laws (books 1 - 6)
do you think that any one can know about this, who does not know
what the animal is which has been imitated?
Ath. But even if we know that the thing pictured or sculptured is
a man, who has received at the hand of the artist all his proper parts
and colours and shapes, must we not also know whether the work is
beautiful or in any respect deficient in beauty?
Cle. If this were not required, Stranger, we should all of us be
judges of beauty.
Ath. Very true; and may we not say that in everything imitated,
whether in drawing, music, or any other art, he who is to be a
competent judge must possess three things;-he must know, in the
first place, of what the imitation is; secondly, he must know that
it is true; and thirdly, that it has been well executed in words and
melodies and rhythms?
Ath. Then let us not faint in discussing the peculiar difficulty
of music. Music is more celebrated than any other kind of imitation,
and therefore requires the greatest care of them all. For if a man
makes a mistake here, he may do himself the greatest injury by
welcoming evil dispositions, and the mistake may be very difficult
to discern, because the poets are artists very inferior in character
to the Muses themselves, who would never fall into the monstrous error
of assigning to the words of men the gestures and songs of women;
nor after combining the melodies with the gestures of freemen would
they add on the rhythms of slaves and men of the baser sort; nor,
beginning with the rhythms and gestures of freemen, would they
assign to them a melody or words which are of an opposite character;
nor would they mix up the voices and sounds of animals and of men
and instruments, and every other sort of noise, as if they were all
one. But human poets are fond of introducing this sort of inconsistent
mixture, and so make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of those who,
as Orpheus says, "are ripe for true pleasure." The experienced see all
this confusion, and yet the poets go on and make still further havoc
by separating the rhythm and the figure of the dance from the
melody, setting bare words to metre, and also separating the melody
and the rhythm from the words, using the lyre or the flute alone.
For when there are no words, it is very difficult to recognize the
meaning of the harmony and rhythm, or to see that any worthy object is
imitated by them. And we must acknowledge that all this sort of thing,
which aims only at swiftness and smoothness and a brutish noise, and
uses the flute and the lyre not as the mere accompaniments of the
dance and song, is exceedingly coarse and tasteless. The use of either
instrument, when unaccompanied, leads to every sort of irregularity
and trickery. This is all rational enough. But we are considering
not how our choristers, who are from thirty to fifty years of age, and
may be over fifty, are not to use the Muses, but how they are to use
them. And the considerations which we have urged seem to show in
what way these fifty year-old choristers who are to sing, may be
expected to be better trained. For they need to have a quick
perception and knowledge of harmonies and rhythms; otherwise, how
can they ever know whether a melody would be rightly sung to the
Dorian mode, or to the rhythm which the poet has assigned to it?
Cle. Clearly they cannot.
Ath. The many are ridiculous in imagining that they know what is
in proper harmony and rhythm, and what is not, when they can only be
made to sing and step in rhythm by force; it never occurs to them that
they are ignorant of what they are doing. Now every melody is right
when it has suitable harmony and rhythm, and wrong when unsuitable.
Cle. That is most certain.
Ath. But can a man who does not know a thing, as we were saying,
know that the thing is right?
Ath. Then now, as would appear, we are making the discovery that our