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How oft I've prayed the eternal ones above
For this emancipation. I believe
The favourites of the Gods die young. I look
On death as a kind parent of new life,
Holier and happier, the bright harbinger
Of gorgeous immortality.
Thus would I find thee.
Tell me, thou gentle Spirit, to whom doth heaven
Send guardians like thee?
To all mankind.
All have their guardian geni—and our voices
Are heard in every human conscience. But
Only a few. like thee, my Soerates,
Do cultivate communion with us;-therefore
Few grow familiar with our agencies,
And most resist such secret intuitions,
spurn us from them; till at last they sink
In the black vortex of materialism,
Passion, and sense.
One thing I would implore thee,
If thou canst grant it. I have grieved to see
Athens afflicted by a fatal fever.
If that thy power is curative, O lend me
Thy prayers that this dark pestilence depart
From Attica,--and Socrates will bless thee !
I will before the threshold of Jove's palace
Lay thy petition. Fare thee well. I shall
Be in thee, Socrates, as thou in me,
In life and death. Prepare thee for thy fate.
(Genius vanishes.) SCENE III.
Court of the Thirty Tyrants. CRITIAS, ARISTOPHANES, MelituS, ANYTUS, EURIPIDES, PLATO,
PHÆDON, and others.
CRITIAS. Where is the prisoner Socrates ?
I know not. But he has had the summons from the court Duly delivered.
Hath he prevented us By suicidal violence?
The wisest of the Greeks, fool as he is,
Is neither such a fool or coward as
To die for fear of death. Ah, here he comes.
Good morrow, my lords tyrants ;-more especially,
Good morrow unto thee, my sometime pupil,
Most serene Critias.
Sir, mock me not, Your sometime pupil is your master now; It ill becomes you to insult your betters, The lawful magistrate of Athens.
Ye noble judges. I, as well you know,
Reverence the magistrates amazingly;
I would not have them hurt by any means,
Nor wound their delicate feelings,—nor call up
One blush on their pure cheeks of modesty
And merit. No, the powers that the Gods
Have honoured by good places, shall by me
Be worshipped to a marvel.
appearsAgainst this Socrates? What is the charge Of his impiety?
I appear against him1, Melitus, the son of Melitus, Charge Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, With a capital crime. I do accuse him here, Because he hath proclaimed One God in Athens, And scandalized the popular religion : Besides, he hath corrupted many citizens By the false pleas of his philosophy, Set forth with a most dangerous eloquence.
SOCRATES. My lords and judges, and ye men of Athens, I know not what impression the harangues Of my accusers may have made upon ye, But for my part, I own, they have almost made Me to forget myself. So artfully: Their reasons are coloured,- Yet I do assure you, They are pure lies-pure, unadulterated, Palpable falsehoods. What most surprised me was Their charging me with eloquence ;-that I,
The most plain-spoken, downright truth-teller,
Noted of all men for the broad blunt terms
In which I dressed my thoughts, should now be charged
With aping the trim oratory of sophists.
To vindicate myself and you, at least,
From this part of the charge, I will set forth
My frank defence in the most simplest style
Of civic parlance. Men of Athens, I
Am far declined into the vale of years,
Yet this is the first time I ever entered
This hall—I am a stranger to its customs,
And forms of prosecution Therefore, excuse me,
My most untechnical pleadings. Gentlemen,
You know your charge is false. I do appeal
To your own consciences, and in the face
Of heaven retort your words. Nay, look on me,
And blench not. Here amid the awful presence
Of Jupiter, the Supreme Judge, whose eye,
With a most burning omnipresence fills
The domes of law and justice—I do charge ye
With perjury to the Gods. You know I speak
The truth you hate. Look steadily upon me;
I see, through your most hypocritical eyes,
Your coward souls quivering beneath the lash
Of the conscience I evoked — I see them twisting,
Wheedling and crouching, and, like scotched serpents,
Writhing to escape the agonies of guilt
That shall torment them through eternities.
