Apollo. Zeus. Philosophy. Heracles. Hermes. Three Masters. An Innkeeper. Orpheus. Innkeeper’s Wife. Three Runaway Slaves
Apol. Father, is this true, about a man’s publicly throwing himself upon a pyre, at the Olympian Games? He was quite an old man, it seems, and rather a good hand at anything in the sensational line. Selene told us about it: she says she actually saw him burning.
Zeus. Quite true, my boy; only too true!
Apol. Oh? the old gentleman deserved a better fate?
Zeus. Why, as to that, I dare say he did. But I was alluding to the smell, which incommoded me extremely; the odour of roast man, I need hardly tell you, is far from pleasant. I made the best of my way to Arabia at once, or, upon my word, those awful fumes would have been the death of me. Even in that fragrant land of frankincense and spices I could scarcely get the villanous stench out of my nostrils; the mere recollection of it makes me feel queer.
Apol. But what was his object, father? Was there anything to be got by jumping on to a pyre, and being converted to cinders?
Zeus. Ah, if you come to that, you must call Empedocles to account first: he jumped into a crater, in Sicily.
Apol. Poor fellow! he must have been in a sad way. But what was the inducement in the present case?
Zeus. I’ll quote you his own words. He made a speech, explaining his motives to the public. As far as I remember, he said — but who comes here in such haste? There must be something wrong: she is crying; some one has been ill-treating her. Why, it is Philosophy, in a sad way, calling out to me. Why are you crying, child? and what brings you here, away from the world? More misdeeds of the ignorant herd? a repetition of the Socrates and Anytus affair? is that it?
Phi. No, father, nothing of that kind. The common people have been most polite and respectful; they are my most devout admirers — worshippers, I might almost say; not that they understand much of what I tell them. No; it was those — I don’t know what to call them — but the people who pretend to be on such friendly terms with me, and are always using my name; — the wretches!
Zeus. Oh, it’s the philosophers who have been misbehaving themselves?
Phi. No, no, father; they have been just as badly treated as I have.
Zeus. Then if it is neither the philosophers nor the common people, who is it that you complain of?
Phi. There are some people who are between the two: they are not philosophers, and yet they are not like the rest of mankind. They are got up to look like philosophers; they have the dress, the walk, the expression; they call me mistress, write philosopher after their names, and declare themselves my disciples and followers: but they are evil men, made up of folly and impudence and wickedness; a disgrace to my name. It was their misconduct that drove me away.
Zeus. Poor child! it is too bad of them. And what have they been doing to you exactly?
Phi. Judge for yourself whether the provocation was a slight one. When formerly you looked down upon the world, and saw that it was filled with iniquity and transgression, and was become the troubled abode of sin and folly, you had compassion on the frailty of ignorant mankind, and sent me down to them: you bade me see to it, that wickedness and violence and brutality should cease from among them; I was to lift their eyes upwards to the truth, and cause them to live together in unity. Remember your words on that occasion: ‘Behold, my daughter, the misdeeds of mankind; behold how ignorance has wrought upon them. I feel compassion for them, and have chosen you from among all the Gods to heal their ills; for who else should heal them? ’
Zeus. I said that, and more. Yes? and how did they receive you at your first descent? and what is the trouble now?
Phi. My first flight was not directed towards Greece. I thought it best to begin with the hardest part of my task, which I took to be the instruction of the barbarians. With the Greeks I anticipated no difficulty; I had supposed that they would accept my yoke without hesitation. First, then, I went to the Indians, the mightiest nation upon earth. I had little trouble in persuading them to descend from their elephants and follow me. The Brahmins, who dwell between Oxydracae and the country of the Nechrei, are mine to a man: they live according to my laws, and are respected by all their neighbours; and the manner of their death is truly wonderful.
Zeus. Ah, to be sure: the Gymnosophists. I have heard a great deal of them. Among other things, they ascend gigantic pyres, and sit quietly burning to death without moving a muscle. However, that is no such great matter: I saw it done at Olympia only the other day. You would be there, no doubt — when that old man burnt himself?
