Book II
VIII
 

At another time chancing upon an old friend whom he had not seen for a long while, he greeted him thus.

Socrates. What quarter of the world do you hail from, Eutherus?

The other answered: From abroad, just before the close of the war; but at present from the city itself.[1] You see, since we have been denuded of our possessions across the frontier,[2] and my father left me nothing in Attica, I must needs bide at home, and provide myself with the necessaries of life by means of bodily toil, which seems preferable to begging from another, especially as I have no security on which to raise a loan.

Socrates. And how long do you expect your body to be equal to providing the necessaries of life for hire?

Euthydemus. Goodness knows, Socrates--not for long.

Socrates. And when you find yourself an old man, expenses will not diminish, and yet no one will care to pay you for the labour of your hands.

Euthydemus. That is true.

Socrates. Would it not be better then to apply yourself at once to such work as will stand you in good stead when you are old--that is, address yourself to some large proprietor who needs an assistant in managing his estate?[3] By superintending his works, helping to get in his crops, and guarding his property in general, you will be a benefit to the estate and be benefited in return.

I could not endure the yoke of slavery, Socrates! (he exclaimed).

Socrates. And yet the heads of departments in a state are not regarded as adopting the badge of slavery because they manage the public property, but as having attained a higher degree of freedom rather.

Euthydemus. In a word, Socrates, the idea of being held to account to another is not at all to my taste.

Socrates. And yet, Eutherus, it would be hard to find a work which did not involve some liability to account; in fact it is difficult to do anything without some mistake or other, and no less difficult, if you should succeed in doing it immaculately, to escape all unfriendly criticism. I wonder now whether you find it easy to get through your present occupations entirely without reproach. No? Let me tell you what you should do. You should avoid censorious persons and attach yourself to the considerate and kind-hearted, and in all your affairs accept with a good grace what you can and decline what you feel you cannot do. Whatever it be, do it heart and soul, and make it your finest work.[4] There lies the method at once to silence fault-finders and to minister help to your own difficulties. Life will flow smoothly, risks will be diminished, provision against old age secured.

[1] Lit. "from here." The conversation perhaps takes place in Piraeus 404 B.C.

[2] Or, "colonial possession." Cf. "Symp." iv. 31.

[3] Cf. "Cyrop." VIII. iii. 48.

[4] Or, "study to make it your finest work, the expression of a real enthusiasm."