« AnteriorContinuar »
lock, (cicuta,) which he submitted to, with undaunted firmness and composure.
2 One accusation was, that he denied the fabulous deities adored by his country; which if true, would have been one of the most magnanimous and glorious deeds he could have been guilty of. He, however, denies the charge, and cites the sacrifices he had made to them, in the temples and in his own house.
3 He was accused of corrupting and leading astray th youth, there being mischievous and abandoned men found among those who had been his pupils. To which he makes the following defence:
4 “I am accused of corrupting the youth, and of instilling dangerous maxims into them, as well in regard to the worship of the gods, as the rules of government. You know, Athenians, that I never made it my profession, to teach; nor can envy, however violent against me, reproach me with ever having sold my instructions. I have an undeniable evidence for me in this respect, which is my poverty.
5 “Always equally ready to communicate my thoughts either to the rich or poor, and to give them entire leisure to question or answer me, I lend myself; to every one who is desirous of becoming virtuous; and if amongst those who hear me, there are any who prove either good or bad, neither the virtues of the one, nor the vices of the other, to which I have not contributed, are to be ascribed to me.
6 “My whole employment is to persuade young and old against too much love for the body, for riches, and all other precarious things of whatever nature they be, and against too little regard for the soul, which ought to be the object of their affection : for I incessantly urge to you, that virtue does not proceed from riches, but on the contrary, riches from virtue; and that all the other goods of human life, as well public as private, have their source in the same principle.
7 66 And what is the cause that when others are under a necessity to procure their delicacies from abroad, at an exorbitant rate, I can indulge in pleasures far more exquisite, by recurring to the reflections in my own mind? If to speak in this manner be to corrupt youth, I confess, Athenians, that I am guilty, and deserve to be punished.” “Pass on me what sentence you please, Athenians, but I can neither repent nor change my conduct.”
8 On hearing his final sentence, addressing himself to the judges with a noble tranquillity, “I am going,” said he, “to
suffer death by your order, to which nature had condemned me from the first moment of my birth; but my accusers will suffer no less from infamy and injustice by the decrees of truth."
9 While in prison, Socrates was notified by his friends that his jailor was bribed, and that it was in his power to escape the fatal destiny which awaited him, which he was pressingly urged to do. But he sternly rejected the proposition, on the principle that it would be unjust and shameful to violate and evade the laws of the republic, even in their cruel excesses; having repeatedly pledged himself to inviolable fidelity, by the most solemn engagements.
10 “ It has always been a maxim with us,” says he, “ that it is never allowable, upon any pretence whatsoever, to commit injustice, not even in regard to those who injure us, nor to return evil for evil, and that when we have once engaged our word, we are bound to keep it inviolably; no interest being capable to dispense with it."
11 Some time after the death of Socrates, the Athenians became sensible of their shameful outrage, which appeared in all its horrors. Athens was in universal mourning and consternation. The accusers were called to an account, and condemned to death, banishment, and treated with every kind of contumely; so that some of them killed themselves.
12 Although Socrates discovered extraordinary sagacity in the perception of moral truth, it appears, from his construing his penetrating prompt judgment into a personal genius, or demon, that he had not divested his mind of the influence of the fantastic chimeras that were generally prevalent in those dark ages of ignorance and superstition. Another evidence of this, is, his faith in oracles, in sacrifices to imaginary fabulous deities, in a multiplicity of Gods, &c.
13 The excellent instructions which Socrates delivered to the Athenians, in relation to the practical moral duties, entitled him to their respect and gratitude; but they still remained idolatrous, and “too superstitious," until, five hundred years after him,—“ Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill,” and declared unto them the God “that dwelleth not in temples made with hands !"
J. T. F 2
SECTION V. Discourses of Socrates on the duties of children to parents,
and on fraternal affection. 1 Xenophon has recorded a conversation between Socrates and his son, on the patience that children ought to exercise towards the faults of their parents; and another with Chere crates, the brother of Cherephon, on fraternal friendship, which ought to be in possession of every family that now exists, or shall exist in our world.
2 Socrates observing his eldest son Lamprocles in a violent passion with his mother, opened a discourse with him as follows:-- Come hither, son,” said he; “ have you never heard of men who are called ungrateful ?” “ Yes, frequently," answered the youth. “And what is ingratitude ?" demanded Socrates. “It is to receive a kindness," said Lamprocles, “without making a proper return, when there is a favorable opportunity.” Ingratitude is therefore a species of injustice," said Socrates. " I should think so," answered Lamprocles.
3 “ If then," pursued Socrates, “ ingratitude be injustice, does it not follow, that the degree of it must be proportionate to the magnitude of the favors which have been received ?” Lamprocles admitted the inference; and Socrates thus pursued his interrogations.
