E. A Recantation in Honor of Love (241 – 245)

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 PHAEDRUS: But I thought you were right in the middle – I thought you 
were about to speak at the same length about the non-lover, to list his good points and argue that it’s better to give one’s favors to him. So why are you stopping now, Socrates?

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 1 SOCRATES: Didn’t you notice, my friend, that even though I am criticizing the lover, I have passed beyond lyric into epic poetry? What do you suppose will happen to me if I begin to praise his opposite? Don’t you realize that the Nymphs to whom you so cleverly exposed me will take complete possession of me? So I say instead, in a word, that every shortcoming for which we blamed the lover has its contrary advantage, and the non-lover possesses it. Why make a long speech of it? That’s enough about (242) them both. This way my story will meet the end it deserves, and I will cross the river and leave before you make me do something even worse.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 PHAEDRUS: Not yet, Socrates, not until this heat is over. Don’t you see that it is almost exactly noon, “straight-up” as they say? Let’s wait and discuss the speeches, and go as soon as it turns cooler.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 SOCRATES: You’re really superhuman when it comes to speeches, Phaedrus; you’re truly amazing. I’m sure you’ve brought into being more of the speeches that have been given during your lifetime than anyone else, whether you composed them yourself or in one way or another forced others to make them; with the single exception of Simmias the Theban, you are far ahead of the rest. Even as we speak, I think, you’re managing 
to cause me to produce yet another one.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 PHAEDRUS: Oh, how wonderful! But what do you mean? What speech?

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 SOCRATES: My friend, just as I was about to cross the river, the familiar
 divine sign came to me which, whenever it occurs, holds me back from something I am about to do. I thought I heard a voice coming from this very spot, forbidding me to leave until I made atonement for some offense against the gods. In effect, you see, I am a seer, and though I am not particularly good at it, still – like people who are just barely able to read and write – I am good enough for my own purposes. I recognize my offense dearly now. In fact, the soul too, my friend, is itself a sort of seer; that’s
why, almost from the beginning of my speech, I was disturbed by a very uneasy feeling, as Ibycus puts it, that “for offending the gods I am honored by men.” But now I understand exactly what my offense has been.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 PHAEDRUS: Tell me, what is it?

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 SOCRATES: Phaedrus, that speech you carried with you here – it was horrible, as horrible as the speech you made me give.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 PHAEDRUS: How could that be?

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 SOCRATES: It was foolish, and close to being impious. What could be more horrible than that?

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 PHAEDRUS: Nothing-if, of course, what you say is right.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 SOCRATES: Well, then? Don’t you believe that Love is the son of Aphrodite? Isn’t he one of the gods?

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 PHAEDRUS: This is certainly what people say.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 SOCRATES: Well, Lysias certainly doesn’t and neither does your speech, which you charmed me through your potion into delivering myself. But
if Love is a god or something divine – which he is – he can’t be bad in any way; and yet our speeches just now spoke of him as if he were. That
is their offense against Love. And they’ve compounded it with their utter foolishness in parading their dangerous falsehoods and preening themselves (243) over perhaps deceiving a few silly people and coming to be admired
by them. And so, my friend, I must purify myself. Now for those whose offense lies in telling false stories about matters divine, there is an ancient rite of purification – Homer did not know it, but Stesichorus did. When he lost his sight for speaking ill of Helen, he did not, like Homer, remain in the dark about the reason why. On the contrary, true follower of the Muses that he was, he understood it and immediately composed these lines:

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 There’s no truth to that story:

     You never sailed that lovely ship,

     You never reached the tower of Troy.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 And as soon as he completed the poem we call the Palinode, he immediately regained his sight. Now I will prove to be wiser than Homer and Stesichorus to this small extent: I will try to offer my Palinode to Love before I am punished for speaking ill of him-with my head bare, no longer covered in shame.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 PHAEDRUS: No words could be sweeter to my ears, Socrates.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 SOCRATES: You see, my dear Phaedrus, you understand how shameless the speeches were, my own as well as the one in our book. Suppose a noble and gentle man, who was (or had once been) in love with a boy of similar character, were to hear us say that lovers start serious quarrels for trivial reasons and that, jealous of their beloved, they do him harm-don’t you think that man would think we had been brought up among the most vulgar of sailors, totally ignorant of love among the freeborn? Wouldn’t he most certainly refuse to acknowledge the flaws we attributed to Love?

