and through all these the God influences whichever mind he selects, as they conduct this power one to the other; and thus, as rings from the stone, so hangs a long series of chorus-dancers, teachers, and disciples from the Muse. Some poets are influenced by one Muse, some by another; we call them possessed, and this word really expresses the truth, for they are held. Others, who are interpreters, are inspired by the first links, the poets, and are filled with enthusiasm, some by one, some
by another; some by Orpheus, some by Mustras, but the greater number are possessed and inspired by Homer. You, 0 Ion, are influenced by Homer. If you recite the works of any other poet, yon get drowsy, and are at a loss what to say ; but when you hear any of the compositions of that poet you are roused, your thoughts are excited, and you grow eloquent ;—for what you say of Homer is not derived from any art or knowledge, but from divine inspiration and possession. As the Corybantes feel acutely the melodies of him by whom they are inspired, and abound with verse and gesture for his songs alone, and care for no other ; thus, you, 0 Ion, are eloquent when you expound Homer, and are barren of words with regard to every other poet. And this explains the question you asked, wherefore Homer, and no other poet, inspires you with eloquence. It is that you are thus excellent in your praise, not through science, but from divine inspiration.
Ion.—You say the truth, Socrates. Yet, I am surprised that you should be able to persuade me that I am possessed and insane when I praise Homer. I think I shall not appear such to joa when you hear me.
Socrates.—I desire to hear you, but not before you have answered me this one question. What subject does Homer treat best! for, surely, he doe* not treat all equally.
Ion.—You are aware that he treats of ererything.
Socrates Does Homer mention subjects on
which you are ignorant!
Ion.—What can those be!
Socrates.—Does not Homer frequently dilate on various arts—on chariot driving, for instance 1 if 1 remember the verses, I will repeat them.
Ion.—I will repeat them, for I remember then.
Socrates.—Repeat what Nestor says to his suu Antilochus, counselling him to be cautious hi turning, during the chariot race at the funeral games of Patroclus.
AOrbs ii KkivBrivai UritXiKrtf iv\ &$py,
*hk* eV apiartpa ToTitr Strap To* ocfto? hrrar
KcWai b/jLOKK-tirras, tl^ai rt oi rivia x*om»'.
'Zv viao-t) ti Toi Jmros iptartpht 4yxpw&Hr'<*\
'flj if Toi Tr\i'inm} yt SooWrrai ttcpor tx&rtm
Kvkxov Tonrroio- \l$ou 8* aXlatrdat fmuptir.
II. •>'. S3i.»
* And warily proceed,
A little bending to the left-hand steed;
Pfft, Book n.
Socrates.—Enough. Now, 0 Ion, would a physician or a charioteer be the better judge as to Homer's sagacity on this subject!
Ion.—Of course, a charioteer.
Socrates.—Because he understands the art— or from what other reason i
Ion.—From his knowledge of the art.
Socrates.—-For one science is not gifted with the power of judging of another—a steersman, for instance, does not understand medicine 1
Socrates.—Nor a physician, architecture 1
Ion.— Of course not.
Socrates.—Is it not thus with every art! If we are adepts in one, we are ignorant of another. But first tell me, do not all arts differ one from the other!
Socrates.—For you, as well as I, can testify that when we say an art is the knowledge of one thing, we do not mean that it is the knowledge of another.
Socrates.—For, if each art contained the knowledge of all things, why should we call them by different names! we do so that we may distinguish them one from the other. Thus, you as well as I, know that these are five fingers ; and if I asked you whether we both meant the same thing or another, when we speak of arithmetic—would you not say the same 1
Socrates.—And tell me, when we learn one art, we must both learn the same things with regard to it; and other things if we learn another 1
Socrates And he who is not versed in an art,
is not a good judge of what is said or done with respect to it 1
Socrates.—To return to the verses which you just recited, do you think that you or a charioteer would be better capable of deciding whether Homer had spoken rightly or not 1
Ion.—Doubtless a charioteer.
