mid-wives know better than others who is pregnant and who is not?
Theaet. Very true.
Soc. And by the use of potions and incantations they are able to
arouse the pangs and to soothe them at will; they can make those
bear who have a difficulty in bearing, and if they think fit they
can smother the embryo in the womb.
Theaet. They can.
Soc. Did you ever remark that they are also most cunning
matchmakers, and have a thorough knowledge of what unions are likely
to produce a brave brood?
Theaet. No, never.
Soc. Then let me tell you that this is their greatest pride, more
than cutting the umbilical cord. And if you reflect, you will see that
the same art which cultivates and gathers in the fruits of the
earth, will be most likely to know in what soils the several plants or
seeds should be deposited.
Theaet. Yes, the same art.
Soc. And do you suppose that with women the case is otherwise?
Theaet. I should think not.
Soc. Certainly not; but mid-wives are respectable women who have a
character to lose, and they avoid this department of their profession,
because they are afraid of being called procuresses, which is a name
given to those who join together man and woman in an unlawful and
unscientific way; and yet the true midwife is also the true and only
Soc. Such are the mid-wives, whose task is a very important one
but not so important as mine; for women do not bring into the world at
one time real children, and at another time counterfeits which are
with difficulty distinguished from them; if they did, then the,
discernment of the true and false birth would be the crowning
achievement of the art of midwifery-you would think so?
Theaet. Indeed I should.
Soc. Well, my art of midwifery is in most respects like theirs;
but differs, in that I attend men and not women; and look after
their souls when they are in labour, and not after their bodies: and
the triumph of my art is in thoroughly examining whether the thought
which the mind of the young man brings forth is a false idol or a
noble and true birth. And like the mid-wives, I am barren, and the
reproach which is often made against me, that I ask questions of
others and have not the wit to answer them myself, is very just-the
reason is, that the god compels-me to be a midwife, but does not allow
me to bring forth. And therefore I am not myself at all wise, nor have
I anything to show which is the invention or birth of my own soul, but
those who converse with me profit. Some of them appear dull enough
at first, but afterwards, as our acquaintance ripens, if the god is
gracious to them, they all make astonishing progress; and this in
the opinion of others as well as in their own. It is quite dear that
they never learned anything from me; the many fine discoveries to
which they cling are of their own making. But to me and the god they
owe their delivery. And the proof of my words is, that many of them in
their ignorance, either in their self-conceit despising me, or falling
under the influence of others, have gone away too soon; and have not
only lost the children of whom I had previously delivered them by an
ill bringing up, but have stifled whatever else they had in them by
evil communications, being fonder of lies and shams than of the truth;
and they have at last ended by seeing themselves, as others see
them, to be great fools. Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus, is one
of them, and there are many others. The truants often return to me,
and beg that I would consort with them again-they are ready to go to
me on their knees and then, if my familiar allows, which is not always
the case, I receive them, and they begin to grow again. Dire are the
pangs which my art is able to arouse and to allay in those who consort
with me, just like the pangs of women in childbirth; night and day