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any other hymns or dances to any one of the Gods, the priests and priestesses, with the consent of the guardians of the law, shall religiously and lawfully exclude him, and he who is excluded, if he do not submit, shall be liable all his life long to have a suit of impiety brought against him by any one who likes.
CLE. Very good.
Ath. In the consideration of this subject, let us remember what is due to ourselves.
CLE. To what are you referring ?
ATH. I mean that any young man, and much more any old one, when he sees or hears anything strange or unaccustomed, does not at once run to embrace the paradox. but he stands considering, like a person who is at a place where three ways meet, and does not very well know his way — he may be alone or he may be walking with others, and he will say to himself and them, “Which is the way? and will not move forward until he is satisfied that he is going right. And this is our case, for a strange discussion on the subject of law has arisen, which requires the utmost consideration, and we should not at our age be too ready to speak about such great matters, or be confident that we can say anything certain all in a moment.
Cle. Most true.
Ath. Then we will allow time for reflection, and decide when we have given the subject sufficient consideration. But that we may not be hindered from completing the natural arrangement of our laws, let us proceed to the conclusion of them in due order; for very possibly, if God will, the exposition of them, when completed, may throw light on our present perplexity.
CLE. Excellent, Stranger; let us do as you propose.
Ath. Let us then affirm the parauox that strains of music are our laws, and this latter being the name which
the ancients gave to lyric songs, they probably would not have very much objected to our proposed application of the word. Some one, either asleep or awake, must have had a dreamy suspicion of their nature. And let our decree be as follows : No one in singing or dancing shall offend against public and consecrated models, and the general fashion among the youth, any more than he would offend against any other law. And he who observes this law shall be blameless; but he who is disobedient, as I was saying, shall be punished by the guardians of the laws, and by priests and priestesses: suppose that we imagine this to be our law.
CLE. Very good.
ATH. Can any one who makes such laws escape ridicule? Let us see.
I think that our only safety will be in first framing certain models for them. One of these models shall be as follows:- If when a sacrifice is going on, and the victims are being burnt according to law,- if, I say, any one who may be a son or brother, standing by another at the altar and over the victims, horribly blasphemes, will he not inspire despondency and evil omens and forebodings in the mind of his father and of his other kinsmen?
Cle. Of course.
ATH. And this is just what takes place in almost all our cities. A magistrate offers a public sacrifice, and there come in not one but many choruses, who stand by themselves a little way from the altar, and from time to time pour forth all sorts of horrible blasphemies on the sacred rites, exciting the souls of the audience with words and rhythms, and melodies most sorrowful to hear; and he who can at the instant the city is sacrificing make the citizens weep mosth carries away the palm of victory. Now, ought we not to forbid such strains as these? And if
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ever our citizens must hear such lamentations, then on some unblest and inauspicious day let there be choruses of foreign and hired minstrels, like those who accompany the departed at funerals with barbarious Carian chants. That is the sort of thing which will be appropriate if we have such strains at all; and let the apparel of the singers be not circlets and ornaments of gold, but the reverse. Enough of the description. And now I will ask once more whether we shall lay down as one of our principles
Ath. That we should avoid every evil word. I need hardly ask again, but shall assume that you agree with me.
CLE. By all means; that law is approved by the suffrage of all of us.
Ath. But what shall be our next musical law or type ? Ought not prayers to be offered up to the Gods when we sacrifice?
Ath. And our third law, if I am not mistaken, will be to the effect, that our poets understanding prayers to be requests which we make to the Gods, will take especial heed that they do not by mistake ask for evil instead of good. To make such a prayer would surely be too ridiculous.
CLE. Very true.
Ath. Were we not a little while ago quite determined that no silver or golden Plutus should dwell in our state? Cle.
To be sure. Ath. And what did this illustration mean? Did we not imply that the poets are not always quite capable of knowing what is good or evil? And if one of them utters a mistaken prayer in song or words, he will make our citizens pray for the opposite of what is good in matters of
the highest import; than which, as I was saying, there can be few greater mistakes. Shall we then propose as one of our laws and models relating to the Muses —
CLE. What ?— will you explain the law more precisely?
ATH. Shall we make a law that the poet shall compose nothing contrary to the ideas of the lawful, or just, or beautiful, or good, which are allowed in the state? Nor shall he be permitted to communicate his compositions to any private individuals, until he shall have shown them to the appointed judges, and the guardians of the law, and they are satisfied with them. As to the persons whom we appoint to be our legislators about music and directors of education, they have been already indicated. Once more then, as I have asked more than once, shall this be our third law, and type, and model — What do you say?
CLE. Yes, by all means.
Ath. Next it will be proper to have hymns and praises of the Gods, intermingled with prayers; and after the Gods prayers and praises should be offered in like manner to demigods and heroes, suitable to their several characters.
Ath. In the third place there will be no objection to a law, that citizens who are departed and have done good and energetic deeds, either with their souls or with their bodies, and have been obedient to the laws, should receive eulogies; this will be very fitting.
CLE. Quite true.
Ath. But to honor with hymns and panegyrics those who are still alive is not safe; a man should run his course, and make a fair ending, and then we will praise him; and let praise be given equally to women as well as men who have been distinguished in virtue. The order of songs and dances shall be as follows: There are many ancient musical compositions and dances which are excellent, and
from these the government may freely select what is proper and suitable; and they shall choose judges of not less than fifty years of age, who shall make the selection, and any of the old poems which they deem sufficient they shall include; any that is deficient or altogether unsuitable, they shall either utterly throw aside, or examine and amend, taking into their counsel poets and musicians, and making use of their poetical genius; but explaining to them the wishes of the legislator in order that they may regulate dancing, music, and all choral strains, according to his mind; and not allowing them to indulge, except in some minor matters, their individual pleasures and fancies. Now, the irregular strain of music is always made ten thousand times better by attaining to law and order, and rejecting the honied Muse not however that we mean wholly to exclude pleasure, which is the characteristic of all music. And if a man be brought up from childhood to the age of discretion and maturity in the use of the orderly and severe music, when he hears the opposite he detests it, and calls it illiberal; but if trained in the sweet and vulgar music, he deems the opposite cold and displeasing. So that, as I was saying before, while he who hears them gains no more pleasure from the one than from the other, the one has the advantage of making those who are trained in it better men, whereas the other makes them worse.
CLE. Very true.
ATH. Again, we must distinguish and determine on some general principle what songs are suitable to women, and what to men, and must assign to them their proper melodies and rhythms. It is shocking for a whole harmony to be in harmonical, or for a rhythm to be unrhythmical, and this will happen when the melody is inappropriate to them. And, therefore, the legislator must assign to them also their forms. Now, both sexes have melodies