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 PHAEDRUS: Most probably, Socrates.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 SOCRATES: Well, that man makes me feel ashamed, and as I’m also afraid of Love himself, I want to wash out the bitterness of what we’ve heard with a more tasteful speech. And my advice to Lysias, too, is to write as soon as possible a speech urging one to give similar favors to a lover rather than to a non-lover.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 PHAEDRUS: You can be sure he will. For once you have spoken in praise of the lover, I will most definitely make Lysias write a speech on the same topic.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 SOCRATES: I do believe you will, so long as you are who you are.

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 PHAEDRUS: Speak on, then, in full confidence.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 SOCRATES: Where, then, is the boy to whom I was speaking? Let him hear this speech, too. Otherwise he may be too quick to give his favors to the non-lover.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 PHAEDRUS: He is here, always right by your side, whenever you want him. (244)

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 1 SOCRATES: You’ll have to understand, beautiful boy, that the previous speech was by Phaedrus, Pythocles’ son, from Myrrhinus, while the one I am about to deliver is by Stesichorus, Euphemus’ son, from Himera. And here is how the speech should go:

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 “There’s no truth to that story that when a lover is available you should give your favors to a man who doesn’t love you instead, because he is in control of himself while the lover has lost his head. That would have been fine to say if madness were bad, pure and simple; but in fact the best things we have come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the god.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 ‘The prophetess of Delphi and the priestesses at Dodona are out of their minds when they perform that fine work of theirs for all of Greece, either for an individual person or for a whole city, but they accomplish little or nothing when they are in control of themselves. We will not mention the Sybil or the others who foretell many things by means of god-inspired prophetic trances and give sound guidance to many people – that would take too much time for a point that’s obvious to everyone. But here’s some evidence worth adding to our case: The people who designed our language in the old days never thought of madness as something to be ashamed of or worthy of blame; otherwise they would not have used the word ‘manic’ for the finest experts of all – the ones who tell the future – thereby weaving insanity into prophecy. They thought it was wonderful when it came as
a gift of the god, and that’s why they gave its name to prophecy; but nowadays people don’t know the fine points, so they stick in a ‘t’ and call
it ‘mantic.’ Similarly, the clear-headed study of the future, which uses birds
and other signs, was originally called oionoïstic, since it uses reasoning to bring intelligence (nous) and learning (historia) into human thought; but
now modern speakers call it oiōnistic, putting on airs with their long ‘o’. To the extent, then, that prophecy, mantic, is more perfect and more admirable than sign-based prediction, oiōnistic, in both name and achievement, madness (mania) from a god is finer than self-control of human origin, according to the testimony of the ancient language givers.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 “Next, madness can provide relief from the greatest plagues of trouble 
that beset certain families because of their guilt for ancient crimes: it turns
up among those who need a way out; it gives prophecies and takes refuge in prayers to the gods and in worship, discovering mystic rites and purifications that bring the man it touches through to safety for this and all time to come. So it is that the right sort of madness finds relief from present hardships for a man it has possessed.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 “Third comes the kind of madness that is possession by the Muses, (245) which takes a tender virgin soul and awakens it to a Bacchic frenzy of songs and poetry that glorifies the achievements of the past and teaches 
them to future generations. If anyone comes to the gates of poetry and expects to become an adequate poet by acquiring expert knowledge of the subject without the Muses’ madness, he will fail, and his self-controlled verses will be eclipsed by the poetry of men who have been driven out of their minds.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 “There you have some of the fine achievements – and I could tell you even more – that are due to god-sent madness. We must not have any fear
on this particular point, then, and we must not let anyone disturb us or frighten us with the claim that you should prefer a friend who is in control 
of himself to one who is disturbed. Besides proving that point, if he is to 
win his case, our opponent must show that love is not sent by the gods
as a benefit to a lover and his boy. And we, for our part, must prove the opposite, that this sort of madness is given us by the gods to ensure our greatest good fortune. It will be a proof that convinces the wise if not the clever.

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