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Plato's Republic in Scots. Book 1, Part 1

Plato's Republic, in Modern Scots

Wednesday, July 10, 2024
10 mins

Plato's Republic in Scots

Beuk 1 , Part 1

Socrates - GLAUCON

Yesterday, Glaucon, Ariston's son, and I gaed doon tae the Piraeus tae mak an offering tae the goddess (it wis Bendis, the Thracian Artemis). I wid aa wid tae see hoo they were celebratin the festival, as it wis a new yin. We were richt taken wi the procession o' the locals; but the Thracian yin wis just as braw, if no even brawer. When we said oor prayers and saw the sicht, we turned oorsels back tae the toon. Juist then, Polemarchus, Cephalus' son, spotted us fae a bit awa as we were headin hame, and he telt his lad tae rin and tell us tae bide a wee while. The laddie grippit me by the cloak and said: "Polemarchus wants ye tae wait."

I turned roon and spiered at him whaur his maister wis.

"There he is," said the young lad, "comin efter ye, if ye'll jist wait a wee bit."


Polemarchus said tae me: "Socrates, I see you and oor pal are on yer wey back tae the toon already."

"Ye're no far wrang," says I.

"But dae ye see," says he, "hoo mony o' us there are?  Och aye."

"And are ye stronger than the hale lot o' us? for if no, ye'll huv tae bide whaur ye are."

"We could maybe try tae convince ye tae let us go, couldnae we?" says I.

"But can ye convince us if we dinna want tae listen?" says he.

"Ach, no way," says Glaucon.

"Then we're no gaun tae listen; ye can be sure o' that," says he.

"Has nae yin telt ye aboot the torch-race on horseback in honour o' the goddess that'll be on the night?"

"Wi horses!" says I. "That's a new yin. Will the riders carry torches and pass them on tae yin anither durin the race?"

"Aye," says Polemarchus, "and no juist that, there'll be a festival at night, that ye definitely should see. Let's get up early efter oor supper and gang see this festival; there'll be a wheen young lads there, and we can hae a guid blether."

"Bide then, and dinna be stubborn," says he.

"Weel, since ye insist, I suppose we maun bide."

"That's richt," says I.


Efter that, we gaed wi Polemarchus tae his hoose. And there we fand his brithers Lysias and Euthydemus, and wi them Thrasymachus the Chiel fae Chalcedon, Charmantides the Paeanian, and Cleitophon the son of Aristonymus. There too wis Cephalus, the faither o' Polemarchus, wha I hadnae seen for a lang time, and I thocht him very auld. He wis sittin on a cushioned chair, and had a garland on his head, for he had been sacrificin in the court; and there were some ither chairs in the room arranged in a circle, upon which we sat doon by him. He saluted me eagerly, and then he said:

"Ye dinna come tae see me, Socrates, as often as ye ought: If I wis still able tae gang and see ye I widnae ask ye tae come tae me. But at ma age I cannae hardly get tae the city, and therefore ye should come oftener tae the Piraeus. For lat me tell ye, that the mair the pleasures o' the body fade awa, the greater tae me is the pleasure and charm o' conversation. Dinna then deny ma request, but mak oor hoose yer haunt and keep company wi thae young lads; we're auld freinds, and ye'll be quite at hame wi' us."

"Weel, Cephalus," says I, "there's naething I like better than havin a blether wi auld fellas like yersel. Efter aw, I see ye as travellers wha hae been on a journey that I maun tak an aw.  And it only seems richt that I should spier fae ye, is the road smooth and easy, or is it rough and gaun uphill?  That's the question I wid like tae ask ye, seein as ye've reached that stage o' life that the poets ca' the 'threshold o' auld age'.  Dis life get harder near the end, or whit wey wid ye describe it?"

"Socrates," he says, "I'll tell ye hoo I see it.  Fowk o' oor age tend tae stick thegither; we're like birds o' a feather, as the auld sayin goes.  And whin we get thegither, the claik usually gangs somethin like this: 'I cannae eat, I cannae drink; the joys o' youth and love are gane.  There wis a braw time ance, but noo it's ower, and life is barely life anymair.'"  

"Some fowk complain aboot bein disrespectit by their kin, and they'll whinge on aboot hoo mony bad things their auld age is responsible for.  But tae me, Socrates, these whingers seem tae be blamin something that's no truly at fault.  Efter aw, if auld age wis the cause, then I, bein auld masel, and every ither auld body, wid feel the same wey.  But that's no ma experience, nor the experience o' ony ithers I ken.  Mind ye, I mind weel the auld poet Sophocles, whin they askit him  'Hoo dis love thing fit wi age, Sophocles? Are ye still the same chiel ye wis?'.

