Jowett: REP III 398b-403c — A cultura pela música

Then now, my friend, I said, that part of music or literary education which relates to the story or myth may be considered to be finished ; for the matter and manner have both been discussed.

I think so too, he said.

Next in order will follow melody and song.

That is obvious. Everyone can see already what we ought to say about them, if we are to be consistent with ourselves.

I fear, said Glaucon, laughing, that the word “everyone” hardly includes me, for I cannot at the moment say what they should be ; though I may guess.

At any rate you can tell that a song or ode has three parts — the words, the melody, and the rhythm ; that degree of knowledge I may presuppose ?

Yes, he said ; so much as that you may.

And as for the words, there will surely be no difference between words which are and which are not set to music ; both will conform to the same laws, and these have been already determined by us ?


And the melody and rhythm will depend upon the words ?


We were saying, when we spoke of the subject-matter, that we had no need of lamentation and strains of sorrow ?


And which are the harmonies expressive of sorrow ? You are musical, and can tell me.

The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and the full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.

These then, I said, must be banished ; they are of no use, even to women who have a character to maintain, and much less to men. Certainly.

In the next place, drunkenness and softness and indolence are utterly unbecoming the character of our guardians.

Utterly unbecoming.

And which are the soft or drinking harmonies ?

The Ionian, he replied, and the Lydian ; they are termed “relaxed.”

Well, and are these of any military use ?

Quite the reverse, he replied ; and if so, the Dorian and the Phrygian are the only ones which you have left.

I answered : Of the harmonies I know nothing, but I want to have one warlike, to sound the note or accent which a brave man utters in the hour of danger and stern resolve, or when his cause is failing, and he is going to wounds or death or is overtaken by some other evil, and at every such crisis meets the blows of fortune with firm step and a determination to endure ; and another to be used by him in times of peace and freedom of action, when there is no pressure of necessity, and he is seeking to persuade God by prayer, or man by instruction and admonition, or on the other hand, when he is expressing his willingness to yield to persuasion or entreaty or admonition, and which represents him when by prudent conduct he has attained his end, not carried away by his success, but acting moderately and wisely under the circumstances, and acquiescing in the event. These two harmonies I ask you to leave ; the strain of necessity and the strain of freedom, the strain of the unfortunate and the strain of the fortunate, the strain of courage, and the strain of temperance ; these, I say, leave.

And these, he replied, are the Dorian and Phrygian harmonies of which I was just now speaking.

Then, I said, if these and these only are to be used in our songs and melodies, we shall not want multiplicity of notes or a panharmonic scale ?

I suppose not.

Then we shall not maintain the artificers of lyres with three corners and complex scales, or the makers of any other manystringed, curiously harmonized instruments ?

Certainly not.

But what do you say to flute-makers and flute-players ? Would you admit them into our State when you reflect that in this composite use of harmony the flute is worse than all the stringed instruments put together ; even the panharmonic music is only an imitation of the flute ?

Clearly not.

There remain then only the lyre and the harp for use in the city, and the shepherds may have a pipe in the country.

That is surely the conclusion to be drawn from the argument.

The preferring of Apollo and his instruments to Marsyas and his instruments is not at all strange, I said.

Not at all, he replied.

And so, by the dog of Egypt, we have been unconsciously purging the State, which not long ago we termed luxurious.

And we have done wisely, he replied.

Then let us now finish the purgation, I said. Next in order to harmonies, rhythms will naturally follow, and they should be subject to the same rules, for we ought not to seek out complex systems of metre, or metres of every kind, but rather to discover what rhythms are the expressions of a courageous and harmonious life ; and when we have found them, we shall adapt the foot and the melody to words having a like spirit, not the words to the foot and melody. To say what these rhythms are will be your duty — you must teach me them, as you have already taught me the harmonies.

But, indeed, he replied, I cannot tell you. I only know that there are some three principles of rhythm out of which metrical systems are framed, just as in sounds there are four notes out of which all the harmonies are composed ; that is an observation which I have made. But of what sort of lives they are severally the imitations I am unable to say.

Then, I said, we must take Damon into our counsels ; and he will tell us what rhythms are expressive of meanness, or insolence, or fury, or other unworthiness, and what are to be reserved for the expression of opposite feelings. And I think that I have an indistinct recollection of his mentioning a complex Cretic rhythm ; also a dactylic or heroic, and he arranged them in some manner which I do not quite understand, making the rhythms equal in the rise and fall of the foot, long and short alternating ; and, unless I am mistaken, he spoke of an iambic as well as of a trochaic rhythm, and assigned to them short and long quantities. Also in some cases he appeared to praise or censure the movement of the foot quite as much as the rhythm ; or perhaps a combination of the two ; for I am not certain what he meant. These matters, however, as I was saying, had better be referred to Damon himself, for the analysis of the subject would be difficult, you know ?

