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SECTION VII.-SOCRATES REFUSES TO ESCAPE OUT OF PRISON. HE DRINKS
THE POISON. After the sentence had been passed upon bim, Socrates, with the same intrepid co:intenance with which he had held the tyrants in a we, went forward towards the prison, which lost that name, says Seneca, when he entered it, and became the residence of virtue and probity*. His friends followed bim thither, and continued to visit biin during the ihirty days which passed between bis condemnation and death. That delay was occasioned by the following custom. The Athenians sent a ship every year to the isle of Delos, to offer certain sacrifices : and it was prohibited to put any person to death in the city, from the time the priest of Apollo had crowned the poop of this vessel, as a signal for its departure, till the same vessel should return. So that sentence having been passed upon Socrates the day after that ceremony began, it was necessary to defer the execution of it for thirty days, during the continuance of this voyage.
In this long interval, death had sufficient opportunity to present itself betore bis eyes in all its terrors, and to put his constancy to the proof, not only by the severe rigour of a dungeon, and the irons upon his legs, but by the continual prospect and cruel expectation of an event of which nature is always abborrent. In this sad condition, he did not cease to enjoy that profound tranquillity of mind which his friends had always admired in him. He entertained them with the same temper he had always expressed ; and Crito observes, that the evening before bis death, he slept as peaceably as at any other time. He also coniposed a hymn in honour of Apollo and Diana, and turned one of Æsop's fables into verse.
The day before, or the same day that the ship was to arrive from Delos, the return of which was to be followed by the death of Socrates, Crito, his intimate friend, came to him early in the morning, to inform him of it, and at the same time that it depended only upon himself to quit the prison ; that the jailor was bribed ; that he would find the doors open, and ofiered him a safe retreat in Thessaly. Socrates laughed at this proposal, and asked him," if he knew any place out of Attica where people did not die ?”. Crito urged the thing very seriously, and pressed him to take advantage of so precious an opportunity, adding argument upon argument to gain his consent, and to ergage bim to re
his escape. “Without mentioning the inconsolable grief I should suffer for the death of such a friend, how should I support the reproaches of an infinity of people, who would believe that it was in my power to have saved you, but that I would not sacrifice a small part of my wealth for that purpose ? Could the people ever be persuaded, that so wise a man as Socrates would not quit his prison, when he might do it with all possible security? Perhaps he night fear to expose his friends, or to occasion the loss of their fortunes, or even of their lives or liberty. Ought there to be any thing more dear ant precivus to them than the preservation of Socrates ? Even strangers themselves dispute that honour with them; many of whom have come expressly with considerable sums of money to purchase his escape ; and declare, that they should think themselves highly honoured to receive him among them and to supply bim abundantly with all he could have occasion for. Ought he to abandon himself to enemies, who have occasioned his being condemned unjustly, and can he think it allowable betray his own cause? Is it not essential to his goodness and justice, to spare bis fellow-citizens the guilt of innocent blood ? But if all these motives cannot alter him, and he is not concerned in regard to himself, can he be insensible to the interests of his children? In what condition does he leave them ? And can be forget the father, to remember only the philosopher?”
* Socrates eodum lo vultu, quo aliquando solus triginta tyrannos in ordinem redegerat, carcerem in ra. vit, ignominiam ipsi loco detracturus. ' Neque enim poterat carcer videri, in quo Socrates erat.Senec, da Consol. ad Helvet. c. xii, Socrates carcerem intrando purgavit, omnique honestionem curia reddidit. Id de Vit. Beat. c. 27
| Plat. in Criton.
Socrates, after having heard him with attention, praised his zeal, and expressed his gratitude; but before he could yield to his opinion, was for examining whether it was just for him to depart out of prison without the consent of the Athenians. It was a matter of doubt with him, whether a man condemned to die, though unjustly, can without a crime escape from justice and the laws ? I do not know, whether, even among us, there are not many persons to be found who believe that this may be made a question.
