Book II
VI
 

Again, in reference to the test to be applied, if we would gauge the qualifications of a friend worth the winning, the following remarks of Socrates could not fail, I think, to prove instructive.[1]

Tell me (said Socrates, addressing Critobulus), supposing we stood in need of a good friend, how should we set about his discovery? We must, in the first place, I suppose, seek out one who is master of his appetites, not under the dominion, that is, of his belly, not addicted to the wine-cup or to lechery or sleep or idleness, since no one enslaved to such tyrants could hope to do his duty either by himself or by his friends, could he?

Certainly not (Critobulus answered).

Socrates. Do you agree, then, that we must hold aloof from every one so dominated?

Critobulus. Most assuredly.

Well then (proceeded Socrates), what shall we say of the spendthrift who has lost his independence and is for ever begging of his neighbours; if he gets anything out of them he cannot repay, but if he fails to get anything, he hates you for not giving--do you not think that this man too would prove but a disagreeable friend?

Critobulus. Certainly.

Socrates. Then we must keep away from him too?

Critobulus. That we must.

Socrates. Well! and what of the man whose strength lies in monetary transactions?[2] His one craving is to amass money; and for that reason he is an adept at driving a hard bargain[3]--glad enough to take in, but loath to pay out.

Critobulus. In my opinion he will prove even a worse fellow than the last.

Socrates. Well! and what of that other whose passion for money-making is so absorbing that he has no leisure for anything else, save how he may add to his gains?

Critobulus. Hold aloof from him, say I, since there is no good to be got out of him or his society.

Socrates. Well! what of the quarrelsome and factious person[4] whose main object is to saddle his friends with a host of enemies?

Critobulus. For God's sake let us avoid him also.

Socrates. But now we will imagine a man exempt indeed from all the above defects--a man who has no objection to receive kindnesses, but it never enters into his head to do a kindness in return.

Critobulus. There will be no good in him either. But, Socrates, what kind of man shall we endeavour to make our friend? what is he like?

Socrates. I should say he must be just the converse of the above: he has control over the pleasures of the body, he is kindly disposed,[5] upright in all his dealings,[6] very zealous is he not to be outdone in kindness by his benefactors, if only his friends may derive some profit from his acquaintance.

Critobulus. But how are we to test these qualities, Socrates, before acquaintance?

Socrates. How do we test the merits of a sculptor?--not by inferences drawn from the talk of the artist merely. No, we look to what he has already achieved. These former statues of his were nobly executed, and we trust he will do equally well with the rest.

Critobulus. You mean that if we find a man whose kindness to older friends is established, we may take it as proved that he will treat his newer friends as amiably?

Socrates. Why, certainly, if I see a man who has shown skill in the handling of horses previously, I argue that he will handle others no less skilfully again.

Critobulus. Good! and when we have discovered a man whose friendship is worth having, how ought we to make him our friend?

Socrates. First we ought to ascertain the will of Heaven whether it be advisable to make him our friend.

Critobulus. Well! and how are we to effect the capture of this friend of our choice, whom the gods approve? will you tell me that?

Not, in good sooth (replied Socrates), by running him down like a hare, nor by decoying him like a bird, or by force like a wild boar.[7] To capture a friend against his will is a toilsome business, and to bind him in fetters like a slave by no means easy. Those who are so treated are apt to become foes instead of friends.[8]

Critobulus. But how convert them into friends?

Socrates. There are certain incantations, we are told, which those who know them have only to utter, and they can make friends of whom they list; and there are certain philtres also which those who have the secret of them may administer to whom they like and win their love.

Critobulus. From what source shall we learn them?

Socrates. You need not go farther than Homer to learn that which the Sirens sang to Odysseus,[9] the first words of which run, I think, as follows:

Hither, come hither, thou famous man, Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans!

Critobulus. And did the magic words of this spell serve for all men alike? Had the Sirens only to utter this one incantation, and was every listener constrained to stay?

Socrates. No; this was the incantation reserved for souls athirst for fame, of virtue emulous.

Critobulus. Which is as much as to say, we must suit the incantation to the listener, so that when he hears the words he shall not think that the enchanter is laughing at him in his sleeve. I cannot certainly conceive a method better calculated to excite hatred and repulsion than to go to some one who knows that he is small and ugly and a weakling, and to breathe in his ears the flattering tale that he is beautiful and tall and stalwart. But do you know any other love- charms, Socrates?

