republic (books 6 - 10)
Shall I propose, then, that she be allowed to return from
exile, but upon this condition only--that she make a defence
of herself in lyrical or some other metre?
And we may further grant to those of her defenders who are
lovers of poetry and yet not poets the permission to speak in
prose on her behalf: let them show not only that she is pleasant,
but also useful to States and to human life, and we will listen
in a kindly spirit; for if this can be proved we shall surely be
the gainers--I mean, if there is a use in poetry as well as a
Certainly, he said, we shall be the gainers.
If her defence fails, then, my dear friend, like other persons
who are enamoured of something, but put a restraint upon
themselves when they think their desires are opposed to their
interests, so, too, must we after the manner of lovers give her
up, though not without a struggle. We, too, are inspired by
that love of poetry which the education of noble States has im-
planted in us, and therefore we would have her appear at her
best and truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her
defence, this argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which
we will repeat to ourselves while we listen to her strains; that
we may not fall away into the childish love of her which capti-
vates the many. At all events we are well aware that poetry
being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously
as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for
the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his
guard against her seductions and make our words his law.
Yes, he said, I quite agree with you.
Yes, I said, my dear Glaucon, for great is the issue at stake,
greater than appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And
what will anyone be profited if under the influence of honor or
money or power, aye, or under the excitement of poetry, he
neglect justice and virtue?
Yes, he said; I have been convinced by the argument, as I
believe that anyone else would have been.
And yet no mention has been made of the greatest prizes and
rewards which await virtue.
What, are there any greater still? If there are, they must
be of an inconceivable greatness.
Why, I said, what was ever great in a short time? The
whole period of threescore years and ten is surely but a little
thing in comparison with eternity?
Say rather 'nothing' he replied.
And should an immortal being seriously think of this little
space rather than of the whole?
Of the whole, certainly. But why do you ask?
Are you not aware, I said, that the soul of man is immortal