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This leads us to that excellence of Plato in which the English reader will perhaps find most pleasure, — his imagination. Into his most abstruse discussions are introduced, as illustrations, visions of the other world or tales of earthly heroes. We see thrones set in heaven, and spirits coming up for judgment; or ghosts of the dead travelling on through unknown regions, or meeting after long ages in some spacious mead of heaven: we watch the chariot of the soul as its eager horses thunder along the circles of the sky: no flight of fancy is too bold, no limits of time or space confine it; and yet all is chastened and deliberate; there is that definiteness of description which we admire in Dante, and that careful symbolism which is found in the Pilgrim's Progress.
Upon imagination depends descriptive power; and few writers, of any age, have shown this more than Plato. He takes us into the crowded market-place, where all men are acquaintance; to the gay palasstra with its games and its loves and its learned conversation, or wanders with us by nymph-haunted river-sides, and shows us rest beneath the plane-trees of Ilissus. The fiery restlessness of the Sophist, the old man's contented superstition, the beautiful boy's ingenuous modesty, Alcibiades generous and thoughtless, Agathon graceful and conceited,—every form of character or phase of emotion is set before us with unfailing portraiture. With wonderful dramatic power he gives an individual life to each speaker in his dialogue, and by their remarks or questions brings out the meaning of each event described.
And so no writer teaches us more of the life and customs of his countrymen. Nothing is more remarkable about his dialogues than this: that while they are concerned, in the first instance, with questions of philosophy, though the dramatic element is very small, and the scene in which all take place might seem to be unimportant, yet each piece has, as it were, a distinct setting, and gives us some new picture of Attic life and manners.
But Plato tells us not only what the world was, but what, as he thought, it should be. Borne into a very fairy-land of noble lives and scenes of beauty, we see "Virtue in her shape, how lovely," and art is shown us always in perfection. Rulers who have no selfish aim; castes
between which there is no feud; poets who sing only of the good; workmen who make only what is lovely,—such is the happy society among which he makes us dwell.
And here we come to the point; to the question which must really meet us on the threshold of any study of Plato, or of other philosophers of the ideal philosophy. Is it worth while to spend our time—our hours so fully occupied by the crowd and pressure of passing facts—in thinking, or, as a man may call it, dreaming, of worlds in .which, desirable as they may be, we do not live? Made, as we are, to be mere receptacles of impressions from outward things, so that our eyes are incessantly drinking in sights and our ears sounds, and each other sense constantly besieged by innumerable trains of facts, all clamoring to be recognized, while our minds are ever busy, working even now beyond their strength, in trying to bring these scattered impressions into order, to class and to name them, — is it reasonable that we should turn away from all these, and forget the great world that is insisting on our notice, and wander off to try to live in the society of insensible and spiritual forms, of whose existence we have no certain knowledge? Such a question is asked, undoubtedly, by the common-sense of our day, and there is much that is true in the answer which it expects.
Yet this very process of continual arrangement of the facts of sense, being an endeavor to accommodate them to systems which are not found in them, and to learn from them laws which are not among them, but beyond them, is itself a search for these ideal forms. It is just for this that Wordsworth, in his great ode on Intimations of Immortality, is thankful. It is a kind of " those obstinate questionings of sense and outward things ;" one of the indications of that "high instinct" which cannot be contented without believing in objects not known by sense, and yearns after glimpses of another world which the mind feels to be its true home;—a home which, dimly knowing, yet not seeing, it seems to remember as something lost or left. Gladly would we try to show how Socrates, in Plato, demonstrates to men of every trade and character, that, in their daily talk, belief in this ideal world is implied; that all eager pursuit of business or luxurious desire of pleasure derives its spring from the love of an unseen, eternal gain; that all that is true among the things of sense is so by sharing in the eternal truth, and all earthly things are good only by sharing in the eternal goodness; how by comparing what is good in the several things which we value here, we may gain a knowledge of that goodness which they all partake; learning first, it may be, from pleasant things what pleasure is, and then from just things what is justice, and then from friends what is friendship, and from lovers what is love; and then comparing together this pleasure and this justice and this friendship and this love, till we perceive what is the excellence common to them all, which makes them all desirable; and so climbing step by step to the beatific vision of that Absolute Goodness, by which all things that here are true and lovely, "live, and move, and have their being." But Plato cannot be abridged. His art is so perfect, that any change would spoil the harmony. It must be enough to have said that it is there.
