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count of himself :-what was his present and what had been his past mode of life,—and once upon this topic, said one who knew him well, there is no hope of escape, till you have been put to the
, touchstone torture, and your whole life sifted to the bottom. So strong was this passion, that the attachment to rural scenes, which
, prevailed so strongly in most of his fellow-citizens, in him seemed a feeling almost extinct—he was a stranger to the environs of Athens, and was scarcely ever seen outside the walls. He could gain no instruction, he declared, from fields and trees, and nothing but a book could entice him to the banks of the Ilissus, or that more beautiful stream, where Venus* quenched her thirst, and in return blew over it the sweetest breath of the Zephyrs, and sent the Loves to be the companions of Wisdom. Man was his game; and from man he never wished to be absent; but the passion was by no means reciprocal : a catechist so inquisitorial was not always agreeable, and the presence of the philosopher either created a solitude where he went, or if he collected an audience, it was among the tidle young men, who took a malicious pleasure in his cutting remarks, and who immediately left him to practise upon others the lessons which they had just received. In a town where the personal appearance of the male sex excited more comments and observation than the female, even the exterior of this person was calculated to fix the attention of many, who were not disposed to penetrate beyond it; and whatever merriment was excited on this subject, it must be owned that himself was ever the first to set the joke afloat. His eyes (to use the words in which he was accustomed to draw his own figure, and in which we shall not scruple to follow him, for purposes which will appear hereafter) stood so forward in his head, that they enabled him not only to see straight before him, but even to look sideways; and he used in consequence
to boast, that himself and a crab were, of all animals, the two best # adapted for vision. As his eyes took in a larger field of vision,
so his nostrils, from standing wide open, were formed to embrace a larger compass of smell. His nose, too, from its extreme depression, had in like manner its advantages; for had it been aquiline, instead of what it was, it might have
stood like a wall of separation between his eyes, and thus have obstructed their vision. His mouth and his lips were equally subjects of pleasantry with him, and the latter, with reference to subjects, to which the decorousness of modern manners does not admit much allusion. With a view to reduce the periphery of his body, which certainly was not very exact in its proportions, he practised dancing, and
* Euripides in Medea, 835.
# Conv. Xenoph. 82.
that * In Conv. Plat. 333. et alibi. + Max. Tyrius, Diss. xxiv.--xxvii. Xen. Mem. lib. iv. c. 1 and 2. # In Gorgià, 296. H. © In Apol. 365. A. B. || In Phædro, 357.
that down to a very advanced period of life; not merely to the occasional discomfiture of serious reflection in his pupils, but even to the excitement of a doubt in them, whether their master was quite correct in his senses :—to close this not very agreeable part of our subject :-when these pupils likened his whole exterior to that of the Sileni,* no doubt of the truth was ever expressed, and no umbrage taken as at a supposed affront. Though little distinguished for beauty himself, some of the handsomest young men of Athens were seen continually in his train; and while they did not scruple to take the utmost liberty in expressing their opinion upon his deformity, he did not perhaps altogether find his advantage in gazing upon their beauty; for it led to the objection,t which the warmest of his admirers either did not attempt to deny, or found it necessary to palliate, that it led him sometimes to clothe the noblest operations and aspirations of the mind in the language of the senses, that it engaged him to arrive at mental through corporeal excellence, and made it appear, that the presence of the beautiful Agathon, or the interesting Autolycus was necessary, before the philosopher could arrive at the essential beauty, the AUTO καθ' AUTO,
his reveries about which must have become sometimes a little fatiguing to the most admiring of his auditors. With these persons, who were never many in number, I of whom the more ambitious deserted their master as soon as they had gained the object which brought them into 'his society, and others of whom left him to form schools, whose names have since been synonimous with sophistry, the coarsest effrontery, and the most undisguised voluptuousness, the greatest part of his time was spent; for the civil duties which occupied the hours of others, were avocations, which he chose wholly to decline : he never made part of the General Assembly ;S he never frequented the Courts of Law; and the awkward manner, in which he performed the externals of a senator, when necessity or accident brought him into the situation, shewed that neither practice nor reflexion had made hım acquainted with the duties of the office. Even that duty which seemed peculiarly connected with his office of a public teacher, that of committing to writing the result of his studies, or giving a lasting habitation to those important disputations in which he was continually engaged, was a task which he declined, and for which he had framed reasons, which however satisfactory to himself, have by no means been equally so to those who have lived after him.|| To himself, however, one very satisfactory consequence
resulted from these derelictions, as some did not hesitate to call them, of the duties of a citizen : it left him the most unlimited leisure for frequenting what seemed his peculiar delight, the schools of the sophists, and engaging in disputation with those fallacious pretenders to universal knowledge. "If there were some points in which the sophists and himself have a certain similarity, there were many of a trifling, and still more of a serious nature, in which they were diametrically opposite. While the sophists went clad in magnificent garments,
garments, he appeared in the most plain and simple apparel. The same coat served him for winter and summer, and he preserved the old-fashioned manner of his country in going always barefooted: he frequented the baths but rarely, and never indulged in the usual luxury of perfumes. While they confined themselves to the sons of the wealthy and the great, and were therefore known to them and them only, he did not disdain to frequent the meanest of the artisans,* to converse with them in their own language, and on topics, with which they were most familiar. There was even a class in society still more degraded, which he did not scruple occasionally to visit, and to evince by his instructions, that the pursuits of no profession in life had wholly escaped his scrutinising eye. The effect of these visits was very evident in his language, and those who felt themselves annoyed by his raillery, or pressed by his acuteness, did not fail to throw into his face the shipwrights, the cobblers, the carpenters and weavers, with whom his habits of intercourse were not unfrequent, and from whom he was so fond of drawing those maxims and comparisons, which confounded the class of persons, to whose annoyance and discomfiture he seems to have devoted the greatest portion of his time. It is the language of the chivalrous ages, which would best do justice to this part of his character : and the knight, locked up in complete armour, and ready to run a tilt with the first person he met, is the completest image of this philosopher, preparing to encounter the sophists, at once apparently his enemies and his rivals.
