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    Introduction

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    Chapter 1
    The Phaedrus is closely connected with the Symposium, and may be regarded
    either as introducing or following it. The two Dialogues together contain
    the whole philosophy of Plato on the nature of love, which in the Republic
    and in the later writings of Plato is only introduced playfully or as a
    figure of speech. But in the Phaedrus and Symposium love and philosophy
    join hands, and one is an aspect of the other. The spiritual and emotional
    part is elevated into the ideal, to which in the Symposium mankind are
    described as looking forward, and which in the Phaedrus, as well as in the
    Phaedo, they are seeking to recover from a former state of existence.
    Whether the subject of the Dialogue is love or rhetoric, or the union of
    the two, or the relation of philosophy to love and to art in general, and
    to the human soul, will be hereafter considered. And perhaps we may arrive
    at some conclusion such as the following--that the dialogue is not strictly
    confined to a single subject, but passes from one to another with the
    natural freedom of conversation.

    Phaedrus has been spending the morning with Lysias, the celebrated
    rhetorician, and is going to refresh himself by taking a walk outside the
    wall, when he is met by Socrates, who professes that he will not leave him
    until he has delivered up the speech with which Lysias has regaled him, and
    which he is carrying about in his mind, or more probably in a book hidden
    under his cloak, and is intending to study as he walks. The imputation is
    not denied, and the two agree to direct their steps out of the public way
    along the stream of the Ilissus towards a plane-tree which is seen in the
    distance. There, lying down amidst pleasant sounds and scents, they will
    read the speech of Lysias. The country is a novelty to Socrates, who never
    goes out of the town; and hence he is full of admiration for the beauties
    of nature, which he seems to be drinking in for the first time.

    As they are on their way, Phaedrus asks the opinion of Socrates respecting
    the local tradition of Boreas and Oreithyia. Socrates, after a satirical
    allusion to the 'rationalizers' of his day, replies that he has no time for
    these 'nice' interpretations of mythology, and he pities anyone who has.
    When you once begin there is no end of them, and they spring from an
    uncritical philosophy after all. 'The proper study of mankind is man;' and
    he is a far more complex and wonderful being than the serpent Typho.
    Socrates as yet does not know himself; and why should he care to know about
    unearthly monsters? Engaged in such conversation, they arrive at the
    plane-tree; when they have found a convenient resting-place, Phaedrus pulls
    out the speech and reads:--

    The speech consists of a foolish paradox which is to the effect that the
    non-lover ought to be accepted rather than the lover--because he is more
    rational, more agreeable, more enduring, less suspicious, less hurtful,
    less boastful, less engrossing, and because there are more of them, and for
    a great many other reasons which are equally unmeaning. Phaedrus is
    captivated with the beauty of the periods, and wants to make Socrates say
    that nothing was or ever could be written better. Socrates does not think
    much of the matter, but then he has only attended to the form, and in that
    he has detected several repetitions and other marks of haste. He cannot
    agree with Phaedrus in the extreme value which he sets upon this
    performance, because he is afraid of doing injustice to Anacreon and Sappho
    and other great writers, and is almost inclined to think that he himself,
    or rather some power residing within him, could make a speech better than
    that of Lysias on the same theme, and also different from his, if he may be
    allowed the use of a few commonplaces which all speakers must equally
    employ.

    Phaedrus is delighted at the prospect of having another speech, and
    promises that he will set up a golden statue of Socrates at Delphi, if he
    keeps his word. Some raillery ensues, and at length Socrates, conquered by
    the threat that he shall never again hear a speech of Lysias unless he
    fulfils his promise, veils his face and begins.

    First, invoking the Muses and assuming ironically the person of the non-
    lover (who is a lover all the same), he will enquire into the nature and
    power of love. For this is a necessary preliminary to the other question--
    How is the non-lover to be distinguished from the lover? In all of us
    there are two principles--a better and a worse--reason and desire, which
    are generally at war with one another; and the victory of the rational is
    called temperance, and the victory of the irrational intemperance or
    excess. The latter takes many forms and has many bad names--gluttony,
    drunkenness, and the like. But of all the irrational desires or excesses
    the greatest is that which is led away by desires of a kindred nature to
    the enjoyment of personal beauty. And this is the master power of love.

    Here Socrates fancies that he detects in himself an unusual flow of
    eloquence--this newly-found gift he can only attribute to the inspiration
    of the place, which appears to be dedicated to the nymphs. Starting again
    from the philosophical basis which has been laid down, he proceeds to show
    how many advantages the non-lover has over the lover. The one encourages
    softness and effeminacy and exclusiveness; he cannot endure any superiority
    in his beloved; he will train him in luxury, he will keep him out of
    society, he will deprive him of parents, friends, money, knowledge, and of
    every other good, that he may have him all to himself. Then again his ways
    are not ways of pleasantness; he is mighty disagreeable; 'crabbed age and
    youth cannot live together.' At every hour of the night and day he is
    intruding upon him; there is the same old withered face and the remainder
    to match--and he is always repeating, in season or out of season, the
    praises or dispraises of his beloved, which are bad enough when he is
    sober, and published all over the world when he is drunk. At length his
    love ceases; he is converted into an enemy, and the spectacle may be seen
    of the lover running away from the beloved, who pursues him with vain
    reproaches, and demands his reward which the other refuses to pay. Too
    late the beloved learns, after all his pains and disagreeables, that 'As
    wolves love lambs so lovers love their loves.' (Compare Char.) Here is
    the end; the 'other' or 'non-lover' part of the speech had better be
    understood, for if in the censure of the lover Socrates has broken out in
    verse, what will he not do in his praise of the non-lover? He has said his
    say and is preparing to go away.

    Phaedrus begs him to remain, at any rate until the heat of noon has passed;
    he would like to have a little more conversation before they go. Socrates,
    who has risen, recognizes the oracular sign which forbids him to depart
    until he has done penance. His conscious has been awakened, and like
    Stesichorus when he had reviled the lovely Helen he will sing a palinode
    for having blasphemed the majesty of love. His palinode takes the form of
    a myth.

    Socrates begins his tale with a glorification of madness, which he divides
    into four kinds: first, there is the art of divination or prophecy--this,
    in a vein similar to that pervading the Cratylus and Io, he connects with
    madness by an etymological explanation (mantike, manike--compare
    oionoistike, oionistike, "tis all one reckoning, save the phrase is a
    little variations'); secondly, there is the art of purification by
    mysteries; thirdly, poetry or the inspiration of the Muses (compare Ion),
    without which no man can enter their temple. All this shows that madness
    is one of heaven's blessings, and may sometimes be a great deal better than
    sense. There is also a fourth kind of madness--that of love--which cannot
    be explained without enquiring into the nature of the soul.

    All soul is immortal, for she is the source of all motion both in herself
    and in others. Her form may be described in a figure as a composite nature
    made up of a charioteer and a pair of winged steeds. The steeds of the
    gods are immortal, but ours are one mortal and the other immortal. The
    immortal soul soars upwards into the heavens, but the mortal drops her
    plumes and settles upon the earth.

