Soc. Then which will be a better judge of the lines which you were
reciting from Homer, you or the charioteer?
Ion. The charioteer.
Soc. Why, yes, because you are a rhapsode and not a charioteer.
Soc. And the art of the rhapsode is different from that of the
Soc. And if a different knowledge, then a knowledge of different
Soc. You know the passage in which Hecamede, the concubine of Nestor,
is described as giving to the wounded Machaon a posset, as he says,
Made with Pramnian wine; and she grated cheese of goat's milk with a
grater of bronze, and at his side placed an onion which gives a relish
to drink. Now would you say that the art of the rhapsode or the art of
medicine was better able to judge of the propriety of these lines?
Ion. The art of medicine.
Soc. And when Homer says,
And she descended into the deep like a leaden plummet, which, set in
the horn of ox that ranges in the fields, rushes along carrying death
among the ravenous fishes,- will the art of the fisherman or of the
rhapsode be better able to judge whether these lines are rightly
expressed or not?
Ion. Clearly, Socrates, the art of the fisherman.
Soc. Come now, suppose that you were to say to me: "Since you,
Socrates, are able to assign different passages in Homer to their
corresponding arts, I wish that you would tell me what are the
passages of which the excellence ought to be judged by the prophet and
prophetic art"; and you will see how readily and truly I shall answer
you. For there are many such passages, particularly in the Odyssey;
as, for example, the passage in which Theoclymenus the prophet of the
house of Melampus says to the suitors:-
Wretched men! what is happening to you? Your heads and your faces and
your limbs underneath are shrouded in night; and the voice of
lamentation bursts forth, and your cheeks are wet with tears. And the
vestibule is full, and the court is full, of ghosts descending into
the darkness of Erebus, and the sun has perished out of heaven, and an
evil mist is spread abroad.
And there are many such passages in the Iliad also; as for example in
the description of the battle near the rampart, where he says:-
As they were eager to pass the ditch, there came to them an omen: a
soaring eagle, holding back the people on the left, bore a huge bloody
dragon in his talons, still living and panting; nor had he yet
resigned the strife, for he bent back and smote the bird which carried
him on the breast by the neck, and he in pain let him fall from him to
the ground into the midst of the multitude. And the eagle, with a cry,
was borne afar on the wings of the wind.
These are the sort of things which I should say that the prophet ought
to consider and determine.
Ion. And you are quite right, Socrates, in saying so.
Soc. Yes, Ion, and you are right also. And as I have selected from the
Iliad and Odyssey for you passages which describe the office of the
prophet and the physician and the fisherman, do you, who know Homer so
much better than I do, Ion, select for me passages which relate to the
rhapsode and the rhapsode's art, and which the rhapsode ought to
examine and judge of better than other men.
Ion. All passages, I should say, Socrates.
Soc. Not all, Ion, surely. Have you already forgotten what you were
saying? A rhapsode ought to have a better memory.
Ion. Why, what am I forgetting?
Soc. Do you not remember that you declared the art of the rhapsode to
be different from the art of the charioteer?
Ion. Yes, I remember.