17 October, 2009

Words cannot be just air

On the weblog's right hand sidebar, a Blogger Plugin shows Plato quotes. I looked at it just now and read,

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
That reminds me of a verse I remember from a poem,
words cannot be just air
formed into pleasing sounds
if falsehood be their aim
then false is that which forms
what then what shall i claim
what refuge have i found
if words be merely air
I can't remember the rest. I it around here somewhere—unless it disappeared along with my book of Hopkins quotes—but that particular verse struck me as having merit. I wonder if the author was inspired by reading Plato.

I also wonder where Plato wrote this. It certainly sounds Platonic.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

It's from the Phaedo. Crito has just asked Socrates how Socrates wants to be buried. Socrates replies that Crito can do it in any way he likes, but he'll have to hold on to Socrates to prevent him from walking away while Crito tries. Then he turns to the other friends and students there and says that Crito is confusing the Socrates who is living and talking with the dead body of Socrates that they will soon see. And he concludes:

And though I have spoken many words in the endeavor to show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to the joys of the blessed -- these words of mine, with which I comforted you and myself, have had, I perceive, no effect upon Crito. And therefore I want you to be surety for me now, as he was surety for me at the trial: but let the promise be of another sort; for he was my surety to the judges that I would remain, but you must be my surety to him that I shall not remain, but go away and depart; and then he will suffer less at my death, and not be angry on my behalf, and say, Thus we lay out Socrates, or, Thus we follow him to the grave or bury him; for false words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. Be of good cheer, then, my dear Crito, and say that you are burying my body only, and do with that as is usual, and as you think best.