Again, although we should not dream but do, yet for our doing we must have an end to aim at, and we cannot well have too high an aim, or see it too clearly. U'e have been taught the use of imagination in Science, how it enables the inquirer to think definitely, and see clearly with what facts he is dealing—for imagination is always the foe. of vagueness— and so in morals, too, imagination has its place. For the heathen there was on earth no perfect type in which he could see the working out of moral precept, see to what each rule would lead, test the excellence of rival systems; and so the heathen could not but demand of the teacher who recommended justice or selfdenial: "Show me these principles at work; draw me a plan of the building you advise me to construct; paint for me the ideal world of which you wish to realize a copy upon earth." Accordingly, Plato's Republic is not a wild sport of fancy, but a sober statement of doctrine; and there is more than a generous sanguineness, more even than a noble faith, there is a definite and intelligent certainty hidden under those quiet words of Socrates, when to one who asked, "But
where can you expect to find such a city?" he replied, "Perhaps in heaven there is laid up a pattern of it." Yes, and in one transient flash of conjecture that never settled into hope, it is thought of for a moment as not quite impossible that this absolute Reason, from which all truth and beauty flow, might come down some day from heaven, and reveal itself as an example to mankind. The transient conjecture never settled into hope, but for us Christians it has been realized; we have our Example; yet we may still learn something from Plato's noble at-» tempt to supply His place, especially in observing the many points in which Plato anticipated the Christian ideal.
Great men have traced the influence of Platonic thought in determining the expression of Christian truth, and the form of the Church; and in his principles of asceticism and communism, and a thousand other points, abundant interest may be found. But to many it is not his theories or his artistic and historical value that most will make Plato dear; it is the high thoughts that centre in the name of Socrates. Our feeble muse already has "loitered in the master's field" too long, to attempt now by any words to darken so high a theme; but this may be said, that the opposition to a material view of things, which we have mentioned as forming Plato's peculiar value now, is embodied, so to speak, in the person of Socrates.
This has been, as it promised, a faltering eulogy, rather than a well-informed guide to the study of Plato. But it is something to be reminded how happily, and how rationally too, a man may seek a resting-place from time to time in the calm regions of ideal truth. Though material things so importunately press around us, we may yet do well sometimes to turn away and fix our minds on objects which, though unseen, are eternal. So—
In a season of calm weather,
Which brought us hither;
Can in a moirent travel thither—
Air—" The tight little Island."
In how many strange ways
Human nature displays
To which view you'll be led
If some pages you've read In the Oxford translation of Plato. What a wonderful writer is Plato! And how well Jowett's pen can translate, O!
But I clearly discover
On reading him over Some very odd notions in Plato.
The fears of the brave
Make us always look grave,
So the foolish things too
That the wise say and do
But some marvellous flaws
As to justice and laws
Every honest man grieves
At the number of thieves
And our hearts are all sore
For the wretchedly poor;
Was to break off with Mammon,
Have all things in common: "Private property's gammon "—said Plato.
There of course is no theft
When no property's left
And when all's a dead level,
Starvation and revel
But the makers of money,
The hoarders of honey, Won't be pleased with these projects of Plato.
Then the struggles and strife
That attend married life,
Its profligate courses,
No folks were to wed
That were not thorough-bred,
And if children appeared
Not quite fit to be reared,
But we all of us know
Where the puppy-dogs go
On this question that vexes
Us as to the sexes,
Women's duties and rights,
Whether beauties or frights,
All must go to the wars
And be servants of Mars,
On another small point
He appears out of joint,
If philosophers solely
Should rule o'er us wholly,
Should you think Epicurus
A good Palinurus,
A philosopher's schemes
And of idle Utopian prate, O!
For while Theory preaches,
And corrects the wild crotchets of Plato.