Phi. No, father: I was afraid to go near Olympia, on account of those hateful men I was telling you of; I saw that numbers of them were going there, to make their barking clamour heard in the temple, and to abuse all comers. Accordingly I know nothing of this cremation. But to continue: after I had left the Brahmins, I went straight to Ethiopia, and thence to Egypt, where I associated with the priests and prophets, and taught them of the Gods. Then to Babylon, to instruct the Chaldaeans and Mages. Next came Scythia, and after Scythia, Thrace; here Eumolpus and Orpheus were my companions. I sent them on into Greece before me; Eumolpus, whom I had thoroughly instructed in theology, was to institute the sacred mysteries, Orpheus to win men by the power of music. I followed close behind them. On my first arrival, the Greeks received me without enthusiasm: they did not, however, wholly reject my advances; by slow degrees I gained over seven men to be my companions and disciples, and Samos, Ephesus, and Abdera, 1 each added one to the little company. And then there sprang up — I scarce know how — the tribe of sophists: men who had but little of my spirit, yet were not wholly alien to me; a motley Centaur breed, in whom vanity and wisdom meeting were moulded into one incongruous whole. They clung not entirely to ignorance, but theirs was not the steady eye that could meet the gaze of Philosophy; and if at moments my semblance flashed phantom-like across their dulled vision, they held that in that dim shadow they had seen all that was to be seen. It was this pride that nourished the vain, unprofitable science that they mistook for invincible wisdom; the science of quaint conceits, ingenious paradoxes, and labyrinthine dilemmas. My followers would have restrained them, and exposed their errors: but they grew angry, and conspired against them, and in the end brought them under the power of the law, which condemned them to drink of hemlock. Doubtless I should have done well to renounce humanity there and then, and take my flight: but Antisthenes and Diogenes, and after them Crates, and our friend Menippus, prevailed upon me to tarry yet a little longer. Would that I had never yielded! I should have been spared much pain in the sequel.
Zeus. But, my dear, you are merely giving way to your feelings, instead of telling me what your wrongs were.
Phi. Then hear them, father. There is a vile race upon the earth, composed for the most part of serfs and menials, creatures whose occupations have never suffered them to become acquainted with philosophy; whose earliest years have been spent in the drudgery of the fields, in learning those base arts for which they are most fitted — the fuller’s trade, the joiner’s, the cobbler’s — or in carding wool, that housewives may have ease in their spinning, and the thread be fit for warp and woof. Thus employed, they knew not in their youth so much as the name of Philosophy. But they had no sooner reached manhood, than they perceived the respect paid to my followers; how men submitted to their blunt speech, valued their advice, deferred to their judgement, and cowered beneath their censure; all this they saw, and held that here was a life for a king. The learning, indeed, that befits a philosopher would have taken them long to acquire, if it was not utterly out of their reach. On the other hand, their own miserly handicrafts barely rewarded their toil with a sufficiency. To some, too, servitude was in itself an oppression: they knew it, in fact, for the intolerable thing it is. But they bethought them that there was still one chance left; their sheet-anchor, as sailors say. They took refuge with my lady Folly, called in the assistance of Boldness, Ignorance, and Impudence, ever their untiring coadjutors, and provided themselves with a stock of bran-new invectives; these they have ever ready on their tongues; ’tis their sole equipment; noble provision, is it not, for a philosopher? Nothing could be more plausible than the philosophic disguise they now assume, reminding one of the fabled ass of Cyme, in Aesop, who clothed himself in a lion’s skin, and, stoutly braying, sought to play the lion’s part; the beast, I doubt not, had his adherents. The externals of philosophy, as you know, are easily aped: it is a simple matter to assume the cloak and wallet, walk with a stick, and bawl, and bark, and bray, against all corners. They know that they are safe; their cloth protects them. Liberty is thus within their grasp: no need to ask their master’s leave; should he attempt to reclaim them, their sticks are at his service. No more short commons for them now, no more of crusts whose dryness is mitigated only by herbs or salt fish: they have choice of meats, drink the best of wines, and take money where they will, shearing the sheep, as they call it when they levy contributions, in the certainty that many will give, from respect to their garb or fear of their tongues. They foresee, of course, that they will be on the same footing as genuine philosophers; so long as their exterior is conformable, no one is likely to make critical distinctions. They take care not to risk exposure: at the first hint of a rational argument, they shout their opponent down, withdraw into the stronghold of personal abuse, and flourish their ever-ready cudgels. Question their practice, and you will hear much of their principles: offer to examine those principles, and you are referred to their conduct. The city swarms with these vermin, particularly with those who profess the tenets of Diogenes, Antisthenes, and Crates. Followers of the Dog, they care little to excel in the canine virtues; they are neither trusty guardians nor affectionate, faithful servants: but for noise and greed and thievery and wantonness, for cringing, fawning cupboard-love — there, indeed, they are perfect. Before long you will see every trade at a standstill, the workmen all at large: for every man of them knows that, whilst he is bent over his work from morning to night, toiling and drudging for a starvation wage, idle impostors are living in the midst of plenty, commanding charity where they will, with no word of thanks to the giver, and a curse on him that withholds the gift. Surely (he will say to himself) the golden age is returned, and the heavens shall rain honey into my mouth.