"Peace!" he says.  "I'm richt happy tae hae gotten shot o' that thing ye speak o'.  It feels like I've escaped a crazed and angry maister."  His words hae come tae mind often since, and they seem just as guid tae me noo as whin he first said them. Efter aw, auld age definitely brings a great sense o' calmness and freedom.  Whin the passions ease their grip, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed no juist frae yin crazed maister, but fae a wheen o' them.  The truth o' the matter, Socrates, is that these regrets, and an aw the bleatin aboot kin, are caused by the same thing, and that's no auld age, but fowk's ain characters and dispositions.  Efter aw, somebody wha's calm and happy by nature will likely no feel the wecht o' auld age as much, but for somebody wi' the opposite wey o' bein, youth and auld age are baith a burden."

"I lichened tae yer answer in admiratioin, and hopin tae draw ye oot a wee bit further, so as ye micht keep speakin -  Aye, Cephalus, says I, but I wid imagine that maist fowk arenae convinced whin ye speak this wey.  They think that auld age sits lichtly on ye, no because o' yer happy disposition, but juist because ye're rich, and wealth is weel kent tae be a braw comfort."

"Ye're richt," he says, "they arenae convinced: and there's some truth in whit they say; though no as much as they believe.  I could answer them back like Themistocles did tae the Seriphian fella wha wis giein him a richt pelter, sayin he wis famous no for his ain merits but juist because he wis an Athenian: 'If ye hid been a native o' ma kintra or I o' yours, neither o' us wid hae been famous.'  And tae thae wha arenae rich and cannae bide gettin auld, the same answer can be gien; for tae the guid, puir fella, auld age cannae be a licht burden, nor can a bad, rich fella ever hae peace wi himsel."

"Can I spier, Cephalus, wis yer fortune maistly inherited or did ye earn it yersel?"

"Earned it! Socrates; dae ye want tae ken hoo much I made?  In the airt o' makin siller I wis somewhere atween ma faither and grandfaither: for ma grandfaither, wha shared ma name, doobled and trebled the value o' his inheritance, that which he inherited bein muckle whit I hae noo; but ma faither Lysanias brocht the estate doon a wee bit fae whit it is the day: and I'll be happy if I leave these sons o' mine nae less but a wee bit mair than I got."

"That's why I spiered the question," I says, "because I see ye dinnae gie a dawm aboot siller, which is a wey mair common tae thae wha hae inherited their fortunes than tae thae wha hae made them; the fowk wha mak fortunes hae a wee bit extra like for the siller acause it's their ain creation, seemilar tae the fondness o' writers for their ain poems, or o' parents for their bairns, on tap o' that natural like for siller for the uiss it brings that fowk share wi awbody.  An that's whit maks them richt dreich company, for they can blether aboot nothin else but hoo braw wealth is."

"That's true," he says.

"Aye, that's absolutely true," says I, "but can I spier anither question? Whit wid ye say is the greatest blessin ye've gotten fae yer wealth?"

"It's yin that I widnae expect tae convince ithers o' easily," he says. "For lat me tell ye, Socrates, that whin a fella thinks himsel tae be near death, fears and worries enter intae his heid that he never had afore; the stories o' a world belaw and the punishments that are dished oot there for things ye dae here were ance a lauchin stock tae him, but noo he's tormented wi the thocht that they micht be true. Aibither it's acause o' the weakness o' auld age, or juist because he's noo drawin nearer tae that ither place, he has a clearer sicht o' thir things; doots and panics huddle thegither on him, and he begins tae reflect and consider whit wrangs he's done tae ithers. An whin he finds that the hale wheen o' his bad deeds is muckle he'll mony a time like a bairn jump up in his sleep for fear, and he's filled wi dreich forebodins. But tae him wha is conscious o' nae sin, sweet hope, as Pindar says in a braw wey, is the kind chiel that looks efter him in his auld age:

'Hope,' says he, 'cherishes the soul o' him wha lives in justice and holiness and is the chiel that looks efter him in his auld age and the companion o' his journey; hope which is maist strang tae sway the restless soul o' man.'

Hoo braw are his words! And the greatest blessin o' riches, I dinna say tae every man, but tae a guid man, is that he hasnae had occasion tae cheat or defraud ithers, either on purpose or juist bi bein careless; and whin he goes ower tae the world belaw he's no in ony fear aboot offerins that are owin tae the gods or debts that he owes tae fowk. Noo tae this peace o' mind the havin o' wealth contributes a lot; and therefore I say, that weighin yin thing against anither, o' the mony advantages that wealth can gie, tae a fella wi sense this is in my opinion the greatest."

"Weel said, Cephalus," says I, "but whit wey aboot justice? Is it juist speakin the truth and payin yer debts - nae mair nor that? An even tae this are there no exceptions? Suppose a pal o' mine wis in his richt mind whan he gied me some wappens tae keep for him and then asks for them back whan he's no in his richt mind, should I gie them back tae him? Nae yin wid say that I should or that I wid be doin the richt thing, ony mair nor they wid say that I should aye speak the truth tae yin wha's no in their richt heid."

"Ye're absolutely richt," he says.

"But then," says I, "speakin the truth and payin yer debts isnae a proper wey tae define whit justice is."

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