    Now the use of the wing is to rise and carry the downward element into the
    upper world--there to behold beauty, wisdom, goodness, and the other things
    of God by which the soul is nourished. On a certain day Zeus the lord of
    heaven goes forth in a winged chariot; and an array of gods and demi-gods
    and of human souls in their train, follows him. There are glorious and
    blessed sights in the interior of heaven, and he who will may freely behold
    them. The great vision of all is seen at the feast of the gods, when they
    ascend the heights of the empyrean--all but Hestia, who is left at home to
    keep house. The chariots of the gods glide readily upwards and stand upon
    the outside; the revolution of the spheres carries them round, and they
    have a vision of the world beyond. But the others labour in vain; for the
    mortal steed, if he has not been properly trained, keeps them down and
    sinks them towards the earth. Of the world which is beyond the heavens,
    who can tell? There is an essence formless, colourless, intangible,
    perceived by the mind only, dwelling in the region of true knowledge. The
    divine mind in her revolution enjoys this fair prospect, and beholds
    justice, temperance, and knowledge in their everlasting essence. When
    fulfilled with the sight of them she returns home, and the charioteer puts
    up the horses in their stable, and gives them ambrosia to eat and nectar to
    drink. This is the life of the gods; the human soul tries to reach the
    same heights, but hardly succeeds; and sometimes the head of the charioteer
    rises above, and sometimes sinks below, the fair vision, and he is at last
    obliged, after much contention, to turn away and leave the plain of truth.
    But if the soul has followed in the train of her god and once beheld truth
    she is preserved from harm, and is carried round in the next revolution of
    the spheres; and if always following, and always seeing the truth, is then
    for ever unharmed. If, however, she drops her wings and falls to the
    earth, then she takes the form of man, and the soul which has seen most of
    the truth passes into a philosopher or lover; that which has seen truth in
    the second degree, into a king or warrior; the third, into a householder or
    money-maker; the fourth, into a gymnast; the fifth, into a prophet or
    mystic; the sixth, into a poet or imitator; the seventh, into a husbandman
    or craftsman; the eighth, into a sophist or demagogue; the ninth, into a
    tyrant. All these are states of probation, wherein he who lives
    righteously is improved, and he who lives unrighteously deteriorates.
    After death comes the judgment; the bad depart to houses of correction
    under the earth, the good to places of joy in heaven. When a thousand
    years have elapsed the souls meet together and choose the lives which they
    will lead for another period of existence. The soul which three times in
    succession has chosen the life of a philosopher or of a lover who is not
    without philosophy receives her wings at the close of the third millennium;
    the remainder have to complete a cycle of ten thousand years before their
    wings are restored to them. Each time there is full liberty of choice.
    The soul of a man may descend into a beast, and return again into the form
    of man. But the form of man will only be taken by the soul which has once
    seen truth and acquired some conception of the universal:--this is the
    recollection of the knowledge which she attained when in the company of the
    Gods. And men in general recall only with difficulty the things of another
    world, but the mind of the philosopher has a better remembrance of them.
    For when he beholds the visible beauty of earth his enraptured soul passes
    in thought to those glorious sights of justice and wisdom and temperance
    and truth which she once gazed upon in heaven. Then she celebrated holy
    mysteries and beheld blessed apparitions shining in pure light, herself
    pure, and not as yet entombed in the body. And still, like a bird eager to
    quit its cage, she flutters and looks upwards, and is therefore deemed mad.
    Such a recollection of past days she receives through sight, the keenest of
    our senses, because beauty, alone of the ideas, has any representation on
    earth: wisdom is invisible to mortal eyes. But the corrupted nature,
    blindly excited by this vision of beauty, rushes on to enjoy, and would
    fain wallow like a brute beast in sensual pleasures. Whereas the true
    mystic, who has seen the many sights of bliss, when he beholds a god-like
    form or face is amazed with delight, and if he were not afraid of being
    thought mad he would fall down and worship. Then the stiffened wing begins
    to relax and grow again; desire which has been imprisoned pours over the
    soul of the lover; the germ of the wing unfolds, and stings, and pangs of
    birth, like the cutting of teeth, are everywhere felt. (Compare Symp.)
    Father and mother, and goods and laws and proprieties are nothing to him;
    his beloved is his physician, who can alone cure his pain. An apocryphal
    sacred writer says that the power which thus works in him is by mortals
    called love, but the immortals call him dove, or the winged one, in order
    to represent the force of his wings--such at any rate is his nature. Now
    the characters of lovers depend upon the god whom they followed in the
    other world; and they choose their loves in this world accordingly. The
    followers of Ares are fierce and violent; those of Zeus seek out some
    philosophical and imperial nature; the attendants of Here find a royal
    love; and in like manner the followers of every god seek a love who is like
    their god; and to him they communicate the nature which they have received
    from their god. The manner in which they take their love is as follows:--

    I told you about the charioteer and his two steeds, the one a noble animal
    who is guided by word and admonition only, the other an ill-looking villain
    who will hardly yield to blow or spur. Together all three, who are a
    figure of the soul, approach the vision of love. And now a fierce conflict
    begins. The ill-conditioned steed rushes on to enjoy, but the charioteer,
    who beholds the beloved with awe, falls back in adoration, and forces both
    the steeds on their haunches; again the evil steed rushes forwards and
    pulls shamelessly. The conflict grows more and more severe; and at last
    the charioteer, throwing himself backwards, forces the bit out of the
    clenched teeth of the brute, and pulling harder than ever at the reins,
    covers his tongue and jaws with blood, and forces him to rest his legs and
    haunches with pain upon the ground. When this has happened several times,
    the villain is tamed and humbled, and from that time forward the soul of
    the lover follows the beloved in modesty and holy fear. And now their
    bliss is consummated; the same image of love dwells in the breast of
    either, and if they have self-control, they pass their lives in the
    greatest happiness which is attainable by man--they continue masters of
    themselves, and conquer in one of the three heavenly victories. But if
    they choose the lower life of ambition they may still have a happy destiny,
    though inferior, because they have not the approval of the whole soul. At
    last they leave the body and proceed on their pilgrim's progress, and those
    who have once begun can never go back. When the time comes they receive
    their wings and fly away, and the lovers have the same wings.

    Socrates concludes:--

    These are the blessings of love, and thus have I made my recantation in
    finer language than before: I did so in order to please Phaedrus. If I
    said what was wrong at first, please to attribute my error to Lysias, who
    ought to study philosophy instead of rhetoric, and then he will not mislead
    his disciple Phaedrus.

    Phaedrus is afraid that he will lose conceit of Lysias, and that Lysias
    will be out of conceit with himself, and leave off making speeches, for the
    politicians have been deriding him. Socrates is of opinion that there is
    small danger of this; the politicians are themselves the great rhetoricians
    of the age, who desire to attain immortality by the authorship of laws.
    And therefore there is nothing with which they can reproach Lysias in being
    a writer; but there may be disgrace in being a bad one.

    And what is good or bad writing or speaking? While the sun is hot in the
    sky above us, let us ask that question: since by rational conversation man
    lives, and not by the indulgence of bodily pleasures. And the grasshoppers
    who are chirruping around may carry our words to the Muses, who are their
    patronesses; for the grasshoppers were human beings themselves in a world
    before the Muses, and when the Muses came they died of hunger for the love
    of song. And they carry to them in heaven the report of those who honour
    them on earth.

    The first rule of good speaking is to know and speak the truth; as a
    Spartan proverb says, 'true art is truth'; whereas rhetoric is an art of
    enchantment, which makes things appear good and evil, like and unlike, as
    the speaker pleases. Its use is not confined, as people commonly suppose,
    to arguments in the law courts and speeches in the assembly; it is rather a
    part of the art of disputation, under which are included both the rules of
    Gorgias and the eristic of Zeno. But it is not wholly devoid of truth.
    Superior knowledge enables us to deceive another by the help of
    resemblances, and to escape from such a deception when employed against
    ourselves. We see therefore that even in rhetoric an element of truth is
    required. For if we do not know the truth, we can neither make the gradual
    departures from truth by which men are most easily deceived, nor guard
    ourselves against deception.

    Socrates then proposes that they shall use the two speeches as
    illustrations of the art of rhetoric; first distinguishing between the
    debatable and undisputed class of subjects. In the debatable class there
    ought to be a definition of all disputed matters. But there was no such
    definition in the speech of Lysias; nor is there any order or connection in
    his words any more than in a nursery rhyme. With this he compares the
    regular divisions of the other speech, which was his own (and yet not his
    own, for the local deities must have inspired him). Although only a
    playful composition, it will be found to embody two principles: first, that
    of synthesis or the comprehension of parts in a whole; secondly, analysis,
    or the resolution of the whole into parts. These are the processes of
    division and generalization which are so dear to the dialectician, that
    king of men. They are effected by dialectic, and not by rhetoric, of which
    the remains are but scanty after order and arrangement have been
    subtracted. There is nothing left but a heap of 'ologies' and other
    technical terms invented by Polus, Theodorus, Evenus, Tisias, Gorgias, and
    others, who have rules for everything, and who teach how to be short or
    long at pleasure. Prodicus showed his good sense when he said that there
    was a better thing than either to be short or long, which was to be of
    convenient length.

    Still, notwithstanding the absurdities of Polus and others, rhetoric has
    great power in public assemblies. This power, however, is not given by any
    technical rules, but is the gift of genius. The real art is always being
    confused by rhetoricians with the preliminaries of the art. The perfection
    of oratory is like the perfection of anything else; natural power must be
    aided by art. But the art is not that which is taught in the schools of
    rhetoric; it is nearer akin to philosophy. Pericles, for instance, who was
    the most accomplished of all speakers, derived his eloquence not from
    rhetoric but from the philosophy of nature which he learnt of Anaxagoras.
    True rhetoric is like medicine, and the rhetorician has to consider the
    natures of men's souls as the physician considers the natures of their
    bodies. Such and such persons are to be affected in this way, such and
    such others in that; and he must know the times and the seasons for saying
    this or that. This is not an easy task, and this, if there be such an art,
    is the art of rhetoric.

    I know that there are some professors of the art who maintain probability
    to be stronger than truth. But we maintain that probability is engendered
    by likeness of the truth which can only be attained by the knowledge of it,
    and that the aim of the good man should not be to please or persuade his
    fellow-servants, but to please his good masters who are the gods. Rhetoric
    has a fair beginning in this.