Socrates.—For you are a rhapsodist, and not a charioteer 1
Socrates.—And the art of reciting verses is different from that of driving chariots 1
Socrates.—And if it is different, it supposes a knowledge of different things?
Socrates.—And when Homer introduces Hecamede, the concubine of Nestor, giving Machaon a posset to drink, and he speaks thus :—
'l$vt»8fU oni<ra. i f Airi iBev))« X'WC* 'A\yfi<ras oSu^ffi, iiiaof V iyicdflfiaX t/d\(f Afros Si KAdyfal IvtTO ryonjs AW/ioio.#
I assert, it belongs to a soothsayer both to observe and to judge respecting such appearances as these.
Ion.—And you assert the truth, O Socrates.
Socrates.—And you also, my dear Ion. For we have in our turn recited from the Odyssey and the Iliad, passages relating to vaticination, to medicine and the piscatorial art; and as you are more skilled in Homer than I can be, do you now make mention of whatever relates to the rhapsodist and his art; for a rhapsodist is competent above all other men to consider and pronounce on whatever has relation to his art.
Ion.—Or with respect to everything else mentioned by Homer.
Socrates.—Do not be so forgetful as to say everything. A good memory is particularly necessary for a rhapsodist.
Ion.—And what do I forget?
Socrates.—Do you not remember that you admitted the art of reciting verses was different from that of driving chariots?
Socrates.—And did you not admit that being different, the subjects of its knowledge must also be different?
Socrates.—You will not assert that the art of rhapsody is that of universal knowledge ; a rhapsodist may be ignorant of some things.
Ion.—Except, perhaps, such things as we now discuss, 0 Socrates.
Socrates.—What do you mean by such subjects, besides those which relate to other arts? And with which among them do you profess a competent acquaintance, since not with all?
Ion.—I imagine that the rhapsodist has a perfect knowledge of what it is becoming for a man to speak—what for a woman; what for a slave, what for a free man ; what for the ruler, what for him who is governed.
Socrates.—How ! do you think that a rhapsodist knows better than a pilot what the captain of a ship in a tempest ought to say t
* A signal omen (topped the passing host,
Pope, Book 12.
Ion.—In such a circumstance I allow mat the pilot would know best.
Socrates.—Has the rhapsodist or the physician the dearest knowledge of what ought to be said to a sick man \
Ion.—In that case the physician.
Socrates.—But you assert that he knows what a slave ought to say i
Socrates.—To take for example, in the driving of cattle ; a rhapsodist would know much better than the herdsman what ought to be said to a slave engaged in bringing back a herd of oxen run wild!
[socrates.—But what a woman should say concerning spinning wool!
Ion.—Of course not.
Socrates.—He would know, however, what a man, who is a general, should say when exbortuu his troops?
Ion.—Yes ; a rhapsodist would know that.
Socrates.—How! is rhapsody and strategy the same art S
Ion.—I know what it is fitting for a general to say.
Socrates.—Probably because you are learned in war, O Ion. For if you are equally expert in horsemanship and playing on the harp, you would know whether a man rode well or ill. But if 1 should ask you which understands riding best, a horseman or a harper, what would you answer!
Ion.—A horseman, of course.
Socrates.—And if you knew a good player an the harp, you would in the same way say that he understood harp-playing and not riding!
Socrates.—Since you understand strategy, you can tell me which is the most excellent, the art of war or rhapsody t
Ion.—One does not appear to me to excel the other.
Socrates.—One is not better than the other, say you! Do you say that tactics and rhapsody arv two arts or one!
Ion.—They appear to me to be the same.
Socrates.—Then a good rhapsodist is alio a good general.
Socrates.—And a good general is a good rharsodist?
Ion.—I do not say that.
Socrates.—You said that a good rhapsodist m also a good general.
Socrates.—Are you not the best rhapsodist m Greece?