Socrates. I cannot say that I do; but I have heard that Pericles[10] was skilled in not a few, which he poured into the ear of our city and won her love.

Critobulus. And how did Themistocles[11] win our city's love?

Socrates. Ah, that was not by incantation at all. What he did was to encircle our city with an amulet of saving virtue.[12]

Critobulus. You would imply, Socrates, would you not, that if we want to win the love of any good man we need to be good ourselves in speech and action?

And did you imagine (replied Socrates) that it was possible for a bad man to make good friends?

Critobulus. Why, I could fancy I had seen some sorry speech-monger who was fast friends with a great and noble statesman; or again, some born commander and general who was boon companion with fellows quite incapable of generalship.[13]

Socrates. But in reference to the point we were discussing, may I ask whether you know of any one who can attach a useful friend to himself without being of use in return?[14] Can service ally in friendship with disservice?

Critobulus. In good sooth no. But now, granted it is impossible for a base man to be friends with the beautiful and noble,[15] I am concerned at once to discover if one who is himself of a beautiful and noble character can, with a wave of the hand, as it were, attach himself in friendship to every other beautiful and noble nature.

Socrates. What perplexes and confounds you, Critobulus, is the fact that so often men of noble conduct, with souls aloof from baseness, are not friends but rather at strife and discord with one another, and deal more harshly by one another than they would by the most good-for- nothing of mankind.

Critobulus. Yes, and this holds true not of private persons only, but states, the most eager to pursue a noble policy and to repudiate a base one, are frequently in hostile relation to one another. As I reason on these things my heart fails me, and the question, how friends are to be acquired, fills me with despondency. The bad, as I see, cannot be friends with one another. For how can such people, the ungrateful, or reckless, or covetous, or faithless, or incontinent, adhere together as friends? Without hesitation I set down the bad as born to be foes not friends, and as bearing the birthmark of internecine hate. But then again, as you suggest, no more can these same people harmonise in friendship with the good. For how should they who do evil be friends with those who hate all evil-doing? And if, last of all, they that cultivate virtue are torn by party strife in their struggle for the headship of the states, envying one another, hating one another, who are left to be friends? where shall goodwill and faithfulness be found among men?

Socrates. The fact is there is some subtlety in the texture of these things.[15] Seeds of love are implanted in man by nature. Men have need of one another, feel pity, help each other by united efforts, and in recognition of the fact show mutual gratitude. But there are seeds of war implanted also. The same objects being regarded as beautiful or agreeable by all alike, they do battle for their possession; a spirit of disunion[16] enters, and the parties range themselves in adverse camps. Discord and anger sound a note of war: the passion of more- having, staunchless avarice, threatens hostility; and envy is a hateful fiend.[17]

But nevertheless, through all opposing barriers friendship steals her way and binds together the beautiful and good among mankind.[18] Such is their virtue that they would rather possess scant means painlessly than wield an empire won by war. In spite of hunger and thirst they will share their meat and drink without a pang. Not bloom of lusty youth, nor love's delights can warp their self-control; nor will they be tempted to cause pain where pain should be unknown. It is theirs not merely to eschew all greed of riches, not merely to make a just and lawful distribution of wealth, but to supply what is lacking to the needs of one another. Theirs it is to compose strife and discord not in painless oblivion simply, but to the general advantage. Theirs also to hinder such extravagance of anger as shall entail remorse hereafter. And as to envy they will make a clean sweep and clearance of it: the good things which a man possesses shall be also the property of his friends, and the goods which they possess are to be looked upon as his. Where then is the improbability that the beautiful and noble should be sharers in the honours[19] of the state not only without injury, but even to their mutual advantage?

