October 2, 2007

Plato, The Protagoras [347c-e], as posted by Paul Deppler over at American Book Congress:

"Conversation about poetry reminds me too much of the wine parties of second-rate and commonplace people. Such men, being too uneducated to entertain themselves as they drink by using their own voices and conversational resources, put up the price of female musicians, paying well for the hire of an extraneous voice --that of the pipe-- and find their entertainment in its warblings. But where the drinkers are men of worth and culture, you will find no girls piping or dancing or harping. They are quite capable of enjoying their own company without such frivolous nonsense, using their own voices in sober discussion and each taking his turn to speak or listen --even if the drinking is really heavy. In the same way gatherings like our own, if they consist of men such as most of us claim to be, call for no extraneous voices --not even of poets. No one can interrogate poets about what they say, and most often when they are introduced into the discussion some say the poet's meaning is one thing and some another, for the topic is one on which nobody can produce a conclusive argument. The best people avoid such discussion, and entertain each other from their own resources, testing one another's mettle in what they have to say themselves. These are the people, in my opinion, whom you and I should follow, setting the poets aside and conducting the conversation on the basis of our own ideas."



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