republic (books 6 - 10)
THE RECOMPENSE OF LIFE
OF the many excellences which I perceive in the order of
our State, there is none which upon reflection pleases
me better than the rule about poetry.
To what do you refer?
To the rejection of imitative poetry, which certainly ought
not to be received; as I see far more clearly now that the parts
of the soul have been distinguished.
What do you mean?
Speaking in confidence, for I should not like to have my
words repeated to the tragedians and the rest of the imitative
tribe--but I do not mind saying to you, that all poetical imita-
tions are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and that
the knowledge of their true nature is the only antidote to them.
Explain the purport of your remark.
Well, I will tell you, although I have always from my earliest
youth had an awe and love of Homer, which even now makes
the words falter on my lips, for he is the great captain and
teacher of the whole of that charming tragic company; but a
man is not to be reverenced more than the truth, and therefore
I will speak out.
Very good, he said.
Listen to me, then, or, rather, answer me.
Put your question.
Can you tell me what imitation is? for I really do not know.
A likely thing, then, that I should know.
Why not? for the duller eye may often see a thing sooner
than the keener.
Very true, he said; but in your presence, even if I had any
faint notion, I could not muster courage to utter it. Will you
Well, then, shall we begin the inquiry in our usual manner:
Whenever a number of individuals have a common name, we
assume them to have also a corresponding idea or form; do you
Let us take any common instance; there are beds and tables
in the world--plenty of them, are there not?
But there are only two ideas or forms of them--one the idea
of a bed, the other of a table.