They indeed who covet and desire the honours and offices in a state for the sake of the liberty thereby given them to embezzle the public moneys, to deal violently by their fellow-creatures, and to batten in luxury themselves, may well be regarded as unjust and villainous persons incapable of harmony with one another. But if a man desire to obtain these selfsame honours in order that, being himself secure against wrong-doing, he may be able to assist his friends in what is right, and, raised to a high position,[20] may essay to confer some blessing on the land of his fathers, what is there to hinder him from working in harmony with some other of a like spirit? Will he, with the "beautiful and noble" at his side, be less able to aid his friends? or will his power to benfit the community be shortened because the flower of that community are fellow-workers in that work? Why, even in the contests of the games it is obvious that if it were possible for the stoutest combatants to combine against the weakest, the chosen band would come off victors in every bout, and would carry off all the prizes. This indeed is against the rules of the actual arena; but in the field of politics, where the beautiful and good hold empery, and there is nought to hinder any from combining with whomsoever a man may choose to benefit the state, it will be a clear gain, will it not, for any one engaged in state affairs to make the best men his friends, whereby he will find partners and co-operators in his aims instead of rivals and antagonists? And this at least is obvious: in case of foreign war a man will need allies, but all the more if in the ranks opposed to him should stand the flower of the enemy.[21] Moreover, those who are willing to fight your battles must be kindly dealt with, that goodwill may quicken to enthusiasm; and one good man[22] is better worth your benefiting that a dozen knaves, since a little kindness goes a long way with the good, but with the base the more you give them the more they ask for.

So keep a good heart, Critobulus; only try to become good yourself, and when you have attained, set to your hand to capture the beautiful and good. Perhaps I may be able to give you some help in this quest, being myself an adept in Love's lore.[23] No matter who it is for whom my heart is aflame; in an instant my whole soul is eager to leap forth. With vehemence I speed to the mark. I, who love, demand to be loved again; this desire in me must be met by counter desire in him; this thirst for his society by thirst reciprocal for mine. And these will be your needs also, I foresee, whenever you are seized with longing to contract a friendship. Do not hide from me, therefore, whom you would choose as a friend, since, owing to the pains I take to please him who pleases me, I am not altogether unversed, I fancy, in the art of catching men.[24]

Critobulus replied: Why, these are the very lessons of instruction, Socrates, for which I have been long athirst, and the more particularly if this same love's lore will enable me to capture those who are good of soul and those who are beautiful of person.

Socrates. Nay, now I warn you, Critobulus, it is not within the province of my science to make the beautiful endure him who would lay hands upon them. And that is why men fled from Scylla, I am persuaded, because she laid hands upon them; but the Sirens were different--they laid hands on nobody, but sat afar off and chanted their spells in the ears of all; and therefore, it is said, all men endured to listen, and were charmed.

Critobulus. I promise I will not lay violent hands on any; therefore, if you have any good device for winning friends, instruct your pupil.

Socrates. And if there is to be no laying on of the hands, there must be no application either of the lips; is it agreed?

Critobulus. No, nor application of the lips to any one--not beautiful.

Socrates. See now! you cannot open your mouth without some luckless utterence. Beauty suffers no such liberty, however eagerly the ugly may invite it, making believe some quality of soul must rank them with the beautiful.

Critobulus. Be of good cheer then; let the compact stand thus: "Kisses for the beautiful, and for the good a rain of kisses." So now teach us the art of catching friends.

Socrates. Well then, when you wish to win some one's affection, you will allow me to lodge information against you to the effect that you admire him and desire to be his friend?

Critobulus. Lodge the indictment, with all my heart. I never heard of any one who hated his admirers.

Socrates. And if I add to the indictment the further charge that through your admiration you are kindly disposed towards him, you will not feel I am taking away your character?

Critobulus. Why, no; for myself I know a kindly feeling springs up in my heart towards any one whom I conceive to be kindly disposed to me.

Socrates. All this I shall feel empowered to say about you to those whose friendship you seek, and I can promise further help; only there is a comprehensive "if" to be considered: if you will further authorise me to say that you are devoted to your friends; that nothing gives you so much joy as a good friend; that you pride yourself no less on the fine deeds of those you love than on your own; and on their good things equally with your own; that you never weary of plotting and planning to procure them a rich harvest of the same; and lastly, that you have discovered a man's virtue is to excel his friends in kindness and his foes in hostility. If I am authorised thus to report of you, I think you will find me a serviceable fellow-hunter in the quest of friends, which is the conquest of the good.

Critobulus. Why this appeal to me?--as if you had not free permission to say exactly what you like about me.