    Enough of the art of speaking; let us now proceed to consider the true use
    of writing. There is an old Egyptian tale of Theuth, the inventor of
    writing, showing his invention to the god Thamus, who told him that he
    would only spoil men's memories and take away their understandings. From
    this tale, of which young Athens will probably make fun, may be gathered
    the lesson that writing is inferior to speech. For it is like a picture,
    which can give no answer to a question, and has only a deceitful likeness
    of a living creature. It has no power of adaptation, but uses the same
    words for all. It is not a legitimate son of knowledge, but a bastard, and
    when an attack is made upon this bastard neither parent nor anyone else is
    there to defend it. The husbandman will not seriously incline to sow his
    seed in such a hot-bed or garden of Adonis; he will rather sow in the
    natural soil of the human soul which has depth of earth; and he will
    anticipate the inner growth of the mind, by writing only, if at all, as a
    remedy against old age. The natural process will be far nobler, and will
    bring forth fruit in the minds of others as well as in his own.

    The conclusion of the whole matter is just this,--that until a man knows
    the truth, and the manner of adapting the truth to the natures of other
    men, he cannot be a good orator; also, that the living is better than the
    written word, and that the principles of justice and truth when delivered
    by word of mouth are the legitimate offspring of a man's own bosom, and
    their lawful descendants take up their abode in others. Such an orator as
    he is who is possessed of them, you and I would fain become. And to all
    composers in the world, poets, orators, legislators, we hereby announce
    that if their compositions are based upon these principles, then they are
    not only poets, orators, legislators, but philosophers. All others are
    mere flatterers and putters together of words. This is the message which
    Phaedrus undertakes to carry to Lysias from the local deities, and Socrates
    himself will carry a similar message to his favourite Isocrates, whose
    future distinction as a great rhetorician he prophesies. The heat of the
    day has passed, and after offering up a prayer to Pan and the nymphs,
    Socrates and Phaedrus depart.

    There are two principal controversies which have been raised about the
    Phaedrus; the first relates to the subject, the second to the date of the
    Dialogue.

    There seems to be a notion that the work of a great artist like Plato
    cannot fail in unity, and that the unity of a dialogue requires a single
    subject. But the conception of unity really applies in very different
    degrees and ways to different kinds of art; to a statue, for example, far
    more than to any kind of literary composition, and to some species of
    literature far more than to others. Nor does the dialogue appear to be a
    style of composition in which the requirement of unity is most stringent;
    nor should the idea of unity derived from one sort of art be hastily
    transferred to another. The double titles of several of the Platonic
    Dialogues are a further proof that the severer rule was not observed by
    Plato. The Republic is divided between the search after justice and the
    construction of the ideal state; the Parmenides between the criticism of
    the Platonic ideas and of the Eleatic one or being; the Gorgias between the
    art of speaking and the nature of the good; the Sophist between the
    detection of the Sophist and the correlation of ideas. The Theaetetus, the
    Politicus, and the Philebus have also digressions which are but remotely
    connected with the main subject.

    Thus the comparison of Plato's other writings, as well as the reason of the
    thing, lead us to the conclusion that we must not expect to find one idea
    pervading a whole work, but one, two, or more, as the invention of the
    writer may suggest, or his fancy wander. If each dialogue were confined to
    the development of a single idea, this would appear on the face of the
    dialogue, nor could any controversy be raised as to whether the Phaedrus
    treated of love or rhetoric. But the truth is that Plato subjects himself
    to no rule of this sort. Like every great artist he gives unity of form to
    the different and apparently distracting topics which he brings together.
    He works freely and is not to be supposed to have arranged every part of
    the dialogue before he begins to write. He fastens or weaves together the
    frame of his discourse loosely and imperfectly, and which is the warp and
    which is the woof cannot always be determined.

    The subjects of the Phaedrus (exclusive of the short introductory passage
    about mythology which is suggested by the local tradition) are first the
    false or conventional art of rhetoric; secondly, love or the inspiration of
    beauty and knowledge, which is described as madness; thirdly, dialectic or
    the art of composition and division; fourthly, the true rhetoric, which is
    based upon dialectic, and is neither the art of persuasion nor knowledge of
    the truth alone, but the art of persuasion founded on knowledge of truth
    and knowledge of character; fifthly, the superiority of the spoken over the
    written word. The continuous thread which appears and reappears throughout
    is rhetoric; this is the ground into which the rest of the Dialogue is
    worked, in parts embroidered with fine words which are not in Socrates'
    manner, as he says, 'in order to please Phaedrus.' The speech of Lysias
    which has thrown Phaedrus into an ecstacy is adduced as an example of the
    false rhetoric; the first speech of Socrates, though an improvement,
    partakes of the same character; his second speech, which is full of that
    higher element said to have been learned of Anaxagoras by Pericles, and
    which in the midst of poetry does not forget order, is an illustration of
    the higher or true rhetoric. This higher rhetoric is based upon dialectic,
    and dialectic is a sort of inspiration akin to love (compare Symp.); in
    these two aspects of philosophy the technicalities of rhetoric are
    absorbed. And so the example becomes also the deeper theme of discourse.
    The true knowledge of things in heaven and earth is based upon enthusiasm
    or love of the ideas going before us and ever present to us in this world
    and in another; and the true order of speech or writing proceeds
    accordingly. Love, again, has three degrees: first, of interested love
    corresponding to the conventionalities of rhetoric; secondly, of
    disinterested or mad love, fixed on objects of sense, and answering,
    perhaps, to poetry; thirdly, of disinterested love directed towards the
    unseen, answering to dialectic or the science of the ideas. Lastly, the
    art of rhetoric in the lower sense is found to rest on a knowledge of the
    natures and characters of men, which Socrates at the commencement of the
    Dialogue has described as his own peculiar study.

    Thus amid discord a harmony begins to appear; there are many links of
    connection which are not visible at first sight. At the same time the
    Phaedrus, although one of the most beautiful of the Platonic Dialogues, is
    also more irregular than any other. For insight into the world, for
    sustained irony, for depth of thought, there is no Dialogue superior, or
    perhaps equal to it. Nevertheless the form of the work has tended to
    obscure some of Plato's higher aims.

    The first speech is composed 'in that balanced style in which the wise love
    to talk' (Symp.). The characteristics of rhetoric are insipidity,
    mannerism, and monotonous parallelism of clauses. There is more rhythm
    than reason; the creative power of imagination is wanting.

    "Tis Greece, but living Greece no more.'

    Plato has seized by anticipation the spirit which hung over Greek
    literature for a thousand years afterwards. Yet doubtless there were some
    who, like Phaedrus, felt a delight in the harmonious cadence and the
    pedantic reasoning of the rhetoricians newly imported from Sicily, which
    had ceased to be awakened in them by really great works, such as the odes
    of Anacreon or Sappho or the orations of Pericles. That the first speech
    was really written by Lysias is improbable. Like the poem of Solon, or the
    story of Thamus and Theuth, or the funeral oration of Aspasia (if genuine),
    or the pretence of Socrates in the Cratylus that his knowledge of philology
    is derived from Euthyphro, the invention is really due to the imagination
    of Plato, and may be compared to the parodies of the Sophists in the
    Protagoras. Numerous fictions of this sort occur in the Dialogues, and the
    gravity of Plato has sometimes imposed upon his commentators. The
    introduction of a considerable writing of another would seem not to be in
    keeping with a great work of art, and has no parallel elsewhere.

    In the second speech Socrates is exhibited as beating the rhetoricians at
    their own weapons; he 'an unpractised man and they masters of the art.'
    True to his character, he must, however, profess that the speech which he
    makes is not his own, for he knows nothing of himself. (Compare Symp.)
    Regarded as a rhetorical exercise, the superiority of his speech seems to
    consist chiefly in a better arrangement of the topics; he begins with a
    definition of love, and he gives weight to his words by going back to
    general maxims; a lesser merit is the greater liveliness of Socrates, which
    hurries him into verse and relieves the monotony of the style.

    But Plato had doubtless a higher purpose than to exhibit Socrates as the
    rival or superior of the Athenian rhetoricians. Even in the speech of
    Lysias there is a germ of truth, and this is further developed in the
    parallel oration of Socrates. First, passionate love is overthrown by the
    sophistical or interested, and then both yield to that higher view of love
    which is afterwards revealed to us. The extreme of commonplace is
    contrasted with the most ideal and imaginative of speculations. Socrates,
    half in jest and to satisfy his own wild humour, takes the disguise of
    Lysias, but he is also in profound earnest and in a deeper vein of irony
    than usual. Having improvised his own speech, which is based upon the
    model of the preceding, he condemns them both. Yet the condemnation is not
    to be taken seriously, for he is evidently trying to express an aspect of
    the truth. To understand him, we must make abstraction of morality and of
    the Greek manner of regarding the relation of the sexes. In this, as in
    his other discussions about love, what Plato says of the loves of men must
    be transferred to the loves of women before we can attach any serious
    meaning to his words. Had he lived in our times he would have made the
    transposition himself. But seeing in his own age the impossibility of
    woman being the intellectual helpmate or friend of man (except in the rare
    instances of a Diotima or an Aspasia), seeing that, even as to personal
    beauty, her place was taken by young mankind instead of womankind, he tries
    to work out the problem of love without regard to the distinctions of
    nature. And full of the evils which he recognized as flowing from the
    spurious form of love, he proceeds with a deep meaning, though partly in
    joke, to show that the 'non-lover's' love is better than the 'lover's.'