So the model Republic of Plato
Must submit to the general fate, O!
What a Christian would wish for in Plato.
Note.—While we thus venture, under the allowed garb of ridicule, to record some plain truths as to certain extravagant views suggested by Plato in his Republic, we should do injustice to our own feelings if we did not at the same time express the pleasure and admiration which have been excited in us by the remarkable Translation of that author that has just issued from the Clarendon Press. This work hy Professor Jowett is one of the most splendid and valuable gifts to Literature and Philosophy that
In a paper on " The Records of the Venetian Inquisition," published in this Magazine for January, 1871,* the writer promised to return on a future opportunity to the subject of the "Confidants" employed by the Inquisition, and the recorded cases of escape from its prison.
The two branches of the subject are singularly linked together by the strange circumstance that the most remarkable man in the whole list of the secret agents of the Tribunal, was also the hero of the most extraordinary by far of the very few cases of escape from the prisons of the Inquisition that ever occurred.
This man was the once notorious Giacomo Casanova. His extraordinary life and adventures made him well known in his own day from one end of Europe to the other. And his Memoirs, written by himself in his old age, would have made him much better known than he is to English readers of the present day, were it not that the book is one of the most scandalously licentious and grossly immoral which was ever issued from the press. Though Casanova was a Venetian by birth and education, he has written the memoirs of his life in French ; and a cheap popular edition of the work for general reading was published at Paris in 1843, in four foolscap octavo volumes.
It is impossible to recommend any English person to read this book; but the representation of the state of society, especially at Venice, about the middle of the eighteenth century, is most extraordinary. Even to the reader, to whom the social condition of Paris under Louis XV. is nothing new, the cynicism of corruption
described as having been universal at Venice seems almost past belief. No doubt this Giacomo Casanova was a most worthless and profligate scoundrel; and it is to be expected that the account given by such a man of any society in which he had lived, would paint it under its worst aspect. Nevertheless, after all reasonable allowance has bjeen made on this score, it is impossible to doubt that, with the exception perhaps of the latter times of the Roman Empire, the world has never seen so grossly corrupt a society as that of Venice at the time spoken of. It must be admitted, too, that the unblushing narrative of abominations of all sorts, which Casanova has put forth as the story of his life, has very much the air of being a truthful story. He was a man of very considerable talent, and his book is undeniably well written. He constantly gives the names of those to whom he is attributing the most unheard of profligacy; and in many cases the names so given are well known in contemporary history. Some of the worst abominations, for instance, narrated by him, with an utter apparent unconsciousness that he is saying anything which ought not to be said, are attributed to a Mr. Murray, who was the representative of England at Venice at the time (1756). The nature, too, of some of the things he professes to have done himself, is such as to make it seem improbable that any man could tell them of himself falsely. He relates, for instance, with perfect coolness and impassibility, how he became a partner in a gambling bank, which was fraudently carried on, and made large profits by swindling and
have for a long time been offered. Its first or most obvious excellence is the perfect ease and grace of the translation, which is thoroughly English, and yet entirely exempt from any phrase or feature at variance with the Hellenic character. Very few translations, other than the Bible, read like an original: but this is one of them. It has other and more recondite excellences. It is the work, almost the lifelabor, we believe, of a profound scholar, a thoughtful moralist and metaphysician, and a most successful instructor of youth: and it is manifest that the complete success that has attended his execution of the task is itself the means of concealing the diligence, industry, and ability, with which philological and interpretative difficulties must have been solved or overcome. It is a great matter, even for the best scholars, to possess such a guide and help in the study of the original; and to others, desirous of knowing thoroughly and appreciating worthily the wise thoughts and literary beauties of one of the greatest writers that ever lived, the boon is inestimable. The Introductions to the several Dialogues seem to be excellent, and are appropriately directed to explain the point of view which the great Greek philosopher occupied, and to point out the fact that his very errors—and we think some of these very great—arose out of his keen perception of evils which needed a remedy, but which, we believe, can only be remedied by higher influences than any that were within reach of a Pagan Philosophy. * Eclectic Magazine for March.