Socrates begins with removing every thing foreign to the subject, and comes immediately to the bottom of the affair. “I should certainly rejoice extremely, most dear Crito, that you could persuade me to quit this place; but cannot resolve to do so, without being first persuaded. We ought not to be in pain for what the people say, but for what the sole Judge of all that is just or unjust shall pronounce upon us and that alone is truth. All the considerations you have alleged, as to money, reputation, family, prove nothing, unless you show me, that what you propose is just and lawful. It is a received and constant principle with us, that all injustice is shameful and fatal to him who commits it, whatever men may say, or whatever good or evil may be the consequence of it. We have always reasoned from this principle even to our latest days, and have never departed in the least from it. Would it be possible, dear Crito, that at our age, our most serious discourses should resemble those of infants, who say yes, and no, almost in the same breath, and bave nothing fixed and determinate ?" At each proposition he waited Crito's answer and assent.
“ Let us therefore resume our principles, and endeavour to make use of them at this time. It has always been a maxim with that it is never allowable, upon any pretence whatever, to commit injustice, not even in regard to those who injure us, nor to return evil for evil; and that when we have ence engaged our word, we are bound to keep it. Now, if at the time I should be ready to make my escape, the laws and republic should present themselves in a body before me, what could I answer to the following questions, which they might put to me? What are you about to do, Socrates ? To fly from justice in this manner, is it ought else but ruining entirely the laws and the republic? Do you believe that a state subsists, after justice not only ceases to be any Jonger in force in it, but is even corrupted, subverted, and trod under foot by individuals ? But,' say I, “the republic has done me injustice, and has sentenced me wrongfully. Have you forgot, the laws would reply, that you are under an agreement with us to submit your private judgment to the republic? You were at liberty, if our government and constitutions did not suit you, tą retire and settle yourself elsewhere. But a residence of seventy years in our city sufficiently denotes, that our plan has not displeased you, and that you have complied with it from an entire knowledge and experience of it, and out of choice. In fact you owe all you are, and all you possess, to it: birth, nur, ture, education, and establishment; for all these proceed from the tuition and protection of the republic. Do you believe yourself free to break through engagements, which you have confirmed by more than one oath? Though she should intend to destroy you, can you render her evil for evil, and injury for injury? Have you a right to act in that manner with your father and mother; and do you not know that your country is more considerable, and niore worthy of respect before God and inan, than either father or mother, or all the relations in the world together; that your country is to be honoured and revered, to be complied with in her excesses, and to be treated with tenderness and kindness, even in her most violent proceedings ? In a word, that she is either to be reclaimed by wise counsels and respectful remonstrances, or to be obeyed in her commands, and suffered without murmuriug in all she shall decree ? As for
your children, Socrates, your friends will render' them all the services in their power; Divine Providence at least will not be wanting to them. Resign yourself therefore to our reasons, and take the counsel of those who have given you birth, nurture, and education. Set not so bigh a value upon your children your live, or any thing in the wor as justice: and be assured, that when you Vou, II. 1
appear before the tribunal of Pluto, you will not be at a loss to defend yourself in the presence of your judges. But if you demean yourself otherwise, we shall continue to be your eneinies as long as you live, without ever affording you relaxation or repose ; and when you are dead, our sisters, the laws in the regions below, will be as little favourable to you; knowing that you have been guilty of using your utmost endeavours to destroy us."
Socrates observed to Crito, that he seemed to have a perfect sense of all he had said, and that the force of his reasons had made so strong and irresistible an impression upon his mind, that they entirely engrossed him, and left him neither thoughts nor words to object. Crito, acknowledging that be bad nothing to reply, kept silence, and withdrew from his friend.
At length the fatal ship returned to Atbens, which was in some measure the signal for the death of Socrates. The next day all his friends, except Plato, who was sick, repaired to the prison early in the morning. The jailor desired them to "wait a little, because the eleven magistrates, who had the direction of the prisons, were at that time notifying the prisoner, that he was to die the saine day.”. Presently after, they entered, and found Socrates, whose chains had been taken off,* sitting by Xantippe his wife, who held one of his children in her arms. As soon as she perceived them, setting up great cries, sobbing and tearing ber face and hair, she made the prison resound with her complaints: "O my dear Socrates, your friends are come to see you this day, for the last time!" He desired that she might be taken away, and she was immediately carried home.
Socrates passed the rest of the day with his friends, and discoursed with them with his usual cheerfulness and tranquillity: The subject of conversation was the most important, and best adapted to the present conjuncture, that is to say, the immortality of the soul. What gave rise to this discourse, was a question in a manner by chance : Whether a true philosopher ought not to desire and take pains to die? This proposition taken too literally, implied an opinion, that a philosopher might kill himself. Socrates maintained that nothing was more erroneous than this notion, and that man, appertaining to God, who formed and placed him with his own hand in the post he possesses, cannot abandon it without his permission, nor depart from life without his order. What is it then that can induce a philosopher to entertain this love for death? It can be only the hope of that happiness, which he expects in another life ; and that hope can be founded only upon the opinion of the soul's immortality.