    We may raise the same question in another form: Is marriage preferable
    with or without love? 'Among ourselves,' as we may say, a little parodying
    the words of Pausanias in the Symposium, 'there would be one answer to this
    question: the practice and feeling of some foreign countries appears to be
    more doubtful.' Suppose a modern Socrates, in defiance of the received
    notions of society and the sentimental literature of the day, alone against
    all the writers and readers of novels, to suggest this enquiry, would not
    the younger 'part of the world be ready to take off its coat and run at him
    might and main?' (Republic.) Yet, if like Peisthetaerus in Aristophanes,
    he could persuade the 'birds' to hear him, retiring a little behind a
    rampart, not of pots and dishes, but of unreadable books, he might have
    something to say for himself. Might he not argue, 'that a rational being
    should not follow the dictates of passion in the most important act of his
    or her life'? Who would willingly enter into a contract at first sight,
    almost without thought, against the advice and opinion of his friends, at a
    time when he acknowledges that he is not in his right mind? And yet they
    are praised by the authors of romances, who reject the warnings of their
    friends or parents, rather than those who listen to them in such matters.
    Two inexperienced persons, ignorant of the world and of one another, how
    can they be said to choose?--they draw lots, whence also the saying,
    'marriage is a lottery.' Then he would describe their way of life after
    marriage; how they monopolize one another's affections to the exclusion of
    friends and relations: how they pass their days in unmeaning fondness or
    trivial conversation; how the inferior of the two drags the other down to
    his or her level; how the cares of a family 'breed meanness in their
    souls.' In the fulfilment of military or public duties, they are not
    helpers but hinderers of one another: they cannot undertake any noble
    enterprise, such as makes the names of men and women famous, from domestic
    considerations. Too late their eyes are opened; they were taken unawares
    and desire to part company. Better, he would say, a 'little love at the
    beginning,' for heaven might have increased it; but now their foolish
    fondness has changed into mutual dislike. In the days of their honeymoon
    they never understood that they must provide against offences, that they
    must have interests, that they must learn the art of living as well as
    loving. Our misogamist will not appeal to Anacreon or Sappho for a
    confirmation of his view, but to the universal experience of mankind. How
    much nobler, in conclusion, he will say, is friendship, which does not
    receive unmeaning praises from novelists and poets, is not exacting or
    exclusive, is not impaired by familiarity, is much less expensive, is not
    so likely to take offence, seldom changes, and may be dissolved from time
    to time without the assistance of the courts. Besides, he will remark that
    there is a much greater choice of friends than of wives--you may have more
    of them and they will be far more improving to your mind. They will not
    keep you dawdling at home, or dancing attendance upon them; or withdraw you
    from the great world and stirring scenes of life and action which would
    make a man of you.

    In such a manner, turning the seamy side outwards, a modern Socrates might
    describe the evils of married and domestic life. They are evils which
    mankind in general have agreed to conceal, partly because they are
    compensated by greater goods. Socrates or Archilochus would soon have to
    sing a palinode for the injustice done to lovely Helen, or some misfortune
    worse than blindness might be fall them. Then they would take up their
    parable again and say:--that there were two loves, a higher and a lower,
    holy and unholy, a love of the mind and a love of the body.

    'Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds.

    ...

    Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle's compass come;
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.'

    But this true love of the mind cannot exist between two souls, until they
    are purified from the grossness of earthly passion: they must pass through
    a time of trial and conflict first; in the language of religion they must
    be converted or born again. Then they would see the world transformed into
    a scene of heavenly beauty; a divine idea would accompany them in all their
    thoughts and actions. Something too of the recollections of childhood
    might float about them still; they might regain that old simplicity which
    had been theirs in other days at their first entrance on life. And
    although their love of one another was ever present to them, they would
    acknowledge also a higher love of duty and of God, which united them. And
    their happiness would depend upon their preserving in them this principle--
    not losing the ideals of justice and holiness and truth, but renewing them
    at the fountain of light. When they have attained to this exalted state,
    let them marry (something too may be conceded to the animal nature of man):
    or live together in holy and innocent friendship. The poet might describe
    in eloquent words the nature of such a union; how after many struggles the
    true love was found: how the two passed their lives together in the
    service of God and man; how their characters were reflected upon one
    another, and seemed to grow more like year by year; how they read in one
    another's eyes the thoughts, wishes, actions of the other; how they saw
    each other in God; how in a figure they grew wings like doves, and were
    'ready to fly away together and be at rest.' And lastly, he might tell
    how, after a time at no long intervals, first one and then the other fell
    asleep, and 'appeared to the unwise' to die, but were reunited in another
    state of being, in which they saw justice and holiness and truth, not
    according to the imperfect copies of them which are found in this world,
    but justice absolute in existence absolute, and so of the rest. And they
    would hold converse not only with each other, but with blessed souls
    everywhere; and would be employed in the service of God, every soul
    fulfilling his own nature and character, and would see into the wonders of
    earth and heaven, and trace the works of creation to their author.

    So, partly in jest but also 'with a certain degree of seriousness,' we may
    appropriate to ourselves the words of Plato. The use of such a parody,
    though very imperfect, is to transfer his thoughts to our sphere of
    religion and feeling, to bring him nearer to us and us to him. Like the
    Scriptures, Plato admits of endless applications, if we allow for the
    difference of times and manners; and we lose the better half of him when we
    regard his Dialogues merely as literary compositions. Any ancient work
    which is worth reading has a practical and speculative as well as a
    literary interest. And in Plato, more than in any other Greek writer, the
    local and transitory is inextricably blended with what is spiritual and
    eternal. Socrates is necessarily ironical; for he has to withdraw from the
    received opinions and beliefs of mankind. We cannot separate the
    transitory from the permanent; nor can we translate the language of irony
    into that of plain reflection and common sense. But we can imagine the
    mind of Socrates in another age and country; and we can interpret him by
    analogy with reference to the errors and prejudices which prevail among
    ourselves. To return to the Phaedrus:--

    Both speeches are strongly condemned by Socrates as sinful and blasphemous
    towards the god Love, and as worthy only of some haunt of sailors to which
    good manners were unknown. The meaning of this and other wild language to
    the same effect, which is introduced by way of contrast to the formality of
    the two speeches (Socrates has a sense of relief when he has escaped from
    the trammels of rhetoric), seems to be that the two speeches proceed upon
    the supposition that love is and ought to be interested, and that no such
    thing as a real or disinterested passion, which would be at the same time
    lasting, could be conceived. 'But did I call this "love"? O God, forgive
    my blasphemy. This is not love. Rather it is the love of the world. But
    there is another kingdom of love, a kingdom not of this world, divine,
    eternal. And this other love I will now show you in a mystery.'

    Then follows the famous myth, which is a sort of parable, and like other
    parables ought not to receive too minute an interpretation. In all such
    allegories there is a great deal which is merely ornamental, and the
    interpreter has to separate the important from the unimportant. Socrates
    himself has given the right clue when, in using his own discourse
    afterwards as the text for his examination of rhetoric, he characterizes it
    as a 'partly true and tolerably credible mythus,' in which amid poetical
    figures, order and arrangement were not forgotten.

    The soul is described in magnificent language as the self-moved and the
    source of motion in all other things. This is the philosophical theme or
    proem of the whole. But ideas must be given through something, and under
    the pretext that to realize the true nature of the soul would be not only
    tedious but impossible, we at once pass on to describe the souls of gods as
    well as men under the figure of two winged steeds and a charioteer. No
    connection is traced between the soul as the great motive power and the
    triple soul which is thus imaged. There is no difficulty in seeing that
    the charioteer represents the reason, or that the black horse is the symbol
    of the sensual or concupiscent element of human nature. The white horse
    also represents rational impulse, but the description, 'a lover of honour
    and modesty and temperance, and a follower of true glory,' though similar,
    does not at once recall the 'spirit' (thumos) of the Republic. The two
    steeds really correspond in a figure more nearly to the appetitive and
    moral or semi-rational soul of Aristotle. And thus, for the first time
    perhaps in the history of philosophy, we have represented to us the
    threefold division of psychology. The image of the charioteer and the
    steeds has been compared with a similar image which occurs in the verses of
    Parmenides; but it is important to remark that the horses of Parmenides
    have no allegorical meaning, and that the poet is only describing his own
    approach in a chariot to the regions of light and the house of the goddess
    of truth.

    The triple soul has had a previous existence, in which following in the
    train of some god, from whom she derived her character, she beheld
    partially and imperfectly the vision of absolute truth. All her after
    existence, passed in many forms of men and animals, is spent in regaining
    this. The stages of the conflict are many and various; and she is sorely
    let and hindered by the animal desires of the inferior or concupiscent
    steed. Again and again she beholds the flashing beauty of the beloved.
    But before that vision can be finally enjoyed the animal desires must be
    subjected.