Socrates. No; that I deny, on the authority of Aspasia.[25] I have it from her own lips. "Good matchmakers," she said tome, "were clever hands at cementing alliances between people, provided the good qualities they vouched for were truthfully reported; but when it came to their telling lies, for her part she could not compliment them.[26] Their poor deluded dupes ended by hating each other and the go-betweens as well." Now I myself am so fully persuaded of the truth of this that I feel it is not in my power to say aught in your praise which I cannot say with truth.

Critobulus. Really, Socrates, you are a wonderfully good friend to me--in so far as I have any merit which will entitle me to win a friend, you will lend me a helping hand, it seems; otherwise you would rather not forge any petty fiction for my benefit.

Socrates. But tell me, how shall I assist you best, think you? By praising you falsely or by persuading you to try to be a good man? Or if it is not plain to you thus, look at the matter by the light of some examples. I wish to introduce you to a shipowner, or to make him your friend: I begin by singing your praises to him falsely thus, "You will find him a good pilot"; he catches at the phrase, and entrusts his ship to you, who have no notion of guiding a vessel. What can you expect but to make shipwreck of the craft and yourself together? or suppose by similar false assertions I can persuade the state at large to entrust her destinies to you--"a man with a fine genius for command," I say, "a practised lawyer," "a politician born," and so forth. The odds are, the state and you may come to grief through you. Or to take an instance from everyday life. By my falsehoods I persuade some private person to entrust his affairs to you as "a really careful and business-like person with a head for economy." When put to the test would not your administration prove ruinous, and the figure you cut ridiculous? No, my dear friend, there is but one road, the shortest, safest, best, and it is simply this: In whatsoever you desire to be deemed good, endeavour to be good. For of all the virtues namable among men, consider, and you will find there is not one but may be increased by learning and practice. For my part then, Critobulus, these are the principles on which we ought to go a- hunting; but if you take a different view, I am all attention, please instruct me.

Then Critobulus: Nay, Socrates, I should be ashamed to gainsay what you have said; if I did, it would neither be a noble statement nor a true.[27]

[1] Or, "Again, as to establishing a test of character, since a friend worth having must be of a particular type, I cannot but think that the following remarks would prove instructive."

[2] Or, "the money-lender? He has a passion for big money-bags."

[3] Or, "hard in all his dealings."

[4] "The partisan."

[5] Reading {eunous}, or if {euorkos}, transl. "a man of his word."

[6] Or, "easy to deal with."

[7] Reading {kaproi}, al. {ekhthroi}, "an enemy."

[8] Or, "Hate rather than friendship is the outcome of these methods."

[9] "Od." xii. 184.

[10] See above, I. ii. 40; "Symp." viii. 39.

[11] See below, III. vi. 2; IV. ii. 2.

[12] See Herod. vii. 143, "the wooden wall"; Thuc. i. 93, "'the walls' of Athens."

[13] Or, "Why, yes, when I see some base orator fast friends with a great leader of the people; or, again, some fellow incapable of generalship a comrade to the greatest captains of his age."

[14] Add, "Can service ally in friendship with disservice? Must there not be a reciprocity of service to make friendship lasting?"

[15] {kalous kagathous}.

[15] i.e. a cunning intertwining of the threads of warp and woof.

[16] Cf. Shelley, "The devil of disunion in their souls."

[17] The diction is poetical.

[18] Or, as we say, "the elite of human kind."

[19] "And the offices."

[20] "As archon," or "raised to rule."

[21] Lit. "the beautiful and good."

[22] Or, "the best, though few, are better worth your benefiting than the many base."

[23] "An authority in matters of love." Cf. Plat. "Symp." 177 D; Xen. "Symp." viii. 2.

[24] See below, III. xi. 7; cf. Plat. "Soph." 222; N. T. Matt. iv. 19, {alieis anthropon}.

[25] Aspasia, daughter of Axiochus, of Miletus. See "Econ." iii. 14; Plat. "Menex." 235 E; Aesch. Socrat. ap. Cic. "de Invent." I. xxxi. 51. See Grote, "H. G." vi. 132 foll.; Cobet, "Pros. Xen."

[26] Reading {ouk ethelein epainein}, or if {ouk ophelein epainousas} with Kuhner transl. "Good matchmakers, she told me, have to consult truth when reporting favourably of any one: then indeed they are terribly clever at bringing people together: whereas false flatterers do no good; their dupes," etc.

[27] {kala . . . alethe}.