Socrates employed the last day of his life in entertaining his friends upon this great and important subject; from which conversation, Plato's admirable diaIogue, entitled “the Phædon,” is wholly taken. He explained to his friends all the arguments for believing the soul immortal, and refuted all the objections against it, which are very nearly the same as are made at this day. This treatise is too long for me to attenipt an abstract of it.f
Before he answered any of these objections, he deplored a misfortune very common among men, who, in consequence of heariig ignorant persons, who contradict and doubt every thing, dispute, and believe
there is nothing certain. “Is it not," said he, a great misfortune, dear Phædon, that, having reasons which are true, certain, and very easy to be understood, there should however he those in the world who are not at all affected with them, from their having heard those frivolous disputes, wberein all things appear sometimes true and sometimes false. These unjust and unreasonable men, instead of blaming themselves for these doubts, or charging them to their own limited capacities, from ascribing the defect to the reasons themselves, proceed at length to a detestation of them, and believe themselves more knowing and judicious than all others, because they imagine they are the only persons who comprehend that there is nothing true or certain in the nature of things.”I
* At Athens, as soon as sentence was pronounced upon a criminal, he was unbound, and considered as the vietimn of death, whom it was no longer lawful to keep in chains, | Plat. in Phad. p. 59, &o.
Plat. p. 90, 91.
Socrates demonstrated the injustice of these pretensions. He observed, that of two things equally uncertain, it consisted with wisdom to choose that which is most advantageous with least hazard. “If what I advance,” said he, “upon the immortality of the soul, proves true, it is good to believe it; and if after my death it prove false, i shall always have the advantage from it, to have been less sensible bere of the evils which generally attend numan life.”
This reasoning of Socrates, which, we are to suppose, can be only real and true in the mouth of a Christian, is very remarkable. If what I say is true, I gain all things, while I hazard very little ; and it false, I lose nothing ; on the contrary, I am still a great gainer.*
Socrates does not confine himself to the mere speculation of this great truth, that the soul is immortal; be draws useful and necessary conclusions from it for the conduct of his life ; in explaining what the hope of a happy eternity demands from man, that it be not frustrated : and that, instead of attaining the rewards prepared for the good, they do not experience the punishments allotted for the wicked. The philosopher here sets forth these great truths, which & constant tradition, though very much obscured by fiction and fable, had always preserved among the pagans, the last judgment of the righteous and wicked the eternal punishments to which great criminals are condemned; a place of peace and joy without end for the souls that retain their purity and innocence, or which, during this life, have expiated their offences by repentance and satisfaction; and an intermediate state, in which they purity theinselves, for a certain time, from less considerable crimes, that have not been atoned for during this life.
• My friends, there is still one thing, which it is very just to believe ; if the soul be immortal, it requires to be cultivated with attention, not only for what we call the time of life, but for that which is to follow, I mean eternity ; and the least neglect in this point may be attended with endless consequences. If death were the final dissolution of being, the wicked would be great gainers in it, by being delivered at once from their bodies, their souls, and their vices; but as the soul is immortal, it has no other means of being freed from its evils, nor any safety for it, but in becoming very good and very wise; for il carries nothing away with it, but its good or bad deeds, its virtues or vices, which are commonly the consequences of the education it has received, and the causes of eternal happiness or misery.
“When the dead are arrived at the fatal rendezvous of departed souls, wbither their dæmont conducts them, they are all judged. Those who have passed their lives in a manner neither entirely criminal nor absolutely innocent, are sent into a place where they suffer pains proportioned to their faults, till being purged and cleansed of their guilt, and afterwards restored to liberty, they receive the reward of the good actions they bave done in the body. Those who are judged to be incurable upon account of the greatness of their crimes, who bave deliberately committed sacrileges and murders, and other such great offences, the fatal desting that passes judgment upon them, hurls them into Tartarus, from whence they never depart. But those who are found guilty of crimes, great indeed, but worthy of pardon ; who have committed violences in the transports of rage against their father or mother, or bave killed some one in a like einotion, and afterwards repented, these suffer the same punishment, and in the same place with the last, but for a time only, till by their prayers and supplications they have obtained pardon from those they have injured.