    The moral or spiritual element in man is represented by the immortal steed
    which, like thumos in the Republic, always sides with the reason. Both are
    dragged out of their course by the furious impulses of desire. In the end
    something is conceded to the desires, after they have been finally humbled
    and overpowered. And yet the way of philosophy, or perfect love of the
    unseen, is total abstinence from bodily delights. 'But all men cannot
    receive this saying': in the lower life of ambition they may be taken off
    their guard and stoop to folly unawares, and then, although they do not
    attain to the highest bliss, yet if they have once conquered they may be
    happy enough.

    The language of the Meno and the Phaedo as well as of the Phaedrus seems to
    show that at one time of his life Plato was quite serious in maintaining a
    former state of existence. His mission was to realize the abstract; in
    that, all good and truth, all the hopes of this and another life seemed to
    centre. To him abstractions, as we call them, were another kind of
    knowledge--an inner and unseen world, which seemed to exist far more truly
    than the fleeting objects of sense which were without him. When we are
    once able to imagine the intense power which abstract ideas exercised over
    the mind of Plato, we see that there was no more difficulty to him in
    realizing the eternal existence of them and of the human minds which were
    associated with them, in the past and future than in the present. The
    difficulty was not how they could exist, but how they could fail to exist.
    In the attempt to regain this 'saving' knowledge of the ideas, the sense
    was found to be as great an enemy as the desires; and hence two things
    which to us seem quite distinct are inextricably blended in the
    representation of Plato.

    Thus far we may believe that Plato was serious in his conception of the
    soul as a motive power, in his reminiscence of a former state of being, in
    his elevation of the reason over sense and passion, and perhaps in his
    doctrine of transmigration. Was he equally serious in the rest? For
    example, are we to attribute his tripartite division of the soul to the
    gods? Or is this merely assigned to them by way of parallelism with men?
    The latter is the more probable; for the horses of the gods are both white,
    i.e. their every impulse is in harmony with reason; their dualism, on the
    other hand, only carries out the figure of the chariot. Is he serious,
    again, in regarding love as 'a madness'? That seems to arise out of the
    antithesis to the former conception of love. At the same time he appears
    to intimate here, as in the Ion, Apology, Meno, and elsewhere, that there
    is a faculty in man, whether to be termed in modern language genius, or
    inspiration, or imagination, or idealism, or communion with God, which
    cannot be reduced to rule and measure. Perhaps, too, he is ironically
    repeating the common language of mankind about philosophy, and is turning
    their jest into a sort of earnest. (Compare Phaedo, Symp.) Or is he
    serious in holding that each soul bears the character of a god? He may
    have had no other account to give of the differences of human characters to
    which he afterwards refers. Or, again, in his absurd derivation of mantike
    and oionistike and imeros (compare Cratylus)? It is characteristic of the
    irony of Socrates to mix up sense and nonsense in such a way that no exact
    line can be drawn between them. And allegory helps to increase this sort
    of confusion.

    As is often the case in the parables and prophecies of Scripture, the
    meaning is allowed to break through the figure, and the details are not
    always consistent. When the charioteers and their steeds stand upon the
    dome of heaven they behold the intangible invisible essences which are not
    objects of sight. This is because the force of language can no further go.
    Nor can we dwell much on the circumstance, that at the completion of ten
    thousand years all are to return to the place from whence they came;
    because he represents their return as dependent on their own good conduct
    in the successive stages of existence. Nor again can we attribute anything
    to the accidental inference which would also follow, that even a tyrant may
    live righteously in the condition of life to which fate has called him ('he
    aiblins might, I dinna ken'). But to suppose this would be at variance
    with Plato himself and with Greek notions generally. He is much more
    serious in distinguishing men from animals by their recognition of the
    universal which they have known in a former state, and in denying that this
    gift of reason can ever be obliterated or lost. In the language of some
    modern theologians he might be said to maintain the 'final perseverance' of
    those who have entered on their pilgrim's progress. Other intimations of a
    'metaphysic' or 'theology' of the future may also be discerned in him: (1)
    The moderate predestinarianism which here, as in the Republic, acknowledges
    the element of chance in human life, and yet asserts the freedom and
    responsibility of man; (2) The recognition of a moral as well as an
    intellectual principle in man under the image of an immortal steed; (3) The
    notion that the divine nature exists by the contemplation of ideas of
    virtue and justice--or, in other words, the assertion of the essentially
    moral nature of God; (4) Again, there is the hint that human life is a life
    of aspiration only, and that the true ideal is not to be found in art; (5)
    There occurs the first trace of the distinction between necessary and
    contingent matter; (6) The conception of the soul itself as the motive
    power and reason of the universe.

    The conception of the philosopher, or the philosopher and lover in one, as
    a sort of madman, may be compared with the Republic and Theaetetus, in both
    of which the philosopher is regarded as a stranger and monster upon the
    earth. The whole myth, like the other myths of Plato, describes in a
    figure things which are beyond the range of human faculties, or
    inaccessible to the knowledge of the age. That philosophy should be
    represented as the inspiration of love is a conception that has already
    become familiar to us in the Symposium, and is the expression partly of
    Plato's enthusiasm for the idea, and is also an indication of the real
    power exercised by the passion of friendship over the mind of the Greek.
    The master in the art of love knew that there was a mystery in these
    feelings and their associations, and especially in the contrast of the
    sensible and permanent which is afforded by them; and he sought to explain
    this, as he explained universal ideas, by a reference to a former state of
    existence. The capriciousness of love is also derived by him from an
    attachment to some god in a former world. The singular remark that the
    beloved is more affected than the lover at the final consummation of their
    love, seems likewise to hint at a psychological truth.

    It is difficult to exhaust the meanings of a work like the Phaedrus, which
    indicates so much more than it expresses; and is full of inconsistencies
    and ambiguities which were not perceived by Plato himself. For example,
    when he is speaking of the soul does he mean the human or the divine soul?
    and are they both equally self-moving and constructed on the same threefold
    principle? We should certainly be disposed to reply that the self-motive
    is to be attributed to God only; and on the other hand that the appetitive
    and passionate elements have no place in His nature. So we should infer
    from the reason of the thing, but there is no indication in Plato's own
    writings that this was his meaning. Or, again, when he explains the
    different characters of men by referring them back to the nature of the God
    whom they served in a former state of existence, we are inclined to ask
    whether he is serious: Is he not rather using a mythological figure, here
    as elsewhere, to draw a veil over things which are beyond the limits of
    mortal knowledge? Once more, in speaking of beauty is he really thinking
    of some external form such as might have been expressed in the works of
    Phidias or Praxiteles; and not rather of an imaginary beauty, of a sort
    which extinguishes rather than stimulates vulgar love,--a heavenly beauty
    like that which flashed from time to time before the eyes of Dante or
    Bunyan? Surely the latter. But it would be idle to reconcile all the
    details of the passage: it is a picture, not a system, and a picture which
    is for the greater part an allegory, and an allegory which allows the
    meaning to come through. The image of the charioteer and his steeds is
    placed side by side with the absolute forms of justice, temperance, and the
    like, which are abstract ideas only, and which are seen with the eye of the
    soul in her heavenly journey. The first impression of such a passage, in
    which no attempt is made to separate the substance from the form, is far
    truer than an elaborate philosophical analysis.

    It is too often forgotten that the whole of the second discourse of
    Socrates is only an allegory, or figure of speech. For this reason, it is
    unnecessary to enquire whether the love of which Plato speaks is the love
    of men or of women. It is really a general idea which includes both, and
    in which the sensual element, though not wholly eradicated, is reduced to
    order and measure. We must not attribute a meaning to every fanciful
    detail. Nor is there any need to call up revolting associations, which as
    a matter of good taste should be banished, and which were far enough away
    from the mind of Plato. These and similar passages should be interpreted
    by the Laws. Nor is there anything in the Symposium, or in the Charmides,
    in reality inconsistent with the sterner rule which Plato lays down in the
    Laws. At the same time it is not to be denied that love and philosophy are
    described by Socrates in figures of speech which would not be used in
    Christian times; or that nameless vices were prevalent at Athens and in
    other Greek cities; or that friendships between men were a more sacred tie,
    and had a more important social and educational influence than among
    ourselves. (See note on Symposium.)

    In the Phaedrus, as well as in the Symposium, there are two kinds of love,
    a lower and a higher, the one answering to the natural wants of the animal,
    the other rising above them and contemplating with religious awe the forms
    of justice, temperance, holiness, yet finding them also 'too dazzling
    bright for mortal eye,' and shrinking from them in amazement. The
    opposition between these two kinds of love may be compared to the
    opposition between the flesh and the spirit in the Epistles of St. Paul.
    It would be unmeaning to suppose that Plato, in describing the spiritual
    combat, in which the rational soul is finally victor and master of both the
    steeds, condescends to allow any indulgence of unnatural lusts.

