Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors]

PREFACE.

THE “ Græca Majora,” which was all the Greek read in college by many successive generations of American students, contained Plato's Crito and the narrative part of the Phædo; and among all the extracts in that admirable collection, none are cherished in fresher remembrance or with a more reverential love than these inimitable productions of the great spiritual philosopher of ancient Greece. The simple beauty of the style and the almost inspired truth and grandeur of the sentiments, have graven these immortal compositions, as with the point of a diamond, on thousands of hearts, and entitle them to the high place which they have held among the select educational instruments of former generations. Many a scholar saw with regret Plato dropped for a time entirely out of the academic course, and accessible to American students only in the obsolete Græca Majora, or in the imported editions of foreign scholars. And, though their favorite classic author is now brought again within the reach of American students, and restored in some measure to his proper place in college education, in President Woolsey's scholarly edition of the Gorgias, and Professor Lewis's profound Annotations on portions of the Laws, still many an older and many a younger scholar cannot but sigh to see the simpler and more Socratic Dialogues of Plato superseded, even by the more finished dramatic imitations of his middle life, or the more profound moral and political speculations of his riper years. It is to meet expressed regrets and felt wants of this kind, that the present edition of the Apology and Crito is given to the public.

While these pieces breathe in every part the moral purity, the poetic beauty, and the almost prophetic sublimity, which pervade all Plato's writings, and which have won for him the epithet “divine,” they exhibit Socrates more adequately than he appears in any of the works of Xenophon, more truly and purely, just as he was, than he is seen in any of the other writings of Plato. They are therefore the connecting link between the two beloved disciples, and the clue to the interpretation of both. The Apology, especially, written shortly after the death of the Moral Philosopher, and under the full inspiration of his last words and last hours, gives us the very soul of Socrates speaking, as it were, with the very lips of Plato Mr. Grote has

a

seen this, and, with characteristic wisdom, has made the Apology the corner-stone of his admirable chapter on Socrates. How superior to the cold and barren defence which bears the name of Xenophon on the one hand, and on the other, how pure from the impractical and impracticable speculations which Plato has interwoven in some of his later dialogues ! It is doubtless a faithful representation of the defence, or rather justification, we might almost say, glorification, of his own life, character, and mission, which Socrates actually pronounced before his judges. At the same time, perhaps, it may be regarded as an exemplification of Plato's beau ideal of the true Orator, whose aim and office it is not to save the life of the accused by whatever means of falsehood, bribery, and seduction he can invent, but to set forth the claims of truth and justice in all their native right to command universal obedience. In this view the Apology may, perhaps, be considered as the counterpart of the exposure of rhetoric falsely so called in the Gorgias, and so take its place among the consecutive labors of Plato to realize the idea of all the arts and sciences ; though it must be confessed, that the want of the introduction and the dialectic structure, which are so characteristic of the scientific dialogues, seems rather (not to set it aside, as Ast would set it aside, as un-Platonic, for it has all the palpablo and marked peculiarities of Plato's style), but to set it apart to the more specific and no less sacred purpose of a defence by a gifted and beloved disciple of his honored and revered master.

The exordium opens, if we may be allowed to go before the reader with a brief analysis of the piece, with an expression of the astonishment of Socrates at the misrepresentations of his accusers, who have represented nothing as it is, and a declaration of his purpose to speak the plain and simple truth, in the same plain and simple language which he has been accustomed to use in his every day conversations; and as this is his whole

; office as an orator speaking in his own defence, so it is their sole duty, as judges, to consider whether or not he speaks the truth. (17, 18, A.) This exordium, if it does not set forth Plato's beau ideal of true oratory, in contrast with the studied and false rhetoric of the forum and the schools, yet it no doubt exhibits the author's idea of the style and manner in which Socrates actually defended himself when on trial for his life. Accordingly, we shall find the Socrates of the Apology excluding all artificial rhetoric, all appeals to prejudice or passion, and declaring the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, with the simplicity and directness, the frankness and fearlessness of a phi

a

« ZurückWeiter »