4 “ Can there subsist higher obligations than those which children owe to their parents, from whom life is derived and supported, and by whose good offices it is rendered honorable, useful and happy?” “I acknowledge the truth of what you say,” replied Lamprocles; “but who could suffer, without resentment, the ill humors of such a mother as I have ?" “What strange thing has she done to you?” said Socrates.
5 “ She has a tongue,” replied Lamprocles, “ that no mortal can bear.” “How much more,” said Socrates," has she endured from your wrangling, fretfulness, and incessant cries, in the period of infancy! What anxieties has she suffered from the levities, capriciousness and follies of your childhood and youth! What affliction has she felt, what toil and watching has she sustained in your illnesses ! These, and various other powerful motives to filial duty and gratitude, have been recognised by the legislators of our republic.
6 “For, if any one be disrespectful to his parents, he is not permitted to enjoy any post of trust or honor. Let no one discover the contempt with which you have treated her;
for the world will condemn and abandon you for such behaviour. And if it be even suspected that you repay with ingratitude the good offices of your parents, you will inevitably forego the kindness of others; because no man will suppose that you have a heart to requite either his favors or his friendship.”
7 Cherephon and Cherecrates having quarrelled with each other, Socrates, their common friend, was solicitous to restore amity between them. Meeting, therefore, with Cherecrates, he thus accosted him: “Is not friendship the sweetest solace in adversity, and the greatest enhancement of the blessings of prosperity ?” “Certainly it is,” replied Cherecrates; 6 because our sorrows are diminished and our joys increased by sympathetic participation.”
8 Amongst whom, then, must we look for a friend ?” said Socrates. “Would you search among strangers ? They cannot be interested about you. Amongst your rivals ? They have an interest in opposition to yours. Amongst those who are much older or younger than yourself? Their feelings and pursuits will be widely different from yours, Are there not, then, some circumstances favorable, and others essential, to the formation of friendship?” “Undoubtedly there are,
answered Cherecrates. 96 May we not enumerate,” continued Socrates, “amongst the circumstances favorable to friendship, long acquaintance, common connections, similitude of age and union of interest?" “I acknowledge, "said Cherecrates, “the powerful influence of these circumstances ; but they may subsist, and yet others be wanting, that are essential to mutual amity.”
10 “And what,” said Socrates, “are those essentials which are wanting in Cherephon?" “ He has forfeited my esteem and attachment,” answered Cherecrates. 66 And has he also forfeited the esteem and attachment of the rest of mankind ?” continued Socrates. 6 Is he devoid of benevolence, generosity, gratitude, and other social affections ?”
11 Far be it from me,” cried Cherecrates, “ to lay so heavy a charge upon him: his conduct to others is, I believe, irreproachable; and it wounds me the more that he should single me out as the object of his unkindness.”
12 “If you desire that one of your neighbors should invite you to his feast, what course would you take?” “I would first invite him to mine." 66 And how would you induce him to take the charge of your affairs, when you are
on a journey ?” “I should be forward to do the same good office to him in his absence."
13 “ If you be solicitous to remove a prejudice which he may have received against you, how would you then behave towards him?" "I should endeavor to convince him by my looks, words and actions, that such prejudice was ill founded.” “And, if he appeared inclined to reconciliation, would you reproach him with the injustice he had done you?” “No," answered Cherecrates; “I would repeat no grievances."
14 “Delay not, therefore, my Cherecrates, to do what I advise; use your endeavor to appease your brother; nor doubt his readiness to return your love.”—“But suppose, my Socrates, when I have acted as you advise, my brother should behave no better than he has done?”–• Should it prove so, Cherecrates, what other harm can arise to
from it, than that of having shown yourself a good man, and a good brother to one, whose badness of temper makes him undeserving of your regard ?
15 " But, I have no apprehension of so unfavorable an issue to this matter: rather, when your brother shall see it your intention to conquer by courtesy, he himself will strive to excel in so noble a contest. As it is, nothing can be more deplorable than your present situation ; it being no more than if these hands, ordained of God for mutual assistance, should so far forget their office as to impede each other:-But no situation can hinder brothers, who live in amity, from rendering one another the most essential services.”
SECTION VI. Conversation between Socrates and Critobulus, on the art
of procuring the friendship of good men. 1 “Suppose,” said Socrates, “we wanted to choose a worthy friend, what should be our method of proceeding ? Should we not beware of one much addicted to intemperance and dissipation ? or of a lazy disposition? Since enslaved to such vices, no man would be of use, either to himself, or any other.”
“ Certainly." 2 “And if there was a person, provident indeed enough, but withal so covetous, as never to be content unless he had the advantage of you on every occasion ?” _“I would think of him worse than the other.”—“But what do you say to the man, Critobulus, who is so much bent on making a fortune as to mind nothing but what serves to that end?"_" I say,