    Two other thoughts about love are suggested by this passage. First of all,
    love is represented here, as in the Symposium, as one of the great powers
    of nature, which takes many forms and two principal ones, having a
    predominant influence over the lives of men. And these two, though
    opposed, are not absolutely separated the one from the other. Plato, with
    his great knowledge of human nature, was well aware how easily one is
    transformed into the other, or how soon the noble but fleeting aspiration
    may return into the nature of the animal, while the lower instinct which is
    latent always remains. The intermediate sentimentalism, which has
    exercised so great an influence on the literature of modern Europe, had no
    place in the classical times of Hellas; the higher love, of which Plato
    speaks, is the subject, not of poetry or fiction, but of philosophy.

    Secondly, there seems to be indicated a natural yearning of the human mind
    that the great ideas of justice, temperance, wisdom, should be expressed in
    some form of visible beauty, like the absolute purity and goodness which
    Christian art has sought to realize in the person of the Madonna. But
    although human nature has often attempted to represent outwardly what can
    be only 'spiritually discerned,' men feel that in pictures and images,
    whether painted or carved, or described in words only, we have not the
    substance but the shadow of the truth which is in heaven. There is no
    reason to suppose that in the fairest works of Greek art, Plato ever
    conceived himself to behold an image, however faint, of ideal truths. 'Not
    in that way was wisdom seen.'

    We may now pass on to the second part of the Dialogue, which is a criticism
    on the first. Rhetoric is assailed on various grounds: first, as desiring
    to persuade, without a knowledge of the truth; and secondly, as ignoring
    the distinction between certain and probable matter. The three speeches
    are then passed in review: the first of them has no definition of the
    nature of love, and no order in the topics (being in these respects far
    inferior to the second); while the third of them is found (though a fancy
    of the hour) to be framed upon real dialectical principles. But dialectic
    is not rhetoric; nothing on that subject is to be found in the endless
    treatises of rhetoric, however prolific in hard names. When Plato has
    sufficiently put them to the test of ridicule he touches, as with the point
    of a needle, the real error, which is the confusion of preliminary
    knowledge with creative power. No attainments will provide the speaker
    with genius; and the sort of attainments which can alone be of any value
    are the higher philosophy and the power of psychological analysis, which is
    given by dialectic, but not by the rules of the rhetoricians.

    In this latter portion of the Dialogue there are many texts which may help
    us to speak and to think. The names dialectic and rhetoric are passing out
    of use; we hardly examine seriously into their nature and limits, and
    probably the arts both of speaking and of conversation have been unduly
    neglected by us. But the mind of Socrates pierces through the differences
    of times and countries into the essential nature of man; and his words
    apply equally to the modern world and to the Athenians of old. Would he
    not have asked of us, or rather is he not asking of us, Whether we have
    ceased to prefer appearances to reality? Let us take a survey of the
    professions to which he refers and try them by his standard. Is not all
    literature passing into criticism, just as Athenian literature in the age
    of Plato was degenerating into sophistry and rhetoric? We can discourse
    and write about poems and paintings, but we seem to have lost the gift of
    creating them. Can we wonder that few of them 'come sweetly from nature,'
    while ten thousand reviewers (mala murioi) are engaged in dissecting them?
    Young men, like Phaedrus, are enamoured of their own literary clique and
    have but a feeble sympathy with the master-minds of former ages. They
    recognize 'a POETICAL necessity in the writings of their favourite author,
    even when he boldly wrote off just what came in his head.' They are
    beginning to think that Art is enough, just at the time when Art is about
    to disappear from the world. And would not a great painter, such as
    Michael Angelo, or a great poet, such as Shakespeare, returning to earth,
    'courteously rebuke' us--would he not say that we are putting 'in the place
    of Art the preliminaries of Art,' confusing Art the expression of mind and
    truth with Art the composition of colours and forms; and perhaps he might
    more severely chastise some of us for trying to invent 'a new shudder'
    instead of bringing to the birth living and healthy creations? These he
    would regard as the signs of an age wanting in original power.

    Turning from literature and the arts to law and politics, again we fall
    under the lash of Socrates. For do we not often make 'the worse appear the
    better cause;' and do not 'both parties sometimes agree to tell lies'? Is
    not pleading 'an art of speaking unconnected with the truth'? There is
    another text of Socrates which must not be forgotten in relation to this
    subject. In the endless maze of English law is there any 'dividing the
    whole into parts or reuniting the parts into a whole'--any semblance of an
    organized being 'having hands and feet and other members'? Instead of a
    system there is the Chaos of Anaxagoras (omou panta chremata) and no Mind
    or Order. Then again in the noble art of politics, who thinks of first
    principles and of true ideas? We avowedly follow not the truth but the
    will of the many (compare Republic). Is not legislation too a sort of
    literary effort, and might not statesmanship be described as the 'art of
    enchanting' the house? While there are some politicians who have no
    knowledge of the truth, but only of what is likely to be approved by 'the
    many who sit in judgment,' there are others who can give no form to their
    ideal, neither having learned 'the art of persuasion,' nor having any
    insight into the 'characters of men.' Once more, has not medical science
    become a professional routine, which many 'practise without being able to
    say who were their instructors'--the application of a few drugs taken from
    a book instead of a life-long study of the natures and constitutions of
    human beings? Do we see as clearly as Hippocrates 'that the nature of the
    body can only be understood as a whole'? (Compare Charm.) And are not
    they held to be the wisest physicians who have the greatest distrust of
    their art? What would Socrates think of our newspapers, of our theology?
    Perhaps he would be afraid to speak of them;--the one vox populi, the other
    vox Dei, he might hesitate to attack them; or he might trace a fanciful
    connexion between them, and ask doubtfully, whether they are not equally
    inspired? He would remark that we are always searching for a belief and
    deploring our unbelief, seeming to prefer popular opinions unverified and
    contradictory to unpopular truths which are assured to us by the most
    certain proofs: that our preachers are in the habit of praising God
    'without regard to truth and falsehood, attributing to Him every species of
    greatness and glory, saying that He is all this and the cause of all that,
    in order that we may exhibit Him as the fairest and best of all' (Symp.)
    without any consideration of His real nature and character or of the laws
    by which He governs the world--seeking for a 'private judgment' and not for
    the truth or 'God's judgment.' What would he say of the Church, which we
    praise in like manner, 'meaning ourselves,' without regard to history or
    experience? Might he not ask, whether we 'care more for the truth of
    religion, or for the speaker and the country from which the truth comes'?
    or, whether the 'select wise' are not 'the many' after all? (Symp.) So we
    may fill up the sketch of Socrates, lest, as Phaedrus says, the argument
    should be too 'abstract and barren of illustrations.' (Compare Symp.,
    Apol., Euthyphro.)

    He next proceeds with enthusiasm to define the royal art of dialectic as
    the power of dividing a whole into parts, and of uniting the parts in a
    whole, and which may also be regarded (compare Soph.) as the process of the
    mind talking with herself. The latter view has probably led Plato to the
    paradox that speech is superior to writing, in which he may seem also to be
    doing an injustice to himself. For the two cannot be fairly compared in
    the manner which Plato suggests. The contrast of the living and dead word,
    and the example of Socrates, which he has represented in the form of the
    Dialogue, seem to have misled him. For speech and writing have really
    different functions; the one is more transitory, more diffuse, more elastic
    and capable of adaptation to moods and times; the other is more permanent,
    more concentrated, and is uttered not to this or that person or audience,
    but to all the world. In the Politicus the paradox is carried further; the
    mind or will of the king is preferred to the written law; he is supposed to
    be the Law personified, the ideal made Life.

    Yet in both these statements there is also contained a truth; they may be
    compared with one another, and also with the other famous paradox, that
    'knowledge cannot be taught.' Socrates means to say, that what is truly
    written is written in the soul, just as what is truly taught grows up in
    the soul from within and is not forced upon it from without. When planted
    in a congenial soil the little seed becomes a tree, and 'the birds of the
    air build their nests in the branches.' There is an echo of this in the
    prayer at the end of the Dialogue, 'Give me beauty in the inward soul, and
    may the inward and outward man be at one.' We may further compare the
    words of St. Paul, 'Written not on tables of stone, but on fleshly tables
    of the heart;' and again, 'Ye are my epistles known and read of all men.'
    There may be a use in writing as a preservative against the forgetfulness
    of old age, but to live is higher far, to be ourselves the book, or the
    epistle, the truth embodied in a person, the Word made flesh. Something
    like this we may believe to have passed before Plato's mind when he
    affirmed that speech was superior to writing. So in other ages, weary of
    literature and criticism, of making many books, of writing articles in
    reviews, some have desired to live more closely in communion with their
    fellow-men, to speak heart to heart, to speak and act only, and not to
    write, following the example of Socrates and of Christ...