Every age, however, has expressions and images in which it can stamp any strong feeling; and the sophists, without the power of recurring to the language of knighthood, had many significant terms, by which they could express the Quixotism of this redoubted opponent. They compared him at first to the Spartans, who, if any one approached their palæstræ or places of public exercise, obliged the intruder to make choice between immediately retiring or joining in the exercises of which he was a spectator. But they recollected that this was conceding too much, and they corrected their position by placing their rival in the same rank with the Scirons and Antæusses, who let no passer-by escape them without a previous encounter. To ask questions or to answer them—to convict or to be convicted—were, in his own words, the great purposes for which men should meet together; and a person, who had decreed that his life should be a complete logomachy, could not have come to the contest better prepared; nor, where* words were to be the weapons of warfare, could any man draw them from a better-provided armoury. That a person possessed of so powerful a weapon should sometimes have been a little too much delighted with the use of it, is no subject of wonder. His hearers described the effect of it upon themselves as resembling that of witchery and enchantment: they compared it to the touch of the torpedo, which causes a numbness in the faculties. Much was affirmed by him, and little proved—both sides of a question were alternately taken, and the result left upon his hearers' minds was, that he himself was in doubt, and only excited doubts in others. The sophists, indeed, by the manner in which they were handled, were made, especially in hott weather, to perspire more copiously than, perhaps, was agreeable; for their subtleties were met with niceties still more acute than their own, and they were artfully entrapped into admissions of which they did not foresee the consequence; but their falsehoods were also combated with positions which he who advanced them would have been unwilling to have had considered as decidedly his own; and in pursuing them into their dark recesses his own gigantic powers could not altogether save him from the reproach which he cast upon
* Xen, Mem. lib. iii. c. 10.
others: the best divers only should venture to plunge into a sea of such prodigious depth. Such was the person whom Arisa tophanes selected to be the hero of his Clouds. Those who are acquainted with Grecian affairs through the medium of history only, will not, perhaps, recognise in this picture the celebrated son of Sophroniscus; and were no other traits added to the above portrait, men of deeper research might justly complain that it shewed no reluctance to exhibit the darker shades, and much inability to describe the brighter parts of a philosopher, whose virtues and whose intellect, in spite of some drawbacks still more serious than any which have hitherto been mentioned, have been justly allowed to form an epoch in the history of man.
Having thus got his central figure, the attention of the author was next turned to that most peculiar part of the ancient drama, the Chorus. It has been remarked by W. Schlegel as one of
* See the whole of the dialogue called Cratylus. t De Rep. lib. i. 419. D.
the peculiarities of Aristophanes, that he is fond of adopting a metaphor literally, and exhibiting it in this way before the eyes* of the spectators. As a person given to abstraction and solitary speculation is proverbially said to have his head in the clouds, it was but another step, therefore, in the poet's creative mind to inake the clouds the chorus of his piece; as of the person,
whose abstractions and reveries seemed to make him most conversant with them, he had formed the hero of the piece. By this contrivance the author wove into his performance the mob (no inconsiderable body in Athens) who assisted the sophists in the perversion of the public mind
And wonder-making cheats. The effect of this personification in the original theatre was no doubt very striking. A solemn invocation calls down the CLOUDS from their ethereal abode-their approach is announced by thunder—they chant a lyric ode as they descend to the earth, and, after wakening attention by a well-managed delay, they are brought personally on the stage as a troop of females, - habited,' says Mr. Cumberland, 'no doubt in character, and floating cloud-like in the dance.' All this we can easily conceive; but a more curious part of their duty must be left to be supplied (and that we suspect very imperfectly) by the imagination. Recitation was not the only part which the chorus had to perform; a great share of their office lay in their feet, as well as in their tongue, and both author and actor were expected to be great proficients, the former in the composition, the latter in the practice, of those movements and evolutions, which, as wę find Aristotle classing them with poetry, music, and painting, and Lucian terming them a science of imitution and exhibition, which explained the conceptions of the mind, and certified to the organs of sense things naturally beyond their reach, we may easily conceive to have consisted of something more than the elegant movements which now go under the name of dancing. Had the treatises of Sophocles and Aristocles on the subject of the CHORUS come down to us, or had those statues not been lost from which ideas of the attitudes of the ancient dancers might have been collected, (for every movement of the body, we are given to understand by Athenæus, was observed, in order to collect those gestures which might afford a concert for
* All early literature, in fact, is fond of these associations. We may turn to every page almost of the Inferno of Dante for examples. The schismatics, in the 28th Canto, who walk · Fessi nel volto dal mento al ciuffetto,' and the headless trank, which bears its head in the hand, ' Perch' i' parti' così giunte persone' occur to us at the nioment.