And would that that were all! But they have other ways of bringing discredit upon us, besides the baseness of their origin. When beauty comes within the reach of these grave and reverend gentlemen, they are guilty of excesses that I will not pollute my lips with mentioning. They have been known, like Trojan Paris, to seduce the wives of their own hosts, and to quote the authority of Plato for leaving these fair converts at the disposal of all their acquaintance; they little knew the true meaning of that inspired philosopher’s community of women. I will not tire you with a description of their drunken orgies; observe, however, that these are the men who preach against drunkenness and adultery and avarice and lewdness. Could any contrast be greater than that presented by their words and their deeds? They speak their detestation of flattery: a Gnathonides and a Struthias are less fulsome than they. They bid men tell the truth: yet their own tongues cannot move but to utter lies. To hear them, you would say they were at war with pleasure, and Epicurus their bitterest foe: yet nothing do they do but for pleasure’s sake. Querulous, irritable, passionate as cradled babes, they are a derision to the beholder; the veriest trifle serves to move their ire, to bring the purple to their cheeks, ungoverned fury to their eyes, foam — call it rather venom — to their lips. Preserve me from their turbid rantings! Gold I ask not, nor silver; be one penny all my wealth, to purchase beans withal. And for my drink, a river, a spring, shall furnish me. But presently it turns out that what they want is not pence, nor shillings, but whole fortunes. He must be a thriving merchant, whose cargoes will bring him in such profits as these men suck out of philosophy. They are sufficiently provided at last, and then off goes the hated uniform: lands and houses are bought, and soft raiment, and comely pages. Inquire of them now for Crates’s wallet, Antisthenes’s cloak, Diogenes’s tub: they know nothing of the matter. When men see these things, they spit in the face of philosophy; they think that all philosophers are the same, and blame me their teacher. It is long since I have won over any to my side. I toil like Penelope at the loom, and one moment undoes all that I have done. Ignorance and Wickedness watch my unavailing labours, and smile.
Zeus. Really, Philosophy has been shamefully treated. We must take some measures with these rascals. Let us think what is to be done. The single stroke of the thunderbolt is too quick a death.
Apol. Father, I have a suggestion to make. By their neglect of the Muses, these vile quacks have incurred my own resentment as well as Philosophy’s . They are not worthy to die by your hand. Instead, I would advise your sending Hermes to them, with full authority to punish them at his discretion. With his forensic experience, he will be at no loss to distinguish between the true philosopher and the false. The former will receive merited praise: on the latter he will inflict such chastisement as the circumstances demand.
Zeus. A sensible proposal. Heracles, you can go too; take Philosophy with you, and lose no time. Think: this will make your thirteenth Labour, and a creditable one too, the extermination of these reptiles.
Hera. Rather than meddle with them, I would give the Augean stables a second clean-out. However, let us be starting, Philosophy.
Phi. If I must, I must.
Her. Yes, come along, and we will polish off a few to-day. — Which way, Philosophy? You know where they are to be found. Somewhere in Greece, of course?
Phi. Oh no; the few that there are in Greece are genuine philosophers. Attic poverty is not at all to the liking of the impostors; we must look for them in places where gold and silver mines abound.
Her. Straight to Thrace, then?
Hera. Yes, Thrace, and I will show you the way. I know every inch of Thrace; I have been there so often. Look here, this is our route.
Hera. You see those two magnificent mountains (the big one is Haemus, and the other Rhodope), and the fertile plain that spreads between them, running to the very foot of either? These three grand, rugged crests that stand out so proudly yonder form as it were a triple citadel to the city that lies beneath; you can see it now, look.
Her. Superb! A queen among cities; her splendours reach us even here. And what is the great river that flows so close beneath the walls?
Hera. The Hebrus, and the city was built by Philip. Well, we have left the clouds behind us now; let us try our fortune on terra firma.
Her. Very good; and what comes next? How do we hunt our vermin down?
Hera. Ah, that is where you come in, Mr. Crier: oblige us by crying them without loss of time.
Her. There is only one objection to that: I do not know what they are called. What names am I to say, Philosophy? and how shall I describe them?
Phi. I am not sure of their names, as I have never come into contact with them. To judge from their grasping propensities, however, you can hardly go wrong with Cteso, Ctesippus, Ctesicles, Euctemon, Polyctetus 1.
Her. To be sure. But who are these men? They seem to be looking for something too. Why, they are coming up to speak to us.
Innkeeper and Masters. Excuse us, madam, and gentlemen, but have you come across a company of three rascals conducting a woman — a very masculine-looking female, with hair cut short in the Spartan fashion?