    Some other touches of inimitable grace and art and of the deepest wisdom
    may be also noted; such as the prayer or 'collect' which has just been
    cited, 'Give me beauty,' etc.; or 'the great name which belongs to God
    alone;' or 'the saying of wiser men than ourselves that a man of sense
    should try to please not his fellow-servants, but his good and noble
    masters,' like St. Paul again; or the description of the 'heavenly
    originals'...

    The chief criteria for determining the date of the Dialogue are (1) the
    ages of Lysias and Isocrates; (2) the character of the work.

    Lysias was born in the year 458; Isocrates in the year 436, about seven
    years before the birth of Plato. The first of the two great rhetoricians
    is described as in the zenith of his fame; the second is still young and
    full of promise. Now it is argued that this must have been written in the
    youth of Isocrates, when the promise was not yet fulfilled. And thus we
    should have to assign the Dialogue to a year not later than 406, when
    Isocrates was thirty and Plato twenty-three years of age, and while
    Socrates himself was still alive.

    Those who argue in this way seem not to reflect how easily Plato can
    'invent Egyptians or anything else,' and how careless he is of historical
    truth or probability. Who would suspect that the wise Critias, the
    virtuous Charmides, had ended their lives among the thirty tyrants? Who
    would imagine that Lysias, who is here assailed by Socrates, is the son of
    his old friend Cephalus? Or that Isocrates himself is the enemy of Plato
    and his school? No arguments can be drawn from the appropriateness or
    inappropriateness of the characters of Plato. (Else, perhaps, it might be
    further argued that, judging from their extant remains, insipid rhetoric is
    far more characteristic of Isocrates than of Lysias.) But Plato makes use
    of names which have often hardly any connection with the historical
    characters to whom they belong. In this instance the comparative favour
    shown to Isocrates may possibly be accounted for by the circumstance of his
    belonging to the aristocratical, as Lysias to the democratical party.

    Few persons will be inclined to suppose, in the superficial manner of some
    ancient critics, that a dialogue which treats of love must necessarily have
    been written in youth. As little weight can be attached to the argument
    that Plato must have visited Egypt before he wrote the story of Theuth and
    Thamus. For there is no real proof that he ever went to Egypt; and even if
    he did, he might have known or invented Egyptian traditions before he went
    there. The late date of the Phaedrus will have to be established by other
    arguments than these: the maturity of the thought, the perfection of the
    style, the insight, the relation to the other Platonic Dialogues, seem to
    contradict the notion that it could have been the work of a youth of twenty
    or twenty-three years of age. The cosmological notion of the mind as the
    primum mobile, and the admission of impulse into the immortal nature, also
    afford grounds for assigning a later date. (Compare Tim., Soph., Laws.)
    Add to this that the picture of Socrates, though in some lesser
    particulars,--e.g. his going without sandals, his habit of remaining within
    the walls, his emphatic declaration that his study is human nature,--an
    exact resemblance, is in the main the Platonic and not the real Socrates.
    Can we suppose 'the young man to have told such lies' about his master
    while he was still alive? Moreover, when two Dialogues are so closely
    connected as the Phaedrus and Symposium, there is great improbability in
    supposing that one of them was written at least twenty years after the
    other. The conclusion seems to be, that the Dialogue was written at some
    comparatively late but unknown period of Plato's life, after he had
    deserted the purely Socratic point of view, but before he had entered on
    the more abstract speculations of the Sophist or the Philebus. Taking into
    account the divisions of the soul, the doctrine of transmigration, the
    contemplative nature of the philosophic life, and the character of the
    style, we shall not be far wrong in placing the Phaedrus in the
    neighbourhood of the Republic; remarking only that allowance must be made
    for the poetical element in the Phaedrus, which, while falling short of the
    Republic in definite philosophic results, seems to have glimpses of a truth
    beyond.

    Two short passages, which are unconnected with the main subject of the
    Dialogue, may seem to merit a more particular notice: (1) the locus
    classicus about mythology; (2) the tale of the grasshoppers.

    The first passage is remarkable as showing that Plato was entirely free
    from what may be termed the Euhemerism of his age. For there were
    Euhemerists in Hellas long before Euhemerus. Early philosophers, like
    Anaxagoras and Metrodorus, had found in Homer and mythology hidden
    meanings. Plato, with a truer instinct, rejects these attractive
    interpretations; he regards the inventor of them as 'unfortunate;' and they
    draw a man off from the knowledge of himself. There is a latent criticism,
    and also a poetical sense in Plato, which enable him to discard them, and
    yet in another way to make use of poetry and mythology as a vehicle of
    thought and feeling. What would he have said of the discovery of Christian
    doctrines in these old Greek legends? While acknowledging that such
    interpretations are 'very nice,' would he not have remarked that they are
    found in all sacred literatures? They cannot be tested by any criterion of
    truth, or used to establish any truth; they add nothing to the sum of human
    knowledge; they are--what we please, and if employed as 'peacemakers'
    between the new and old are liable to serious misconstruction, as he
    elsewhere remarks (Republic). And therefore he would have 'bid Farewell to
    them; the study of them would take up too much of his time; and he has not
    as yet learned the true nature of religion.' The 'sophistical' interest of
    Phaedrus, the little touch about the two versions of the story, the
    ironical manner in which these explanations are set aside--'the common
    opinion about them is enough for me'--the allusion to the serpent Typho may
    be noted in passing; also the general agreement between the tone of this
    speech and the remark of Socrates which follows afterwards, 'I am a
    diviner, but a poor one.'

    The tale of the grasshoppers is naturally suggested by the surrounding
    scene. They are also the representatives of the Athenians as children of
    the soil. Under the image of the lively chirruping grasshoppers who inform
    the Muses in heaven about those who honour them on earth, Plato intends to
    represent an Athenian audience (tettigessin eoikotes). The story is
    introduced, apparently, to mark a change of subject, and also, like several
    other allusions which occur in the course of the Dialogue, in order to
    preserve the scene in the recollection of the reader.

    ...

    No one can duly appreciate the dialogues of Plato, especially the Phaedrus,
    Symposium, and portions of the Republic, who has not a sympathy with
    mysticism. To the uninitiated, as he would himself have acknowledged, they
    will appear to be the dreams of a poet who is disguised as a philosopher.
    There is a twofold difficulty in apprehending this aspect of the Platonic
    writings. First, we do not immediately realize that under the marble
    exterior of Greek literature was concealed a soul thrilling with spiritual
    emotion. Secondly, the forms or figures which the Platonic philosophy
    assumes, are not like the images of the prophet Isaiah, or of the
    Apocalypse, familiar to us in the days of our youth. By mysticism we mean,
    not the extravagance of an erring fancy, but the concentration of reason in
    feeling, the enthusiastic love of the good, the true, the one, the sense of
    the infinity of knowledge and of the marvel of the human faculties. When
    feeding upon such thoughts the 'wing of the soul' is renewed and gains
    strength; she is raised above 'the manikins of earth' and their opinions,
    waiting in wonder to know, and working with reverence to find out what God
    in this or in another life may reveal to her.

    ON THE DECLINE OF GREEK LITERATURE.

    One of the main purposes of Plato in the Phaedrus is to satirize Rhetoric,
    or rather the Professors of Rhetoric who swarmed at Athens in the fourth
    century before Christ. As in the opening of the Dialogue he ridicules the
    interpreters of mythology; as in the Protagoras he mocks at the Sophists;
    as in the Euthydemus he makes fun of the word-splitting Eristics; as in the
    Cratylus he ridicules the fancies of Etymologers; as in the Meno and
    Gorgias and some other dialogues he makes reflections and casts sly
    imputation upon the higher classes at Athens; so in the Phaedrus, chiefly
    in the latter part, he aims his shafts at the rhetoricians. The profession
    of rhetoric was the greatest and most popular in Athens, necessary 'to a
    man's salvation,' or at any rate to his attainment of wealth or power; but
    Plato finds nothing wholesome or genuine in the purpose of it. It is a
    veritable 'sham,' having no relation to fact, or to truth of any kind. It
    is antipathetic to him not only as a philosopher, but also as a great
    writer. He cannot abide the tricks of the rhetoricians, or the pedantries
    and mannerisms which they introduce into speech and writing. He sees
    clearly how far removed they are from the ways of simplicity and truth, and
    how ignorant of the very elements of the art which they are professing to
    teach. The thing which is most necessary of all, the knowledge of human
    nature, is hardly if at all considered by them. The true rules of
    composition, which are very few, are not to be found in their voluminous
    systems. Their pretentiousness, their omniscience, their large fortunes,
    their impatience of argument, their indifference to first principles, their
    stupidity, their progresses through Hellas accompanied by a troop of their
    disciples--these things were very distasteful to Plato, who esteemed genius
    far above art, and was quite sensible of the interval which separated them
    (Phaedrus). It is the interval which separates Sophists and rhetoricians
    from ancient famous men and women such as Homer and Hesiod, Anacreon and
    Sappho, Aeschylus and Sophocles; and the Platonic Socrates is afraid that,
    if he approves the former, he will be disowned by the latter. The spirit
    of rhetoric was soon to overspread all Hellas; and Plato with prophetic
    insight may have seen, from afar, the great literary waste or dead level,
    or interminable marsh, in which Greek literature was soon to disappear. A
    similar vision of the decline of the Greek drama and of the contrast of the
    old literature and the new was present to the mind of Aristophanes after
    the death of the three great tragedians (Frogs). After about a hundred, or
    at most two hundred years if we exclude Homer, the genius of Hellas had
    ceased to flower or blossom. The dreary waste which follows, beginning
    with the Alexandrian writers and even before them in the platitudes of
    Isocrates and his school, spreads over much more than a thousand years.
    And from this decline the Greek language and literature, unlike the Latin,
    which has come to life in new forms and been developed into the great
    European languages, never recovered.