Rather so, I should say.

But there is no difficulty in seeing that grace or the absence of grace is an effect of good or bad rhythm.

None at all.

And also that good and bad rhythm naturally assimilate to a good and bad style ; and that harmony and discord in like manner follow style ; for our principle is that rhythm and harmony are regulated by the words, and not the words by them.

Just so, he said, they should follow the words.

And will not the words and the character of the style depend on the temper of the soul ?


And everything else on the style ?


Then beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity — I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only an euphemism for folly ?

Very true, he replied.

And if our youth are to do their work in life, must they not make these graces and harmonies their perpetual aim ?

They must.

And surely the art of the painter and every other creative and constructive art are full of them — weaving, embroidery, architecture, and every kind of manufacture ; also nature, animal and vegetable — in all of them there is grace or the absence of grace. And ugliness and discord and inharmonious motion are nearly allied to ill-words and ill-nature, as grace and harmony are the twin sisters of goodness and virtue and bear their likeness.

That is quite true, he said.

But shall our superintendence go no further, and are the poets only to be required by us to express the image of the good in their works, on pain, if they do anything else, of expulsion from our State ? Or is the same control to be extended to other artists, and are they also to be prohibited from exhibiting the opposite forms of vice and intemperance and meanness and indecency in sculpture and building and the other creative arts ; and is he who cannot conform to this rule of ours to be prevented from practising his art in our State, lest the taste of our citizens be corrupted by him ? We would not have our guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity, as in some noxious pasture, and there browse and feed upon many a baneful herb and flower day by day, little by little, until they silently gather a festering mass of corruption in their own soul. Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful ; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair sights and sounds, and receive the good in everything ; and beauty, the effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a health-giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the soul from earliest years into likeness and sympathy with the beauty of reason.

There can be no nobler training than that, he replied.

And therefore, I said, Glaucon, musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful ; and also because he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why ; and when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.

Yes, he said, I quite agree with you in thinking that our youth should be trained in music and on the grounds which you mention.

Just as in learning to read, I said, we were satisfied when we knew the letters of the alphabet, which are very few, in all their recurring sizes and combinations ; not slighting them as unimportant whether they occupy a space large or small, but everywhere eager to make them out ; and not thinking ourselves perfect in the art of reading until we recognize them wherever they are found : True —

Or, as we recognize the reflection of letters in the water, or in a mirror, only when we know the letters themselves ; the same art and study giving us the knowledge of both : Exactly —

Even so, as I maintain, neither we nor our guardians, whom we have to educate, can ever become musical until we and they know the essential forms of temperance, courage, liberality, magnificence, and their kindred, as well as the contrary forms, in all their combinations, and can recognize them and their images wherever they are found, not slighting them either in small things or great, but believing them all to be within the sphere of one art and study.

Most assuredly.

And when a beautiful soul harmonizes with a beautiful form, and the two are cast in one mould, that will be the fairest of sights to him who has an eye to see it ?

The fairest indeed.

And the fairest is also the loveliest ?

That may be assumed.

And the man who has the spirit of harmony will be most in love with the loveliest ; but he will not love him who is of an inharmonious soul ?

That is true, he replied, if the deficiency be in his soul ; but if there be any merely bodily defect in another he will be patient of it, and will love all the same.

I perceive, I said, that you have or have had experiences of this sort, and I agree. But let me ask you another question : Has excess of pleasure any affinity to temperance ?

How can that be ? he replied ; pleasure deprives a man of the use of his faculties quite as much as pain.

Or any affinity to virtue in general ?

None whatever.

Any affinity to wantonness and intemperance ?

Yes, the greatest.

And is there any greater or keener pleasure than that of sensual love ?

No, nor a madder.

Whereas true love is a love of beauty and order — temperate and harmonious ?

Quite true, he said.

Then no intemperance or madness should be allowed to approach true love ?

Certainly not.

Then mad or intemperate pleasure must never be allowed to come near the lover and his beloved ; neither of them can have any part in it if their love is of the right sort ?

No, indeed, Socrates, it must never come near them.

Then I suppose that in the city which we are founding you would make a law to the effect that a friend should use no other familiarity to his love than a father would use to his son, and then only for a noble purpose, and he must first have the other’s consent ; and this rule is to limit him in all his intercourse, and he is never to be seen going further, or, if he exceeds, he is to be deemed guilty of coarseness and bad taste.

I quite agree, he said.

Thus much of music, which makes a fair ending ; for what should be the end of music if not the love of beauty ?

I agree, he said.