laws (books 1 - 6)
words of ours than any others which we might address to them.
Cle. I assent to what you say.
Ath. First will enter in their natural order the sacred choir
composed of children, which is to sing lustily the heaven-taught lay
to the whole city. Next will follow the choir of young men under the
age of thirty, who will call upon the God Paean to testify to the
truth of their words, and will pray him to be gracious to the youth
and to turn their hearts. Thirdly, the choir of elder men, who are
from thirty to sixty years of age, will also sing. There remain
those who are too old to sing, and they will tell stories,
illustrating the same virtues, as with the voice of an oracle.
Cle. Who are those who compose the third choir, Stranger? for I do
not clearly understand what you mean to say about them.
Ath. And yet almost all that I have been saying has said with a view
Cle. Will you try to be a little plainer?
Ath. I was speaking at the commencement of our discourse, as you
will remember, of the fiery nature of young creatures: I said that
they were unable to keep quiet either in limb or voice, and that
they called out and jumped about in a disorderly manner; and that no
other animal attained to any perception of order, but man only. Now
the order of motion is called rhythm, and the order of the voice, in
which high and low are duly mingled, is called harmony; and both
together are termed choric song. And I said that the Gods had pity
on us, and gave us Apollo and the Muses to be our playfellows and
leaders in the dance; and Dionysus, as I dare say that you will
remember, was the third.
Cle. I quite remember.
Ath. Thus far I have spoken of the chorus of Apollo and the Muses,
and I have still to speak of the remaining chorus, which is that of
Cle. How is that arranged? There is something strange, at any rate
on first hearing, in a Dionysiac chorus of old men, if you really mean
that those who are above thirty, and may be fifty, or from fifty to
sixty years of age, are to dance in his honour.
Ath. Very true; and therefore it must be shown that there is good
reason for the proposal.
Ath. Are we agreed thus far?
Cle. About what?
Ath. That every man and boy, slave and free, both sexes, and the
whole city, should never cease charming themselves with the strains of
which we have spoken; and that there should be every sort of change
and variation of them in order to take away the effect of sameness, so
that the singers may always receive pleasure from their hymns, and may
never weary of them?
Cle. Every one will agree.
Ath. Where, then, will that best part of our city which, by reason
of age and intelligence, has the greatest influence, sing these
fairest of strains, which are to do so much good? Shall we be so
foolish as to let them off who would give us the most beautiful and
also the most useful of songs?
Cle. But, says the argument, we cannot let them off.
Ath. Then how can we carry out our purpose with decorum? Will this
be the way?
Ath. When a man is advancing in years, he is afraid and reluctant to
sing;-he has no pleasure in his own performances; and if compulsion is
used, he will be more and more ashamed, the older and more discreet he
grows;-is not this true?
Ath. Well, and will he not be yet more ashamed if he has to stand up
and sing in the theatre to a mixed audience?-and if moreover when he
is required to do so, like the other choirs who contend for prizes,