    This monotony of literature, without merit, without genius and without
    character, is a phenomenon which deserves more attention than it has
    hitherto received; it is a phenomenon unique in the literary history of the
    world. How could there have been so much cultivation, so much diligence in
    writing, and so little mind or real creative power? Why did a thousand
    years invent nothing better than Sibylline books, Orphic poems, Byzantine
    imitations of classical histories, Christian reproductions of Greek plays,
    novels like the silly and obscene romances of Longus and Heliodorus,
    innumerable forged epistles, a great many epigrams, biographies of the
    meanest and most meagre description, a sham philosophy which was the
    bastard progeny of the union between Hellas and the East? Only in
    Plutarch, in Lucian, in Longinus, in the Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and
    Julian, in some of the Christian fathers are there any traces of good sense
    or originality, or any power of arousing the interest of later ages. And
    when new books ceased to be written, why did hosts of grammarians and
    interpreters flock in, who never attain to any sound notion either of
    grammar or interpretation? Why did the physical sciences never arrive at
    any true knowledge or make any real progress? Why did poetry droop and
    languish? Why did history degenerate into fable? Why did words lose their
    power of expression? Why were ages of external greatness and magnificence
    attended by all the signs of decay in the human mind which are possible?

    To these questions many answers may be given, which if not the true causes,
    are at least to be reckoned among the symptoms of the decline. There is
    the want of method in physical science, the want of criticism in history,
    the want of simplicity or delicacy in poetry, the want of political
    freedom, which is the true atmosphere of public speaking, in oratory. The
    ways of life were luxurious and commonplace. Philosophy had become
    extravagant, eclectic, abstract, devoid of any real content. At length it
    ceased to exist. It had spread words like plaster over the whole field of
    knowledge. It had grown ascetic on one side, mystical on the other.
    Neither of these tendencies was favourable to literature. There was no
    sense of beauty either in language or in art. The Greek world became
    vacant, barbaric, oriental. No one had anything new to say, or any
    conviction of truth. The age had no remembrance of the past, no power of
    understanding what other ages thought and felt. The Catholic faith had
    degenerated into dogma and controversy. For more than a thousand years not
    a single writer of first-rate, or even of second-rate, reputation has a
    place in the innumerable rolls of Greek literature.

    If we seek to go deeper, we can still only describe the outward nature of
    the clouds or darkness which were spread over the heavens during so many
    ages without relief or light. We may say that this, like several other
    long periods in the history of the human race, was destitute, or deprived
    of the moral qualities which are the root of literary excellence. It had
    no life or aspiration, no national or political force, no desire for
    consistency, no love of knowledge for its own sake. It did not attempt to
    pierce the mists which surrounded it. It did not propose to itself to go
    forward and scale the heights of knowledge, but to go backwards and seek at
    the beginning what can only be found towards the end. It was lost in doubt
    and ignorance. It rested upon tradition and authority. It had none of the
    higher play of fancy which creates poetry; and where there is no true
    poetry, neither can there be any good prose. It had no great characters,
    and therefore it had no great writers. It was incapable of distinguishing
    between words and things. It was so hopelessly below the ancient standard
    of classical Greek art and literature that it had no power of understanding
    or of valuing them. It is doubtful whether any Greek author was justly
    appreciated in antiquity except by his own contemporaries; and this neglect
    of the great authors of the past led to the disappearance of the larger
    part of them, while the Greek fathers were mostly preserved. There is no
    reason to suppose that, in the century before the taking of Constantinople,
    much more was in existence than the scholars of the Renaissance carried
    away with them to Italy.

    The character of Greek literature sank lower as time went on. It consisted
    more and more of compilations, of scholia, of extracts, of commentaries,
    forgeries, imitations. The commentator or interpreter had no conception of
    his author as a whole, and very little of the context of any passage which
    he was explaining. The least things were preferred by him to the greatest.
    The question of a reading, or a grammatical form, or an accent, or the uses
    of a word, took the place of the aim or subject of the book. He had no
    sense of the beauties of an author, and very little light is thrown by him
    on real difficulties. He interprets past ages by his own. The greatest
    classical writers are the least appreciated by him. This seems to be the
    reason why so many of them have perished, why the lyric poets have almost
    wholly disappeared; why, out of the eighty or ninety tragedies of Aeschylus
    and Sophocles, only seven of each had been preserved.

    Such an age of sciolism and scholasticism may possibly once more get the
    better of the literary world. There are those who prophesy that the signs
    of such a day are again appearing among us, and that at the end of the
    present century no writer of the first class will be still alive. They
    think that the Muse of Literature may transfer herself to other countries
    less dried up or worn out than our own. They seem to see the withering
    effect of criticism on original genius. No one can doubt that such a decay
    or decline of literature and of art seriously affects the manners and
    character of a nation. It takes away half the joys and refinements of
    life; it increases its dulness and grossness. Hence it becomes a matter of
    great interest to consider how, if at all, such a degeneracy may be
    averted. Is there any elixir which can restore life and youth to the
    literature of a nation, or at any rate which can prevent it becoming
    unmanned and enfeebled?

    First there is the progress of education. It is possible, and even
    probable, that the extension of the means of knowledge over a wider area
    and to persons living under new conditions may lead to many new
    combinations of thought and language. But, as yet, experience does not
    favour the realization of such a hope or promise. It may be truly answered
    that at present the training of teachers and the methods of education are
    very imperfect, and therefore that we cannot judge of the future by the
    present. When more of our youth are trained in the best literatures, and
    in the best parts of them, their minds may be expected to have a larger
    growth. They will have more interests, more thoughts, more material for
    conversation; they will have a higher standard and begin to think for
    themselves. The number of persons who will have the opportunity of
    receiving the highest education through the cheap press, and by the help of
    high schools and colleges, may increase tenfold. It is likely that in
    every thousand persons there is at least one who is far above the average
    in natural capacity, but the seed which is in him dies for want of
    cultivation. It has never had any stimulus to grow, or any field in which
    to blossom and produce fruit. Here is a great reservoir or treasure-house
    of human intelligence out of which new waters may flow and cover the earth.
    If at any time the great men of the world should die out, and originality
    or genius appear to suffer a partial eclipse, there is a boundless hope in
    the multitude of intelligences for future generations. They may bring
    gifts to men such as the world has never received before. They may begin
    at a higher point and yet take with them all the results of the past. The
    co-operation of many may have effects not less striking, though different
    in character from those which the creative genius of a single man, such as
    Bacon or Newton, formerly produced. There is also great hope to be
    derived, not merely from the extension of education over a wider area, but
    from the continuance of it during many generations. Educated parents will
    have children fit to receive education; and these again will grow up under
    circumstances far more favourable to the growth of intelligence than any
    which have hitherto existed in our own or in former ages.

    Even if we were to suppose no more men of genius to be produced, the great
    writers of ancient or of modern times will remain to furnish abundant
    materials of education to the coming generation. Now that every nation
    holds communication with every other, we may truly say in a fuller sense
    than formerly that 'the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the
    suns.' They will not be 'cribbed, cabined, and confined' within a province
    or an island. The East will provide elements of culture to the West as
    well as the West to the East. The religions and literatures of the world
    will be open books, which he who wills may read. The human race may not be
    always ground down by bodily toil, but may have greater leisure for the
    improvement of the mind. The increasing sense of the greatness and
    infinity of nature will tend to awaken in men larger and more liberal
    thoughts. The love of mankind may be the source of a greater development
    of literature than nationality has ever been. There may be a greater
    freedom from prejudice and party; we may better understand the whereabouts
    of truth, and therefore there may be more success and fewer failures in the
    search for it. Lastly, in the coming ages we shall carry with us the
    recollection of the past, in which are necessarily contained many seeds of
    revival and renaissance in the future. So far is the world from becoming
    exhausted, so groundless is the fear that literature will ever die out.
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