But for those who have passed through life with peculiar sanctity of manners, delivered from their base earthly abodes as from a prison, they are rom ceived on high in a pure region which they inbabit; and as philosophy has sufficiently purified them, they live without their bodies,g through all eternity,
* Monsieur Pascal has expatiated upon this reasoning in his seventh article, and deduced from it ad monstration of infinite force.
Plat. p. 107.
The resurrection of the body was unknown to the pagans.
in a series of joys and delights which it is not easy to describe, and which the shortness of my time will not permit me to explain more at large.
“What I have said will suffice, I couceive, to prove, that we ought to endeavour strenuously, throughout our whole lives, to acquire virtue and wisdom; for you see how great a reward and how high a hope is promised to us. And though the immortality of the soul were dubious, instead of appearing a certainty, as it does, every wise man ought to assure himself, that it is well worth his trouble to risk bis belief of it in this manner. And indeed, can there be a more glorious hazaru ? We ought to delight ourselves with this blessed hope; for which reason I have lengthened this discourse so much.'
Cicero expresses these noble sentiments of Socrates with his usual delicacy. Almost at the very moment when he held the deadly draught in bis hand, he talked in such a manner, as showed that he looked upon death, not as a violence done to him, but as a means bestowed upon him of ascending to heaven. He declared, that upon departing out of this life, two ways are open to us; the one Jeads to the place of eternal misery, such souls as have sullied themselves here below in shameful pleasures and criminal actions; the other conducts those to the happy mansions of the gods, who have retained their purity upon earth, and have led in buman bodies a life almost divine.t
When Socrates bad done speaking, Crito desired him to give him and the rest of his friends his last instructions in regard to his children, and other affairs, that by executing them, they might have the consolation of doing him some pleasure." I shall recommend nothing to you this day,” replied Socrates,
more than I have always done, which is, to take care of yourselves. You cannot do yourselves a greater service, nor do me and my family a greater pleasure. Crito having asked him afterwards, in what manner be thought fit to be buried; As you please,” said Socrates, if you can lay hold of me, and I not escape out of your hand.” At the same time, looking upon his friends with a smile ; "I can never persuade Crito, that Socrates is he who converses with you, and disposes the several parts of bis discourse ; for he always imagines, that I am what he is about to see dead in a little while. He confounds me with my carcase, and therefore asks me how I would be interred.". In finishing those words he rose up, and went to bathe himself in an adjoining chamber. After he came out of the bath, his children were brought to him, for he had thrce, too very little, and the other grown up. He spoke to them for some time, gave his orders to the woman who took care of them, and then dismissed them. Being returned into his chamber, he laid him down upon his bed. I
The servant of the eleven entered at the same instant, and having informed him that the time for drinking the hemlock was come, which was at sun-set, was so much affected with sorrow, that he turned his back, and began to weep. “See,” said Socrates, “the good heart of this man! Since my imprisonment be has often come to see me, and to converse with me. He is more worthy than all his fellows. How heartily the poor man weeps for me!" This is a remarkable example, and might teach those in an office of this kind, how they ought to behave to all prisoners, but more especially to persons of merit, when they are so unhappy as to fall into their hands. The fatal cup was brou ht. Socrates asked what was necessary for him to do. Nothing more,” replied the servant, than, as soon as you have drunk it, to walk about till you find your legs grow weary, and afterwards lie down upon your bed." He took up the cup without any emotion or change in bis colour or countenance, and regarding
* Plat. p. 113, 114. 7 Cum pene in manu jam mortiferum illud teneret poculum, locutus ita est, ut non ad mortem trudi, verum in cælum videretur ascendere. Ita enim censebat, itaque disseruit: duas esse vias duplicesque cursus agi. morum e corpore excedentium. Num, qui se humanis vitiis contaminassent, et se totos libidinibus dedidis. sent, quibus coarctati velut domesticis vitiis atque flagitiis se inquinassent, iis devium quoddam iter esse, 86clusum a concilio deorum : qui autem se integros castosque servavissent, quibusque fuisset minima cum corporibus contagio, seseque ab his semper se vocassent, essentque in corporibus humanis, vitam imitati deorvina his ad illos, a quibus essent profecti, redditum facilem patere.--Cic. Tusc. Quæst. l. i. A. 71. 72.
# Plat. p. 115–118.