Phi. Ha! the very people we are looking for!
Masters. Indeed, madam? But these are three runaway slaves. The woman was kidnapped by them, and we want to get her back.
Her. Our business with them I will tell you afterwards. For the present, let us make a joint proclamation.
Disappeared. A Paphlagonian slave, formerly of Sinope. Any person giving information as to his whereabouts will be rewarded; the amount of the reward to be fixed by the informant. Description. Name: begins with CTE. Complexion: sallow. Hair: close-cropped, with long beard. Dress: a coarse cloak with wallet. Temper: bad. Education: none. Voice: harsh. Manner: offensive.
First Master. Why, what is all this about? His name used to be Cantharus when he was with. me. He had long hair, and no beard, and was apprenticed to my trade; I am a fuller, and he was in my shop, dressing cloth.
Phi. Yes, it is the same; but he has dressed to some purpose this time, and has become a philosopher.
First Master. Cantharus a philosopher! I like that. And where do I come in?
Second and Third Masters. Oh well, we shall get them all now. This lady knows all about them, it seems.
Phi. Heracles, who is this comely person with a lyre?
Hera. It is Orpheus. I was on the Argo with him. He was the best of boatswains; it was quite a pleasure to row to his singing. Welcome, my musical friend: you have not forgotten Heracles, I hope?
Or. And welcome to all of you, Philosophy, Heracles, Hermes. I should like my reward, please: I can lay my finger on your man.
Her. Then show us the way. It is useless, of course, to offer gold to the gifted son of Calliope?
Or. Oh, quite. — I will show you the house, but not the man. His tongue might avenge him; scurrility is his strong point.
Her. Lead on.
Or. It is this house close by. And now I shall leave you; l have no wish to set eyes on him.
Her. Hush! Was that a woman’s voice, reciting Homer?
Phi. It was. Let us listen.
More than the gates of Hell I hate that man
Who, loving gold, cloaketh his love with lies.
Her. At that rate, madam, you will have to quarrel with Cantharus:
He with his kindly host hath dealt amiss.
Innkeeper. That ’s me. I took him in, and he ran away with my wife.
Wine-witted knave, deer-hearted and dog-eyed,
Thersites, babbler loose, that nought availest
In council, nought in arms; most valiant daw,
That with thine aimless chatter chidest kings —
First Master. My rascal to a T.
The dog in thee — for thou art dog and goat
And lion — doth a blasting fury breathe.
Innkeeper. Wife, wife! the dogs have been too many for you; ay, and for your virtue, so men say.
Her. Hope for the best; some little Cerberus or Geryon shall call you father, and Heracles have employment again. — Ah, no need to knock: here they come.
First Master. Ha, Cantharus, have I got you? What, nothing to say for yourself? Let us see what you have in that wallet; beans, no doubt, or a crust of bread.
Her. Bread, indeed! Gold, a purseful of it!
Hera. That need not surprise you. In Greece, you see, he was a Cynic, but here he is all for golden Chrysippus. Next you will see him dangling, Cleanthes-like 1, by his beard, and serve the dirty fellow right.
Second Master. Ha, you rascal there, am I mistaken, or are you my lost Lecythio? Lecythio it is. What a figure! Lecythio a philosopher! I’ll believe anything after this.
Her. Does none of you know anything about this other? Third Master. Oh yes, he is mine; but he may go hang for me.
Her. And why is that?
Third Master. Ah, he ’s a sadly leaky vessel, is Rosolio, as we used to call him.
Her. Gracious Heracles! did you hear that? Rosolio with wallet and stick! — Friend, here is your wife again.
Innkeeper. Thank you for nothing. I’ll have no woman brought to bed of an old book in my house.
Her. How am I to understand that?
Innkeeper. Why, the Three-headed Dog is a book, master? Her. Ay, and so was the Man with the Three Hats, for that matter.
Masters. We leave the rest to you, sir.
Her. This is my judgement. Let the woman return beneath her husband’s roof, or many-headed monsters will come of it. These two truant sparks I hand over to their owners: let them follow their trades as heretofore; Lecythio wash clothes, and Rosolio patch them; — not, however, before his back has felt the mallow-stalk. And for Cantharus, first let the men of pitch take him, and plaster him without mercy; and be their pitch the vilest procurable. Then let him be led forth to stand upon the snowy slopes of Haemus, naked and fettered.
Can. Mercy! have mercy on me! Ah me! I am undone!
First Master. So tragic? Come, follow me to the plasterers; and off with that lion’s -skin, lest you be taken for other than an ass.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57