Ye men of Athens, ye do know me well-
And, as ye know, I never did ye wrong.
Is it a crime to attempt to raise theology-
To unfold the mystery of mysteries
One Unknown God, to whom your eldest altars
Were built by the devotion of your sires ?-
Was it a crime to teach what Orpheus taught,
And sage Pythagoras, that Jove is One
And Ali ?- That all the deities you worship
Are but theophanies and developements
Of the Great Father? Was it crime to show
The unlimited Paternity of God,
The divine filiation and the brotherhood
Of all created beings ?—Was it crime
To reconcile whate'er is true in pantheism
And polytheism ? You know it was not crime.
And for corrupting the Athenian citizens,
Staining the hearts and morals of young men,
And other counts of this my accusation,
They are no less impostures. No good man,
Or brave, should fear to speak the truth, even if
The truth be his own praise--and I will speak it.
I have done more than any sage in Athens
To make the citizens holier and purer-
More virtuous and more happy. The best men
Among you were my pupils. Search my life,
And there you'll find an answer for my
So much for my defence. Now let me add
A word to my accusers: I could tell you
The cause of all their enmity :-It is not
Religion and philanthropy and patriotism,
As they pretend, that urge them against Socrates-
No; 'tis sheer envy, hatred, jealousy!-
They dare not contradict me!- I have seen it ;
The venom of these serpents hath for years
Been growing in their fangs, burning and blistering:
This trial is but a strong ebullition
Of their accumulated rankerousness.-
I'll say no more. Whether I live or die,
You'll find that Socrates spoke truly-honestly:
For me, I care not which way lies your verdict,
The worst is past. Already have I suffered
That sting of black ingratitude-more bitter
Than death ;-I've striven more than any man
To benefit my country,--and that country
Has spurned me. I have oft appealed in vain
To the priesthood and the Aristocracy;
They could have done all things—they have done nothing
To serve me ;-such is the bright patronage
Of should-be patrons. I'll not curse the priests—
But I could curse them. Neither will I damn
The Aristocracy—but I could damn them ;
They have left the most divine of all the Grecians
To sink unfriended to the upbraiding tomb;
They have left me to my enemies-- yet I pity
Their fate more than my own. They will not feel
My value till my death; then they will own it.
But men are men, half monkeys and half tigers.
Thus have they treated Socrates; and thus
In future ages will they treat a greater
Than Socrates—the Arch Philanthropist,
The Æsculapius of the Universe.
Amazed posterity shall point he finger
Of keen derision at them, and exclaim-
Thus were the best and greatest recompensed !
You've heard the prisoner's defence—what say you?
He has not proved his innocence, and still
He lies beneath the capital charge.
Is but an aggravation of his crime:
He ought to die.
Die !—thou apostate wretch!
And is it thou, that darest in the face of day
To talk of the death of Socrates ?-Base miscreant!
The death of Socrates would plunge all Greece
Into a night of sorrow black as chaos.
Beware of what you do: you have been frighted
When the bright countenance of Phæbus sank
In ominous eclipse.-A drearer darkness-
The darkness of incurable remorse,
Revenge and fury-will invest our city
If Socrates is wronged.
My lords and judges,
Be not excited by poetic tropes ;
Dramatic epithets are better fitted
For the theatre.
I call for instant judgment.
Let judgment pass upon the criminal.
Yes-capital sentence for a capital crime.
Ye judges of the citizens of Athens,
Ye have heard the charge and the defence. The hour
Of your decision is arrived. Is Socrates
Guilty or not?
The judges have pronounced thee, Socrates,
Guilty! The sentence of the law is death!
But, in the mercy of this court, we give thee
Thy choice in what particular mode of death to die.
SCENE IV.- Prison. SOCRATES, CRITO, Plato, Phedon, Xantippe, EUPHROSYNE,
Chloe, and Children.
Yes, this is happiness-I never felt
True happiness till now—The gods have blest me
With a diviner pleasure, for the pain
Man's hatred has inflicted. Pain and pleasure,
Y, S.--VOL. VI.