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That throng the pillared Parthenon. My heart
Is sick of spiritless formalities :
I want a God most absolute, essential,
And universal--the spirit of all spirits,
That, like my guardian genius, shall be felt
Palpably working through the all-conscious soul.
Of Him the endless gods of Polytheism
Are but reflections, made more intricate
By wearing names—so many and so strange,
That memory groans beneath mythology.
Would I were quite convinced !
How now, my Socrates ?What, in the name of all that's marvellous, Makes you so fond of solitude ?- You seem To spare no pains to illustrate the old saw, “ Ne'er less alone than when alone." Your friends Have all been hunting for you. Not a corner Of Athens has escaped them.
I was not, as you think, in solitude :
This ancient Temple was my company;
And with it I was holding parley when
You found me.
Ay, just in the very middle
Of some elaborate soliloquy:
You are the most determined moralizer,
Sweet Socrates, that ever walked in Athens.
If I plead guilty, what's the penalty ?
That you will moralize less by yourself,
And more among your friends. In faith, good people
Are scarce enough, and we can't
spare you, and "Twere pity that so many pleasant speeches Should be lost in the air, whose better home Were the memory of our young philosophers.
Crito, you are a friend—a friend of friends.-
A real, honest, thorough-going friend-
Worth a whole million of acquaintances !
How much I owe you! My true soul expands
To thee, as doth a heliotrope unto
The sunbeam. My heart warms and yearns toward thee.
When I was nothing-nothing but a bubble
Of accident-an unfledged artist, dabbling
In poetry and sculpture-unadmired,
Untutored, and unaided-Crito! you
Were the first to read me truly. You discovered
A something which distinguished Socrates
From other men. That something had been lost
In the sea of Casualty ; but, like a pilot,
You rescued me, broken by the jarring storms
Of pitiless fortune. Your experienced hand
Guided my drifting shattered bark to port-
You patronized me! May the just Gods bless thee ! -
Most nobly, generously patronized me,
Just when the mob of sophists cast me off.
To thee springs my best gratitude. Who else
Gave me the means to emancipate heaven's truth
From the clouds of reeking ignorance ?—who else
Brought me in contact with the noble few
Whose spirits sit enthroned 'mid serene airs
Of divine wisdom-unto whom the eyes
And hearts of men turn wistfully, as if
They recognized the visible incarnations
No more: your compliments
Are undeserved, my Socrates. Believe me,
In honest faith, 'twas something little better
Than selfishness that made me cherish thee;
I knew that I could make you that which should be
A blessing to myself, and to the state
Of Athens. Was it interest or virtue
Led me to choose you?
Interest, dearest Crito,
When true, is one with virtue- Virtue is
None other than our truest interest :
Don't undervalue your good self, nor satirize
The deeds that win my love.—Now I must go
To visit Academus.
Fare thee well.
Enter EURIPIDes and PHÆDON.
Happily met ;-Phædon is always welcome.
PHÆDON. What news, Euripides ?
I don't know of any.
That's news, at least, that there should be no news
In this news-mongering Athens. Tell me, now,
How goes your tragedy ?- I love the character
You have chosen for your hero-Hercules-
You've drawn his picture to the very life :
I see him struggling to defeat the passion
Which boils in his hot nature. To my thinking,
The heroic struggler with temptation is
Worth a whole host of easy-going plodders,
Who are good for want of courage to be wicked.
I see this metaphysical contest waged
In him: his virtue grows more virtuous in
Its keen encounter with the vehement energies
Of vice. I see that he who conquers self,
Can conquer all things : therefore do I love
Our master Socrates—Integrity
Beams in his countenance.
You've a deeper science
Of fair psychology, than any boasted
By our quack physiognomists. I'll tell you
A curious story, worth the listening :-Yesterday,
As I was standing in the sacred grove
Of Academus, chatting pleasantly
With Socrates, and others,—lo ! there came
A physiognomical professor in,
And challenged all that he would read our characters
By rules of what he termed Phrenology:
Faith, 'twas a merry and conceited knave,
Who talked of occiputs and frontal sinuses
Most laughably. Well, just to try the man,
Socrates let him feel his head ; and after
A thousand queer manipulations,
Looking the while as knowing as a Nestor,
He passed his verdict.
By the stars, what was it? Some flattering compliment, no doubt.
My Phædon, Your prejudice runs so strongly in his favour,
Then tell me,- I'm inquisitive.
He said, that Socrates was the greatest scoundrel
That ever he set eyes on.
EURIPIDES. 'Twas capital! for, by a happy chance, The rascal was within an ace of the truth.
PHÆDON. How mean you ?
Ah! no wonder that you stare,
Just as the auditors did, who, had I not
Come to the rescue, would have massacred
This Mercury of pericraniums.
“ Forbear, (said Socrates,) the man has hit
The mark he aimed at, and I like him better
For speaking his opinion openly.
I may have conquered and subdued myself,
By the grace of Heaven, to something passable
As a character; but if I have, l've done so
By waging with myself incessant war,
And immolating selfishness. There never
In any human breast were stronger passions
Of lust, and anger, and ambition.
They are broken now,- I've dashed their galling yoke
Into a thousand splinters : but no other
Than Death himself shall quite obliterate
The scars their bloody bondage left upon me."
How ended this adventure ?
The man to dine with him, and gave him silver
For bis honesty.
Such is his singular method Of making friends; to act as nobody else E'er dreams of acting. Let us walk together To Aspasia's symposium,- I have something I wished to argue with you.
Well, the walk,
And the talk, are excellent sound recipes
For a good appetite; worth all the nostrums
Of your quack doctors.
You shall have them both.
The Saloon of Aspasia. Enter Pericles, Aspasia, SOCRATES, XANTIPPE, ALCIBIADES, and
several Athenian ladies.
Heaven's blessing on thee, my Aspasia!
When Pericles is all but dead with the cares
Of the jarring day, an evening spent with thee,
And these sweet friends, restores him, like Jove's nectar,
To the dream of youth and beauty !
Ah ! my lord,
Your youth may be a dream—an idle dream;
But for my beauty, I do hope it is
A little more substantial, or my mirror
Is a sad flatterer.
You provoking creature,
How you do love to tease! I wonder Pericles
Has not long left you.
I don't wonder at it;
If Pericles to Pericles is known,
He knows that this same delicate frowardness,
Doth make Aspasia still more loveable.
Don't flatter, Socrates-- I'm quite ashamed
To hear you talk so; you—a grave philosopher !
You'd make her think, with your sophistical cant,
Her very faults are amiable.
My dear sweet gentle Tippet, I do think so;-
But don't be jealous; if I've called her Venus,
You know I've called you
Tippet, indeed! I will not have my name
So barbarously pronounced; I do detest
Such liberties in public;—use in future
A little less familiarity.
Never mind, Tippet, 'twill be the same thing
When we're asleep, and that most active animal,
Your saucy little tongue, forgets to prattle ;
Nay, do not weep,
your tears will discompose